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are solar panels bad for the environment?

I’ve been seeing an increased number of articles and news stories on TV about how “green” solar panels really are. There is a group of people out there discrediting the solar power industry, since manufacturing process is very chemical intensive. Yes, it’s true that chemicals that could hurt the environment, but only if the company manufacturing the solar panels have bad practices of handling and disposing of the chemicals. Many of the solar panels that are made here in the USA have strict standards of how to handle waste. In fact, Evergreen Solar claims their manufacturing process is the most environmentally friendly because of their high standards towards chemical disposal and unique manufacturing processes. On the other hand, some Chinese solar panel manufacturers last year got caught red handed dumping chemicals into nearby villages. But I suppose Chinese manufacturers in general are notorious for poor environmental standards, don’t you agree? Even though Chinese solar panels are some of the most cost effective on the market, depending on the company, there might be an environmental impact behind the lowest cost. The standard crystalline solar panel have an extremely long life time, they last for at least 25 years and upwards to 50 years and 95% of the solar panel is recyclable including the silicon, glass, metal frame and copper wiring. Not to mention the years of clean energy the solar panel would produce offsetting coal powered generation. So even though the process of making a solar panel is chemically intensive, on the flip side each solar panel once installed and generating electricity is helping clean up the environment. What do you think? Is the media just blowing things out of proportion or do they have a valid point? please...

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Confessions of a Solar Electric System Owner

Recently, Pyccku , a well respected member of the TreeHugger forums installed a solar electric system on his home and documented the progress on his blog. We discussed that it would be beneficial to share his experience installing solar panels, so his experience can help others decide if solar power systems energize their lifestyles. Check out the Questions & Answers session below: Q: What made you first gain interest in solar panels? A: When we saw gas prices go up, we realized that energy costs are only going to go up, not down. We also hated that here in AZ there was so much energy coming from the sun, but hardly anyone tapping into it. So we did the calculations and found that even if the cost of energy stays constant, over the next 25 years our electric bill would add up to more than the cost of the solar. Q: How much are you saving per month? A: We haven’t gotten our first bill – but our average pre-solar bill was $165 on the equalizer plan (same amount year-round). We are anticipating having no bill for 8-10 months out of the year and only a minimal bill in the hottest summer months. Q: How long did it take to install the solar panels? A: Once they had the permits it took a little over a week for the whole project. The panels, inverters and wiring only took a couple of days. But we built an addition to our patio to put the panels on, so that added some extra time. Q: Was it difficult to find a solar panel installer? A: No, there are several here in Phoenix. Q: How much were paying originally for electricity? A: $165 per month. Q: Did you have to move out of the house to have them installed? A: No. We didn’t even have to be home for them to do any of the work! Q: How many solar panels do you have? A: 36 Q: Do your solar panels power your entire house? A: During most of the year, yes. During the summer we’ll probably need some power from the grid because of the heavy a/c use. Q: Did your electric spinning backwards once they were installed? A: The meter itself doesn’t spin backwards. It does keep track of how many kWh we take from the grid, and how many hours we give to the grid. Then the power company does the math and credits us for any excess. Right now, since we aren’t using much power at all, we are only using 10kWh/day, and we are giving 15kWh/day to APS....

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The Gatsby Hollywood – L.A.’s first solar powered community

The Gatsby Hollywood an eco-friendly community development right in the heart of Hollywood is being developed by MasterCraft Homes is going to be L.A.’s first solar powered community. The developer decided to install grid tie solar power systems on all the single family homes in the community. L.A. is a great place to install solar power not only because of its high solar intensity through out the year, but California has great rebates for people and organizations that install grid tie solar power systems. Grid tied systems, unlike off grid systems, store extra energy generated back to the utility service and spins your electric meter backwards giving you the ability to completely offset your usage. The owners of the solar powered homes at The Gatsby will be able to monitor the performance of their solar panels via the Internet and will come with a service for 10 years that monitors the performance of the system remotely. The homes at The Gatsby will also include energy efficient appliances which are Energy Star certified meaning each home will be using technologies that do not waste electricity. These solar powered homes are Certified California Green Builder approved not only because they have a slick grid tie solar electric system but the homes feature dual pane windows, top of the line insulation, high efficiency light bulbs and the homes themselves are made out of recycled materials. As we see more home builders integrating solar panels and energy efficient technologies this will start a trend that will become a standard for all buildings in the near future. What do you...

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Arizon Utility offers EZ financing for Solar Panels.

A partnership between the Arizona Utility, APS and the non-profit organization, Electric & Gas Industries Association now offers a new loan program that provides unsecured installment financing for residential renewable energy power generation systems such as solar electric systems and solar hot water panels. According to APS, the new GEOSmart loan is designed to eliminate upfront costs related to solar energy systems, which enable customers to use part of the financial incentives applicable to each system to buy down interest rates. For example, a 3 kilowatt (kW) costs about $21,000, when you factor in the residential tax credit for 2008 and the state rebates, the final cost is approximately $9,000. Through the financing program homeowners will have the option of financing the remaining finial cost, thus removing the upfront cost of going solar and eliminating out of pocket expenses that often are the largest barrier to entry for most customers. As I have mentioned in the past, technologically solar is doing great, much innovation is bringing down the cost per watt every year. Although the financial end is key to driving solar energy mainstream. If you think about the reason automobiles are so popular out here in America is because of the easy unsecured on the spot financing. Very few options like this exists for solar energy systems, banks are still understanding the value in financing solar energy systems for people. As the systems become more widely accepted, I feel more banks will create specialized programs to make solar energy systems affordable. Why do you think there is a lack of widely available financing for solar energy...

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Sanyo Solar Electric creating green jobs in America.

Sanyo Electric is planning to expand it’s manufacturing capacity by investing in a solar wafers facility in Salem, Oregon. From Oregon the solar wafers will be shipped to Japan to be made into solar cells and finally will be shipped to factories within Japan or Mexico and Hungry for the final step of turning solar cells into sanyo high efficency solar panels. Sanyo expects to invest 80 million dollars into the solar wafer factory which will create 200 “green jobs” here right in America! Sanyo has been expanding its solar power business to keep up with the demand in the market for solar panels. The company is also considering to expand it’s operations in Mexico and Hungry. Solar Wafers are silicon sheets that are cut into solar cells, According to a statement by Sanyo, Full capacity of 70 megawatts (MW) worth of wafers per year will be reached by April...

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