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Self Install Tips and Tricks
Mar31

Self Install Tips and Tricks

When it comes to do-it-yourself projects like converting your home to solar, tapping into that “handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun” can at times seem an overwhelming project to undertake.   However, the benefits can equate to over a 50% savings in setup costs (not to mention well deserved bragging rights), which is enough to appeal to many a handy person to strap on their tool belt and give it a shot.     If you’re the type who enjoys taking on such ambitious projects, we’ve compiled a few basic tips and tricks that will hopefully save you time and frustration down the road: Divide by 4: The goal isn’t to cover every square inch of roof with as many panels as it can fit, but rather enough panels to meet your energy consumption.   A quick way to estimate how much energy you will need your panels to produce is to look at your energy bill, take your highest kilowatt usage and divide by four.   Four is the low-end estimate of average peak sunlight hours in most places on earth. Many places such as California and Arizona will get more than this, but staying conservative with your calculations of how much sunlight you expect the panels to receive is always a better call.   For example, the average U.S. household uses around 30 kw of energy a day according the US EIA and, at worst, probably gets around 4 peak sunlight hours, it would be safe to assume such a household will need enough panels to harvest around 7.5 Kws of power a day.      If you want to get specific with your calculations you can check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Isolation Map to see how much light your longitude and latitude can expect to receive during the year.   Aim for the equator: When determining where to point your solar panels, a good starting point is to face them towards the equator.   With this general bearing in mind, do some research to determine if there are any shade obstructions in the area from mountains, trees or neighboring structures that might merit slightly shifting the direction of the panels to the east or west in order to collect the most sunlight.   If you can’t find an area that will always be shade free during peak hours, consider installing micro-inverters or power optimizers on your panels so you don’t dampen the power output of your entire system.   Hire a professional to create a permit package: We know, you want to do this project yourself otherwise you wouldn’t be scrolling...

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Cash in on net-metering while you still can!
Mar14

Cash in on net-metering while you still can!

The rationality of net-metering is hard to deny: If your home generates more energy than it consumes and that energy is added back into the grid, it’s only fair you should be compensated for the contribution. However utility companies, who usually end up footing the bill, are of a different opinion. As of January 2016 more than half of the 40 U.S. states with net-metering incentives have had their policies come under scrutiny. At the start of the year, homeowners in California breathed a collective sigh of relief as state regulators narrowly voted to uphold the existing net-metering benefits. However their neighboring solar enthusiasts in the state of Nevada weren’t so lucky. As more people are switching to using solar and generating their own power, state regulators have been forced to balance on a high wire of encouraging the trend while also pacifying the big energy companies that power houses during non-daylight hours. Check out the map below to see if you’re in one of the blue states where net-metering incentives are still applicable. If you are, and haven’t yet made the switch to solar, time might be running out to cash in on making more sun energy than you...

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What’s in a Gigawatt?
Mar11

What’s in a Gigawatt?

In the power industry, the word “gigawatts” is thrown around like confetti during New Years. But if you’re like most people, you might only have a vague idea about what a gigawatt actually is. And, if we’re being honest, mostly likely the only reference for that power measurement is a mad scientist named Doc:   So let’s set the record straight and unravel the mystery of gigawatts…besides 1.21 of them being able to launch a 1988 Delorean back to the future.   Starting with the latin root “giga” we can deduce that: 1 gigawatt (gw) = 1 million kilowatts (kw) = 100 million watts (w)   One gigawatt also happens to power about 700,000 homes a day, each consuming a monthly average of about 911 kw according to the US Energy Information Association. To produce this much energy with coal takes about 4.7 tons of the stuff–about the same weight as an adult elephant. Luckily for us, people have stopped ignoring this dirty elephant in the room and are harnessing the cleaner and more affordable energy of the sun. In 2015, the Solar Energy Industries Association calculated the United States reached a total of 24.1 gigawatts of installed solar capacity. 24.1 Gigawatts! That’s enough energy to send Doc through the space time continuum 19 times. To put things in perspective, the US Energy Information Administration says the average nuclear reactor in the United States produces between 11,000 to 100,000 Megawatts of energy per a day. A facility like the Hoover Dam produces between 1 to 2 gigawatts of energy per a day depending on its water level (which has become increasingly low). US Bureau of Reclamation And about 5,000 hamsters running on a wheel will produce enough energy to power the average...

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Increase the performance of a solar array 25% to 30%

Solar panels are typically mounted stationary although on larger solar array installations it makes sense to add a system that tracks the sun across the sky to increase the overall performance of the system significantly. Unfortunately, the majority of residential solar power systems are not on trackers because they increase the upfront cost of the solar power system and require maintenance costs because of the moving parts. There are two major type of solar photovoltaic trackers: single axis – follows the sun’s azimuth but not its altitude dual axis – follows the sun’s azimuth and altitude Typically trackers are used in large utility scale or commercial solar panel installation, although I have heard of home very savvy homeowners who built their own tracking systems, but I have no idea how much performance they increased and the ease of operation of a home built tracking systems. When most people ask me if a tracking system is good for their home solar power system, I let people know that current tracking technology is not at a point in which it makes sense for smaller solar array installations. The graph above shows the performance of the RayTracker by EI Innovations over a conventional fixed mount solar array. The company claims that there is no scheduled maintenance associated with their tracking system, that’s pretty impressive. Wouldn’t you say...

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hot weather, bad for solar panels, is that right?

You would think that during the scorching summer, you would produce to most electricity out of your solar panels, but most likely you won’t. I will tell you how you can produce more electricity out of solar panels during the hottest days, but first we have to understand why solar panels do not perform well in hot weather. Heat in the case of photovoltaic solar panels is a electrical resistance to the flow of electrons. During hot conditions, not only does a solar panel become less efficient but the voltage decreases thus meaning you will produce less kWh (kilowatt-hours) on days 75 degrees and above. You have to remember, the temperature on the roof is higher then inside your home. Airflow on all sides of solar panels is critical to the overall performance of your solar power system. Some solar panels, such as the Sanyo Solar Panels are specifically designed to have a better temperature coefficient which perform better then standard solar panels in high heat conditions. So when comparing multiple solar panels you should always look into the temperature coefficient and make sure your panel will perform well when the weather gets...

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