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Basics of Renewable Energy Certificates

The solar or wind power system you install on your home or business generates two things. The obvious is electricity although it also produces something most consumers don’t know of, Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) also know as “green tags.” For example, since the solar panels you install generate electricity that does not hurt the environment or human health, that benefit is an asset which are usually purchased by consumers because they want to be more “green” or by utilities as a result of regulatory requirements. One REC represents one megawatt-hour of renewable electricity. If your state does not offer rebates, you maybe still be able to earn income from your solar power system by selling the RECs your system generates. In 2007, a 2.5 kW solar electric system could earn about $140 per year in REC sales. Currently, REC pricing is unpredictable, although the value for RECs are expected to rise in the future, as legislation is passed to set a national cap on carbon emissions. In 2008, in the utility market RECs sold in a range of $20-$30. Check the map below to see if you live in a state that has a REC trading program in place. Want to learn more about green tags? Click on this...

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How Electric Power is Measured in Watts

Talking to many solar power consumers everyday, I’ve noticed one of the common issues people have a difficult time understanding how watts are measured. This post is dedicated to help you understand how watts are measured as kilowatt hours (kWh). We buy electricity in kWh from our utility company, which typically displayed on our monthly electric bill. To understand how much energy a solar power system will produce, you need to understand the following metrics. Kilowatt (kW) = 1,000 Watts Megawatt (MW) = 1,000,000 Watts So what is a kWh? Lets say you have a 100 watt light bulb and you run it for one hour, at that point you have consumed 100 watt hours and if you run that light bulb for 10 hours you would have used 1 kWh. 1,000 watt hours = Kilowatt Hour (kWh) 1,000,000 watt hours = Megawatt Hour (MWh) For example, If you purchased a Sanyo 1.0 kW solar power system and lived in Los Angeles which has average sun hours of 5.5 per day, the system would produce 5.5 kWh per day depending on the pitch, orientation, possible shading issues and other...

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My National Solar Tour 2008 Experience

What an exciting day! I always enjoy the first Saturday of October because of the ASES National Solar Tour that is held every year across the nation. People who have solar panels on top of their roofs open up their homes to the public to answer questions about their systems to interested parties. The National Solar Tour is the largest grassroots solar event in history, it’s the only event in which you can Tour homes and buildings to see how your neighbors are using solar energy to reduce their monthly utility bills. There were many homes open in Southern California although I had time to visit three locations. Solar Tour Stop #1 – Seal Beach, CA Doug Korthof’s home is my favorite stop of the the tour every year not only because of cool 4.2 kilowatt (kW) solar power system with battery backup that can last through a 2 day power outage. Doug has got his hands on a couple rare Electric Vehicles (EV) including an Electric Ford Ranger, WV and Toyota RAV4 that he can plug right into his solar power system. You may recognize the name Doug Korthof from the movie, Who Killed the Electric Car? Doug has been a long time EV activist and is an organizer of the SoCal Solar Tour. The Toyota RAV 4 was charging when I was taking pictures of it. Toyota does not offer these EV to the public anymore. Luckily Doug was able to acquire one of these rare jewels before they were taken off the market. Hahaha, very creative license plate! With Doug’s setup with solar panels competing against his electric rate and fuel costs, I bet his investment in solar energy has broken even very quickly on the cost of his solar power system. Below is a picture Ford Ranger Electric! Part of Doug’s EV Fleet. Have you ever seen one of these on the road? A sweet VW electric! All these cars have the ability to connect to a solar power system. The great aspect of a EV is that there is less maintenance involved. No oil changes, smog tests, valves, pistons, less moving parts, make EV more reliable and greener then traditional combustible engines. Imagine life without being attached to the gas station and utility company. Vehicle to Grid technology Solar Tour Stop #2 – Costa Mesa, CA A stop on the Costa Mesa Solar Tour hosted by Evan Little. This home featured a low profile 9.7 kW solar power system with Fronius IG inverters. The owner of the system recently installed this system through financing it by taking a loan from his 401k. His electric...

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Solar Electric Systems are Modular!

Modular? What am I talking about? Well a Solar Electric systems are scalable, meaning that like Legos, you can build on top of a small system. Since the solar panels are the most expensive part of the overall system cost, some people can afford to buy enough panels to eliminate their entire bill. So what can a customer do, is it all or nothing? Absolutely not! When you purchase a system, you can oversize the inverter, meaning that if you want a 5kw system in the future, but can only afford 1kw worth of solar panels today, you can buy a grid tie inverter that has a maximum capacity of 5kw and purchase 1kw worth of solar panels, as your budget increases you can buy more solar panels until you max out your inverter. I call this a “staged investment in a solar electric system” the end investment goal is to eliminate your entire electric bill, but you chip away a little at a time. There is a common misconception out there that all your capacity has to be purchased upfront which is totally not true. Go ahead, get started with a small system today, but don’t worry you have the ability to expand it...

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Working Safely With Solar Photovoltaic Systems

Solar photovoltaic systems generate high amounts of electricity that can injure , cause death or start a fire if not installed and maintained safely, remember when you buy a solar power system, you have mini power plant on the ground or the roof, so think about safety first. Sandia National Labs and Daystar published a free book called, “Working Safely with Photovoltaic Systems” to help educate you how to install and maintain a solar power system safely. The guide states that most of the safety measures are plain common sense although you can get injured working on any size of solar power system if your not careful. Only a few people have been hurt working on PV systems, and according to the book no direct deaths have been reported working on a solar power system, but that does not mean you should let your guard down when installing or maintaining a system. What I found interesting in the comprehensive book is the following overview of hazards: Hazards working with solar pv systems.Outdoor Exposure – If your working outside in the summer time, use sunscreen, wear a hat, keep your limbs covered and drink plenty of water. In the winter time dress warmly and wear gloves. Insects and Pests – Insects often move into the solar panel j-boxes, some wasps can build a nest on the metal framing, rattle snakes and fire ants can be using the underside of the solar array as shade, so be careful when crawling under a solar panel array, these insects and pests can cause some painful injury. Cuts & Bumps – A solar power system is made up of metal framing, bolts and nuts, wires, junction boxes that may have sharp edges. If your are working under and array or one that is above your head, wear a hard hat! Falls, Sprains and Strains – Typically solar power system are installed high on the roof or in remote locations on the ground which can cause falls. When working with your solar power system, wear comfortable shoes, never wear steel toe shoes. If you are using a ladder, make sure its firmly set on the ground and be extra watchful on windy days when solar panels can act as a wind sail and possibly knock you off a ladder. Burns – Metal exposed in the sun can reach temps. up to 80 degrees, which can cause burns if extended contact is made. If you are working with a concentrated solar power system, temperatures can become very hot and can be very dangerous. To prevent burns wear gloves so you mitigate the risk. Acid – If...

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