The Oil Crisis Leads to Development on the Solar Energy Front

rural_solar_panelThere are numerous advantages of using solar power instead of fossil fuels, as it can be used to power up everything from power plants to households. It cuts your carbon footprint and is all together a more efficient power system compared to other sources. Yet, the world can’t seem to relinquish its dependency on oil, even though experts in the field explain that today’s oil crisis is an indication that we should look elsewhere for energy.

Some foresee a bright future for oil and gas drilling as companies expand operations to service rich oil fields. In the midst of the falling crude oil prices, oil and gas services company UnaOil opened an Iraqi strategic base in North Rumaila as a training facility for engineers and other industry professionals. Meanwhile, the Holy Grail of oil fields has been estimated to hold 100 billion barrels of oil, just a stone’s throw away from London Gatwick, and the potential for saving the UK economy and helping others recover reveals that oil as an energy source will not be replaced any time soon.

From the looks of it, petroleum still remains as the primary source for fueling vehicles and airplanes, but oil is a nonrenewable source; at some point, the world will run out of it. This period of oil’s extreme volatility is a clear cut sign that energy firms should diversify and look into other resources, such as solar energy.

As it stands, around 11 percent of the marketed energy consumption is sourced from renewable energy, which is projected to increase to 15 percent come 2040 according to EIA.gov. Global industries persistently work to increase this percentage, hoping that businesses across the sectors and even households would soon make the change to solar energy. Several solar panel manufacturers are working towards further lessening the costs of solar panel production and installation, and progress in the industry is evident as the Telegraph reveals that panels are just as affordable now as they were five years ago. The latest innovations include a new technique in producing silicon wafers. With success, the cost of solar power could decrease by at least 20 percent in the forthcoming years. In a few short years, solar energy c ould be as cheap as coal

Production costs for solar panels will lessen electricity bills for businesses as well as households and serve as incentive for them to make the move towards eco-efficient energy. Hawaii is currently at the forefront in the United States in terms of solar power usage, with 12 percent of the state’s homes having installed solar panels on their rooftops. But with further developments in renewable sources, other households in the US (and possibly in other countries) will catch up to Hawaii and invest in a power system that benefits the homeowner and the environment.

Should I Install Solar Panels?

As interest in green energy grows, more people are asking themselves “Should I install solar panels?” and they are making the decision to get quotes and move forward with the process. This is a move which can help the planet and also boost your own finances, so it seems to make sense all round. However, Solar Panel installation is a major decision which needs to be carefully considered. It also pays to be aware of the possible pitfalls before deciding to go ahead.

With fossil fuel use under pressure and a growing drive to cut carbon emissions, the idea of harnessing the sun’s energy is increasingly attractive. Installing PV cells means that, after recouping your initial outlay, you will be able to gain free electricity from sunlight. An extra attraction of Solar Panels for many is the possibility of selling any surplus power produced to the grid.

Count the Costs

Before you book a Solar Panel installation, however, you should do a proper costing. It is easy to get carried away with potential savings and assume that the panels will pay for themselves more quickly than is actually the case. Remember that, although the panels themselves should last for 25 years, the inverter will need replacing more quickly. This is a vital part of the system to turn light into energy for your home. You also need to be aware that some maintenance may be necessary, such as having your PV panels cleaned occasionally.

Protecting Your Roof

If you have an older roof which is not in good condition, then a Solar Panel installation may be a bad move, as it will make it harder to carry out repairs. In the UK, the National House Building Council has warned that if Solar Panels are not installed correctly they may cause damage to a roof, leading to leaks and even in the worst case-scenario to structural harm. This is one of the many reasons why it is vital to choose an experienced firm with the expertise to install panels correctly.

House Moves

There have been some reports that people who signed up to solar leasing deals have had problems in remortgaging or selling their homes. It is also possible that the panels may make a home less attractive to some buyers, by reducing “curb appeal”. On the other hand, however, there is also evidence that many other buyers will be attracted by the panels. A recent survey carried out by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US found homes with panels selling for more across California. Although the market is not yet so developed in the UK, it is likely that Solar Panels will increasingly be seen as adding value there too.

Solar Panel Installation has many advantages in most cases. It means you are using clean, green energy and will help to cut your bills in the medium to longer term. Experts can look at your roof and help you to decide whether this is a good option for you. If you go ahead, the decision to install panels is an investment both in your own future and in that of our planet.

 

Find the Best Solar Panel Types

As a homeowner shopping around for the best solar panel types, it’s hard to get a handle on the truth and easy to get overwhelmed. There is a lot of science behind solar photovoltaic systems and a slew of variables to consider when deciding on what sort of system to buy. There are many different types of solar panels, so it’s imperative that you do your research.

First, what is being considered when comparing different solar panel systems?

Well,  solar efficiency, durability, features, and dimensions, to name a few. That, however, doesn’t quite cover the gambit. Each of those categories is further broken up into other considerations.

Solar efficiency is decided by taking into account the maximum power (measured in watts), the maximum power voltage (measured in volts), maximum power current (measured in amps), the cell technology type, and finally the number of cells.

Confused yet? It’s okay, all you really need to know is that there are two main types of cell technology from which to choose: Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline (usually abbreviated to poly and mono). The difference between the two is the purity of silicon that is being used in the panels, and mono tends to have a higher purity and thus a higher efficiency. Mono-panels also last the longest and are the most space-efficient. Mono solar panels are more expensive than other types of solar panels, however, and if the solar panel becomes covered with shade, dirt or snow with a mono system, the entire system could break down.  Essentially, there are advantages and disadvantages to both systems, and it comes down to a matter of price, preference, and suitability.

It’s best to have your particular situation evaluated by a team of experts to find out the best types of solar panels suited especially for your household. There are factors to consider, such as limited space and limited budget.  If your concerns involve limited space, then it would be best to go with a Monocrystalline solar panel system, which again is more expensive but more space-efficient. If your budget is the problem, then polycrystalline is the way to go. To help save money, there is a third option, which involves thin film solar panels, a new technology that isn’t usually suited for residential instalment, but your case may be different. That’s why it’s best to have a professional come look at your home.

The best Polycrystalline panel on the market currently is Kyocera, which takes into account all factors (including solar efficiency, durability, features, and dimensions) into a composite. The best Monocrystalline panel is Canadian Solar. These are also not the most expensive brands, which is a considerable plus.

 

Solar Panel Installation Costs Continue to Fall

If you are considering a solar power system for your property, you no doubt appreciate that solar panel installation costs include more than the price of the panels themselves, with the charge for the additional components, fitting the panels and running the system all needing to be taken into account. However, the good news is that the installation price is continuing to fall, so this need not stand in the way of you fitting the best solar panels for your home.

Falling Installation Costs
In a report by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy, it was highlighted that the installation cost for a small system call for policies to reduce “soft costs”.

The price drops are largely due to the fact that solar panel module costs fell by $2.6/W between 2008 and 2012, which accounted for around 80% of the overall decline in the price of photovoltaic systems over that time. However, even though non-module expenses such as the price of inverters, hardware for mounting and “soft costs” such as the labor associated with installation and the costs associated with permits and inspection have fallen, they haven’t kept pace with those related to the modules themselves and have changed little in recent years. As a result, non-module payments now make up a greater contribution to the overall solar panel costs. This change was highlighted in the report as indicating that the solar energy industry and policymakers need to look towards ways of reducing non-module expenditure. By targeting soft costs, which are more likely to be influenced by local policies and those made at the national level, this will make installation of the best solar panels affordable to more people, as there is only so much further that the price of the systems themselves can drop.

Solar Energy and California Schools

Have you heard about solar energy and California schools?

As recently published on Business Wire, a 125-building solar project was completed in California, spreading across 29 schools and two facilities buildings throughout the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). The project was developed by Main Street Power Company, Inc. using Enphase® Microinverters, a flexible technology that made it possible to include buildings of different sizes, orientations, angles and shapes. Due to the challenging rooftop conditions of the unique buildings, using traditional inverters would have been virtually impossible, as the sizing of the arrays would have needed to be customized for each individual case. Instead, a single type of inverter technology was used to develop a flexible design that supports 3.1MW of arrays –both small and megawatt-scale systems- spread across the 125 buildings. Enphase technology offers an adaptive solution, ideal for diverse designs such as the one exemplified here.

Teaching about alternative energy

The project has a strong educational impact on children and teachers alike. A K-12 solar education program was developed by Main Street Power and will be included into the 29 schools’ science curriculum. The “Train the Trainers” program is dedicated to the science teachers of the schools where solar technology was installed, who will learn how to integrate the new focus on alternative technology and renewables into their curriculum. Having the solar technology installed on the rooftop of the buildings where they study is a wonderful opportunity for the students to have direct contact with the alternative energy notions they are taught about. It is an essential part of educating the next generation of environmentally-responsible citizens.

A win-win for the community

Bill Rossi, CMO of Enphase Energy said that “Enphase is proud to have our trusted technology associated with a project dedicated to educating children about alternative energy. Not only will the students learn about their school’s rooftop solar in the classroom, but the school district will benefit from reduced energy costs over the long term.” The project is also beneficial to the community. By leveraging New Market Tax Credits, Main Street Power encouraged solar development in low-income areas, illustrating the benefits of solar technology to the parents and students of 25 schools. “Also, San Diego Unified School District turned to solar for its environmental impact, but the money saved by the solar arrays will provide more resources for teachers and students – a win-win for the community.”, said Eric Hinckley, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Main Street Power.

California Solar Energy Overhaul and Why Switching to Solar Makes Sense

For many home owners in California, the increasing cost of energy has become a major concern. The results of the economic glut are still being felt in many California homes, and as a result, homeowners are beginning to consider cheaper, affordable and cost effective solar energy. With the rising cost of living and mortgage rates, many homeowners have begun to shun traditional energy utilities for cheaper and friendlier solar energy.

California recently approved AB 327 which is meant to introduce radical changes in the energy sector particularly when it comes to reviewing current electricity rates. The bill will attempt to address the “affordability crisis” that some homeowners face. These efforts come at a time when California home owners and businesses have already begun making substantial investments in solar energy.

Basically, AB-327 is a rate reform bill that addresses inequities with electricity rates. In a message from Governor Jerry Brown [1] concerning AB-327 he explained that it is meant to “protect low income energy users and maintain incentives for renewable energy investments”.

In the solar industry, the biggest question surrounding this legislation is simple: how will these changes affect homeowner’s interest in switching to solar energy? How does AB 3327 help or hurt the likelihood that homeowners will install solar panels?

The California solar energy sector has undergone many reforms in the past few years and is considered a model for other states (go Cali!). Each year, there has been a marked improvement and an increase in solar panels being used across California homes. Recent statistics have indicated that it is widely expected that the demand for solar energy panels in CA will increase by 56% in 2013. Despite concerted government efforts to convince CA home owners to continue using traditional electrical energy, solar energy seems to have captured the attention of home owners.

California solar energy is efficient, safe and friendly to the environment. Environmentalists have also pointed out that the use of solar should be enhanced for the sake of the environment. Recent statistics have shown that companies such as KB Home have decided to build several communities in California with the inclusion of solar panels as a basic amenity.

According to Tom Werner who is the CEO of SunPower California, a 3 Kilowatt solar panel has the capability to comfortably power a medium sized home for less than $15,000 one time investment cost. This is an attractive investment for home owners who are looking to reduce the cost of energy.  The best approach to benefit solar energy is to incorporate the cost of developing solar energy systems into houses during the construction phase.

Utility companies such as Edison International are under threat as their services could soon be overtaken by California solar energy. In the beginning, it seemed like those utility companies would be able to hold their monopoly over CA homeowners and penalize rooftop solar users.

Initially, the AB-327 legislation was looked down upon because it was going to give utilities the right to charge a flat rate to solar customers and to spread out the general cost of rates. Thus, utilities could ease the hit they were taking from rooftop solar customers. However, recent revisions to the bill have lead to a much friendlier package for solar customers and providers. The most important outcome of the new legislation is that it doesn’t complete discourage energy conservation by allowing huge fixed charges and fees for rooftop solar homeowners.

It makes perfect sense to go solar in California because even if Utilities are allowed to charge a flat, monthly rate to their rooftop solar homeowners (say, $10 per month), that will still be far less than the cost of standard electricity bills.

There are many benefits of using solar panels and CA home owners know this too well. It is for this reason that many home owners are beginning to focus on alternative energy sources in a bid to cut down the cost of energy. Despite the authorities’ efforts to streamline the traditional energy sector, it is expected that CA solar energy will continue to gain market dominance as the government continues to pass legislation that encourages energy conversation. Viva La Solar!

References: [1] CA Gov

Solar Energy and the Green Power Market

A new milestone was reached in the evolution of solar energy. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2nd Quarter 2013 report, released on September 12th 2013, the US solar market has had its second largest quarter in history.  “The industry installed 832 MW of photovoltaic (PV) capacity, up 15% over deployment levels in Q1 2013”, which means over 9,730 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity operates across the U.S. as we speak. This is enough to power 1.5 million American homes. The trend has increased rapidly over the past years, and, so far, 2013 looks like a new record year.  It is expected that by the end of the year, “a solar project will have been installed, on average, every four minutes in the U.S.”

U.S. Solar market and 2013 projections

During the second quarter of 2013, the utility PV market was the one to drive most of the growth, with 38 projects totaling over 450 MW of projects commissioned. The commercial sector was also an important market driver in some states, while residential installations carry on growing at a steady pace. The overall solar market is projected to grow by 30% compared to last years’ records, with projects accumulating 4,400 MW of PV capacity and 900 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) likely to be commissioned by the end of 2013. In total, the solar energy generated in 2013 is enough to power another 860,000 average homes across the U.S.

The report also includes a ranking of 10 U.S. states, according to the solar projects installed since the beginning of the year, but also by Cumulative Installed Solar Electric Capacity. With 438 installed MW, California dominates both rankings by far.  Arizona and New Jersey are also notable runners up, having installed 90 and 78 MW of solar power, respectively, over the same period. The same chart indicates how solar energy is used by various sectors of the industry. About two thirds of California’s total installed capacity is utility-related, but residential and commercial uses are still the biggest installed capacity of the 10 states. Similarly, Arizona has few commercial and residential solar installed projects, but a considerable amount of utility projects, while North Carolina (the fourth place of the 10 U.S.states) only has utility-related installed projects.  On the other hand, New Jersey has an overwhelming commercial solar installed project, with almost no residential or utility installed projects.

The Green Power Market

Clearly, the solar market is a huge success, but what about the other sectors of the green industry? Obviously, not all locations on earth can benefit equally from sunny weather, and sometimes a grid-tied or hybrid solar system is necessary. In many cold climate countries such as the United Kingdom, relying solely on solar energy and living off-grid is rarely possible, and the most common option is to be connected to a dual-fuel energy grid that, as money.co.uk explain, supplies the rest of the energy requirements (not covered by the solar panels).  The question then becomes: how green is the extra energy we’re buying? In the U.S. there are plenty of options. Encouraged by continuous government and local policies, the U.S. green power market has become increasingly strong each year. According to the Green Power Network (GPN), part of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), green power sales flourish. Over 220 certified green power companies are active across the U.S. Depending on location, some of these companies combine more than one renewable energy source, such as wind, hydro and solar.

Apart from the obvious environmental implications of switching from fossil-fuels to clean energy, there are also visible and immediate benefits. Renewable energy –and solar in particular– is becoming more affordable each year, as a combined result of the local or governmental policies and the industry’s development. As GPN shows, hundreds of governmental or local programs have been developed across the country, including utility green power pricing programs.  As a result, the green power marketplace became more competitive and prices declined dramatically. The solar energy market, for instance, is “more affordable than ever”, with the national average PV installed system price “declined by 11% to $3.05/W”, as the U.S. Solar Market Insight report states. From 2011, the average price of a PV panel has become 60% cheaper.

Solar Energy: The Basics

Solar energy has undoubtedly created an impact on the renewable energy market and has swiftly become a reliable and worthy source of energy. Solar is a highly attractive, natural option on both the local and commercial levels. Technology is shifting towards the renewable resources and solar energy remains a prominent subject for improvement and commercialization.

What is Solar energy? Some basic understanding:

Solar energy is the light and heat from sun that is captured and used in technology gadgets like solar cells, solar thermal electricity and others in order to produce electricity. It is characterized as active or passive solar depending upon how it is being used. The idea is to use the natural resource i.e. sun in order to get maximum return out of it. The following diagram shows how solar works and what is the process.

The diagram shows how the photovoltaic cell is placed at a particular angel in order to get maximum exposure to sun and is charged by this process. It is then directed to an inverter that converts DC into AC; as we require AC for our homes and offices. Later, it is supplied to our homes and then to the meter for all the readings.

How does solar actually produce energy? What’s the process?

Solar is the cleanest, most reliable form of renewable resources available. The solar panel converts the sun’s rays into electricity by actually exciting the electrons in silicon cells by using the photons of light. Solar cells are also known as modules and contain photovoltaic cells made from silicon. Photovoltaic means electricity from light, which defines the true purpose of solar.

Commercial and residential uses: What’s next?

Solar cells are widely used at both commercial and residential areas. Different factories and industries are using proper solar panels and civilians use the panels for their houses as well. The efficiency is not as high, but still it provides good results.

In the coming years, you will see this technology sweeping the nation as power plants and industrial areas are replaced by highly efficient solar panels. However, solar companies are now asked to submit an official “net energy meter agreement” to the utility company before the installation process. This step usually slows down the process because solar companies must essentially receive permission from the utilities to install the solar panels.[1]

How it is cost efficient?

Solar energy is cost efficient as it’s mostly a onetime investment where you need to buy a solar panel according to your needs and what’s feasible for you. The source is natural and free! So, it is highly cost efficient and capable of generating good amount of electricity. Solar technology is highly cost efficient and will dominate the energy sources in the coming years. If you need more information about solar cells, the process and its comparison please explore our solar resources and the pros and cons of solar energy.

References: [1] Huffington Post

How Spinach Can Boost Efficiency of Biohybrid Solar Cells

Scientists often look at how nature has evolved in order to figure out how they can optimize technology. Sunflowers and many other plants have learned the ability to follow the sun as it moves across the horizon, which optimizes the photosynthesis and enables them to grow at a faster pace. Researchers at Vanderbilt University (VU) in Nashville, Tennessee have figured out how isolate and combine PS1, a photosynthetic protein found in spinach, with silicon typically used in solar cells.

The discovery has lead to a Biohybrid solar cell that is capable of producing significantly more power when exposed to sunlight than any of it`s other solar cell of its kind.

“This combination produces current levels almost 1,000 times higher than we were able to achieve by depositing the protein on various types of metals. It also produces a modest increase in voltage,” said David Cliffel, associate professor of chemistry at VU.

PHOTO-2-241_20120828170545-biohybridcell600

Image credit: Vanderbilt University
An older design of the researchers` biohybrid solar cell.

The research team thinks they will be able to construct a Biohybrid  solar cell on par with mature solar conversion technologies in three years time – if the current trajectory of increasing voltage and current keeps going.

Kane Jennings, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at VU, holds an award from the Environmental Protection Agency that allows her undergraduate engineers to design a prototype based on their “spinach-silicon” approach. A two-foot solar panel could potentially produce 100 mA – the equivalent power that is required small electrical devices.

Zero-Down Solar Leasing for New Homes

The solar PV market has been though a lot of changes in the last couple of years. Since Solarcity introduced the model of zero-down solar leasing back in 2006 many solar providers (including SunRun, Sungevity, SunPower and Real Goods Solar) have followed suit. Third-party-ownership has become the preferred way to go solar in many of the solar states across the country. A study conducted by PVSolarReport found that 70% of all Californians now prefer third-party solar.

SolarCity announced that they have started offering zero-down solar leasing in new home communities. This means that homebuilders can integrate solar panels in their residential communities, and according to SolarCity, “homebuyers can save up to 20 percent on their energy costs from the very first day they move in”.

SolarCity solar panels for new homes
Image credit: SolarCity

EIA (Energy Information Administration) says the residential sector contributed to 20% of all carbon dioxide emissions last yearthere`s clearly a lot of potential for lowering our carbon footprint by being smarter about energy use in our homes.

A residential solar system is an excellent replacement of other carbon-based electricity sources. Thanks to federal and state incentives, solar panels also makes a lot of sense financially. One Block Off the Grid reports that the average homeowner saves over $1200 a year on electricity by going solar.

Whether or not a lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA) would be the best approach in your situation depends. As a general rule of thumb, if you can afford to pay with cash upfront, or if you can finance the solar system through a well-structured loan, then you should avoid third-party-ownership. The truth to the matter is that in terms of long-term savings, ownership beats a lease or a PPA every time.

SolarCity is offering zero-down solar leasing for new homes in Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon, and plan to expand the program to other states in the months to come.