At Solar Energy World, when we analyze property for a solar array, we take into account several factors, including energy usage, and available roof space or land for maximum sun exposure. Indeed, exposure to sunlight is the most important factor when it comes to generating solar power, simply because without sunlight, solar panels cannot work.
Deserts are a desirable location for large scale solar installations because of their sunny climates, and the amount of space available. According to the DESERTEC website, more solar energy hits the deserts of the world within six hours than is consumed around the world in one year.
The European Union is poised to take advantage of the immense amounts of solar radiation in the Sahara. Covering an estimated 6,500 square miles of the Sahara with solar panels and wind turbines, the EU will begin importing electricity by 2015. It may sound like a lot of space, but considering the vast size of the Sahara, it would take only one percent of the surface area covered in solar panels to provide enough electricity for the entire world.
Another development in the world of solar power is the concept of using the ocean and other bodies of water for solar power. The oceans make up the majority of the earth’s surface, and, similar to deserts, they are exposed to a lot of sunlight. There are no trees, or buildings to worry about on the high seas, after all!
Of course, there are a few obvious obstacles to placing solar panels on the ocean, namely finding somewhere to put them in the first place. According to this article, several companies are planning to build floating solar islands of steel and plastic, that will be set to drift on placid bodies of water.
Another risk to floating solar arrays? Hurricanes and tropical storms could pose a threat. Included in the design for these solar islands is the ability for the entire floating structure to submerge, in order to avoid storm force winds.
Referenced in this article:
“Europe Will Be Powered by Solar Panels in 5 Years“, ImpactLab
“This Island Paradise is for One thing Only, Solar Power“, FastCoExist
Solar panels rely on solar energy in order to produce usable electricity for home and property owners. It seems like common sense would dictate that solar panels would be best used in hot, sunny weather. This logic would mean that solar production would significantly drop in colder weather, meaning that homeowners should only rely on their solar panels in the summertime, right?
Actually, solar panels perform even better in colder temperatures. This means that during the wintertime, sunny days and chilly air will benefit homeowners that have chosen energy independence. The reason for this is that cooler temperatures allow solar panels to produce a higher voltage, which results in higher wattage for your home.
What does reduce solar power production is the decrease in daylight hours. Because solar electricity runs on sunlight and not heat, the winter sunlight is enough to create energy. The catch is that the amount of daylight is decreased, and production time is shortened. However, home and property owners will still see a significant benefit from the installation of a solar electric system, and reduction or elimination of their energy bills during the winter months.
One of the many benefits of solar power is that the industry has the potential to help boost the economy. But how exactly could this happen, and what is the reasoning behind this statement?
Solar Creates Jobs
A demand for solar power means that more materials will need to be manufactured, and more systems will need to be designed and installed. These tasks all require skilled and specially trained employees, which means that higher demand for solar power will lead to job growth in the renewable energy sector. In fact, various news sources have recently reported that job growth in the solar energy industry has outpaced the overall growth rate.
Solar Power Reduces Energy Dependence
A buzzword in the recent election was “energy independence”. The sun belongs to no one, and its energy is present everywhere. The sun cannot be taxed or tariffed, and once your solar panels are installed, there are no price fluctuations or negotiations about the cost of fuel. Solar energy is not owned or supplied by any entity in particular. Therefore, using the sun to our advantage is a step toward energy independence.
Solar Power Saves Money
No one enjoys paying bills, and your electric bill is probably a large expense. The cost of heating and cooling your home will make up the largest portion of your energy bill, and, depending on how energy efficient your home may be, the heating or cooling system may be running most of the time. These necessary expenses add up quickly, and that means that homeowners have less of their hard earned money to spend on other goods and services, because it must be paid to to gas and electric companies.
Solar power can free up more spending money, because it can significantly reduce or eliminate an electric bill. This means that homeowners that choose solar will have more money to spend, instead of being tied to rising electricity rates. Just imagine how much money could be saved by homeowners with a home solar system, and an electric vehicle!
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by Joe Wateski, Manager, Energy Services Division, Solar Energy World
Quiz time! What do summer and winter have in common with regards to keeping your home comfortable? Answer? HEAT. Here at 3rd rock from the sun, nearly all heat comes from – you guessed it – the sun. Let’s call him Mr. Sun. He helps your home in the winter, but hurts it in the summer. So what are we to do to help ourselves? Get an understanding of the management of HEAT.
Summertime means Air Conditioning (A/C) so question number 2 – Does an air conditioner make cold air? Answer? NO! An air conditioner removes heat . Why is that important to know? Because if you can keep heat out of the home in the 1 stplace, your A/C doesn’t have to work as hard in the 2 nd place. Temperatures in Maryland are nearing 90 degrees F today. Let’s say you want your home at a comfortable 75. So your A/C system needs to overcome 15 degrees.
Heat gain in summer for most homes comes from three (3) primary sources:
- Radiant heat from Mr. Sun entering the home mostly through southern and western facing windows.
- Heat bleeding down from the attic (which can reach over 130 degrees F). This arrives via conduction, through insulation and building material, and especiallyconvection, air flowing through openings to the attic.
- Latent and appliance-generated heat. Latent heat is that heat and humidity coming off of our bodies. Appliance heat comes from pretty much anything that plugs into an electric outlet (including your A/C system).
Let’s start with number 3. The air temperature near a 60W incandescent light bulb is about 120. The air temperature of an equivalent 13W compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) is about 84. That’s a difference of nearly 40 degrees. Is it hot in your home especially at night? Then change out your light-bulbs. CFL’s also put out an equivalent amount of light at about ¼ of the power in. LED lights are even cooler and more efficient. As for the heat coming off of your body, try to keep your cool by thinking happy thoughts. Moving on to number 2…
Heat building up in your attic (which is usually outside of your conditioned living space) will tend to migrate into your home when the A/C is on. This is because your living space at 75 is cooler than the outdoors which might be 85 or hotter. What to do? Make sure your attic has adequate ventilation. Sometimes soffit vents can get blocked by insulation or debris. Check to correct this. Adding mechanical ventilation in the form of a fan on a thermostat is another corrective measure. However, having your attic AIR SEALED and making sure you have an adequate thermal barrier are critically important as well. If you have recessed lights, a whole house fan, or other numerous openings to the attic, heat will readily pass through these and work against you during both summer and wintertime.
Now let’s talk windows. Over 1/3 of your heat gain will come from mostly south and west facing windows. This works for you in winter but against you in summer. While blinds on the inside of windows will let you think you are more comfortable in summer, they only go so far. Once the heat from Mr. Sun has pierced the glass, it’s in your home. Closing the blinds does help because you won’t feel heat on your face as much. However, the heat will tend to build around the window area and eventually meander through the rest of your home. A better solution is a Solar Reflective Screen. This material is installed in a frame that is outside the glass. Why does that matter? Because the heat doesn’t pierce the glass in the 1 st place. Your A/C system doesn’t have to work as hard or as long in the 2 nd place. Just put Solar Reflective Screens up at the start of summer, take them down in the fall.
What if you don’t fully understand everything you just read? What if you find attics uncomfortable in summer? What if you don’t have the time or can’t be bothered? If you live in Maryland, you are in luck!
The Maryland Home Performance with Energy Star Program (which all Marylanders pay into through Empower MD) allows you to get a Quick Home Energy Check up (Q-HEC) for free. If your budget allows and you know you need improvements, a better option is to schedule a comprehensive Energy Audit. This will cost most homeowners only $100 and will yield a report that not only gives you a roadmap towards improvement and lower energy costs, but also includes health and safety items like checking for natural gas leaks or the presence of carbon monoxide. It gets better…both of these services include installation of CFL’s, water heater insulation, even low flow showerheads FOR FREE! The full audit also sets you up to get rebates of up to 50% on energy improvements installed in your home by a qualified energy professional.
If you’re in Maryland check out http://www.mdhomeperformance.org/ or call your utility company for more information on this remarkable program. If you’re not in Maryland, a similar program may still be available to you so check with your local utility company.
Save money, keep comfy, and do something good for the planet.
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By Samantha J. Majka
Solar Energy World is the fastest growing installer of solar power systems in the region, and we are pleased to see such an increase in both solar power installations and interest in solar power in general. Naturally, interest tends to generate a lot of questions, and some of the most common questions are in regards to the performance of solar power in what some may consider “less than optimal” conditions. This is a great question, and it is completely understandable that consumers would be concerned about the performance of their solar panels in cloudy weather, or after sunset. Rest assured, if you make the switch to solar power, you will not be left in the dark after sunset, or have to worry about “running out” of power when the sky is cloudy. Your solar panels will continue to generate electricity, even on cloudy days, and, just like electricity that is generated by other means, solar electricity can be stored for a later use.
The solar energy that hits the Earth’s surface every hour is enough to power the entire world for one year. The trick is to capture this energy, and while solar panels do not collect every bit of energy that hits them, efficiency is improving. Fortunately for consumers, as the efficiency is improving, solar power is becoming more and more affordable (especially with solar lease). Needless to say, it is entirely possible, depending on the size of your solar panel system, to generate more energy per day than is required to satisfy the energy needs of your home.
So where does the excess energy go? One way to store this energy is through the use of battery systems. Batteries store the solar electricity for use at times when the sun is not shining, such as at night.
An easier and cheaper solution is store solar power in the existing electrical grid in a process known as net-metering. Your home is already connected to the electrical grid when you use power from a conventional source. The excess electricity generated by your solar panels “overflows” back to the grid, and back to the electric company. This builds up an electricity “credit” that you can tap into when the sun is not shining. You can see proof of this for yourself, as the electric meter on your home will actually run backward when you are generating more power than you are using. In some states, you can sell this excess electricity back to the electric company in the form of “SREC’s” or “Solar Renewable Energy Credits”. This means that you can be paid for having solar panels on your home or business, which shortens the payback period for the initial cost of installation.
You can learn more about solar energy and solar power by liking Solar Energy World on Facebook.
By Samantha J. Majka
At Solar Energy World, we focus on bettering the planet. Usually, and most obviously, this is through the installation of solar power systems. In addition, under the umbrella of creating a better, greener planet, falls community outreach. This year, for Earth Day, Solar Energy World partnered with two Maryland schools for events that focused on educating students about the facts and benefits of solar power.
Solar Energy World representatives visited Eagle Cove School in Pasadena on Tuesday April 24th, and St. Joseph School in Cockeysville on April 25th. Students participated in a presentation by Jose Cespedes, Solar Analyst, and then competed in a race with solar powered race cars that they had built themselves.
The presentations consisted of an educational speech, a small experiment, and a question and answer session. Students also passed around mini versions of the solar panels that Solar Energy World installs on homes and buildings. We were particularly impressed with the excellent questions posed by student participants!
The second half of the events was especially exciting, as students and teachers moved outside for the solar car race. A week before the event, Solar Energy World provided solar powered race car kits to both schools, and teams of students assembled and decorated their cars. The winning teams from both schools received a prize of a pizza party provided by Solar Energy World.
Please visit Solar Energy World on Facebook to see more pictures and video of the races. A special thank you goes out to the staff of Eagle Cove School and St. Joseph School for inviting us to participate in their Earth Day celebrations.
Solar Energy World is finishing installing a 312kW solar array with 1,248 LG 250-watt panels at the Metuchen Sportsplex in central, NJ. The solar energy system will supply approximately 34%of the building’s energy needs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 215 metric tons a year.
Metuchen Sportsplex is the tenant of the property. Owned by its joint venture partner, an affiliate of The Maven Group, the property was originally classified as a “Brownfield” and another affiliate of the Maven Group completed remediation of the site and built the 70,000 sq. ft. indoor recreation center, which opened in the fall of 2010.
As part of its development agreement with the Borough of Metuchen, The Maven Group moved forward with solar energy in late spring of 2011 to reduce the facility’s carbon footprint and affirm its commitment to renewable energy.
Stuart Schooler, the managing partner of the joint venture, was asked about the firm’s decision to install photovoltaic panels. ”We evaluate geothermal, photovoltaics and wind energy for every project we develop. A relatively urban recreational facility sitting atop a former brownfields site is an almost ideal application for solar-generated electricity. In the long-run it will keep rental costs down for teams that use the fields and provide other practical benefits like reflecting heat off of the roof to reduce the need for air conditioning and extend the life of the roof.”
This solar panel installation isn’t a first for The Maven Group, previously installing solar on their Rockville Ice Rink. So, they were familiar with most of the benefits. The project will generate Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC). These certificates can be sold on New Jersey’s SREC tracking system and will generate approximately $184,000 in revenue during the system’s first year in operation.
“Every installation requires the collaboration of the local government for zoning and permitting, the owner, the user and [while not technically a requirement,] the public utility. During and in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, SEW delivered this rooftop system without losing a single panel and completed its interconnection with PSE&G on time, a testament to the real economic benefits of cooperation even in the face of a natural disaster” said Solar Energy World VP, Geoff Mirkin.
Solar Energy World plans to finalize the solar energy system and connect it to the electrical grid within the coming weeks.
Solar energy is on the cusp of becoming a mainstream form of energy. As more information about alternative energy flies around the Internet, it is important to realize that not everything you hear about solar energy is true. Here are the top five myths about going solar:
Myth # 1- Solar energy is too expensive:
There is an upfront cost to convert your home to solar energy, but that doesn’t mean it is too expensive. In fact, solar has never been more affordable. Depending on your state, there are huge incentives, including tax breaks and Solar Renewable Energy Credits, which can offset some of the upfront cost. The truth is that you can see a return on your investment from Day 1. Locally, the Maryland solar industry has fairly competitive incentives.
Myth # 2 – Solar doesn’t work on cloudy, cold days.
While solar panels work slightly by effectively in direct sun, solar systems work just fine on cloudy days. Consider that Germany, a country not known for its bright, sunny days, is the solar capital of the world. As for the cold? Just because it might be cold, doesn’t mean that there isn’t sunlight. Plus, solar systems actually work better in colder temperatures since the panels can conduct electricity more efficiently in milder weather.
Myth # 3 – With all the advancements in solar energy, I should just wait. Prices will come down.
The time to buy is now. While it may be true that the cost of solar panels might come down, so will the large amount of federal and state incentives. The solar incentives are not going to be around forever, so why not start cutting your electricity bills in half now?
Myth # 4 – I am not going to be in my house long enough to see a return on my investment.
You will still see a return on your investment even if you move out of your house just a few years after you install a photovoltaic solar panel system: it just won’t come as reduced energy bills. Installing a solar system can increase your house value by $20,000 for every $1,000 saved in annual utility costs.
Myth # 5- Solar is hard to maintain.
Solar panel systems that are connected to the grid are easy to maintain. They just need to be rinsed off with water occasionally. The only maintenance they really require is to be kept free of things like dust, debris and snow. In fact solar panels are made to withstand rain, hail, and pretty much anything Mother Nature can throw at it.
Solar energy continues to nab headlines across the nation this month. From new investments to new technology, solare energy continues to gain attention as the next big energy source.
In Boston, a team at MIT announced a breakthrough, reducing the scale of solar energy. Just like the first computers took up entire rooms but now fit into your pocket, MIT has produced a solar panel the size and weight of a piece of paper.
The new technology “prints” solar energy cells onto an array of surfaces, including paper and fabric. This drastically reduces size and weight of solar panels, essentially creating portable solar energy sources. While not as efficient as traditional solar panels, the technology, which boasts a low manufacturing cost, will allow people to power individual electronic devices. Not to mention the potential uses for them as the technology gets further refined.
On the other end of the scale, Hawaii started constructing its largest solar energy installation to date. Hoping to create one of the largest solar communities in the U.S., military families at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will soon be powered by solar energy. In addition to creating 55 green jobs, when finished, the four MW installation is expected to produce more than 5.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) and power over 2,000 homes.
And here in the DC Metro area, the Washington Redskins are bringing solar to FexEd field. Officials announced plans for a two MW system that is expected to generate enough power to run the stadium on non-game days and off-set some electricity usage during game days. The photovoltaic solar panel system would span over 800 parking spots. While the league hopes the location will help increase solar visibility to its fans, the solar array will also creatively double as a covered parking area.
New Jersey is the most densely populated state resulting in a real effort to preserve the state’s remaining open spaces. This has limited the prospect of a large utility-scale solar energy installations. The state also experienced a period of heavy industrialization in the absence of environmental regulations, and has responded by tightening said regulations significantly.
The big reason why Jersey can use solar energy is that the state’s energy economy makes renewable power easier to sell. New Jersey gets about half of its power from nuclear plants and imports about 30% power from other states. The bulk of New Jersey’s expanding electricity need to be met by coal and natural gas. All of these factors keep New Jersey’s electricity prices in line with nearby states. Renewable’s prices don’t have to come down as far in price to become competitive.
The state also imposed a renewable energy standard that dictates, by 2020, it will receive 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
There were limited energy options for New Jersey. New Jersey generally has flat topography meaning that hydropower isn’t much of an option. Many of the estuaries and rivers that do flow into the ocean in New Jersey have excellent potential as sources of tidal power, but that technology hasn’t yet advanced far enough to allow deployment. Due to the fact that open land is so precious and preserved, New Jersey did not really have many options other than to turn to solar energy, unless it wanted to build a big utility facility. However, in terms of space for solar energy, rooftops are everywhere- enter the photovoltaic solar panel system.
In addition to the political and economic situation of New Jersey the state devised a system based on what are called Solar Renewable Energy Certificates, or SRECs. The utilities can buy SREC bundles and use them to meet their annual quota of renewable power; falling short will net them a fee. An example of this can be seen from 2009 when it was required that Jersey Central Power and Light and Public Service Electric and Gas obtain 20% of their power from solar. The SREC market acts as a cap and trade system with a maximum value for the SRECs.
Unlike SRECs, selling the credits that your system produces, you can save money by saving electricity. As your system produces electricity and sends excess back to the grid, your meter is running backwards or keeping track of electricity sent. When your system is not producing electricity it is pulling electricity from the grid at no charge if you are using what you contributed at an earlier period. Through this process you can save money on your monthly electricity bills while also receiving money from selling your SRECs credits.
These characteristics make renewable so easy to sell in New Jersey that could not be sold anywhere else due to the limited competitiveness of the renewable market. The Maryland solar industry is attempting to model the state’s policies after regulations found in New Jersey.
Post written by: David Zamostny, Solar Energy World Intern