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Brush Up On Your Solar Power Lingo

Brush Up On Your Solar Power Lingo
Have you found that as you research and talk with people about solar energy that they use words you aren’t quite sure about? A solar energy system has a lot of parts to it, and while the technology behind it is pretty straightforward, some of the terminologies and solar power lingo can be confusing for those not in the industry. Let’s dissect some of the more common terms you’ll hear:

Solar Power Lingo

Grid – you probably hear this word a lot, in the context of “living off the grid”. A grid is simply the connection of electrical power lines in your neighborhood.
Array – an array is a group of panels wired together. The larger your array, the more panels you have, and thus the more energy you will produce.
Alternating current (AC) – this is the type of electricity that is most common in households. AC energy reverses its direction every so often throughout the day.
Direct current (DC) – Unlike AC, DC energy flows in one direction only. When you utilize solar panels, the energy they collect is in the form of direct current electricity.
Inverter – this is an essential part of your entire solar energy system. The inverter works to convert your DC energy into AC electricity so that your home can use it more effectively.
Photovoltaic (PV) – when researching types of solar panels, you’ll see this word come up a lot. It’s a crucial design element that allows the panels to do their job of collecting light and converting it into energy.
Watt (W) – electricity is measured in units called watts. You may have seen on light bulb packages that they use between 30 and 100 watts of power.

The Importance Of Solar Power

We’ve only just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vocabulary and the solar power lingo used within the solar energy industry. As you become more familiar with the terms, you’ll be able to make better-educated decisions about what kind of system you want for your home or business.

Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle already. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the road, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home

It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.

Lock in low energy rates

Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.

Get a customized solar quote

Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have, all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come.
We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s solar energy glossary contains definitions for technical terms related to solar energy, electricity, and power generation by technologies like photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP).

A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W Z

III-V cell — A high-efficiency solar cell made from materials including Group III and Group V elements from the periodic table.

A

absorber — In a photovoltaic device, the material that readily absorbs photons to generate charge carriers (free electrons or holes).
AC — See alternating current.
acceptor — A dopant material, such as boron, which has fewer outer shell electrons than required in an otherwise balanced crystal structure, providing a hole, which can accept a free electron.
activated shelf life — The period of time, at a specified temperature, that a charged battery can be stored before its capacity falls to an unusable level.
activation voltage(s) — The voltage(s) at which a charge controller will take action to protect the batteries.
adjustable set point — A feature allowing the user to adjust the voltage levels at which a charge controller will become active.
acceptor — A dopant material, such as boron, which has fewer outer shell electrons than required in an otherwise balanced crystal structure, providing a hole, which can accept a free electron.
AIC — See amperage interrupt capability.
air mass (sometimes called air mass ratio) — Equal to the cosine of the zenith angle-that angle from directly overhead to a line intersecting the sun. The air mass is an indication of the length of the path solar radiation travels through the atmosphere. An air mass of 1.0 means the sun is directly overhead and the radiation travels through one atmosphere (thickness).
alternating current (AC) — A type of electrical current, the direction of which is reversed at regular intervals or cycles. In the United States, the standard is 120 reversals or 60 cycles per second. Electricity transmission networks use AC because voltage can be controlled with relative ease.
ambient temperature — The temperature of the surrounding area.
amorphous semiconductor — A non-crystalline semiconductor material that has no long-range order.
amorphous silicon — A thin-filmsilicon photovoltaic cell having no crystalline structure. Manufactured by depositing layers of doped silicon on a substrateSee also single-crystal silicon an polycrystalline silicon.
amperage interrupt capability (AIC) — direct current fuses should be rated with a sufficient AIC to interrupt the highest possible current.
ampere (amp) — A unit of electrical current or rate of flow of electrons. One volt across one ohm of resistance causes a current flow of one ampere.
ampere-hour (Ah/AH) — A measure of the flow of current (in amperes) over one hour; used to measure battery capacity.
ampere hour meter — An instrument that monitors current with time. The indication is the product of current (in amperes) and time (in hours).
ancillary services — Services that assist the grid operator in maintaining system balance. These include regulation and the contingency reserves: spinning, non-spinning, and in some regions, supplemental operating reserve.
angle of incidence — The angle that a ray of sun makes with a line perpendicular to the surface. For example, a surface that directly faces the sun has a solar angle of incidence of zero, but if the surface is parallel to the sun (for example, sunrise striking a horizontal rooftop), the angle of incidence is 90°.
annual solar savings — The annual solar savings of a solar building is the energy savings attributable to a solar feature relative to the energy requirements of a non-solar building.
anode — The positive electrode in an electrochemical cell (battery). Also, the earth or ground in a cathodic protection system. Also, the positive terminal of a diode.
antireflection coating — A thin coating of a material applied to a solar cell surface that reduces the light reflection and increases light transmission.
array — See photovoltaic (PV) array.
array current — The electrical current produced by a photovoltaic array when it is exposed to sunlight.
array operating voltage — The voltage produced by a photovoltaic array when exposed to sunlight and connected to a load.
autonomous system — See stand-alone system.
availability — The quality or condition of a photovoltaic system being available to provide power to a load. Usually measured in hours per year. One minus availability equals downtime.
azimuth angle — The angle between true south and the point on the horizon directly below the sun.
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B

balance of system — Represents all components and costs other than the photovoltaic modules/array. It includes design costs, land, site preparation, system installation, support structures, power conditioning, operation and maintenance costs, indirect storage, and related costs.
balancing area — A metered segment of the power system, maintained by a balancing area authority, that ensures the total of all electrical generation equals the total of all system loads.
band gap — In a semiconductor, the energy difference between the highest valence band and the lowest conduction band.
band gap energy (Eg) — The amount of energy (in electron volts) required to free an outer shell electron from its orbit about the nucleus to a free state, and thus promote it from the valence to the conduction level.
barrier energy — The energy given up by an electron in penetrating the cell barrier; a measure of the electrostatic potential of the barrier.
base load — The average amount of electric power that a utility must supply in any period.
base load generating plants — Typically coal or nuclear generating units that are committed and dispatched at constant or near-constant levels with minimum cycling. They are often the sources of lowest-cost of energy when run at very high capacity factors.
battery — Two or more electrochemical cells enclosed in a container and electrically interconnected in an appropriate series/parallel arrangement to provide the required operating voltage and current levels. Under common usage, the term battery also applies to a single cell if it constitutes the entire electrochemical storage system.
battery available capacity — The total maximum charge, expressed in ampere-hours, that can be withdrawn from a cell or battery under a specific set of operating conditions including discharge rate, temperature, initial state of charge, age, and cut-off voltage.
battery capacity — The maximum total electrical charge, expressed in ampere-hours, which a battery can deliver to a load under a specific set of conditions.
battery cell — The simplest operating unit in a storage battery. It consists of one or more positive electrodes or plates, an electrolyte that permits ionic conduction, one or more negative electrodes or plates, separators between plates of opposite polarity, and a container for all the above.
battery cycle life — The number of cycles, to a specified depth of discharge, that a cell or battery can undergo before failing to meet its specified capacity or efficiency performance criteria.
battery energy capacity — The total energy available, expressed in watt-hours (kilowatt-hours), which can be withdrawn from a fully charged cell or battery. The energy capacity of a given cell varies with temperature, rate, age, and cut-off voltage. This term is more common to system designers than it is to the battery industry where capacity usually refers to ampere-hours.
battery energy storage — Energy storage using electrochemical batteries. The three main applications for battery energy storage systems include spinning reserve at generating stations, load leveling at substations, and peak shaving on the customer side of the meter.
battery life — The period during which a cell or battery is capable of operating above a specified capacity or efficiency performance level. Life may be measured in cycles and/or years, depending on the type of service for which the cell or battery is intended.
BIPV — See building integrated photovoltaics.
blocking diode — A semiconductor connected in series with a solar cell or cells and a storage battery to keep the battery from discharging through the cell when there is no output, or low output, from the solar cell. It can be thought of as a one-way valve that allows electrons to flow forwards, but not backwards.
boron (B) — The chemical element commonly used as the dopant in photovoltaic device or cell material.
boule — A sausage-shaped, synthetic single-crystal mass grown in a special furnace, pulled and turned at a rate necessary to maintain the single-crystal structure during growth.
British thermal unit (Btu) — The amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit; equal to 252 calories.
building integrated photovoltaics — A term for the design and integration of photovoltaic (PV) technology into the building envelope, typically replacing conventional building materials. This integration may be in vertical facades, replacing view glass, spandrel glass, or other facade material; into semitransparent skylight systems; into roofing systems, replacing traditional roofing materials; into shading “eyebrows” over windows; or other building envelope systems.
bypass diode — A diode connected across one or more solar cells in a photovoltaic module such that the diode will conduct if the cell(s) become reverse biased. It protects these solar cells from thermal destruction in case of total or partial shading of individual solar cells while other cells are exposed to full light.
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C

cadmium (Cd) — A chemical element used in making certain types of solar cells and batteries.
cadmium telluride (CdTe) — A polycrystalline thin-film photovoltaic material.
capacity (C) — See battery capacity.
capacity factor — The ratio of the average load on (or power output of) an electricity generating unit or system to the capacity rating of the unit or system over a specified period of time.
captive electrolyte battery — A battery having an immobilized electrolyte (gelled or absorbed in a material).
cathode — The negative pole or electrode of an electrolytic cell, vacuum tube, etc., where electrons enter (current leaves) the system; the opposite of an anode.
cathodic protection — A method of preventing oxidation of the exposed metal in structures by imposing a small electrical voltage between the structure and the ground.
Cd — See cadmium.
CdTe — See cadmium telluride.
cell (battery) — A single unit of an electrochemical device capable of producing direct voltage by converting chemical energy into electrical energy. A battery usually consists of several cells electrically connected together to produce higher voltages. (Sometimes the terms cell and battery are used interchangeably). See also photovoltaic (PV) cell.
cell barrier — A very thin region of static electric charge along the interface of the positive and negative layers in a photovoltaic cell. The barrier inhibits the movement of electrons from one layer to the other, so that higher-energy electrons from one side diffuse preferentially through it in one direction, creating a current and thus a voltage across the cell. Also called depletion zone or space charge.
cell junction — The area of immediate contact between two layers (positive and negative) of a photovoltaic cell. The junction lies at the center of the cell barrier or depletion zone.
charge — The process of adding electrical energy to a battery.
charge carrier — A free and mobile conduction electron or hole in a semiconductor.
charge controller — A component of a photovoltaic system that controls the flow of current to and from the battery to protect it from over-charge and over-discharge. The charge controller may also indicate the system operational status.
charge factor — A number representing the time in hours during which a battery can be charged at a constant current without damage to the battery. Usually expressed in relation to the total battery capacity, i.e., C/5 indicates a charge factor of 5 hours. Related to charge rate.
charge rate — The current applied to a cell or battery to restore its available capacity. This rate is commonly normalized by a charge control device with respect to the rated capacity of the cell or battery.
chemical vapor deposition (CVD) — A method of depositing thin semiconductor films used to make certain types of photovoltaic devices. With this method, a substrate is exposed to one or more vaporized compounds, one or more of which contain desirable constituents. A chemical reaction is initiated, at or near the substrate surface, to produce the desired material that will condense on the substrate.
cleavage of lateral epitaxial films for transfer (CLEFT) — A process for making inexpensive gallium arsenide (GaAs) photovoltaic cells in which a thin film of GaAs is grown atop a thick, single-crystal GaAs (or other suitable material) substrate and then is cleaved from the substrate and incorporated into a cell, allowing the substrate to be reused to grow more thin-film GaAs.
cloud enhancement — The increase in solar intensity caused by reflected irradiance from nearby clouds.
combined collector — A photovoltaic device or module that provides useful heat energy in addition to electricity.
concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) — A solar technology that uses lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto high-efficiency solar cells.
concentrating solar power (CSP) — A solar technology that use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that convert solar energy to heat. This thermal energy is then used to produce electricity with a steam turbine or heat engine driving a generator.
concentrator — A photovoltaic module, which includes optical components such as lenses (Fresnel lens) to direct and concentrate sunlight onto a solar cell of smaller area. Most concentrator arrays must directly face or track the sun. They can increase the power flux of sunlight hundreds of times.
conduction band (or conduction level) — An energy band in a semiconductor in which electrons can move freely in a solid, producing a net transport of charge.
conductor — The material through which electricity is transmitted, such as an electrical wire, or transmission or distribution line.
contact resistance — The resistance between metallic contacts and the semiconductor.
contingency reserves — Reserve services that are sufficient to cover the unplanned trip (disconnect) of a large generator or transmission line and maintain system balance. Contingency reserves are generally split between spinning and non-spinning reserves, and are often based on the largest single hazard (generator or transmission capacity).
conversion efficiency — See photovoltaic (conversion) efficiency.
converter — A unit that converts a direct current (dc) voltage to another dc voltage.
copper indium diselenide (CuInSe2, or CIS) — A polycrystalline thin-film photovoltaic material (sometimes incorporating gallium (CIGS) and/or sulfur).
copper zinc tin sulfide/selenide (CZTS) — A polycrystalline thin-film photovoltaic material.
crystalline silicon — A type of photovoltaic cell made from a slice of single-crystal silicon or polycrystalline silicon.
current — See electric current.
current at maximum power (Imp) — The current at which maximum power is available from a module.
current-voltage (I-V) curve — See I-V curve
cutoff voltage — The voltage levels (activation) at which the charge controller disconnects the photovoltaic array from the battery or the load from the battery.
cycle — The discharge and subsequent charge of a battery.
Czochralski process — A method of growing large size, high quality semiconductor crystal by slowly lifting a seed crystal from a molten bath of the material under careful cooling conditions.
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D

dangling bonds — A chemical bond associated with an atom on the surface layer of a crystal. The bond does not join with another atom of the crystal, but extends in the direction of exterior of the surface.
days of storage — The number of consecutive days the stand-alone system will meet a defined load without solar energy input. This term is related to system availability.
DC — See direct current.
DC-to-DC converter — Electronic circuit to convert direct current voltages (e.g., photovoltaic module voltage) into other levels (e.g., load voltage). Can be part of a maximum power point tracker.
deep-cycle battery — A battery with large plates that can withstand many discharges to a low state-of-charge.
deep discharge — Discharging a battery to 20% or less of its full charge capacity.
defect — See light-induced defects
demand response — The process of using voluntary load reductions during peak hours.
depth of discharge (DOD) — The ampere-hours removed from a fully charged cell or battery, expressed as a percentage of rated capacity. For example, the removal of 25 ampere-hours from a fully charged 100 ampere-hours rated cell results in a 25% depth of discharge. Under certain conditions, such as discharge rates lower than that used to rate the cell, depth of discharge can exceed 100%.
dendrite — A slender threadlike spike of pure crystalline material, such as silicon.
dendritic web technique — A method for making sheets of polycrystalline silicon in which silicon dendrites are slowly withdrawn from a melt of silicon whereupon a web of silicon forms between the dendrites and solidifies as it rises from the melt and cools.
depletion zone — Same as cell barrier. The term derives from the fact that this microscopically thin region is depleted of charge carriers (free electrons and hole).
design month — The month having the combination of insolation and load that requires the maximum energy from the photovoltaic array.
diffuse insolation — Sunlight received indirectly as a result of scattering due to clouds, fog, haze, dust, or other obstructions in the atmosphere. Opposite of direct insolation.
diffuse radiation — Radiation received from the sun after reflection and scattering by the atmosphere and ground.
diffusion furnace — Furnace used to make junctions in semiconductors by diffusing dopant atoms into the surface of the material.
diffusion length — The mean distance a free electron or hole moves before recombining with another hole or electron.
diode — An electronic device that allows current to flow in one direction only. See also blocking diode and bypass diode.
direct beam radiation — Radiation received by direct solar rays. Measured by a pyrheliometer with a solar aperture of 5.7° to transcribe the solar disc.
direct current (DC) — A type of electricity transmission and distribution by which electricity flows in one direction through the conductor, usually relatively low voltage and high current. To be used for typical 120 volt or 220 volt household appliances, DC must be converted to alternating current, its opposite.
direct insolation — Sunlight falling directly upon a collector. Opposite of diffuse insolation.
discharge — The withdrawal of electrical energy from a battery.
discharge factor — A number equivalent to the time in hours during which a battery is discharged at constant current usually expressed as a percentage of the total battery capacity, i.e., C/5 indicates a discharge factor of 5 hours. Related to discharge rate.
discharge rate — The rate, usually expressed in amperes or time, at which electrical current is taken from the battery.
disconnect — Switch gear used to connect or disconnect components in a photovoltaic system.
dispatching (economic dispatch) — A method by which system operators decide how much output should be scheduled from plants.
distributed energy resources (DER) — A variety of small, modular power-generating technologies that can be combined with energy management and storage systems and used to improve the operation of the electricity delivery system, whether or not those technologies are connected to an electricity grid.
distributed generation — A popular term for localized or on-site power generation.
distributed power — Generic term for any power supply located near the point where the power is used. Opposite of central power. See also stand-alone systems.
distributed systems — Systems that are installed at or near the location where the electricity is used, as opposed to central systems that supply electricity to grids. A residential photovoltaic system is a distributed system.
donor — In a photovoltaic device, an n-type dopant, such as phosphorus, that puts an additional electron into an energy level very near the conduction band; this electron is easily exited into the conduction band where it increases the electrical conductivity over than of an undoped semiconductor.
donor level — The level that donates conduction electrons to the system.
dopant — A chemical element (impurity) added in small amounts to an otherwise pure semiconductor material to modify the electrical properties of the material. An n-dopant introduces more electrons. A p-dopant creates electron vacancies (holes).
doping — The addition of dopants to a semiconductor.
downtime — Time when the photovoltaic system cannot provide power for the load. Usually expressed in hours per year or that percentage.
dry cell — A cell (battery) with a captive electrolyte. A primary battery that cannot be recharged.
duty cycle — The ratio of active time to total time. Used to describe the operating regime of appliances or loads in photovoltaic systems.
duty rating — The amount of time an inverter (power conditioning unit) can produce at full rated power.
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E

edge-defined film-fed growth (EFG) — A method for making sheets of polycrystalline silicon for photovoltaic devices in which molten silicon is drawn upward by capillary action through a mold.
electric circuit — The path followed by electrons from a power source (generator or battery), through an electrical system, and returning to the source.
electric current — The flow of electrical energy (electricity) in a conductor, measured in amperes.
electrical grid — An integrated system of electricity distribution, usually covering a large area.
electricity — Energy resulting from the flow of charge particles, such as electrons or ions.
electrochemical cell — A device containing two conducting electrodes, one positive and the other negative, made of dissimilar materials (usually metals) that are immersed in a chemical solution (electrolyte) that transmits positive ions from the negative to the positive electrode and thus forms an electrical charge. One or more cells constitute a battery.
electrode — A conductor that is brought in conducting contact with a ground.
electrodeposition — Electrolytic process in which a metal is deposited at the cathode from a solution of its ions.
electrolyte — A nonmetallic (liquid or solid) conductor that carries current by the movement of ions (instead of electrons) with the liberation of matter at the electrodes of an electrochemical cell.
electron — An elementary particle of an atom with a negative electrical charge and a mass of 1/1837 of a proton; electrons surround the positively charged nucleus of an atom and determine the chemical properties of an atom. The movement of electrons in an electrical conductor constitutes an electric current.
electron hole pair — The result of light of sufficient energy dislodging an electron from its bond in a crystal, which creates a hole. The free electron (negative charge) and the hole (positive charge) are a pair. These pairs are the constituents of electricity.
electron volt (eV) — The amount of kinetic energy gained by an electron when accelerated through an electric potential difference of 1 Volt; equivalent to 1.603 x 10^-19; a unit of energy or work.
energy — The capability of doing work; different forms of energy can be converted to other forms, but the total amount of energy remains the same.
energy audit — A survey that shows how much energy used in a home, which helps find ways to use less energy.
energy contribution potential — Recombination occurring in the emitter region of a photovoltaic cell.
energy density — The ratio of available energy per pound; usually used to compare storage batteries.
energy imbalance service — A market service that provides for the management of unscheduled deviations in individual generator output or load consumption.
energy levels — The energy represented by an electron in the band model of a substance.
epitaxial growth — The growth of one crystal on the surface of another crystal. The growth of the deposited crystal is oriented by the lattice structure of the original crystal.
equalization — The process of restoring all cells in a battery to an equal state-of-charge. Some battery types may require a complete discharge as a part of the equalization process.
equalization charge — The process of mixing the electrolyte in batteries by periodically overcharging the batteries for a short time.
equalizing charge — A continuation of normal battery charging, at a voltage level slightly higher than the normal end-of-charge voltage, in order to provide cell equalization within a battery.
equinox — The two times of the year when the sun crosses the equator and night and day are of equal length; occurring around March 20 or 21 (spring equinox) and September 22 or 23 (fall equinox).
exciton — A quasi-particle created in a semiconductor that is composed of an electron hole pair in a bound state. An exciton can be generated by and converted back into a photon.
external quantum efficiency (external QE or EQE) — Quantum efficiency that includes the effect of optical losses, such as transmission through the cell and reflection of light away from the cell.
extrinsic semiconductor — The product of doping a pure semiconductor.
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F

Fermi level — Energy level at which the probability of finding an electron is one-half. In a metal, the Fermi level is very near the top of the filled levels in the partially filled valence band. In a semiconductor, the Fermi level is in the band gap.
fill factor — The ratio of a photovoltaic cell‘s actual power to its power if both current and voltage were at their maxima. A key characteristic in evaluating cell performance.
fixed tilt array — A photovoltaic array set in at a fixed angle with respect to horizontal.
flat-plate array — A photovoltaic (PV) array that consists of non-concentrating PV modules.
flat-plate module — An arrangement of photovoltaic cells or material mounted on a rigid flat surface with the cells exposed freely to incoming sunlight.
flat-plate photovoltaics (PV) — A PV array or module that consists of nonconcentrating elements. Flat-plate arrays and modules use direct and diffuse sunlight, but if the array is fixed in position, some portion of the direct sunlight is lost because of oblique sun-angles in relation to the array.
float charge — The voltage required to counteract the self-discharge of the battery at a certain temperature.
float life — The number of years that a battery can keep its stated capacity when it is kept at float charge.
float service — A battery operation in which the battery is normally connected to an external current source; for instance, a battery charger which supplies the battery load< under normal conditions, while also providing enough energy input to the battery to make up for its internal quiescent losses, thus keeping the battery always up to full power and ready for service.
float-zone process — In reference to solar photovoltaic cell manufacture, a method of growing a large-size, high-quality crystal whereby coils heat a polycrystalline ingot placed atop a single-crystal seed. As the coils are slowly raised the molten interface beneath the coils becomes single crystal.
frequency — The number of repetitions per unit time of a complete waveform, expressed in Hertz (Hz).
frequency regulation — This indicates the variability in the output frequency. Some loads will switch off or not operate properly if frequency variations exceed 1%.
Fresnel lens — An optical device that focuses light like a magnifying glass; concentric rings are faced at slightly different angles so that light falling on any ring is focused to the same point.
full sun — The amount of power density in sunlight received at the earth’s surface at noon on a clear day (about 1,000 Watts/square meter).
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G

Ga — See gallium.
GaAs — See gallium arsenide.
gallium (Ga) — A chemical element, metallic in nature, used in making certain kinds of solar cells and semiconductor devices.
gallium arsenide (GaAs) — A crystalline, high-efficiency compound used to make certain types of solar cells and semiconductor material.
gassing — The evolution of gas from one or more of the electrodes in the cells of a battery. Gassing commonly results from local action self-discharge or from the electrolysis of water in the electrolyte during charging.
gassing current — The portion of charge current that goes into electrolytical production of hydrogen and oxygen from the electrolytic liquid. This current increases with increasing voltage and temperature.
gel-type battery — Lead-acid battery in which the electrolyte is composed of a silica gel matrix.
gigawatt (GW) — A unit of power equal to 1 billion Watts; 1 million kilowatts, or 1,000 megawatts.
grid — See electrical grid.
grid-connected system — A solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system in which the PV array acts like a central generating plant, supplying power to the grid.
grid-interactive system — Same as grid-connected system.
grid lines — Metallic contacts fused to the surface of the solar cell to provide a low resistance path for electrons to flow out to the cell interconnect wires.
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H

harmonic content — The number of frequencies in the output waveform in addition to the primary frequency (50 or 60 Hz.). Energy in these harmonic frequencies is lost and may cause excessive heating of the load.
heterojunction — A region of electrical contact between two different materials.
high voltage disconnect — The voltage at which a charge controller will disconnect the photovoltaic array from the batteries to prevent overcharging.
high voltage disconnect hysteresis — The voltage difference between the high voltag disconnect set point and the voltage at which the full photovoltaic array current will be reapplied.
hole — The vacancy where an electron would normally exist in a solid; behaves like a positively charged particle.
homojunction — The region between an n-layer and a p-layer in a single material, photovoltaic cell.
hybrid system — A solar electric or photovoltaic system that includes other sources of electricity generation, such as wind or diesel generators.
hydrogenated amorphous silicon — Amorphous silicon with a small amount of incorporated hydrogen. The hydrogen neutralizes dangling bonds in the amorphous silicon, allowing charge carriers to flow more freely.
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I

incident light — Light that shines onto the face of a solar cell or module.
independent system operator (ISO) — The entity responsible for maintaining system balance, reliability, and electricity market operation.
indium oxide — A wide band gap semiconductor that can be heavily doped with tin to make a highly conductive, transparent thin film. Often used as a front contact or one component of a heterojunction solar cell.
infrared radiation — Electromagnetic radiation whose wavelengths lie in the range from 0.75 micrometer to 1000 micrometers; invisible long wavelength radiation (heat) capable of producing a thermal or photovoltaic effect, though less effective than visible light.
ingot — A casting of material, usually crystalline silicon, from which slices or wafers can be cut for use in a solar cell.
input voltage — This is determined by the total power required by the alternating current loads and the voltage of any direct current loads. Generally, the larger the load, the higher the inverter input voltage. This keeps the current at levels where switches and other components are readily available.
insolation — The solar power density incident on a surface of stated area and orientation, usually expressed as Watts per square meter or Btu per square foot per hour. See also diffuse insolation and direct insolation.
interconnect — A conductor within a module or other means of connection that provides an electrical interconnection between the solar cells.
internal quantum efficiency (internal QE or IQE) — A type of quantum efficiency. Refers to the efficiency with which light not transmitted through or reflected away from the cell can generate charge carriers that can generate current.
intrinsic layer — A layer of semiconductor material, used in a photovoltaic device, whose properties are essentially those of the pure, undoped, material.
intrinsic semiconductor — An undoped semiconductor.
inverted metamorphic multijunction (IMM) cell — A photovoltaic cell that is a multijunction device whose layers of semiconductors are grown upside down. This special manufacturing process yields an ultra-light and flexible cell that also converts solar energy with high efficiency.
inverter — A device that converts direct current electricity to alternating current either for stand-alone systems or to supply power to an electricity grid.
ion — An electrically charged atom or group of atoms that has lost or gained electrons; a loss makes the resulting particle positively charged; a gain makes the particle negatively charged.
irradiance — The direct, diffuse, and reflected solar radiation that strikes a surface. Usually expressed in kilowatts per square meter. Irradiance multiplied by time equals insolation.
ISPRA guidelines — Guidelines for the assessment of photovoltaic power plants, published by the Joint Research Centre of the Commission of the European Communities, Ispra, Italy.
i-type semiconductor — Semiconductor material that is left intrinsic, or undoped so that the concentration of charge carriers is characteristic of the material itself rather than of added impurities.
I-V curve — A graphical presentation of the current (I) versus the voltage (V) from a photovoltaic device as the load is increased from the short circuit (no load) condition to the open circuit (maximum voltage) condition. The shape of the curve characterizes cell performance.
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J

joule — A metric unit of energy or work; 1 joule per second equals 1 watt or 0.737 foot-pounds; 1 Btu equals 1,055 joules.
junction — A region of transition between semiconductor layers, such as a p/n junction, which goes from a region that has a high concentration of acceptors (p-type) to one that has a high concentration of donors (n-type).
junction box — A photovoltaic (PV) generator junction box is an enclosure on the module where PV strings are electrically connected and where protection devices can be located, if necessary.
junction diode — A semiconductor device with a junction and a built-in potential that passes current better in one direction than the other. All solar cells are junction diodes.
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K

kerf — The width of a cut used to create wafers from silicon ingots, often resulting in the loss of semiconductor material.
kilowatt (kW) — A standard unit of electrical power equal to 1000 watts, or to the energy consumption at a rate of 1000 joules per second.
kilowatt-hour (kWh) — 1,000 thousand watts acting over a period of 1 hour. The kWh is a unit of energy. 1 kWh=3600 kJ.
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L

langley (L) — Unit of solar irradiance. One gram calorie per square centimeter. 1 L = 85.93 kWh/m2.
lattice — The regular periodic arrangement of atoms or molecules in a crystal of semiconductor material.
lead-acid battery — A general category that includes batteries with plates made of pure lead, lead-antimony, or lead-calcium immersed in an acid electrolyte.
levelized cost of energy (LCOE) — The cost of energy of a solar system that is based on the system’s installed price, its total lifetime cost, and its lifetime electricity production.
life — The period during which a system is capable of operating above a specified performance level.
life-cycle cost — The estimated cost of owning and operating a photovoltaic system for the period of its useful life.
light-induced defects — Defects, such as dangling bonds, induced in an amorphous silicon semiconductor upon initial exposure to light.
light trapping — The trapping of light inside a semiconductor material by refracting and reflecting the light at critical angles; trapped light will travel further in the material, greatly increasing the probability of absorption and hence of producing charge carriers.
line-commutated inverter — An inverter that is tied to a power grid or line. The commutation of power (conversion from direct current to alternating current) is controlled by the power line, so that, if there is a failure in the power grid, the photovoltaic system cannot feed power into the line.
liquid electrolyte battery — A battery containing a liquid solution of acid and water. Distilled water may be added to these batteries to replenish the electrolyte as necessary. Also called a flooded battery because the plates are covered with the electrolyte.
load — The demand on an energy producing system; the energy consumption or requirement of a piece or group of equipment. Usually expressed in terms of amperes or watts in reference to electricity.
load circuit — The wire, switches, fuses, etc. that connect the load to the power source.
load current (A) — The current required by the electrical device.
load forecast — Predictions of future demand. For normal operations, daily and weekly forecasts of the hour-by-hour demand are used to help develop generation schedules to ensure that sufficient quantities and types of generation are available when needed.
load resistance — The resistance presented by the load. See also resistance.
locational marginal price (LMP) — The price of a unit of energy at a particular electrical location at a given time. LMPs are influenced by the nearby generation, load level, and transmission constraints and losses.
low voltage cutoff (LVC) — The voltage level at which a charge controller will disconnect the load from the battery.
low voltage disconnect — The voltage at which a charge controller will disconnect the load from the batteries to prevent over-discharging.
low voltage disconnect hysteresis — The voltage difference between the low voltage disconnect set point and the voltage at which the load will be reconnected.
low voltage warning — A warning buzzer or light that indicates the low battery voltage set point has been reached.
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M

maintenance-free battery — A sealed battery to which water cannot be added to maintain electrolyte level.
majority carrier — Current carriers (either free electrons or holes) that are in excess in a specific layer of a semiconductor material (electrons in the n-layer, holes in the p-layer) of a cell.
maximum power point (MPP) — The point on the current-voltage (I-V) curve of a module under illumination, where the product of current and voltage is maximum. For a typical silicon cell, this is at about 0.45 volts.
maximum power point tracker (MPPT) — Means of a power conditioning unit that automatically operates the photovoltaic generator at its maximum power point under all conditions.
maximum power tracking — Operating a photovoltaic array at the peak power point of the array’s I-V curve where maximum power is obtained. Also called peak power tracking.
measurement and characterization — A field of research that involves assessing the characteristics of photovoltaic materials and devices.
megawatt (MW) — 1,000 kilowatts, or 1 million watts; standard measure of electric power plant generating capacity.
megawatt-hour — 1,000 kilowatt-hours or 1 million watt-hours.
metrology — The science of measurement.
microgroove — A small groove scribed into the surface of a solar cell, which is filled with metal for contacts.
micrometer (micron) — One millionth of a meter.
minority carrier — A current carrier, either an electron or a hole, that is in the minority in a specific layer of a semiconductor material; the diffusion of minority carriers under the action of the cell junction voltage is the current in a photovoltaic device.
minority carrier lifetime — The average time a minority carrier exists before recombination.
modified sine wave — A waveform that has at least three states (i.e., positive, off, and negative). Has less harmonic content than a square wave.
modularity — The use of multiple inverters connected in parallel to service different loads.
module — See photovoltaic (PV) module.
module derate factor — A factor that lowers the photovoltaic module current to account for field operating conditions such as dirt accumulation on the module.
monolithic — Fabricated as a single structure.
movistor — Short for metal oxide varistor. Used to protect electronic circuits from surge currents such as those produced by lightning.
multicrystalline — A semiconductor (photovoltaic) material composed of variously oriented, small, individual crystals. Sometimes referred to as polycrystalline or semicrystalline.
multijunction device — A high-efficiency photovoltaic device containing two or more cell junctions, each of which is optimized for a particular part of the solar spectrum.
multi-stage controller — A charging controller unit that allows different charging currents as the battery nears full state_of_charge.
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N

nanometer — One billionth of a meter.
National Electrical Code (NEC) — Contains guidelines for all types of electrical installations. The 1984 and later editions of the NEC contain Article 690, “Solar Photovoltaic Systems” which should be followed when installing a PV system.
National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) — This organization sets standards for some non-electronic products like junction boxes.
NEC — See National Electrical Code.
NEMA — See National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
nickel cadmium battery — A battery containing nickel and cadmium plates and an alkaline electrolyte.
nominal voltage — A reference voltage used to describe batteriesmodules, or systems (i.e., a 12-volt or 24-volt battery, module, or system).
normal operating cell temperature (NOCT) — The estimated temperature of a photovoltaic module when operating under 800 w/m2 irradiance, 20°C ambient temperature and wind speed of 1 meter per second. NOCT is used to estimate the nominal operating temperature of a module in its working environment.
n-type — Negative semiconductor material in which there are more electrons than holescurrent is carried through it by the flow of electrons.
n-type semiconductor — A semiconductor produced by doping an intrinsic semiconductor with an electrondonor impurity (e.g., phosphorus in silicon).
n-type silicon — Silicon material that has been doped with a material that has more electrons in its atomic structure than does silicon.
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O

ohm — A measure of the electrical resistance of a material equal to the resistance of a circuit in which the potential difference of 1 volt produces a current of 1 ampere.
one-axis tracking — A system capable of rotating about one axis.
open-circuit voltage (Voc) — The maximum possible voltage across a photovoltaic cell; the voltage across the cell in sunlight when no current is flowing.
operating point — The current and voltage that a photovoltaic module or array produces when connected to a load. The operating point is dependent on the load or the batteries connected to the output terminals of the array.
orientation — Placement with respect to the cardinal directions, N, S, E, W; azimuth is the measure of orientation from north.
outgas — See gassing.
overcharge — Forcing current into a fully charged battery. The battery will be damaged if overcharged for a long period.
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P

packing factor — The ratio of array area to actual land area or building envelope area for a system; or, the ratio of total solar cell area to the total module area, for a module.
panel — See photovoltaic (PV) panel.
parallel connection — A way of joining solar cells or photovoltaic modules by connecting positive leads together and negative leads together; such a configuration increases the current, but not the voltage.
passivation — A chemical reaction that eliminates the detrimental effect of electrically reactive atoms on a solar cell’s surface.
peak demand/load — The maximum energy demand or load in a specified time period.
peak power current — Amperes produced by a photovoltaic module or array operating at the voltage of the I-V curve that will produce maximum power from the module.
peak power point — Operating point of the I-V (current-voltage) curve for a solar cell or photovoltaic module where the product of the current value times the voltage value is a maximum.
peak power tracking — See maximum power tracking.
peak sun hours — The equivalent number of hours per day when solar irradiance averages 1,000 w/m2. For example, six peak sun hours means that the energy received during total daylight hours equals the energy that would have been received had the irradiance for six hours been 1,000 w/m2.
peak watt — A unit used to rate the performance of solar cellsmodules, or arrays; the maximum nominal output of a photovoltaic device, in watts (Wp) under standardized test conditions, usually 1,000 watts per square meter of sunlight with other conditions, such as temperature specified.
phosphorous (P) — A chemical element used as a dopant in making n-type semiconductor layers.
photocurrent — An electric current induced by radiant energy.
photoelectric cell — A device for measuring light intensity that works by converting light falling on, or reach it, to electricity, and then measuring the current; used in photometers.
photoelectrochemical cell — A type of photovoltaic device in which the electricity induced in the cell is used immediately within the cell to produce a chemical, such as hydrogen, which can then be withdrawn for use.
photon — A particle of light that acts as an individual unit of energy.
photovoltaic(s) (PV) — Pertaining to the direct conversion of light into electricity.
photovoltaic (PV) array — An interconnected system of PV modules that function as a single electricity-producing unit. The modules are assembled as a discrete structure, with common support or mounting. In smaller systems, an array can consist of a single module.
photovoltaic (PV) cell — The smallest semiconductor element within a PV module to perform the immediate conversion of light into electrical energy (direct current voltage and current). Also called a solar cell.
photovoltaic (PV) conversion efficiency — The ratio of the electric power produced by a photovoltaic device to the power of the sunlight incident on the device.
photovoltaic (PV) device — A solid-state electrical device that converts light directly into direct current electricity of voltage-current characteristics that are a function of the characteristics of the light source and the materials in and design of the device. Solar photovoltaic devices are made of various semiconductor materials including siliconcadmium sulfidecadmium telluride, and gallium arsenide, and in single crystalline, multicrystalline, or amorphous forms.
photovoltaic (PV) effect — The phenomenon that occurs when photons, the “particles” in a beam of light, knock electrons loose from the atoms they strike. When this property of light is combined with the properties of semiconductors, electrons flow in one direction across a junction, setting up a voltage. With the addition of circuitry, current will flow and electric power will be available.
photovoltaic (PV) generator — The total of all PV strings of a PV power supply system, which are electrically interconnected.
photovoltaic (PV) module — The smallest environmentally protected, essentially planar assembly of solar cells and ancillary parts, such as interconnections, terminals, (and protective devices such as diodes) intended to generate direct current power under unconcentrated sunlight. The structural (load carrying) member of a module can either be the top layer (superstrate) or the back layer (substrate).
photovoltaic (PV) panel — often used interchangeably with PV module (especially in one-module systems), but more accurately used to refer to a physically connected collection of modules (i.e., a laminate string of modules used to achieve a required voltage and current).
photovoltaic (PV) system — A complete set of components for converting sunlight into electricity by the photovoltaic process, including the array and balance of system components.
photovoltaic-thermal (PV/T) system — A photovoltaic system that, in addition to converting sunlight into electricity, collects the residual heat energy and delivers both heat and electricity in usable form. Also called a total energy system or solar thermal system.
physical vapor deposition — A method of depositing thin semiconductor photovoltaic films. With this method, physical processes, such as thermal evaporation or bombardment of ions, are used to deposit elemental semiconductor material on a substrate.
P-I-N — A semiconductor photovoltaic (PV) device structure that layers an intrinsic semiconductor between a p-type semiconductor and an n-type semiconductor; this structure is most often used with amorphous silicon PV devices.
plates — A metal plate, usually lead or lead compound, immersed in the electrolyte in a battery.
plug-and-play PV system — A commercial, off-the-shelf photovoltaic system that is fully inclusive with little need for individual customization. The system can be installed without special training and using few tools. The homeowner plugs the system into a PV-ready circuit and an automatic PV discovery process initiates communication between the system and the utility. The system and grid are automatically configured for optimal operation.
P/N — A semiconductor photovoltaic device structure in which the junction is formed between a p-type layer and an n-type layer.
pocket plate — A plate for a battery in which active materials are held in a perforated metal pocket.
point-contact cell — A high efficiency silicon photovoltaic concentrator cell that employs light trapping techniques and point-diffused contacts on the rear surface for current collection.
polycrystalline — See multicrystalline.
polycrystalline silicon — A material used to make photovoltaic cells, which consist of many crystals unlike single-crystal silicon.
polycrystalline thin film — A thin film made of multicrystalline material.
power — The amount of electrical energy available for doing work, measured in horsepower, Watts, or Btu per hour.
power conditioning — The process of modifying the characteristics of electrical power (for e.g., inverting direct current to alternating current).
power conditioning equipment — Electrical equipment, or power electronics, used to convert power from a photovoltaic array into a form suitable for subsequent use. A collective term for inverter, converter, battery charge regulator, and blocking diode.
power conversion efficiency — The ratio of output power to input power of the inverter.
power density — The ratio of the power available from a battery to its mass (W/kg) or volume (W/l).
power factor (PF) — The ratio of actual power being used in a circuit, expressed in watts or kilowatts, to the power that is apparently being drawn from a power source, expressed in volt-amperes or kilovolt-amperes.
primary battery — A battery whose initial capacity cannot be restored by charging.
projected area — The net south-facing glazing area projected on a vertical plane.
p-type semiconductor — A semiconductor in which holes carry the current; produced by doping an intrinsic semiconductor with an electron acceptor impurity (e.g., boron in silicon).
pulse-width-modulated (PWM) wave inverter — A type of power inverter that produce a high quality (nearly sinusoidal) voltage, at minimum current harmonics.
PV — See photovoltaic(s).
pyranometer — An instrument used for measuring global solar irradiance.
pyrheliometer — An instrument used for measuring direct beam solar irradiance. Uses an aperture of 5.7° to transcribe the solar disc.
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Q

quad — One quadrillion Btu (1,000,000,000,000,000 Btu).
qualification test — A procedure applied to a selected set of photovoltaic modules involving the application of defined electrical, mechanical, or thermal stress in a prescribed manner and amount. Test results are subject to a list of defined requirements.
quantum efficiency (QE) — The ratio of the number of charge carriers collected by a photovoltaic cell to the number of photons of a given energy shining on the cell. Quantum efficiency relates to the response of a solar cell to the different wavelengths in the spectrum of light shining on the cell. QE is given as a function of either wavelength or energy. Optimally, a solar cell should generate considerable electrical current for wavelengths that are most abundant in sunlight.
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R

ramp — A change in generation output.
ramp rate — The ability of a generating unit to change its output over some unit of time, often measured in MW/min.
Rankine cycle — A thermodynamic cycle used in steam turbines to convert heat energy into work. Concentrating solar power plants often rely on the Rankine cycle. In CSP systems, mirrors focus sunlight on a heat-transfer fluid. This is used to creates steam, which spins a turbine to generate electricity.
rated battery capacity — The term used by battery manufacturers to indicate the maximum amount of energy that can be withdrawn from a battery under specified discharge rate and temperature. See also battery capacity.
rated module current (A) — The current output of a photovoltaic module measured at standard test conditions of 1,000 w/m2 and 25°C cell temperature.
rated power — Rated power of the inverter. However, some units can not produce rated power continuously. See also duty rating.
reactive power — The sine of the phase angle between the current and voltage waveforms in an alternating current system. See also power factor.
recombination — The action of a free electron falling back into a hole. Recombination processes are either radiative, where the energy of recombination results in the emission of a photon, or nonradiative, where the energy of recombination is given to a second electron which then relaxes back to its original energy by emitting phonons. Recombination can take place in the bulk of the semiconductor, at the surfaces, in the junction region, at defects, or between interfaces.
rectifier — A device that converts alternating current to direct currentSee also inverter.
regulator — Prevents overcharging of batteries by controlling charge cycle-usually adjustable to conform to specific battery needs.
remote systems — See stand-alone systems.
reserve capacity — The amount of generating capacity a central power system must maintain to meet peak loads.
resistance (R) — The property of a conductor, which opposes the flow of an electric current resulting in the generation of heat in the conducting material. The measure of the resistance of a given conductor is the electromotive force needed for a unit current flow. The unit of resistance is ohms.
resistive voltage drop — The voltage developed across a cell by the current flow through the resistance of the cell.
reverse current protection — Any method of preventing unwanted current flow from the battery to the photovoltaic array (usually at night). See also blocking diode.
ribbon (photovoltaic) cells — A type of photovoltaic device made in a continuous process of pulling material from a molten bath of photovoltaic material, such as silicon, to form a thin sheet of material.
RMS — See root mean square.
root mean square (RMS) — The square root of the average square of the instantaneous values of an ac output. For a sine wave the RMS value is 0.707 times the peak value. The equivalent value of alternating current, I, that will produce the same heating in a conductor with resistance, R, as a dc current of value I.
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S

sacrificial anode — A piece of metal buried near a structure that is to be protected from corrosion. The metal of the sacrificial anode is intended to corrode and reduce the corrosion of the protected structure.
satellite power system (SPS) — Concept for providing large amounts of electricity for use on the Earth from one or more satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit. A very large array of solar cells on each satellite would provide electricity, which would be converted to microwave energy and beamed to a receiving antenna on the ground. There, it would be reconverted into electricity and distributed the same as any other centrally generated power, through a grid.
scheduling — The general practice of ensuring that a generator is committed and available when needed. It also can refer to scheduling of imports or exports of energy into or out of a balancing area.
Schottky barrier — A cell barrier established as the interface between a semiconductor, such as silicon, and a sheet of metal.
scribing — The cutting of a grid pattern of grooves in a semiconductor material, generally for the purpose of making interconnections.
sealed battery — A battery with a captive electrolyte and a resealing vent cap, also called a valve-regulated battery. Electrolyte cannot be added.
seasonal depth of discharge — An adjustment factor used in some system sizing procedures which “allows” the battery to be gradually discharged over a 30-90 day period of poor solar insolation. This factor results in a slightly smaller photovoltaic array.
secondary battery — A battery that can be recharged.
self-discharge — The rate at which a battery, without a load, will lose its charge.
semiconductor — Any material that has a limited capacity for conducting an electric current. Certain semiconductors, including silicongallium arsenidecopper indium diselenide, and cadmium telluride, are uniquely suited to the photovoltaic conversion process.
semicrystalline — See multicrystalline.
series connection — A way of joining photovoltaic cells by connecting positive leads to negative leads; such a configuration increases the voltage.
series controller — A charge controller that interrupts the charging current by open-circuiting the photovoltaic (PV) array. The control element is in series with the PV array and battery.
series regulator — Type of battery charge regulator where the charging current is controlled by a switch connected in series with the photovoltaic module or array.
series resistance — Parasitic resistance to current flow in a cell due to mechanisms such as resistance from the bulk of the semiconductor material, metallic contacts, and interconnections.
shallow-cycle battery — A battery with small plates that cannot withstand many discharges to a low state-of-charge.
shelf life of batteries — The length of time, under specified conditions, that a battery can be stored so that it keeps its guaranteed capacity.
short-circuit current (Isc) — The current flowing freely through an external circuit that has no load or resistance; the maximum current possible.
shunt controller — A charge controller that redirects or shunts the charging current away from the battery. The controller requires a large heat sink to dissipate the current from the short-circuited photovoltaic array. Most shunt controllers are for smaller systems producing 30 amperes or less.
shunt regulator — Type of a battery charge regulator where the charging current is controlled by a switch connected in parallel with the photovoltaic (PV) generator. Shorting the PV generator prevents overcharging of the battery.
Siemens process — A commercial method of making purified silicon.
silicon (Si) — A semi-metallic chemical element that makes an excellent semiconductor material for photovoltaic devices. It crystallizes in face-centered cubic lattice like a diamond. It’s commonly found in sand and quartz (as the oxide).
sine wave — A waveform corresponding to a single-frequency periodic oscillation that can be mathematically represented as a function of amplitude versus angle in which the value of the curve at any point is equal to the sine of that angle.
sine wave inverter — An inverter that produces utility-quality, sine wave power forms.
single-crystal material — A material that is composed of a single crystal or a few large crystals.
single-crystal silicon — Material with a single crystalline formation. Many photovoltaic cells are made from single-crystal silicon.
single-stage controller — A charge controller that redirects all charging current as the battery nears full state-of-charge.
smart grid — An intelligent electric power system that regulates the two-way flow of electricity and information between power plants and consumers to control grid activity.
soft costs — Non-hardware costs related to PV systems, such as financing, permitting, installation, interconnection, and inspection.
solar cell — See photovoltaic (PV) cell.
solar constant — The average amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth’s upper atmosphere on a surface perpendicular to the sun’s rays; equal to 1353 watts per square meter or 492 Btu per square foot.
solar cooling — The use of solar thermal energy or solar electricity to power a cooling appliance. Photovoltaic systems can power evaporative coolers (“swamp” coolers), heat-pumps, and air conditioners.
solar energy — Electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun (solar radiation). The amount that reaches the earth is equal to one billionth of total solar energy generated, or the equivalent of about 420 trillion kilowatt-hours.
solar-grade silicon — Intermediate-grade silicon used in the manufacture of solar cells. Less expensive than electronic-grade silicon.
solar insolation — See insolation.
solar irradiance — See irradiance.
solar noon — The time of the day, at a specific location, when the sun reaches its highest, apparent point in the sky.
solar panel — See photovoltaic (PV) panel.
solar resource — The amount of solar insolation a site receives, usually measured in kWh/m2/day, which is equivalent to the number of peak sun hours.
solar spectrum — The total distribution of electromagnetic radiation emanating from the sun. The different regions of the solar spectrum are described by their wavelength range. The visible region extends from about 390 to 780 nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of one meter). About 99 percent of solar radiation is contained in a wavelength region from 300 nm (ultraviolet) to 3,000 nm (near-infrared). The combined radiation in the wavelength region from 280 nm to 4,000 nm is called the broadband, or total, solar radiation.
solar thermal electric systems — Solar energy conversion technologies that convert solar energy to electricity, by heating a working fluid to power a turbine that drives a generator. Examples of these systems include central receiver systems, parabolic dish, and solar trough.
space charge — See cell barrier.
specific gravity — The ratio of the weight of the solution to the weight of an equal volume of water at a specified temperature. Used as an indicator of battery state-of-charge.
spinning reserve — Electric power plant or utility capacity on-line and running at low power in excess of actual load.
split-spectrum cell — A compound photovoltaic device in which sunlight is first divided into spectral regions by optical means. Each region is then directed to a different photovoltaic cell optimized for converting that portion of the spectrum into electricity. Such a device achieves significantly greater overall conversion of incident sunlight into electricity. See also mulitjunction device.
sputtering — A process used to apply photovoltaic semiconductor material to a substrate by a physical vapor deposition process where high-energy ions are used to bombard elemental sources of semiconductor material, which eject vapors of atoms that are then deposited in thin layers on a substrate.
square wave — A waveform that has only two states, (i.e., positive or negative). A square wave contains a large number of harmonics.
square wave inverter — A type of inverter that produces square wave output. It consists of a direct current source, four switches, and the load. The switches are power semiconductors that can carry a large current and withstand a high voltage rating. The switches are turned on and off at a correct sequence, at a certain frequency.
Staebler-Wronski effect — The tendency of the sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency of amorphous silicon photovoltaic devices to degrade (drop) upon initial exposure to light.
stand-alone system — An autonomous or hybrid photovoltaic system not connected to a grid. May or may not have storage, but most stand-alone systems require batteries or some other form of storage.
standard reporting conditions (SRC) — A fixed set of conditions (including meteorological) to which the electrical performance data of a photovoltaic module are translated from the set of actual test conditions.
standard test conditions (STC) — Conditions under which a module is typically tested in a laboratory.
standby current — This is the amount of current (power) used by the inverter when no load is active (lost power). The efficiency of the inverter is lowest when the load demand is low.
stand-off mounting — Technique for mounting a photovoltaic array on a sloped roof, which involves mounting the modules a short distance above the pitched roof and tilting them to the optimum angle.
starved electrolyte cell — A battery containing little or no free fluid electrolyte.
state-of-charge (SOC) — The available capacity remaining in the battery, expressed as a percentage of the rated capacity.
storage battery — A device capable of transforming energy from electric to chemical form and vice versa. The reactions are almost completely reversible. During discharge, chemical energy is converted to electric energy and is consumed in an external circuit or apparatus.
stratification — A condition that occurs when the acid concentration varies from top to bottom in the battery electrolyte. Periodic, controlled charging at voltages that produce gassing will mix the electrolyte. See also equalization.
string — A number of photovoltaic modules or panels interconnected electrically in series to produce the operating voltage required by the load.
sub-hourly energy markets — Electricity markets that operate on time steps of 5 minutes. Approximately 60% of all electricity in the United States is currently traded in sub-hourly markets, running at 5-minute intervals so that maximum flexibility can be obtained from the generation fleet.
substrate — The physical material upon which a photovoltaic cell is applied.
subsystem — Any one of several components in a photovoltaic system (i.e., array, controller, batteriesinverterload).
sulfation — A condition that afflicts unused and discharged batteries; large crystals of lead sulfate grow on the plate, instead of the usual tiny crystals, making the battery extremely difficult to recharge.
superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES) — SMES technology uses the superconducting characteristics of low-temperature materials to produce intense magnetic fields to store energy. It has been proposed as a storage option to support large-scale use of photovoltaics as a means to smooth out fluctuations in power generation.
superconductivity — The abrupt and large increase in electrical conductivity exhibited by some metals as the temperature approaches absolute zero.
superstrate — The covering on the sunny side of a photovoltaic (PV) module, providing protection for the PV materials from impact and environmental degradation while allowing maximum transmission of the appropriate wavelengths of the solar spectrum.
surge capacity — The maximum power, usually 3-5 times the rated power, that can be provided over a short time.
system availability — The percentage of time (usually expressed in hours per year) when a photovoltaic system will be able to fully meet the load demand.
system operating voltage — The photovoltaic array output voltage under load. The system operating voltage is dependent on the load or batteries connected to the output terminals.
system storage — See battery capacity.
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T

tare loss — Loss caused by a charge controller. One minus tare loss, expressed as a percentage, is equal to the controller efficiency.
temperature compensation — A circuit that adjusts the charge controller activation points depending on battery temperature. This feature is recommended if the battery temperature is expected to vary more than ±5°C from ambient temperature.
temperature factors — It is common for three elements in photovoltaic system sizing to have distinct temperature corrections: a factor used to decrease battery capacity at cold temperatures; a factor used to decrease PV module voltage at high temperatures; and a factor used to decrease the current carrying capability of wire at high temperatures.
thermophotovoltaic cell (TPV) — A device where sunlight concentrated onto a absorber heats it to a high temperature, and the thermal radiation emitted by the absorber is used as the energy source for a photovoltaic cell that is designed to maximize conversion efficiency at the wavelength of the thermal radiation.
thick-crystalline materials — Semiconductor material, typically measuring from 200-400 microns thick, that is cut from ingots or ribbons.
thin film — A layer of semiconductor material, such as copper indium diselenide or gallium arsenide, a few microns or less in thickness, used to make photovoltaic cells.
thin film photovoltaic module — A photovoltaic module constructed with sequential layers of thin film semiconductor materials. See also amorphous silicon.
tilt angle — The angle at which a photovoltaic array is set to face the sun relative to a horizontal position. The tilt angle can be set or adjusted to maximize seasonal or annual energy collection.
tin oxide — A wide band-gap semiconductor similar to indium oxide; used in heterojunction solar cells or to make a transparent conductive film, called NESA glass when deposited on glass.
total AC load demand — The sum of the alternating current loads. This value is important when selecting an inverter.
total harmonic distortion — The measure of closeness in shape between a waveform and it’s fundamental component.
total internal reflection — The trapping of light by refraction and reflection at critical angles inside a semiconductor device so that it cannot escape the device and must be eventually absorbed by the semiconductor.
tracking array — A photovoltaic (PV) array that follows the path of the sun to maximize the solar radiation incident on the PV surface. The two most common orientations are (1) one axis where the array tracks the sun east to west and (2) two-axis tracking where the array points directly at the sun at all times. Tracking arrays use both the direct and diffuse sunlight. Two-axis tracking arrays capture the maximum possible daily energy.
transformer — An electromagnetic device that changes the voltage of alternating current electricity.
transparent conducting oxide (TCO) — A doped metal oxide used to coat and improve the performance of optoelectronic devices such as photovoltaics and flat panel displays. Most TCO films are fabricated with polycrystalline or amorphous microstructures and are deposited on glass. The current industry-standard TCO is indium tin oxide. Indium is relatively rare and expensive, so research is ongoing to develop improved TCOs based on alternative materials.
tray cable (TC) – may be used for interconnecting balance-of-systems.
trickle charge — A charge at a low rate, balancing through self-discharge losses, to maintain a
tunneling — Quantum mechanical concept whereby an electron is found on the opposite side of an insulating barrier without having passed through or around the barrier.
cell or battery in a fully charged condition.
two-axis tracking — A photovoltaic array tracking system capable of rotating independently about two axes (e.g., vertical and horizontal).
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U

ultraviolet — Electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength range of 4 to 400 nanometers.
underground feeder (UF) — May be used for photovoltaic array wiring if sunlight resistant coating is specified; can be used for interconnecting balance-of-system components but not recommended for use within battery enclosures.
underground service entrance (USE) — May be used within battery enclosures and for interconnecting balance-of-systems.
uninterruptible power supply (UPS) — The designation of a power supply providing continuous uninterruptible service. The UPS will contain batteries.
utility-interactive inverter — An inverter that can function only when tied to the utility grid, and uses the prevailing line-voltage frequency on the utility line as a control parameter to ensure that the photovoltaic system’s output is fully synchronized with the utility power.
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V

vacuum evaporation – The deposition of thin films of semiconductor material by the evaporation of elemental sources in a vacuum.
vacuum zero — The energy of an electron at rest in empty space; used as a reference level in energy band diagrams.
valence band — The highest energy band in a semiconductor that can be filled with electrons.
valence level energy/valence state — Energy content of an electron in orbit about an atomic nucleus. Also called bound state.
varistor — A voltage-dependent variable resistor. Normally used to protect sensitive equipment from power spikes or lightning strikes by shunting the energy to ground.
vented cell — A battery designed with a vent mechanism to expel gases generated during charging.
vertical multijunction (VMJ) cell — A compound cell made of different semiconductor materials in layers, one above the other. Sunlight entering the top passes through successive cell barriers, each of which converts a separate portion of the spectrum into electricity, thus achieving greater total conversion efficiency of the incident light. Also called a multiple junction cell. See also multijunction device and split-spectrum cell.
volt (V) — A unit of electrical force equal to that amount of electromotive force that will cause a steady current of one ampere to flow through a resistance of one ohm.
voltage — The amount of electromotive force, measured in volts, that exists between two points.
voltage at maximum power (Vmp) — The voltage at which maximum power is available from a photovoltaic module.
voltage protection — Many inverters have sensing circuits that will disconnect the unit from the battery if input voltage limits are exceeded.
voltage regulation — This indicates the variability in the output voltage. Some loads will not tolerate voltage variations greater than a few percent.
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W

wafer — A thin sheet of semiconductor (photovoltaic material) made by cutting it from a single crystal or ingot.
watt — The rate of energy transfer equivalent to one ampere under an electrical pressure of one volt. One watt equals 1/746 horsepower, or one joule per second. It is the product of voltage and current (amperage).
waveform — The shape of the phase power at a certain frequency and amplitude.
wet shelf life — The period of time that a charged battery, when filled with electrolyte, can remain unused before dropping below a specified level of performance.
window — A wide band gap material chosen for its transparency to light. Generally used as the top layer of a photovoltaic device, the window allows almost all of the light to reach the semiconductor layers beneath.
wire types — See Article 300 of National Electric Code for more information.
work function — The energy difference between the Fermi level and vacuum zero. The minimum amount of energy it takes to remove an electron from a substance into the vacuum.
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Z

zenith angle — the angle between the direction of interest (of the sun, for example) and the zenith (directly overhead).
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Learn how solar works with SETO’s solar energy basics pages. You can also learn more about SETO’s research areas and explore our solar information resources.

Your Florida Solar, Made Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar advisor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar advisor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Clean Energy and Efficiency Take the Stage in Central Florida

Clean Energy and Efficiency Take the Stage in Central Florida
Central Florida has long been a hub of entertainment and business, but it’s also been a vacuum for electricity. Flourishing businesses and housing markets put energy consumption at an all-time high, which has the state government thinking in a cleaner direction. A downfall in prices and an excess in engineering has put the renewable energy industry in the best shape it’s ever been in, and that means, Central Florida is in for a remodel. This innovation not only brings a new look to the Orlando area, but it also brings more efficient and carbon-free methods.
One of the major developments taking place throughout Central Florida is an increase in efficiency. Members within the state government are pushing for more modernized buildings, which could act as a test for a more widespread overhaul. But the Clean Power Plan implemented by the Obama Administration raises the bar even further, prodding some utilities to take innovative steps in order to comply with a limited carbon-footprint. At the end of the day, the goal is sustainability and efficiency, needing less power and being able to fully utilize a renewable resource to get it.
While you may spy your neighbors installing solar energy equipment or pass a new solar powered structure on your way to work, things are changing behind the scenes too. What coal plants are left are designing more efficient equipment to decrease their carbon exhaust, and new solar energy plants are being built throughout the state from utilities like Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light. This year could see the start of three solar plants in Central Florida from FPL alone, and another three from Duke Energy soon after. Steps are being taken to turn the “Sunshine State” into one of the nation’s top contenders in clean energy, and it’s all starting in Central Florida.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle already. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
  • If, years down the road, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle already. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the road, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Made Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar advisor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar advisor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527

Better Solar Access for Orange County Residents

Better Solar Access for Orange County Residents
There’s good news for those who own a home in Orange County – thanks to a solar power co-op, Orlando and its outlying residents, who can install solar panels onto their homes at a fraction of the typical cost. The idea behind the co-op is for homeowners to group together when purchasing and installing solar, allowing them to get a discount essentially for buying in bulk.
Through the efforts of local bureaucratic offices and nonprofit groups, the co-ops have helped more than 300 homeowners make the switch to solar energy. The process is fairly simple; any resident in Orange County is eligible to participate. The co-op will obtain quotes from several local companies, and once an agreement has been me, residents will get their panels installed at a heavily discounted rate, sometimes up to 20 percent off.
While this might sound like a one size fits all scenarios, the co-op allows for a variety of options based on the homeowner’s budget. Different systems can be installed based on each home’s specifications, allowing residents to begin reaping the benefits of lower electric bills. The Co-op is also working to spre awareness throughout Orange County and the state of Florida regarding the importance of switching to renewable energy sources. The deline to participate in the co-op is December 2016, and the group hopes to enroll more than 500 households before then.
If you are interested in converting to solar energy and live in Orange County, visit Florida Solar East.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Can You Utilize Solar Without A Rooftop

Can You Utilize Solar Without A Rooftop?
When you think of solar power, what often comes to mind is a single family home in a sunny area with palm trees and blue sky. The roof has solar panels on it, and the happy people who live inside have h their entire utility bill taken care of thanks to the power of the sun. In a lot of cases, this picture is accurate. But what if you’re someone who lives in an apartment, or is renting a home and is not allowed to install such a large project? There’s good news – you too can pay for and reap the benefits from solar energy!
The changing landscape of U.S. real estate has forced many people to shy away from the “American Dream” of owning a home, and naturally this brings along challenges for those who want to utilize solar energy. Start up companies have noticed this trend and are creating a way for everyone to be able to harness clean energy. Community solar programs are popping up all across the country, and although Florida has yet to see its first one, there’s no doubt it will be on its way soon.
Essentially, as someone who doesn’t have their own solar energy system, you can pay to purchase a panel elsewhere and have your electric bill ofFlorida Solar Eastt by the energy it creates. You can buy as many panels as you want, and obviously the more you buy, the more of a dent you’re putting in your utility bill.
The panels aren’t cheap, coming in at several hundred dollars, so it usually takes at least a handful of years before they’ve paid for themselves. But think about the possibilities once that’s happened! You can live in an inexpensive apartment and have zero electricity bills for life! Solar programs like these are sweeping through the country rather quickly, so keep an eye out for those near you.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Better Solar Needs Better Storage

Better Solar Needs Better Storage
As solar equipment technology continues to expand, more attention is paid to the amount of energy solar panels can provide for a household or business. As the amount of energy produced increases with the technology, so too does the need for better storage of that energy. Fortunately, U.S. manufactures, like SunEdison, are taking a deeper interest in the vancement of solar tech and pioneering the formerly untapped need for solar storage.
A small company called SolarGridStorage was recently absorbed by SunEdison, and it was announced the two would be working symbiotically to integrate battery storage into solar installations. Similarly, San Francisco Bay has nearly seen the completion of a 430 panel-and-storage system by SolarCity, who says they will soon be expanding their efforts.
One pitfall of solar energy on a nationwide scale is intermittency, the fact that solar can only be produced effectively with clear skies and prominent sunlight. As solar grows in popularity, problems with intermittency could also become more common. That is why the U.S. Department of Energy has put forth efforts to stimulate solar storage tech. $15 million in research projects is planned solely for the combination of photovoltaic and storage technologies. The ultimate aim is to cap the cost of hourly solar storage at 14 cents per kilowatt-hour, a drop from the current 20 cents to $1 it currently costs.
Another route for vancing the sustainability of solar equipment is by making converters more efficient. Rather than providing more effective storage for solar energy, vancing converter technology would make transferring sunlight into energy quicker and more efficient, cutting costs and the amount of energy used.
We are making strides in solar power technology every day, and it won’t be long before everyone can afford to sustain their own homes and businesses with little more than an installation and the sun.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
 Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Changing Landscape of Florida Solar Power

The Changing Landscape of Florida Solar Power
Just a few months ago, a major step forward toward solar energy was taken by Florida residents when they voted on an initiative called Amendment 4. The legislation passed with overwhelming numbers, and creates a big change in the future of solar power for Florida business owners. The passage of the amendment clearly communicates that you are rey to see more renewable energy in your sunshine state!
Essentially, Amendment 4 calls for business owners to be exempt from paying increased property taxes due to the value of solar panels installed on their rooftops. Not only does this benefit companies who have alrey utilized solar energy equipment, but it will also serve to assist those thinking about making a switch.
Most legislative measures we see often come with two distinct opposing viewpoints, but surprisingly, this amendment h bipartisan support and very few people opposing it. Once again, it’s a clear demonstration of the intention for the state of Florida to move in a more environmentally friendly direction.
What does this legislative change mean for you? If you own a business, it’s clear that you now have even fewer hurdles to jump when looking to install a solar power system onto your property. If you’re not a business owner, you’ll still see very positive changes. From a consumer standpoint, allowing businesses to operate more efficiently might result in prices being lowered or service hours being extended.
The true impact of the passing of this amendment can really be examined on a broer scale as well. As a Florida resident, your state continues to further encourage the use of solar power. You might find that this opens the doorway to more and more changes over the coming years which would allow for easier and more cost effective solar conversions. All in all, it’s great news for making a difference in your community and environment.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Could We See New Solar Panels Soon?

Could We See New Solar Panels Soon?


The technology that’s used to create today’s modern solar panels is nothing short of incredible. And yet it’s based on scientific information discovered many deces ago.

 

With the popularity of solar power on the rise… Wouldn’t it make sense to try to develop a newer and more efficient method of collecting energy from the sun?

 

Or is there no sense in reinventing the wheel?

 


About New Solar Panels

 


At the University of Warwick Department of Physics, two individuals are reshaping the way solar panels work. In order to find alternatives to our current choices.

 

Dr. Gavin Bell and Dr. Yorck Ramachers are reinventing the way the panels are structured. And also, its manufacturing and design and the way it plays a role into their ability to gather energy.

 


Without getting too technical, they’ve created what’s called a “double-glazed” solar panel that contains different components than what’s currently in today’s photovoltaic models.

 

The sun’s energy causes the electrons to react in a different way in the double glazed version, opening up new possibilities for how efficient our systems can be.

 


This type of panel is still in the design phase and has yet to become mass-produced. So it might be a while before you see these popping up on rooftops across Florida.

 

However, it’s exciting to see enhancements being me in the clean energy realm.

 


Contact Us

 


Have you been thinking about installing a solar energy system onto your home or business but you’re not sure where to start?

 

Contact us today to learn more about how you can reduce your energy bill and your carbon footprint at the same time. If you’re rey to make the jump to a solar energy system for your home or business, contact us today.

 


Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check.

 

We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

 

Panel level Monitoring

 

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Emphasis, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

 

Performance Guarantee

 

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

 

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home

 


It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels.

 

We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof.

 

Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.

 

 


Lock in low energy rates

 


Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes.

 

Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come.

 

Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.


Get a customized solar quote

 


Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs.

 

This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come.

 

We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check.

 

We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.

 


If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle already.

 

At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers.

 

Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge.

 

With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 


If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

 


Panel level Monitoring

 


Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring.

 

At Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard.

 

You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 


You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone.

 

This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you.

 

Panel level monitoring is available for Emphasis, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

 


Performance Guarantee

 


With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

 


Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home


It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have oor Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof.

 

Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.

 

Lock in low energy rates

 

Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.

 


Get a customized solar quote

 


Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.


Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!


1. Free Quote

 

Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.


2. – Consultation 

 

A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.


3. – Sit Back & Save

 


We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!

 


Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East 1(866) 447-6527

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$1.5 Million Raised for State Utilitys Solar Amendment

$1.5 Million Raised for State Utility’s Solar Amendment
There has been a lot of talk this year through out Florida about two solar amendments that are stirring up controversy in the state’s solar industry. The latest initiative was put forth by a group of diverse organizations and Florida utility representatives called Consumers for Smart Solar, which claims the amendment would give Floridians a “right to solar”. But many have claimed residents alrey have a right to solar, and proponents of the rival ballot initiative have even called opposition a power-grab by state utilities to control the industry.
Nonetheless, the utility-backed solar amendment has alrey raised 1.5 million dollars, pushing it even closer to the 2016 ballot. With a total of 44 contributors overall, the top five largest donations have included Tampa Electric, Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, and Gulf Power. The Koch Brother’s 60 Plus Association has also donated $150,000, along with a lawyer-registered PAC called Let’s Preserve the American Dream putting up a hefty $200,000.
It’s pretty clear where the money is coming from to fund this rival amendment, and one doesn’t have to look very far for assurance that the initiative would benefit businesses rather than individual families and residents. Both the chairman of Consumer for Smart Choice, Ryan D. Tyson, as well as its treasurer, Robert D. McRae, are officers of Associated Industries of Florida, a business-lobbying group. That being said, the involved parties claim the organizations function with separate goals in mind.
Either way, Consumers for Smart Choice has still only submitted 68,792 valid signatures to the Division of Elections compared to opposing ballots by Floridians for Solar Choice, which has submitted 183,677 valid signatures. Though Floridians for Solar Choice are behind in fund raising, it’s still too early to call which amendment will make it onto the 2016 ballot.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Airbnb and Solar – A New Deal For Homeowners

Airbnb and Solar – A New Deal For Homeowners
Do you own a home that you offer for rent on Airbnb? If so, they are making a pretty sweet offer for you to take advantage of. As a company who wants to stay on the cutting edge of all things worthwhile, Airbnb has partnered with a large solar company to encourage homeowners to make the switch to clean energy. This deal is offered nearly everywhere in the country, and if it hasn’t reached you yet, it probably will before long. Here’s the incentive – are you ready?
If you install solar panels onto your roof and continue to utilize Airbnb to rent your home out, you will receive a check for $1,000 about 4 to 6 weeks after the install. Additionally, you will receive a $100 credit on your Airbnb account. While this certainly won’t pay for the install in its entirety, it’s yet another way of sweetening the pot and enticing consumers to think about the difference they could make.
You have until March of 2017 to make the switch, and after that they will pay $750 through the end of 2017. This promotion might not be shocking for some when they consider the cost of installing a full set of panels can be well into the five figure range. However, these types of deals illustrate the shift in mindset across the country when it comes to renewable energy.
Imagine what it will be like in the future when solar panels come pre-installed on every new home, and businesses across the country utilize clean energy to operate their shops. It’s this kind of change that’s truly needed to reduce our carbon footprint and begin to undo the damage that’s been done to our environment. Homeowners like yourselves will have even more pride in ownership, knowing that you are making a difference.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle already. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the road, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle already. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the road, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Made Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar advisor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar advisor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Beginners Guide to Solar

Beginners Guide to Solar
If you’re interested in converting your home to solar energy, but aren’t quite sure how it works, it can be daunting to re through all the information out there. We’re going to go through a very brief rundown about how solar power works; not only will this information help you determine if solar energy is right for you, but if you do decide to make the switch, you’ll be more informed about what type of system is best for your home.
Let’s say you have solar panels installed on your roof. Each day, the sun hits these panels, and they collect the sun’s energy in the form of photons. The panels convert this energy into DC electricity, or direct current. One of the most crucial pieces of the process comes next. The DC current flows to an inverter, which changes the energy into an AC current that can be utilized by your home.
This alternating current powers your appliances and lights, and is stored if you don’t quite use all of it each day. What’s nice is that the storage of ditional energy can help to power your home overnight or during the winter, so you almost always have some sort of a backup supply. Depending on where you live, some utility companies will even credit your electric bill for this surplus.
Naturally, the more panels you have and the larger they are will create more usable energy for your home. Be sure to discuss specific details with your contractor before beginning installation. Where you live, the size of your roof, and the orientation of your home will all be factors to consider when determining the most effective system for you.
 
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

A Boost In Solar From a Surprising Source

A Boost In Solar From a Surprising Florida Solar East
For a long time, solar power was a consumer energy source. Its design for private residences and small businesses makes it difficult for other industries to reconsider. And, in recent years, is starting to be implemented by larger corporations and universities. Soon all of that will change, with a boost in solar. And a new application of this renewable energy that could create more opportunity for everyone.
A Boost In Solar
The Department of Energy has long been assessing the viability of solar energy. And has recently come to the conclusion that the military will greatly benefit from the utilization of solar panels; on various bases throughout the country. This effort is a cost-saving idea and will help to make things more secure.
You might be wondering how solar panels on a military base affect you in your home, right? While you may never see a direct change as a result of this new idea, the effects seen on the solar industry as a whole could potentially reach you and your pocketbook.
Like many other industries, involving large influencing parties tends to reap effects that trickle down for consumers to enjoy. The integration of military personnel into the solar community will provide a huge source of research money. And it will improve upon the current technology. Many think of this as an infusion of new funds and ideas into solar power, which will in turn pass down better products at lower rates to private parties.
Contact Us
Getting a solar power system installed on your home is cheaper than ever, and thanks to the military’s involvement, it sounds like it’s about to get even better! Contact us today to learn more about how you can reduce your energy bill and your carbon footprint at the same time. If you’re rey to make the jump to a solar energy system for your home or business, contact us today. We can help you decide on your energy options.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Amendment 4 – How Can you Help

Amendment 4 – How Can you Help
For Florida residents, the passing of Amendment 4 was a huge step forward on the path to utilizing solar energy. The bill, which allows tax breaks for businesses installing solar panels onto their rooftops, received an overwhelming amount of support; some numbers tabulate its approval was well over 70%. But what does that mean for each and every person who lives in the Sunshine State? Here are a few ways Amendment 4 will impact you as a consumer.
If you’re a Florida business owner, the repercussions of Amendment 4 benefit you directly. You can make the switch to a renewable energy source and get a tax incentive to boot. Legislation that encourages such changes might even make it easier or more desirable for your next door neighbor to open up the business they’ve been dreaming about.
As a consumer, the positive support for solar energy means several things. You can feel more proud as a Floridian when you shop at a location that utilizes clean energy measures. It’s a good bet that a lot of places making the switch are locally owned, and so not only are you supporting solar, but you are supporting your local economy when shopping at these establishments.
The landslide of support that came with Amendment 4 continues to promote the growth of solar power in the state of Florida. If you are enthused about getting involved, now is the time! Take action by writing to your local representatives, or even make the switch to solar energy in your own home. The stage is set for Florida to see a massive influx in the use of solar energy; now is the time for you to join the movement!
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Before You Install Solar Consider This Information

Before You Install Solar Consider This Information
You have read all about it in the news and you’ve decided it’s time to install solar onto your home. While you might have already talked to experts and friends who have gone through the process, are you sure you’ve thought about every aspect? Let’s go over just a few key pieces of information you need to consider before moving forward.
What to Consider Before Going Solar
How old is your roof?
Remember that since your solar array goes directly onto your roof, whenever it comes time to replace the roof it means that you’ll have to get your solar temporarily removed as well. Experts recommend that if your roof is older than 7 years to wait until you re-roof.
What direction does your house face?
The orientation of the sun and how much exposure your panels will get are huge factors relating to how much money you’ll save. In general, all southern-facing roofs work best, as does a flat roof.
Ready to Install Solar? A Few Additional Key Steps
Does your HOA allow for solar? Whether you live in a condo or a gated community, make sure that you have the okay to install a solar array onto your roof. Remember, oftentimes these groups like to have strict regulations regarding the appearance of your home, so it’s best to check with them before making the investment.
Don’t get your hopes up! Depending on your average electricity usage it might take longer than you think for your solar system to pay for itself. For most homes that use less than $100 per month of electricity, you won’t be seeing numbers in the green for a while.
Remember to think about the decision to install solar carefully before you do. It’s a big commitment but such a worthwhile one!
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle already. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the road, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle already. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the road, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Made Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar advisor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar advisor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

A Brief History Of Solar Energy

A Brief History Of Solar Energy
Solar panels are becoming more and more commonplace today, but did you know that the first instance of using the sun to create energy dates as far back as 1839? This year, French physicist Edmond Becquerel noted that energy can be sourced from light. After roughly 50 years of experimenting in both Europe and the United States, the first solar cell was created in the early 1890s. Several patents were filed in the following years, and solar cells are now well-known.
Solar in Florida
Would you believe that in Florida, people began using solar energy to heat their water in the 1920s! The next several deces brought big-name laboratories to the game, with companies like AT&T working toward perfecting the science. In 1954, the New York Times said that solar energy would le to “limitless energy of the sun.”
Soon we began to see common items incorporating solar power into their makeup, like wristwatches and calculators. With the ability to make this renewable energy source affordable and compact became easier and easier over the years, we now find solar power to be pretty common. In fact, even the White House has solar panels and a solar-powered water heater.
The History of Solar Energy
It’s funny how some individuals view solar as a new technology; therefore are unsure about its stability in the energy marketplace. Yet it’s clear that this is a tried and true energy source that’s been around for almost 200 years! Maybe the next time you hear someone questioning solar energy, you can tell them some of its interesting histories.
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

Benefits of Getting Solar Might Be Better Than You Think

The Benefits of Getting Solar Might Be Better Than You Think
Did you know that the word solar is Latin for sun? There’s something to be said for the people who lived thousands of years before us; they knew that nature’s elements were integral parts of survival. In our modern world we’ve strayed away from that, but it’s actually way easier than you thought to switch to solar power. The benefits of going solar are growing each year, so it makes even more sense to make the change now! Let’s talk about just a few of the reasons why going solar makes sense for you as a homeowner.
Savings – the word is thrown around constantly, yet sometimes savings don’t quite pan out the way they’re portrayed. However, in the case of switching to solar energy, you begin to see savings as soon as the first day. It makes sense that your power bill will instantly go down, but did you know that in some cases you can easily save upwards of $100 a month on your utility costs? In dition to the system paying for itself over time, there are also lease options available for homeowners that further compound the savings!
Another reason people choose to install solar is to increase their home’s value. A solar set-up will automatically let prospective buyers know that their energy costs will be lower if they purchase your home over any other, and this will make your property value skyrocket. Certain studies suggest that your home not only sells faster with solar panels, but can also generate close to $20,000 more in profit when it comes time to sell.
What makes solar such a truly rewarding option is the reduction of our carbon footprint. With our increased dependence on fossil fuels, we are slowly creating an environment for ourselves that isn’t sustainable. By making the switch to solar, you can help to slow down the impact we are creating, and you will have peace of mind that you are doing something about the problem!
With ded government incentives and the ease of installation, Americans are switching to solar energy at an incredibly fast rate. It’s worth your while to take a look at your options for solar energy; chances are you’ll see that it’s a great resource for you to take vantage of!
Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels. 

  • If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!

 

  • If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.

Panel level Monitoring

  • Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.

 

  • You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.

Performance Guarantee

  • With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.

Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.Florida Solar East offers a free Annual Performance Check. We will make sure that your system is operating at peak performance levels.
If you are solar conscious, then you might be driving an electric vehicle alrey. At Florida Solar East we install level one and two chargers. Your dealership provides a level one charger that takes a copious amount of time to recharge. With a level two charger you can cut your time in half and gain your independence back!
If, years down the ro, you come to realize you need a new roof, we will uninstall and reinstall the system for you at a cost.
Panel level Monitoring
Far too many companies do not provide panel level monitoring. In Florida Solar East, panel level monitoring is standard. You will have access and understanding of your systems production.
You can access this data from your desktop, tablet, or smart phone. This is through the manufacturers website that we install, setup and then turn over to you. Panel level monitoring is available for Enphase, Power One, and Solar Edge systems.
Performance Guarantee
With this level of monitoring, we will notice any deficiency in your systems production, and be able to resolve the situation in a timely manner.
Lower your electricity bill with solar for your home
It starts with a 10-minute call. That’s how long it typically takes to see if your home is a good candidate for solar panels. We’ll ask a few easy questions about your energy use and have our Certified Solar Specialist come out and look at your roof. Simply fill out this form or call us at 866.44.SOLAR to get started.
Lock in low energy rates
Protect yourself from unpredictable rate hikes. Utility costs tend to rise every year, but Florida Solar East, LLC lets you lock in low, predictable solar energy rates that are guaranteed for years to come. Your consultant will tell you how much you can save.
Get a customized solar quote
Our team will put together a custom solar quote based on your home’s architecture and energy needs. This will include all of your options and project your energy savings for years to come. We’ll walk you through it and answer any questions you may have.
Your Florida Solar, Me Easy​ from the best solar providers near me, the best solar companies near me and the best solar installation companies near me!
1 Free Quote – Fill out the form above to get started! Request a free quote directly to your inbox, or schedule a call with a solar visor to learn more.
2 – Consultation – A solar visor will visit you on-site or setup a remote appointment to confirm the details of the report and answer any questions you have about your solar system.
3 – Sit Back & Save
We will handle the rest! From permitting installation, our experienced team will make it as easy as possible for you to start saving today!
Get Started Today – Call Florida Solar East1(866) 447-6527 []

How Much Space do Enphase Encharge Batteries Require?

Solar energy with battery backup is increasing in popularity as technology evolves and systems become less expensive and more consumer-friendly. Enphase’s Encharge batteries, part of the Enphase Ensemble system, are a go-to option for consumers who have or are considering Enphase microinverters. The undisputed leader in microinverter technology for solar photovoltaic systems, Enphase dominates the local market.

One of the questions ew often get is:

How Much Space do Enphase Encharge Batteries Require?

Batteries can be very large and heavy. Newer lithium-ion battery chemistry has resulted in batteries that are a fraction the size of traditional lead-acid batteries. Not are they smaller, but they weigh much less, and you need less capacity because you can discharge them deeper than lead-acid batteries. In total, the actual batteries don’t take up much space at all. However, there are other considerations.

Most lithium ion battery systems have several components. When we talk about these “batteries,” what we are often talking about is an assembled unit that has a battery management system and sometimes an inverter. Then there is switchgear and some sort of gateway or transfer switch. There are several components that make up a battery backup system, and the amount of space required increases rapidly. The Enphase battery backup system is comprised of the following:

  • Enphase Smart Switch, formerly known as Enpower, which is a microgrid interconnection device. It combines all of the components and serves as a transfer switch to shift from grid to battery backup. There is also an integrated autotransformer, required to provide a neutral for 120/240V split-phase service.
  • Encharge Battery. This comes in a 10kWh or 3.4kWh enclosure and isn’t just a battery, but includes Enphase IQ8 microinverters that provide both AC->DC and DC-AC conversion for backing up loads and charging the batteries.
  • Combiner Load Center for combining more than 20kWh of battery capacity, which is common in our area.
  • Load Management Enclosure, which manages large loads that cannot be backed up while off-grid.
  • Enphase Envoy or Enphase Combiner, which is technically required for all grid-interactive solar photovoltaic systems, but also serves important functions for the battery backup controls.
  • Various conduits and junction boxes.

In addition to the equipment, space around the batteries and equipment is required for air flow. There are also restrictions on equipment height. We must consider the National Electrical Code for working space around the equipment and flood elevation if you are in a low-lying area.

What are the Dimensions of the Enphase Encharge and Ensemble System

As mentioned above, there is much more to determining the space required than just the dimensions of the equipment. The major components have the following approximate dimensions:

  • Smart Switch – 20″W x 36″H x 10″D
  • Encharge 10T – 50.5″W x 30.5″H x 7.4″D
  • The other components depend on the model required for your installation.

If you could stack these up tightly and pack everything into a corner, that would be great, but it doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. A significant amount of space is needed for other parts and spacing. For example, this system pictured below required approximately 13 feet of wall space adjacent to the existing main distribution panels. This is just about as tight as you can pack it. Note that there is a different battery called the Encharge 10 which has different dimensions from the 10T, but the 10T is mainly in production now and fits better into most garage spaces because it is shallower. Also, the Encharge 10T was only recently approved for installation with this spacing. Previously it required even more space between units.

How Big Are These Batteries?

Well, the numbers don’t lie. The systems take up a lot of space. If you don’t have this kind of space on a contiguous wall, we can get creative and place them outside or around the garage. Stacking can be problematic if there are flood level restrictions. The good news is that they are pretty thin and don’t take up too much depth. That means you probably won’t have a problem opening your car door if you put them on a side wall of a garage. But these are considerations that we need to address.

The batteries weigh a lot, but nothing a stud wall or block wall can’t handle.

All in all, the batteries aren’t too big, but the system as a whole takes up a lot of space. It is important to keep components close, mainly for wireless communications purposes. If you are wondering if they will fit at your home, let us know and we will do a site survey to confirm that we can fit the amount of capacity you need for your home.

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How to Clean Roof Shingles?

How to Clean Roof Shingles Palm CoastIf you have a shingled roof that you want to clean, you better know how to clean roof shingles the right way or you can damage your roof. Cleaning this type of roofing material is much more complicated than you might think. That’s why there are certain aspects of cleaning shingled roofs that you must be aware of before you start this task. Once you know the important aspects of shingled roof cleaning, it gives you a much better chance to have a finished roof cleaning project that not only makes your home look better but also did not cause any other problems while it was being done.

Washing a shingled roof is much more time-consuming and difficult than it may seem. It gets even more complicated when you have solar panels installed on your roof. You must take extra precautionary measures to ensure that both your roof and the solar panel system do not get damaged during the process.

That’s why many people pay to have their roof shingles professionally cleaned. If you absolutely insist on washing your own shingled roof, here is some good advice regarding that task.

Avoid Using High Powered Spray

Many people that want to clean their shingled roofs think all they have to do to get the job done is to put an extra-long water hose on their pressure washer, then go up on the roof and blast away on that pressure washer’s highest setting. If you decide to do this also, then make sure you prearrange having a roof inspection done the very next day because using high pressured spray to clean shingles is a big no-no. You can pretty much guarantee that it will damage your roof’s shingles in some way. This can do such things as cause leaks as the high pressure moves your shingles out of place or wear the protective outer coating off of your shingles and shorten their useful life.

Let the Chemicals Do the Work

How can I use low pressure from a garden hose and still get my roof clean? Well, this is one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to knowing how to clean roof shingles. You simply choose a quality roof cleaning chemical and let it do the hardest part of the job. That way you are not using your garden hose to wash the roof but only to rinse the chemicals off once they have worked their magic. A good roof cleaning chemical will not only loosen dirt so it easily washes off your shingle but will also kill moss, mold, and algae too. When applying a chemical on top of your roofing shingles make sure you apply it liberally all over and give it time to work before you spray it off. We highly recommend following the manufacturer’s recommendations on how their product performs the best.

Add Zinc or Copper Strips After the Shingles Have Been Washed

It’s not surprising with as many weather elements that a roof is exposed to that it eventually becomes worn and dull looking and maybe even stained due to mold, moss, and algae growth. These all contribute to shingled roof cleaning often being a painstaking task that no one ever wants to do again. Well, there are ways to make this possible now. Manufacturers have designed strips that can be placed in strategic areas around shingles. The idea behind these strips is when water rolls over them this leaves trace amounts of zinc or copper on top of your shingles and that makes it harder for dirt and dust to stick to them. These special zinc and copper strips will also inhibit mold, algae, and other organic matter growth.

Solar Panel Removal and Reinstall in Palm Coast, FL

You already know the basics on how to clean roof shingles. But if you do have solar panels on your roof, it’s an entirely different story. It is always best to reach out to licensed solar contractors to get help with solar panel removal and reinstall before you clean your roof. If you are located in the Palm Coast, Ormond Beach, New Smyrna Beach, DeLand, Deltona, or any of the surrounding areas, contact Florida’s Solar for assistance. You may reach us at 386-673-9720 for a free estimate.

Business Electricity Rates and Solar Panels

Demand Charges Change the Calculus

I think you will agree – most people don’t really understand how utility companies charge for electricity. That is doubly true of business owners and executives because businesses are often billed in more complicated ways than residential customers. It’s hard enough to understand bank charges and cell phone bills. Electricity billing is often a nebulous and confusing thing.

Demand charge significantly complicates how solar panels will affect your business electricity bill. More on that later, but first…

How Do Utility Companies Charge for Electricity?

Both FPL and LCEC charge customers for multiple aspects of electricity usage. For residential customers, the basic breakdown is:

  1. Customer Charge – the base fee for the privilege of being connected to the utility grid and having a utility meter.
  2. Usage Charge – Billed in kilowatt-hours, this is the quantity of electricity you use in terms of power over time. Usage charges are further broken down into base charges, fuel surcharges, and other fees. Nonetheless, these components are all based on the amount of energy you use – power over time.
  3. Taxes – Universally understood and loathed.

For some business customers, there is an additional charge called Demand Charge. While usage charges are based on energy usage, demand charge is based on power usage. Power is the instantaneous use of electricity – how fast you are consuming electricity rather than how much over time. Some businesses use a lot of power at times of day and little power at other times of the day. For example, your business may only run a manufacturing line during business hours.

Because the amount of power used can be very high, the utility company has to build out infrastructure to meet this demand, hence the term “demand charge.” They need to supply transformers, distribution lines, and energy generation to meet these demands. That is different from homes that have a fairly steady and small electricity usage (relatively speaking).

As a result, business customers on a demand charge tariff will pay for electricity differently. They pay a lower usage rate, but also pay a demand charge that is based on the highest amount of power required during the billing period (for example, the highest 30 minutes of power for FPL’s GSD-1 tariff). Essentially, you pay the demand charge for the highest 30-minute period of usage for a 30-day period, even if you have just one 30 minute spike in usage.

How Demand Charges Impact Solar Panel Savings

Whether you are a homeowner or a business owner, the output of a solar panel will produce the same amount of utility usage ofFlorida Solar Eastt (reduction).  You get all the same environmental benefits and all the same kilowatt-hour savings. However, remember that businesses pay a lower rate for usage, so their dollars-and-cents savings for usage are lower.

So the question is, how does solar panel production impact demand charges. That is very tricky and also much more unpredictable. The reduction in usage (energy) is easy to predict and quantify. The reduction in demand (power) is much harder to predict.

To model the reduction in demand charge we need to know how much demand you have on an hour-by-hour basis to determine when the peak demand occurs. Then we need to look at how likely it is that solar energy will ofFlorida Solar Eastt demand at the same time. As you might imagine, this is really unpredictable because the instantaneous output of solar panels is highly dependent on weather. If your peak demand occurs at a time and day that happens to be very cloudy by chance, your demand charge reduction will be severely impacted.

And what happens if your peak demand is at night? Well, solar panels will have no impact on your demand charges whatsoever.

Predicting Demand Charge Savings

There are sophisticated models that allow us to predict how much demand charges will be reduced for your business. The models are not perfect, but they are good. Most importantly, it’s garbage in, garbage out. If we do not have good data, we can’t predict your savings.

Your utility company can provide detailed demand data in spreadsheet format for the last year. We can plug this hour-by-hour data into models to see how that coincides with solar panel production. If your demand peaks are in the afternoon, for example, it might be best to install solar panels facing west.

Predicting demand charge savings have a degree of risk and unknowns. There is no perfect way to do this. While the usage charge reductions should be rock-solid calculations, you should know that demand charge savings are not guaranteed and could change over time as your demand profile changes.

Business Solar Panels Investments

Ultimately, the savings provided by solar panels will provide a return on investment and a positive net present value for most business clients. But it is important to calculate and model the predicted savings to see how your demand charge reduction impacts financial results.

If you are presented with a proposal that does not take into account demand charge or your solar professional doesn’t mention it, be skeptical about the savings and financial model they provide. Hire a professional that understands the impact of demand charges on solar panel investments for business clients.

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How To Best Use The Enphase Enlighten App

The Enphase Enlighten app comes standard with every Enphase microinverter system we install. This app is free from the manufacturer and allows you to view your system performance. We create this video to help you navigate the app and demonstrate how to use it to best understand your energy flows.

This video is best viewed in full screen on a mobile device. Here is a direct link to the full-screen version.

The Enlighten app has four tabs at the bottom. Here is a quick overview of what each tab does.

Status

The status tab tells you what has happened today thus far (since midnight). The data displayed here is cumulative energy, not instantaneous power. If you need a primer on the difference between power and energy, go here. Depending on the time of day, this data may or may not be very useful. All of the same data shown on the energy tab, but the status tab can give you some basic insight. Look for the “System Normal” indicator in the upper left. If there is a system error or production issue, you will see it here.

The key metrics on this screen are the production figure (solar production), and if you have consumption monitoring installed you will also see your household total energy consumption and the net amount. Net imported indicates that you have consumed more energy than you have produced today. Net exported indicates you have produced more energy than you have consumed today.

Energy

The Energy tab gives you all of the same data as the Status tab, except with more detail. The graph shows you energy production and consumption on a 15 minute interval basis. The Month view provides a breakdown on a daily basis for each day of the month being viewed. You can use the back and forward buttons to jump to different days and months.

 

Array

The Array tab shows you energy output per panel. You can view this for a day, week, month, year, or lifetime. This is where you can spot shading issues, microinverter faults, or other production issues with your system. All panels on a given row and roof face should have relatively similar energy production over time unless there is a known reason (like shade) for the discrepancy.

Menu

In the Menu you can change details about your system like system name, your email address, and set up notifications for monthly reports and system production issues. You can also access more detailed reports.

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Large Bubble in Pool – Solar Pool Heating Startup

Watch this video to learn what it means when you get large bubbles in the pool when your solar pool heating system starts up each time.

When your pool pump shuts off or your solar panels shut off during the day, the water in the panels drains down to the pool. The panels fill up with air. When your solar pool heater starts up, the air is purged from the panels and forced back to the pool through your pool jets. Eventually, the large bubbles should stop.

 

 

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Enphase Launches the IQ8 Microinverter – Backup Without Batteries

Enphase has launched the new IQ8 microinverter, which comes with the promise of allowing you to use your solar panels off-grid without batteries. Until now, solar panels were either grid-interactive which means they shut down with the loss of the grid, or they worked with batteries to provide backup power.

Before you get too excited, let’s get something straight. Solar backup power without batteries will only work during the daylight hours, it will provide limited power, and forget about air conditioning. That’s right. You can stop reading now if that’s all you wanted.

We find that most people in Southwest Florida are most concerned about air conditioning after a storm, which is the most likely time the grid will go down for an extended period of time. The problem is, air conditioning uses a lot of power and requires a huge amount of power to start up typically. The Enphase IQ8 will provide power directly to your house, but only to the extent that solar power is available at any given instant in time. When clouds go over your house, the instantaneous power available drops and the system shuts down if the load is too high.

Examining Real Output of IQ8 Microinverters In A Solar Array

Let’s say you have a 10 kilowatt (kW) DC rated solar array. The IQ8 microinverters will collectively be theoretically capable of producing around 8 kW of instantaneous usable AC power, but that is only under perfectly ideal conditions. That means the sun is at a 90 degree angle to the panels, it’s 77ºF outside, there is no haze, no clouds, and no other shading issues across the entire array, which by the way would all need to be facing the same direction. That is not a likely scenario. You will have far less power most of the time. The power will also fluctuate, leaving you with a lack of power at times to handle larger appliances.

Take this system below, for example. This is the AC output of a real 10 kW DC solar array in Fort Myers with a previous generation of Enphase microinverter. This snapshot is power production the week of October 20, 2022. It represents a time when a Southwest Florida home might be without power due to a storm outage. Notice that the system only momentarily exceeded 6 kW of usable AC power on one day of the week. There was rarely sustained power exceeding 4 kW for any significant period of time. On two days the instantaneous power barely cracked 3 kW. In fact, the longest period of time where power exceeded 3 kW was about 6 hours, and during that time the power surely dipped significantly due to momentary cloud cover (the Enphase monitoring is not granular enough to show these dips in power).

To put this in perspective, most large central AC units consume well over 3 kW, so powering one reliably would be out of the question with a 10 kW solar array.

It’s not all bad news, however. The IQ8 microinverters use the same Enpower Smart Switch (now rebranded as the Enphase System Controller) as the Enphase Encharge battery system uses. That means adding a battery to supplement the solar panels to handle fluctuating power will be possible – quite easy in fact. However, you will still need a large battery to handle larger loads like air conditioning. The system controller itself is expensive, as are the batteries, and the additional cost of the IQ8 microinverters will likely make that combination less attractive relative to just pairing the controller and batteries with the previous IQ7 microinverter. Only time will tell how the pricing works out.

Should You Consider the Enphase IQ8 Microinverter?

So given the limitations, should you consider the IQ8 microinverter? It could be helpful if you want to power smaller loads. A refrigerator may be possible, especially with a small battery. Lighting, charging devices, fans, and other small loads are all possible to run. Keep in mind, this is only during the day when there is enough sunlight.

The other caveat is how to manage what devices are powered. The best way to install Enphase’s System Controller is to use it to replace your home’s main disconnect switch. It acts as a transfer switch to disconnect from the grid physically when the grid goes down. The downside to this is you will either need to manage what is being powered manually to avoid shutdowns or use the load management features, but there is a cost associated with installing that. Alternatively, you can install a critical load subpanel and carve out just the devices that you want to power when the grid is out. This could have substantial costs depending on the complexity of your home’s electrical system.

The Enphase IQ8 will surely be a successful product. Early adopters and people who understand the limitations of the product will be potential customers. You will need pretty deep pockets to go this route and the capability without batteries will be disappointing for most Southwest Florida clients. Our power and energy needs are different from much of the nation. For now, we are recommending that clients stick with the IQ7 series microinverters and if backup is needed, add the Enphase System Controller with Encharge batteries. If you are just looking to save money and slash your electric bill, the IQ7 is still the way to go. For the limited times you might need backup power and the limited capability of the IQ8 when used without batteries, it’s not a great investment in our opinion.

We will keep you posted as things change in the rapidly evolving solar and battery storage market as it relates to Southwest Florida clients. The unique challenges of backup power in this climate aren’t always addressed in the marketing hype from companies offering backup solutions. This is one of those cases.

Battery Backup Alternatives That Work

As suggested previously, if you want backup power and you want to have a good experience, you really need batteries. Batteries buffer the instantaneous power fluctuations of solar panels, which a microinverter itself cannot do. There are many options on the market, and each has advantages.

The Enphase Ensemble battery system with Encharge batteries provides up to 40 kWh of storage capacity, which is enough for most modest homes, especially with larger solar arrays and especially with some load management (shedding of power-hungry appliances as necessary). If you need more storage capacity or more instantaneous power output than Enphase supports, a good option is the Sol-Ark inverter system and a battery system like Storz, Simpliphi, Fortress, or others that integrate with the Sol-Ark inverters.

What’s shiny and new is not always the best solution. It is rarely the most cost-effective solution. Tried and true lead-acid battery systems have advantages, although we no longer recommend them due to a variety of advantages that new battery chemistry offers.

This isn’t the first time an inverter manufacturer made this type of power without batteries possible. SMA has long offered an inverter with a Secure Power Supply – an outlet that provides up to 1,500W of power. It never really took off, as this is a paltry sum of power and for practical purposes, you can’t power much. Enphase’s IQ8 promises to do the same thing, albeit on a scale that is significantly larger. The fact remains that the power available is highly variable and frequent shutdowns are likely if you are powering anything significant without a battery to buffer the ups and downs.

If you are still interested in the Enphase IQ8 Microinverter, please do not hesitate to reach out to us to compare solutions. Just be aware of the limitations. We are happy to help you decide what’s right for your needs.

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Solar Pool Heating Automated Valve Manifold Explanation

Automated Solar Pool Heating Valve Manifold Explained

In this video, we explain how our automated solar valve heating manifolds work. The manifold shown here is based on our standard valve setup. Your valves may vary due to a variety of circumstances, but this is the most common arrangement for manifolds installed by Florida Solar East LLC Solar Panel Design Specialists.

Keep in mind, your valves may be mirrored left to right. This manifold is a “left-feed.” You may have a “right-feed.” It all depends on the location of your solar panels relative to the pool equipment. The concept is the same for both left and right feed manifolds.

If you do not have a solar controller to automate your valves, the concept is the same except you will have to turn your solar bypass manifold on and off by hand.

Valve Manifold Parts

Each valve manifold is comprised of four valves.

1. Solar Bypass Valve – determines if water is sent to the solar panels or directly back to the pool.
2. Solar Isolation Valve – used for service purposes to positively seal off solar panels and prevent water from flowing through them.
3. Feed Check Valve – stops water from flowing backward through your filter when the pump shuts off and water drains down from the solar panels back to the pool.
4. Return Check Valve – stops water from flowing backward up the solar return line when solar pool heating is turned off.

This video shows a Hayward valve actuator (motor), but you may have a Pentair or Jandy brand valve as well. The concept is the same with each.

If your valve manifold is not working as expected, check your solar controller and see whether solar is on or not. If it is on but your bypass valve is off, there may not be enough heat on the roof to heat your pool. If the valve seems to be in the wrong position, the toggle switch may have been turned off or put in the wrong position. If the motor does not turn regardless of what position the toggle switch is in, you may have a failed valve actuator motor.

NEVER turn off the isolation valve unless you are certain that the controller will not turn the bypass valve on. This could “deadhead” your pump if water has nowhere to go.

NEVER attempt to turn the motorized valve manually with the handle. The handle is there to indicate the valve position only.

This style of valve is off (closed) when the handle is parallel to the pipe. The OFF tab always points to the pipe that is blocked. If the handle and off tab are perpendicular to a pipe, the valve is on (open).

If you are a client of ours and have any questions about the proper position or operation of your solar pool heater valve manifold, please call us at (239) 491-8010. We are happy to help.

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Solar Pool Heating Valve Actuator Toggle Switch Position

This video shows you how to determine if your solar pool heating valve actuator is in the correct position and how to change it with the toggle switch. While we use the Pentair SolarTouch solar controller and the Pentair CVA24 valve actuator, this video applies to other solar controllers, pool controllers, and valve actuators. It does not apply to Heliotrope valve actuators that are integrated with the valve itself.

Troubleshooting Solar Pool Heater Valve Actuator Position

Steps to troubleshooting valve position:

1. Determine if the toggle switch is in the OFF position. If it is, the valve will not turn regardless of what the solar controller is commanding it to do.

The toggle switch is on the bottom or back of most brands of solar actuator.

2. Determine if the solar controller is calling for solar pool heat. If the controller says solar should be on, but the valve is off (bypassing the solar panels), turn the toggle switch to the opposite ON position.

Check to see if you controller currently is asking for solar heat. Consult your manual if you have a more complex pool controller.

3. If the valve does not move regardless of which ON position you use, you likely have a failed valve actuator. It will need to be repaired, or more likely replaced.

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ECOFLOW 6-outlet 1800W power station is $351 off, more in New Green Deals

Whether you’re planning on going camping this fall or just want something to keep your lights on if the power goes out, the ECOFLOW DELTA 1300 power station is an absolute must. With a massive 1260Wh capacity and the ability to output 1800W constant and 3300W surge, the six AC outlets make this a monster of a power station, especially at $351 off. Plus, you’ll find discounts on electric lawn mowers and much more below, as well. We also have a wide selection of Tesla , Greenworks, and other e-bike discounts in today’s New Green Deals, so you won’t want to miss that either.

Head below for other New Green Deals that we’ve found today, more on why going electric for your yard tools like the mower on sale is important, and of course Electrek’s best EV buying and leasing deals. Also, check out the new Electrek Tesla Shop for the best deals on Tesla accessories.

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Solar Panel Door To Door Sales

There is a practice in the solar energy industry that you should know about. Door-to-door selling has been around forever. The people that sell solar door-to-door really don’t sell anything. We call them “door knockers.”

Solar Panel Door Knockers

The idea of knocking on doors is simply to gauge your interest in solar energy. Once you are targeted with some disingenuous questions they will try to extract your contact information so a high-pressure salesperson can swoop in to give you the hard sell. The sole goal of a door knocker is to set an appointment.

Door knockers are usually paid for getting a confirmed appointment. They are highly trained and skilled at tactics and the language used to distract, misdirect, and persuade. You will find them making bold statements not backed up with details and depth. They usually know next to nothing about solar energy. They just know how to achieve their goal.

A Glimpse Into How Door Knocking Works

There are several keys to a lucrative neighborhood. Good roofs would be a high priority. Middle-class families who are likely to purchase on credit are often targeted. Older people and those with disposable income are other good targets. One of the top places to camp out for a door knocker is a new neighborhood.

In Southwest Florida, we have mostly gated communities going up. When the community is under construction, the security gates are open, allowing solicitors unfettered access. The roofs are all new, meaning they are not in need of replacement soon. New homeowners don’t know what to expect for energy bills. But the best part of a new neighborhood? No competition!

Being early in a new neighborhood is important. Neighbors talk. It provides the opportunity to dominate the community. But what happens if you are not first in?

If it’s not a new neighborhood, door knockers look for ideal roofs and places where people might be receptive to a monthly payment for solar panels. Most solar electric systems in Florida are sold via solar loans where the monthly payment closely approximates the decrease in utility electricity costs you can expect. Door knockers often have a bad relationship with the truth when it comes to telling people how solar loans work. The idea is to bamboozle clients into thinking they can make no investment and get rich doing that. That’s not the way it works (if it sounds too good to be true…)

Breaking Into a New Neighborhood With Solar Sales

Information is like gold. If you are a new solar energy system owner, you might find someone knocking on your door. But why? You already have solar. It’s because they want information. And new system owners are usually not reluctant to share their experience, especially if they don’t know exactly who they are talking to. Check out this guy that one of our clients caught on their doorbell camera.

Is this clown serious? Watch as he blasts through his question list. He already knows the answers, and/or doesn’t care what the homeowner has to say. He has a single goal – to collect information.

Shady Tactics

We have talked about shady solar contractors in the past. But guess what we have heard customers tell us? Door knockers have been known to claim to have installed our systems! It’s true. One client even told us that a door knocker approached his immediate next-door neighbor and said his company installed the solar panels at our clients’ house! That’s bold.

Door knocking is the scourge of the industry. It’s the lead generation tactic that is most likely to lead to bamboozled homeowners. Door knocking is more insidious than the deceptive social media ads that offer free solar panels or mystery incentives. It’s insidious because of the way that you get bounced from door knocker to appointment setter to independent sales rep to a solar contractor and usually to a subcontracted crew of installers who have no direct relationship with you.

Solar contractors pay big bucks to door knockers to get appointments. A door knocker doesn’t usually care if you buy solar panels (because they aren’t usually compensated for that). They don’t care if you get good information. They just want the appointment, and they will do anything and say anything to make that happen.

How To Avoid Scams

Never buy solar panels based on an advertisement or someone who comes to your door. You should seek out a responsible contractor who you pick. Don’t let them pick you. Asking your neighbors can help, but sometimes they might be satisfied, but don’t even realize how much better it could have been (cost and quality). Look to reviews and look at complaints lodged against a contractor (and how it was handled).

And most importantly – BUY LOCAL! A contractor based in Miami, Tampa, or Orlando isn’t going to provide good service after the sale to a client in Fort Myers. Trust me – I’m usually the guy picking up the pieces from botched installations or abandoned clients once the check clears. And don’t let a salesperson say a company is based in Cape Coral or Naples when they just have a satellite sales office there (often a home office). Make sure the contractor’s headquarters and the actual contractor (person) are based in your area. Out-of-town contractors often say they have a local crew based in Fort Myers. That’s code for subcontractors. “Subcontractor” is not a dirty word, and subcontractors can be a useful tool for efficient and quality work, but only when supervised by the contractor hiring them. Without a local presence, subcontractors can run roughshod.

 

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Does A New Roof Qualify For The Solar Investment Tax Credit

Read the question carefully. What answer makes sense to you? Usually, the most obvious answer is correct. And that’s the case here.

Solar Panels On A Roof Get A Tax Credit, But Not Including New Roofs

There are many solar contractors and sales outfits out there that are claiming that you can bundle a new roof with solar panels and take the tax credit on the whole thing. It sounds too good to be true right? That’s because it is.

Some hedge their bets and say that you can only take the credit on the portion of the roof where solar panels will be installed. Others claim that you can say the new roof is a reflector that directs sunlight to the back of a bifacial solar panel.

Really?

What Is The Actual Law For The Solar Tax Credit

Does any of this make sense? Do you really think Congress intended for the solar tax credit to work like this. Here is what qualifies:

I.R.C. § 25D(d)(2) Qualified Solar Electric Property Expenditure — The term “qualified solar electric property expenditure” means an expenditure for property which uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in a dwelling unit located in the United States and used as a residence by the taxpayer.

What the tax credit clearly does allow are things like solar shingles or solar tiles. This is where the roof membrane itself is made of solar panels. But even so, that would only apply to the portion of the roof that is made up of the energy-producing shingles or tiles.

A mistake that the tax code writers made was to include the word “roof” in the tax law in a confusing way. There is a provision that says that you can claim the credit, more accurately that the credit can’t be denied, if the solar panel itself makes up the roof surface or structural component. The intent of this language is for things like solar pergolas, skylights, shingles, tile, or other technologies where the solar panel itself ***IS*** the roof surface or structure. Some shady contractors have twisted these words to mean that part of the roof itself can be claimed as “qualified solar electric property.”

I.R.C. § 25D(e)(2) Solar Panels — No expenditure relating to a solar panel or other property installed as a roof (or portion thereof) shall fail to be treated as property described in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (d) solely because it constitutes a structural component of the structure on which it is installed.

While this section is confusing, a careful analysis indicates the true intent.

IRS Guidance For The Solar Tax Credit

The IRS guidance is clear on the matter. For example, on the IRS.gov website’s Q&A page, one of the questions and answers says (emphasis added):

Q. Is a roof eligible for the residential energy efficient property tax credit?
A. In general, traditional roofing materials and structural components do not qualify for the credit. However, some solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles serve as solar electric collectors while also performing the function of traditional roofing, serving both the functions of solar electric generation and structural support and such items may qualify for the credit. Components such as a roof’s decking or rafters that serve only a roofing or structural function do not qualify for the credit.

Some contractors try to make the argument that the roof is required to support the solar panels, so it is part of the system. By that logic, the walls and foundation should also qualify. Why not build a whole house, put up one solar panel, and just take the solar tax on the whole home! The IRS has made it clear in their Q&A guidance.

Another common argument is that “reflective roofs” are required for reflecting solar light to bifacial panels. It may help increase energy production, but the IRS made a letter ruling on this subject that says you can only claim the incremental (extra) cost of the reflective nature of the roof over the cost of a normal non-reflective roof in the calculation. So if you spend $50,000 replacing your roof with a reflective roof, but a normal roof would cost $45,000, you can only claim $5,000 in the basis for your tax credit. Source: The Tax Advisor and Norton Rose Fulbright.

According to Berry Dunn, “the IRS has consistently held that only the ‘incremental cost’ of the roof installation may qualify as solar energy property if it is integrated with the machinery and equipment. ”

For a ground-mounted solar array, clearly the mounting structure qualifies since it serves no other purpose other than supporting the panels. That’s logical. It’s common sense. There are plenty of other parts of the system that qualify, like the wiring specifically attributable to the solar energy conveyance to the home.

How Do They Get Away With These Lies?

First, it is you, the taxpayer, attesting to what is “qualified solar electric property.” There is no provision in the law that says you can rely on the guidance or attestation of a solar contractor when calculating what credit is due to you. You are on the hook if you are audited and found to have filed a fraudulent claim. The contractor is in no way required to break down costs in their contract that are and are not eligible for tax credits. It’s up to you to decide and file accordingly.

In fact, no documentation is required when filing your claim for a solar tax credit. You simply put a single number on a form, attesting to that figure as the eligible amount.

Most solar contractors are smart enough to not put these ridiculous roofing tax credit claims in writing (although some have). It’s usually a salesperson that you are dealing with, not the company owner, so they have little to lose. Some people will say just about anything to make a sale and get their big fat commission check.

You need a trusted solar contractor that will tell you the truth. Look for one with a good reputation (ratings) and try to deal directly with the owner, not an independent sales rep. And we recommend never buying from a solar sales organization that will subcontract the actual work. Dealing directly gives you a straight line to the people who make decisions and take responsibility for their actions.

What If I Want To Buy My Solar Panels From My Roofer?

That’s no problem. The same applies if you want to buy a new roof from your solar contractor (as long as they are licensed to do so or can legally subcontract that work). There are two ways to calculate what is eligible for the tax credit:

  1. Have your contractor provide line item costs for the solar panels and the roof separately. This is probably the safest route, as long as the contractor reasonably attributes costs to each. Present the documents to your tax professional so they can determine if the evidence is sufficient to support an audit should it come.
  2. If your contractor only provides you with a lump sum contract and invoice, obtain estimates for each part of the work separately or otherwise determine a reasonable split with the advice of your tax professional.

In both cases, you are attesting to what costs qualify for the tax credit. The solar contractor is most likely off the hook (as long as they are not complicit in fraudulent activity).

Hire A Tax Professional

We are not tax consultants. While there may be large solar contractors with lawyers and accountants on staff, most solar contractors cannot answer your most important tax questions competently, and don’t have your best interests at heart.

One expert source, the Bradford Tax Institute, states unequivocally that, “The new roof keeps the water, wind, and sun out, but it does not qualify for the tax credit if it does not generate or contribute to the generation of electricity.”

You should always seek the advice of a trusted tax lawyer or accountant if you have questions about what your eligibility is for solar tax credits. Claiming a tax credit for something to which you are not entitiled could cause you serious problems. Your recourse with a solar contractor would likely be fruitless. There is no substitute for personalized, competent advice from someone other than a solar contractor, us included.

And don’t believe everything you read on the Internet!

Heck, I would take this entire article with a grain of salt, but we are quite certain that a new roof / re-roof does NOT qualify for a solar tax credit. It’s the logical and sensible conclusion.

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Solar Panel Power Clipping

The solar electricity term “clipping” refers to energy that is lost when a solar panel’s output potential exceeds the amount of power that an inverter can convert. That sounds bad, right? Well, maybe not.

In good solar photovoltaic system design, the solar panel rating is almost always higher than the inverter (or microinverter) rating. The factor by which the solar panel is “oversized” varies based on many factors. The reason this is done is that solar panels don’t operate at their rated output at all times. In fact, solar panels rarely achieve their rated power, which occurs when the conditions are just right and the sun is at a perfect angle. Solar panels spend far greater time in suboptimal conditions.

By upsizing the solar panel relative to the inverter rating, we allow the inverter to operate at higher output levels for a greater amount of time. This results in greater overall power production. The extra energy produced at suboptimal conditions outweighs the amount of energy lost, or clipped.

There is no perfect rule of thumb for what factor to use. Higher solar panel rating factors are advised where conditions include:

  • Hot climate
  • Poor orientation or tilt
  • Shading issues
  • Local climatic conditions

How Much Solar Panel Clipping Is Acceptable?

Good local solar contractors will have the best knowledge and experience to help you. We don’t pretend to know what level of clipping is acceptable in Florida or Colorado for example. The unique hot conditions of Southwest Florida, hazy afternoons in summer, and other local climatic conditions require special knowledge. Shading and orientation should be taken into account to determine when the sizing factor becomes too high or too low. That’s why it is important to consider a solar contractor that knows your local conditions.

The other factor is cost. Since solar panels are relatively cheap today, they make up a small percentage of the total installed price. It may be as low as 20%. As a result, increasing the rating of the solar panel by 20% would only result in a 4% overall price increase. It is likely that the total energy gained would greatly exceed 4%. There is a point of diminishing returns, however. That point varies based on the factors discussed above.

What Does Solar Panel Clipping Look Like?

Below is a chart that shows what happens when solar panels reach an output capability that exceeds the inverter’s ability to convert all available power. Notice how the power output flatlines during peak sun each day.

On three consecutive days in April, conditions were great and some power was not converted around mid-day.

 

This same system had no clipping whatsoever in a three-day period in December when the sun is lower in the sky and conditions were not optimal. Energy was gained during this time because the solar panel was rated well above that of the inverter.

No clipping observed over a three day period in December

 

If you are worried about clipping, you probably shouldn’t. If your solar contractor is trustworthy they will have taken into account this phenomenon when putting together a system configuration for you. Keep in mind that you are trying to achieve the most energy produced (power over time), and instantaneous power output is not the main factor in good system design.

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low emission electricity down as solar up 14

Low emission electricity went down as solar up 14%

The US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released April’s Electric Power Monthly, which showed that low emission electricity production declined despite a solar production increase of 14%, and despite newly installed capacity being 99% clean. The report provides data through the end of February 2021, and notes that in that month, photovoltaic (solar) generation grew 14% over February 2020, accounting for ~2.82% of total US electricity generated for the month versus 2.54% last year.

Total U.S. electricity use increased by 2.9% versus February of last year. And solar produced 18% more in the first two months of the year than it did in 2020.

Clean Electricity Generation Down

And yet, there’s still a bit of a cloud over the nation’s electricity generation. Whether measured as a percentage, or as an absolute value, CO2 free electricity has actually declined in 2021.

Comparing January and February 2021 with the prior year, the Electric Power Monthly report shows low CO2 electricity generation output declining 7,442 GWh. Nuclear declined over 5,400 GWh, hydro was down more than 3,400 GWh, and wind production dropped over 9%, by 2,724 GWh.

Together, these figures show 2.7% less clean electricity generated – in a year when total electricity use rose 3%!

Specifically, as noted in the chart above, February 2021 burnt 9.9% more fossils than February 2020. In fact, the only low emission electricity sources that grew in February compared to last year were solar and geothermal.

February of 2020 saw 42.3% of electricity coming from CO2 free sources. This past February, we were at 38.3% – fully 4% less.

 

Electricity by Generation Source, February 2021, USA

This downturn in clean electricity generation occurred in a year following record wind and solar deployments. However, it might be more accurate to frame this as a return to normal.  2020 brought above average winds to the midwest, resulting in increased wind energy and thus a reduction in coal use. And due to covid-19, total electricity demand was down.  Considering these outlying factors, perhaps we should take some of this data with a grain of salt.

Solar thermal is included in the above chart, but as it makes up less than 1/10th of a percent it was excluded by rounding error.

New Capacity Online

In January, the EIA tracked about 355.4 MWac/~444 MWdc of newly installed utility scale solar power.. That value put the solar industry over 100 GWdc of capacity installed across the United States.

 

In February that value increased to 672.6 MWac/~840 MWdc across 14 projects. The largest project that came online was the 255 MWac Greasewood facility in Pecos, Texas.

 

 

Texas expects greater than 10 GW of new solar capacity to come online through the end of 2022. The majority of capacity in the state’s pipeline is wind and solar, with almost 100 GW of solar listed in the ERCOT interconnection queue.

Texas likely to add record utility-scale solar capacity in the next two years

utility-scale solar capacity, top five states as of 2020

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Detailed State DataPreliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory

Texas, already the U.S. state with the most wind energy capacity, is catching up to California in utility-scale solar capacity. California currently has the most installed utility-scale solar capacity of any state. According to survey reports on EIA’s Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, Texas will add 10 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar capacity by the end of 2022, compared with 3.2 GW in California. One-third of the utility-scale solar capacity planned to come online in the United States in the next two years (30 GW) will be in Texas.

The installation of 2.5 GW of solar capacity in 2020 marked the beginning of the solar boom in Texas. We expect the state to add another 4.6 GW of solar capacity in 2021 and 5.4 GW in 2022, which will bring total installed solar capacity in Texas to 14.9 GW.

The federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that is available to project developers is driving some of the anticipated solar growth. Utility-scale solar projects that start construction in 2021 or 2022 are eligible for a 26% tax credit. The tax credit drops to 22% for projects that start in 2023 and to 10% for projects that start in 2024 or later.

Other factors driving solar investment in Texas include lower solar technology costs and plentiful sunlight, particularly in West Texas’s Permian Basin, where about 30% of the state’s planned solar capacity will be built. In addition, because solar generation is greatest in the middle of the day, when wind generation is typically lower, available transmission lines that already handle the large amount of wind power in the state have helped set the path for record-breaking planned solar capacity additions.

Despite recent solar capacity growth in Texas, utility-scale solar only made up 4% of the state’s generating capacity in 2020 and 2% of in-state electricity generation. In comparison, natural gas made up 53% of Texas’s capacity in 2020 and 52% of in-state generation; wind made up 23% of capacity and 20% of in-state generation.

Although wind capacity in Texas has grown rapidly in recent years, solar is expected to make up the largest share of the state’s capacity additions between 2020 and 2022. Almost half of the additions during this time period will be solar, surpassing wind (35%) and natural gas (13%) additions.

Texas generating capacity and electricity generation


Principal contributor: Suparna Ray

 

The numbers from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are a bit off from the EIA data concerning exactly how much solar came online in February, but they’re close enough for government work.

The FERC numbers give us something nice to chew on. So far in 2021, greater than 99% of all electricity generation capacity installed in the USA came not from fossils, but from wind and solar. And the only new natural gas capacity was a small 9 MW plant that will probably have less than a 10% capacity factor.

Going forward, FSE is developing a set of tools to more automatically collect and distribute solar pv information from the EIA. If you have certain pieces of data, you think ought to be shared more widely, please do contact us and give some advice.

Overview

Florida is the third-largest energy consumer among the states, but its per capita energy consumption is fourth-lowest.

The Florida peninsula extends almost 450 miles south from the Georgia border to the Florida Keys in the Gulf of Mexico and includes the southernmost point in the continental United States.1 The state’s northern boundary stretches about 360 miles from the Atlantic Ocean across the Florida Panhandle to the Perdido River, the state’s western boundary with Alabama.2 Known as the Sunshine State, Florida has significant solar energy potential as well as substantial biomass resources and small amounts of oil and natural gas production.3,4,5,6 The warm waters of the Gulf Stream wrap around much of the state’s marine coastline and moderate Florida’s climate, which ranges from tropical to subtropical.7,8 The Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean make the state one of the most humid in the nation, with frequent summer thunderstorms and occasional devastating hurricanes. As a result, Florida has taken more direct hits from tropical storms and hurricanes than any other state in the nation.9,10

Until the 20th century, Florida was largely rural and sparsely populated, but it has been one of the fastest growing states during the past century, in part because air conditioning became widely available and because of the state’s popularity as a tourist and retirement destination.11,12 Florida is the third-most populous state and the third-largest energy-consuming state in the nation.13,14 However, Florida ranks fourth-lowest in per capita energy consumption, in part because of its large population, moderate winter weather, and relatively low industrial sector energy use.15,16 The transportation sector, which includes the energy used by the automobiles, trains, planes, and ships that bring the many tourists who visit Florida’s beaches and attractions, leads end-use energy consumption, and it accounted for about two-fifths of the state’s total energy use in 2019. The residential sector, where almost all homes use air conditioning, accounted for more than one-fourth of state energy consumption.17,18 Florida’s commercial sector accounted for more than one-fifth of state energy use and the industrial sector accounted for slightly more than one-tenth.19 Overall, Florida consumes almost eight times more energy than it produces.20

Electricity

Florida is the second-largest producer of electricity in the nation.

Florida is the second-largest producer of electricity in the nation, after Texas.21 In 2020, natural gas fueled three-fourths of Florida’s in-state net generation, and 8 of the state’s 10 largest power plants by capacity and by generation are natural gas-fired.22,23 Natural gas has fueled the largest share of Florida’s electricity generation since 2003, when it surpassed coal’s contribution for the first time.24 Florida also leads the nation in generators that can switch between natural gas and fuel oil.25 Although petroleum-fired power plants provided less than 0.1% of Florida’s generation in 2020, petroleum liquids remain an important backup fuel source at many of the state’s natural gas-fired power plants.26 In 2020, almost two-thirds of the state’s natural gas-fired power plants could switch to petroleum fuels in the event of disruptions in the natural gas supply.27,28

The second-largest source of in-state generation in Florida is nuclear power. The state’s two nuclear power stations are located on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Those two plants typically provide more than one-tenth of the state’s net generation.29,30,31 Two proposed additional nuclear reactors received licenses, but plans to construct those reactors are on hold because of increased construction costs and competition from other fuels.32 Coal-fired power plants supplied about 7% of Florida’s net generation in 2020, down from 36% in 2001. Renewable resources, mainly solar energy and biomass, plus petroleum coke and generation at industrial plants that use multiple fuels, accounted for almost all the remaining net generation in Florida.33 Almost all the state’s recent and planned additions of generating capacity are natural gas-fueled or solar powered.34

Florida is the third-largest electricity consumer in the nation, after Texas and California.35 However, the state does not produce enough electricity to meet its power needs, and electricity demand is expected to increase as the state’s population continues to grow.36,37,38 The residential sector, where more than 9 in 10 Florida households use electricity as their primary energy source for home heating and air conditioning, consumes more than half of the electricity used in Florida, the largest share of any state.39,40 The commercial sector accounts for about two-fifths of state consumption, and the industrial sector uses most of the rest. The transportation sector uses a very small amount of electricity.41 However, Florida is second only to California in the number of registered electric vehicles, and there are more than 2,300 public-access electric vehicle charging stations in the state.42,43

Renewable energy

Solar energy and biomass provide almost all of Florida’s renewable-sourced electricity generation.

Renewable resources fueled about 5% of Florida’s in-state electricity net generation in 2020, and almost two-thirds of the state’s renewable generation came from solar energy.44 In 2020, Florida surpassed Arizona to become fourth in the nation, after California, Texas, and North Carolina, in total solar power generating capacity.45 About 85% of the state’s solar generation is at utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) facilities.46 However, generation from small-scale installations (less than 1 megawatt) almost tripled between 2018 and 2020, in part because of the removal of state restrictions on leased solar systems.47,48 Florida is one of only four states with utility-scale electricity generation from solar thermal technologies, which concentrate sunlight to produce the high temperatures needed to power the turbines used to generate electricity.49,50 The Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Martin County, Florida, contains both a hybrid solar thermal and a natural gas-fueled facility. The Martin plant has a 75-megawatt concentrating solar power facility, with almost 200,000 mirrors, and a 1,100-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant. It is the only concentrating solar thermal generating facility east of the Rocky Mountains.51,52

Florida accounts for about 7% of the nation’s biomass-fueled electricity generation, more than all but two other states, Georgia and California, and biomass fuels almost all of the non-solar renewable generation in Florida.53,54 The largest share of the state’s almost 1,200 megawatts of biomass-fueled generating capacity is at plants that process municipal solid waste, followed by those fueled by wood and wood waste. Although there are many landfill gas facilities in Florida, they account for only 6% of the state’s biomass generating capacity.55 Florida also has a variety of other biomass resources that are burned at utility-scale electricity generating facilities throughout the state. Those resources include sugarcane waste (bagasse), citrus pulp, forest residues, invasive trees and plants, animal waste, other agricultural residues, and yard waste.56 The state’s biomass resources also provide feedstock for a wood pellet manufacturing plant located in the state’s Panhandle. That plant has a production capacity of about 827,000 tons per year.57

Florida has few other renewable energy assets. Two hydroelectric plants in north Florida supply a small amount of power.58 However, the state’s flat terrain gives Florida little opportunity for hydropower development.59 The state has no significant wind resources, onshore or offshore, and there is no utility-scale wind-powered generating capacity.60,61,62

Florida does not have a renewable energy portfolio standard, but it does have state and local incentives, tax credits, and loan programs for certain renewable energy technologies.63,64 The state has adopted net metering and interconnection rules for qualifying customer-sited renewable energy generating facilities.65,66 Florida utilities also have individual energy efficiency goals set by the Florida Public Service Commission.67

Petroleum

Florida has minor crude oil reserves and accounts for less than 0.1% of the nation’s crude oil production.68,69 Onshore drilling for oil and gas in Florida began in 1901 and about 80 exploration wells were drilled in the state before oil was discovered in southwest Florida in 1943.70 Annual crude oil production in the state peaked at more than 47 million barrels in 1978 with the development of the Jay Field in the Panhandle in northwestern Florida. Since 1978, statewide production has declined and has been less than 2 million barrels in each year since 2008. In 2020, Florida crude oil production was less than 1.5 million barrels.71,72 Geologists believe there may be substantial additional reserves in federal waters off Florida’s western coast in the Gulf of Mexico.73 However, since 1989, Florida has banned drilling in both Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico state waters. In 2006, Congress banned oil and gas leasing in federal offshore areas in the central Gulf of Mexico planning area within 100 miles of Florida’s coastline and in most of the eastern Gulf of Mexico planning area within 125 miles of Florida’s coast. The ban on federal oil and gas leases off of the state’s Gulf coast was to expire in 2022, but a Presidential Memorandum signed in 2020 extends the ban for another 10 years and includes federal areas off Florida’s Atlantic coast.74,75,76

Florida does not have any crude oil refineries or interstate crude oil or petroleum product pipelines.77,78 The state relies on petroleum products delivered to Florida’s inland petroleum product terminals by rail, truck, tanker, and barge, and on deliveries to marine terminals located at several ports in the state.79 Petroleum products, including residual fuel oil, jet fuel, motor gasoline, low-sulfur distillate, and asphalt, arrive in Florida ports from around the world.80 An intrastate pipeline transports petroleum products—including motor gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel—as well as fuel ethanol from the Tampa Bay port area across central Florida to Orlando.81

Tourism and traffic through busy international airports drive petroleum consumption in Florida’s transportation sector.

More than nine-tenths of Florida’s petroleum consumption occurs in the transportation sector.82 In part because of Florida’s significant tourist industry and the heavy passenger and cargo traffic through its international airports, the state is among the top five petroleum-consuming states in the nation.83,84 In 2020, Florida ranked third in the nation in jet fuel consumption, and, in 2019, the state ranked third in total motor gasoline consumption as well.85,86 Even so, in part because of its large population, Florida is among the 10 states that use the least petroleum on a per capita basis.87 Florida does not require motor gasoline that is blended with ethanol, and federal requirements for cleaner-burning summer gasoline blends in the state’s urban areas were lifted in 2014.88,89 However, motor gasoline blended with ethanol is widely used, and Florida is the third-largest consumer of fuel ethanol in the nation. There are no fuel ethanol production plants in the state.90,91 Florida biodiesel consumption ranks among the top two-fifths of states, but the state’s last biodiesel production plant closed and the equipment was put up for sale in 2021.92,93,94

The industrial and commercial sectors account for almost all of the rest of the petroleum consumed in Florida. Because electric utilities have retired older petroleum-fired units and replaced many of them with natural gas-fired ones, the electric power sector now uses less than 1% of the petroleum consumed in the state. However, Florida is third in the nation, after Hawaii and Louisiana, in petroleum use for power generation. In the residential sector, where fewer than 1 in 100 households use petroleum products, mostly propane, for heating, consumes even less.95,96

Natural gas

Florida does not have significant natural gas reserves, but the state does have a small amount of natural gas production, all from the same fields that produce crude oil.97 Almost all of the state’s natural gas production is in the Jay Field in the Florida Panhandle, where most of the natural gas produced is reinjected into the oil zones to maintain reservoir pressures and improve oil production.98 As a result, only between about 5% and 15% of the state’s natural gas gross withdrawals are marketed.99 Florida’s annual natural gas production peaked at almost 52 billion cubic feet in 1978, less than 0.3% of the U.S. total that year, but declined steadily in the next three decades. Production rose to more than one-third of the state’s earlier peak in 2012, but declined again and was only slightly more than one-tenth of the 1978 amount in 2020.100 Economically recoverable natural gas reserves may lie offshore in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but, as with crude oil, exploratory drilling in state and federal waters in the eastern Gulf is not allowed.101,102

Florida receives nearly all the natural gas it consumes from the Gulf Coast region via major interstate pipelines. Pipelines entering Florida bring natural gas into the state through Alabama and Georgia.103,104,105 One subsea pipeline runs 745 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, forming an offshore link from the Mississippi and Alabama border to central Florida.106,107 The electric power sector receives most of the natural gas delivered to Florida consumers. In 2020, electricity generation accounted for 87% of the state’s total natural gas use. The industrial sector used about 8% of state deliveries, and the commercial sector accounted for about 4%. The residential sector, where fewer than 1 in 20 households use natural gas as a primary home heating fuel, used only about 1%. A very small amount is consumed as vehicle fuel.108,109 There are fewer than 30 public-access compressed natural gas vehicle fueling stations in Florida.110

Coal

Florida does not have any coal reserves or production and relies on coal from several other states and from overseas to meet its limited coal demand.111,112 Domestic coal supplies for Florida’s coal-fired electricity generating plants came by railroad and barge from Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana in 2020. Other Florida industries received a small amount of domestic coal from Kentucky, Alabama, and Illinois.113 Port Tampa Bay, the largest cargo port in Florida, received a small amount of imported coal in 2019, but none in 2020.114,115 Almost all coal consumed in Florida is used for electricity generation.116 However, coal-fired electricity generation in the state has declined as older coal-fired units retired and were replaced by natural gas-fired generation.117,118 Coal consumption in Florida’s electric power sector fell from 29 million tons in 2008 to less than 7 million tons in 2020.119

 

Endnotes

1 Atlas Obscura, Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S., accessed November 18, 2021.
2 State of Florida, Florida Quick Facts, Florida Geography, accessed November 18, 2021.
3 Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Energy, 2020 Office of Energy Annual Report, p. 5.
4 Florida Energy Systems Consortium, Florida Energy Facts, Biomass Energy, accessed November 18, 2021.
5 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Florida Field Production of Crude Oil, Annual, 1981-2020.
6 U.S. EIA, Florida Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 1971-2020.
7 Zimmerman, Kim Ann, “What is the Gulf Stream?” Live Science (January 15, 2013).
8 Norrell, Robert J., Florida, Climate, Britannica, updated November 5, 2021.
9 Griffin, Melissa, “Florida…The ‘Liquid’ Sunshine State,” The CoCoRaHS ‘State Climates’ Series, accessed November 18, 2021.
10 Donegan, Brian, “North Carolina Second Only to Florida for U.S. Tropical Storms and Hurricanes,” Weather Underground (September 11, 2018).
11 Hobbes, Frank, and Nicole Stoops, Demographic Trends in the 20th Century, U.S. Census Bureau, CENSR-4 (November 2002), p. 7, 22, 26.
12 Briney, Amanda, “The Sunbelt, The Sunbelt of the Southern and Western United States,” ThoughtCo., updated August 7, 2019.
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14 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C11, Energy Consumption Estimates by End Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2019.
15 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C14, Total Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2019.
16 Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Energy, 2020 Office of Energy Annual Report, p. 1.
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29 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Florida, updated March 19, 2020.
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35 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C17, Electricity Retail Sales, Total and Residential, Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2019.
36 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Annual 2020 (October 2021), Table 3.7, Utility Scale Facility Net Generation.
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39 U.S. Census Bureau, Florida, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
40 U.S. EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), 2009 RECS Survey Data, Air Conditioning, Table HC7.10.
41 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F20, Electricity Consumption Estimates, 2019.
42 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Maps and Data, Electric Vehicle Registrations by State, updated June 2021.
43 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Alternative Fueling Station Locator, Florida, Electric, Access: Public, Available, accessed November 19, 2021.
44 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Florida, Fuel Type (Check all), 2001-20.
45 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Annual, Table 4.7.B, Net Summer Capacity Using Primarily Renewable Energy Sources and by State, 2020 and 2019.
46 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Annual, Table 3.21, Net Generation from Solar Photovoltaic by State, by Sector, 2020 and 2019.
47 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Florida, Fuel Type (Check all), 2001-20.
48 U.S. EIA, “Texas and Florida had large small-scale solar capacity increases in 2020,” Today in Energy (March 4, 2021).
49 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Annual, Table 3.22, Utility Scale Facility Net Generation from Solar Thermal by State, by Sector, 2020 and 2019.
50 U.S. EIA, Solar Explained, Solar Thermal Power Plants, updated February 17, 2021.
51 Neville, Angela, “Top Plant: Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, Indiantown, Martin County, Florida,” Power (December 1, 2011).
52 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Concentrating Solar Power Projects, Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, updated July 7, 2021.
53 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Annual, Table 3.19, Utility Scale Facility Net Generation from Biomass by State, by Sector, 2020 and 2019.
54 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Florida, Fuel Type (Check all), 2001-20.
55 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Operating Generators as of August 2021.
56 Florida Energy Systems Consortium, Biomass Energy, accessed November 20, 2021.
57 U.S. EIA, Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report, Table 1, Densified biomass fuel manufacturing facilities in the United States by state, region, and capacity, August 2021.
58 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, List of plants for conventional hydroelectric, Florida, all sectors, 2020.
59 NETSTATE, Florida, The Geography of Florida, updated September 9, 2017.
60 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Florida 80-Meter Wind Resource Map, accessed November 20, 2021.
61 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, U.S. Offshore 90-Meter Wind Resource Potential, accessed November 20, 2021.
62 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Florida, Fuel Type (Check all), 2020.
63 National Conference of State Legislators, State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, updated August 13, 2021.
64 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Programs, Florida, Financial Incentives, accessed November 20, 2021.
65 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Florida, Net Metering, updated September 21, 2021.
66 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Florida, Interconnection Standards, updated July 23, 2020.
67 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Florida, Energy Efficiency Goals, updated November 11, 2015.
68 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, Proved Reserves, as of December 31, 2014-19.
69 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual, 2015-20.
70 Wells, B.A. and K.L. Wells, “First Florida Oil Well,” American Oil & Gas Historical Society, updated September 20, 2021.
71 Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Resource Management, Oil and Gas Program, Field Production Data_Graph, 2020, updated March 12, 2021, Excel File.
72 U.S. EIA, Florida Field Production of Crude Oil, Annual, 1981-2020.
73 U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 2016a National Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, Table 13, Risk mean-level UERR for the Gulf of Mexico OCS Region by planning area, p. 63.
74 Online Sunshine, The 2021 Florida Statutes, Title XXVIII, 377.242, accessed November 21, 2021.
75 U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Areas Under Restriction, accessed November 21, 2021.
76 U.S. Department of the Interior, “ICYMI: No Offshore Drilling around Florida and the Southern Atlantic,” Press Release (September 10, 2020).
77 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Total Number of Operable Refineries, 2016-21.
78 U.S. EIA, Florida Profile Overview, Crude Oil Pipeline Map Layer, accessed November 21, 2021.
79 U.S. EIA, Florida Profile Overview, Petroleum Product Terminal and Petroleum Port Map Layers, accessed November 21, 2021.
80 U.S. EIA, Petroleum and Other Liquids, Company Level Imports, Florida, accessed November 21, 2021.
81 Kinder Morgan, Products Pipelines, Central Florida Pipeline Company, accessed November 21, 2021.
82 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2019.
83 Airports Council International, North American Airport Traffic Report, link to Top 50 2020 North American Traffic Report.
84 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C15, Petroleum Consumption, Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2019.
85 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F1, Jet Fuel Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2020.
86 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F3, Motor Gasoline Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2019.
87 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2019.
88 American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Gasoline Requirements (January 2018).
89 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Standards, Relaxation of Summer Gasoline Volatility Standard for Florida and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Area (Triangle Area) and the Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point Area (Triad Area) in North Carolina, accessed November 21, 2021.
90 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F25, Fuel ethanol consumption estimates, 2019.
91 U.S. EIA, U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity, U.S. fuel ethanol plant count by state, 2021.
92 U.S. EIA, U.S. Biodiesel Plant Production Capacity, U.S. biodiesel plant count by state, 2021.
93 Kotrba, Ron, “Miami-based Green Biofuels biodiesel plant equipment up for auction,” Biobased Diesel Daily (November 4, 2021).
94 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F26, Biodiesel Consumption Estimates, 2019.
95 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2019.
96 U.S. Census Bureau, Florida, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
97 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of December 31, Florida, Annual, 2014-19.
98 Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Resource Management, Oil and Gas Program, State Production Data, Florida Production Data 2000 to 2021, updated November 3, 2021, Excel File.
99 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Florida, Annual-Million Cubic Feet, 2015-20.
100 U.S. EIA, Florida Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals, 1971-2020.
101 U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 2016a National Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS Report BOEM 2017-085), Table 13, Risk mean-level UERR for the Gulf of Mexico OCS Region by planning area, p. 63.
102 Online Sunshine, The 2021 Florida Statutes, Title XXVIII, 377.242, accessed November 19, 2021.
103 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Florida, Annual, 2015-20.
104 “Sabal Trail Pipeline Begins Service,” Gas Compression Magazine (July 13, 2017).
105 Energy Transfer, Florida Gas Transmission Company, LLC, accessed November 19, 2021.
106 Gulfstream Natural Gas System, About Gulfstream, accessed November 19, 2021.
107 Enbridge, Natural gas transmission and midstream, U.S. Transmission, Gulfstream, accessed November 19, 2021.
108 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Florida, Annual, 2015-20.
109 U.S. Census Bureau, Florida, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
110 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Alternative Fueling Station Locator, Florida, Natural gas, Access: Public, Available, accessed November 19, 2021.
111 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2020 (October 4, 2021), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2020.
112 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2020 (October 4, 2021), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2020 and 2019.
113 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2020 (October 4, 2021), By Coal Distribution State, Florida, Table DS-7, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2020.
114 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report, October-December 2020 (April 2021), Table 20, Coal Imports by Customs District.
115 Port Tampa Bay, Cargo and Bulk Cargo, accessed November 19, 2021.
116 U.S. EIA Annual Coal Report 2020 (October 4, 2021), Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2020 and 2019.
117 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Florida, All fuels, Coal, Natural gas, 2001-20.
118 U.S. EIA, “Natural gas-fired power generation has grown in Florida, displacing coal,” Today in Energy (September 9, 2019).
119 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Receipts of fossil fuels by electricity plants for all sectors, Florida, Coal, 2008-20.

Chairman Senator Joe Manchin’s Opening Statement
Thursday, November 16, 2021
Full Committee Hearing On
Domestic And International Energy Price Trends
• Now I’ll turn to hearing that bring us together today.
• The topic of this hearing is very timely with the rising energy prices
that we’re seeing right now across the country and around the globe.
• Prices are rapidly rising across gasoline, diesel, heating oil, natural
gas, electricity and even coal.
• This is in stark contrast to prices that bottomed out during the
pandemic as economies around the globe slowed.
• But, now as our economies are rebounding, we’re seeing soaring
gasoline prices and heating bills are expected to go up 10, 20, 30 or
even 40% in the coming months according to the Energy Information
Administration’s winter outlook.
• This is impacting all of our constituents.
• In fact, the consumer price index for energy has increased by 30%
over the last 12 months.
• Affordable, reliable, and dependable energy is part of what made us a
superpower, and it’s critical that we maintain that and keep these
prices under control.
• Internationally, the worst crunch is in Europe and Asia.
• This fall, we’ve seen the demand for natural gas, coal and crude oil
surge across global markets leading to high electricity prices in
Europe and Asia.
• This has led to curbs on electricity use in China, protests in Spain,
and bankruptcies of some small power companies and shuttering of
power-intensive factories in the U.K.
• In China, it’s been recently reported that coal production was rapidly
expanded in an attempt to meet electricity needs, with a new slogan
of “guarantee the supply”.
• The energy supply crunch and high prices are of concern since global
economies are increasingly dependent on our U.S. supplies, primarily
natural gas, and we’re not as insulated from global prices as we once
were.
• We’ve seen our natural gas prices increase to over $5 per million
British Thermal Units (BTUs) – their highest level in seven years.
That’s a fraction of what they’re paying in Europe but it’s still a big
increase for us.
• I understand that there are a number of factors contributing to the
situation, but the primary cause is the demand generated from a rapidly
shifting economy that is outpacing primary energy production,
especially with respect to natural gas.
• I hope we will have ample discussion on how long we can expect this
imbalance to last and what policies are key to ensuring we do not see
energy prices as high as in Europe and Asia.
• The recent price trends show how global energy markets are
becoming increasingly interconnected, correlating domestic prices
with global demand to a higher degree than we’ve seen in the past.
• Fuels for dispatchable power in Europe and Asia have been in high
demand, resulting in record exports of U.S. coal and natural gas.
• In particular, high natural gas prices of over $30 per million BTU in
Europe have made it a lucrative market for U.S. producers.
• Our LNG exports in October increased to about 9.8 billion cubic feet
per day – about 9 percent of domestic production – and it’s expected
that exports are set to increase further this winter.
• U.S coal exports to serve Asian markets, and in particular China,
have followed a similar trend.
• U.S. coal exports in the 2nd quarter of this year jumped to 20.6
million tons, a more than 50% increase from the same timeframe last
year.
• These record numbers are positive for American producers and for
our economy but come with negative implication for the global
climate and for consumers paying higher prices to stay warm this
winter.
• Another huge concern is the 60% increase from last year that
American consumers are paying at the pump for gasoline.
• Crude oil prices, which are the main driver of gasoline prices, have
rebounded significantly following their collapse in the midst of the
pandemic from negative $36 per barrel in April of last year to over
$80.
• Oil producers ramped down their operations following the collapse in
oil prices and production levels still aren’t matching rebounding
demand.
• Domestic refiners continue to be dependent on imported heavy crude
oil, keeping our prices linked to organizations like OPEC who won’t
always have our best interests at heart or in mind.
• This raises reliability and geopolitical concerns and underscores the
need for pipelines that can bring crude oil and related products to
domestic refiners from our allies like Canada.
• In closing, I think this Committee has the responsibility to tackle these
complex issues that will inform the solutions we produce to promote
energy security and independence [and to], ensure energy affordability and
reliability of our customers, while also achieving our decarbonization
goals.
• I look forward to hearing from each of you on the outlook for the energy
markets
and prices which we will use to inform our policymakers to make decisions
going forward. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Senator Barrasso for
his opening statement

When Building A New House, When To Get A Solar Contractor Involved

It’s a common call that we get – something along the lines of, “I’m getting ready to put drywall up and I was wondering, is there anything we need to do to prepare for solar panels we want to install?”

Solar panel retrofit products exist to install panels on existing homes, but planning ahead is wise.

That’s when we have to kick things into high gear. It usually involves getting us to the job site urgently. We have to coordinate with the general contractor, electrical contractor, and other trades to have the best outcome. Sometimes it’s too late to hide wiring inside walls and to make our job easier (and less costly). Fortunately, the solar panel installation business is largely a retrofit trade, so we can usually do things quite well after the house is built, but getting some things done during construction is better for a few reasons:

  • Hiding wiring and conduits in walls, underground, in attics, or in crawl spaces can improve the appearance of the system, particularly in large or complex structures with complicated roofs and attics.
  • Running wiring before cavities are closed up is less labor-intensive, saving on cost.
  • On some roof types, there are performance advantages to mounting solar attachments before the roof is finished.
  • We can work with other trades to avoid obstructions in the area of the solar arrays (like plumbing vents, roof vents, and other potential obstructions).
  • Landscape mistakes that cause shading issues can be avoided.
  • Roof trusses can be evaluated and supplemented if necessary while things are still opened up and unencumbered by insulation, mechanical, and wiring obstructions.

It is commonplace for us to work with builders to make your solar panel installation experience as smooth as possible. We love being involved during the home build. Remember that we need to obtain permits to do solar panel installations. That requires engineering. Getting these important steps out of the way early avoids delays.

When To Call In A Solar Contractor

The simple answer is that it’s never too early. We can work with your architect to maximize usable space on your roof if you get us in early enough. If it’s too late for that, we can at least work with your builder to keep your costs down and make the system look as good as possible, and achieve peak performance. Cooperation among trades results in the best experience.

Many times there are complications like whole house generators and meter/main combination panels that make solar panel installations difficult or require major rework. Sometimes we are essentially irreversibly limited in capacity if the correct utility service equipment is not installed. We can work with your electrical contractor to avoid these problems.

Gaps in solar panel arrays can be avoided if we are involved early. These vents could have been relocated with some coordination during the new home build.

If you are looking for solar pool heating, we can help recommend pool equipment that will work most effectively to achieve the desired outcome. If you are looking for solar electricity we can recommend energy-saving products to potentially reduce your solar panel needs. The earlier we are involved, the more helpful we can be.

Coordination

All of this early effort requires coordination with the builder and other trades. There are electrical, plumbing, roofing, and structural aspects to what we do. The best outcomes are achieved when everyone is on board with your interest in solar panels. Often there is resistance from one or more parties, and we can help alleviate any fears and concerns.

This coordination requires a local solar contractor who can visit the job site frequently and quickly when needed. Don’t rely on an out-of-town contractor or national solar company to work effectively with your builder.

When It’s Too Late

It’s almost never too late to call in a solar contractor. However, at a certain point, it’s best to just complete your new home build and treat your solar panel needs as a retrofit situation. As mentioned earlier, the solar contracting trade is largely built on a retrofit model. Products exist to work with existing buildings to allow for solar panel installation. Manufacturers are coming out with new and innovative ways to make retrofits perform better, easier to install, and less costly.

But there is no question that sooner is better than later.

So if you are building a new home (as the owner or the General Contractor), give us a call now and let’s start the conversation!

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Solar Pool Heaters Are Weather Dependent

Unheated pool temperatures are essentially the average of the nighttime low and daytime high ambient temperatures. It’s well known, and not surprising, that swimming pool temperatures in Southwest Florida closely track the surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico. The near-shore gulf temperature fits the same pattern. At times, unheated pools can lag large temperature swings, but for the most part, this is the way we can reliably track how warm or cool unheated pools are throughout the year.

This year has been unusually cool through mid-March. While daytime temperatures are mostly normal, nighttime lows have been unseasonably low. This really draws the heat out of pools, regardless of heat source.

2022 is off to a cool start

Solar pool heaters are weather dependent. On cloudy days you won’t get the heating performance that you get on sunny days. Sunny days are when people are most likely to use their pools, so everything lines up and works out pretty well. But when we get cold snaps, swimming pools can feel quite cool because relative to the outside temperature, they aren’t as warm.

This is true of all heat sources to an extent. Electric heat pumps work less efficiently and slower when temperatures are lower. Gas heaters can heat pools up quickly, but if it’s cool out the pool is cooling at the same time as it is heating. And if it’s cool at night when the pool pump and any heater is off, the pool temperature can drop quickly. Then you start the next day over again, attempting to heat the pool.

Running any pool heater is like running and air conditioner with the doors open. It’s not a great idea, but if you want to use your pool there isn’t a great alternative. Covering your pool helps quite a bit, since most heat is lost at the pool surface and through the process of evaporation.

Reality Check

So if you are going to “run your air conditioner with the door open” you probably should consider a heat source that doesn’t cost anything. That’s why solar-heated pools are so popular. You can reach temperatures of 8-12 degrees Fahrenheit above an unheated pool most of the time. While this may not be completely adequate 12 months of the year, it is much, much better than an unheated pool. And it’s free after the initial investment.

So while solar pool heating is weather dependent, so are all heat sources. During unseasonably cool weather you shouldn’t expect to use your pool every single day, or shouldn’t expect it to be like bathwater. Some visitors and new residents of Southwest Florida come here with the misconception that swimming pools are enjoyed year-round here. While that is mostly the case, when we get cold snaps and unseasonably cold weather, pools can be less than desirable in terms of temperature. That’s the reality. Even an electric heat pump can’t work effectively on the coldest days, and all the heat gained during the day can easily be lost at night.

Solar pool heating dramatically increases the number of days per year that you can use your pool and increases enjoyment tremendously. That’s why they are so popular here! But keep in mind it is weather-dependent like all pool heaters in one way or another.

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Sleazy Solar Panel Sales

Warning: You might need a shower after reading this article.

The Solar Panel Sales Industry Is Sleazy

Our colleagues may not like this airing of dirty laundry. Call it what you want – sleazy, shady, deceptive, disgusting. The solar panel sales industry has become extremely messy. There is a huge cash grab going on in the growing industry, and the charlatans are standing on every corner peddling solar panels.

They’re called “home energy consultants,” “energy advisors,” and “efficiency specialists.” Whatever you call them, they’re out to do one thing – pick your pocket.

I regularly peruse job offerings on the major job sites to see who’s hiring in the area. This email of new solar energy job listings I received perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong with solar panel sales today.

 

 

The first job listing is for a “canvasser.” This is what we call a door knocker. Some might call it a door-to-door “salesperson.” In reality, this is just someone who goes around generating sales leads. They have no clue about solar energy. At $12.50/hr, can you really expect them to add any value to a conversation about an important investment decision? They are simply responsible for setting appointments for the next job listing…

The dreaded “In-Home Solar Consultant.” The “aggressive” canvassers are setting so many appointments that this company needs people who can swoop in and extract money from your wallet to support their six-figure income. These “consultants” are independent sales representatives that do not actually work for the licensed solar contractor. They are independent for a reason. They have one goal in mind – to seal deals so they can collect their fat commission. $300,000 per year?! Think about that for a minute.

How Solar Sales Works

My description above may sound embellished, and perhaps a bit cynical. But it’s largely true. There are relatively few truly professional salespeople out there in our industry. There is too much low-hanging fruit, and not enough people to pick them. That leads to an influx of peddlers who chase the lowest hanging fruit, looking out for themselves first, their clients second.

To be clear, the industry needs to generate sales leads and find people who are genuinely interested in solar panels. And a professional salesperson who provides real value to clients deserves to be handsomely rewarded. No industry succeeds without sales and marketing, and dedicated people in this field should make a good living. With so many myths and misconceptions plaguing the industry, consumers need sales advocates to steer them in the right direction.

But the industry seems to have steered itself into a stereotypical used car salesman approach. Lure people in with an unbeatable offer on the cherry Corvette out front. Then sell a monthly payment on a questionable Chrysler LeBaron convertible in the back of the lot. Most solar panels are sold as a monthly payment. The initial offer by the canvasser is “no money out of pocket” or “no upfront cost.” Then the consultant swoops in to sell you on a monthly payment that you can afford. You will make payments to your solar company rather than your utility company. That sounds fine, but the third-party financier makes all of the money, and you get limited savings.

Now there is nothing wrong with financing solar panels. After all, solar panels can cost as much as a car, and most people finance automobile purchases. Not everyone has that kind of cash sitting around, although if you do you will surely make out better on the investment. The key is having a true sales professional who has your best interest in mind. You need someone who will advise you on your options and be truthful to you about the best value depending on your particular circumstance. You need someone who will advise you, teach you, educate you, and most importantly, listen to you.

You Aren’t Dealing With A Solar Contractor

A contractor is a licensed professional who qualifies a company to go out and sign deals with consumers for improvements to their property. They are responsible financially to fulfill the terms of a contract written on behalf of the company. They must professionally make improvements in accodance with all laws and codes applicable to their trade or trades.

Sadly, you probably are not dealing with an employee of that solar contractor. Almost always you are not dealing with the contractor her/himself. If the contractor is doing things right, they are out there making sure their installers are installing your solar panels with the quality and care you deserve. Most likely you are dealing with an independent contractor. Often that individual works for a company that has a separate contract with an actual licensed contractor who installs your solar panels. But the company you are actually dealing with is a glorified sales organization that does no actual installations.

It’s a convoluted system that detaches and insulates the person selling solar panels from the person responsible for getting the job done. The system exists because it presumably allows people to do what they do best. Salespeople focus on sales and installers focus on installations. But the detached nature of the relationship creates disincentives that hurt consumers. The sales arm extracts as much money as possible from consumers and the installers try to get the job done as cheaply as possible.

How We Are Different

If you’re looking for a 6-figure sales job, you probably should not apply here.

We decided long ago that an aggressive sales funnel does not fit our business model. We have worked extremely hard on developing a reputation for honest business dealings, comprehensive client education, the best value in materials, and top-quality installation workmanship. We have been extremely fortunate to have people seeking us out. Some hallmarks of our sales and marketing practices are:

  • We don’t knock on doors or employ canvassers.
  • We do not buy sales leads from the numerous online lead generation companies.
  • We never advertise too-good-to-be-true offers to lure people in.
  • You will most likely deal directly with an owner of Florida Solar East LLC Solar Panel Design Specialists and always have this option*.
  • The licensed contractor is highly engaged in field operations to ensure unparalleled quality and care.
  • Our sales, ownership, office, and operations staff are co-located and integrated, providing a seamless customer experience.

Our clients come to us. There is no better sales lead than someone who has been referred to us by a friend, family member, or neighbor who is a client. Sure, we advertise – we need to let people know we exist. But most of our clients find us after they have already decided to learn more about solar energy. Most have already talked to another solar sales outfit. Many have had second thoughts and were savvy enough to realize that something wasn’t quite right with the independent sales rep they spoke with. Often clients tell us they felt like they needed a shower after meeting with another solar consultant.

You’re probably reading this because you searched for a solar contractor in your area. You are seeking out your best option and doing your due diligence. You may have been approached by a solar canvasser who had no good answers to your questions. Something a solar consultant told you may not have sounded quite right. We are glad you found us and will do everything we can to restore the reputation of the solar industry and help you decide whether an investment in solar panels is right for you.

And guess what – because we don’t pay “scouts” $12.50/hr and solar consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars, we can offer superior products and workmanship for a similar price. We aren’t always the lowest cost because quality products and highly trained installers are more costly. Ask yourself who do you think is more important – the person at your kitchen table with a pen in their hand or the person on your roof with a drill in their hand?

 

* We do currently have one semi-retired independent sales representative who we trust unequivocally. He never engages in pushy salesmanship. We do this to better serve a particular geographic area and provide timely and local advice to clients in this area. You always have the option of working with an owner directly if you prefer.

 

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Accounting for Solar Water Heater Investments

We have said it before – solar domestic water heating is dead. Heating water for household use in Florida sounds like a good idea, but is it really? To know for sure, you have to have an accounting system. In the world of energy, we call this a monitoring system.

While solar pool heating may be the most economical use of solar power in Florida, heating water for use in the home is no longer advisable in most cases, particularly as you go further south. Unless you have a large household or are a very heavy user of hot water, an investment in solar water heating may never pay off. Water coming out of the ground in Florida is already relatively warm, and the cost to heat it is minimal.

In this article, we are going to explore how much water heating really costs you, and why it is so important to account for where your energy goes. But first, a little history…

Solar Water Heating Made Sense In The Past

Years ago it made more sense to install a solar water heater. This was primarily due to generous incentives from the State and utility companies, paired with a Federal Tax Credit. Now incentives are gone or going away. But there are several reasons that the investment has become less attractive:

  • State and Utility rebates are gone and not coming back.
  • Solar electricity has dropped in price so dramatically since 2010, making it a more attractive option.
  • Electric water heaters now have more efficient options available.
  • Solar water heaters have increased in price due to copper prices and other market forces.
  • Fewer and fewer solar contractors offer the product, driving up prices.
  • Utility electricity rates (per kilowatt-hour) have remained quite low in Florida.

In short, there are better investment alternatives now, like using solar electricity to ofFlorida Solar Eastt electric heating costs, or installing a heat pump water heater. Both of these options offer a shorter return on investment and yield other advantages.

Accounting For Water Heating Costs

Think about how much hot water you really use. Most households in Florida have relatively few people in them. A couple of showers a day, some laundry, and kitchen use doesn’t account for much water use. Many homes have 80-gallon water heaters, and newer homes have 50-gallon water heaters due to building code oddities. Regardless of tank size, the electric element uses basically the same amount of energy. For argument’s sake, let’s say you use a tank-full of hot water each day. And let’s assume it takes an hour for that amount of water to be heated to the desired temperature.

1 hour per day X 4 kilowatts X 11 cents per kilowatt hour X 30 days per month = $13.20 per month

Now your water heater also has to keep water hot even if you are not using it. Many water heaters are located in garages, where it is warm, or even HOT in Florida. It doesn’t take much energy to keep water hot. But for argument’s sake again, let’s just roughly double the figure above and assume water heating costs $25 per month.

A solar water heater costs upwards of $5,000. Assuming you receive a tax credit, you might end up paying about $3,750 net cost. At $25 per month savings, your payback period is 150 months, or 12.5 years. That’s not a great investment on a product that is typically only warranted for 10 years, and it doesn’t account for maintenance costs.

Proving How Much Water Heating Costs

Sense Energy Monitor

All of this back of the napkin math is just conjecture. To truly manage energy use and make sound investment decisions we need an accounting system – a monitoring system for energy use. One such energy monitor is from the company Sense. A small device gets installed in your electric panel and measures energy use. The device’s software “learns” the energy signature of your home’s devices and appliances over time, eventually giving you a complete picture of where your energy is used.

We tracked the water heating use of a typical household of two people who consider themselves heavy users of hot water. As active people, they take showers often and take their time. They do laundry at home and are avid cooks, doing lots of dishwashing. Their 80-gallon water heater is located in a garage.

The results are clear – Sense estimates their water heating annual costs at just $200, or about $17 per month. Finally, we have an accounting system that shows how much it truly costs to heat water!

 

Sense not only shows how much power a device is using instantaneously, but shows how long it runs and what the total electricity use costs over time.

 

Sense displays current power usage as intuitive bubbles to help visualize relative energy use by each major appliance and device.

 

Viewing the energy used for an appliance on a daily basis helps you understand when you used electricity. You can drill down into a day and see minute-by-minute usage. This chart of the water heater shows some heavier usage days that were determined to be laundry days.

 

Drilling down into the power consumption chart shows each time the water heater turned on and how long it ran. This chart has infinite zoom levels that can be changed with a simple pinch on a mobile device.

 

The device timeline shows a textual history of an appliance’s on and off times.

 

The real-time power chart pinpoints when each device turns on and shows instantaneous total power use. In this picture, we see exactly when the coffee maker turned on. The water heater was on at this time also due to an early morning shower.

Proof Is A Wonderful Thing

Proving exactly how energy is used allows people to make intelligent decisions. Is it time to replace your refrigerator, air conditioner, or other appliance? How much is leaving the TV on all day really costing you? Does your well pump for your sprinkler system consume a lot of energy? These are questions that are best answered by measuring the actual energy use.

While the analysis above is just one anecdote, we have found the same result to be largely typical. Unless we are proven wrong, we will advise clients strongly against a solar water heating investment. The nice thing about solar electricity is we can easily prove how much it saves you. Every solar electricity system we install comes with a monitoring system that records solar production over time, proving how much utility electricity you are ofFlorida Solar Easttting. That’s one reason we advise clients to use solar electricity rather than solar water heating.

Even with a monitor, you can’t really tell how much a solar water heater is saving you. Proving a negative is a hard thing to do. An energy monitor will tell you how much energy your backup heating element is using, but it won’t tell you how much utility electricity you are not using. Measuring solar hot water production would be expensive and difficult, involving the calculation of temperature rise and flow rate. Economical monitors for this do not exist.

When Is Solar Water Heating A Good Investment

For some larger households, water heating could be a substantial cost. If you heat your water with gas, that could be another reason to consider solar water heating, since gas heating can be expensive, but a better choice might be an instant-on gas heater if you have natural gas piped to your home. But it isn’t wise to invest in a solar water heater without knowing exactly how much hot water you are using.

Unfortunately, that is not something you can determine instantly. You will need to gather data. An investment in an energy monitor will give you the answer, and will likely yield other useful information to help you manage your energy use. An energy monitor can pay for itself from the knowledge you gain. And it can help you avoid the costly mistake of purchasing a solar water heater you may not need. At a small fraction of the cost of a solar water heater, an energy monitor is your best investment.

We are pleased to offer the Sense energy monitor for your home. As a licensed electrical contractor, we can install one safely and show you how to use it to best manage your energy use.

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Commercial Solar Panels (Solar Electric) in Southwest Florida

If you’re wondering why it’s been a while since our last post, we’ve been insanely busy. We were fortunate enough to earn the business of some commercial customers and have been engaged in adding solar panels to some businesses and non-profits. These organizations are all committed to sustainability and the for-profit businesses realize the return on investment potential for solar energy.

Specifically, we are delighted to have installed panels for Bailey’s General Store (and add-on to an existing system), Sanibel Captiva Community Bank (the third location we have done for them), and Conservancy of SWFL (where we have done two buildings).

Here are a few pictures of these exciting projects. In total, these four projects represent almost a quarter of a megawatt of solar energy capacity.

If your small to medium business or non-profit is interested in solar panels in Southwest Florida, contact us today. We are the local leader in practical solutions, quality installations, fair prices, and top-notch service.

 

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SuperSolarBear

Download the Installation Manual

Here

Installing Solar Panels On Tile Roofs (Solar Photovoltaic)

Solar Panels Expertly Installed on a Tile Roof

You spent a lot of money on your tile roof. And now you want solar panels. Obviously, you want to make sure that your new roof will not leak.

The process for installing solar panels on your tile roof sounds scary until you understand some of the realities of how your roof is installed and how far solar mounting products have come.

We always hear about “penetrations.” There are two kinds of penetrations to a roof.

First, we have traditional penetrations like plumbing vents and air circulation vents. Solar panel installations typically have one of these penetrations per roof surface to get electrical conduit into the attic. This single penetration is the most important because it is a larger hole that must be sealed and “flashed” to prevent water entry. Flashings are metallic, composite, or plastic parts that shed water away from penetrations. There are many flashings available for this purpose. When done correctly, these penetrations are as good as, and often better than, all of your existing plumbing and ventilation penetrations. Since the quantity is low, the risk is very low.

Second, there are the more numerous “penetrations” from fasteners (screws, bolts, etc). These do penetrate the waterproofing membrane (underlayment) and you may have dozens or even hundreds of fasteners used in a typical installation. That sounds scary, but actually, it’s almost impossible for these penetrations to leak when done properly. More importantly, you might not realize something important… you have thousands of screw penetrations through your roof already. Each tile is likely fastened to the roof deck with one or two screws.

What makes this even more consequential is how tiles are secured versus how solar mounts are secured. Tiles use a very small diameter screw, not stainless steel, and fastened only to the wood deck, not to structural trusses. There is no sealant added. Movement of tiles via expansion and contraction, wind, and other physical means causes screws to be under stress over the years. The underlayment does a good job of sealing around the screw, but the screw can move slightly and the tile can rub against the waterproofing membrane. This is very different from how solar panel mounts penetrate your waterproofing membrane.

Solar mounts use large diameter fasteners, typically 1/4 inch or 5/16 inch, fastened into structural trusses. This sandwiches the roof decking between the solar mount and the truss. A high-quality sealant is used in the pilot hole that is drilled first. More sealant is used around the penetration(s). Then a base flashing is installed over the mount with roofing cement sealing the flashing to the waterproofing membrane. The base mount cannot move since it is tightly attached to the membrane. Then a top flashing is installed over the tile, or a top flashing replaces the tile altogether. This provides a rock-solid waterproofing system that is impenetrable to water. It is much more reliable than the tile screw attachments.

If your contractor uses any system other than what is described above, they are doing you a disservice. The leader in the industry is Quick Mount PV. Their Tile Replacement Mount, Universal Tile Mount, and Tile Hooks all use this multi-faceted waterproofing system. When expertly installed, this system is bulletproof.

Note that there are circumstances where deck-mounting is acceptable when approved by a professional engineer. However, tile roof deck mounts almost always use multiple fasteners per mount, making them much less susceptible to lateral movement than tile screws. They are also flashed as described above when done properly.

The bottom line is that you don’t need to be afraid of penetrations when you hire a qualified contractor who uses the proper materials. You already have thousands of penetrations to your roof. The dozens of solar mount penetrations a good solar contractor adds will not significantly increase the risk of leaks. The materials available to contractors today are light years ahead of the old solar mounts from decades ago. The industry is mature and sophisticated in its approach to roof protection.

Solar Panels Mounts on a Tile Roof With Quick Mount PV Tile Replacement Mounts. This product is our go-to mounting hardware for existing tile roofs in Southwest Florida.

 

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Pentair Superflo VS Pool Pump Updated With New Automation Options

The Pentair Superflo VS is being re-released with some new automation functionality. We previously recommended against this pump for a couple of reasons, primarily due to the analog automation options and 1.5 HP rating. The new automation options make it a good choice under certain circumstances.

We have always recommended “oversizing” variable speed pumps so you can get the advantages of low noise and cool running temperatures. The 1.5 HP max Superflo VS is a good choice in our opinion to replace 3/4 HP and 1 HP pumps for pools that have low resistance to flow (low total dynamic head). This will allow the pump to run at a low speed most of the time. We do not recommend installing this pump to replace existing 1.5 HP single speed pumps if you have solar pool heating panels.

The automation improvements are mainly applicable to people with Pentair PSL4, EasyTouch, and Intellitouch control systems or Jandy (Zodiac) Aqualink systems. The new RS-485 control setup will allow a Superflo VS to operate like the flagship Intelliflo VS pump with complete control from the automation system via digital controls with 2 wires. The analog option will still exist, allowing the pump to operate with basic solar controllers like the Pentair SolarTouch and Hayward/Goldline GL-235.

The pump still operates on 115 or 230 volts. While 115V pumps are not prevalent in Southwest Florida, it could replace some older pumps that operate on this voltage without costly electric upgrades.

We are pleased to see that Pentair is improving the Superflo VS pump to make it more suitable for use with solar pool heaters. It will not be applicable to all pools, but it adds a lower cost option where it can meet the demands of some pool owners.

 

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Putting Battery Backup Capacity into Perspective

Grid-interactive solar panels cease to operate when the sun goes down. They also shut down when there is a utility outage. That is unless you have batteries.

It’s a common misconception that solar panels can directly power your home during the day if the power company has a grid failure. Except in very limited circumstances, this is not the case. You need batteries to buffer the energy produced and consumed. That’s where battery backup comes in.

As batteries become more common in the United States, there is renewed interest in going off the grid. If not off-grid, becoming self-sufficient during a grid outage is attractive. All the talk about electric vehicles and fancy new battery systems has caused an explosion of interest in solar backup for homes. But before you get too excited, we need to put the capacity of current battery technology into perspective.

Brief Solar Battery History

Off-grid solar and solar with battery backup has been around for years. In fact, this is how the home solar power industry got started – before you were allowed to connect to the grid. Back in the day, we used lead-acid batteries, similar to a car battery, but built to be heavy-duty for deep discharge. These batteries are big, bulky, and require maintenance.

Maintenance-free gel and absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries became more popular because they are slightly easier and safer. But there are downsides. The capacity didn’t increase and the cost did increase.

Recently, lithium-ion type batteries are all the rage. We are all familiar with this general technology from our portable devices. More importantly, electric vehicles have revolutionized battery technology, dramatically increasing capacity while reducing size and weight. The downside currently is the cost (arguably… we will get to that).

Battery Capacity Perspective

Let’s say your electric bill is $150, which is pretty typical for a modest home in Southwest Florida. That equates to roughly 1,300 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month or 43 kWh per day.

When you are talking about solar with battery backup you need to consider how much energy you will use at night and during cloudy weather. You also need to consider how much energy you can produce. You can’t just look at one day of usage because what happens if you have a cloudy day with little solar production? The point is, 43kWh is a pretty small amount of energy relative to the amount of electricity we use here in Southwest Florida. And keep in mind, you usually need backup in the summer and fall when it is hot and you are using more electricity, perhaps 50% more.

To put this into perspective, the top-of-the-line Tesla Model S electric vehicle has a 100 kWh battery capacity. If the hypothetical house above uses 60kWh in the summer, the car has enough battery capacity for about 1-1/2 days of electricity for your home. That’s a $100,000 car (roughly). Let’s assume 50% of the car’s cost is the battery (this is a widely reported estimate, although battery costs are dropping quickly). That means the battery that can power your house for 1-1/2 days costs $50,000, and that doesn’t include any of the electronics to convert it to usable energy.

Currently Available Battery Options

A whole home battery backup system from Tesla .

For more perspective, some of the top players in the home battery field have recently come out with new batteries. For example, Enphase, Generac, and QCell all have new home battery options. You can stack them together for more capacity, but they top out at 40 kWh for Enphase and even less for Generac and QCell.

Tesla ’s Powerwall 2 happens to be the current leader for the consumer-friendly battery options on the market. They can stack together to provide 140 kWh of capacity and ample instantaneous power for a typical home. But be prepared to pay. While they do have the lowest prices on the market right now, they are still expensive, and they are hard to get (supply is seriously constrained).

Aside from these players, you can get larger battery capacities from other manufacturers, but the systems have to be custom designed and cobbled together from different brands of equipment. You need inverters, combiners, and other electrical equipment to make it all work together.

Why All The Hype

Florida is a unique situation. We have very high electricity usage during times where backup power is typically needed. And most people consider the most power-hungry appliances critical (i.e. air conditioning). Many of the battery systems on the market today were conceived for markets with more modest electricity storage needs and for places where load shifting is desirable. This includes time of use billing markets and places where you cannot sell excess power back to the utility company.

So Florida is caught up in the hype of battery backup using equipment that is not highly suited to the market. Will it work? Absolutely! Is it ideal? No.

Matching Expectations and Reality

If you have modest needs and realistic expectations, battery backup is absolutely possible today. There are options for people who are early adopters or simply want the peace of mind and environmental friendliness of fuel-free utility backup.

But you should look at your utility bill and see what your usage is first. Match this up to what battery capacities are available today. And expect to pay a premium for this emerging technology.

 

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Whole Home Solar Backup vs Critical Load Backup

Most clients who install solar panels just do grid-interactive systems that ofFlorida Solar Eastt utility electricity usage. The solar panels cease to function during a power outage. This is (by far) the most cost-effective way to install and use solar panels in Florida, and the reason for the explosion of solar panel installations worldwide. However, there is obviously a desire for backup purposes during grid outages. To do that, batteries are required. The question becomes, should you do whole-home solar backup or critical load backup only?

A Whole Home Solar Backup System With Four Tesla Powerwalls

Whole Home Or Partial Backup

Whole-home backup means you will have a seamless experience when the grid goes down. Power for your home clicks over to inverter power, fed by batteries. The batteries are recharged by the solar panels during the day. The problem is, most people need a LOT of battery power to back up their whole home for any sustained length of time. And that gets really expensive, really fast.

Critical load backup means you select individual appliances, lighting, and outlets in your home to backup. Common critical loads are refrigeration, lighting, well pumps, and outlets to run small appliances, televisions, and to charge devices. Non-critical loads are things like water heaters, laundry, ovens and stoves, and air conditioning. If you consider any of these things critical, you should be considering whole-home backup because these appliances use a large amount of power or energy over time, which puts you into the realm of a whole-home system anyway in terms of battery capacity needed or instantaneous power output needed. Pool pumps and sprinkler pumps are almost always out as a critical load unless you have a really efficient variable speed pump.

Choosing The Best Option

Even in whole-home scenarios, you might need to consider carving out some power-hungry things to stay within your available capacities. Common items are clothes dryers, sprinkler pumps, electric heating, pool pumps, large ranges, or air conditioners if you have multiple units. This carve-out can be done manually or through intelligent load shedding devices.

If you have deep pockets, you can definitely have it all and not change your lifestyle at all. But usually, it makes sense to incorporate common sense tradeoffs during rare power outages.

No matter how you look at it, solar with battery backup is complex and expensive. That’s why most people opt for simple grid-interactive systems. And, yes, you can go solar now and add battery backup later when prices are more attractive. But if you want battery backup now, it is absolutely possible. You just need to decide whether you have the need and the budget for whole-home backup or if critical load backup is sufficient.

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Photovoltaic System Variability by Month and Year

In the industry, we make fairly broad generalizations about how much you will save with solar panels. We can’t tell you what your electric bill will be because we can’t control your energy use. Your choices have a lot to do with how much electricity you need. But we can tell you how much energy your solar energy system should produce (how much it will ofFlorida Solar Eastt your electricity usage).

But there are no guarantees with the weather. We use sophisticated computer models that have a range of error, so there will be variability from month to month and year to year. But how much? One of the most popular models used is PVWatts by the National Renewable Energy Labs. Their documentation states:

“The errors may be as high as ± 10 % for annual energy totals and ± 30 % for monthly totals for weather data representing long-term historical typical conditions. Actual performance in a specific year may deviate from the long-term average up to ± 20 % for annual and ± 40 % for monthly values.”

The best way to look at this is with some real data. I selected a system with a 4-year period that was tracked with real data using Enphase microinverters. The results are interesting.

 

What it boils down to is predictability. When you look at which months are most predictable, it appears that April and August are very predictable. January, March, and June are the most unpredictable.

 

Now, this is just a small sample and covers a relatively short period of time. It’s also just one system. This one happens to be due south with a 23 degree pitch with some minor shading in the morning and afternoon on the lower corners. Homes with different orientations and pitches may have dramatically different results. Still, it’s interesting that the data proves the models we use are accurate in terms of the expected variability.

The takeaway is that you shouldn’t have short-term expectations. If your salesperson says you will produce X in July, that could swing up and down from year to year. Additionally, you will have good years and bad years. We can’t control the weather. Ultimately solar panels are a long term investment and everything should come out pretty close to the modeled performance over the long term.

 

 

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Naples, FL Home Get REC Alpha Solar Panels

Please excuse the fingerprints!

We recently finished a solar panel installation in Naples, FL using all-black REC Alpha 360W Solar Panels. These are really sleek looking and have great performance and warranty as well.

At 360W each, these panels are highly efficient for a 60-cell sized panel. Usually, you need to go to a larger 72-cell panel to get that kind of performance. But it doesn’t stop there. These panels have one of the lowest temperature coefficients in the industry. That means you lose less performance as the temperature increases. In Southwest Florida, that’s a big deal for obvious reasons!

The cells are actually half-cut, meaning there are really 120 cells in a 60-cell form factor. There are multiple advantages of half-cut cells, with shade resilience being one of the most important.

And the warranty is unbeatable. REC has decided to offer a 25/25/25 warranty. A few other manufacturers are doing this, but it’s not common. This warranty covers the product, performance (guaranteed output) and labor should a warranty claim be necessary. But that isn’t likely. REC boasts one of the lowest warranty return rates in the industry, if not the lowest. The actual numbers are inconsequential. This warranty is offered only through authorized installers (like us).

Admittedly, these panels come with a premium price. But the combination of more power in a smaller space, excellent performance characteristics, and a stellar warranty more than make up for the added cost. If you are in the market for a top-of-the-line panel, check out the REC Alpha series. Soon they will be coming out with 370W and 380W versions (but expect an even higher price). We can help guide you on the best value.

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How Would Population Decline Impact the Environment?

By Ajit Niranjan

Shortly before he shot dead 22 mostly Hispanic people in El Paso, Texas, a little over a year ago, a white supremacist wrote in his online manifesto: “If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable.” He was inspired by a terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand, who five months earlier had killed 51 Muslim worshippers in attacks on two mosques and identified as an “eco-fascist.”


Neither the fears nor the actions of the two men are grounded in science.

Fertility is falling, people are aging, and by the end of the century humans will be shrinking in number on almost every country on Earth, according to a recent study published in the journal Lancet. Far from an overpopulation crisis, demographers are asking where the next generations of young people will come from.

The study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projects the number of people on the planet will peak just four decades from now, at 9.7 billion, before falling to 8.8 billion by the end of the century.

In 80 years, countries like Spain and Japan would halve in size. China would shrink by almost as much, leaving India and Nigeria as the world’s biggest countries. Only in 12 countries, including Somalia and South Sudan, would there be enough babies to keep populations stable. The rest would be aging.

And if the world meets targets for universal education and contraception — the positive driving force behind falling fertility — there would be 1.5 billion people fewer in 2100 than there are today.

That demographic shift would transform societies. Who would pay for elderly health care? Would countries fight over young migrants? When, if at all, would people get to retire?

It also raises a question that has dogged the environmental movement for decades and is being increasingly weaponized by the far-right: Shouldn’t fewer people be good news for the planet?

Unequal Emissions

Overpopulation is a convenient idea. To some, it means their consumption isn’t what’s damaging the planet, but rather the sheer mass of people — so there’s little point in changing their behavior.

The IHME study says fewer people on the planet would mean lower carbon emissions, less stress on global food systems and less chance of “transgressing planetary boundaries.”

But the problem, scientists say, is that people do not emit equally.

“It’s this extremely superficial analysis,” said Deltonad Ravikumar, assistant professor of energy engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Population growth has increased greenhouse gas emissions, according to the IPCC, the UN panel of climate science experts, but it is dwarfed by the rise in emissions per person, which is tied to income. People in the richest countries emit 50 times more than those in the poorest — and it is in these low-income, low-emitting countries where human numbers are growing fastest.

“Sometimes people try to use population as a way to let rich countries off the hook,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute in Florida, “whereas in reality, it’s our consumption and our level of economic activity that drives emissions more than the number of people we have.”

A world with lots of people running on clean energy could have lower emissions than one with few people powered by fossil fuels. Big, fast-growing countries like China and India are building cheap solar panels and wind turbines that could bring their total emissions down even as incomes and populations rise.

But developers across Africa and other parts of Asia are struggling to secure loans for green infrastructure. Rich countries have so far failed to deliver on a 0 billion-a-year promise they made under the Paris Agreement to help poorer countries fight climate change.

“We cannot tell [these] countries that, okay, we already have a lot of greenhouse gases, you should stop using energy,” said Leiwen Jiang, a senior associate at the Population Council in New York and former IPCC lead author. “But we can help them improve their technology.”

While lower-than-expected fertility rates may do little to cut emissions in poor countries, they could help them cope with climate change in a different way. If women had only as many children as they wanted, they would be able to take on more paid work, said Jiang. That economic boost could help cash-strapped communities respond to the increasingly severe heat waves, floods and storms that climate change has brought.

Dark History

The concept of overpopulation has a dark past.

Even if you accept the premise that more people mean more emissions, “what’s your solution?” said Ravikumar. “Is your solution to reduce population, forcefully, and if so, whose population should be reduced?”

Like the terrorists in El Paso and Christchurch, governments throughout history have trampled over the rights of marginalized groups to control their populations.

Countries like the United States and Canada forcibly sterilized Indigenous women in the second half of the 20th century, while Australia did the same for people with disabilities. India sterilized 6.2 million mostly poor men in 1976, encouraged by foreign donors who made aid packages contingent on population control. More than 2,000 men are thought to have died in botched operations.

From the late 1970s, China restricted population growth through fines, sterilization and forced abortions under a draconian one-child policy that lasted decades. It continues such practices against ethnic Uighur women today, according to an investigation published last month by The Associated Press.

Diverging Population Models

Women are having fewer children globally because more girls go to school and more people have access to contraception. Both are human rights goals even before considering the environment.

But demographers disagree on how far — and how fast — fertility will continue to fall.

While the IHME projects the world’s population will start shrinking by 2064, the United Nations expects it to continue growing throughout the century. The difference in population between the two models is about 2 billion people by 2100 — and the uncertainties are so great that both research groups accept the possibility of the opposite trend.

One reason for the discrepancy is that the UN, unlike the IHME, projects that fertility rates will rebound as countries grow richer.

Surveys show that women across Europe and North America have fewer children than they would like because of barriers like expensive child care, job pressures and men not taking on a fair share of housework. By removing some of these obstacles, countries like Germany have seen an uptick in fertility.

“The UN projections embody an optimism that the long arc of human progress will continue,” said Sara Hertog, a demographer at the UN, adding that changing fertility rates are, in themselves, neither good news nor bad news. “I hope the level of fertility reflects the number of children people want to have.”

Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.

When Solar Panels Need Replacing, Can We Recycle the E-Waste?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into energy and continue to play an essential role in the fight to stop the climate crisis. As the pioneering panels of the early 2000s near the end of their 30-year electronic lives, however, they are at risk of becoming the world’s next big wave of e-waste.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a leading energy agency, projected that up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life by 2050, resulting in about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually, reported Grist.

The IRENA report noted that since their debut, solar PV deployment has grown at “unprecedented rates,” with global installed PV capacity reaching 222 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2015, with projections rising to 4,500 GW by 2050. Earth911 reported that solar is the fastest-growing energy source in the world.

According to recent research, wind and solar renewable energy technologies will soon be cheaper than coal globally. This will drive even further deployment of solar panels. The United States, China, India, Japan and Germany have planned for “particularly high” deployment, the IRENA report said. As the global PV market continues to expand, so too will the e-waste we can expect when the panels are decommissioned.

IRENA also analyzed the potential upside and value creation of proper end-of-life management of PV panels. It noted that proper management could help shift the world to sustainable long-term development.

By 2030 and 2050, respectively, the report projected:

  • Cumulative PV capacity to be 1,600 GW and 4,500 GW.
  • Cumulative PV waste to reach up to 8 million tonnes and 78 million tonnes.
  • Value creation to be 0 million and billion in raw materials recovery.
  • New industries and employment opportunities to arise from repair, reuse, recycling and treatment of PV panels.
  • Enough raw materials recovered to produce 60 million new panels (equivalent to 18 GW) and 2 billion new panels (equivalent to 630 GW).

Current global panel recycling trends are not yet poised to capitalize on this environmental and economic opportunity. According to Grist, while the E.U. requires manufacturers to ensure panels are properly recycled, in the U.S., there are no regulatory frameworks requiring the recycling of old panels, except for Washington state. In Japan, India and Australia, recycling requirements are being discussed. Without robust recycling mandates, most of this toxic trash will be sent to landfills.

There, the valuable silver and silicone in solar panels will go to waste and toxic chemicals like lead can leach out.

Another current challenge is the cost of recycling, which currently far outweighs revenue from recycling and dumping costs.

“We believe the big blind spot in the U.S. for recycling is that the cost far exceeds the revenue,” Arizona State University solar researcher Meng Tao told Grist. “It’s on the order of a 10-to-1 ratio.”

Tao estimated that PV recyclers today can get about a panel from recovering the aluminum, copper and glass out of a 60-cell silicon panel, the news report said. Sam Vanderhoof, CEO of Solar CowboyZ, one of the only U.S. companies dedicated to PV recycling, compared it to the cost of recycling that panel in the U.S. — between and — due to transportation costs. Grist also estimated that states that allow dumping charge less than to toss the same panel into a solid waste landfill.

As a result, only about 10 percent of panels are currently recycled in the U.S.; the rest go to the landfill or are shipped overseas to countries with more lax environmental rules, the news report said.

“If we don’t mandate recycling, many of the modules will go to landfill,” Tao told Grist.

Better design of panels to align with recycling capabilities could help increase recycling rates, reported GreenMatch. New recycling methods may more efficiently extract and purify valuable silver and silicone, helping to improve the cost/dump to revenue ratios, Grist reported. Industry researchers are also brainstorming ways to repair and resell panels still in good condition and to repurpose old panels for things like e-bike charging stations and housing complexes, the news report found.

For the solar industry to substantially grow to meet global demands and to support a clean energy revolution, it will need supportive policies and regulations and a means to deal with the e-waste glut that will soon result.

“We need to face the fact that solar panels do fail over time, and there’s a lot of them out there,” Vanderhoof told Grist. “And what do we do when they start to fail? It’s not right throwing that responsibility on the consumer, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

Germany’s Groundwater Wells Are Running Dry Amid Climate Crisis

By Wolfgang Dick

Despite the lush, verdant nature that surrounds the German town of Ulrichstein, residents here — and in the region — suffer from acute water shortages.


Ulrichstein Mayor Edwin Schneider, meanwhile, is deeply concerned by his town’s dire water shortage. “I never thought we would be affected like this,” he told DW, even though he had heard about similar situations in surrounding regions of the state of Hesse. Other areas — from the northwestern state of Lower Saxony to municipalities in the country’s east — have also reported water shortages.

For the last 100 years, the people of Ulrichstein have sourced their water from six wells that are only two to three meters deep. In recent times, these have almost dried up, delivering a mere four cubic meters of water per hour — just half of what the town of 3,000 needs. Unlike other parts of the country, where dams are used to divert drinking water to settlements, this option is not available here. The people of Ulrichstein, like 70% of people in German municipalities, must rely on groundwater.

Digging Deep From Drinking Water

Instead, a drilling company is set in the coming weeks to try to tap into the groundwater below the town. Water that the firm insists is there — despite criticism from geologists who say groundwater levels below Ulrichstein, the highest permanent settlement in the state at 614 meters (2,014 feet) above sea level, are insufficient for the town’s needs.

Many Reasons for Water Shortages

Schneider said the reason for his town’s water shortages has to do with its geographical location. Due to the Rhine Weser watershed, he said, “water just keeps draining away, and winters have become quite mild in these parts.”

This means groundwater is not being replenished during the winter months. The situation is complicated further because the nearby city of Frankfurt also taps into the local groundwater, sourcing one-third of its requirements — some 40 million cubic meters — from this region.

“I got quite angry when Frankfurt asked its residents to water the city’s trees during one hot summer,” the mayor admitted.

A €150,000 (7,000) trial showed no groundwater the Ulrichstein could tap into at a depth of 120 meters. However, the drilling company found water at a depth of 200 meters. The well, which cost some €800,000 (4,000) to drill, will only serve as an interim solution as there is not as much water as the officials hoped for, and no one knows how long before it dries up.

The municipal council is looking into alternatives to source drinking water. For this purpose, it has modernized two of its eight water treatment plants at a cost of €2 million (.4 million). Ulrichstein is also considering installing a 4.5-kilometer canal to the next town to source water. This endeavor, however, carries a €650,000 (7,000) price tag.

Ultimately, the municipality decides to hire a logistics company to make six deliveries of 60,000 liters (15,850 gallons) of water each day by truck. Locals are also urged to use the precious resource sparingly by abstaining from watering their lawns or otherwise using water unnecessarily.

High Cost of Water

Whatever option the town chooses, residents will be facing higher water bills.

Local businessman Klaus Kraft is especially hard-hit by the water shortage. He has been running a laundromat for years. Each day, his business consumes about 12 cubic meters of water, less than half the 30 liters (8 gallons) it used to require. But, he said, he cannot hike up prices as this would hurt his business. Currently, sourcing and disposing of one cubic meter of drinking water costs about €10 () — roughly three times what residents in other German cities pay.

A woman who has lived in the town for many years said she noticed the water shortages three years ago. “One day, the water pressure just dropped off,” she said, adding that the town’s calls for residents to use water sparingly are being ignored by many.

One of the more recent and visible culprits is private swimming pools appearing in many residents’ backyards. According to Germany’s Swimming Pool and Wellness Association, a growing number of Germans are deciding to install their own pools. One reason for this is that people who are traveling less during this pandemic want to have a nice time relaxing at home.

Gloomy Predictions

Karsten Rinke, a biologist with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, says Germans will have to prepare for future water shortages. At least technological innovations and water conservation efforts have reduced the average daily water consumption in Germany from 147 to 123 liters (39 to 32 gallons) per person, says the researcher. But Germany’s Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) reports that climate predictions paint a gloomy picture of the future. It warns that people in some parts of Germany could soon face problems sourcing drinking water.

German Environmental Minister Svenja Schulze has scheduled a “water summit” for spring 2022 to discuss this worrying situation with federal, state and local representatives. She wants to devise a comprehensive strategy to tackle the country’s water shortage.

Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.

Greenland Lost an Unprecedented Amount of Ice in 2019, Study Finds

The records of Greenland‘s ice melt date back to 1948 and nothing in that record compares to what happened in 2019. The amount of ice lost was more than double what it has been any year since 2013. The net ice loss in 2019 clocked in at more than 530 billion metric tons for 2019. To put that in context, that’s as if seven Olympic-sized swimming pools were dumped into the ocean every second of the year, according to The Guardian.


The new study, which used NASA satellite data to measure the size of Greenland’s ice, found that in July alone, Greenland lost 223 billion tons of ice. That means for that one month, it lost what it normally loses in an entire year, according to The New York Times.

The study was published Thursday in Communications Earth and Environment. It follows a trend of troubling news coming out of Greenland. Another new study published in the same journal found that even if the climate crisis stopped today, Greenland’s ice sheet is so diminished it will never recover, as Florida Solar reported earlier this week. That study found the ice is retreating in rapid bursts and may portend an ominous revision of predictions of sea level rise.

This new study also spells trouble for coastal cities as it may force scientists to revise their predictions to match the accelerated pace of ice melt, as Reuters reported. The island’s ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea levels by 20 feet, or six meters, if it were to melt away completely.

“We are likely on the path of accelerated sea level rise,” said Ingo Sasgen, a glaciologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and co-author of the study, to Reuters. “More melting of the ice sheet is not compensated by periods when we have extreme snowfall.

“What this shows is that the ice sheet is not only out of balance but it’s increasingly likely to produce more and more extreme loss years,” he added, as CNN reported.

Sasgen noted that 2010 and 2012 were also years with massive amounts of melting and he expects more are in the not-too-distant future.

“The real message is that the ice sheet is strongly out of balance,” Sasgen said, as The Guardian reported. “If we look at the record melt years, the top five occurred in the last 10 years, and that is a concern. But we know what to do about it: reduce CO2 emissions.”

Greenland’s ice sheet is the second largest in the world, behind Antarctica’s. CNN notes that the amount of ice it loses everywhere will start to increase sea level beyond the one millimeter it adds annually, pointing out that planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions are the culprit. And all that warming is creating a dangerous feedback loop.

“This extreme melt kicks off feedbacks that may accelerate the mass loss. This is what is worrying, the extremes are increasing and we understand too little about how the ice sheet will respond to more extreme climate variability,” Sasgen said, as CNN reported.

The amount of melting that’s happening means trouble for the hundreds of millions of people that live along coastlines, but there is still time for them to retreat inland. The ice sheet will likely not melt entirely since the rate of melt tends to slow down as the ice retreats from warmer ocean waters. Furthermore, the centuries it will take to melt completely gives us some time to reverse course on emissions, according to The Guardian.

“If we reduce CO2, we will reduce Arctic warming and we will therefore also reduce the sea level rise contribution from the Greenland ice sheet,” Sasgen said, as The Guardian reported. “So even though it might eventually disappear in large part, it happens much slower, which would be better as it would allow more time for the 600 million people living near coasts to move away.”

13 Must-Read Climate Change Reports for 2020

By Michael Svoboda

If measured by the number of reports put out in just the first half of this year, the coronavirus has not slowed the work of the international, national, and non-governmental organizations keeping an eye on climate change.


And that’s a good thing. Because although it has temporarily reduced the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere, the coronavirus crisis has done nothing to slow the climatic effects of the carbon dioxide already there after decades of fossil fuel combustion. The planet is still warming, the oceans are still acidifying, and more and more humans are experiencing the consequences.

In this edition of our bookshelf feature, Yale Climate Connections highlights a baker’s dozen of these reports, selected to reflect the broad range of concerns that intersect with climate change, including water, national security, media, health, food, finance, energy, and climate and environmental justice.

Readers can also find a link to a much longer list of reports, which provides a measure of depth rather than breadth. Food security, for example, is the subject of six separate reports released since the start of the year, but only one is included in this month’s baker’s dozen.

The descriptions of the 13 reports are adapted from copy provided by the organizations that published them. All of the reports, those profiled below and those included in the larger downloadable list, are available free, in pdf form online. In some cases, however, interested readers may need to register with the organizations that released them.

State of the Climate 2019: Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, edited by J. Blunden and D.S. Arndt (BAMS 2020, 435 pages, free download available here; a 10-page executive summary is also available)

Compiled by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and published as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, State of the Climate provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space. State of the Climate in 2019 is the 30th issuance of the annual assessment, which has been published by the Bulletin since 1996. The main function of each volume is to document the status and trajectory of many components of the climate system. As a series, however, the report also documents the status and trajectory of our capacity and commitment to observe the climate system.

The First National Flood Risk Assessment: Defining America’s Growing Risk, by Flood Modelers (First Street Foundation 2020, 163 pages, free download available here)

The nonprofit research and technology group First Street Foundation has publicly released flood risk data for more than 142 million homes and properties across the country. The data assigns every property in the contiguous United States a “Flood Factor™” based on its cumulative risk of flooding over a thirty-year mortgage. When adjusting changing sea levels, warming sea surface and atmospheric temperatures, and changing precipitation patterns, the Foundation’s model finds the number of properties with substantial risk grows to 16.2 million by the year 2050. “The First Annual National Flood Risk Assessment: Defining America’s Growing risk” highlights these significant national, state, and city findings of the First Street Foundation Model.

World Water Development Report 2020: Water and Climate Change, by UN Water (UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization 2020, 235 pages, free download available here)

Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water for basic human needs, threatening the effective enjoyment of the human rights to water and sanitation for potentially billions of people. The alteration of the water cycle will also pose risks for energy production, food security, human health, economic development, and poverty reduction. The 2020 UN World Water Development Report focuses on the challenges that can be addressed through improving water management. Combining climate change adaptation and mitigation, through water, is a win-win proposal, improving the provision of water supply and sanitation services and combating both the causes and impacts of climate change, including disaster risk reduction.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020: Transforming Food Systems for Affordable Healthy Diets, by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO (United Nations 2020, 320 pages, free download available here)

This year, the UN’s annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World includes a special focus on transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets. It analyses the cost and affordability of healthy diets around the world, by region and in different development contexts. New analysis is presented on the “hidden” health and climate-change costs associated with our current food consumption patterns, as well as the cost savings if we shift towards healthy diets that include sustainability considerations. The report also offers policy recommendations to transform current food systems and make them able to deliver affordable healthy diets for all – crucial to all efforts to achieve Zero Hunger – Sustainable Development Goal No. 2.

WHO Global Strategy on Health, Environment, and Climate Change: The Transformation Need to Improve Lives and Wellbeing through Healthy Environments, by WHO (UN-WHO 2020, 36 pages, free download available here)

The burden of disease attributable to the environment is high and persistent (~ one quarter of all deaths), and further health concerns are posed by global climate change and rapid urbanization. To respond to this situation, a new global strategy on health, environment and climate change has been developed to transform the way we tackle environmental risks by accounting for health in all policies and scaling up disease prevention and health promotion. It needs to be supported by a strengthened health sector, adequate governance mechanisms, and enhanced communication, thereby creating a demand for healthy environments. The new strategy is timely – it responds to and is in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the GPW13.

Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis Report: Benefits of Cooling Efficiency and the Kigali Amendment, by UNEP-IEA (UNEP and IEA 2020, 50 pages, free download available here)

In a warming world, prosperity and civilization depend more and more on access to cooling. But the growing demand for cooling will contribute significantly to climate change, both through the leaking of HFCs and other refrigerants, and through emissions of CO2 and black carbon from the mostly fossil fuel-based energy powering air conditioners and other cooling equipment. By combining energy efficiency improvements with the transition away from super-polluting refrigerants, the world could avoid cumulative greenhouse gas emissions of up to 210-460 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) over the next four decades. This is roughly equal to 4-8 years of total annual global greenhouse gas emissions, based on 2018 levels.

The 2035 Report: Plummeting Solar, Wind, and Battery Costs Can Accelerate Our Clean Electricity Future, by Sonia Aggarwal and Mike O’Boyle (Goldman School of Public Policy 2020, 37 pages, free download available here)

Most studies aim for deep decarbonization of electric power systems by 2050, but this report shows, with the latest renewable energy and battery cost data, that we can get there in half that time. The U.S. can achieve 90% clean, carbon-free electricity nationwide by 2035, dependably, at no extra cost to consumers, and without new fossil fuel plants. On the path to 90% over the next 15 years, we can inject .7 trillion into the economy, support a net increase of more than 500K energy sector jobs each year, and reduce economy-wide emissions by 27%. This future also retires all existing coal plants by 2035, reduces natural gas generation by 70%, and prevents up to 85,000 premature deaths by 2050. But without robust policy reforms, this future will be lost.

Addressing Climate as a Systemic Risk: A Call to Action for U.S. Financial Regulators, by Veena Ramani (Ceres 2020, 68 pages, free download available here, registration required)

This Ceres report outlines how and why U.S. financial regulators, who are responsible for protecting the stability and competitiveness of the U.S. economy, need to recognize and act on climate change as a systemic risk. It provides more than 50 recommendations for key financial regulators to adopt, including the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC), state and federal insurance regulators, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).

Gender, Climate & Security: Sustaining Inclusive Peace on the Frontlines of Climate Change, by UN Women (UN Environment & Development Programs 2020, 52 pages, free download available here)

Climate change is a defining threat to peace and security in the 21st century – its impacts felt by everyone, but not equally. Gender norms and power dynamics shape how women and men of different backgrounds experience or contribute to insecurity in a changing climate. Grounded in a series of case studies from research and programming experience, this report offers a comprehensive framework for understanding how gender, climate and security are inextricably linked. The report assesses entry points for action across existing global agendas and suggests concrete recommendations for how policymakers, development practitioners and donors can advance three inter-related goals: peace and security, climate action and gender equality.

Evicted by Climate Change: Confronting the Gendered Impacts of Climate-Induced Displacement, by Care International (Care International 2020, 33 pages, free download available here)

This report outlines the causes and consequences of climate-induced displacement, and how the triple injustice of climate change, poverty and gender inequality must be met by transformative action. In this report, CARE draws on key scientific findings as well as its own experience and, most importantly, the experiences of the people CARE seeks to support in managing compound risks: women and girls in vulnerable situations. To tackle climate-induced displacement in a gender-transformative and human-rights based way, CARE calls on all relevant actors to do their part to build a safer, more equitable, inclusive and resilient future that harnesses the power of women and girls within their communities.

Defending Tomorrow: The Climate Crisis and Threats Against Land and Environmental Defenders, by Global Witness (Global Witness 2020, 52 pages, free download available here)

For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defense against climate breakdown. Time after time, they have challenged those companies rampaging through forests, skies, wetlands, oceans and biodiversity hotspots. Yet the crucial role they play, businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard the vital and peaceful work of these defenders. The climate crisis is arguably the greatest global and existential threat we face. As it escalates, it will exacerbate many other problems. The question is whether we want to build a better, greener future for our planet and its people. The answer lies in following the leadership, the campaigns and solutions that land and environmental defenders have been honing for generations.

Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution, by Pew Charitable Trust and System IQ (Pew Charitable Trust 2020, 153 pages, free download available here)

Plastic has become ubiquitous. From wrapped food and disposable bottles to microbeads in body washes, it’s used widely as packaging or in products because it’s versatile, cheap, and convenient. But this convenience comes with a price. Plastic waste is entering the ocean at a rate of about 11 million metric tons a year. How did we get here? We have produced vast quantities of plastic products but have had few ways to regulate their use or properly manage their disposal. “Breaking the Plastic Wave” shows that we can cut annual flows of plastic into the ocean by about 80% in the next 20 years. But no single solution can achieve this goal; rather, we can break the plastic wave only by taking several immediate, ambitious, and concerted actions.

Adapting to a Change Climate: How Collaboration Addresses Unique Challenges in Climate-Change and Environmental Reporting, by Caroline Porter (Center for Cooperative Media 2020, 24 pages, free download available here)

As part of its collaborative journalism program, the Center for Cooperative Media (CCM) at Montclair State University tracks journalism collaborations. In early 2019 the number of climate change-related collaborations seemed to be ticking upward, spurred by the launch of Covering Climate Now, the biggest such collaboration on record. CCM decided to take a look at how journalists are working together to tackle the topic and all of its related issues. The result is the new report researched and written by Caroline Porter. Based on her assessments of 40 climate-related collaborations, she found that there are some climate change-specific reasons that journalism collaborations make sense, beyond the usual economic reasons for such efforts.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

Scientists Discover How to Use Bricks as Batteries

One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks’ pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D’Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

“A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries,” D’Arcy told The Guardian. “What we have done is provide a new ‘food-for-thought’ option, but we’re not there yet.

“If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries,” D’Arcy added. “It would be a different world and you would not hear the words ‘lithium ion battery’ again.”

Researchers Develop New, Cheap Way to Turn CO2 Into Ethanol

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a cheap, efficient way to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuel, potentially reducing the amount of new carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere.


The method, published in Nature Energy in late July, uses a copper-based catalyst to transform carbon dioxide into ethanol, which is used in almost all U.S. gasoline.

“The process resulting from our catalyst would contribute to the circular carbon economy, which entails the reuse of carbon dioxide,” study coauthor and Argonne senior chemist Di-Jia Liu explained in a press release.

Catalysts are an important tool in industrial processes used to speed up chemical reactions, Argonne National Laboratory explained. In conventional energy, they are used to convert heavy oil into jet fuel and gasoline. The new catalyst would be put to less carbon-intensive purposes by converting the carbon dioxide emitted by fossil-fuel plants or alcohol fermentation into ethanol that could be either recycled as fuel or used to make chemicals, drugs or cosmetics. Liquid fuel can also be used to store the output from renewable energy for future use, the paper explained.

In a 2019 deep-dive for Vox on different potential uses of carbon dioxide, David Roberts pointed out that it is always better from a climate crisis standpoint to electrify energy use directly rather than using that power to convert carbon dioxide into fuel. However, carbon-based fuels could be an important tool for reducing the emissions of sectors that are hard to decarbonize otherwise, like industry. They do not remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they do reduce the amount of planet-warming emissions relative to what they would have been if conventional fuels were burned.

“Carbon-neutral liquid fuels for sectors that are difficult to decarbonize are both a large market and a key piece of the decarbonization puzzle,” Roberts wrote.

But turning carbon dioxide into a different molecule is typically both energy intensive and expensive because carbon dioxide is so stable, according to the Argonne National Laboratory: The new catalyst, however, is highly efficient.

The lab explained how it works:

The team’s catalyst consists of atomically dispersed copper on a carbon-powder support. By an electrochemical reaction, this catalyst breaks down CO2 and water molecules and selectively reassembles the broken molecules into ethanol under an external electric field. The electrocatalytic selectivity, or “Faradaic efficiency,” of the process is over 90 percent, much higher than any other reported process. What is more, the catalyst operates stably over extended operation at low voltage.

Because the process can work at low pressures and temperatures, it can be paired with renewable energy technologies. This is because it will be able to stop and restart easily in response to a changing power supply.

“We could couple the electrochemical process of CO2-to-ethanol conversion using our catalyst to the electric grid and take advantage of the low-cost electricity available from renewable sources like solar and wind during off-peak hours,” Liu said.

COVID-19 Lockdowns Will Barely Reduce Global Warming, New Study Finds

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world’s most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a “neglible” impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.


The severe measures that were taken on a global scale to stem the tide of the novel coronavirus pandemic did curb pollution in the atmosphere, but the researchers found the impact will cut global heating by just 0.01 degrees Celsius by 2030, as The Guardian reported.

“The direct effect of the pandemic-driven [lockdown] will be negligible,” said the researchers, whose analysis was led by Piers Forster at the University of Leeds in the UK, as The Guardian reported. “In contrast, with an economic recovery tilted towards green stimulus and reductions in fossil fuel investments, it is possible to avoid future warming of 0.3C by 2050.”

The study was published in Nature Climate Change. To figure out the impact of the lockdowns, the researchers looked at mobility data from Google and Apple in 123 countries that covers 99 percent of fossil fuel emissions. The information gives real-time information on travel and work patterns, which allows researchers to use advanced computations to estimate emissions levels, according to The Guardian.

Professor Keith Shine, at the University of Reading and not part of the study team, told The Guardian: “It is deeply impressive to get such a near-real-time analysis of the climate impact [of the lockdowns].”

What they found was that emissions from people using transportation was at its lowest in April, with nitrogen oxide levels falling by 30 percent and carbon dioxide levels dropping by 25 percent, according to Newshub.

Professor Dave Reay, chair of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the study, told Newshub that the results are not surprising “given the long lifetime of carbon dioxide and the massive pool of fossil carbon already swilling around in our atmosphere.”

The declines show that swift and decisive changes in how people behave have the potential to dramatically impact the environment in the short term. That was evident in the cleaner skies and the suddenly visible animals in Venice’s canals and the streets of various cities. In Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, air quality improved so much that NASA satellite imagery showed the average density of tropospheric nitrogen dioxide – a toxic chemical that reduces immunity – dropped significantly below normal levels, as Newshub reported.

Of course, those lockdowns came with a steep economic price as people were put out of work and supply chains and distribution were severely disrupted. In other words, lockdowns of that scale are so damaging that they are impossible to maintain. Furthermore, once the lockdowns lifted, emissions levels started to rise again. That phenomenon means the world needs to transition to a zero-emissions economy by investing in renewable energy and burying CO2, according to the researchers, as The Guardian reported.

“It is now make or break for the 1.5 Celsius target,” said Forster, as The Guardian reported. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really change the direction of society. We do not have to go back to where we were, because times of crisis are also the time to change.”

Solar Panel Efficiency Is Overrated

I tell people all the time… don’t get so wrapped up on solar panel efficiency. I get it – you want the best. The most efficient solar panel on earth sounds exactly what you are looking for. But is it in your best interest?

The current leader for panels that are commonly available in the efficiency race is likely Florida Solar East. I say likely because things change so quickly in the industry. But let’s just assume that is the case. Their X-Series data sheet lists a max efficiency of 21.5%. However, the more common E-Series is 20.4%. The numbers manufacturers use assume you are getting the highest module wattage in the series, which is not always currently available, or even in production yet.

We don’t sell Florida Solar East. Why? It’s a long story, but the short version is that we don’t feel it offers our clients the best value, or even the best panel. You have to dig deeper. Let’s look at a couple of solar modules we do offer from Mission Solar and REC.

Cost Efficiency

The Mission Solar 385W module is our go-to option. It blends a great mix of price, efficiency, and strength. The efficiency is “only” 19.11%. That is 11% lower than the Florida Solar East’s flagship and 6% lower than their E-Series. But when you consider price, there is no contest. The Mission Solar panel is far and away a better value in terms of the price to efficiency ratio. So if we are talking about cost-efficiency. Mission Solar wins hands-down.

We also currently offer a premium option in the REC Alpha series. They specify a 380W solar module with 21.7% efficiency. That beats Florida Solar East, but it’s not readily available yet here. The 360W solar module is on the shelf, and it has a 20.6% efficiency. And the price is still far lower than the nosebleed prices that Florida Solar East charges.

Strong Argument

Efficiency is important. Cost efficiency is also important. But what about other factors? On major comparison for Southwest Florida is wind load test results. The Florida Solar East option lists only a 3,000 Pascal (Pa) wind uplift rating. That is among the lowest test rating, which is typically 2,600Pa for bargain panels.

By comparison, the REC Alpha panel has a test rating of 4,000Pa, 33% higher than the Florida Solar East. They have passed the test for the High-Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) which is required in Miami-Dade County, the most stringent wind building code in the country. And, even better, the Mission Solar panel has a whopping 5,631Pa rating, almost double that of the Florida Solar East module.

In wind-prone regions, strength matters. After hurricane Irma we saw panels (installed by other contractors) sucked out of their mounts. The wind uplift strength is no laughing matter.

The Heat is On

Most people starting their research into solar panels don’t realize that heat is the enemy of solar energy production. Solar photovoltaic modules perform better at cooler temperatures. That’s why it is good to have a solar panel that handles the heat better. Panels are rated with a factor that tells us how they handle heat.

Florida Solar East used to be the far and away winner in this respect. But other manufacturers figured out how to improve cell and cell junction technology over the years. Now, the REC Alpha panel boasts a better temperature coefficient (-0.26% vs -0.29%). That means the REC panel will lose less performance as temperature rises. Mission Solar falls into a more standard range at -0.37%, but it’s still much better than some others. When you take into account the initial cost and the impact on lifetime energy production, Mission Solar still wins.

Many Factors

There are many other factors that come into play with selecting a solar panel. Warranties, company strength, size (relative to your roof), appearance, shade tolerance (especially half-cut panels), inverter pairing, and other factors all come together to guide us. We do the homework for you and advise you on the best value options and premium options based on your concerns and needs.

The market is constantly changing. The brands we offer will undoubtedly change in the future. I have a long list of modules that I have recommended in the past, but have been eclipsed since then.

One thing is for certain – considering efficiency in a vacuum is not in your best interest. If you are intent on getting the maximum efficiency module, wait until later this year when REC has their 21.7% efficient panel in the distribution pipeline. But by then the landscape may change. All you can do is make the best decision based on what is currently available. We are here to help you do that.

 

 

 

 

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What Does A Net Zero FPL Utility Bill Look Like?

Have you ever wanted to know what it would be like to eliminate your electric bill? How exactly does that look? Well, let’s just cut to the chase:

 

A FPL utility bill for a net-zero solar panel client.

 

We installed solar panels for this client in April. Immediately we wiped out their electric bill for May, June, and July. They also have 727 kilowatt-hours of electricity “in the bank” to use toward future months when they may have a shortfall.

No matter what, you are going to pay a “customer charge.” This is the base fee for the privilege of being connected to the utility grid. It’s well worth it because, after all, you need the utility grid to provide power when you are not producing it.

Banking Excess Electricity Credits

Aside from that, net-zero solar energy homeowners produce more energy than they consume in some months. These excess credits carry forward to future billing periods. If a shortfall exists, the utility company will draw from the accumulated credits before they start billing for electricity in excess of solar production. It’s an elegant billing mechanism that works seamlessly. This process is called Netmetering.

It’s similar to the old “rollover minutes” that wireless phone providers used to offer.

At the end of the calendar year, the utility will wipe out any credits you have accumulated and pay you for the excess at the wholesale rate, also known as the “avoided cost” rate. Because this rate is lower than the retail credits you get throughout the year, it is wise to not oversize your system significantly relative to your annual usage.

One nuance to Netmetering is that you start the calendar year with no banked credits. If you produce less than you consume in the early months of the year, you may end up with some billed energy costs. This is usually minor, but it is something to note. This might happen in cooler years when a normally net-zero homeowner is using lots of heat for their home or heating a pool with electricity. It’s hard to avoid, but again, usually minor.

Not Achieving Net-Zero

Believe it or not, the vast majority of solar panel owners don’t achieve net-zero. But that is actually a good thing in many cases. Here’s why:

  1. As mentioned above, exceeding your annual consumption results in a meager wholesale payout.
  2. Utility companies offer tiered rates, so you pay less per kilowatt-hour for using less net energy in a billing period.
  3. Larger systems (over 11,7kWdc rating) incur additional interconnection costs and insurance requirements.
  4. If you run out of prime roof space, you may need to use sub-optimal roof surfaces that are less productive.
  5. For the above reasons, the return-on-investment, or ROI, may be better for a smaller system.

The majority of our clients install systems that ofFlorida Solar Eastt a large portion of their electric bill, but not all of it. This improves the ROI and maximizes the efficiency of their system. With Netmetering, you are never “off the grid” anyway. The whole point is to lop off your most expensive energy and reduce your monthly expenses.

Ultimately, most people choose a system size based on a combination of their electric bill and their budget. You wouldn’t walk into a car dealer and say, “I have $20,000 to spend,” but that is precisely how most people buy solar panels. Based on a budget, we back into how many solar panels you can purchase. Then we can tell you how much of your electricity bill that will ofFlorida Solar Eastt.

Reaching net-zero may give you a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, but don’t worry if you can’t get there. Some homes simply don’t have enough viable roof space. Your budget may not be sufficient. But ofFlorida Solar Easttting a part of your electric bill may actually be in your best interest.

Looking Good, Feeling Good

A zero or low electricity bill looks good for sure. It also feels good. You become your own power plant essentially. The excess energy you send to the grid is essentially sold to the utility company and resold to your neighbors.

Net-zero clients can manage their energy use using online monitoring. You might find that you can use more electricity without incurring much cost. Solar panels are a lifestyle choice as much as an investment. Many of our clients end up enjoying electricity more. They turn the air conditioning down lower, stop worrying so much about turning lights off, and embrace the freedom that a low electricity bill affords.

Solar panels are an investment – an investment in the pocketbook, in you, in your home, in your lifestyle, and in our environment. You will be looking every bit as good as your utility bill!

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Climate Explained: Are We Doomed If We Don’t Curb Carbon Emissions by 2030?

By Robert McLachlan

Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.

If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, please send it to climate.change@stuff.co.nz

Is humanity doomed? If in 2030 we have not reduced emissions in a way that means we stay under say 2℃ (I’ve frankly given up on 1.5℃), are we doomed then?



Humanity is not doomed, not now or even in a worst-case scenario in 2030. But avoiding doom — either the end or widespread collapse of civilization — is setting a pretty low bar. We can aim much higher than that without shying away from reality.

It’s right to focus on global warming of 1.5℃ and 2℃ in the first instance. The many manifestations of climate change — including heat waves, droughts, water stress, more intense storms, wildfires, mass extinction and warming oceans — all get progressively worse as the temperature rises.

Climate scientist Michael Mann uses the metaphor of walking into an increasingly dense minefield.

 

Good Reasons Not to Give Up Just Yet

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change described the effects of a 1.5℃ increase in average temperatures in a special report last year. They are also nicely summarized in an article about why global temperatures matter, produced by NASA.

The global average temperature is currently about 1.2℃ higher than what it was at the time of the Industrial Revolution, some 250 years ago. We are already witnessing localized impacts, including the widespread coral bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

This graph shows different emission pathways and when the world is expected to reach global average temperatures of 1.5℃ or 2℃ above pre-industrial levels. Global Carbon Project, Author provided

Limiting warming to 1.5℃ requires cutting global emissions by 7.6% each year this decade. This does sound difficult, but there are reasons for optimism.

First, it’s possible technically and economically. For example, the use of wind and solar power has grown exponentially in the past decade, and their prices have plummeted to the point where they are now among the cheapest sources of electricity. Some areas, including energy storage and industrial processes such as steel and cement manufacture, still need further research and a drop in price (or higher carbon prices).

Second, it’s possible politically. Partly in response to the Paris Agreement, a growing number of countries have adopted stronger targets. Twenty countries and regions (including New Zealand and the European Union) are now targeting net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

A recent example of striking progress comes from Ireland – a country with a similar emissions profile to New Zealand. The incoming coalition’s “program for government” includes emission cuts of 7% per year and a reduction by half by 2030.

Third, it’s possible socially. Since 2019, we have seen the massive growth of the School Strike 4 Climate movement and an increase in fossil fuel divestment. Several media organizations, including The Conversation, have made a commitment to evidence-based coverage of climate change and calls for a Green New Deal are coming from a range of political parties, especially in the U.S. and Europe.

There is also a growing understanding that to ensure a safe future we need to consume less overall. If these trends continue, then I believe we can still stay below 1.5℃.

The Pessimist Perspective

Now suppose we don’t manage that. It’s 2030 and emissions have only fallen a little bit. We’re staring at 2℃ in the second half of the century.

At 2℃ of warming, we could expect to lose more than 90% of our coral reefs. Insects and plants would be at higher risk of extinction, and the number of dangerously hot days would increase rapidly.

The challenges would be exacerbated and we would have new issues to consider. First, under the “shifting baseline” phenomenon — essentially a failure to notice slow change and to value what is already lost — people might discount the damage already done. Continuously worsening conditions might become the new normal.

Second, climate impacts such as mass migration could lead to a rise of nationalism and make international cooperation harder. And third, we could begin to pass unpredictable “tipping points” in the Earth system. For example, warming of more than 2°C could set off widespread melting in Antarctica, which in turn would contribute to sea level rise.

But true doom-mongers tend to assume a worst-case scenario on virtually every area of uncertainty. It is important to remember that such scenarios are not very likely.

While bad, this 2030 scenario doesn’t add up to doom — and it certainly doesn’t change the need to move away from fossil fuels to low-carbon options.

Robert McLachlan is a Professor in Applied Mathematics, Massey University.

Disclosure statement: Robert McLachlan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.

Federal Energy Regulators Reject Attack on Rooftop Solar Policies

By Jessica Corbett

Federal regulators on Thursday released a pair of decisions expected to impact the expansion of renewable power nationwide—one that was celebrated by environmentalists and clean energy advocates as a crucial win and another that critics warned “could lead to more pollution by propping up fossil fuel power plants.”


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) delivered a victory to supporters of renewables by rejecting an April petition from the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) calling for federal rather than local jurisdiction over solar net-metering policies, which had provoked strong condemnation from a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers, solar investors, and hundreds of advocacy groups.

As Public Citizen explained last month:

Net-metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar power generators for the electricity they add to the grid. It is a crucial component of rooftop solar project financing because it makes solar energy systems affordable for small businesses and families through energy credits for the solar power they generate. The NERA petition would grant FERC sole jurisdiction to govern such programs through the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act [PURPA] or Federal Power Act.

Public Citizen, the Center for Biological Diversity, and over 450 other environmental, faith, and consumer groups sent a letter to FERC in June arguing that “state net-metering policies and distributed solar systems are foundational to achieving the nation’s urgently needed clean and just energy transition—to address historical environmental injustices, fight the climate emergency, and ensure long-term resilience.”

Howard Crystal, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program, authored a legal intervention filed with FERC regarding the petition. In a statement Thursday, he welcomed the Republican-led commission’s rejection of the NERA proposal.

“This is a big win for our climate and for communities embracing clean solar power,” Crystal said. “FERC’s unanimous ruling ensures that states can keep appropriately compensating people who install rooftop solar. That allows community solar and other distributed renewables to continue playing a critical role in the urgent transition to clean energy.”

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, applauded the panel’s dismissal of the “flawed petition” in a statement that highlighted the solar industry’s record on job creation and contributions to the U.S. economy.

“Our industry holds great promise to help create jobs and revive local economies,” she said. “We are grateful to the state utility commissions and many other partners who strongly opposed this petition. We will continue working in the states to strengthen net metering policies to generate more jobs and investment and we will advocate for fair treatment of solar at FERC where it has jurisdiction.”

Tom Rutigliano, an advocate in the Sustainable FERC Project, which is housed at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), similarly welcomed the decision, saying that “FERC did one thing right today in rejecting the outrageous petition that would have upended the ability of rooftop solar owners to get a fair price for the excess electricity they generate.”

However, Rutigliano expressed concern about the panel’s vote to overhaul PURPA, which is more than 40 years old and has been key to renewable energy growth across the country. As he put it: “Instead of promoting small, clean generation, FERC is undercutting the ability of solar and wind power to get a fair chance to compete.”

Noting that “utilities have long sought changes to the law” over cost concerns while solar and wind developers say it “is critical to giving renewables a leg up in states that aren’t green-leaning,” Bloomberg reported Thursday that the panel

reduced the mandatory purchase obligation for utilities to five megawatts from 20 megawatts in some markets, and gave states more authority to set the price at which small generators sell their power. The “one-mile rule,” which determines whether generation facilities should be considered to be part of a single facility, was also changed. The agency will now require that qualifying facilities demonstrate commercial viability.


Commissioner Richard Glick, the lone Democrat on the panel, dissented in part but said that the changes would benefit consumers. “Under the old regime, customers were overpaying for power they were receiving” to the tune of .2 billion to .9 billion, he said.

Rutigliano warned that “homeowners putting solar panels on their roof, farmers leasing their land to wind turbines, and industrial facilities with efficient on-site power all lose under FERC’s rule today.”

“FERC is pushing the nation to use more fossil fuels,” he said, “just when it should be doing everything it can to support clean power.”

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

Solar Panel Service After The Sale – Buy Local!

Our prospective clients agonize over their choices when searching for a solar electricity system. What’s the right solar panel, the right inverter, the right mounting system? Who is the best installer? Who is the fastest? How big is the company?

Ok, fine… all valid points perhaps. But time and time again we see people make the incredible choice to hire a contractor from hours away. They come from Tampa, Kissimmee, Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota, and even further away sometimes. That’s a 2-4 hour drive at least.

And then they wonder why they are abandoned after the contractor has their money. And then they call me. And then I fix it… Ugh. It’s not exactly the way I like to meet clients.

Many times the “fix” is a simple one. It could even be something the distant contractor’s office could handle over the phone – if they had the care to do so. But they don’t. And then my phone rings.

Problem After Problem

When I get to Southwest Florida installation sites done by our northern and eastern competitors, more often than not I find all kinds of poor workmanship and code violations. Surprisingly, many of these systems pass building inspections. But that doesn’t make it right. Some violations are minor, and others are egregious – like they need to be fixed before the house burns down.

Obviously, when the job is done, you expect it to be done right. And for the most part, contractors who use the right equipment and quality products get the basics right. The details are where they fail.

Typical installation errors I frequently see are obvious:

  • Improperly supported conduits and equipment
  • Inadequate working space in front of switches and enclosures
  • Poor roof penetrations for conduits
  • Wrong mounting hardware for the roof type
  • Improper circuit breaker selection (type and rating)
  • Wiring methods not allowed by code
  • Incorrect integration with generators
  • Incomplete monitoring system setup

These are all things that should be addressed at the time of installation. They are usually adequately completed to the extent that the contractor sends a bill and you pay it. That’s where the problem starts.

Getting Ghosted

You know that feeling when you buy a car? The salesperson is your best friend. He knows your dog’s name and calls to congratulate you on your purchase. Then a week later, they forget your name. Their phone number is mysteriously not working.

ghost·ing/ˈɡōstiNG/ 1. the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.
Well, the solar industry is full of shady salespeople. But it is also full of shady solar contractors. Their whole business model is based on moving on to the next job. You might get in touch with their main office, and then you’re told that someone will get back to you within 48 hours. And then it doesn’t happen. And then you call me.
You might think this isn’t going to happen to you. Just ask yourself, is a contractor that is based 4 hours away from me going to drop by to resolve a minor issue you are having? NO WAY! It’s not going to happen. Maybe if they have another job in your zip code a month or two later… maybe.

Jason To The Rescue

That’s me! The guy people call when all else fails.

People usually find me online based on our reputation after becoming exasperated over the lack of service provided by their out-of-town contractor (and sometimes their in-town contractor). Naturally, once they have a bad experience, it dawns on homeowners that they should have checked out their contractor before they hired them,. They seek out the best. If only they had done that in the first place – they would have stumbled upon us!

I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad. I truly enjoy helping people who have gotten to this point. I never fault anyone for selecting another contractor. They can be quite convincing. And frankly, we’re not the cheapest usually. You pay for what you get. On that note, we are rarely the most expensive because again, there are a lot of shady characters out there.

Usually, it’s not hard to see the warning signs online. Reputation is hard to hide these days.

What Could Go Wrong?

I could talk all day about competitors’ jobs about code violations and work that was not performed with good workmanship. I’m sure someone else might nit-pick work that I have done in the past. It’s the nature of contracting. Some things are subjective, but others are clear and objective. For example, I visited an installation in Naples today done by a big Tampa solar contractor. A few things I found were:

  • Conduit not supported at proper intervals
  • Main solar circuit breaker is the wrong rating
  • Improper location of labels, and superfluous labels
  • Labels not suitable for the environment
  • Weatherproof fittings not properly seated
  • Unnecessary (superfluous) disconnect switch

Numerous code violations were found at this competitor’s installation, but none of them were as bad as the poor service after the sale that their client received. (Contractor’s logo blurred to protect the guilty.)

These are all minor things that can easily slip by an inspection, but objectively they are all wrong. They aren’t a major safety concern. And they probably won’t impact system function. They just point to an inexperienced contractor or lack of due care. There was unnecessary expense incurred, increasing the potential price to the homeowner. These are all things that could go wrong with your installation, but you wouldn’t even notice them. It isn’t important to you.

In fact, there was a lot done right with this installation. I like the equipment selection. The conduit supports are the type I use (for rust-proof and UV resistant support). And things were installed square and level. A layperson may not notice any of that. It’s not important if they don’t recognize it.

So What Is Important?

What you do care about is your experience both during and after the installation. And that’s where out of town contractors fall flat on their faces.

The job I inspected today was done in December 2019, and it failed its first inspection late that month. No surprise there. The plans were not on-site for the inspector to see. Of course, since the contractor is from Tampa, the plans aren’t going to teleport themselves to the site. They have to be delivered. It wasn’t re-inspected until January 8th, which resulted in… another failed inspection – paperwork still missing. Fast forward to January 24th, and the job finally passed the final inspection.

The system was first turned on January 22nd for testing. Then it was shut off, as required until the utility company swapped out the meter, which usually happens within a week in this area. That assumes the contractor follows through with the required paperwork. Fast forward again to February 11th when the system is finally turned on and starts doing what it should.

It was over a month and a half from the completion of work to the system actually working. That is unacceptable.

But that isn’t even why I was called in by this client in July 2020.

This system owner became exasperated after calling the big Tampa contractor and being told that he would be called back within 48 hours. His monitoring system had lost connection to the Internet. Did the distant contractor call back? Of course not. That’s when he sought out my help. I drove out within the hour and was able to resolve the issue in 10 minutes.

You’d think this is a rare occurrence. Sadly, it’s so common that I have to turn away work on competitors’ systems.

Now I’m not always going to be able to drop everything and take care of a competitor’s client within the hour. I can’t even promise that for my own valued clients. But you can rest assured that I take service after the sale VERY seriously and address all concerns expeditiously. And being LOCAL helps me take action quickly. I don’t take on contracts in Tampa – and Tampa contractors have no business doing installations here. I am state certified to work anywhere in Florida, but common sense tells me I can only provide stellar service in a reasonable geographic area.

But Wait, There’s More

The crazy thing is that this issue could have been resolved remotely. It was a simple Internet connectivity issue. The manufacturer puts out a detailed guide for system owners on how to get reconnected if there is a problem. All the big Tampa contractor had to do was email the client a link. I could have done that, too, but I love the opportunity to see competitors’ handy work and I happened to be going near this client’s home anyway. So I offered to drop by and see what was going on.

All I had to do was reconnect the monitoring device to the home’s Wi-fi. Easy fix. Back in business. No power lost… no data lost.

All systems GO! Solar monitoring is back online and my new client is very happy he called.

 

The bottom line is that hiring a contractor that is hours away from you will inevitably lead to a poor experience in some respect. It will also likely lead to your calling me to fix something. It might not be in the first day, month, or year, but eventually, you will call. And I will be around to pick up the pieces when your unresponsive contractor can’t get the job done.

 

Another Little Tidbit About This System

This is an aside, but while I was researching this client’s issue I took a look at his energy production chart. Something amused me quite thoroughly. For the first month after his system was turned on, the monitoring site reported that his energy consumption was much higher than solar production. The problem? The reverse was actually true. The graph abruptly changed on March 16th when the installation error was apparently resolved.

The average Joe would not spot the reason for this error, but it amused be enough to take a screenshot.

This can only mean one thing. The installer failed to verify that the monitoring hardware or software setting was correct at the time of installation. This is basic installation 101 for this manufacturer’s equipment. But I see people mess it up all the time. Not correcting this for over a month is further amusing (not for the client, of course).

The installer forward dated the consumption monitoring so it would no longer show up on the client’s monitoring site, but the damage was already done and as an installer, I can dig deeper into the data. This kind of thing brings a little sunshine to my day. I snickered.  🙂

I will give the original contractor credit where it is due. The solar panel system seems to be adequately sized to meet 100% utility electricity ofFlorida Solar Eastt on an annual basis. In fact, it might have been oversized, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Nonetheless, the homeowner should be happy with a near-zero bill throughout the year.

This kind of after the sale issue, however, is an annoyance, and totally avoidable. And a local contractor can fix mistakes in a timely manner.

 

 

 

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Philippine Oil Spill Threatens Recovering Mangrove Forests

By Jun N. Aguirre

An oil spill on July 3 threatens a mangrove forest on the Philippine island of Guimaras, an area only just recovering from the country’s largest spill in 2006.


This latest spill stems from an explosion onboard a floating power barge in the 13-kilometer (8-mile) waterway between the city of Iloilo and Guimaras Island. Operator AC Energy Inc. said the incident spilled 48,000 liters (12,700 gallons) of fuel oil into the Iloilo River and its tributaries before being contained eight hours later. But the Philippine Coast Guard said around 251,000 liters (66,300 gallons) of oil had spread around the waterway. The day after, July 4, the Coast Guard estimated it had collected 130,000 liters (34,300 gallons) of oil.

Some of the oil was swept out of the containment area by strong waves and carried across to communities in Guimaras.

“The root cause has yet to be determined,” AC Energy said in a statement. “But initial findings reveal that the discharge is due to the ignition of fuel oil in storage which ruptured the barge’s fuel tank.”

AC Energy said it took responsibility for the explosion and that the cleanup could take around two weeks.

Reports from the Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (ICDRRMO) state that the oil spill has affected 321 families along the coast. The provincial office has ordered an immediate evacuation.

The spill comes as a blow to residents of Guimaras, who, nearly 14 years ago, suffered a similar disaster on a bigger scale. On Aug. 11, 2006, the oil tanker M/T Solar, owned by Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. and chartered by Petron, the Philippines’ largest oil company, sank off the southern coast of the island, leaking 500,000 liters (132,000 gallons) of bunker fuel.

The incident was the largest oil spill incident in Philippine history and also considered the worst environmental disaster to hit the country this century. It damaged 648 hectares (1,600 acres) of mangrove forests and seagrass areas, according to the country’s environment department. The mangroves only began to show signs of recovery last year, but are now threatened by this latest incident.

To keep the oil from spreading to the mangroves and to protect its 23 coastal villages, Guimaras Governor Samuel T. Gumarin called an emergency meeting. He later ordered spill booms deployed and clearing operations carried out. “We are also still studying the health and environmental impact of the incident,” he told Mongabay.

The spill has disrupted the area’s fishing sector, with fishers no longer going out to sea and aquaculture culture farms contaminated. Residents have reported milkfish and lobsters swimming in the oil slick and have reached out to their municipal offices for support.

Greenpeace Philippines says the oil spill piles environmental and economic pressure on communities already hard hit by the pandemic lockdown. “This oil spill is a big threat to marine life and to the health and livelihoods of communities in Iloilo and Guimaras,” campaigner Khevin Yu said in a statement. “Fisherfolk and coastal communities are already struggling to adjust to the logistic and economic impacts of the pandemic that have caused big losses in their sources of income and food security.”

Reposted with permission from Mongabay.

U.S. Offshore Wind Power Blown on Course

By Jo Harper

Investment in U.S. offshore wind projects are set to hit $78 billion (€69 billion) this decade, in contrast with an estimated $82 billion for U.S. offshore oil and gasoline projects, Wood Mackenzie data shows. This would be a remarkable feat only four years after the first offshore wind plant — the 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island — started operating in U.S. waters.


According to the Department of Energy (DOE), there are 28 US offshore wind projects in the planning stage, with the biggest clusters along the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Virginia. There are also 15 active commercial leases for offshore wind development in the U.S. and if they are fully built, there is the potential to support approximately 25 GW of offshore wind capacity.

Wind energy, both onshore and offshore, is now the US’s top choice for new power, with 39% of new utility-scale power sector additions at 107 GW — enough to power 32 million homes. It is also the largest renewable energy source in the country, supplying over 7% of the nation’s electricity.

The domestic offshore wind market is smaller than the onshore sector, where capacity is now over 100 GW, but growing. “The shift of investment towards offshore wind in the US is due to a decreasing amount of leasable space on land because an increasing number of landowners and communities are objecting to local siting,” says Annie Hawkins, Executive Director, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA).

“From an environmental perspective, there is a limited amount of space that can reasonably be developed without significant impacts to ocean ecosystems and the existing ocean resource economy,” Hawkins adds.

Europe has long been the global leader in offshore wind generation, with the U.S. focused on developing land-based wind facilities. According to industry body WindEurope, overall offshore capacity for European nations is 22 GW, with 4,000 offshore wind turbines erected in the waters of 11 countries, with a combined power generation capacity of 15.8 GW, enough to supply around 15 mid-size cities.

Corporates Shift

Helping to drive offshore growth, U.S. corporate buyers are increasingly relying on wind energy to power their businesses. Walmart and AT&T are the two top corporate wind buyers, while 14 newcomers entered the wind market in 2019, including Estée Lauder and McDonald’s.

“Oil and gas companies have jumped into the U.S. offshore wind market, where they can transfer expertise in offshore fossil fuel development to clean energy investments,” says Max Cohen, principal analyst, Americas Power & Renewable research at Wood Mackenzie. Many international oil and gas companies have already recognized this huge potential and entered the US offshore wind market, including Orsted, Equinor and Shell.

“Given the recent tumult in oil prices, fossil fuel companies may more and more be looking to diversify their portfolios, particularly with assets that are contracted or offer returns uncorrelated with oil and gas,” Cohen says. “Offshore wind is an area where they may have a comparative advantage, and they can then leverage the experience with that technology to make the leap to onshore wind, solar, and other renewable technologies,” he says.

East Coast leads the way

“There is enormous opportunity, especially off the East Coast, for wind. I am very bullish,” said former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Market excitement is moving towards offshore wind. I haven’t seen this kind of enthusiasm from industry since the Bakken shale boom,” he said.

Offshore wind initiatives require excessive upfront spending: a 250 MW venture costs about billion, based on International Energy Agency data, but as costs fall the tipping point after which costs fall faster gets nearer

“The opportunity has been created by Northeastern states seeing the large price declines for offshore wind in Europe,” says Cohen. Onshore wind is historically the lowest cost renewable resource, but is at its most expensive in the Northeast, he adds. “But costs are falling slower than for other technologies,” he says.

In New England and New York the intense “Not-In-My-Backyard” culture (NIMBYism) also makes offshore wind potentially easier to build, Cohen adds. States along the East Coast are aiming to develop over 28 GW of offshore capacity by 2035, with 16 GW of new targets announced in 2019 alone. To help meet these targets, states and utilities selected 4,404 MW of offshore wind capacity through state-issued solicitations in 2019.

Offshore wind has also benefited from targets set by east-coast states for electrical energy. New York state aims to have 9,000 MW of capability by 2035. New Jersey has dedicated to have 7,500 MW, while Virginia’s governor in April signed the ‘Clean Economy Act’ which requires at the least 5,200 MW of offshore wind by 2034. Massachusetts is committed to purchasing 1,600MW of offshore wind by 2027.

“The US has a vast offshore wind energy resource with a technical potential of more than 2,000 gigawatts (GW), or nearly double the nation’s current electricity use,” says Samuel Brock of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Jobs and Coastal Revitalization

U.S. wind energy now supports 120,000 US jobs and 530 domestic factories. A study by the University of Delaware predicted that the supply chain needed to build offshore turbines to feed power to seven East Coast states by 2030 would generate nearly billion in economic activity and at least 40,000 full-time jobs. An American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA’s) March 2020 report estimated that developing 30,000 MW of offshore wind along the East Coast could support up to 83,000 jobs and billion in annual economic output by 2030.

Having said that, not all of the jobs are American jobs. The offshore wind developers with commercial leases in the US are all foreign companies. There is growing interest from the shipbuilding sector in the Gulf of Mexico in partnering with offshore wind companies to provide services. As a result, some of the US oil trade associations have submitted comments supporting certain aspects of offshore wind. “However, it is unclear to what extent offshore wind developers plan to use US vessels and crew, and the existing projects did not incorporate US vessels or labor at all,” Hawkins says.

Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.

Renewable Natural Gas Isn’t a Green Solution for Climate Change

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.


There’s an emerging argument that maybe there could be a direct substitute for fossil natural gas in the form of renewable natural gas (RNG) – a renewable fuel designed to be nearly indistinguishable from fossil natural gas. RNG could be made from biomass or from captured carbon dioxide and electricity.

Based on what’s known about these systems, however, I believe climate benefits might not be as large as advocates claim. This matters because RNG isn’t widely used yet, and decisions about whether to invest in it are being made now, in places like Florida, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Georgia and New York.

As someone who studies sustainability, I research how decisions made now might influence the environment and society in the future. I’m particularly interested in how energy systems contribute to climate change.

Right now, energy is responsible for most of the pollution worldwide that causes climate change. Since energy infrastructure, like power plants and pipelines, lasts a long time, it’s important to consider the climate change emissions that society is committing to with new investments in these systems. At the moment, renewable natural gas is more a proposal than reality, which makes this a great time to ask: What would investing in RNG mean for climate change?

 

What RNG Is and Why it Matters

Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can’t charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.

Natural gas is almost pure methane, currently sourced from raw, fossil natural gas produced from deposits deep underground. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.

Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is biogenic methane, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for decades, in a form usually called biogas.

Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.

In theory, there’s enough of this climate-friendly methane available to replace about 1% of the energy that the current natural gas system provides. The largest share is found at landfills.

The other source for RNG doesn’t exist in practice yet, but could theoretically be a much larger resource than biogenic methane. Often called power-to-gas, this methane would be intentionally manufactured from carbon dioxide and hydrogen using electricity. If all the inputs are climate-neutral – meaning, for example, that the electricity used to create the RNG is generated from resources without greenhouse gas emissions – then the combusted RNG would also be climate-neutral.

So far, RNG of either type isn’t widely available. Much of the current conversation focuses on whether and how to make it available. For example, SoCalGas in Florida, CenterPoint Energy in Minnesota and Vermont Gas Systems in Vermont either offer or have proposed offering RNG to consumers, in the same way that many utilities allow customers to opt in to renewable electricity.

Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable

If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are willing to buy renewable electricity, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.

The key issue is that methane isn’t just a fuel – it’s also a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.

And releases will happen, from newly built production systems and existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That’s methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.

To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won’t contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the urgency of climate change. The world’s primary international body on climate change suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

Scant Climate Benefits

My recent research suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as is publicly claimed. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not emit climate pollution directly.

What’s more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.

When climate change first broke into the political conversation in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won’t meet that goal.

Emily Grubert is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology.

Disclosure statement: Emily Grubert does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.

Pink Snow in the Italian Alps Means Trouble, Scientists Say

In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.


The algae will make the snow melt faster. The salmon-hue that has tinged the snow is from algae that carry carotenoid pigment, which reflects the distinctive color. While most algae thrive in warm freshwaters, these are known as cryophilic, meaning they thrive in colder temperatures, where they create the “watermelon snow” effect, according to Salon.

The concern is that the algal bloom on the snow will accelerate the effects of the climate crisis. As Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported the plant, known as Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, is often found in Greenland’s so-called Dark Zone, where the ice is also melting.

Normally ice reflects more than 80 percent of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere, but as algae appear, they darken the ice so that it absorbs the heat and melts more quickly, according to AFP.

“Everything that darkens the snow causes it to melt because it accelerates the absorption of radiation,” said Biagio Di Mauro of Italy’s National Research Council to AFP. “We are trying to quantify the effect of other phenomena besides the human one on the overheating of the Earth.” He noted that the presence of tourists could also have an effect in weakening the snow.

Di Mauro told CNN that the spring and summer had very little snowfall high in the Alps, which has seen higher than average temperatures. “This creates the perfect environment for the algae to grow,” he added.

Di Mauro emphasized that the algal bloom is particularly bad news for the glaciers, which may see a rapid melting. That would be in line with glaciers around the world that are starting to fade away as global heating continues to push up atmospheric temperatures.

“A classic reminder of how uncertainty is not our friend,” said Dr. Michael E. Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, to Salon by email. “In this case, we’re seeing an amplifying feedback wherein biological darkening (due to Algae growing on the surface of melting ice), leads to more solar absorption by the ice and even faster melting. We call this a ‘positive feedback’ but it is anything but positive. It reflects a process which is leading to faster melting of the glaciers than our simple models predict.”

As CNN noted, Di Mauro has come across cold temperature algae before. He has previously studied the Morteratsch glacier in Switzerland, where an algae called Ancylonema nordenskioeldii has turned the ice purple.

Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology, told Salon that “photosynthetic organisms are designed to absorb sunlight. Some small fraction of the energy in sunlight goes into making carbohydrates but most of it goes into heating the organism and its local environment. If that organism is living in snow, the snow is likely to melt.”

This algae has also been found in southwestern Greenland as well in as the Andes and Himalayas. Globally, glaciers are melting. A March study found an Antarctic glacier had retreated three miles and can cause five feet of sea level rise if it melts completely. A 2019 study found that Himalayan glacier melt has doubled since 2000. Additionally, conservationists and scientists have held funerals for glaciers in Iceland and the Swiss Alps.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Canceled Following Years of Legal Challenges

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which would have carried fracked natural gas through 600 miles of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, will never be completed.


Pipeline owners Dominion and Duke Energy announced Sunday they were cancelling the fossil fuel project due to mounting delays and uncertainty. They said the many legal challenges to the project had driven up the projected costs by almost half, from .5 to billion when it was first announced in 2014 to billion according to the most recent estimate.

Environmental and community groups, who have long opposed the project on climate, conservation and racial justice grounds, welcomed the news.

“If anyone still had questions about whether or not the era of fracked gas was over, this should answer them,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement emailed to Florida Solar. “Today is a historic victory for clean water, the climate, public health, and our communities. Duke and Dominion did not decide to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — the people and frontline organizations that led this fight for years forced them into walking away. Today’s victory reinforces that united communities are more powerful than the polluting corporations that put profits over our health and future.”

The utilities’ announcement comes a little less than three weeks after the pipeline scored an important legal victory when the Supreme Court ruled that it could pass beneath the Appalachian Trail. But environmental groups at the time pointed out that the project still needed eight other permits.

Early this year, a federal court vacated a permit the pipeline needed to build a natural gas compressor station in Union Hill, a historic Black community in Virginia, after community members successfully argued that it would disproportionately harm the health of the mainly African American residents who lived nearby.

“We the People have overcome today!” Friends of Buckingham, a community group instrumental to the compressor opposition, tweeted Sunday. “Many many hands, hearts n minds are singing it out!”

Courts have also tossed permits over the pipeline’s plans to cut a visible scar through the forest as it crosses beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway, its crossing of more than 1,500 streams and rivers in West Virginia and its impact on endangered species like the Indiana bat and Madison cave isopod, Sierra Magazine pointed out in 2019.

“All of the ACP’s problems are entirely self-inflicted,” Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, told Sierra Magazine at the time. “It was never a good idea to build this pipeline through two national forests, a national park, across the Appalachian Trail, and through the steepest mountains in West Virginia.”

But the legal climate described by Duke and Dominion in their statement reflects the growing vulnerability of all fossil fuel pipeline projects. The utilities’ cited as a major challenge the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Montana cancelling Nationwide Permit 12, a stream-and wetland-crossing permit used by the Army Corps of Engineers to fast-track infrastructure projects. The ruling was prompted by a legal challenge to the Keystone XL pipeline in particular, but it ended up cancelling the permit for all new oil and gas pipeline projects without further review of their impact on endangered species.

“We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” Dominion and Duke Energy chairs, presidents, and chief executive officers Thomas F. Farrell, II and Lynn J. Good said in Sunday’s statement. “For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities. Throughout we have engaged extensively with and incorporated feedback from local communities, labor and industrial leaders, government and permitting agencies, environmental interests and social justice organizations. We express sincere appreciation for the tireless efforts and important contributions made by all who were involved in this essential project. This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”

But the pipeline’s opponents insist that pipelines like the ACP are not in fact necessary to meet the country’s energy needs.

“The costly and unneeded Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have threatened waterways and communities across its 600-mile path,” Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Gillian Giannetti said in a statement reported by The New York Times. “As they abandon this dirty pipe dream, Dominion and Duke should now pivot to investing more in energy efficiency, wind and solar — that’s how to provide jobs and a better future for all.”

But someone still thinks there is money in fossil fuels. Also on Sunday, Dominion Energy announced that it was selling its natural gas transmission and storage assets to Berkshire Hathaway Energy for an estimated billion, E&E News reported.

How To Install A Generator With Existing Solar Panels

This article is intended for our colleagues who install whole-home generators in Southwest Florida. Licensed electricians often don’t realize they are creating a hazardous situation that could severely damage equipment. Warranties for generators or solar inverters can be voided by failing to take into account important factors. We have seen this time and time again, so we wanted to point out a correct way to integrate a grid-interactive solar energy system with a new whole-home generator.

Whether you are installing a new whole-home backup generator with solar panels, or whether you are adding solar panels to a home with a backup generator, this article may apply. There are too many scenarios to explain every one, but this is the most common question we come across.

The bottom line is you cannot allow solar panels and a generator to work in parallel. They must be electrically isolated at all times. If solar inverters “see” voltage from a generator, they will attempt to sync with the generator and backfeed power to it. Any time solar production exceeds loads in the building, solar inverters attempt to send power to the utility grid. As a huge “battery” of sorts, the grid can handle this small amount of backfeed. Typical residential standby generators cannot.

Please watch this video for more information:

 

It is important to note that solar panels cannot be used in a utility outage without batteries. Solar panels also can’t work in parallel with a generator to reduce fuel usage. These are two common consumer misconceptions that you need to be aware of when you encounter a client that has existing solar panels. There is a lot of misinformation floating around, shady solar contractors, and lack of consumer education on solar energy.

If you are in our service area, we would be happy to assist you with re-integrating a solar panel interconnection with your generator installation. If you need advice prior to bidding or installing a standby generator or a critical load generator, do not hesitate to contact us. We partner with electricians to ensure a smooth customer experience. Ultimately, it’s in our best interest to work together to keep homeowners safe and equipment operating properly.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

 

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The Solar Microinverter vs. Power Optimizer Reliability Debate

When considering options for a solar photovoltaic system, reliability is an obvious factor. Most clients first ask about solar panel reliability. However, solar panels are very reliable, and rarely the source of failure in a solar energy system. The number one source of failure and service issues is the electronics in the system, not the solar panels.

In this article, I will keep the names of the major players out of the discussion. But it doesn’t take much research to learn who the major players are in each arena. I’ll leave that to you, or we can have that discussion during a consultation.

Inverters In The Good Ole’ Days

Inverters convert DC power to AC power that syncs with your utility electricity in your home or business. Years ago there was typically one large inverter that converted power from solar panels that were strung together. They are commonly known as string inverters or central inverters. These devices had spotty reliability. Some brands were better than others and some product lines had major issues. Either way, they were never designed to last the life of a solar energy system. Replacement of the inverter was often factored into the investment analysis.

When a string inverter fails, the entire system stops producing power!

Replacement of this component could be simple or could be very difficult. If a direct replacement was not available, some rework was often needed. The units were heavy. Poor installation practices might require installers to get on the roof to disable solar panels before replacement. And maybe most importantly, electric code changes made replacements problematic in some cases.

The New Breed of Inverters

A previous generation microinverter mounted on a solar rail. A solar panel will be installed over top of this microinverter.

In the late 2000s, microinverters come onto the scene in a real, commercially viable way. This technology paired a single solar panel with a single small inverter – a microinverter. There are clear advantages to this system architecture and a few disadvantages.

Microinverters are safer than DC string inverters because there is no high voltage DC power coming from the roof to the inverter. They are highly resilient to shade because each panel operates at its maximum capability while connected to its own inverter. There is no large, heavy box to mount on the wall. Panel-level monitoring was revolutionary. And the number one selling point was that there is no single point of failure in the system. In other words, if one or two microinverters failed, the rest would continue to produce power.

The arguments against microinverters are typically cost and serviceability. Microinverters are definitely more expensive, but not by much when you consider the extra energy harvest and other reliability factors. Opponents don’t like the fact that you have to get on the roof to replace faulty microinverters. And since there are a lot of them, the chance of faults increases.

The early opponents had a lot of reasons to consider themselves correct. Failures of early generation microinverters were common. Fortunately, warranty replacements were pretty forthcoming, and like planned, these system owners were not completely without power production. Solar installers who stuck with the technology in hopes of improvements were rewarded. We are many generations of models into the microinverter technology, and the latest generations have a remarkable reliability record.

Along Came DC Optimizers

The sales pitch for DC Optimizers is good. They fall in between string inverters and microinverters in terms of price. They have similar shade resilience and panel-level optimization. They also have panel-level monitoring (although DC only, no AC output monitoring). At first, DC optimizers seem like a good tradeoff between the other options.

This started the great Module Level Power Electronics, or MLPE, debate.

There are clear downsides to the DC Optimizer system architecture. These systems still have high voltage DC wiring coming through the attic down the a string inverter. Voltages are typically around 400V and arguably pose a greater risk of fire and injury. These systems still reduce voltage to safe levels when turned off at the ground level, but while operating the high voltage DC power issue does exist.

The other downside is having the worst of both worlds in terms of potential points of failure. Now you have to consider the reliability of the power optimizers, which are paired with one per panel, and a string inverter. If the string inverter fails, the whole system stops production. And if power optimizers fail, you still need to replace a MLPE component on the roof.

In essence, a DC Optimizer system pairs the serviceability concerns of microinverters with the reliability problems and single point of failure represented by an old-school string inverter.

The Debate Rages On

Both sides are often rabidly on one side or the other. Solar contractors often specialize in one technology or the other. And that makes sense. From a training, material stocking, and efficiency standpoint, choosing a side and sticking with it has advantages.

In our opinion, both technologies are good ideas with merit. Each has its flaws and each has its advantages. When weighing the options, microinverters edge out solar optimizers. While slightly more costly, the safety and panel-level AC monitoring aspects alone give microinverter enough edge to make it our go-to solution. But the number one factor influencing our opinion is the string inverter. Why introduce a single point of failure? DC Optimizers require MLPE and the string inverter to function properly. And what Optimizer proponents rarely mention is that the string of optimizers will cause the string inverter to stop producing power if enough of the optimizers fail. That is not the case with microinverters since there is no string inverter involved. Each acts independently.

An Anecdotal Reason To Choose Microinverters

Earlier today I headed out to a service call for a system I did not install. I knew it was a DC Optimizer system from the #1 brand out there. Because of the type of fault, the monitoring system would not provide any information on whether I was looking at a string inverter issue or something going on with the MLPE on the roof. That uncertainty makes preparation for service more difficult.

I arrived to find that the system was stuck in a condition that indicated it was nighttime, but it was daytime with full sun. Further investigation revealed that the Optimizers on the roof were producing their expected voltage under the circumstances. The issue turned out to be the string inverter. What this meant is the whole system had not been producing power for weeks. The owner only learned of the fault when he received a very high electricity bill.

Not only that, but the failed component also isn’t something a dealer would keep on the shelf. That means a warranty claim needed to be submitted and a long wait for a replacement part. This client is going to lose over a full month of energy production! The string inverter, a single point of failure in a DC Optimizer system, brings us back to the days when string inverters were the only option. It is a backward step.

With microinverters, we keep some spares in stock for most models, so we can do advance replacement while waiting for warranty parts. However, if we don’t have a replacement available, only that one panel is not producing power. There is no single point of failure that takes down the whole system!

No System Is Bulletproof

We talk about single points of failure and multiple points of failure pretty loosely in the industry. The truth is that all systems have a single point of failure at the point of interconnection. This can be a fuse or circuit breaker, but to be completely accurate and honest, all systems have this risk. Fortunately, it is exceedingly rare and easily corrected when you have the interconnection point fail.

Any system with MLPE will most likely experience some sort of failure in its lifetime. The question is how severe the impact will be and how easy it is to correct it. With one (major) point of failure eliminated, the microinverter solution wins in our opinion.

Concluding Thoughts on the DC Optimizer vs. Microinverter Debate

Proponents of DC Optimizers often use the argument that microinverter proponents just sell them to make more money. That is not the case at all. Microinverters do cost slightly more at this time, which represents the advantages they have. Most solar contractors, including us, make the exact same amount of money on the two technologies. We charge our cost difference when offering alternatives. In fact, we could make more money selling DC Optimizers, but we don’t feel it is in our clients’ best interest.

We have chosen to microinverter route, having sold the industry-leading brand for over a decade now. Our experience with the technology, design, installation, service, and customer satisfaction with microinverters proves that we headed down the right road early on.

If your dealer pushes DC Optimizers, there is going to be a reason for that. Often it comes down to price competitiveness. Some long-time solar dealers refuse to accept the premise of module-level DC to AC conversion altogether. But those of us who have made the switch to this modern system architecture are being rewarded. Client satisfaction does not lie. Dealer success is a good indicator. And a solar contractor’s reputation is the ultimate reflection of well-made decisions.

 

 

 

 

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Energy Can Be Stored in Tall Brick Towers

Storing large amounts of energy is key to using more renewable energy because the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine.


One new method of energy storage uses gravity. The Energy Vault is a giant tower with a crane at its center and thousands of massive stackable bricks, each weighing more than a fully loaded school bus.

“We utilize excess solar energy when it’s produced and not needed – or excess wind,” says CEO Robert Piconi. “And that drives these motors on the crane that allow us to lift and stack these composite bricks.”

Piconi says when energy is needed, the process is reversed. The bricks are lowered to the ground on cables. As they fall, they release kinetic energy, which is converted to electricity. Then when excess energy is available again, the tower is rebuilt.

Piconi says an Energy Vault can be installed almost anywhere. The bricks are made on-site from soil that’s excavated when the system is built, or even from local waste materials like used concrete.

“We wanted something scalable. We didn’t want environmental impacts,” he says.

This year, systems are being built in India and Switzerland. Piconi says that as the technology spreads, it can help elevate the use of clean energy.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

Five Ways Mega-Dams Harm the Environment

By Sonya Angelica Diehn

Dams are often touted as environmentally friendly. Although they do represent a renewable source of energy, a closer look reveals that they are far from green. DW lays out the biggest environmental problems of mega-dams.


1. Dams Alter Ecosystems 

Water is life — and since dams block water, that impacts life downstream, both for ecosystems and people. In the case of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is being built in Ethiopia and is set to be Africa’s largest source of hydroelectric power, Egypt is concerned it will receive less water for things like agriculture.

Downstream ecosystems rely not only on water, but also on sediment, both of which are held back by big dams. As solid materials build up in a manmade reservoir, downstream land becomes less fertile and riverbeds can become deeper or even erode away. Emilio Moran, a professor of geography and environment at Michigan State University in the US, described sediment loss of 30 to 40% as a result of large dams.

“Rivers carry sediment that feeds the fish, it feeds the entire vegetation along the river. So, when you stop sediment flowing freely down the streams, you have a dead river.”

And ecosystems may have adapted to natural flooding, which dams take away.

Mega-dams also often have a large footprint on land upstream. Aside from displacing human communities, flooding to create a reservoir also kills plants, and leaves animals to drown or find new homes. Reservoirs can also further fragment valuable habitat and cut off migratory corridors.

2. Dams Reduce Biodiversity and Cause Extinction 

Aquatic species, particularly fish, are vulnerable to the impacts of dams. Moran says the Itaipu Dam, which was constructed on the border between Paraguay and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s, resulted in a 70 percent loss of biodiversity.

“On the Tucuruí Dam that was built in the 80s in the Amazon,” he added, “there was a 60% drop in productivity of fish.”

Many fish species rely on the ability to move about freely in a river, be it to seek food or return to where they were born. Migratory species are badly affected by the presence of dams. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported a 99% drop in catches of sturgeon and paddlefish — both of which are migratory — over a period of three decades. Overfishing and river alteration were cited as major threats to the species’ survival.

A 2018 study predicted that fish stocks on Asia’s Mekong River could drop by 40% as a result of dam projects – with consequences not only for biodiversity, but for the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on those fish.

The stakes for biodiversity are particularly high for animals threatened with extinction. And not only for aquatic species. The Tapanuli orangutan — the Earth’s rarest ape, with only 500 individuals left — could finally be pushed to the brink if a planned hydroelectric project in Sumatra, Indonesia, is completed. Dams can literally snuff out species.

3. Dams Contribute to Climate Change (and Are Affected by It)

As reservoirs fill, upstream forests are flooded, eliminating their function as carbon sinks. As the drowned vegetation decomposes, decaying plants in manmade reservoirs release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. That makes reservoirs sources of emissions — particularly those in tropical forests, where there is dense growth. It’s estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from dams amount to about a billion tons annually, making it a significant global source.

And as the climate changes, more frequent and prolonged drought means dams will capture less water, resulting in lower electricity production. Countries dependent on hydropower will be especially vulnerable as temperatures keep rising.

Moran described a vicious circle, for example in Brazil, which gets 60 to 70% of its energy from hydropower: “If you wipe out half the rainforest, there will a loss of half the rainfall. And then there won’t be enough water to provide the amount of power from those dams,” he explained.

4. Dams Reduce Water Quality 

Manmade reservoirs trap fertilizers that run into the water from surrounding land. In addition, in some developing countries, sewage flows directly into the reservoirs. This kind of pollution can result in algae blooms that suck the oxygen out of the water, making it acidic and potentially harmful to people and animals.

Still water in large manmade lakes is warm at the top and cold at the bottom, which can also affect water quality. While warm water promotes the growth of harmful algae, the cold water that is often released through turbines from the bottom of a reservoir may contain damagingly high mineral concentrations.

In some cases, water in manmade reservoirs is of such bad quality that it is not even fit to drink.

5. Dams Waste Water 

Since more surface area of the water gets exposed to the sun, reservoirs result in much more evaporation than the natural flow of the river before that dam existed. It’s estimated at least 7% of the total amount of freshwater needed for human activities evaporates from the world’s reservoirs every year.

This effect is made worse in hot regions, Moran pointed out. “Certainly if you had a reservoir in a tropical area with high temperatures, there is going to be a lot of evaporation,” he said. And big reservoirs “are, of course, evaporating constantly.”

Reservoirs are also a haven for invasive plant species, and weed-covered reservoir banks can lead to evapotranspiration — or the transfer of water from the land to the atmosphere through evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants. Such evapotranspiration amounts to six times more than the evaporation from the water’s surface. And there is even evidence that dams increase water use and promote water waste by creating a false sense of water security.

In the face of dwindling global freshwater resources, some question whether dams should be reconsidered.

So What Are the Alternatives?

The evidence is damning. But if mega-dams have so many harmful environmental effects, what are the alternatives? Although some green groups point to small hydropower as being more ecologically sound, Moran is skeptical. “A dam is a dam – it’s blocking the fish, it’s blocking the sediment.”

He pointed to the need to consider not just how to maximize energy production, but also maintain ecological productivity. One option he cited is the use of in-stream turbines.

And many environment advocates agree that other renewable energies such as solar and wind can provide clean electricity at a far lower environmental cost.

Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.

Comparing Batteries to Generators

When hurricane season comes around there is always a renewed interest in solar panels and batteries. Clients wonder if they should consider solar power instead of a whole home generator. But how do batteries compare to generators?

Notice how I didn’t title this “Compare Solar Panels to Generators.” That’s because people conflate solar power and batteries. You don’t necessarily need one without the other. A generator is useless without fuel. For backup purposes, solar panels are useless without a battery. However, solar panels are not completely useless without a battery because they can use the utility grid as a “battery” when the grid is present. When talking about backup options, let’s get something straight:

Solar Panels  Fuel (similar to)

Inverter  Generator (similar to)

Solar Panels ≠ Generator (not equal to)

In short, solar panels are analogous to the fuel you store for a generator. They are what drive an inverter to put out AC power that you can use in your home. So in reality, this post should be titled “Comparing Batteries to Fuel,” but nobody would search for that!

So once more… solar panels are like fuel, not like a generator.

Why Does This Matter?

I know what you’re thinking – just give me an answer! Stick with me, because it’s important that you understand the basic differences between your options.

When you purchase a generator and fuel tank, you have some decisions to make. The choice of whether to back up a portion of your house or the whole house dictates the size of the generator, typically rated in kilowatts (kW). The time you want to run the generator dictates the size of the fuel tank. For example, if the generator runs at 50% of its capacity for 4 days you will exhaust your fuel and then you need a fuel truck to come by, and then you can run for another 4 days. That’s all pretty simple and straightforward.

With solar energy, things get a little more complicated.

When sizing equipment, the first thing you need to determine is how much instantaneous power you need. This is similar to sizing a generator. Inverters are rated in kilowatts also. This is what converts the DC battery voltage to AC voltage you can use in your home. However, inverters have a much better surge capacity than most generators, so you might get away with a lower kW rating.

The next factor is the “fuel tank.” How much energy do you need to store? This dictates the required battery capacity. You would probably not want to size your battery for 4 days of energy use for a couple of reasons. First, batteries are very expensive. And second, the “fuel truck” comes around every single day. That’s right – solar power is your fuel, or your fuel truck if you will.

But things get quite tricky when you consider how solar power works. What if you have a cloudy day or even a couple of cloudy days in a row? If you size your battery too small, you could run out of fuel, and you can’t just call in the fuel truck. On the other hand, after a storm, calling a fuel truck for a generator could be a fruitless endeavor.

Solar Power Refuels the Battery

Your solar panels will essentially refuel your tank, your battery. How fast? That depends. After a couple of cloudy days, your battery might be exhausted and the solar panels could barely keep up with your daytime needs. This could leave you with only a small amount of energy remaining to get you through the night. At some point, you need solar power generation to exceed your daytime needs to recharge the batteries. A good weather day is like seeing the fuel truck coming down your street.

So there are tradeoffs with both backup technologies.

With a generator, you might need to go outside to check on your fuel gauge. If you are running low you might consider turning off the generator. Turning off appliances in your house will do little to reduce fuel use. Even if you turn everything off inside the house, a generator will still burn fuel. In fact, generators often run at very low loads because they need to be sized very large to meet the largest “what-if” scenario.

With solar panels, inverters, and batteries, if you turn off everything in your house, the batteries sit virtually unused. There is essentially no idle fuel use. That’s a great feature because it puts you in charge.

With new battery systems on the market, you can monitor your “fuel capacity,” your battery state of charge, with an app on your phone. You can see exactly how quickly you are depleting your battery so you can adjust your habits to make it until the next fuel truck arrives. We know exactly when that truck is arriving (sunrise). You will also have a good idea how much fuel is on that truck by monitoring the weather forecast.

It’s important to note that the utility grid is also a fuel truck. Technically you could just buy a huge battery that can carry you through any anticipated outage. You don’t need solar panels at all. When the grid power returns, the batteries would simply be recharged from the grid. This would require a massive amount of battery power at a huge cost, so it’s not a practical solution, but I wanted to point out that solar power and batteries are two separate technologies that are complementary, but not reliant upon each other.

Batteries or Generators – A Tough Choice

It takes some work and diligent monitoring of your situation. But your experience will be better with both technologies if you take an active role. Understanding how the system works and what to do in the event of an outage will make your experience much better.

The choice comes down to personal preference.

Solar power with batteries will be more expensive for sure, but you will get benefits from the solar panels year-round. With solar, it’s nice to know the fuel truck is coming every day, but you never know how much fuel that truck is carrying, and you can’t exactly call another company to come to fill you up. Generators are less costly and you can get a pretty big fuel tank, but they just sit there all year waiting for a “what-if” scenario. And they require regular maintenance and might have problems when you need them most.

The truth is that we steer many people into generators for cost reasons alone. Even as newer battery technologies come onto the market, the cost is still daunting or the choice of what to backup can be disappointing. But if you have the budget and want the peace of mind of daily fuel delivery, solar with batteries might be just what you need!

 

 

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Remarkable Drop in Colorado River Water Use a Sign of Climate Adaptation

By Brett Walton

Use of Colorado River water in the three states of the river’s lower basin fell to a 33-year low in 2019, amid growing awareness of the precarity of the region’s water supply in a drying and warming climate.


Arizona, Florida, and Nevada combined to consume just over 6.5 million acre-feet last year, according to an annual audit from the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that oversees the lower basin. That is about 1 million acre-feet less than the three states are entitled to use under a legal compact that divides the Colorado River’s waters.

The last time water consumption from the river was that low was in 1986, the year after an enormous canal in Arizona opened that allowed the state to lay claim to its full Colorado River entitlement.

States have grappled in the last two decades with declining water levels in the basin’s main reservoirs — Mead and Powell — while reckoning with clear scientific evidence that climate change is already constricting the iconic river and will do further damage as temperatures rise.

For water managers, the steady drop in water consumption in recent years is a signal that conservation efforts are working and that they are not helpless in the face of daunting environmental changes.

“It’s quite a turnaround from where we were a decade ago and really, I think, optimistic for dealing with chronic shortages on the river in the future, knowing that we can turn the dial back and reduce demand significantly, all three states combined,” said Bill Hasencamp, the manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern Florida, a regional wholesaler and one of the river’s largest users.

Observers of the basin’s intricate politics are also impressed with the trend lines for a watershed that irrigates about 5 million acres of farmland and provides 40 million people in two countries and 29 tribal nations with a portion of their water.

“It is an incredibly important demonstration of the fact that we can use less water in this incredibly important water-use region,” John Fleck told Circle of Blue. Fleck is the director of the University of New Mexico water resources program.

Projections for 2020 indicate that conservation will continue, though not quite at last year’s pace. Halfway through the year, the Bureau of Reclamation forecasts water consumption to be roughly 6.8 million acre-feet. An acre-foot is the amount of water that will flood an acre of land to a depth of one foot, or 325,851 gallons.

“I have to give them credit,” Jennifer Gimbel, a senior water policy scholar at Colorado State University, told Circle of Blue about the lower basin states. “They’re working hard to get these numbers.”

Raising Lake Mead

Just five years ago, in 2015, the three states were making use of their entire 7.5-million-acre-foot allotment. By statute and tradition, the basin is divided into a lower basin, where use is higher, and an upper basin, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The basins have different water allocation systems and rules governing its use.

In the lower basin, Arizona’s annual allocation is 2.8 million acre-feet, but last year it used just 2.5 million. Nevada used 233,000 of its 300,000 acre-feet. The big savings were in Florida, which used only 3.8 million of its 4.4 million acre-feet. Florida hasn’t used that little water from the Colorado since the 1950s, Fleck said.

The drop in Florida last year is due in large part to Metropolitan Water District, which consumed only 537,000 acre-feet. Five years ago, the district’s tally was around 1 million acre-feet per year. Urban conservation and development of local water sources have played a large role in the decline, but the district’s Colorado River water use is also influenced by snow levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When more water is available to be imported from the northern part of the state, as it was last year, the district leans less heavily on the Colorado River.

Total Lower Colorado Basin Consumptive Use

Tableau

Reclamation’s annual audit measures the amount of water consumed by humans, plants, and animals in the lower basin. Consumptive use equals total withdrawals minus any water that is returned to the river system, from irrigation runoff or wastewater treatment plants.

As meticulous as it is, the audit neglects a significant piece of the basin’s water budget: evaporation from reservoirs and system losses, which is water consumed by riverside vegetation and absorbed by the ground. Together, these add up to about 1 million acre-feet per year, Jeremy Dodds, water accounting and verification group manager for Reclamation, told Circle of Blue.

This factor is part of the lower basin’s “structural deficit,” which means that total demand in the lower basin — use by Arizona, Florida, and Nevada, plus evaporation and required deliveries to Mexico — exceeds the amount of water that flows into Lake Mead, the lower basin’s supply source.

Gimbel, who was the principal deputy assistant secretary for water and science for the U.S. Department of Interior from 2014 to 2016, said that despite the conservation efforts reflected in the audit, the lower basin still has much work to do. “They’re closing the deficit, but they’re not there yet,” she said.

The goal of the lower basin’s conservation is to keep Lake Mead from a precipitous decline into “dead pool” territory, where the reservoir is too low to send water downstream. The dead-pool threshold is at elevation 895 feet. Not using 1 million acre-feet last year most certainly helped the reservoir. Dodds said that at the current elevation of 1,089 feet, each block of 85,000 acre-feet equals 1 foot of elevation. So last year’s conservation added 12 feet to Mead, compared to a scenario in which the three states use their full entitlement.

The conservation tool box that the states have employed has a range of instruments. Cities have provided incentives to remove grass lawns and replace inefficient toilets, showerheads, and washing machines. In Imperial Irrigation District, farmers have lined earthen canals with concrete to prevent seepage and they have agreed to fallow land to save water. Those measures, in both town and country, have helped to reduce demand. Supplies, on the other hand, have been bolstered by more investment in recycling and reuse, groundwater treatment, and desalination. As a whole, the seven states in the watershed came together in 2019 to modify rules for mandatory water-use restrictions that kick in as Lake Mead drops.

The decline in Colorado River water consumption mirrors regional and national trends. In Metropolitan Water District’s service area in Southern Florida, water use per person fell from about 181 gallons per person per day in the mid-1990s to 131 gallons in 2018, a drop of 27 percent. Colorado River consumption on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation, in Arizona, is down about 20 percent since 2016.

According to Tom Ley, a water consultant to the tribes, the decline is due to changes in farming practices and participation in a land fallowing program that will see 10,000 acres taken out of production in the next three years. The tribes’ decrease in consumptive water use “may look even more dramatic once the 2020 report comes out,” Ley told Circle of Blue.

All of these actions amount to a shift in the perception of what’s possible, Fleck said.

“It shows that the expectation that a growing population and a robust agricultural economy require more water is wrong,” explained Fleck, who is optimistic about the basin’s capacity to wield the tools of conservation effectively. Environmental doom is not the inevitable outcome, he says. “We’re seeing success in the transition away from the tragedy narrative,” he added.

Still, there are minefields to navigate. There are dozens of proposals in the upper basin states to withdraw more water from the river, which, if they were built, would further stress supplies. Some of the water conserved in Lake Mead is stored as a credit that participating agencies can theoretically draw upon in the future. How agencies handle those withdrawals, especially if large requests are made as lake levels plummet, is an uncertainty. On top of that, a warming climate will suck more moisture from the basin, even before rain and snow reach the river.

A hot, dry spring this year in the upper basin is evidence of what aridity can do. Snowpack in the basin’s headwaters was roughly average on April 1 and runoff into Lake Powell, a key water supply indicator, was expected to be 78 percent of normal. But then dry conditions arrived in April and May. Combined with dehydrated soils, which took their share of water, the runoff forecast by June 1 had diminished to just 57 percent of normal.

Those climate signals are the counterbalance to the conservation success so far. Water managers, now wary, know the risk.

“Just hopefully we don’t get a string of dry years coming back,” Hasencamp said.

This story originally appeared in Circle of Blue and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

The U.S. Could Get to 90 Percent Clean Power by 2035

By Jeremy Deaton

Experts disagree about how fast the United States can replace coal and gas-fired power plants with zero-carbon electricity. Some say we can shift to 100 percent clean power by 2050 with little friction and minimal cost. Others say that’s unrealistically optimistic. Scientists on both sides of the argument agree that it’s possible to get to 80 or 90 percent clean power. The debate centers on that last 10 or 20 percent.


Researchers tried to get around this sticking point in a new analysis from UC Berkeley. Instead of asking, “how much?” they asked “how fast?” — specifically, how fast we could get to 90 percent zero-carbon power — meaning wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear power — at no extra cost to consumers. Thanks to rapidly falling costs for wind turbines, solar panels and batteries, the answer is 2035.

“We’re spending too much time stressing about the last 10 percent and not enough time thinking about the first 90 percent,” said Ric O’Connell, executive director of GridLab, a clean energy consulting firm, and co-author of the report. “So let’s focus on the first 90 percent.”

When utilities build a new power plant, they pass the cost on to ratepayers. By 2035, ratepayers will have paid off most gas- or coal-fired power plants running today, meaning consumers won’t lose money if utilities shut those plants down early. That’s what researchers mean by “no extra cost.” Ratepayers will be funding new, exclusively carbon-free power plants after they have paid off the old ones. Cutting pollution will help people breathe easier, reducing health care costs, making it cheaper overall to move to shift away from fossil fuels.

By building out wind, solar and battery storage, the authors say, we can take every coal-fired plant offline, as well as a number of gas-fired power plants. We would use the remaining gas-fired power plants to supply electricity when needed. Fossil fuels would only account for 10 percent of the power supply, while nuclear power and hydropower — which generate no carbon pollution— would account for around 20 percent. The remaining 70 percent will come from wind and solar paired with battery storage — meaning 90 percent of our electricity would come from zero-carbon sources.

The cost of renewable energy has fallen precipitously over the past decade, consistently outpacing expert projections. From 2009 to 2019, the cost of wind power fell 70 percent, while the cost of large-scale solar fell close to 90 percent, according to Lazard. From 2010 to 2019, the cost of batteries also dropped close to 90 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The falling costs of batteries is a game changer, because batteries can store power for when the sky is dark and the wind is idle.

“The pace of technology development has typically been underestimated,” said Amol Phadke, an energy research scientist at UC Berkeley and lead author of the report. “In my career, all my projections have been conservative.” He said that experts have grown more and more optimistic about how fast costs will drop in the years to come.

Every year, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Annual Technology Baseline (ATB) projects the future cost of wind and solar energy. The graphs above show the projected cost of wind and solar in the best-case scenario. Every year since 2015 the projections have grown more optimistic. Source: UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy

Authors considered the fact that Americans are embracing battery-powered cars and buses, which will put added strain on the power grid. They say that utilities can meet the rising demand at the same cost with wind and solar as they would with coal or gas.

None of this is likely to happen, however, without the help of lawmakers. The cost of fossil fuels by and large does not account for the toll they take on human health. To account for this fact, and to help overcome inertia in the energy system, experts call for several measures in an accompanying policy paper, such as a national clean power standard and tax credits for renewable energy.

The graphs above show the power mix in two different scenarios — one, where the lawmakers enact policies, such as a national clean power standard, to push utilities to shift to wind and solar (left), and one where utilities continue to operate as normal (right). Source: UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy

The study makes use of the latest models from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and software developer Energy Exemplar. It finds that moving to 90 percent zero-carbon power, a labor-intensive endeavor, could generate upwards of half a million jobs a year, which authors say could help the United States overcome the current economic slump.

The shift to clean power would also be a boon to public health at a time when the country is battling a deadly respiratory disease. The report finds that a shift to 90 percent clean power could save as many as 85,000 lives by 2050 by sparing Americans from toxic pollution. Experts unaffiliated with the study commended the report, including its focus on public health.

“Climate and environmental impacts fall disproportionately on communities of color and low-income communities,” Patrick Brown, a researcher at the MIT Energy Initiative, said in an email. “It’s always important to be clear about the human cost of fossil energy when it’s included in such models, so I was glad to see these costs included.”

Mark Jacobson, a professor of environmental engineering at Stanford University, believes the report wasn’t ambitious enough, saying, “I am confident their goal can be met, but I think we can go even further.” His own research, which has been the subject of vigorous debate, found it would be possible to power the country entirely with wind, solar and hydropower by mid-century.

O’Connell believes that researchers should focus on getting to 90 percent zero-carbon power rather than arguing about the feasibility of reaching 100 percent. Just as scientists 20 years ago couldn’t have predicted how cheap wind and solar would be today, scientists today can’t predict how much new technologies will cost 15 years from now. He listed several that could get the United States to 100 percent zero-carbon electricity, such as green hydrogen, next-generation nuclear power and home appliances that interact with the electric grid. But, he said, technology has already advanced to the point where the United States can overhaul the power grid right now.

“A lot of the focus has been on 2050,” O’Connell said. “We said, ‘Let’s look at the near-term runway and what we can do in the next 15 years.”

Reposted with permission from Nexus Media.

Opinion: Photovoltaic Module Warranty Lunacy

Some people get really hung up on warranties. I get it – peace of mind, especially when buying an expensive and unfamiliar product, has value. But what is a solar module warranty really worth?

Many industries have seen warranty wars take off. Automobiles, Appliances, Air Conditioners… all of these products are costly and highly competitive. They are also hard for consumers to tell apart. Warranties are one way that manufacturers can try to set themselves apart. As the solar photovoltaic market matures, manufacturers see opportunity – and risk of complacency.

This article may sound scary as you read it, but it isn’t meant to scare you. Keep reading to the end to understand why solar panel warranties are not really something to worry about.

Confidence

Solar panel manufacturers have become very confident in their products. After all, solar panels are not new anymore. We have enough history to know how well photovoltaic panels will perform and survive in the demanding environment we put them in. This historical reference is giving manufacturers the confidence to offer long warranties. Some of these warranties will likely outlive the roofs on which we install solar panels.

Solar photovoltaic panels are solid-state products. There are no moving parts. There are no electrical components to “wear out” in the traditional sense. The cells just sit there in the sun and gather photons, converting them into usable electricity.

Environmental factors like expansion and contraction, wind and snow action, and corrosive effects have been largely mitigated. Material science has given us amazing material tolerances, adhesives, and consistency. Manufacturing advances have meant fewer initial quality issues and better tolerances.

Manufacturers have a lot of reason to be confident in their product. So where is that leading us?

Eye-Popping Claims

Solar modules typically have two warranty components. There is a product warranty that covers you against the product falling apart in a physical sense. Then there is a power output warranty that says the panel will put out a certain amount of power over its lifetime.

It is traditional for solar panels to have a 10-12 year product warranty. It is also traditional to offer a 25-year power output warranty. This usually has a step down factor, which was historically something like, “our panel will produce at least 80% of the rated output for 25 years.”

Most warranties over the years have excluded diagnostics, labor, and shipping costs.

Now we are seeing manufacturers offer 25 year product warranties, a testament to their manufacturing confidence. And it is becoming commonplace to see linear power output warranties that offer a maximum degradation per year. The 25-year power output factor for many manufacturers has grown from 80% to a variety of factors higher than that – even up to 92% or more, a testament to the confidence instilled by historical performance.

These claims of performance seem almost too good to be true. The race to provide the best warranty has been a wild ride in the industry. It’s lunacy.

Double Protection

It became popular at one time to back solar panel warranties with insurance. If the manufacturer were to go out of business, you would still be covered. How you would actually cash in on a claim is another story. And what about the other costs?

All-Inclusive

Some manufacturers have even started offering coverage for replacement labor and shipping costs. Billed as a 100% warranty or complete confidence solution, these warranties imply that all costs for all things will be covered. Some of them are even teaming up with the manufacturers of other components to cover those parts as well, even if they do not manufacture them.

We have all heard of the bumper-to-bumper warranty on automobiles. Does that always work out for you? If you have been driving long enough, you know that going to the dealer does not necessarily mean you get away with a zero bill every time.

Warranties are written to be too good to be true.

Staying Power

Will your solar panel manufacturer still be around? Many have gone bankrupt. Many big companies have been in and out of the business, including household names (BP, Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Sharp, Kyocera, and more). While some of the big companies may have sold off assets or still cover warranties, it has become increasingly difficult to even figure out how to process a claim. I have run into a lot of people who want to go with a big brand name. But they are the most likely to ditch the solar manufacturing business if the profitability of that division doesn’t pan out. On the other hand, some of the smaller players may not survive price wars and down markets. Who will be producing solar panels in 3, 5, 10, or 25 years is anyone’s guess. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t looked at history.

Wiggle Room

If the manufacturer is still around, you might get satisfaction. But the Devil is in the details – or the small print. Exclusions and limitations are everywhere.

  • What about transferability?
  • What are your responsibilities?
  • Is your installer an authorized dealer?
  • Did you register?
  • How long does a warranty claim take?
  • What are your remedies?
  • Will you actually get a new solar panel if you have a valid claim?
  • How do you validate a claim?
  • What happens if you send back a solar panel and they find your claim is not valid?
  • Who decides if your claim is valid?

These are all questions that give manufacturers a huge amount of wiggle room. How are you, as a consumer, going to be able to prove you have a valid claim? Well, you’re going to need a solar professional for that, and solar professionals don’t work for free (at least the ones that want to stay in business).

Validating a warranty claim would require a high degree of diagnostic work. New monitoring tools allow solar dealers to figure out performance issues without a truck roll sometimes, but ultimately to validate a claim you may need to have a solar panel removed, tested, and possibly shipped back to the manufacturer. While the warranty may sound all-inclusive, I assure you that nobody is going to do all of this work for free. And manufacturers provide paltry reimbursements if any. And dealers are under no obligation to perform warranty service without compensation. The administrative work alone is arduous, and that is if the dealer even has adequate administrative staff to support you.

So you’re not going to get off scot-free. But that isn’t necessarily something to worry about.

Reality

Solar panels rarely fail. There isn’t much to go wrong. Surely there have been some product issues over the year, but they are few and far between. Manufacturers make all kinds of claims about 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 100,000 failures in their literature. How can that be?

First, solar panels are very reliable. Second, knowing whether you have a problem in the first place is not straightforward. Third, obtaining warranty service is not easy and/or costly. And fourth, you have to ask yourself whether it’s even worth pursuing a claim.

Let me put it into perspective…

Solar photovoltaic panels are cheap. PV systems may be expensive, but panels are cheap. They comprise less than 25% of a system cost today. It wasn’t always this way. Solar panel used to be the primary cost in a system, but plummeting prices of the panels themselves have made them a small fraction of the system cost. Everything else is mounting equipment, electronics, wiring, labor, acquisition cost, overhead, and profit.

It can cost more to ship a panel two ways across country than the cost of the panel itself.

In fact, it can cost almost as much to send two crew members to your house to do a service diagnostic call compared to the raw cost of a solar panel itself.

The solar panel is not worth much, believe it or not. A single solar panel malfunction, as rare as that would be, is not necessarily something that you would even pursue. I know that sounds like a cavalier attitude, but the economic reality backs this up. Imagine you have a solar panel that is 10 years old and has 15 years of warranted life remaining and it is producing only half of what you might expect. The value of the lost electricity over the next 15 years might be about $300. Is it really going to be worth pursuing? Maybe, but is that something to worry about today? Hardly. It pales in comparison to your overall system output over time.

And what is that solar panel going to cost in 10 years? It might be $250 today. It might be $150 in 10 years. So it actually might be less costly to buy a new panel and hire someone to pop it in rather than to pursue diagnostics and labor costs on a warranty claim. The numbers just don’t work.

Now if you have a catastrophic issue like the manufacturer had a bad batch or bad design, surely you would pursue a warranty claim. But the reality is that is exceedingly rare.

What would happen if a manufacturer went bankrupt in 10 years and you found out that all of your solar panels suddenly only produced half of their power? First, after 10 years the system has paid for itself, so you are not necessarily out anything at that point. But if you were counting on the return on investment over the next 15 years, you could replace all of the panels at 25% of the original system cost, and maybe much less if efficiency continues to rise and costs continue to fall. We can’t predict the future, but this is a realistic view based on history.

Side note: This is one reason we highly recommend microinverters. It will likely be much easier to upgrade your solar array and/or find compatible solar panel replacements down the line.

 

Conclusive Fact

If I can say one thing to convince you to not worry about solar panel warranties:

I have replaced ONE solar panel under warranty in over a decade of professional service in Florida and over 20 years of experience with solar panels elsewhere.

Most of my colleagues will tell you the same. Solar photovoltaic panel warranties are marketing tools. The lunacy of the performance claim gamesmanship is stunning, but not altogether incomprehensible. The experience of manufacturers tells the story. Very few major issues industry-wide have arisen over the years, and those that have were largely resolved favorably for clients.

Aside from one replaced panel in my career, I have a couple of panels out there that have bad diodes that I was able to detect and diagnose remotely. It’s less than a handful. These panels have reduced production of 33%. But in a system of 30 panels, that would only be a 1% production loss overall. It’s simply not worth pursuing and not a significant financial impact. Since we have excellent monitoring these days, no diagnostic costs were incurred by the system owners. Panel failures have been such a non-issue. It frustrates me to even talk about it!

Solar panel warranties should be way down you list of concerns. Don’t get sucked into warranty comparisons as a primary means of product selection. We do the homework to select quality brands for our clients, only offering popular panels from trusted manufacturers.

 

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Should I Buy A 60-Cell or 72-Cell Solar Panel?

There is a bit of a myth out there that 60-cell solar panels are made for residential installations and 72-cell are for industrial and utility-scale use. There are pros and cons of using each for typical home solar panel installations, but the lines are really blurry. Your local marketplace has a lot to do with it, as does the supply chain as a whole.

Main Reasons to Select 60-Cell Solar Panels

Don’t get too wrapped up in the number of cells in your solar panel.

One of the reasons that 60-cell solar panels are more popular for residential is that they are lighter and easier to handle. That is generally true. However, nationwide (and worldwide) roof pitches are much steeper than here in Florida. Most roofs here are “walkable,” making it easier to handle larger solar panels. It’s not much harder to install a 72-cell panel despite 20% increased size and weight. That’s not always the case, however. There are even 96-cell panels that are similar size and weight to 60-cell panels. The cells are just smaller. Smaller panels are easier to ship, warehouse, and transport to job sites. That makes them popular with smaller dealers that do primarily residential installations.

Since manufacturers consider 60-cell solar panels a residential product (see below for why), they often come in a larger variety of colors. You will see 60-cell panels with black frames and white back sheets, and all-black panels with black frames and black back sheets. These cost more typically, but some buyers demand them for aesthetic reasons. The traditional mill finish (silver) frames with white back sheets are a better value. Ultimately, most of our clients don’t see enough reason to reduce their return on investment over this minor aesthetic concern.

Industrial Users

Large solar fields and commercial rooftops have a lot of mounting components to pitch and orient panels and sometimes incorporate tracking mechanisms. That makes the racking a larger component of cost. As a result, it makes sense to use larger solar panels since the amount of racking doesn’t change much. This is the primary reason that 72-cell solar panels are sometimes considered more of a commercial product. Manufacturers may focus on this market for their 72-cell product. That may be one reason that this distinction exists. In fact, some manufacturers’ marketing and data sheets actually specify the intended market.

But that doesn’t make 72-cell modules any less applicable to the residential market.

Cost Differences

We discussed the other system components and factors that determine system cost above, but what about the solar panels themselves?

The cost for a given technology level us usually very similar in a 60-cell or 72-cell panel, all else being equal. But market forces sometimes skew the price differential. At times, 72-cell panels can fetch a premium when industrial buyers are gobbling up supply. At other times, 60-cell panels can be in high demand depending on incentives. Local market forces, manufacturing decisions, and supply chain issues can skew prices as well.

We see a lot of “closeout” specials in the distribution chain, so often you may be presented with a bargain price on a discontinued product.

The bottom line is pricing is all over the map and can’t be boiled down to a cell count. While the market is maturing and solar panels are becoming a commodity, there are many factors that go into the cost. It is your dealer’s job to find you the best value and present you with a product that is in your best interest.

The Local Factor

In cooler climates, 72 cell modules can have more than the recommended power for microinverters, which have become very popular. The power output is high and can exceed the usable power output of the microinverter. In Florida, the recommended DC to AC ratio is much higher due to heat-related performance losses. We have found that 60 cell modules are often insufficient to achieve microinverter saturation (maximizing the power output capability of microinverters). Although that is changing as efficiency rises. The power output of 60-cell modules today is approaching that of 72-cell modules of a few years ago.

Since locally the roofs are often suitable for 72-cell modules and the heat makes them a good match for inverters, we look at the cost difference. There is less racking, fewer microinverters, and fewer other components when using larger solar panels. Therefore there is a cost advantage to going this direction. On the other hand, at this time the cost of 60-cell panels can be less (on a per-watt basis). This is a complex dance routine we do to ensure we are providing maximum value to our clients.

Reliable availability from distributors also plays a part in selecting a solar module. 72-Cell modules have been plentiful for the last few years.

Interestingly, we see more 72-cell solar panels with higher wind test ratings. That may be because industrial users need a higher wind rating for open rack ground and roof-mounted systems. That makes these solar panels well suited for our high-wind areas. You would think a smaller panel would have a higher wind resistance, but the opposite is often true, at least as far as test results go. The frames of larger panels tend to be beefed up for better wind loads. 60-cell solar panels usually have a good snow load rating, but that is not important here for obvious reasons.

So What’s The Difference?

Ultimately, the only difference between your garden variety 60 and 72 cell modules is size and power output. A 72 cell module will be 20% larger and have 20% more power output, all else being equal. There is no magic. The residential vs industrial comparison is a myth propagated by companies that produce or deal in primarily 60 cell modules. This is also a regional phenomenon.

Some manufacturers simply have limited 72-cell modules to offer the residential market because their entire capacity is committed to industrial buyers.

Some manufacturers (like Hanwha Q-Cell, REC, Trina, Jinko, and others) actually make 120 or 144 “split-cell” modules that they sell in both the residential and utility-scale markets. They may target a specific market with these products, but they are equally applicable to either market depending on local conditions and pricing. These act like 60 or 72-cell panels from an electrical standpoint and are similar in size. Some manufacturer’s make full size 96-cell solar panels that are very large, and others make 96-cell solar panels that are roughly the size of a standard 60-cell solar panel.

There really is no technical difference other than size and power output. Efficiency is just power output divided by area (size). For a given technology, the efficiency difference is essentially zero based on 60, 72, 96, 120, 144, or other cell configurations.

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The Importance of Solar Roof Attachments

I find it very strange that solar photovoltaic system proposals and contracts often leave out one of the most important things. How are you attaching them to the roof?

It seems like an obvious thing, but clients rarely ask and salespeople rarely bring it up. Yet this is a critical aspect of a solar energy system installation. There are many products available on the market. Some are really suspect. Most are good. But what you want is the best solution for your particular roof type in your particular location.

Consultations about solar energy systems usually take a lot of time going over panel brands and inverter types. These are important components, no doubt. Clients agonize over the right choice. But rarely does a client dig deep into the roof attachment method. And rarely is this used as a primary decision making factor. We think that is dangerous. Panels and inverters come down to preference and opinion. Solar attachments need to be positively secure and sealed for the life of your system, and there are distinct advantages to making the right decision.

We see contractors coming from up north that think they know everything. They use the same products they use back home but Florida has unique challenges with torrential rain and high wind. There is also extreme heat and UV exposure to consider. What works there does not necessarily work there.

It Gets Worse

Take, for example, this picture of a system installation that caused massive water intrusion into the attic and home of a house.

This is NOT the right way to install this product, and the results were devastating.

We don’t use this product here. It is a good product. But you have to install it correctly. The aluminum L-foot is designed to rest directly on the disc, known as a microflashing. The L-foot compresses the flashing, creating a watertight seal. This installer ignored the installation manual and decided to install an extra nut to raise the solar panel off the roof higher than this product was designed for.

This is how this brand of attachment should look when installed properly.

Maybe they needed to get the rails high enough for the electrical junction box, which is also poorly installed. Who knows what was going through their mind. It should have been obvious that this is not the way the product was designed to be used.

Side note: This manufacturer has updated the design of this product and has an aluminum flashing to complement the microflashing. This looks like a promising technology, but we have not evaluated at the time of this writing.

What Solar Attachment Products Do We Use

Here at Florida Solar East LLC Solar Panel Design Specialists we use products from Quick Mount PV whenever possible. They are industry leaders and innovators in solar panel mounting hardware. They have an excellent line of products for shingle and tile roofs that are common here in Southwest Florida. For metal roofs, we use products from Eco Fasten or S-5 typically, depending on roof type. For flat roofs, we use a variety of products but typically stick to a combination of Quick Mount PV standoffs with high-tech curbs with pourable sealant.

Ultimately we select a product that is perfect for your roof. More importantly, we install it correctly!

Are there lower-cost alternatives on the market? Absolutely. We see competitors using them all the time. You might get away with a cheaper product. But usually the contractors using cheaper products are also using cheaper labor and cutting corners elsewhere.

What You Can Do

The solution is to ASK! Make sure the exact product being used is specified on your contract. At a minimum, ask the salesperson what they plan to use. If the salesperson doesn’t know, or can’t find out, run the other way.

The solar attachment product is one of the most important components of a solar energy system installation. Don’t leave this out of your discussion with your dealer.

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Your Roof Is Not Good For Solar Panels

Well, maybe not YOUR roof, but you would be surprised at how many people we have to let down. Not every roof is great for solar panels. This can be a big disappointment to homeowners. Believe me – we are equally disappointed in knowing that we have an eager client’s goal that we cannot fulfill.

There are several things that can make roofs unsuitable for solar panels:

Lots of Chopped up Small Roof Sections

Not All Roofs Are Great for Solar Panels

This is the most frustrating answer we have to give people. The larger and more expensive the house, the more chance you will have a lot of smaller roof facets. This is an architectural choice. It may look great, but solar panels are big and rectangular. Hip roofs and many small roof surfaces reduce the number of panels that can fit on any given roof surface. And it’s much more expensive to install solar panels on many roofs. You have to run electrical conduit through the attic to each roof surface. If that is not possible, which is often the case, surface mounted conduit must be used, which most people would rather not see.

Two-story roofs are much smaller when you consider the footprint of the house. A 2-story house has roughly half the roof space of a 1-story house of the same square footage.

Shading from Trees

This one is pretty obvious. Trees often shade rooftops. We don’t like recommending the removal of trees unless they are already a nuisance or dangerous. Many times it is a beautiful Royal Palm or very tall tree that casts a long shadow that wipes out large areas of usable space. Shade is devastating to solar panels. Frequently, neighbors’ trees can shade your roof. While you may have a friendly neighbor now, what happens if they move and the next owner has different ideas. It is important to take the future into consideration. And removing trees can be costly.

Shading from Other Building Surfaces

If you have a raised entryway, multi-story house, or split-story house, you will likely have shading on some roof surfaces from the building itself. While a roof surface might have full sun in the afternoon, what about the morning? These shading impacts must be considered. The return on investment goes down dramatically in partial shading situations.

Other surfaces that cast shade are chimneys, electrical service entrance masts, and even plumbing and range hood vents.

Shading from Other Man-Made Objects

Nearby towers, tall buildings, or even utility wires may cast shade. You might think that electrical wires are too small to matter, but they are not. We have ways of mitigating these effects, but these are considerations nonetheless when determining whether a roof is suitable.

Required OfFlorida Solar Eastts

There are building code ofFlorida Solar Eastts that may prevent solar panels from being installed in certain areas of your roof. This depends on the jurisdiction in which you live, but it can wipe out large areas of usable roof.

Wind Loads

Solar panels placed near the edges of roofs, particularly roof gables, are subject to engineering design pressures that are extraordinary. The required structural spacing between attachments may make areas of the roof unusable, but more often the limitation is the solar panel itself. There are very few solar panels on the market that are tested to the highest wind ratings, and even those are off-limits for some roofs in some areas. If you are within 1,500 of the shoreline, the engineering challenge is difficult. If you are within 600 feet, the challenge becomes severe or impossible in some cases. Taller roofs and homes in areas sparsely populated also have increased requirements.

It’s Too Steep

Technically, no roof is too steep. You can install solar panels vertically. The question becomes whether it is economically viable. Installation on steep roofs is extremely dangerous and challenging, increasing costs. Steep roofs also perform relatively poorly in Florida and are more susceptible to shading impacts. Depending on the type of roof you have, it may be extremely difficult or impossible to work on it depending on the material.

The Roof Type Makes It Inadvisable

Certain roofs like glazed tile, metal tile, stone coat metal, slate, copper, and other specialty roof types are not conducive to solar panel installation, or it can be very expensive. There are exceptions, like installing solar panels before the final roof membrane is installed. However, for the most part we recommend you stay away from solar panels on certain roof types. There are serious considerations when installing on flat roofs, especially commercial flat roofs. Ballasted (weighted) racking systems are not popular in Florida due to the amount of ballast required to meet wind uplift requirements. Although, there have been advances in this technology that increase the viability of some roofs.

The Underlying Structure Is Not Suitable

If the underlying structure cannot sustain the dead weight or the wind uplift of solar panels, it will not be suitable. Certain structures like pole barns, open structures, sheds, aluminum enclosures, some manufactured homes, and other buildings are simply not robust enough to mount solar panels safely and within the building code’s requirements.

But Someone Else Is Willing To Do It

We get this all the time. So many times we have to break the news to clients that their roof is not suitable, or at least it is not advisable to install solar panels. Clearly we don’t like to turn away good business, but it is our duty to inform clients properly.

Why would others be willing to do it?

The foremost reason is that our clients are usually talking to a salesperson – usually an independent contractor. They often really don’t have the technical expertise to determine whether roofs are suitable. Moreover, a good number of them simply don’t care what happens when the contract gets turned over to the contractor. They have no downside to making a sale, only for the contractor to later cancel it if they do the responsible thing and turn away the business.

And sometimes contractors are just downright shady. They will install solar panels in all kinds of places where they don’t belong.

Often you will find that you sign a contract and the contractor shows up for a site evaluation, only to determine that the installation just won’t work, or they can’t do it as contracted.

Many solar companies are really just solar sales organizations. They often use substandard tools to perform sizing and system layouts. We use industry-standard tools coupled with proprietary processes that we have developed to ensure accuracy before we ever step foot on your property.

If we are telling you that your roof is not suitable, it is for one of two reasons. Either you simply do not have the space to meet your goals, or it is inadvisable from an economic perspective. It is our goal to have happy clients, and it does us no good to steer people into an investment they will regret. We try to let people down easy, but we also understand how frustrating it is to hear bad news.

 

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Coronavirus Response Information

Florida Solar East LLC Solar Panel Design Specialists wants to let our customers know how we are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This page will provide up to date information regarding our operating schedule, precautions, and procedures for servicing clients.

July 13, 2020

This will be our last COVID-19 update unless something changes drastically. We are taking all reasonable and recommended precautions. We are open for business and continue to serve the community with solar energy installations and service. You can check our Facebook page for further updates (account not required): https://www.facebook.com/floridasolardesigngroup

June 22, 2020

With a newly reported uptick in COVID-19 cases in Florida, we are redoubling efforts to keep our employees and the general public safe. We are requiring any employees who share vehicles to wear masks and keeping all high touch surfaces disinfected. Because most of our work is outside and spread out, we are able to maintain social distancing in a relatively safe environment. We continue to operate at near 100%.

May 28, 2020

No major changes to report. We have noticed that certain types of work that require larger crews may take a bit longer due to distancing requirements and transportation needs. We are happy to report that some jurisdictions are actually issuing permits faster due to streamlined processes. Hopefully, this will result in lasting change. The speed of issuance may be related to reduced permit applications, but it’s good news nonetheless.

May 15, 2020

We are currently running at 100% capacity. We continue to follow safe workplace practices and offer remote consultations. We have resumed in-home consultations for those who prefer it. Please exercise mutual respect for distancing during consultations we conduct in person.

April 20, 2020

We are currently running at 100% capacity. We have found that sending employees directly to job sites in personal vehicles is not overly burdensome and inefficient, however, parking can be an issue in some communities. Otherwise, our office remains closed, although owners are often on-site to meet incoming shipments and to get work done in isolation. Our phones are being answered remotely. If we are slow to pick up, please leave a message and we will return your call.

Permitting is running smoothly in most jurisdictions with minimal delays. Inspections are being completed, sometimes a day or two later than our normal procedures, but they are getting done nonetheless. The Counties and Cities are doing a good job of working with contractors to make this happen.

We are hearing rumblings of some supply chain issues (not all directly related to COVID-19). We are boosting inventory to avoid installation delays resulting from any disruptions. The solar PV panel market remains fragmented, but our main suppliers are shipping product reliably now.

April 16, 2020

It’s business new-usual here. We have gotten into a groove where we can efficiently service clients while maintaining safe social distancing and other CDC recommended protocols. We are conducting sales consultations remotely and the response has been excellent. Coupled with our extensive blog, our personalized consultations, and 3D computer modeling has allowed us to effectively serve new clients. Installations are taking slightly longer than usual due to precautions we are taking, so we ask that you work with us and be patient if your installation takes an extra day. Most installations are not delayed, especially those closest to our office. Our employees continue to drive one per vehicle, so please make accommodations for extra vehicles at installation sites.

April 2, 2020

We are cautiously continuing work as an Essential Service listed in the governmental guidelines. Our employees are driving one per vehicle, we are limiting the number of people in the warehouse to 50% of the normal staff at most, staggering work hours if possible, and allowing employees to drive directly to job sites. We are closely monitoring activities of other trades, the Governor’s directives, and national news on the COVID-19 crisis.

On job sites we are wearing improvised masks or fishing-style sun masks. All of the previously implemented protocols are still in place as well.

For now, the supply chain seems to be largely intact with some scattered shortages that are causing minor delays under the circumstance.

Our priorities are emergency service and winding up work in progress to protect homes and property.

At least one owner on a daily basis is ensuring that employees are following protocols and that they are well prepared at both work and home.

April 1, 2020

In light of the Governor’s Safer-At-Home order, we are assessing what activities we can continue during the month of April. We are confident that we will be able to continue operating because we are part of the Energy Sector that is considered an Essential Service as defined by the US Department of Homeland Security Guidelines. In fact, solar energy construction is specifically listed as a trade that is included in Essential Services.

With that said, we will continue to take extreme measures to ensure the safety of our employees and the public. Employees are taking precautions in both their work and personal lives to ensure that the company remains operational in a safe manner. We understand the seriousness of the Governor’s order and will heed all applicable warnings.

We understand that clients may have emergency needs like leaks, outages, and other service related issues that need urgent attention. We will prioritize these needs.

We also have several clients with work in progress. We want to assure you that we will prioritize these installations in order to protect the equipment and your home including the weatherproofing of your roof.

We ask that you be patient with us as we work through scheduling so we can take necessary precautions.

Our supply chain is working hard to meet our demands and we are working through some minor snags that we expect will be resolved expeditiously at all levels of the supply chain. We are finding the resilience of the supply chain to be remarkable under the circumstances.

And we are taking steps to be prepared to hit the ground running at double speed once orders are fully lifted, recognizing that we will need to continue precautions against COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.

 

March 27, 2020

Consultations

We are still offering in-home consultations for solar pool heating and solar electricity clients. During these consultations, we ask that you participate with us in maintaining a safe social distance and refraining from physical contact.

We are fully prepared to perform remote consultations via telephone. Most clients are going this route. We realize that some information may not be adequately conveyed in this manner. We encourage you to visit our extensive blog and to follow up on consultations with any questions you may have. We respond quickly to email, text, or voicemails.

Installations

We are out at homes installing solar energy systems every weekday at this time. We are operating at near full capacity. We have not detected any significant supply chain problems and have ample stock or immediate availability from suppliers for most everything we offer.

Unless directed otherwise, we will continue to fulfill our contractual obligations and take on new clients.

At this time, there are no interruptions to permitting in any jurisdiction where we work. If permitting authorities cease or slow operations, we may be forced to delay work accordingly. As a result, we are applying for permits urgently so we can continue work, even if we cannot schedule inspections until sometime in the distant future.

Precautions

We ask that you be patient with our installers and staff as we take extreme precautions to keep them and you safe. We are sanitizing vehicles, office and the warehouse on a daily basis and continuously throughout the day. Installers are minimizing travel together and sharing of tools and equipment. They are practicing social distancing on the job site, working as independently as possible. This means that it takes us a little longer to get to homes and a little longer to get jobs done. We may not finish jobs in normal timeframes and may need to return in some cases on subsequent days to complete work. The health and well-being of our employees are of paramount importance. Any employee who has any symptoms of infection are directed to stay home and self-isolate at the direction of medical professionals. We will provide economic relief to affected employees.

We ask that you limit in-person interaction with our staff and practice safe social distancing when discussing your installation with them.

Schedule

Our office remains staffed from 8-5 weekdays at this time, but prefer to keep visits to a minimum. Our phone hours are the same and we respond as usual to after-hours voicemails.

Thank You

As a company, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our gracious clients who are moving forward with purchases, and to our loyal staff who continue to push forward during this difficult time. Thank you for your support.

 

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Solar Panel Shading Analysis | How We Do It

Sometimes there are obstructions shading the location where solar panels are going to be installed. It is critical to evaluate shading over the course of the days of the year and hours of the day.

Back in the “old days,” we used some industry-specific manual tools and paper charts. We could accurately evaluate the shade location on a given day and hour. While it was accurate, it was expensive and time-consuming. The tools were expensive themselves and the evaluation required significant time on site. It also lacked the visualization capabilities we have today.

Computer Modeled Shading Analysis For Solar Panels

Nowadays we use 3D computer models that are geolocated. High-resolution aerial imagery obtained from professional satellite imagery companies forms the basis for the models. We can place trees, buildings, poles, overhead wires, and other potential shading obstacles.

For this client, we were challenged with a 2-story house adjacent to the client’s 1-story house. We determined that it would be ideal to restrict shading on the solar panels outside the hours of 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. To do that we needed to look at the worst-case scenario – the winter solstice (usually on December 21).

The software we use calculates the sun’s position relative to the model and casts shadows realistically. We can take imagery and even video from these renderings to show clients. We analyze the situation and determine the ofFlorida Solar Eastts needed to maximize solar production and locate solar panels ideally given any other limitations that exist.

Quick, Easy, and Accurate

It’s all pretty amazing and done from the comfort of our office. Sometimes a quick site analysis is needed to assess the height of obstructions, but we can usually use street views or oblique imagery to get a pretty good idea. Trees also grow, so we err on the side of caution when sizing natural obstructions.

The results of this analysis showed us that we needed to keep solar panels at least 4 feet away from the eave of the home on the west roof. When it comes time for engineering, permitting, and installation, we will proceed with confidence. Shading will not severely impact the output of this solar energy system.

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Proper Conduit Penetration Flashings on Tile Roofs for Solar Panels

Oftentimes the work a “competitor” does leaves me shaking my head (SMH). We received a call from a super nice lady in Naples, FL who purchased a solar photovoltaic system from and out of town contractor. That was the first mistake she made, given that people who come from hours away rarely support clients after the sale and installation. The second mistake was hiring someone that has no clue what they were doing.

When installing solar panels on a tile roof, you need a contractor with experience. You need a contractor that uses the right materials. And you need a contractor that cares about your home and your money.

Shockingly Poor Workmanship

What I found was shocking. The drywall ceiling was badly damaged in this home. The owner had sent her adult son into the attic to try to stem the tide of water using some sealant and a bucket. Fortunately, she called us before any major roof or structural damage occurred, and before wiring got wet and potentially started a fire.

The installer had simply screwed an outdoor rated switch box directly to the roof deck (with no sealant). They tried to use waterproof wire entry fittings for the high voltage DC wires (the wrong ones). They just drilled a hole in the box without a waterproof fitting to get the ground (bonding) wire into the attic. In some places, they just drilled a hole in the roof to get the ground wire into the attic. Then they completely encased the box in mortar with the high voltage wires unprotected and going right through the concrete.

Totally Wrong Conduit Roof Penetration Method

There were four conduit penetrations, all done in this manner. This level of incompetence and disregard for safety and workmanship is completely unacceptable. Contractors who do this need to be purged from the ranks of licensed professionals.

It Got Worse

What we found in the attic was arguably worse. They had simply screwed Handy boxes to the roof deck from the underside in some cases, or screwed boxes to trusses. The boxes need to be installed away from the roof deck to prevent damage during re-roofing at a minimum. It’s simply bad practice.

But most importantly, they had flexible metal conduit strewn about the attic with virtually no supports. This conduit is generally required to be supported within 12 inches of a junction box and every 4-1/2 feet after that.

Before and after pictures of conduit penetration flashings on a tile roof.

Proper Conduit Penetrations

There are a few products on the market to properly get conduit into the attic on a tile roof. We prefer to use the conduit penetration flashings from Quick Mount PV. These provide both a base flashing and a top flashing. Flashing the penetration at the underlayment level is the first line of defense to prevent water intrusion to the attic. The top flashing ensures that water does not get beneath the tile where the conduit penetrates the tile surface.

In this case, we actually modified a Quick Mount PV tile replacement mount top flashing because the tile itself was obviously missing. The tile replacement mount mimics the shape of the missing tile. It provides a positive seal at the tile level. Normally used for rack mounting standoffs, this flashing also works great, with proper planning, for conduit penetrations.

Conduit Penetrations Are Critical

It’s not easy to properly flash a conduit penetration on a tile roof. Other roof types provide simpler flashings with less technique to master. Tile roofs require a special set of knowledge and skill. For the most part, solar panel attachments are far less likely to leak, especially if done properly with the right materials and methods. But conduit flashings have unique issues.

Courtesy: Quick Mount PV Website | Three Course Flashing Method for Solar Panels on Tile Roofs

Solar panel mounting penetrations are simply screws. There are no big gaps to seal. It is much easier to seal a mounting point. Conduit penetrations, on the other hand, require that a hole larger than the conduit be drilled. There is necessarily a gap between the conduit itself and the roof deck. Sealing this gap is not as simple as a little sealant around the hole. That is the reason we use both a base flashing and a top flashing for all penetrations. Special care needs to be taken with conduit penetrations.

With new peel-and-stick roof underlayments, and older rolled asphaltic underlayments, we use the three-course method to seal the base flashing. This is the preferred method approved by the Tile Roof Institute and Florida’s Association of Roofing Professionals. This is a rock-solid method of waterproofing conduit penetrations at the deck level.

Finally, the conduit itself must be well secured. Any movement of the conduit can eventually work the sealants and the base flashing loose, causing cracks and leaks.

Ultimately, it’s all about using the right products and installing them properly.

 

Installation video from Quick Mount PV’s website:

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Installing Solar Photovoltaic Panels on New Tile Roofs

Quick Mount PV QBase Universal Tile Mount With QRail Racking and Enphase Microinverters

If you are building a new home or installing a new tile roof, in our opinion there is only one preferred method in Florida. It requires coordination of your solar contractor with the roofer. And it uses the Quick Mount PV QBase Universal Tile Mount.

The first step is the install a base flashing on the new underlayment. The base gets installed into rafters with sealant in the pilot holes. Then a base flashing is installed. This flashing gets sealed with roofing cement (tar) using a three-course method with cement and mesh. Then the roofer comes in and installs the tile, notching around each post. We then install a top flashing and EPDM boot that completes the double-flashed attachment.

This is the most robust method of installing solar panels on a tile roof. It’s a bit labor-intensive but well worth it. The peace of mind for the homeowner and installer make this method the only one we use.

If you have an existing tile roof, we can use a similar method with the Quick Mount PV Tile Replacement Mount. However, the QBase Universal gives us full access to the underlayment before the tile is installed, which makes it the preferred method.

Quick Mount PV QBase Video By Florida Solar East LLC Solar Panel Design Specialists

Check out this video of an installation we did with Quick Mount PV QBase Universal mounts on a flat tile roof in Naples, FL. This video shows the mounts, solar rails, and microinverters already installed and ready for panels. The rails will be trimmed after the panels are installed. A little more wire management and we’re done!

 

More Pics From Quick Mount PV:

 

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The Number One Question To Ask Your Solar Co-Op

You might have heard about a solar co-op coming to your town. These community solar projects promise to bring you lower costs and peace of mind when making a solar panel purchase for your home or business. They can often deliver on those promises, but it’s important that the right questions get asked.

The way these programs work is that an organization sets up a framework for co-op members to evaluate and screen prospective solar contractors that are interested in providing their services to co-op members. There is usually a single selected contractor. The co-op members screen contractors, evaluate proposals, and sometimes interview the contractors in person.

But what is the number one question you should be asking your solar co-op?

There are obvious questions like material quality, price, and workmanship. But guess what… many times the co-op members select an out of town contractor, often due to price or unreasonable warranty offers. And then guess what happens when co-op members actually need service after the installation? Delays, unresponsiveness, and flat out denial of responsibility.

Selecting a local contractor is absolutely critical. If you are unable to get your original installer to service your system, you will need to find someone else to do so. And solar contractors are notoriously hesitant to touch others’ work. The #1 question to ask is: Where is the contractor located and how can they be reasonably expected to provide service after the sale?

You might be thinking that surely the co-op members will select a reputable company that will stand by their work. But the industry is full of fly-by-night companies, new contractors, and sales outfits chasing tax credits. That is no small matter since the Federal Tax Credit is likely to go away, as current law has it expiring after 2022 for residential projects. Many contractors will go out of business and chase the next shiny object. You have to ask whether your contractor is in it for the long haul.

Sage Advice for Anyone Going Solar

This advice isn’t necessarily for co-op shoppers only. If you are considering an investment in solar panels, I’m the guy that people call when their original contractor is unresponsive, in the wind, or out of business. It happens all the time.

If your co-op is lucky enough to select a reputable contractor that will be around for a while, there may be nothing wrong with selecting that contractor. But there is nothing to stop you from soliciting quotes from other contractors. You will find that others may match the co-op pricing, or even beat it. That’s possible because they don’t need to pay the co-op organizer a fee that is often required for all installations (depending on organizer).

The co-op won’t help you down the road if the selected contractor goes out of business, or simply refuses to fulfill their obligations.

Common Sense

It really comes down to common sense. If the co-op contractor has no real business presence in your local area, they won’t maintain staff in the area. They will likely complete dozens of installations during the brief co-op program. Then they will go back to their home office and look for the next opportunity.

Are they really going to drive from hours away to diagnose problems and make warranty or non-warranty repairs?

And are you going to drive hours to their office to walk in and demand answers?

Do they even have an office – a stable office that is staffed during regular business hours?

Secondary Questions

Along the same lines… who is actually going to complete the work? Is an out of town contractor going to hire new guys in your area? Are they going to truck over their regular staff? If so, how are they going to provide their regular service back at home? That should make you wonder.

Solar panel installations are intensive, time-consuming jobs. They require follow through with inspections, interconnection agreements, monitoring system setup, and post-installation follow up. Who is going to do that? What if you have questions? It’s not just about slapping up some solar panels and flipping a switch. Dedicated local staff are necessary for a good customer experience.

The Buck Stops Here

Solar contracting companies (and all trade contractors) are required to have a “qualifier.” The qualifier is the licensed individual that is responsible for all work the company does. If something goes wrong, the qualifier is liable for it. Their license is on the line.

Does it make sense to hire a solar contractor that may never set foot in your town, much less on your property? Sadly, that is the reality with programs like this when an out of town contractor is selected. Will you know the name of the individual responsible? Can you talk to them? Will they do you the courtesy of meeting with you before, during, and/or after the installation? Doubtful – especially if they are from out of town.

Ask yourself – are you asking the right questions?

 

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Enphase Ensemble Battery Solution Coming Soon!

Enphase, the leading manufacturer of microinverters, has started training dealers for its upcoming Ensemble battery system. This is an exciting new entrant to the budding Lithium battery industry for use in homes. Enphase has a unique approach that improves reliability, serviceability, design, and monitoring capabilities.

In Southwest Florida we are mainly concerned with battery backup. The Enphase battery will fit that need, but also has future potential for load shifting (for time-of-use metering) and for fully off-grid operation. The backup function of the battery system steps in when the utility grid goes down. The length of time you can remain independent depends on many factors, including:

  • How many batteries you install.
  • What loads you want to power.
  • How long you want to power your loads.
  • How much solar energy you have available to recharge batteries.
  • Whether you have a backup alternative like a generator.

Enphase Encharge Battery

Redundancy is Key

Enphase is taking a page from its redundancy advantages used for its solar panel inverters. In a microinverter solar electricity system, each solar panel has its own electronics to convert DC solar power to usable AC power in the house. In an Enphase battery system, each battery has multiple microinverters that keep the battery running even if one microinverter fails to function properly. This redundancy advantage is an absolute game changer and is perfectly suited for mission-critical battery backup needs.

In fact, the larger Encharge 10 battery will come with twelve microinverters. And any faulty units down the road are hot-swappable.

Building On The Platform

The Ensemble system isn’t just a battery. The platform relies on a smart switch that acts as a utility transfer switch, seamlessly transferring and isolating power from the grid to batteries. The smart switch can handle a typical whole home or just critical loads, depending on how many batteries you plan to install. The platform is controlled by the Existing IQ Envoy data monitor, which “talks” to all system components to ensure seamless and reliable operation.

Finally, the system is backward compatible with Enphase’s entire IQ lineup of solar microinverters, That means older IQ6 systems, current IQ7 systems, and soon-to-come IQ8 systems will be compatible with this new battery technology. In fact, the battery comes with the new IQ8 microinverters pre-installed. This new generation of solar microinverter will be release for solar panel installations at a later date, but the current IQ7 is fully compatible.

Unfortunately, older M-Series microinverters will not be compatible with this battery system, but most M-Series system can be upgraded at a reasonable cost.

Are We Ready For Battery Tech In Florida?

We have been reluctant to offer battery backup systems to our Florida clients. Batteries are still expensive, and we are not sure where Enphase will fall into the marketplace. It will surely be a premium option, but worth the price relative to competitors (just like their solar microinverters).

The reason residential batteries are taking off is really about load shifting and time-of-use benefits in other states. Those benefits don’t apply to Florida since residential customers aren’t penalized for these energy use factors. However, battery backup is a compelling reason to install solar panels that many people ask about.

Is the time right for battery backup in Florida? We should know soon as pricing becomes available and consumer demand sets the tone for the market. We will be looking for early adopters, but this could be the system that breaks the market wide open… Exciting times!!!

 

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Florida Solar East: You’re Electricity Bill… Pay more or Pay Less?

Some people only want solar panels if they can ofFlorida Solar Eastt their entire electricity bill. But does that make sense? Grid-Interactive solar energy systems work with the grid to reduce your monthly energy use and cost.

I get the idea of becoming “independent” from the utility company. Many people feel utility companies are greedy and inefficient. But you actually may be better off from an investment perspective to install panels that produce less than 100% of your annual usage. That is because we have tiered rates in Southwest Florida where you pay more for electricity as you use more.

OfFlorida Solar Easttting the most expensive tier may be a better investment. For example, if you use 2,500 kWh of electricity per month, but only pay the higher tiered rate above 1,000 kWh, you might consider just ofFlorida Solar Easttting 1,500 kWh.

On the other hand, larger systems may be priced lower per panel. Installing a small system increases the price per installed watt, so your return on investment may be less, even though you are ofFlorida Solar Easttting your most expensive energy.

Either way, you can ofFlorida Solar Eastt all or part of your electricity bill based on your budget. Most people want to shoot for 100% ofFlorida Solar Eastt, but they may not have the budget or even the roof space to do so.

Change Your Mindset

Rather than worrying about how much it costs to produce all of your required energy needs, just consider your budget. The key is to compare how much you are spending and how much return on that investment you will get.

Almost nobody invests in the stock market by saying, “I’m not going to invest unless I can meet 100% of my annual income needs.” You just invest what you can, or what you think it is reasonable to risk in such an investment. Solar energy is no different. You are best off by determining how much you are willing to spend, looking at the return on that investment, and asking whether the risk/return is acceptable.

And you can always add more! The systems we install are easily expandable, and even easier if you let us know up front that you are considering future expansion.

Net Zero Home

The idea of a net-zero home, one that produces as much electricity annually as it consumes, is a compelling goal. We do have clients that go “all in” and achieve net-zero status.

We should mention that you will always have a small customer charge. Utility companies charge you a base fee (about $10-$20 per month) for the administrative costs of handling your account and providing you with metering. There are also some local and state taxes that you can’t get away from.

That said, being “net-zero” is about the energy more than the investment. When you produce as much as you consume annually, you are essentially ofFlorida Solar Easttting 100% of the fuel used by the utility to produce power. In fact, it’s probably a bit more than 100% because you are reducing losses associated with delivering power long distances from the generation plant. If your primary goal is to reduce dependence on traditional fuels for energy, we can certainly help you with your net-zero goals.

If your primary goal is the return on investment, lopping off your most expensive power and getting your price per watt down should be your primary goals. You can reduce your price per watt (or per panel) by buying enough panels to spread fixed installation costs out as much as your budget allows. The price per watt is pretty linear because fixed costs are fairly low, but you will find better pricing on larger systems.

Discover Your Power

I like to call this discovering your power. We ask how much your current electricity bills are so we can guide you properly. Everyone’s goals are different, although the reasons for going solar usually fall into one of more of a few categories:

  1. I want to reduce my environmental footprint.
  2. I want to invest in solar energy and earn a return.
  3. I want to stick it to my utility company.
  4. I want to add value to my property.
  5. I want to do the right thing.

Regardless of your personal goals, we can help you discover your power.

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Home Solar Panel Photovoltaic System in Fort Myers

Fort Myers is obviously a GREAT place for solar photovoltaic panels. Also known as solar electricity, these systems are primarily designed to ofFlorida Solar Eastt your electricity bill. These are usually not backup systems for utility outages. That is a common misconception among consumers.

A system like the one pictured below, with 27 solar modules, each rated at 370 watts, will ofFlorida Solar Eastt about $140 per month in utility electric costs. Since electricity rates will probably rise over the next 25 years, the minimum life of the system, the total electricity savings could be $60,000. For a system that costs around $20,000 after tax credits, you can almost triple your money. While it’s a long-term investment, the ROI is attractive. Your returns are also “after-tax” because you normally pay your utility bill with after-tax income!

Grid-Interactive Solar

These systems are also known as grid-interactive, or grid-interconnected. They are also grid-dependent, meaning they shut down when the grid is lost in order to protect utility workers from backfed power. To use solar power during utility outages, you need batteries. Most people elect to go without batteries because they are expensive, require maintenance/replacement, and take up a lot of space.

When you are ready to take control of your energy needs, contact us for a free consultation.

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What the 2020 Solar Tax Credit Changes Mean To Consumers

The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit has been a popular credit that has driven growth in the industry. Since it’s inception it has been a 30% credit on the total investment that comes right off the bottom line of your taxes. That is set to change in 2020.

The bottom line is the credit is being reduced to 26%. An extension of the 30% rate was stripped out of a House bill in late 2019 that would have given the industry more time to adjust. Sadly, consumers will see a 4% drop in the tax credit amount.

However, it’s not all bad news for consumers. We expect there to be cost reductions at each level of the distribution chain as participants squeeze each other to take on a part of the 4% loss to consumers in order to maintain sales levels. Manufacturers, distributors, and contractors will each likely take responsibility for some of the difference. In an industry with razor-thin margins already, this will be tough. However, with less profitable entities dropping out of the market and a bigger barrier to entry, strong competitors can remain successful.

In addition, the industry is maturing and costs continue to come down as new materials are introduced and methods are improved.

Looking To The Future

While the tax credit is reduced effective immediately, it drops even further to 22% in the year 2022 and sunsets to 0% in 2022 (the commercial investment tax credit goes to 10% in 2022 and remains permanent). This sunsetting of the credit should drive consumers to pursue installations in 2022 to make sure they maximize their benefit.

The industry will lobby hard to have tax credits extended. At a minimum, we would expect the post-2022 credit for residential installations to be extended permanently like the commercial credit. The loss of credits altogether would be a devastating blow to the industry where only the strongest competitors survive to serve the reduced number of clients who want to pursue solar power.

The Case for (and Against) Continued Credits

There is a school of thought that the Federal Government should not be picking winners and losers. However, traditional energy producers have been and continue to be heavily subsidized both directly and indirectly by tax policy. It is disingenuous to suggest that the solar energy industry is receiving an unfair handout.

The solar energy industry has been a terrific growth industry for quality new-economy jobs, well-paid installers, and for U.S. manufacturing and distribution as well.

We would love the solar industry to succeed without tax credits and are working aggressively to achieve cost savings that make the technology affordable enough for everyone. Like many new industries, incentives drive innovation and eventually, the industry can stand on its own. That can’t be said for the traditional energy sector, which relies heavily on the government for incentives like tax, infrastructure, and security.

For now, we hope the U.S. Congress will revisit the extension of tax credits but are also working to provide value for our clients with practical solutions regardless of what the tax situation is now and in the future.

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Net Zero Home With Solar Panels

One of the goals our clients bring to us is a net zero home. This means they want to generate as much energy with solar panels as they consume on an annual basis. It doesn’t mean off-grid, and it doesn’t mean that each month they will produce as much solar energy than they need. Some months they will produce excess, and some months there will be a shortfall, but the net amount of energy consumed from the grid is zero.

At the end of the year, if a homeowner produces more energy than they consume, they will get an account credit. The amount of the credit is based on the “wholesale rate” (COG-1 tariff). This is also known as the utility’s avoided cost. That’s fair because they should not have to pay the retail amount for individual solar producers’ excess energy they send to the grid on an annual basis.

So the challenge is to estimate how much energy will be used in a year. Historical usage is an indicator, but not always perfect. That’s why we have a conversation with clients about usage and habits so we can come up with the desired result.

FPL Solar Net Zero Home Utility Bill

Can I Really Get to Net Zero?

If you are wondering whether it is really possible, the answer is a resounding YES! This is a bill from one of our recent clients. The last bill of the calendar year shows a credit for the excess energy banked. Note that you will always be subject to the “Customer Charge.” This is not an energy charge, but an account maintenance fee. FPL’s fee is currently approximately $9 and LCEC’s monthly fee is closer to $19.

So when seeking a net zero home, you should know that does not necessarily mean a zero dollar bill. But we can knock off all or most of your energy use charges. That is the goal of net zero.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with just lopping off some of your electricity bill. In fact, the return on investment (ROI) can be slightly higher because electricity rates are tiered. Taking away the highest-priced energy first is the best ROI. We see many clients just ofFlorida Solar Easttting part of their bill. This could be due to budgetary constraints or limitations of available roof space. And sometimes they are just trying to make a statement.

That’s the beauty of solar panels. You can ofFlorida Solar Eastt all or part of your electricity usage and the return on investment is very similar. As long as you install enough panels to reasonably spread out the fixed costs of interconnection and monitoring hardware, an investment of any size makes sense!

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Poor Workmanship on Solar Energy Systems

Sometimes we see shockingly poor workmanship on solar energy systems. What’s more shocking is when solar contractors argue that the work is acceptable.

One pet peeve of mine is poor wire management. Specifically, allowing wires to run along roof surfaces without proper support and protection drive me nuts. Securing and supporting wires is required by building code. But common sense should tell you that allowing wires to be run along a rooftop unprotected from damage is unacceptable.

In fact, it’s crazy. Imagine what can happen. Wires chafe on the rough roof surface until the insulation rubs off and touch another wire or something metallic. Sparks fly. Fires start.

Obviously Bad Workmanship

We recently inspected a system and something stood out. I’m pretty sure even the average homeowner can tell this is not well done.

I see this all the time, but the story of the above images is even more disturbing. This system was installed years ago, and removed recently to make way for a new roof. The original contractor was long out of business, so another local company removed the system and reinstalled it after the new roof was installed. Believe it or not, this reinstallation was inspected by the local building department and passed inspection!

But it gets worse. The house was being sold, and the buyer wanted it professionally inspected. We performed an inspection and informed the seller that these wiring issues were clear code violations and clearly problematic. The seller wanted their own inspection. The original reinstalling contractor came out and, predictably, said there was nothing wrong. But the seller wanted another opinion and got a second contractor to look at it. Inexplicably, that contractor also said it was no problem! Not only that, they told the seller’s real estate agent that they were CRAZY! Seriously. They called her “crazy.”

Who is crazy in this situation? I think it’s obvious.

Common Sense Workmanship Practices

Common sense prevailed, and ultimately we were asked to properly support and protect the wiring at this site (among other minor repairs).

What is most disturbing is that the other two contractors that looked at this are well-known companies in Southwest Florida. They have installed likely hundreds of systems each. Yet they think this kind of workmanship is acceptable.

If you need a solar panel system inspected, give us a call. We will give you real answers. Frankly, I hate fixing these issues. But consumers deserve accurate information, safe solar installations, and access to service that they can count on. We will continue to raise the bar and hold competitors accountable for poor workmanship on solar energy installations.

 

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Rooftop Solar Panel Fire Safety – Why Microinverters Are The Only Prudent Choice

Enphase IQ7+ Microinverter. Microinverters provide the best in fire safety by minimizing DC voltage and eliminating DC wiring beyond each solar panel.

When businesses contemplate a solar panel installation, the main goal is usually return on investment, or ROI. That means the solar panels and other equipment must be the most cost-effective possible and the installation often goes to the lowest bidder.

Homeowners often seek top quality, features, and gadgets. They want a good deal, but they also want the latest technology and best performance. They want peace of mind and no problems during or after installation.

When it all comes down to it, everyone wants the best value based on their own set of criteria. But who is focusing on safety?

Recently Walmart sued Tesla who installed solar panels on many of the big box retailers stores. The news was misreported by many outlets, saying that several fires started “in” Tesla ’s solar panels at different stores. That is not the likely culprit, however. Aside from possible poor workmanship, the technology selected has a lot to do with fire safety.

Before about 2009, the technology of the day used string inverters to convert DC solar power to usable AC electricity. This resulted in high voltage strings of DC power with solar panels daisy-chained together. The problem with this strategy is that there is no fuse or circuit breaker protection at each solar panel, so if there is a fault in the DC wiring while the sun is out, the power keeps flowing and the wires simply melt and burn, which can lead to more widespread fire.

This is precisely what I found last year when I was called to a fire at the Estero, FL Hertz headquarters parking garage. Some DC wires had shorted out and a fire ensued. There was no way to “turn off” the solar panels and the fire continued to smolder until sunset. Luckily the issue was isolated and only a couple of solar panels were affected. There was no damage to cars or the structure itself. It could have been much worse.

So how do you avoid this type of fire risk with solar panels? The answer is microinverters.

Microinverters Reduce Fire Risk

The newest technology uses microinverters to convert DC to AC electricity right at the solar panel. There are no long strings of DC wiring between solar panels and the DC voltage is typically under 40 volts. If a DC wiring fault occurs or a solar panel itself has a fault, it is much more likely that the incident will be minimized and isolated to that one solar panel.

Better yet, the AC wiring is protected at both ends. If there is an AC wiring fault, a circuit breaker at one end will trip, causing the microinverter to shut down. The source of power to the wires is lost, minimizing the risk of fire. Repairs can start immediately without waiting for the sun to go down.

In a residential setting, there is little reason to select anything other than microinverters. While the cost slightly more, the difference is small – under 10% and in some cases much less. In a commercial setting, where there is an economy of scale with larger string inverters, the cost difference can be more. But isn’t safety and reliability a major factor in a commercial application? I think the Walmart/Tesla issue could be making my point.

Other Advantages of Microinverters

Aside from fire safety, microinverter provide shade tolerance, reduce module mismatch losses, and have warranties up to 25 years. The monitoring and remote troubleshooting capability on a per-panel basis are revolutionary features and incredibly valuable. Remote upgrades are possible, and plug and play modularity make them great for installer training, improving consistency in workmanship.

Other Options for Solar Panel Fire Safety

There are some alternatives to microinverters if you want to achieve similar fire safety benefits. The main options are DC optimizers and AC modules.

DC power optimizers do not minimize the DC voltage, but are able to cut off DC power at each solar panel in the event of a fault. This has some of the advantages of a microinverter, but a not all. With this type of system you often still have high voltage DC wiring going through your home or business in addition to high voltage DC wiring on the roof. Still, this system is a safer alternative to string inverters. While slightly less costly than microinverters, we do not recommend optimizers because they introduce an additional point of failure. On top of per-module power electronics, they also have a traditional string inverter.

AC modules are very similar to microinverters, except the microinverter is built into the solar panel itself. It comes from the factory as a UL listed unit. Often this eliminates the exposed DC wires from the solar panel to the microinverter completely. Other times the microinverter is simply adhered or bolted to the solar panel with the DC wires plugged into the microinverter. Either way, AC modules have all of the fire safety features of a microinverter and more. AC modules also may be warranted as a single unit. However, AC modules currently come at a higher cost that we feel is unjustified given the options, except in certain situations where exposed DC conductors are unacceptable.

Best Value for Fire Safety

Surely safety is a factor in selecting the solar panel technology with the best value. In residential settings, the choice is obvious in our opinion – microinverters are the best option. There is an extremely compelling case for microinverters in commercial applications, especially in rooftop installations where safety and reliability are paramount. The value proposition is reduced for commercial-scale ground-mounted systems, particularly in systems over 50 kilowatts where string inverter prices are too compelling to ignore. For utility-scale applications, it would be hard to justify the cost of microinverters where fire prevention and mitigation strategies can be more easily employed.

The bottom line is that fire safety is an important and oft-ignored factor in a solar panel system selection. I believe it should be a top consideration and hope you will consider safety when selecting your contractor and system.

 

 

 

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Can I Put Solar Pool Heating Panels In The Shade

Solar pool heating panels can be installed in partially shaded areas with careful planning. This solar pool heater was installed on a west roof and oversized to account for partial shading throughout the day.

A couple of years ago I did an article and short video on how shade affects solar electric panels. Solar pool heating panels are different, and shade affects them differently.

While it’s always best to avoid shading with any type of solar panel, sometimes there just isn’t a suitable roof or there isn’t enough roof space. Sometimes the neighbors have a big tree they want to keep. Sometimes it’s your own tree that you want to keep. Man-made structures including buildings, towers, and other obstructions may shade your property at times.

The good news is that shade is not as devastating to solar pool heating panels, or at least they are affected differently.

First and foremost, solar pool heating panels collect heat from direct solar radiation, but also from the ambient air when it is warmer than the pool water. If the roof is warmer than the pool water, heat can also be gained via conduction from the back side of the panel. Tree shade and shade from narrow structures like chimneys and towers are not nearly as bad as they are for solar electricity. As the sun moves across the sky each day, only a portion of the solar panel is affected. The rest of the panel continues to heat the pool.

Is it ideal? Far from it. But if you are in this situation the best course of action is often to oversize the system. Sizing the system so that part of the solar panels are in the sun will achieve the same effect if the total irradiance on the array is the same.

If you have a suitable unshaded roof we will always steer you in that direction. You can install fewer solar panels to achieve the same results at a lower cost. But when there is just no other option, installing solar pool heating panels in the shade is an acceptable alternative, as long as there is some sun on all panels at least part of the day.

We can help guide you in how much you need to oversize your system to achieve the desired results.

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Where Is Solar Pool Heating Most Popular

Southwest Florida is one of the best markets in the nation for solar pool heating. Why? Because it works SO WELL here! But where in Southwest Florida is solar pool heating most popular?

We took a random sampling of 500 recent solar pool heating installations we have done and mapped them. The results are pretty telling. Now they may be skewed because we do focus our marketing efforts in certain areas. Our great reputation tends to follow us around, so certain areas tend to snowball our client list. So this isn’t exactly scientific, but it’s interesting to see.

And The Winner Is!

We do the most business in Cape Coral, which is a hotbed of pools, no pun intended. There are also so many great roofs that are not all cut up into smaller sections, making them ideal for solar pool heaters. It also happens to be the most populated city and has the most pools in Southwest Florida, so it is no surprise we are popular there!

Aside from a cluster near our office in Fort Myers, the rest of the distribution is pretty spread out. We do installations wherever there are homes. We have clients in pretty much all major communities. Whether it is an older community or a newly constructed development, we are there.

Note that may of the place markers are hidden behind others since we have so many neighbors referring neighbors!

Anyway, it’s not an exhaustive client list, but we thought it would be fun and useful to see where people are loving our solar panels. It’s amazing how quickly our client list has grown and super rewarding to see such a diverse client base. Solar pool heating is wildly popular in Southwest Florida and we are proud to be a popular option for solar panel installations here.

 

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What Is The Cheapest Way To Heat My Pool?

If you are looking for the cheapest way to heat your Florida pool, you have come to the right place. It’s a bit of a loaded question, but we will walk you through the options and relative costs of each major pool heating method.

For our analysis, we are going to assume similar quality levels for all technologies. For example, if we are talking about name brand units with premium heat exchangers, the same would apply to all technologies. In other words, we are making this as fair a competition as possible. Obviously, we have a bias toward solar, but the conclusions here are completely justified.

Gas Pool Heaters

At first glance, gas pool heaters are generally the cheapest initial installation cost for any pool heater. You can get a really good unit off-the-shelf for a low cost. They are simple devices that just burn fuel, along with some safety features and basic controls. However, if you do not have natural gas piped to your house or an existing liquid propane tank, you will have to get a buried tank in most cases. This drastically increases the initial cost, and it may no longer be the cheapest initial cost for you. It depends on your current situation.

That’s where the savings ends. Gas heaters are by far the most expensive heater to operate at current fuel prices. And not many people think that fuel prices are going to go down over the long term. It is very expensive to burn natural gas to heat a pool, and even more expensive to use liquid propane (LP).

Gas heaters generally do not last as long as electric heat pumps, and nowhere near as long as solar pool heaters. This is especially true if used frequently.

Electric Heat Pump Pool Heaters

Electric heat pumps come in all quality levels. For a quality unit that will last, it will be more slightly more expensive than a gas heater initially. If you do not have a suitable electric circuit at your pool equipment pad already, a licensed electrician will need to run a new circuit. Electric heaters typically require a 40 amp or 50 amp circuit, so your existing electrical may not be sufficient, even if you already have an electrical subpanel near your pump. The cost of running a new circuit may skew an electric heater initial cost upward drastically.

While the operating cost of an electric heat pump pool heater is lower than gas, performance and efficiency depend on the ambient conditions. Lower temperatures and lower humidity reduce the efficiency of heat pumps. In fact, if it gets too cool out a heat pump may not heat your pool at all, but continue running, costing you dearly. Heat pumps are generally rated at a water temperature of 80°F, air temperature of 80°F, and 80% relative humidity. Anything less and you can throw the efficiency figures out the door.

Think about it – what are the conditions when you need to heat your Florida pool the most during the spring and fall? It’s when the outside temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s, your pool is in the low to mid 70’s, and the relative humidity dips into the 50’s each afternoon.

About half of the installations we do are for clients that already have an electric heat pump and got stung by a high bill. They are shocked to find out that while heat pumps work efficiently in ideal conditions, they are wildly inefficient when you need them the most. Still, on average electric pool heaters are cheaper to operate than gas heaters, all else being equal.

Heat pumps last at least as long as gas heaters, but about half as long as a solar pool heater.

Solar Pool Heaters

Solar pool heaters can by the same price or slightly more than an electric heat pump. In some cases, solar pool heaters can be more expensive due to long plumbing runs or additional performance and convenience features selected by the homeowner. For example, if there is no existing pool automation system (controller), solar dealers typically recommend a differential solar controller. These maximize performance, increase convenience, and integrate into existing or future variable speed pool pumps.

So solar pool heaters are rarely the cheapest up front. But you can probably guess the real story. There is essentially ZERO cost to operate a solar pool heater. Once you make your initial investment you are finished.

In its lifetime, you can easily spend more money on gas or electricity than a gas or electric heat pump costs initially!

When it comes to lifetime cost, a solar pool heater is the clear winner when it comes to the cheapest pool heater. The small additional upfront cost is nothing compared to the lifetime savings. Aside from that, you can leave your solar pool heater on all the time. This adds massive convenience and increases enjoyment dramatically in our experience.

Maintenance and Longevity

Like all appliances and mechanical devices, at some point, there will be a service issue. A technician will have to come out to fix a problem or let you know if your pool heater has reached the end of its useful life. In this analysis, we are ignoring these costs because they are unknown and there is no typical answer. There is always a chance that a mechanical device will fail to perform properly. If you purchase a quality product, you are less likely to experience issues.

But we do know about longevity. Solar pool heaters generally last about twice as long as heat pumps and three times as long as gas heaters. This is borne out in the warranties that manufacturers provide. Gas heaters are generally warranted from 1-5 years*. Electric heat pumps have 1-7 year warranties*. Most solar pool heater manufacturers offer a 10 or 12-year warranty! There is clear confidence in the longevity of solar pool heating panels. With no moving parts, there is nothing to mechanically break down. Solar pool heaters reach end-of-life when leaks become prevalent due to untraviolet breakdown of the solar collector or physical damage due to wind action, expansion and contraction, or other physical actions like strikes or abrasion.

That means you need to consider that you will likely have to purchase two electric heat pumps or three gas heaters in the life of a solar pool heater.

* We should note that gas and electric heaters may have 10-year heat exchanger warranties, but these are not usually the components that cause those heaters to reach end-of-life.

 

Conclusion

When you consider lifetime operating costs and longevity of solar pool heaters, they are definitely the cheapest pool heating solution in Florida. No other technology comes close. In the lifetime of a solar pool heater, you will get way more total heating because you would never run your gas or electric heater every day (unless you have very deep pockets). Solar pool heaters can be left on all the time (until the water gets too warm for your comfort!)

While gas and electric heaters can reach higher ultimate temperatures at times, solar pool heating is the right balance of cost and pool enjoyment for the vast majority of Florida pool owners. There is a good reason that so many people with existing gas and electric heaters come to us to add solar panels to their pool. The cost of heating your pool any other way is usually prohibitive, if not painful.

In our estimation, over the last four decades, there have been over 100,000 solar pool heaters installed in Southwest Florida. Nothing has changed. Solar pool heating is still the cheapest, most affordable way to heat your Florida swimming pool.

 

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7 Things to Consider Before Using A Solar Cooperative

We are shining the light on solar cooperatives in Florida.

Purchasing a solar energy system can be a major decision with daunting research required before making a purchase. Solar cooperatives provide an opportunity for neighbors to become united in making purchase decisions. Learning how to best harness the sun takes time. Solar cooperatives can help put people at ease.

However, solar cooperatives are not always the best option, and can result in a poor purchase decision. Here are 7 things you should consider before using a solar cooperative:

 

1. The Winning Bidder Is Usually Not Local

While solar cooperatives generally favor local contractors, local applicants rarely win the bid to supply parts and installation services. As much as we all like to buy local, decisions most often come down to price or other factors. Let’s face it – price is almost always a primary factor.

Guess what – once that installer is finished with the last installation, there is rarely any real service after the sale available. They may provide required warranty services that were contracted, but timeliness suffers. They won’t likely maintain a presence in your community. And like many other companies in this industry, they will most likely not be around to service you anyway.

That brings us to the next reason.

2. Low Pricing Means Low Expectations After The Sale

Contractors that price their services so low will not have the financial wherewithal to provide service after the sale. The incentive is far too low. In fact, the number one way to go out of business is to charge too little. There is only so much good that sales volume can do.

Conversely, contractors that charge fair prices and act responsibly will put away reserves to deal with inevitable service issues. They are in it for the long haul and are focused on their reputation first.

3. Customer Acquisition Savings Is Nonsense

Organizers of solar cooperatives will tell you that the winning bidder does not have to pay high customer acquisition costs (advertising, commissions, etc.) to find cooperative members. That is simply not true. Cooperatives often charge fees to the contractor for every client they deliver, even if that client had already started a conversation with the installer. In fact, one Florida cooperative organizer charges $600 per installation!

I can tell you unequivocally – our costs to acquire a customer are far less than that.

And the idea that sales reps are not required is simply untrue also. In one cooperative we participated in, there were over 100 interested parties. 37 ultimately made a purchase. And the sales process for each of those 100 parties was equally as daunting as any regular client. Actually, it was even harder given the multiple information sessions that we had to organize and lead.

4. A Cookie Cutter Approach Is The Wrong Way To Buy Solar Panels

To make money on solar cooperatives, installers need to standardize their offering, limiting the available options to prospective buyers. Now that is also true of other installers operating outside of cooperatives, but they are not contractually obligated to stay rigidly within the guidelines of the cooperative.

Too many people buy products that are not in their best interest because they are swayed in a particular direction by the rigid rules of the cooperative bidding and operating process. Moreover, the solar contractor for a cooperative will have little incentive to tell you about other products you may prefer. They may not offer energy saving products or solar pool heaters, for example.

Solar cooperatives usually offer one or two solar panel options and one or two inverter options. That might be fine for you, but it might not. They aren’t going to tell you that!

5. Bulk Purchase Savings Is a Myth

Solar panels are a commodity, as are the related system components. If an installer is already in business and is doing any significant sales, they already have bulk purchase pricing and/or purchase commitments in place that result in the same savings. The cooperative installer is not going to access any better material prices than an installer of a similar size.

In fact, larger installers often have higher costs for labor and certainly for overhead. Smaller contractors can counteract higher material prices by running a tight ship.

6. Workmanship is Key

A solar energy system might be on your roof well beyond 25 years. Do you want someone installing solar panels on your roof after they are squeezed to offer a highly competitive price? That is a recipe for disaster. We routinely get called out to fix problems created by other supposedly reputable contractors. In fact, we recently handed a client a $22,000 bill to fix their mess. We basically had to start over.

Aside from money, the installer is also squeezed for time, having to install dozens of systems in a tight timeframe. The thought process is that this should result in economies that reduce prices. In reality, it just incentives speed over quality workmanship.

You can vet an installer all you want, but if they are sending crews in from out of town, they are likely not adequately supervised by the actual license holder. If they offered the best price or even the second best price, they have every incentive to cut corners.

7. You Are Not Supporting Local Business

In these days of next day shipping and wholesale pricing to the public, local businesses are closing their doors at an alarming pace. Some people don’t really care about that, and that’s fine. But for some industries, that is simply not an option.

Would you hire an out of town Air Conditioning contractor? What happens when your A/C goes out in the middle of August? Who are you going to call? Smart homeowners develop relationships with their electrician and plumber.

A solar contractor is just another trade contractor. We have a complex job involving other trades. We have to be experts in electrical, roofing, mechanical installation of equipment, and even plumbing. We do things that no other trades dare try. It makes sense to base your purchase decision on the relationship you are establishing with your solar contractor.

Aside from that, the actual license holder – the person responsible for your installation, should be local to oversee the installation and address any issues that arise before, during and after installation. The State doesn’t give licenses to companies. They give licenses to individuals.

 

Conclusion

Often we can meet or beat the prices offered by a solar cooperative. We appreciate that you might want to unite with neighbors. That can provide peace of mind and collective power, so the reasoning is sound. We encourage people to get multiple quotes, second opinions and do their own research.

We also ask you to consider whether a cooperative is the right approach for you. Listen to what they have to say. Attend the meetings. Educate yourself. Just be aware that it is also a sales pitch in favor of the winning bidder and the cooperative itself.

Once you have done your research, talk to us. Start a relationship. Vet us vigorously and check our reputation. And give us a chance to earn your business!

Contact us when you are ready.

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Electric Cars Run on Natural Gas

I hate to break it to you, but your electric car runs on natural gas – with a little nuclear power mixed in. The dealer didn’t tell you that, did they?

We’re being a little facetious here, but it is generally true. When you plug your car in and use utility electricity to charge it, fuel is burned to generate the required electricity. If you live in Florida, roughly 75% of electricity is generated by natural gas. Another 20% comes from nuclear power. The remaining tiny fraction comes mostly from coal, biofuel, and solar power.

Granted, an electric car uses far less fuel, but it does, in fact, use fuel indirectly to charge it up. It is hard to say exactly how much fuel an EV uses at the power plant level compared to the fuel used in a standard gasoline-powered equivalent. It’s safe to say that is is a multiple of somewhere between 2 and 5, possibly more. It depends a lot on driving habits and when the vehicle is charged because power plants are less efficient at producing power at peak times.

You may not be driving a gas guzzler, but it’s at least a gas sipper, and more likely a casual drinker.

So what can be done about this?

Solar Power for Electric Cars

If you are truly concerned about driving a vehicle that runs on fossil fuel, the least you can do is ofFlorida Solar Eastt the impact you have on the power plant. You could estimate the energy used to recharge your vehicle over a year and install enough solar panels to generate that same amount of utility electricity. Calculating how much solar is required is easy, but you may need to estimate, or actually measure your real energy use.

You would not want to charge an electric vehicle directly with solar panels. When the car is away from home it makes sense to allow that extra solar power to power appliances in your home, or even go back to the utility grid. After all, the whole goal is to just ofFlorida Solar Eastt your impact.

Usually, however, we see people installing larger solar energy systems than are needed just for an EV. There is an economy of scale that makes it more reasonable to ofFlorida Solar Eastt a larger portion of your total utility electric impact.

If you want to truly cut out fossil fuels from your daily commute, consider solar power for your home!

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Conflating Solar Power and Battery Backup

One of the greatest challenges we face as solar professionals is explaining to people how solar power and battery backup have little to do with one another. How did these concepts come to be intertwined, and why is it so challenging to overcome?

When the power goes out, people think that solar panels will keep your house running. Especially here in Southwest Florida, where hurricane outages are a primary reason to seek backup power, some people think that solar panels are a cure-all. They are not. In fact, most solar energy systems simply shut down and stop working when utility power is lost.

Whoa! What?

Yes. Really.

You Need a Battery

To have backup power during an outage, you need a battery – somewhere to store energy. Think about it this way: what happens at night when the sun is not out? Where is the power supposed to come from?

But what about the daytime? Why can’t you have solar power for your home without a battery during the day? That gets into two technical areas: energy conversion and code/safety issues.

Converting Solar Energy

Solar panels generate DC power, like the kind stored in a car battery. Your house uses AC power. The device that converts the DC to AC electricity is called an inverter. For an inverter to function, it requires a stable source of power that is able to meet demands. Since solar power is variable, the solar production might not match up with the time that power is needed by your devices and appliances.

Code/Safety Constraints

For solar power to be safe and “play nice” with the utility grid, there needs to be a way to disconnect from the grid when utility power goes out. This is to prevent backfeeding power onto the grid and electrocuting utility line workers. If you have a battery-based inverter, it usually fulfills this function. But you need a battery of course. If you do not have batteries, solar panels must completely disconnect from the grid, quickly and automatically during an outage.

Why the Confusion?

To understand why solar panels became synonymous with battery backup systems we need to go back to the early days of solar. Decades ago, solar panels were insanely expensive by today’s standards. You could not install them and get cheaper energy than you do from the utility company. The only economic viability for solar panels was for off-grid homes where it was impractical or impossible to get utility power. Some early adopters just wanted to stick it to the utility company at any cost. So they went “off-grid.”

For a time, there were essentially no options that were what we now know as straight utility-interactive inverters. There were battery-based inverters that happened to interact with the grid, allowing excess power to be “sold back” where legally possible. But the systems still required batteries to operate, and they were expensive and cumbersome.

For decades you really couldn’t buy solar panels for a home without battery backup. Solar panels were just assumed to come with battery backup. That’s how they all worked.

There were very, very few systems out there. Most were cobbled together in a DIY manner. Few qualified contractors existed, relatively speaking. But everyone just knew that solar panels came with battery backup.

A Revolution in Grid-Interactive Solar

Fast forward to the new millennium. There was a lot of talk about grid-parity coming in the future. This meant that the dream of solar power becoming cheaper than retail utility electricity was on the horizon.  Inverters that required no batteries came onto the market in a big way. The economic argument for distributed solar power on homes and businesses became reasonable. Even if solar power was still more expensive, the strategy of hedging against rising utility rates presented a reasonable risk/return decision.

New manufacturers emerged. The number of licensed contractors skyrocketed.  Consumer demand, economic fears, and environmental stewardship took hold.

In the last decade, the pace of innovation has been remarkable. Solar panels themselves plummeted in price to levels that the industry thought impossible. That has made the solar energy industry one of the fastest growing sectors in the US. Both utility solar plant projects and distributed solar on homes and businesses have seen exponential growth.

But virtually all of the growth in the last 10-20 years has been in grid-interactive solar with no battery backup component. The reason is cost. Grid-interactive solar is a no-brainer for someone with the right investment horizon. Batteries are wildly expensive with almost no economic argument in most places.

The Return of Battery Power

There has been a recent boomerang in the demand for solar with battery systems. Some really big names have touted their technology and its benefits. But batteries are still grossly misunderstood.

Where battery power makes the most sense is in places where energy is more expensive at certain times of the day. If daytime energy is expensive and nighttime energy is cheap, you can charge batteries at night and use that stored power during the day to smooth out your electricity costs.

But that has nothing to do with solar!

That’s not to say that solar power doesn’t have a part to play. For the same reason, generating solar power during the day can reduce your use of the most expensive energy.

But that has nothing to do with batteries!

That’s right – the two concepts are completely independent. Well, it isn’t quite that simple. In some places, you cannot sell back your excess energy to the utility company. In others, you may only get credit at the wholesale rate. Sometimes it may make sense to store “excess” solar production in batteries for later use.

But that has nothing to do with backup power!

This is where conflating the issues is apparent. You may be able to achieve these goals using battery back or solar or both or neither. They are interrelated but independent concepts.

A Resurgence in Backup Power Demand

All this talk about modern batteries that can shift demand for utility power has people confused. Just because a battery is great for load shifting doesn’t mean it’s great for battery backup. Can you use batteries for backup power today? Sure you can. We could do that decades ago. Can you do it economically? Absolutely not. Not yet…

Recent hurricanes in Florida has pushed consumer demand for backup power to new levels. It’s natural to explore solar and batteries as an option. We have the ability to make it work. But you need to have deep pockets. And compared to traditional backup methods like generators, there is still no economic argument.

But consumers see batteries all over the place. We now see cars that run on batteries every day (they actually run primarily on natural gas by the way). Slick marketing and wild promises cross news desks without context. Consumers are understandably confused!

Reliable Backup Power

Solar power with battery backup can be extremely reliable. I have lived completely off-grid with stable, uninterrupted power for long periods of time. Of course, the energy available to me was not endless like utility power is, essentially. But I didn’t need fuel. I was self-sufficient.

We hear this argument frequently. After a storm, gasoline, diesel, and propane sources are unreliable. Natural gas, if available, may be turned off during recovery efforts. But guess what – the “fuel” supply for a solar energy system is not as reliable as you might think!

What if your solar panels are blown off your roof or damaged by flying debris? Although solar panels got through recent hurricanes in Southwest Florida mostly unscathed, devastating impacts like Hurricane Matthew in the panhandle are simply unsurvivable. There is no such thing at total reliability.

Battery Backup Power Without Solar

If you really want backup power with batteries, you don’t necessarily need solar panels. You can install a battery backup system that charges from the utility grid (or a generator) and runs whatever you want in your home.  Think of it like one of those little UPS systems you have for a computer except much larger – and much more expensive. And you need a battery large enough to get you through the longest outage you anticipate. That could get very expensive, very quickly.

Of course, you could add solar panels to recharge batteries during the day, but it’s best to think of battery backup as a separate system. Don’t conflate the two systems, integrate them.

Solar Without Battery Backup

Solar power is now cheaper than utility electricity in the long run. Utility companies would not be installing vast fields of solar panels if it wasn’t cost-feasible. Homeowners are starting to realize that they can take control of their energy futures, lock in the price of electricity now, and hedge against the risk of rising fuel and electricity rates.

This has been the norm for almost a decade now. It is time to separate solar energy from batteries in the consumer marketplace to aid understanding and buy-in.

The good news is that manufacturers are making sure that existing solar energy system will integrate into future battery backup products. The electronics and safety apparatus that make solar power work today will allow coupling of battery systems as they evolve and become more affordable.

Batteries Aren’t Bad

Batteries use power. They don’t produce it. They are a cost, not savings when used in a backup scenario. In fact, you need “fuel” constantly to keep them topped off and ready for use.

But that doesn’t mean there is no place for them. Batteries are great for load shifting in states where that makes sense. Battery backup can be great for critical needs and redundancy. This is true whether integrated with solar power or not.

The time for batteries is here. The revolution in electric cars is evident. Consumers want clean, quiet, reliable power. As batteries get more affordable and achieve new levels of performance, their use will skyrocket. In another decade we might be asking why solar panels were ever installed without batteries.

Let’s just keep the discussion about solar separate for now!

 

 

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Enphase MyEnlighten Updated For Per Module Monitoring

Enphase is the world’s leading microinverter manufacturer, and they have always been at the forefront of solar panel monitoring. One of the most revolutionary benefits of microinverters in solar electricity systems is the ability to monitor each individual panel. Now Enphase is expanding its consumer monitoring offering to include this per-panel monitoring.

MyEnlighten Per Solar Panel Monitoring

The ability to monitor the energy production performance of each solar panel is now seen as commonplace and, in our opinion, a minimum requirement for system design and product selection. Both solar optimizers and microinverters allow for power production monitoring, but only microinverters provide both AC and DC monitoring parameters right down to the panel level. For that reason, we prefer the microinverter solution, and Enphase’s monitoring portal is second to none.

When Enphase microinverters first came to market in 2009, monitoring each panel was revolutionary. Consumers received the same per-panel monitoring capability as their installer. This actually created more problems than it solved. Empowering consumers with so much data led to confusion and unnecessary calls to the installer and the manufacturer. The solution at the time was to branch off a consumer monitoring portal called MyEnlighten that provided system overview data, but no detailed per-panel details. Installers maintained full access to per-panel data.

New consumers that were not grandfathered into the full data had the option to purchase the full Enlighten Manager web portal for their site.

Now, Enphase announced that the consumer MyEnlighten site will include summary data for each individual solar panel per day, month, year or the entire lifetime of the system. This is a great middle-of-the-road solution that gives consumers some insight without inundating them with technical data. Installers maintain an unbeatable suite of tools to analyze solar production, and the manufacturer has even more detailed insight into performance data.

As always, the Enphase system architecture allows remote updates and keeps systems running optimally.

These microinverters systems just keep getting better, and the return of per-panel system monitoring for consumers is a great improvement. Both the Enphase Enlighten app and the web portal will offer this new feature immediately.

 

 

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Solar Panels East and West I-75 in Southwest Florida

Over the last several days I have heard on the radio and TV that inland rain will affect Southwest Florida. Over the last 35 years living here, I have always noticed that afternoon rain comes earlier in the day further inland. Areas east of I-75 seem to get rain earlier and more often.

That got me thinking – is solar electricity production better near the coast?

I spent a few years of my childhood on Sanibel Island. My friends would always joke that our parents paid higher property taxes to keep the rain away. It just seemed like we would always have more play time in the afternoon before the rain arrived. That’s not to say coastal areas don’t get a lot of rain. It’s just my perception that the clouds and rain come later in the day, and it’s probably true. Naturally, that would allow solar panels to produce more energy while the peak daylight sunshine is available.

Looking at the Numbers

I did a quick study to see if my suspicions were correct. My methods were far from scientific, but the data definitely showed a small difference. Using the National Renewable Energy Labs PVWATTS solar modeling program, I picked out eight zip codes in Southwest Florida. Four are east of I-75 and four are west. The computer model uses historical weather data to predict solar energy performance for an average weather year in any given geographic area of the US. Here are the results:

On average, the selected zip codes west of I-75 outperform the eastern zip codes by about 2.7% annually. On one hand, that’s not very much. But every bit counts when you are trying to squeeze out as much energy as possible. It’s certainly not going to be a deciding factor whether to go forward with an investment, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The way I look at it is that it sweetens the deal for people living west of I-75.

Using microclimate data is important because small geographic climate difference can cause significantly different weather. To my knowledge, this is more pronounced in areas that have more drastic weather swings in small areas, like the windward versus the leeward side of a hill or mountain.

Maybe the higher taxes on Sanibel really do keep the rain away. The 33957 zip code topped the performance figures in my study. It beats the average of the other seven zip codes by 4%! It’s not surprising, given that it’s the westernmost zip code with a healthy sea breeze to keep rain onshore in the afternoons.

Zip Code Solar Radiation
( kWh / m2 / day )
33912 5.7
33957 6.0
33908 5.8
34110 5.9
34120 5.7
33920 5.7
33913 5.8
34142 5.7

Conclusions On The East-West Divide

These figures are all in a pretty tight range, so the conclusion should be taken with a grain of salt. But it’s all very interesting to explore. There are other factors that PVWATTS doesn’t consider, or at least I didn’t enter as parameters. For example, presumably more rain, or earlier rain, would wash off panels. Perhaps this would increase energy output once the sun comes back out. That’s really hard to determine. Either way, we are kinda’ splitting hairs here.

 

Note: The assumptions for the computer model were made consistent, using a south roof, standard pitch, and all other factors the same with the exception of weather data.

 

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Sonnen Certified Partner for Battery Backup

Florida Solar East LLC Solar Panel Design Specialists is now a Sonnen Certified Partner. We can now sell and install Sonnen’s Lithium Ion battery backup systems in Southwest Florida. Sonnen is a leading manufacturer of battery systems that integrate with solar photovoltaic systems, providing seamless and unlimited battery backup power for emergencies and utility outages.

Battery technology has come a long way in the last couple of years. We have been pretty resistant to offering battery backup to clients in the past due to high costs and limited backup capability. But better battery technology is coming into its own and becoming a mature technology. We can now confidently offer a product that is safe, reliable, long-lasting, and cost-effective for many clients who demand the latest and best technology.

Electric vehicles have spurred advancements in battery technology. Batteries are now smaller, lighter, less expensive, and more energy dense than previous technologies. Most importantly, they are now available in integrated units that are more appealing to consumers while easing design and installation requirements.

Batteries for Backup with Solar Panels

While batteries are not ideal for everyone, and can’t fulfill all backup roles, they can play a part in storm resilience strategies. The Sonnen product integrates with new and existing solar photovoltaic systems and can manage generator backup for truly redundant and reliable backup power.

The Sonnen “eco” line of batteries provides seamless battery backup while the “ecoLinx” line offers advanced load management and home automation integration. Both offer the same energy-dense lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery chemistry (LFP). Each unit incorporates an inverter, transfer switch, battery management system, and monitoring system in a complete UL listed package.

Because Sonnen supports “AC Coupling” of solar electricity systems, new and existing systems are easily integrated without charge controllers that made previous battery system designs clunky and inefficient in some ways. AC Coupling allows solar photovoltaic systems to maintain high efficiency during grid-interactivity, passing through excess solar energy to the utility company. With fewer components, AC coupling is the best way to combine battery backup with grid-interactive solar energy.

Unlike other products in the news, Sonnen batteries are readily available now with excellent dealer support and customer focus.

We are excited to offer this new product from Sonnen, and look forward to helping our clients with a workable solution to their battery backup needs. To learn more what battery backup can do for you, contact us today.

 

Sonnen ecoLink Battery System

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Should I Buy Solar Panels From My Builder?

We are seeing more and more home builders offer solar electric panels. For many years home builders have offered upgrades like swimming pools, outdoor living spaces, and improved finishes. And for many years pool builders have offered solar pool heating panels. Recently savvy builders have added solar electric panels to their offerings to meet demands from progressive home buyers. In fact, some communities like Mirada in Fort Myers have solar panels on every home. And Babcock Ranch is billing itself as the first solar city.

Buying solar panels from a home builder has pros and cons. Many builders are now incorporating solar panels into every home.

But should you buy solar panels from your home builder, or install them after the home is built?

The decision is much like that of a swimming pool or any other upgrade. There are advantages and disadvantages to either choice. Here are some of the big ones:

Advantages of Buying Solar Panels From Your Builder

  • You can potentially roll in the cost of solar panels to your mortgage.
  • Your builder should assure a level of good workmanship and provide a warranty.
  • You may be able to hide wiring inside of walls easier than with a retrofit.
  • The solar subcontractor will be vetted by your builder.
  • The cost will be predetermined and fixed.
  • You will have a single point of contact for construction.

Disadvantages of Buying Solar Panels from Your Builder

  • It will almost invariably cost more since the builder will likely charge a markup for managing the project.
  • You may be getting the lowest bidder as the solar contractor, not necessarily the quality leader.
  • Some builders use third-party finance companies that require you to enter into a long-term lease or separate loan arrangement.
  • The builder normally gets the tax credit incentives and does not necessarily pass these savings on to you.
  • Packages may be cookie-cutter and not tailored to your needs and wants.
  • The technology used may be selected based primarily on cost rather than the features you may want.
  • You won’t establish a working relationship with your solar professional.

Our Suggestion

We are pretty indifferent because we work for home builders and end consumers. We prefer to establish direct relationships with clients, but we recognize the advantages of going with the builder. Sometimes the peace of mind and a single point of contact are enough reason to do so for some people.

The solar contracting industry is built largely on retrofit products and methods since there are far more existing homes than new ones. Even in new homes, we are often the last trade in to do our work, which is similar to retrofit work anyway. There is little technical advantage, if any, to installing solar concurrently with the new home build.

Whether you choose your builders solar panel package or contract directly with a solar contractor, it’s easy to “go solar” today. Now that you are aware of the pros and cons you can make a decision that is right for you and your family.

 

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Solar Electricity For Your Home at Babcock Ranch

Babcock Ranch is a solar city. But what does that really mean, and how can you benefit from solar energy at your home?

The short answer is that there is a giant solar field near Babcock Ranch that is intended to provide enough electricity for the needs of the community. It is owned and operated by the local utility company, FPL. The land was donated by Babcock Ranch to FPL to make this happen. FPL gets all of the financial benefit of producing fuel-free energy and delivering it to you, all while charging you the full retail rate (which includes a fuel surcharge as required by the Public Service Commission).

It’s a great deal for the environment. It’s not much of a benefit for Babcock Ranch residents when it comes down to dollars and cents.

Be Your Own Power Plant

You do have the option of becoming your own solar energy producer. Your rooftop is a great place to put solar electric panels that you own. You get to use the energy the solar panels produce, and any excess solar energy is sent to FPL who is required to accept it at the full retail rate. They provide a billing credit to apply toward future utility electricity use.

The idea behind a solar panel purchase is essentially locking in your cost of electricity for the next 25 years. While utility electricity rates may go up, you have already made a fixed investment in your own energy plant. In essence, you are prepaying for electricity to avoid increases in rates in the future. It is an excellent hedge investment for the long-term.

If you could lock in the price of gas at today’s cost per gallon for the next 25 years, would you consider it? You would be crazy not to!

So while Babcock Ranch is truly innovative and doing a great thing, you can harness your own return on investment while multiplying the environmental benefits of clean energy. By installing your own solar panels you get to be in control of your energy future, and double the benefits of living in the first solar city!

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Babcock Ranch is Heating Up With Solar

Babcock Ranch is known as the first Solar City for its centralized solar electricity energy source. But did you know that it’s shaping up to be a hotbed for solar pool heating, too?

Solar pool heating is over 5 times more efficient than solar electricity at converting the sun’s energy to usable energy. While about 20% of solar energy can be converted to usable electricity with today’s technology, solar pool heating boasts an 80% plus efficiency level! That’s why solar pool heating system dot rooftops across Southwest Florida. And now Babcock Ranch is shaping up to be one of the best places to install solar panels.

Learn more about Solar Electricity at Babcock Ranch and how we can help you be your own electric company here!

With so many pools being installed, residents are looking for the ideal way to provide needed heat to enjoy their purchase. Natural gas is piped into homes in the community, but that is the most expensive way to heat a pool aside from liquid propane. While it is fast, gas is the least environmentally friendly method to heat a pool. We don’t understand why so many pools are going in with gas as the primary heating method.

Solar is the Answer

The good news is that solar pool heating panels work great with gas. You get the best of both worlds – a pool that is always warmed by the sun, every day of the year, without planning ahead, and at no additional operating cost. Gas allows you to quickly heat spas, top off heat in pools, and deal with those times when you need a last minute boost in your pool temperature.

So Babcock Ranch is heating up, literally and figuratively. We are installing solar pool heaters to satisfy the demands of clients who are looking for a great Florida outdoor lifestyle while keeping costs down and being good stewards of the environment. There is no better way to heat your swimming pool, so whether you are installing a new pool or want to retrofit one that was recently built, we are ready to help!

 

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Pentair Intelliconnect With Solar Pool Heaters

The Pentair Intelliconnect pool automation system was introduced in 2018. We are starting to see it in the wild here in Southwest Florida. This product is intended to fill a small niche market for pool only scenarios (no spa). It’s for pool owners need only control a couple of features and want online control via an app.

It covers only the very basics, like controlling a pump and a light, or a light and another electrical feature plus a Pentair variable speed pump. It can’t control advanced multi-color lights. The one major thing it adds is the Internet and app control that many people want. This will be the appeal.

The Pentair Intelliconnect is not capable of solar pool heating control. In fact, it doesn’t control any heater types!

There is one huge problem – the Intelliconnect is incapable of controlling a heater – any heater. That includes solar pool heating panels!

The Intelliconnect is not intended to control plumbing valves. It has no spa control and can’t turn water features on and off. That also means there is no provision for turning a motorized valve actuator for a solar valve. Moreover, it doesn’t even have a 2-wire control to turn on a heat pump or gas heater. It simply doesn’t do pool heating.

Limited Control for Pools

We find this to be a very limiting pool controller. Without heating, which most pools in Southwest Florida incorporate, we cannot recommend this product. We are imploring local pool builders to avoid using this controller. Many homeowners later upgrade pools to incorporate solar panels. Even if future traditional heaters are added, automated control is impossible. The limited appeal of limited app control of a pool is not attractive enough to install this controller.

Our recommendation would be to install a Pentair PL4 or PSL4. While more expensive, compared to the cost of a new pool, it is a small price to pay for much more capable control and future-proofing of the pool automation system.

The other factor with the Intelliconnect is serviceability. They are few and far between and unlikely to penetrate this market. Therefore, pool service companies will be unfamiliar with it. You want your pool service to fully understand your automation system. Otherwise, you are looking for trouble.

The Intelliconnect is a niche product to be avoided, especially if there is any chance that solar pool heating panels will be added to the home at any time in the future. The cost to replace the Intelliconnect with a properly featured controller outweighs the cost savings of installing this product initially. Do yourself a favor and avoid this controller. Contact us if you are building a pool and need a recommendation if you want to incorporate solar panels in the future.

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Be Careful Hiring a Solar Contractor in Florida

At least once a week we get an offer from someone claiming to be a solar contractor who wants to do our installations. They are offering subcontracting services. Some are licensed, some are probably not. One thing is for certain – the answer is NO!

Unfortunately, the solar energy industry has become a money-grab for people and companies who are not contractors, but sales and marketing organizations. Finding prospective clients and selling solar is fun and lucrative. The problem is that these companies often really have no idea how to install solar panels. They farm out the installation to another company, or often to a work crew with a truck and a few tools. Many times the sales organization is not even based in Florida!

Subcontracting Solar Installations

If these work crews are properly licensed and insured there is nothing illegal about subcontracting work, as long as the sales and marketing company is properly licensed in Florida. However, what we sometimes see is licensed contractors acting as just sales organizations who allow unlicensed work crews to do the work with little to no oversight. That is illegal, and that is a recipe for disaster. At best, these companies are built around a sales organization and the installation department is an afterthought.

Here is a fairly representative email from the many offers I get each year:

Solar Subcontractors Offering Services Are Everything That’s Wrong With Solar Energy Contracting in Florida Today.

 

Questions to Ask Before Your Hire a Solar Contractor in Florida

It’s not hard to imagine why you are at risk by hiring one of these sales companies who subcontract, but here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. If they do not operate an office and warehouse in reasonable proximity to you, how are they going to service your system in the future if needed and who is going to do it? Answer: They won’t, and you will likely have to call me and pay me to fix it as many others do.
  2. What happens if there is an injury and the employee is not covered under the prime contractor’s insurance? Answer: They will go after you or your insurer.
  3. How long will they actually be in business? Answer: We have fixed many, many systems for clients whose solar contractor went out of business.
  4. Is the licensee actually involved in the installation? Answer: Many times the licensee just lends their license to the installation crew to get a permit. Other times the licensee works for a different company than the one that sold you the solar panels.
  5. Can a subcontractor place a lien on my home? Answer: Absolutely – if they follow the Florida lien law and the company from which you purchase the solar panels doesn’t pay them, they can file a lien against your home!
  6. Are you going to get a quality installation? Answer: Probably not. Since these contractors just work for “dollar per watt,” they have every incentive to get the job done fast. There is no incentive to get it done right as they provide no warranty for workmanship. We have seen some of the worst workmanship in these scenarios with improper flashings, uneven solar panels, and even dangerous wiring.

How to Protect Yourself from Hiring the Wrong Solar Contractor

I recently visited a client in Naples, FL who purchased a solar photovoltaic system in 2017 under these circumstances. The company, which was based in Ocala, FL, is long gone. They never had an installation crew – it was farmed out to some guys with a truck. From what I was told, the original installer did not finish getting the permit inspections passed. Some of the installers who left the company contacted the homeowner and offered to get the permit issue fixed. They also offered to expand the system after the inspection was passed, which they did… illegally, and very poorly. Aside from the poor structural installation with improper waterproofing measure and no attempt at aesthetic techniques, the wiring was left in a dangerous condition with wire size too small for the expanded system. On top of that, it was connected on the wrong side of the whole-house generator, creating another hazard.

It’s just disgusting to me that someone who calls themselves a contractor can take so little care for someone’s property.

How can you protect yourself? Here are some tips:

  1. Find out where the contractor’s actual main office and warehouse are located. If they are not within a reasonable drive, don’t hire them. They will not want to service your system later.
  2. Look up the licensee who is taking responsibility for your installation. Google their name. If they are not easy to find, ask yourself why not!
  3. Check online reviews (but use common sense and see if they are likely real). Our online reviews are 100% legitimate reviews by real clients. Just as important, check for bad reviews. It’s amazing how many times companies with 2.3 stars still get hired. It’s so easy to check and obvious when a company has poor reviews.
  4. Ask to talk with the owner. If you can’t talk to them pre-sale, imagine trying to get in touch with them after the system is installed.
  5. Beware of unreasonable payment terms. The only hard costs before installation are usually engineering and permitting. Deposits are there to cover real costs and ensure that clients are committed. If the contractor can’t float the cost of materials for the time it takes to get the system installed and inspected, they may not have the financial wherewithal to earn your trust. Special orders are different, but for typical installations, demand reasonable payment schedules and never pay 100% until the job is 100% finished.

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Using Drones to Create 3D Solar Panel Layouts

We’re leading the way in the industry with our use of drones in solar contracting and with 3D computer modeling. While our competitors are stuck in the dark ages of creating a chicken scratch drawing of solar panels layouts or flat aerial images at best, we are utilizing sophisticated tools to create rich sales presentations, construction drawings, and marketing collateral.

Drone Image Used to Create a 3D Computer Model of a Solar Panel Layout

These two passions and processes started as separate initiatives. We began using 3D computer modeling long ago to create three-dimensional rooftops from satellite imagery. When drones became affordable and approachable, we thought they would be a good way to highlight our work for marketing photos and videos. We had no idea that the two techniques would blend together so well. We are finding that we can capture flat drone imagery and develop 3D computer models using stunning precision that is not possible with satellite or traditional aerial imagery. Even the paid aerial imagery service we subscribe to have nowhere near the detail and precision that our drones can capture.

Aside from looking great in sales presentations, this type of solar design can precisely identify and address roof vents and other obstructions that might impact solar panel layouts. That means no surprises at the time of installation and no question about how and where the solar panels will be located.

The technology is improving at a breakneck pace. We can already let the drone [software] take aerial imagery and have it create a 3D model automatically. While that is fine for rough work and rendering richly realistic images, it isn’t the best for precision engineering. Precise straight lines and right angles are required to line up solar panels and make drawings easily editable as projects take shape.

The video below shows a 3D computer model of a house that was created from a 2D drone image shot from 200 feet above ground level. Believe it or not, it is not a drone video onto which we superimposed solar panels. It’s a 2D image popped up into 3D with image textures applied to the 3D surfaces. Then we placed solar panels as needed onto the 3D surfaces, taking into account obstructions. Finally, we used the 3D computer model to render a video animation from various viewpoints in the model. This method removes distortion and angular skew from traditional imagery sources. We can also compare multiple images to confirm measurements and locate obstructions.

This technique comes in very handy where there is no commercially available aerial imagery. While free services like Google Maps offer great imagery and paid services offer more up to date imagery, the Southwest Florida area is growing very fast. There is a huge amount of new home development and many of our clients live in these new homes. Obtaining imagery for HOA architectural review, permitting, and sales presentations are often impossible without the use of drones.

As the only solar company in town currently with a FAA licensed commercial drone pilot on staff, we have a huge advantage. Flying drones for commercial use without a pilot’s license is unlawful and a serious offense, not to mention dangerous. We take safety and privacy very seriously and are a responsible member of the commercial drone (UAS) community.

The video above happens to be created from drone images taken in Babcock Ranch, which is billed as “The First Solar Powered Town‎ in the US.” The area is exploding with new home construction, but up-to-date aerial imagery and even street maps are hard to come by. Our solution works perfectly for our needs and those of our clients and the HOA. In this case we needed both a rendering of the home with solar panels for the architectural review committee and for the Charlotte County permitting process.

We can’t wait to see what comes next in technology that can help us as a solar contractor. We are already looking at infrared drone cameras that can pinpoint issues with solar arrays. The day when automatic software created 3D models will be precise and cost-effective enough for our use is right around the corner. Maybe we will see solar panel cleaning robots. And 3D printed parts will surely impact this and every industry. It’s exciting, and you can count on us to stay on the forefront of technology.

And here is the actual installation photo!

 

 

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Header Brackets – Another Myth Busted

We have published many posts on the myths, inaccuracies, and outright lies that some competitors talk about during sales presentations. When we bust the myth, they tend to move on to another scare tactic. Here one you might hear that has been used extensively recently:

“They use a plastic header clamps and ours is metal.”

So? Yeah. And?

I guess the tactic is intended to make you think that we use some cheap plastic clamp and they have a robust metal clamp, and that is somehow going to make our panels fly off the roof. Here is the truth:

  1. Our header clamps are made from an injected molded polymer that is the same composition as our panel header tubes with added glass component for extreme strength and UV resistance. The header clamps have been tested and are much stronger than required for the loads imposed. Just like all systems, a licensed engineer is required to sign and seal engineering drawings certifying that the system installation method and materials meet Florida Building Code.
  2. Header clamps (in all systems) are intended simply to keep the panels from sliding down the roof. The wind uplift loads are very low on the header clamps (the straps take the vast majority of wind uplift loads). The physics are pretty simple. On a pitched roof with an angle typical of Florida homes, each header clamp is only required to hold approximately 10 pounds of weight (it’s actually less because I am ignoring friction). For you engineers out there, I’m basing this on 50 pounds with a 23-degree angle roof with two header clamps, so: 50lbs x sin(22º) / 2 = ~10 pounds.
  3. After Hurricane Irma we found exactly ZERO broken header clamps in any of our installed systems. It simply is not an issue because the header clamp sees very little load.
  4. Our header brackets are not tight to the header tube, allowing expansion and contraction of the panels. As panels heat and cool, they expand and contract laterally. Our competitor’s aluminum header clamps are tight around the header, which does not allow this expansion and contraction. Aside from being tight, the sharp metal edges grab the polymer header tubes as they shift back and forth. The result is the header clamp twists back and forth, eventually loosening the screws and causing roof leaks. Here is video that shows this phenomenon we have seen over and over again:

A roof leak caused by a tight-fitting aluminum header bracket shifting back and forth with expansion and contraction over time. Note: the current version of the clamp is slightly different, but suffers the same issues.

  1. Metal (aluminum) header clamps are made from a dissimilar metal from the fasteners (stainless steel). In a corrosive environment, this can cause galvanic corrosion, essentially “welding” the fastener to the bracket, making service or removal difficult.
  2. The metal header clamps this particular competitor uses raise the header up less than 1/4″, which results in the header tube and rubber couplers to chafe the roof, causing abrasion and eventually leaks on shingle roofs. Our header clamps raise header tubes completely off the roof to eliminate abrasion.
  3. Our header clamps have raised fastener heads and sealant pockets underneath. This allows sealant to surround the fastener whereas the metal clamp is flat on the bottom and sealant simply oozes out from under the clamp when installed. Aside from the aluminum flashings we use on shingle roofs (nobody else does), these sealant pockets are far superior to the metal clamp sealing capability.

Just ask yourself why every other company uses a loose fitting polymer header clamp. This one competitor is trying to pitch a metal clamp as a competitive advantage, where it is really a serious design flaw in our opinion. The proof is in the pudding.

A side note on expansion and contraction: aside from our header brackets allowing lateral movement, the polymer used in our panels has the lowest coefficient of expansion on the market, meaning our systems have less movement from side to side, reducing the impact of thermal variation.

This whole nonsense about metal brackets being superior is just a scare tactic. They are trying to spin a negative into a positive. Common sense and evidence win the argument every time. Don’t let them scare you – reject the sales rhetoric in favor of physics and sound solar design practices.

 

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Solar Panels on Stone Coated Metal Tile Roofs

Stone coated metal roofs are becoming more and more popular in Florida. They are universally praised as being beautiful, durable, and highly wind resistant. With very long warranties and concerns about hurricane resistance, it is reasonable to expect these roofs to be purchased by more and more homeowners.

Installing solar panels on these roofs presents challenges. The only good way to accomplish it is during the initial roof installation in our opinion. Walking on metal tile is a sure way to crush or dent tiles, and it’s nearly impossible to maneuver while carrying solar panels and mounting equipment. Coordinating installation with the roofer is the only way to assure you don’t have to walk on the finished roof – at least minimizing the likelihood.

There are ways to retrofit these roofs for solar, but they are not ideal and they are costly. The first method we support is the “flashing sandwich,” which name I will credit to Quickmount PV who provides roof mounts and flashings. This requires using two sheets of metal tile and a solar flashing sandwiched between the two tiles. The second method is using a tile hook. These were originally developed for concrete tile roofs, but adapt well to metal tile. In the case of tile hooks, we advise going beyond code with the number of attachments to reduce flex of the brackets in high wind conditions.

We recently did a solar photovoltaic panel installation on a stone coated metal roof in Colonial Country Club in Fort Myers. There is a lot of re-roofing happening now in the community and homeowners are increasingly choosing metal tiles, which were approved by the HOA. We selected the tile hook method using a Quickmount PV tile hook. It went great!

Hiring a contractor with experience on this roof type is critical. Enlisting a roofer that will be cooperative with the solar contractor is necessary. Selecting the right method based on the roof manufacturer and model is imperative.

Gerard, Decra, and Tilcor are popular stone coated metal tile roof manufacturers in Florida. The roof we just finished working on was Tilcor, a product made in New Zealand. We were impressed with the product and its adaptability with the Tile Hook from Quickmount PV.

It is important to note that we are talking about solar electricity systems here. We do not recommend solar pool heating systems on stone coated metal roofs at this time. There are no suitable mounting products available, or the methods we are discussing here are far too expensive relative to the cost of a solar pool heater.

Your decision to install a metal roof should not impact your decision to install solar electricity. There are solutions out there that make beautiful and secure solar panel installations.

A Photovoltaic System on Stone Coat Metal Roof in Colonial Country Club, Fort Myers, FL With QuickMount PV QRail and Tile Hooks

 

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Flow Rates and Flow Balancing Explained

Recently one of our competitors has been telling prospective solar pool heating clients that plumbing, valve, and panel header size don’t matter. In fact, they are even saying smaller is better. Does that make sense? It’s just nonsense, and we want to set the record straight.

We use all 2 inch PVC pipe, valves, and full 2 inch inside diameter panel headers. They use 1-1/2 inch plumbing and panels. It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but a 2 inch pipe holds 80% more water volume than a 1-1/2 inch pipe! More importantly, a 1-1/2 inch pipe has 3.3 times the friction loss of a 2 in pipe!

All new residential pools are built using 2 inch plumbing (or larger) for good reason. Ask yourself: Does it make sense to use smaller plumbing for solar panels? The answer should be obvious. Of course not!

But why does this all matter?

Delta T

The most important concept in heat exchanger design and operation is Delta T (∆T). Delta T is the difference in temperature between the fluid being heated and the heat source, in our case, the surface of the solar panel. The greater the Delta T, the faster the heat transfer.

To put it in simple terms, if the water inside the panel is colder relative to the solar panel surface, more heat will be transferred to the water. This is science. This is physics. There is no denying this fact.

So how do you keep the water in the panel colder? You increase the flow rate! Keep the water moving faster and it will absorb more heat. This sounds counterintuitive to some, but it’s true. You don’t want a large temperature rise. You want a small temperature rise with a large volume of water flow.

So why does size matter?

Friction (Head) Loss

It is common sense that trying to force water through a smaller pipe will result in a lower flow rate. Just like more cars on a busy road causes traffic jams, more pressure in a smaller pipe means slower speed. The reason water flows slower in smaller pipes (and solar panels headers and tubes) is friction loss. The head (pressure) increases because more water molecules are subjected to the surface roughness of the inside of the pipe.

A smaller pipe equals more friction equals less flow. And as we learned above, less flow equals slower heat transfer to the water inside the panels!

Our competitors, if they are being truthful, will give us this point. Since they have no leg to stand on with this issue, they turn to another tactic…

Balanced Flow

Solar Pool Heating Panel Systems are Z-Type Heat Exchangers

An array of solar panels is essentially a “Z-type” heat exchanger with an inlet and outlet manifold. In any heat exchanger, balancing the flow so each small tube has the same flow rate is certainly important. You would not want some tubes with high flow, some with average, and some with low flow rates. Ideally, each tube has the same high/optimal flow to gain the most heat.

Other solar dealers will try to argue that their system balance flow rates better because they have more restriction. They argue that since our panels have very low restriction with larger tube openings and large headers, that our panels don’t balance flow rates adequately. However, they fail to understand the mechanics of manifold physics.

The most important factors in determining the effectiveness of flow balance are the ratio of the header to tube size and the overall flow rate. We have larger headers, so we can have larger tube openings and maintain balance. Higher flow rates also promote more balance. Since our system is built for higher flow rates, we have this aspect covered. The argument that our panels doe not have proper balance is totally false.

Any system that uses opposite end feed and return plumbing is inherently more balanced than one using same side feed and return. Increasing overall flow and using proper header to tube size ratios takes care of the rest of the issue. One competitor actually uses same-side feed and return plumbing (U-type heat exchanger) because their restriction is so high that they claim they can balance their flow with this design. However, that comes at the expense of overall flow, which we know decreases Delta T. Another competitor boasts about artificially/purposefully restricting flow on return plumbing to balance flow. That only makes sense if the inherent design of the system makes it necessary, and again it decreases Delta T!

There are some cases where increasing back pressure in our panels would be advantageous, particularly in very large systems. However, we prefer to balance flow in these cases with center feed/return strategies or balancing valves. It’s all about the flow when talking about heat exchange.

So what does this all really mean? Why does it matter?

Less Heat or More Energy?

When confronted with the facts, the science, the physics, competitors might start talking about test ratings. Solar panels are tested by a variety of agencies and labs using a variety of methods. One of the best rating methodologies is employed by the Florida Solar Energy Center (Florida Solar EastC). It is a composite rating to indicate how a particular solar panel will perform over different seasons under test conditions. There is only one problem. Test conditions do not exist in the real world.

Every dealer should tell you that all solar panels of similar construction should perform within about a 10% margin under test conditions. Some panels with separated tubes perform very well in summer (when you don’t need pool heating) and very poorly in winter (when you need it most). Separated tube panel Florida Solar EastC ratings have shown a 15% lower performance rating. But all of these test ratings lack usefulness in the real world where all else is not equal.

You see, the test ratings assume a specific flow rate per panel. The problem is that for a given single speed pool pump, all of our competitors’ systems will have lower flow rates. This is because they either use smaller plumbing and valves or their panels have high restriction to flow or both. This is undeniable, and we know that more flow means more Delta T which equals more heat transfer.

The issue is even more disturbing if you have a variable speed pump, which are fantastic energy savers usually. Since our competitors’ systems have more resistance, they need to set the pump speed higher to achieve the same flow rate as our system. This means you pay for more electricity to achieve the same (or similar) performance, have more noise, and run the pump harder than necessary.

So take your pick… systems with smaller plumbing and more restriction either transfer less heat or use more electricity. That, too, is undeniable.

They’re All The Same

When confronted with the facts, you will see other solar dealers revert to the old school tactic that all solar panels are going to heat your pool just fine. If you are the low price leader, this is a natural reaction to a competitor with a superior product. In fact, this was largely the case in Southwest Florida until we came along. All of our competitors’ systems are pretty close in performance and quality, with each having some good and some bad characteristics. Price alone was often a deciding factor, save for some small differences in features. But we are different.

How are we different?

The manufacturer of our panels took all of the good features of the existing products on the market and incorporated them into one panel while eliminating or mitigating the negative aspects of each. As a solar contractor, we took a similar approach and improved upon the materials and methods used to install solar pool heaters. Solar pool heating options are no longer all the same!

The biggest advent in Solar Pool Heating recently is the move toward more efficient pool plumbing, smaller pumps, and variable speed pump technology. All of the other solar panels on the market were developed decades ago. We consider these options obsolete now. We are able to achieve high flow rates, balanced flow, and low energy use in one purpose-built solar panel design paired with efficient plumbing and smart installation practices.

More Analogies

In case you are still questioning whether water should flow faster or slower, here are a few more analogies that might help explain the physics (and the common sense) behind Delta T.

Air Conditioning

Florida homeowners are very accustomed to air conditioning. Imagine if an AC company came into your home and told you that they could improve your air conditioning performance by installing a slower fan in your air handler. You would get less air out of the vents, but the air would be colder.

Does that make any sense? Of course not. The concept is exactly the same as solar pool heating, only in reverse. The faster the air flows over the air conditioning coil, the more overall cooling you get. This is because the difference in the air temperature versus the refrigerant temperature is greater. More heat is absorbed by the refrigerant at a higher Delta T.

Ice Water (or Tea)

I like to call this the Delta Tea analogy. You have probably noticed that adding ice cubes to a glass of room temperature liquid results in the ice cubes melting very quickly at first, but then they tend to linger and melt at a slower rate. This is Delta Tea in action! When the difference in temperature between the liquid and the ice cube is high, heat is transferred quickly and the ice melts faster. As the temperature of the liquid gets colder (closer to that of the ice cube) the Delta T decreases and heat is transferred more slowly.

Truth

We like to tell the truth – the whole truth. Don’t listen to anyone that says smaller plumbing is better. It’s just physics!

 

 

 

 

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Solar Panel Design to Reality – Visualize Projects in 3D

When designing solar panel layouts, we do everything in three dimensions. This helps us and clients visualize the final product much better. It also improves accuracy.

This video demonstrates a real project that we laid out in 3D and turned it into a reality at a home in Southwest Florida.

We did a “fly-over” animation using our 3D computer model and then did a real fly-over video with a drone. You can see how representative a 3D model can be!

When the time comes for solar panels on your Southwest Florida, turn to Florida Solar East LLC Solar Panel Design Specialists for unparalleled design resources. We have developed proprietary techniques and tools to model projects efficiently, allowing us to help you visualize your project economically.

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