Solar and microgrids have potential

microgrids with renewables
Weather and natural events point to microgrids as a solution. Photo copyright: vencavolrab78

A significant eclipse and two major hurricanes in 2017 have given rise to a new idea for keeping the electric supply more stable: microgrids.

Here are some of the highlights in solar energy news this year.

A major solar eclipse crossed the country on Monday, August 21. Coming as it did during peak load times and during the peak production season for solar electricity in the continental US, it was an opportunity to study how solar electricity impacts the grid.

While there were dire predictions of brown outs and other system failures, none of the predicted problems materialized. In fact, the temporary decrease in solar electricity production showed how resilient the grid is.

The eclipse, which obscured the sun to such a degree that solar power generation dropped to zero in some areas, gave electric utility operators hand-on experience in managing the mix of renewable and traditional power sources. This is important knowledge as renewables, particularly solar and wind, make up an increasing portion of power generation capacity across the US and around the globe.

In the late summer and fall, the future of solar was put to another test when two major hurricanes made landfall.

The first struck the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25, resulting in power outages for approximately 300,000 homes. Like the eclipse, Hurricane Harvey continued to draw attention to one of the issues highlighted by the eclipse: the stability of the electric grid when electricity production, whether from traditional or renewable sources, is interrupted.

The area where Harvey made landfall is responsible for a significant portion of the oil and gas production in the use. In the days following the massive storm’s landfall, oil and gas production experiences a significant decline because of the storm’s impact.

A little less than one month later, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, wiping out the power grid and leaving millions without electricity because the power grid, in poor repair before the storm, was effectively wiped out. Since then, the island has had a series of struggles in restoring power to many areas of the island.

Tesla founder Elon Musk grabbed headlines when he coordinated a solar panel installation that restored power to a hospital in late October. This feat introduced a glimmer of hope for the devastated island, and the current conversation about the future of Puerto Rico’s electric utility will depend heavily on renewable resources.

As we wrap up 2017, the events that have transpired this year point to a new direction for the development of solar energy: the microgrid. Microgrids are a localized system that can be connect to or disconnected from the traditional electric utility grid. The appeal of a  microgrid system is in the flexibility the speed with microgrids can be restored after a storm or other catastrophe causes a loss in power.

Get ready for 2018 and take your first step to be prepared for what every unfolds in the coming year by scheduling a solar consultation.

Productive solar panels all winter

Productive solar panels
Productive solar panels save money all year long. Photo Credit Ur Fingus

Will the shorter days of winter affect how productive solar panels are? That’s one of our frequently asked questions from people who are considering a solar panel installation this time of the year.

Solar electricity and long days with intense sunshine intuitively seem to go together, and it’s true they do. Sunny climates like ours here in Central Texas have optimal conditions for making use of the sun’s bounty as a cost-effective source of clean, renewable energy.

However, solar as an energy source is growing across the US, including places like New York, Boston and Seattle. Improvements in technology make going solar more attractive even in less than ideal climates. One of the world’s leaders in solar energy production is Germany – a country with sunshine days roughly equivalent to Seattle, but with a huge commitment to clean energy.

This also means that today’s solar panels are productive throughout the Texas winter. When days are shorter and temperatures are cooler, a well designed and installed solar panel system remains productive. Cooler temperatures tend to enhance solar panel productivity because the chemical reaction that converts light to energy is more efficient at cooler temperatures. This higher efficiency works to balance the effect of shorter periods of sunlight.

Did you know that even a snowy day can be a productive day for solar panels? Because the panels are converting light to energy, a bright, sunny day following a snow storm can be highly productive. Of course, the panels need to be free of snow to take advantage of the opportunity.

To take advantage of this benefit and keep saving money all winter long, you need to pay attention to these areas:

Have you cleaned your panels of all debris, like last fall’s leaves, pine needles, etc.? If not, plan to do that (or have it done) as soon as possible. Also trim any overhanging branches and git rid of anything that might obstruct the maximum amount of sunlight from reaching your panels.

Are your panels properly adjusted to take advantage of the available light? Taking care of this is a top priority if you want your panels to be as productive as possible this winter.

Minimize the amount of electricity you use by adjusting thermostats, using energy efficient lightbulbs and manage use of appliances wisely.

Your productive solar panels are an investment that will continue to produce a return year in and year out. Want to know more? Schedule a consultation today.

Solar panels and landscaping work together

Year round, your solar panels can continue to produce electricity that will lower your electric bill as well as other benefits consumers seek with solar energy.

However, to get the maximum value from your solar investment, you need to make sure that you take action to keep your panels productive.

One of the opportunities for greater solar production that homeowners sometimes neglect is their landscaping.

In a hot, humid climate such as the one here in Central Texas, landscaping can contribute both shade and cool summer breezes.

Trees are an important element in landscaping your yard. When you have solar panels, the selection and placement of trees is critical. They need to be placed properly to provide valuable shade without blocking sunlight from reaching your panels for maximum benefit. Choosing the right size and type of tree is also important to gaining both aesthetic value and climate control from your trees. Your goal is to reduce your homes interior temperature without diminishing the amount of sunlight available to generate solar electricity.

In addition to shade, trees have other functions in managing the heating and cooling of your home. A strategically placed row of trees can serve functions such as directing cooling breezes in summer and providing a windbreak in winter.

While we usually think about trees when we think of cooling shade, there are other ways to incorporate plants into your plan to keep your home more comfortable, reduce cooling costs and beautify your surroundings, too.

For example, a vine covered trellis can be used to shield southern facing windows from bright sun. Such an arrangement reduces cooling cost and creates an attractive landscaping feature, too. This and similar well-placed landscaping elements can have a surprising impact on the amount you pay to cool your home in summer.

Shrubs, groundcover and bedding plants all play a role in a beautiful, functional residential landscape, too. Studies show that well-designed landscaping can help reduce summer cooling costs as much as 50%. Working with a landscaper who knows how to utilize plants to help cool your home in summer and reduce heating cost in winter is an investment that will pay for itself in a fairly short time.

Savvy homeowner today are looking for home improvements that deliver value by helping them save money, reduce maintenance costs, increase comfort and aesthetic appeal.

Have you scheduled a solar consultation? It’s the first step to managing your electric bills!

Solar energy and passive solar = more savings

solar energy
modern sustainable design

A well designed solar energy system is the place to start saving money on your electric bills. But it doesn’t stop there.  There are passive solar features that can be retrofitted into your current home as part of a remodeling project.

There is growing interest in creating homes and other types of buildings that are easier and more efficient to maintain at comfortable temperatures so that reduces energy use and more saving is possible. If you are willing to make and investment and a commitment to using more passive solar energy, consider creating a sunroom or a sun space along that wall of your home.

A sunroom or a sunspace is an enclosed area designed to capture and utilize sunlight. In the past, such spaces were commonly used for additional casual living space. Today, homeowners are seeing these spaces as a means of capturing passive solar along south facing walls. When carefully designed for this purpose, sunrooms produce heat that is vented back into the primary residence.

An architect or designer who is a specialist in this type of project can design a system that uses vents and other air movement techniques to move the warm air from the sunspace into the interior of your home. In the ideal situation, air circulation is accomplished without mechanical devices. However, if that proves to be inadequate or impractical, fans and other methods can circulate air as needed.

The passive solar captured during cold winter months is a benefit, but keep in mind that the space will capture heat year-round. In the summer months, an awning, shades, etc., will need to be installed to combat the effect of sun on south facing glass. It is also important to consider factors such as humidity and how the space will be used so that appropriate features are included in the design. For example, using a few plants in the room is recommended, but too many will raise the humidity and reduce or even eliminate the passive solar potential of the room.

The use of solar energy is being improved year after year with the advancements in technology. Scientists and researchers are discovering new ways to use solar power to the fullest.

As the technology continues to improve, there is little doubt that solar will offer more opportunity for improving the efficiency and comfort of our homes.

A solar consultation is the first step to taking advantage of the savings available.

Photo (c) aNdreas Schindl

Saving Money with Solar

saving money with solar
Saving more money with solar is possible

Saving money is the primary reason to go solar, and it starts with solar panels to lower utility bills. Photo voltaic solar panels are the most frequently used method for actively harnessing the suns energy and converting it into electricity.

A well-designed solar panel array with a battery back up system can significantly reduce electric bills. But it doesn’t stop there.

In addition to using solar panels to generate electricity, there are many ways to increase the impact of your investment in solar that will also enhance the comfort and appeal of your home.

As with any type of solar energy investment, the place to start is scheduling a solar consultation to assess your current situation. From there, you can determine what provides the quickest path to reaching your goals.

Did you know that your windows play a key role in how efficiently you use energy resources to heat and cool your home?

In creating a more energy efficient home, taking stock of your windows is a first step. Make sure that you have the right type of windows, that they are in good repair, that weather stripping is installed and that any leaks are sealed. When windows basics are all covered, there are a wide variety of products available to help windows do their job of regulating the amount of air and sunlight that enters your home.

Awnings are a great way to regulate the amount of sunlight that enters your home. Modern materials and design features can be used to make awnings attractive and adjustable, so they deliver maximum protection against the elements.

In summer, awnings block sun from entering the home and increasing the temperature. In winter, allowing additional sunlight in can raise room temperatures and bring in needed light. Especially for south and west facing windows, awnings are a cost-effective way to reduce cooling costs and increase interior comfort, too

Window screens can help reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches interior spaces in summer. In winter, when having more heat and light is desired, screens can be stored away. In hot, sunny climates like we have here in Texas, window screens can make a big difference in cooling cost and home comfort, too. Storm panels and shutters offer another adjustable option to control heating and cooling loss around windows. In warm climates, the problem most homeowners need to address is controlling sunlight and stopping the loss of cool air produced by the HVAC system.

Exterior features like awnings, shutters, solar screens and storm panels help reduce the amount of energy needed by the HVAC system. Drapes, blinds and other elements of window design and décor can all play a part in making your home both more comfortable while saving money with solar.

Saving money with solar starts with a consultation – schedule one now!

Solar investment makes good sense

Solar investment is growing as residents, business and cities alike find that renewable energy makes sense. Texas is becoming a leader in solar energy, adding solar capacity that includes residential solar rooftops, large infrastructure projects and major businesses making significant investments in solar energy.

Though solar and other renewable energy sources may initially attract attention because of environmental concerns, it is their bottom line impact that is most frequently sited when the decision is made to invest in renewable energy. Helping to reduce pollution and contributing to a cleaner environment are secondary to the economic benefits.

Across Texas, cities are recognizing the power of solar to save their residents and businesses money on their electric bills. In addition to Austin, here are some other Texas cities that have recently made headlines for their commitment to or exploration of the benefits of going solar.

Houston was recently recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Green Power Partner for their initiative that incorporates renewable energy into the cities electric utility program. With the aim of saving Houstonians money on their monthly bills, the city created a plan to use both wind energy and solar investment to save over $1.9 million dollars during the life of the project.

Georgetown, Texas has made numerous headlines in recent years as they invested in solar and wind production facilities. For this Texas city just north of Austin, a rational evaluation of all the alternatives showed that investing in the production of wind and solar would be the best way to manage the cost of energy over the coming decades. Like residential consumers, the city decided to invest in solar because they take the long view. Over time, owning the means to produce your own renewable energy protects against the ups and downs in the marketplace.

In late October of this year, the city of Denton attracted positive notice as they revealed the plan presented by a consulting group tasked with determining the best way to manage their public utility for the benefit of residents. The analysis predicts that by purchasing a combination of solar and wind generated electricity, Denton Municipal Electric (DME) can convert to using solely renewable resources in the near future. DME is a public utility, owned by the residents of the city. The utility board is currently evaluating adoption of the proposal.

For Texas residents, business and municipalities, solar, wind and other renewables represent an opportunity to grow something every city needs: jobs. Today, renewable energy production and associated services bring jobs to local economies. Who doesn’t want to save money, keep our environment clean and produce jobs for Texans?

Curious about how a residential solar investment can benefit you? Schedule your consultation today. http://bit.ly/GetaSolarConsultation

Residential Solar System: Sunlight to Electricity

Do you know how a residential solar system converts sunlight to electricity? The photovoltaic (PV) panels collect sunlight, then use a piece of equipment called an inverter to turn the light into usable energy for you and your family. It’s a fairly simple system, but putting all of the components together into a productive system requires special expertise. That’s why you want to work with a professional solar system company.

The inverter is one of the most critical parts in your residential solar system. It takes the direct current (DC) electricity created from the interaction of light on the photovoltaic cells and converts it into the alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used in your home and by the grid.

What determines the inverter that your installer will recommend?

As with any home improvement project, it depends! The first part of your solar consultation will be about what your solar power goals are. Here are just a few of the questions you will cover:

  1. Do you want a grid-tied system?
  2. Are you planning to create a battery back-up plan so you are protected in case of catastrophic weather?
  3. Is your home at a remote location that requires a free-standing system (not connected to the grid)?

The decision about what size and type of inverter to install depends on your answer to these questions, along with some others that will guide the design of your system. Your solar consultant will have recommendations of inverters and will include that information in your proposal.

In general, you will want to purchase an inverter large enough to cover demand now and in the future. As your needs change, you can add additional panels for increased capacity if your inverter will accommodate the expansion.

Important points to remember about your residential solar system inverter:

  • The inverter should be covered by a warranty, just like the other components of the system.
  • Your PV panels will last much longer than the inverter, so expect to replace it during the useful life of your system.
  • As a critical part of your residential solar panel system, any financing, rebates, incentives or tax credits you qualify for will help cover the cost.

Schedule your consultation today – there’s no better time to go solar!

Residential Solar for Bottom Line Results

Solar energy has been around for millions of years, but it’s only been in the past twenty years or so that residential solar technology has been able to harness it for cost efficient use. The good news is that in the past decade, several breakthroughs have allowed more people to take advantage of this amazing, cost effective and renewable resource.

Did you know that most homeowners make the decision to use solar power because it helps them save money? However, residential solar panels produce a “triple bottom line” result:

1) Number one, of course, is that it helps homeowners and business save money on monthly bills. Everyone likes to complain about ever rising energy bills. Now you can finally do something about it. When you install a solar panel system that you own, you have some control of your energy costs, regardless what happens with other energy sources!

2) Solar energy is clean energy that generates less pollution than fossil fuels.

3) Solar energy adds to the local economy by creating jobs right here in Central Texas. Jobs in a wide variety of professions and skill levels, right here in our community, result when homes and business go solar.

If you considered using solar energy several years ago, it’s time to revisit the issue. In 2017, solar power systems are more efficient and can generate more electricity with less sunlight. So, even if were told your home doesn’t have an ideal orientation for residential solar in the past, improved technology might allow you to do so now.

Because of the increased efficiency of today’s solar panels, smaller panels generate more electric energy that ever before. If you have a small home or less space available for panels because your home’s design or placement, you may still be able to benefit from solar energy now.

Even though you will still be tied to the grid, solar panels can significantly reduce your electric bills. And, you will still be able to take advantage of those additional bottom line results, too.

Don’t hesitate another minute to find out more about putting the clean, abundant and cost effective energy from the sun to work so you save money, help reduce air pollution and maybe even improve the local economy.

Contact @goprosolar now and schedule your consultation.