Solar made easy

Solar made easy
Solar made easy. Photo credit tupungato

Installing a solar panel system on your home may seem complex and bewildering, but a residential solar panel system required for most homes is fairly simple.

Here’s a quick summary of the components that you will need to start converting the sunlight that falls on your roof into low cost, renewable energy that your family can use:

Photo Voltaic (PV) Solar panel are the most important component of the system. It’s the panels that actually capture the light so that it can be converted into a useable power source. The panels installed on your home should be of high quality and be backed by a warranty. Investing in a good quality solar panel insures that your system will provide years of low maintenance service. The panels we use for our customers are backed by a 25 year warranty.

The PV panels will be installed on a rack that is physically attached to your roof.  To order prepare for the installation, the roof needs to be in good repair. Your installer needs to have the knowledge, skill and experience needed to do the job right the first time. You always want to deal with a reputable installer who stand behind their work.

The next step in converting the light captured by your PV panels into useable energy happens in the inverter. For residential installations, a simple device known as a string inverter is used to make the energy received into the solar panels ready for use in your home or for entering the grid if you have a grid-tied system. This step is necessary because the solar panels produce electricity that is direct current (DC) but alternating current (AC) is what we need in our homes.

Those are the two necessary components needed to start converting sunlight to electricity. Your solar consultant will go into details about other accessories and components that may be needed for your installation.

With the basic system described – solar panels plus inverter – electricity needed when the panels are not active will be supplied by the grid. However, adding a battery system allows storage of the electricity produced during the day to be used round the clock. A battery back-up system can also be used when electricity from the grid is not available, such as in the aftermath of a storm.

Converting your home to solar is as easy as 1-2-3 and the first step is scheduling an appointment to find out how you can get started saving money on your electric bills.

Solar customers are best prepared for power outages

solar customers best prepared for power outages
Solar customers are best prepared for power outages. Photo © blueringmedia

Did you know that a solar panel system with battery back-up is a great way to prepare for an unexpected disruption in the grid? Whether the outage is caused by weather conditions like a hurricane, tornado or ice storm, or by strain placed on the grid during peak hours, solar customers fare better than most.

For solar electric homes and for those who depend entirely on the grid, there are a few important steps to take so you will be prepared for power interruption, regardless of the source of the problem.

Make a habit of always keeping batteries in cell phones and computers charged and ready to use. When the power is out, limit use of devices to critical communication. Change the power setting on your phone to low power. Whenever possible, communicating by text rather than voice helps, too.

If you don’t have an emergency kit already, assemble one and store it in a safe but readily accessible place. Check the kit regularly and replace items that have may be past their “use by” date or in poor repair.

It’s a good idea to sit down with your family and create a plan about what to do when the power goes out. When the lights go out or flood waters are rising and everyone is under duress it’s too late to decide about what essential tasks need to be taken care of and who’s best suited to handle them. Planning is especially important if you have young children or an aging parent in your home.

If there is someone in your home that depends on a life-support system, contact your utility company, let them know about your situation and find out that they offer their customers in terms of emergency support.

Does your city have an emergency alert system? If so, sign up for it to get text messages when there are threatening conditions in your area. Check with your utility company, too, and sign up for any emergency alerts they offer.

If you are a customer of Austin Energy, sign up here for text alerts about power outages

https://austinenergy.com/ae/outages/get-outage-alerts

A little time spent planning can help you and your family avoid stress and maybe even enjoy a short break from the constant connectedness of modern life.

If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to explore how installing a solar panel system can help you save money on electricity and be better prepared for the storms and power outages that spring frequently brings.

Solar energy grows from strong roots

solar energy part of mix
Solar will grow in 2018 as part of sustainable future Copyright: nexusplexus

Solar energy and other alternatives are making up a larger part of the energy mix in 2018. It comes as no surprise that Texas is a leader in solar, wind and other renewables along with coal, oil and gas. In terms of energy leadership, the Lone Star State has some significant advantages.

Geography is one of the most important. Our location lends itself to a high number of sunshine days with warm temperatures that keep snow and ice away. Beneficent geography also makes Texas a leader in wind energy as harnessing the wind that sweeps across the plains of west Texas generates clean, renewable energy. And, of course, we can’t forget the petroleum industry that first put Texas on the map.

The long history Texas has in the energy industry is important to our energy future. It’s no accident that our state leads in both traditional and renewable energy production. The knowledge and skill base that allowed Texas to thrive in the oil, gas and coal era is transferable to alternative energy.

In 2018, all of these forces will continue to play a role in making Texas a leader in solar and other renewables.  Here are recent examples of how our public universities are leveraging strong programs in energy science, created originally with a focus on traditional sources, to expand into the renewable and sustainable arena. See last week’s blog post for more.

For example, the University of Texas at Austin has a Solar Energy and Renewable Fuels Laboratory that is engaged in projects ranging aimed at improving current technologies and discovering new ones to forward the goal of providing clean, renewable and cost efficient power for human needs.

UT Austin also participates in the Center for Next Generation Photovoltaics, a project of the National Science Foundation Industry. The goal is to work with research institutions and industry to refine and improve current photovoltaic technology. Visit their website for a list of all projects and initiatives they are part of.

The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Texas Sustainable Energy Institute launched LeapTran in December 2017 LeapTran. In line with their mission of creating a sustainable energy future, the institute has received significang grants for projects such as renewable energy storage and the Sun Shot initiative. They recently received a $1.5 million grant from San Antonio’s CPS to improve power technologies.

In terms of energy leadership, Texas has it all: favorable geography, historical leadership in energy production, infrastructure and institutions that support the energy industry. What might be most important, though, is the can do Texas spirit!

What can you do to create your own independent energy future? Schedule a consultation today.

Solar Future lies in Texas

The future of solar lies in research that will improve the efficiency of solar panels, battery storage systems and related technologies. At Universities and institutes across Texas, research and innovative projects are paving the way for the growth of solar in the coming decades.

On December 15, 2017, NASA announced the finalists in the 2018 Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge. Texas A&M was awarded a finalist position for their Applied Photovoltaic Power Array (APPA). The university teams participating in the challenge were tasked with designing components for a solar power system that would land on Mars in anticipation of human travel to the Red Planet.

Other finalists included Norwich University, Princeton, The University of Colorado and the University of Virginia. The goal is to develop innovative and breakthrough technologies that will harness the sun’s power for travel, and the development of potential colonies, on Mars.

The University of Texas at San Antonio is focused on improving energy efficiency and sustainability through five projects currently under development. They are part of a Strategic Alliance between the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute (TSERI) and CPS Energy. The Institute was founded in 2010 to take advantage of UTSA’s knowledge in the areas of energy, engineering, information systems, cybersecurity and mathematics.

There are other projects under development at the University of Texas at San Antonio. They recently launched LeapTran, Inc, a company that will utilize artificial intelligence, hardware and software projects to optimize building comfort and incorporating solar, micro grid distributed energy resources such as solar power and battery energy storage systems. The goal is to reduce energy waste in buildings using technology. The project

In November 2017, The Daily Texan reported that the University of Texas system is leasing tracts of land in West Texas to several developers who will build solar farms on the property. This will be the first solar development on the land, but the land has been leased by oil and natural gas companies for drilling. In addition to the five projects currently planned, there are also several wind energy projects.

As we move in to 2018, Texas is focused on continuing to grow solar as a sustainable, cost effective energy source. Shouldn’t you be, too?

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.

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

Solar electricity and solar panels reimagined

solar electricity from panels
Engineers, scientists and advocates bring solar future into focus

Solar electricity is more attractive than ever as solar panels and the components used to convert the sun’s energy into cost-efficient, renewable and clean power are rapidly becoming more efficient and more cost effective for the typical residential and commercial customer.

But, in addition to the brightest minds that are currently concentrated on developing more efficient photo voltaic panels and battery and storage systems that are more effective, engineers, designers and renewable energy advocates are also working on projects that push the boundaries of what solar panels and solar electricity  are currently used for.

Here are three examples of projects currently making headlines:

Emirates Insolaire, a joint venture between companies in Dubai and Switzerland, is producing solar panels in colors like gold, terracotta and gold. The company as also liberated the solar panels from the roof, installing them as part of the buildings façade and other design elements, too. While the company markets the panels with an eye toward esthetics, these products meet productivity standards, too.

It seems natural that as solar panels increase in visual appeal, they will gain wider adoption. Source: http://bit.ly/GineersNow

A scientist in California is developing a device that allows solar panels to collect light from the sun and to filter water out of the air, providing both solar electricity and clean water to the home! The device uses nano-materials to capture water vapor while the solar panels condense it and minerals purify it. The developer of the system, known as Zero Mass, may hold the keys to providing clean drinking water for communities in the United States and around the world. http://bit.ly/ForbesZeroMass

While some scientist and thought leaders are thinking on a grand scale, someone must put their ideas to the test. A father/son pair from England are doing just that, setting off on a 600-mile journey to Antarctica, powered only by solar electricity and wood-chip biomass fuel. Solar panels and a device developed by NASA will allow them to melt water for cooking and drinking. Their aim is to prove that renewable energy is reliable and efficient enough to allow them to successfully complete their trip. http://bit.ly/Reuters_trek

As 2017 ends, the future of solar energy seems brighter than ever. Schedule a solar consultation today and start creating your renewable energy future now.

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.

Solar Benefits Year Round

Did you know solar benefits don’t disappear at the end of summer?

Fall is here, and the days are getting cooler and shorter. While your solar panels are most productive during long summer days, you can gain solar benefits year round.

First of all, even though days are shorter and the sun is less intense, solar panels are actually more productive in moderate temperatures. It seems counter-intuitive, but photovoltaic cells are capturing and converting light, not heat, into electricity. Temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees are perfect for solar panel productivity. This means that shorter cooler days can equal the energy output of longer, hotter ones.

The real key to having your solar panels at maximum productivity is the design and installation of your system. The size and placement of the panels on your roof and the angle of adjustment make a big difference in how much power is generated. That’s why you want to choose a company that has expertise and experience in solar system design and installation.

An additional reason that fall is a great time to go solar is that a solar system with battery back-up is the best way to deal with power outages. There are a range of weather related causes for power outages:

  • Hurricanes – what’s referred to has Hurricane Season stretches from June 1 through November 30. These storms can cause power outages from high winds and flooding, too. As we all know from recent experience, a big storm can leave thousands without power for several days.
  • Freezing temperatures – while we don’t experience the long stretches of winter that our northern neighbors do, every Texas winter generally brings some freezing temperatures. Even a slight dip below freezing combined with rain can result in dangerous roadways and downed power lines.
  • Lightning storms – Texas experiences more lightning strikes than any other state and has 15 deaths from lightning so far in 2017. Lightning can cause power outages in several ways ranging from issues such as trees falling across powerlines and power surges that knock power out. These outages are general of short duration.

Getting your solar system up and running makes sense. And, don’t forget, you can claim tax credits you might qualify for on your 2017 return. Check out this blog post for information about tax credits, incentives and rebates: http://bit.ly/SolarIncentivesEtc .

The solar company you want to do business with has a knowledgeable, trained staff who spend the necessary time and have the skills they need to create the best, most productive installation for your home. Your solar consultant should also be able to discuss the technical aspects of your specific installation with you.

Contact us today!  http://bit.ly/GetaSolarConsultation

Solar Panels Keep Working

Solar panel maintenance will be one of the easiest routines on your end of summer checklist!  Did you know that solar panels are one of the most maintenance free assets in your home? After installation, solar panels keep working for years, even decades, almost maintenance free.

Even so, there are a few, easy tasks that need to be performed on a regular basis to keep the panels producing the maximum amount of clean energy. Most of these tasks can be incorporated into the routine seasonal chores you already perform to keep your home in good repair year-round.

Solar panels are virtually maintenance free because they have few working parts. When you work with a company that does a professional installation of top-quality panels, expect years of energy production from them.

The focus will be to help the panels produce the maximum amount they are capable of by keeping them free of dust, dirt and other debris that can accumulate during the normal course of the year. Spring may bring a heavy coating of pollen. Sometimes our central Texas summers can be dry, resulting in a layer of dust that can reduce solar panel productivity. This year, however, there was plenty of rainfall, so that’s not a concern.

As we move into fall however, leaves, pine needles and other plant material can find its way onto your roof and solar panels. If this sounds familiar, it’s the same list of “stuff” that can clog the gutter system around your home. The remedy is the same, and can be handled at the same time. Some homeowners enjoy the fall ritual of climbing a ladder and cleaning the gutters, others prefer to find reliable pros to do the job.

If you decide to tackle the job yourself, keep in mind that while solar panels are tough and durable, rakes and other sharp implements can cause damage. Do your research by consultant the materials you received from your installer before climbing up on the roof. Be sure you understand the tools and techniques for maintaining your investment. Or, ask your solar installer about the best way to handle the job. You will also want to get their recommendation about maintenance routines for the inverter, which is never a do it yourself job!

Start planning now, and adding these simple chores to your fall to do, or to hire, list will pay dividends as your solar panels provide low-cost, reliable energy for years to come.

Photo information: http://bit.ly/photocreditlevkr