Showing posts with label solar panels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label solar panels. Show all posts

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Pearl Homes is Building Eco-Homes Powered by Solar Plus Sonnen EcoLinx Energy Storage

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                             Image credit: hunterspointfl.com

Pearl Homes is a Florida-based company that focuses on building ultra-modern eco-luxury homes. Pearl Homes has just broken ground on Hunters Point, to build the luxury home community in Cortez, Florida. The project includes 86 eco-friendly, single-family homes powered by approximately 6-kW solar plus sonnen ecoLinx energy storage systems. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Hunters Point debuted online and 70% of the homes have already been sold.

The Pearl Homes ECOsystem has a network of sustainable suppliers and contributors that enable Pearl Homes to construct environmentally friendly and self-sustaining homes that are highly competitive on the market today. Pearl Homes fully recognize the need and importance of climate action, so in cooperation with Sonnen and various eco-friendly suppliers, they offer buyers a high-tech eco-home that both reduces the total cost of ownership and minimizes each home's carbon footprint.

Sonnen is a German energy storage provider and a global leader in innovative, intelligent, and safe battery technology for the residential market. The sonnen ecoLinx is one of the most advanced home battery solutions. The storage system manages power distribution throughout the home and works with rooftop solar panels to provide Pearl Homes residents with direct access to configurable emergency backup power and sophisticated energy management. The lithium-iron-phosphate cobalt-free battery technology in ecoLinx is safe and sustainable, easy-to-install, long-lasting, competitively-priced, and offers Pearl Homes buyers and residents an industry-leading 15,000 cycles/15-year warranty.

Hunters Point is designed to be power company-ready and includes the sonnen Virtual Power Plant (VPP) platform that will allow Florida Power and Light (FPL) to manage the reserve power generated by the community as needed. In addition to integrating with utility control software to provide grid services, such as demand response and load management excess, stored solar energy can also be used to power the lighting in community common areas.

"Our adoption of the sonnen ecoLinx makes the Hunters Point homes more energy-efficient," said Pearl Homes founder Marshall Gobuty. "With it, our buyers will be able to automate their home energy management in the most modern way that compliments the unique style and design of the Pearl Home."

The sonnen ecoLinx can be optimized and managed by a mobile app for backup, peak period, and solar usage and to monitor energy on demand. "Between the sonnen mobile application and the Google Nest in-home automation for temperature controls, Hunters Point buyers will be able to enjoy a healthier, cleaner, and unparalleled quality of life well lived in the world's first LEED NetZero community," added Gobuty.

Pearl Homes company aims to achieve NetZero Plus by reaching the highest USGBC's LEED ranking in their housing developments in Florida and California. To accomplish the goal, the company uses energy-efficient design, works with sustainably focused suppliers, and builds entirely solar-powered homes.

"Hunters Point is the first non-utility based residential Virtual Power Plant (VPP) ever established in Florida through the aggregation of individual solar systems being paired with sonnen ecoLinx energy storage systems," said Jim Spano, Executive Chairman of My-Resi, the leaders in energy resilience and virtual power plant development. "The inclusion of grid-tied sonnen ecoLinx systems delivers Hunters Point residents with resilient backup power and greater energy management, while also providing a dispatch-able energy services platform to support grid stability when needed."

Besides the installation of the sonnen ecoLinx energy storage system, all Pearl Home projects are also designed and built to be self-sustaining and eco-friendly. The homes incorporate WaterSense plumbing and fixtures to minimize waste and reduce environmental impact. The specified GE's EnergyStar appliances require a minimal amount of power. And the Google Nest thermostats help homeowners manage and monitor the temperature to control their homes' air conditioning and heating for maximum comfort.

"Marshall and his team at Pearl Homes are at the forefront of NetZero, LEED-based home building," said Blake Richetta, Chairman and CEO, sonnen, Inc. "From our first discussions about Hunters Point to today, sonnen has been amazed at the forward-thinking ideas behind the Pearl Homes and their dedication to providing the most high-quality, energy-efficient, and environmentally advanced homes on the market today. Our ecoLinx intelligent energy storage system is the ideal solution for a project like Hunters Point. It offers unique, industry-leading software capabilities to empower homeowners to take control of their energy consumption and manage backup power while also providing critical energy services to the larger community and local utility grid."



Monday, May 31, 2021

“City of the Future” Powered by Solar Panels and Hydrogen Fuel Cells in Japan

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An artist's view of Toyota's smart city. Toyota

The construction of a sustainable “city of the future” called the Woven City, is a piece of interesting news that comes from Japan. The prototype city, announced last year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, will be powered by solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells.

In 2020, the world’s largest automaker Toyota has revealed plans to build a prototype “city of the future”, covering 75- acres on the site of a factory that is due for closure, at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. On February 23, 2021, a groundbreaking ceremony took place to mark the start of the project’s construction. “The Woven city project officially starts today,” said Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda.

The former Higashi-Fuji car factory of Toyota Motor East Japan is being transformed into a new smart city. The city (about 60 miles from Tokyo) will become a living laboratory for self-driving vehicles, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes, and artificial intelligence. Woven City would be home to about 2,000 full-time residents, mainly Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, and researchers who will be able to test and develop technologies. Scientists, engineers, and researchers from around the world are also invited to come work on their projects in a real-world environment.

"We welcome all those inspired to improve the way we live in the future, to take advantage of this unique research ecosystem and join us in our quest to create an ever-better way of life and mobility for all," said Akio Toyoda.

The name Woven City comes from the three different types of streets in the city: one for self-driving vehicles, one will be shared by pedestrians and slower personal mobility devices like e-scooters, bikes, Toyota's i-Walk, and one for pedestrians only. These three types of streets, will “weave together into a woven grid of 3 x 3 city blocks... each framing a local park or courtyard”. There will also be one underground road used to transport goods. In a city with no private cars, the transportation, deliveries, and retail will be sustained via e-Palettes – Toyota self-driving vehicles.

Toyota has a plan to integrate nature throughout the city with native vegetation and hydroponics - a method of growing plants without soil. A large central park for recreation, neighborhood parks, and a central plaza are designed to bring the community together. Toyota believes that encouraging human interaction in natural meeting places will be an equally important part of this project.

The grandson of the carmaker’s founder Akio Toyoda described the utopian vision as his “personal field of dreams”. “With people, buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology... in both the virtual and the physical realms... maximizing its potential," said Akio Toyoda.

According to the company’s plans, residents of Woven City will live in “smart homes”, with in-home robotics to assist with daily life and sensor-based artificial intelligence to monitor their health. These “smart homes” will take advantage of full connectivity using sensor-based AI to automatically restock your fridge or take out your trash.

The community of the futuristic city will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles and buildings and use internet technology in practically every aspect of daily life. Toyota said the city will be “fully sustainable”, with buildings made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint. “The rooftops will be covered in photovoltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells.” Below ground will be hydrogen power storage and water filtration systems.

In this smart city project, Toyota is partnering with ENEOS, a leading hydrogen energy company, with 45 commercial hydrogen refueling stations in major cities in Japan.

Japan has ambitious plans to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2050 and the government hopes hydrogen can help to achieve their goals. Toyota unveiled the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell car in 2014 and launched its second-generation Mirai (Japanese for “future”) last year.

The smart cities concept is not something new to Japan. Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town was built on the site of an old Panasonic factory and was opened in 2014. The town is home to about 2000 people. Every house has installed solar panels and it is also equipped with smart monitoring systems. Thus, residents can monitor their energy consumption both at home and on a community-wide level. Fujisawa was certified as a “Business for Promoting Town Development in Harmony with the Environment” by Kanagawa Prefecture.

Another example of a Japanese eco-city is Kashiwa-no-ha. The town’s smart grid facility includes one of Japan’s biggest lithium-ion storage cell systems, as well as solar and emergency gas-powered generators. The city, besides environmentally friendly, is also proclaimed as a city ”where people of all ages can enjoy a healthy and secure life”.

The Woven City is one of a few innovative projects for a smart city of the future currently underway in Japan. The Woven City was designed by Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect whose architecture studio BIG designed the 2 World Trade Centre building in New York and Google’s offices in Silicon Valley and London.



Saturday, March 13, 2021

How to Choose the Right Solar Inverter for Your Solar Power System (Part 1)

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solar power system
Photo by Alex Csiki from Pixabay

The solar inverter converts direct current (DC) electricity generated by your solar panels into usable alternating current (AC) electricity used by household appliances. If you have decided to go solar and install solar power system for your home, you have to do some research and have an initial knowledge about the solar inverter. 

The solar inverter consists of complex power electronics and software and it is crucial to the performance of your solar power system. When you choose your solar panels for your home it is important also to consider buying the right solar inverter for your solar power system. In this post, I’ll give you some basic information about solar inverters, their types, how they work, the best brands, and how to size an inverter to be right for your solar power system.

There are three groups of solar inverters: grid-tie, off-grid, and hybrid. There are three main types for grid-tied solar power systems: string inverter, microinverter, and string inverter + power optimizer. 

String inverters are central inverters and they are the most commonly used inverters for home solar power systems. When few solar panels of the same output voltage and power are wired together in series we have what is known as a "string”. All of the energy the panels produce is sent to a single inverter that is typically located on the side of your house, garage or utility room. String inverters are easy to install and maintain, and they also have the lowest price. 

This type of inverter is suitable when your panels are not facing multiple angles and have no shading issues. The disadvantage here is that if one panel is in shade and suffers reduced output, every panel in the string drops to that reduced output. 

Microinverters are small devices also known as module-level power electronics (MLPEs) that are attached directly to each solar panel, usually on the back. Thus they need to be designed to be resistant to humidity and heat. Microinverters convert DC power to AC right at the panel, providing a better performance of the solar array thus better performance of the whole solar power system. Just make sure the microinverter capacity matches that of the solar panel.

Microinverters allow you to monitor individual panel performance, giving you a more clear view of efficiency. Also, if something goes wrong with a particular solar panel, you can fix it easily. Because of all of this, and the need for multiple inverters, microinverters are the higher cost option. Besides that, another disadvantage is that they are located on the roof, so their maintenance is complicated. 

Power optimizers are small devices as well that is located on the roof alongside or integrated with each solar panel, allowing for more accurate performance monitoring. But unlike microinverters, they don’t convert power from DC to AC directly. Instead, they simply “optimize” the DC electricity before it is sent to a string inverter for conversion into AC. 

Power optimizers, similar to microinverters, make the solar energy system more efficient, but you can buy them at a more affordable price. And like microinverters, maintenance and repair cost power optimizers are high with power optimizers given their rooftop location. Microinverters and power optimizers typically come with a 20 to 25-year warranty while standard inverters typically have 12 to 15-year warranties.

Microinverters and power optimizers (together referred to as module-level power) are gaining popularity in residential solar markets. It’s always nice to have options, and string inverters and MLPEs each have pros and cons. 

The three best string solar inverters for 2020 are: Fronius (Primo and Galvo), SolarEdge (SE and HD wave), SMA (Sunny boy series). Enphase is a leading manufacturer of microinverters.

The inverter sizing refers to choosing the right size of solar inverter for your solar power system. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need an inverter that matches the watts of your solar panel installation, For example, if you have a 3kW solar panel system, then you would install a 3kW inverter. In the case of microinverters, the size of the inverters should correspond to the energy output of each solar panel they’re connected to versus the entire system. 

If you plan to go off-grid, to choose the right inverter for your solar power system you must calculate the load your inverter can handle. You should know that inverters are rated in continuous/running watts and surge/peak watts. It’s important to consider both the continuous load and surge load when it comes to inverters (inverters have two capacity values printed on the manufacturer’s label: continuous watts and surge watts).

Surge watts are the amount of power the inverter can support for a very short time, usually no longer than a second when the appliance starts up. Appliances with motors require about 1.5 to 2 times the running wattage before the motor will start. Appliances and tools with induction motors such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, microwave ovens, and pumps, need a much higher power level at startup. They may require a start up surge of 3 to 7 times the continuous rating.

Find out the appliance’s description and read the specific wattage requirements. If the wattage of the appliance is not listed on the specification, you may calculate the standard watts each of your appliances requires using the formula:

Amps x Volts = Required Watts

For example, if you have a microwave 7.5 amps x 120 (using a 120-volt ac) = 900 watts. It means that the inverter has to handle both the 900 running watts and the 2,700 watts surge requirements of your microwave. 

If the running wattage of your fridge is indicated as 600 watts, the surge wattage will be about 1,800 watts, but this surge is needed for only a fraction of a second. To run this refrigerator, you will need an inverter that can handle 600 running wattage and a surge of about 1,800 watts for a split second. At discount stores or home centers, you can find a typical inverter that provides 1,500 watts of continuous power and 3,000 watts of surge power. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/run-refrigerator-inverter-49672.html

For your inverter to be right for your system, its surge watts rating must be approximately equal to (or greater than) the potential surge watts of each appliance. You can find this out by looking at the label on the back of all of the appliances.

If you want to use multiple house appliances at the same time use the appliances running and surge wattage to determine which devices you can run simultaneously. Just add up all the continuous watt ratings of all the appliances that may be running simultaneously. The sum of continuous watts you get will determine if you're inverter can handle it. Always keep the running load under the maximum limit of your inverter.

With an inverter, with a continuous rating of approximately 1500 watts and with a surge rating of approximately 3000 watts, you can run a wide range of household appliances simultaneously by managing the running load. You can run LED lights, TV, stereo, laptop, fans, fridge, and a microwave (depending on the wattage) at the same time. Just put a current display meter to check the running load before you switch on a new appliance.

It is also recommended to provide a safety room of 10% - 20% watts (more than your largest load) when sizing up an inverter.

Remember: always seek professional help for the installation of your solar power system because of the specific power needs and circumstances of every home.



Friday, February 26, 2021

Why Now is the Right Time to Switch to the Solar Powered Lifestyle

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solar energy

(Guest post by 
Rich Feola)

Have you found yourself intrigued by the thought of switching your home’s energy power to solar? It is sure to have crossed every homeowner’s mind as solar energy growth exploded during the past decade. In the United States, it remains one of the top two renewable energy sources with no sign of slowing down. 

The exponential growth in the solar industry is proof that millions of homeowners have discovered the benefits of solar energy. Yet others are in the same boat as you and hesitant to make that switch. 

However, when you realize the shift away from traditional power sources means you are not only bringing down your electric costs but also decreasing your effect on nature’s domain, the decision to go solar becomes an easy one. Let’s review just a few benefits you will see when you invest in solar solutions for your home.

Lower those soaring utility costs.

I am from Las Vegas where the sun is always shining and air conditioning is a must. You wouldn’t believe the astonishing advantages of solar energy. Unfortunately, many homeowners are oblivious to just how beneficial solar power could be to their life. 

One of the most clear-cut benefits of solar panels is the ability to hedge utility prices. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average United States resident used roughly 10,649 kilowatt hours in 2019 at a cost of around $1,950 dollars for the year. 

You will begin experiencing savings on those high utility costs the minute your solar panels are installed. Holding off any longer means you are stuck paying those extreme electric costs each month. If you pull the plug now, that is an extra $1,950 you could have in your pocket this time next year.

But the most important factor is how electricity rates rise each year by an average of 6%. This means that your energy bill will cost you double in ten years’ time! If you had invested in solar ten years ago, your own personal power plant would have saved you tens of thousands and you wouldn’t have to worry about the rising cost of electricity on the grid. In fact, many states and local utilities even pay you a credit for the extra energy you produce and transfer to the grid through solar energy.

It should be noted there are a number of variables that will determine the total financial returns you can expect from solar during its lifetime, but with a high quality photovoltaic solar system in place, whatever those costs are will be lowered significantly as your home uses an environmentally friendly way to power itself each day. 

If utility prices continue to rise as expected, those savings will do nothing but surge as time goes on. Going solar is the only way to help protect against these unpredictable increases.

Take advantage of incentives.

Today’s market is experiencing a progressive government attitude towards solar energy, which has resulted in attractive solar power tax rebates at both the federal and state levels. 

In addition to significant tax credits and rebates in place to encourage homeowners to go solar, the installation cost of panels has significantly dropped. As the government continues to incentivize the continued growth of the solar industry, it is important to take advantage while you still can. 

In other good news for today’s shoppers, it costs roughly 70 percent less than it did a decade ago to install a residential solar energy system. Combined with the rebates, your total costs could be potentially cut in half making it the perfect time to use photovoltaic technology. 

There also are an abundance of financing options available if you don’t have the funds for an upfront purchase. If you don’t have the money on-hand, there is most likely a financing option suited just for you, which means you don’t have to outlay any cash upfront for the switch to solar energy.

Reduce your carbon footprint.

Solar energy is clean energy, and I don’t think it is reaching to assume we all want that. Solar systems use pure energy from our sun, helping to combat gas emissions and reduce our collective dependence on fossil fuel. Solar panels absorb D/C current from the sun and convert it to A/C electricity through an inverter which is included in your installation.

Did you know solar can reduce your home’s carbon footprint by more than 3,000 pounds annually? That equals 15,000 pounds of CO2 each and every year. That’s pretty amazing.

Solar panels protect your home, too.

While solar panels are busy helping out the environment, they also protect your home. They start at the very top of your house by extending the life of your roof as it shields it from harmful elements like snow, ice, rain and debris. Likewise, it absorbs the sun and keeps it from beating down on the roof directly. 

Homebuyers also know they have struck gold when they come across a home for sale with solar panels, which increases your value. This provides you a large return on your investment if you ever decide to sell your home. Many local real estate markets see an increase of a home’s value by as much as $26,000 if a solar system is intalled.

As awareness has increased on the importance of reducing our carbon footprint on the environment and financing options have become more readily available, the solar market continues to increase, but is it the right choice for your family? 

Only you can answer that question, but doing research on how solar energy works and the science behind it will help you feel confident in your investment. There is an abundance of information on the long-term benefits of solar on platforms such as YouTube for homeowners ready to go solar. 

It also is important to find the right company. I know from helping solar companies in 39 states that finding the right one for you will pay off in great rewards both environmentally and financially.

Rich Feola is the Founder of the Solar Exclusive, an 8-figure advertising company that generates unique, qualified leads and appointments for solar companies. Solar Exclusive works with solar companies in over 39 states. Rich’s work has been featured in Digital Journal, Yahoo Finance, NBC and Fox among other publications. Want to skyrocket the success of your solar business with top-notch leads? Visit this link to find out more: https://solarexclusive.com/


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Solar Panels for Your Home - How to Choose The Best

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Solar panels are the most essential components of the solar power system. To choose the best solar panels (also called solar modules) is the most important thing for every homeowner who has decided to go solar. In this post, you will find some directions on how to choose the best solar panels for your home.

First of all, you have to choose the type and the brand of solar panels. There are four key technical specifications you have to consider: panel efficiency, temperature coefficient, the materials warranty, and the performance warranty. 

There are two main types to choose from when it comes to solar photovoltaic panels: monocrystalline solar panels and polycrystalline solar panels. Monocrystalline solar panels (black color) are more efficient because they are manufacture from the purest silicone. Each solar cell here is cut from a single, continuous piece of silicon crystal. Monocrystalline solar panels are also more expensive. They cost between $300-700 USD per panel. Monocrystalline solar panels produce the most waste when they're manufactured. 

Polycrystalline solar panels (dark blue color) are considered to be less efficient and this is due to the method of production. Manufacturers melt multiple silicon fragments together to produce the wafers for this type of solar panel. They are the most commonly purchased solar panels, simply because they are the most affordable option. Polycrystalline solar panels usually cost between $200-500 USD per panel. They are an environmentally-friendly option because they utilize all of the silicon material they are manufacture. 

There is also another type of solar panel - thin-film solar panels. Thin-film panels are cost-efficient and most sustainable to produce and they are least expensive. However, they are also the least efficient (commercially available generally have efficiency in the 10–13% range) and degrade faster. Thin-film panels need more space, even twice as much room as a mono- or polycrystalline solar panel with the same energy output. These types of solar panels usually cost between $175-300 USD per panel. It is rare to see thin-film panels on the roof. Thin-film photovoltaic cells are used for large and small PV application such as a calculator, solar-powered charger for smartphones, solar-powered purse, solar-powered backpack, curved surfaces on buildings and cars, even on clothing to charge small electronic devices. They are also used to power traffic and street lights, and for commercial and industrial projects (solar farms).

You may have heard about bifacial solar panels, which can absorb light on both the front and the back of the panel. They have higher rates of power output and higher efficiency than traditional solar panels. But these types of solar panels aren’t typically used for residential solar installations. They are more expensive and they are more suitable for large ground-mounted projects.

The second thing to consider is the brand. Some of the best quality and most reliable panel manufacturers are LG, SunPower, REC, Solaria, Panasonic, and QCells. You can see the list of the best manufacture at Top 10 Solar Panels - Latest Technology 2020 — Clean Energy Reviews. Another review of solar panels you can find at Best Solar Panels in 2020 [Complete List] | EnergySage. The best brands of solar panels have the best solar panel efficiency and temperature coefficient.

Solar panel efficiency means the percentage of sunlight that hits the surface of solar panels converted into electricity for your home. Currently, most solar panels have an efficiency between 15% to 22%. The average efficiency of solar panels is between the 17% to 19% efficiency range. The higher the efficiency rating, the more sunlight your solar system can turn into electricity to power your home. SunPower’s A-Series Residential Solar Panels are 22.8% efficient at their maximum and they are the best solar panels available on the market today. Keep in mind, however, that efficiency also depends on factors like placement, orientation, shading, time of year, dust and dirt, weather conditions, etc. If you have enough roof space you may choose less efficient and not so expensive solar panels.

The temperature coefficient tells you how well your solar panels will work on hot summer days. Solar panels operate most efficiently when they are kept cool (ideally around 25° C or 77° F panel’s temperature). The temperature coefficient usually ranges between -0.3% and -0.5 %/°C. Solar panels are tested according to international technical standards at 25°C, and that is why this is used as the reference point. For every degree above that temperature, your solar panel’s electricity production will decrease by the temperature coefficient. If the temperature coefficient is -0,3% and your solar panel’s temperature increases by one degree Celsius (from 25° C to 26° C), its electricity production will fall by 0.3%. If the temperature increases ten degrees Celsius to 35° C (or 95° F), the panel will produce 3% less electricity. So, a lower temperature coefficient is better. The temperature of the panels depends on your location, roof material (some absorb more heat than others), and the installation of the panels (if they are angled or mounted flat on the roof). In many instances, a solar panel’s surface can get as hot as 50° - 65°C. If the installation is a typical rack-type, you will have a gap of greater than 150mm between the roof surface and the panels. It will allow airflow to have a cooling effect on the panels.

Thin-film solar panels have a lower temperature coefficient than traditional monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels. Their temperature coefficients are closer to -0.2% / °C.

Another important thing is a solar panel’s materials warranty which protects against failure due to manufacturing defects. Solar PV manufacturers provide a minimum 10 - 12 years product warranty but many solar panel manufacturers offer 15, 20, and even 25-year product warranties. This means the manufacturer must either replace or give you a refund for solar panels that fail within the product warranty period.

The performance warranty is different from the solar panel’s materials warranty. The performance warranty is called also the 'power output warranty' and it ensures that the solar panel still produces a minimum power output after a specific amount of time. The common industry standard is 80-83% power output after 25 years. Some top manufacturers such as SunPower and LG guarantee 88-92% power output on most modules after 25 years of use.

Besides the top solar panel brands, many manufacturers are offering a wide range of quality, affordable panels. The most well known of these manufacturers are Jinko Solar, Canadian Solar, and Trina Solar. See other brands at Choosing a quality Solar Panel - Reliability, warranty and efficiency — Clean Energy Reviews

And finally, to determine the number of solar panels you need to do some calculations regarding current energy consumption in your home, and how it will change in the future.

When you choose your solar panels it is important to know, that a solar power system is a complex system of several components and the overall performance depends not only on solar panels. All components should be compatible with each other (solar panels, solar inverter, battery storage, charge controller). Also, the homeowners should carefully consider their unique house and household circumstances and maybe even seek the advice of an expert before choosing the right solar panels for their home. 



Friday, October 30, 2020

Solar Energy Interesting Facts (30 Solar Facts)

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Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay
                                         
In this post, I’m going to represent some interesting facts about solar energy and how it is being used.

1. Solar energy is created through nuclear fusion reaction at the Sun’s core. Hydrogen atoms fuse to create helium.

2. The distance between the Sun and the Earth is about 150 million km (93 million miles). The average time it takes for the Sun’s rays to reach the Earth is 8 minutes and 20 seconds.

3. About 29 percent of the solar energy that arrives at the top of the atmosphere is reflected back to space. About 23 percent of incoming solar energy is absorbed in the atmosphere, and 48 percent passes through the atmosphere and is absorbed by the Earth’s surface. 

4. On average, the total rate of energy from the sun that hits the earth is around 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) or 173,000,000,000,000,000 watts. 50 Facts About Solar Energy

5. Sunlight that strikes the Earth for one hour is enough to power the entire planet for one year. Sunlight Striking Earth’s Surface... - EcoWatch

6. Solar energy is the most abundant renewable source of energy in the world. About Solar Energy | SEIA

7. Solar energy is the most sustainable and cleanest resource available. There are no carbon emissions and noise pollution. 

8. Solar energy has been used by ancient people. For example, the Greeks and Romans used magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun and burn the sails of enemy ships. The ancient people also used passive solar energy designs to warm their homes.

9. In 1447, Leonardo Da Vinci predicted there would be industrial solar use. He designed a solar power system to heat water for Florence. 

10. The photovoltaic effect, which converts sunlight into electricity, was first observed by physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in1839. 

11. Albert Einstein published his paper on the photoelectric effect In 1904. In 1921 Einstein received the Nobel Prize for his theories explaining the photoelectric effect. Photovoltaic History - Key Milestones in the 1900s (Timeline) | Solar Energy - Green Lifestyle for You

12. The space industry was the first market for photovoltaics. In the 1950s, the space industry began to use solar technology to provide power aboard spacecraft. Vanguard 1 is the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells. The International Space Station is entirely solar-powered.

13. The first solar-powered automobile was demonstrated in Chicago in 1955. It was a 15-inch Sunmobile built by William G. Cobb of the General Motors Corporation.

14. The first solar-powered calculators were invented in 1978. 50 Facts About Solar Energy

15. Solar energy and solar power are not interchangeably terms. Solar energy includes solar power and solar power means electricity created from the sunlight. It is generated in two ways: using solar (photovoltaic) panels or using concentrating solar power systems.

16. Solar panels work even on cloudy days. They just produce less energy than on sunny days (around 10-25%). Also, solar panels function better at cooler temperatures than the very hot climate.

17. China is the world’s leader in the field of solar energy. By early 2020, China was the leading country for solar power with 208 GW, accounting for one-third of global installed solar capacity. Solar power by country - Wikipedia

18. The United States, Japan, Germany, India are countries that follow China in solar electricity generation. Top 10 Countries in the Solar Electricity Generation All over the World in 2019 | Solar Edition

19. China has a plan to build an orbital power station that would capture solar energy in space and beam it back to Earth. According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, they are already testing the technology and they intend to build the station by 2050.

20. Many US states allow solar owners to sell back excess power generated by the sun to the grid, which is called solar net metering.

21. Since 2008, the price of the solar system has dropped by 80%, and it is expected to keep falling. 50 Facts About Solar Energy

22. By 2024, the world’s solar capacity will grow by 600 GW, almost double the installed total electricity capacity of Japan. Another prediction state that the US will double its solar installations to four million by 2023. The Growth of Renewable Energy: What Does the Future Hold? | Earth.Org - Past | Present | Future

23. Australia has the highest average solar radiation than any other continent in the world. 50 Facts About Solar Energy

24. India's Cochin International Airport, the seventh busiest in the country, is the first airport in the world powered entirely by solar energy. In 2015 the airport built a 12-megawatt solar plant that has more than 46,000 solar panels. The solar plant provides all the power the airport needs, and even generates surplus for the state electrical grid, according to the BBC.

25. The world's largest solar power park is the Pavagada Solar Park in Karnataka, India. The solar park becomes entirely operational in January 2020. World's largest solar park in Karnataka is now fully operational

26. The world’s first 100% solar-powered five-star resort Finolhu Villas is situated in the Maldives. Designed by New York-based architects Yuji Yamazaki Architecture, the resort was opened in 2016. Tour the World's First Completely Solar-Powered 5-Star Resort | The Weather Channel - Articles from The Weather Channel | weather.com

27. The Walt Disney Company built a 50-megawatt solar facility shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head. The solar park has more than a half-million solar panels and produces enough solar energy to fully power two of its four parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in central Florida. 

28. An 80-story, 1,273-foot rotating skyscraper powered by wind and sun is being built in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. When it is completed, It will be the first rotating skyscraper the world has ever seen.

29. Wind energy is a form of solar energy. It is created by the movement of air relative to Earth’s surface. This form of energy is generated by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun and modified by Earth's rotation and surface topography. Wind energy | form of solar energy | Britannica

30. An interesting fact is that in 1979 the American President Jimmy Carter installed solar heating panels on the roof of the White House West Wing. It was more as an effort to set an example for the nation during the second US oil crisis.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

5 Partially Solar-Powered Cars You Can Buy

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                        Video Credit: DPC cars & Youtube.com

The creation of a solar-powered car is an ambitious project that many enthusiasts were trying to bring to reality. Unfortunately, so far are created only partially solar-powered cars, and in this post, I’m going to describe 5 of them you can buy.

1. Lightyear One is a long-rage, solar-powered electric car that has five square meters of small solar tiles, which cover the whole futuristic vehicle, from front to back, across a curved roof. The solar car has a 60kWh battery and charges at a rate of 12 km (7.5 miles) per hour while driving. It can also use electric vehicle charging stations, which provide up to 725 km (450 miles) of range on a single charge. The solar cells are 20 percent more efficient than traditional models and can add 50 - 65 km (30 - 40 miles) of range per day. The solar cells are encased in safety glass to protect them from damage. The company says that the Lightyear One is the most aerodynamic car in the world, with a drag coefficient below 0.20, although it is still in the prototype stage. 

Lightyear is the Dutch car company founded in 2016 by ex-members of Solar Team Eindhoven (STE), a team of engineering students who won the solar-powered World Solar Challenge race in 2013, 2015, and 2017. The Lightyear One car is expected to cost about €150,000 when it goes on sale in 2021.

2. A German full electric car Sono Sion developed by Sono Motors is another example of a partially solar-powered car. Thanks to its battery charge it can run 155 miles (250km). The car also has 248 solar cells spread across its body, which provide it an additional 21 miles (34km) of solar range. With a completely new manufacturing process, the solar modules are perfectly adapted to the shape of the vehicle. You can find it on the market at 25,500 EUR. The Sono Sion uses a bidirectional onboard-charger to share its power to recharge other electric vehicles.

3. The Korean car manufacture Hyundai also created a partially solar-powered car. A new version of its hybrid car Sonata (gas-electric sedan) offers built-in solar panels on its roof. The solar roof gives the car an extra 2 miles (about 3.5 km) of driving range per day, charging a car’s battery for 6 hours - both while driving and when parked in the sun. They say that between 30 and 60 percent of the car’s battery can be recharged by its solar panels. Hyundai underlines that its solar roof has a “supporting role" to its hybrid engine but for a year, it can add up to around 700 miles (1,300 km) of driving range from solar power.

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited is the first of its kind available in the United States. The Toyota Prius Prime has a solar roof available in some overseas markets, but not in the U.S. The as-tested price of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited comes to $36,430, which includes Hyundai’s 10-year warranty.

4. Toyota was the first major car manufacturer to offer the option with a solar roof incorporated in its Prius hybrid plug-in model in 2010. It generates about 50 watts of power, which is enough to provide energy to a fan which cools the cabin of the Prius when the engine is off. Later, in 2017 Panasonic has developed a solar photovoltaic car roof for the Prius PHEV, upping the wattage from 50 W to 180 W. 

Now Toyota developed their latest model Prius with solar panels, in cooperation with Sharp and NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan). It uses such technology that lets the car’s battery charged while in the motion, not just when it is parked in a sunny place. The companies are working on attaching to the car's surface 0.03 mm thick solar cells. They can be attached to curved areas on cars like the roof, the hood, or the hatchback. 

The new model is still in the testing period, but it promises 860W at 34 percent efficiency, 44.5km on a full charge, and 56.3km if it's recharging while driving. The companies are hoping that by using the best solar panels and the most efficient batteries available on the market, besides experience with car-manufacturing, they can create a vehicle that might run forever. "The solar car's advantage is that, while it can't drive for a long-range, it's independent of charging facilities," said project manager at Toyota, Koji Makino.

5. California’s company Aptera Motors developed the first solar-powered electric (3-wheel, 2-passenger) vehicle that will never require charging. Besides, the car has an option to drive autonomous. The solar panels integrated into the car’s body harness the sun’s rays and provide owners with a substantial amount of free solar power. You can drive 43 miles of range per day of free solar power with a total 700W: 3 square meter/180 solar cell array. This is in addition to a 1,000-mile range battery pack, which you can charge at any time. And if there is excess power you can run electrical appliances in your home. Another option that Aptera includes is to upgrade and replace the existing solar panels on the vehicle.

The Aptera solar-powered car will cost roughly between $34,000-$59,000. The Aptera is still in the prototype stage but the company claims 10,000 vehicles will be made by 2022, and they will soon be open to taking pre-orders.

Finally, out of the list, because it is not for sale, I’m going to present an impressive model of a partially solar-powered car - Stella Era.

The Stella Era is a solar-powered, autonomous 5-person family car, developed by the Solar Team Eindhoven (STE), a multidisciplinary group of students from the Technical University Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The Stella Era has a range of 1200 km (including 300 km solar) and the ability to autonomously drive to a sunny parking spot when it is parked in the parking lot. The team also says that the Stella Era isn't just a solar-powered car, it is "a charging station on wheels”. Thankfully the innovations in charging (specifically bidirectional charging), the car can store energy and transfer it to other cars, to the grid, and into battery packs in self-sustainable homes.

So, although there is no entirely solar-powered car yet, the partially solar-powered, eco-friendly models above show that the key steps have been made and the sunny futuristic future is already here :)

whatsorb.com (Toyota), whatsorb.com (Aptera)



Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Solar Morrocan Village - the First Village Powered by the Sun in Africa

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Image credit: Cluster Solaire

Thirty-two solar photovoltaic panels were installed to harness the sunlight and power the small village of Id Mjahdi, in Morocco. The village is situated on the sunny Atlantic coast, near the coastal city of Essaouira (around 190km to the west of Marrakesh), and it became the first entirely solar-powered village in Africa.

This news was reported by CNN in December last year but I found this inspiring and decided to write a post about it now. I think that solar energy can help millions of people in Africa to get access to cheap and reliable electricity and to improve their lives in all aspects.

According to the International Energy Agency, solar power may become one of Africa's top energy sources. Of all solar power that is used globally, less than 1% currently comes from the continent Africa. Morocco already has 35 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources (solar, wind, and hydroelectric power), and its goal is to increase the use of renewable energy to 52 percent by 2030, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). "Morocco is unquestionably a leader in sustainable energy," says Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA.

Marocco already has the world's largest solar concentrated farm, the Noor-Ouarzazate complex. The solar farm is built on an area of more than 3,000 hectares. The size of the farm corresponds to 3,500 football fields and produces enough electricity to power a city such as Prague, or twice the size of Marrakesh.

And now, Id Mjahdi was chosen for this pilot solar project to demonstrate how remote villages, which are expensive to connect to the power grid of the National Office for Electricity, could be powered with solar energy. The author of this project is Moroccan solar power company Cleanergy. Their idea was to electrify remote communities, and Id Mjahdi was chosen because they needed everything, according to the company's founder, Mohamed Lasry.

The people in Id Mjahdi relied on candles for light, and they usually used them only around an hour for working or studying in the evenings. They used tree bark for heating and cooking, and Id Mjahdi did not even have a nearby source of water. The girls often missed school days to walk several miles to a well. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century still have such places.

The first step of the project was to build a water tower for the community. The next step was to install 32 solar photovoltaic panels, which generate 8.32 kilowatts of electricity for distribution via a mini-grid. Around 20 homes in the village are connected to the solar mini-grid, serving more than 50 people. Each family was given a water heater, fridge, television, and oven. Each house was provided with an outlet to charge electric appliances. The solar network has also a battery, to store electricity for later use at night. The street lights in the village are also solar. 

The solar project was supported financially by the Moroccan ministry of energy, Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN), Essaouira’s local authorities, Moroccan non-profit group Cluster Solaire, the French supermarket chain Intermarché, and the soaps company Le Petit Olivier. The cost of the entire project was $188,000.

In October 2019, Cleanergy opened several solar-powered buildings - a hammam (public baths), a workshop providing jobs for women to produce argan oil, and an educational center for children between the ages of three to six, which gives the opportunity their mothers to work. The chance to have a job is another major benefit for the community. 

The educational center comprises two classrooms, a sports field, and a playground. For adults are offered also, basic literacy classes. 

At the village was created an association like a cooperative, and it owns the whole production. The association takes a small fee from the argan oil sales to maintain the solar network. Cleanergy trained the men and women in the village how to manage it.

Now Cluster Solaire is seeking funding to build more solar villages. There are 800 villages without electricity in Morocco alone, and the World Bank estimates that 840 million people lack access to electricity worldwide. 

Id Mjahdi could be a model for other remote community which still lack access to electricity. Around 650 million people will lack access to electricity in 2030, according to the World Bank. It says that mini-grids could be the most cost-effective solution for remote areas, and have the potential to provide electricity to as many as 500 million people by 2030. With about $220 billion of investment, it is possible to build around 210,000 mini-grids. And they also help to save our planet: 210,000 solar mini-grids would help avoid 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions globally.

Sources: CNN.com & Internet

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Foldable Solar Roof For Parking Lots

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A foldable solar roof for parking lots is something new in solar technologies.

Today, solar energy is used all over the world. There are many improvements in already existing solar technologies. Entirely new technologies and innovative solar devices are emerging. More and more people have solar-powered homes. Back in 1956, the cost of solar used to cost around $300 per watt. Now, in the US, you can get rooftop solar for $1.49/watt from Tesla and a similar price from others.

According to the latest news, a company in Switzerland and its partner, Kronberg and St. Gallish-Appenzellische Kraftwerke (SAK), have created something unique in the field of the solar technologies - a foldable solar roof, that comes out only when the sun is shining. It is not a typical roof designed for residential use. This solar roof is meant for parking lots and generates power for on-site consumption, including for electric vehicles charging (there are two charging stations). It also provides shadow to keep vehicles cooled when the weather is hot.
         
foldable solar roof for parking lots
                            Image credit: cleantechnica.com

The companies started this project back in the spring of 2020 when they built the foldable photovoltaic system on the Kronbergbahn’s parking lot. When the sun rises, the solar roof unfolds and soaks up the rays to generate solar power, then when it’s cloudy, raining, or during night time, it folds up. The foldable photovoltaic roof is named Horizon, its size is 43,056 ft2 (4,000 square meters), has a 420 kW generation capacity, and it covers the parking lot for 152 cars. The cost of the entire project is about 1.5 million Swiss francs.   

The foldable solar roof  was manufactured at DHP Technology headquarters in Zizers. It uses mono and polycrystalline solar cells and glass-free laminate tech. “The folding sunroof is lightweight because we use glass-free solar module technology,” said the DHP representative. “The installation is simple and is based on the plug-and-play approach.”

The parking lot has 1,320 solar panels and produces 350,000 kWh per year. Right now, the companies are looking for investors who are interested in sponsoring a system. There are 660 panels available and expected to be licensed soon to interested clients. The license agreement is for 15 years. 330 panels are already used by SAK and Kronbergbahn AG.

Investors will receive five different experience vouchers during their 15-year right of use - the vouchers vary depending on the investment. If you are interested in investing in a panel, you have two options. You can invest in a whole panel or by the quarter:
  1. Entire Panel CHF 800 ($852)
  2. Quarter Panel CHF 200 ($213)
The sources of this news are cleantechnica.com (you can see a video on their website), pv-magazine.com, and interestingengineering.com

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Topher White Saves Rainforests with Solar-Powered Used Smartphones

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Image credit : The New York Times

As we all know the forests (including rainforests) are essential for our planet. Millions of people depend on them for their livelihoods and they can help combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, poachers and illegal loggers do not interested in it. So, how to save them? Topher White, a physicist, and engineer have a brilliant idea of how to save the rainforests with the help of solar-powered used smartphones and advanced AI training platform (Google technology called TensorFlow).

The idea came to him in 2011 during a trip to Borneo, Indonesia. He was visiting a gibbon reserve in the heart of the rainforest when he stumbled upon logger illegally cutting a tree. Most surprising for him was that the man was working only a few hundred meters from the rangers' cabin. Covered by the usual noises in the forest as the chirps of birds, the buzz of cicadas, the banter of gibbons, the sound of chainsaws went unnoticed.

After returning to the United States, Topher White developed a solar-powered device and later founded San Francisco-based non-profit Rainforest Connection. The device consists of an old Android smartphone equipped with highly sensitive microphones that record the sounds up to three square kilometers around. When the sound of a chainsaw is detected, the phone sends a real-time alert to the cloud server that sends a notification to the rangers, who can then get the logging stopped. Detecting the sounds is possible thanks to the AI system that can be trained to identify all kinds of sounds, from mechanical sounds like chainsaws to the sounds of specific animal species.

A homemade solar panel system, also made from recycled materials, power the listening device despite the shades in the rainforest. And surprisingly, even in remote forests, you can often get decent cell reception that makes sending the alert possible.

At first, White had an intention to use commercial solar panels, but he hadn’t considered that the diminished sunlight under a canopy of trees could be a problem. Doing research, he found some papers from the 1950s and 1960s that mentioned sunflecks - transient spots of direct sunlight. “It turns out that 80 or 90 percent of the solar radiation that makes it through the canopy comes in the form of sunflecks,” White says.

D2solar, a solar-module prototyping firm in San Jose, Calif., helped White to design special flower-like structure, with the phone in the middle, and small solar panels sprouting as petals. These solar panels generate enough power for the phones, even under the forest canopy. They use discarded strips of monocrystalline panels and cut them into petal-shaped patterns. Each petal consists of three 0.5-volt cells, wired in series, and seven petals are then wired to each device in parallel.

“The idea was to space the petals based on the average diameter of the sunfleck and to distribute them as widely as possible around the device so that at any given time there was a high probability that the sun would be striking all the cells on a petal,” White explains.

“I was surprised that it worked,” says Michael Rowell, who was working at D2solar as an R&D engineer at the time. “If you stick a normal solar panel in the jungle, it won’t work no matter how big it is.” White’s solar flowers generate 1.5 V, which he boosts to 5 V using a simple circuit. And finally, his rainforest protective solar-powered devices were ready to be placed high up in the tree where they will be invisible.

Between 15 and 30 percent of wood traded on the global market is harvested illegally, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme and Interpol. In key tropical countries, illegal logging accounts for 50 to 90 percent of all forestry products on the market. White says that deforestation is a bigger contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s vehicles combined - cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes.

White overcame many obstacles and complications to bring to the reality his simple solution. He now spends nine months out of the year installing and troubleshooting the “forest guardians”. Today, listening solar-powered devices are saving trees in Indonesia, Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. White won the support of the non-profit organizations, tribes, and local communities. And something very important, he’s won the support of environmentalists and forest law-enforcement groups. Randy Hayes, the founder of the Rainforest Action Network, calls White’s system “a powerful tool that could do a lot of good on the planet.”


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Gel Makes Solar Panels “Sweat” to Cool Themselves

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Image credit: pixabay.com

Last month I read something interesting in the news concerning solar panels and I decided to write a post about it in my blog. It is something new in solar power technology - gel-like material makes standard solar panels “sweet” to cool themselves. Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park says: “it’s a simple, elegant, and effective way to retrofit existing solar cell panels for an instant efficiency boost.”

Typical silicon solar panels convert approximately 20% of the sun’s light into electricity. Much of the rest turns into heat, which can warm the solar panels by as much as 40°C/104°F. As we know, the heating of the panels is one of the most serious problems - solar panels are much less efficient when overheated. In fact, with every degree of temperature above 25°C/77°F, the efficiency of the solar panel drops. 

In recent years, researchers have devised materials that can suck water vapor from the air and condense it into liquid water for drinking. Among them are researchers at the University of Texas who have created a new gel-like material. Initially, the gel was created to produce clean drinking water. It proves its effectiveness and has the potential to provide a clean, sustainable water source for millions.

The gel-like material is a mix of carbon nanotubes in polymers with a water-attracting calcium chloride salt. This substance absorbs water vapor at night when the air is cold, and humidity is high. Then it causes the water vapor to condense into droplets that the gel holds. When the heat rises during the day, the gel releases water vapor. If covered by clear plastic, the released vapor is trapped, condenses back into liquid water, and flows into a storage container.

Peng Wang, an environmental engineer at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and his colleagues figure out another use for the condensed water: coolant for solar panels. So, the researchers applied a 1-centimeter thick sheet of the gel against the underside of a standard silicon solar panel. Their idea was that during the day, the gel would pull the heat from the solar panel. It initiates an evaporation process for the water it pulled out of the air the previous night, releasing it through the bottom of the gel layer. Thus the gel-like material can make solar panels “sweat" and cool - just like sweating cools the human body. The amount of gel needed per panel depends on its size and the temperature and humidity in your location. In a desert environment with 35% humidity, a 1-square-meter solar panel required 1 kilogram of gel to cool it. In a muggy area with 80% humidity, only 0.3 kg of the gel is needed per square meter solar panel.

The temperature of these solar panels can drop to 10°C/50°F, and the electricity output of the panels can increase by 15% to 19%. In the area of solar technology, this is considerable. “In a field where engineers struggle for every 0.1% boost in power conversion efficiency, even a 1% gain would be an economic boom,” says Jun Zhou, a materials scientist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

One disadvantage of this solution is that rain could dissolve the calcium chloride salt in the gel, sapping its water-attracting performance. Peng Wang acknowledged this as a possible problem, despite the hydrogel sitting beneath the solar panel, and being somewhat shielded from the rain. He said he and his colleagues were working on a second-generation gel that would not degrade, even when wet.

The team is also looking at another design option that could trap and re-condense water after it had evaporated from the gel - and potentially using the collected water to clean solar panels from the dust.

Currently, over 600 gigawatts of solar power exist worldwide, providing 3% of global electricity demand. This number may increase by about five times over the next decade.

Source: sciencemag.org