Backup Power Options for Ice Storms

With ice storms leaving hundreds of thousands from Michigan to Maine without power over Christmas, attention is turning to alternative solutions for when the grid is down. While many families are left in the dark without any backup power, some rely on gasoline-powered generators. Unfortunately, there are dangers with using gas generators that have led to several fatalities during the recent storms.


An article published yesterday in the NY Times states that “In Maine and Vermont, where state authorities described the ice storm as the worst since 1998, there were no deaths from falling tree limbs or fallen power lines. But each state reported one death from carbon monoxide from a generator run after power was lost.”

In one instance, a generator was left running in a garage, and when the owner went to refuel it in the morning, he collapsed and died from the fumes. In another case, a generator left outside caused poisonous carbon monoxide gas to be drawn in through a nearby window, causing one fatality.

The weather has also made it difficult to repair power lines, leaving many utility customers with no electricity for days on end.

The other alternative to this situation is to use solar power combined with a battery back up system. By generating power independently from the grid and storing the electricity in an integrated battery system, homeowners are able to keep the power running even in a blackout.

Battery backup systems are also far safer than gasoline powered generators. With no emissions there is no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, and unlike gas-powered generators, which have a track record of leading to a number of fatalities, properly installed and maintained solar battery backup systems are very safe and reliable.

While not everybody deems it necessary to have power at all times, for those that would like the peace of mind that electricity will be available through any storms and outages, solar battery backup can be an ideal solution.

Original Article on  Kenergy Solar


The Best Time To Go Solar?


Investing in solar power is a major decision, so its no surprise that some would rather wait and go solar a few years down the road. But there are also several reasons to invest in solar sooner, not later.

The incentives won’t last forever

Thanks to falling costs in solar panels and components, and generous federal and local incentives, going solar can be highly cost effective. But while the cost of solar panels will likely continue to fall, the government incentives will not be around forever. Incentives such as the 30% federal tax credit on solar were originally introduced with the goal of subsidizing solar technology at a time when it was very expensive and would have otherwise been cost-prohibitive. But now, component costs have declied significantly, and incentives are still available.  However, as component costs come down, the incentives will begin to expire. The 30% federal tax credit is set to expire on December 31, 2016. And local grants, such as the District of Columbia residential REIP program that offers $500 per kilowatt of solar capacity, are based on a limited availability of funds that will eventually run out.

A simliar scenario applies to SRECs, or Solar Renewable Energy Credits. SRECs are credits that solar system owners receive based on the power their system generates. The credits can be sold for cash, and are tradable on open markets. Their value is based on supply and demand, and the consensus among market predictions is that their value will decline significantly in the next decade. In other words, SRECs are worth the most now, and will be worth less in the future. So in order to take advantage of solar incentives, now is the time to act.

Invest now to see high returns later

Electricity is a commodity we all use. There’s no question about that. So why pay more for electricity than necessary? If you have the logistical and financial means to invest in a solar system, you should. The sooner you invest in a solar system, the sooner you will be able to reap the benefits of thousands of dollars in savings on electricity. If you pay cash for a system, once your electricity savings breaks even with your cost you are generating free electricity and saving money. If you lease a solar system, you start saving immediately – though savings add up over time, so the longer you have the system, the more money you stand to save.

For the enviornment

It is highly imperative that action be taken to slow climate change. Major utility companies are not going to change their business models and adopt renewable energy without a major market shift. So it is up to individuals and businesses to minimize their carbon footprints. One of the most effective way to reduce one’s environmental impact is by going solar, as solar power produces no carbon emissions, and can offset up to 100% of one’s electric consumption.

By going solar now, not only do you immediately reduce your carbon footprint, but you also help to move the world towards a tipping point of solar, where solar becomes mainstream, cheaper than burning fossil fuels, and the de facto source of energy for the future.

Original Article on Kenergy Solar

America’s Green Future

Virtually every aspect of our current electric grid is outdated. From the way we generate power to the distribution of that power to homes and businesses, our grid infrastructure is based on old technology that does not make sense in our modern world.

Consider how we generate the majority of our electricity: by burning coal and natural gas. Not only do these fossil fuel sources contribute to pollution and carbon emissions, they also dictate that power generation occur in a central location. This means that our distribution system must be tied into a central grid, which is why a single natural disaster such as a hurricane can cause blackouts for large areas of major cities. Our distribution system also consists of many overhead power lines that can be knocked down by falling trees – and can result in dangerous situations that regularly cause fatalities.

However, there is an alternative to our outdated system. Solar photovoltaic technology can reduce our dependence on the grid while reducing our carbon emissions. Solar power can be generated on the local level, by mounting panels directly on roofs. Combined with battery backup systems and decentralized micro-grids, blackouts can be a thing of the past.  The cost of solar panels has fallen dramatically, by over 80 percent in the last five years. Thanks to federal and state incentives, solar panels can provide power at a cost competitive with conventional utility power in many states.

Given the advantages of solar power, there should be a stronger shift towards its widespread adoption than we’re currently seeing. But as a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times written by David Crane and Robert F Kennedy points out, the major utility companies have no interest in promoting solar technology when their own profits are based on the existing grid infrastructure. Giving their customers the ability to produce their own electricity would be contrary to their entire business model.

And regulatory issues further hinder the efficiency with which solar projects can be developed, due to complex permitting requirements that raise the cost of installations. In Germany, the regulatory process has been streamlined to the point that a solar project can be approved in as little as 8 days and with very low costs. If the regulations in the United States were more sensibly designed, we could put our country on the fast-track to transitioning to renewable energy.

However, even with current regulations and the entrenched opposition of the fossil-fuel industry, it’s still possible to speed up our adoption of solar power. Solar power is a smart investment: it leads us to grid independence, it reduces carbon emissions, and perhaps most importantly, it will lead to economic growth by creating jobs. American homeowners can push for this green vision for the future by investing in their own solar systems. The power is up to the individual. Solar is the new American dream.

Original Article on Kenergy Solar

In Focus: Urban Solar Projects

Deutsche Bank recently installed a 122 kW solar array on its North American headquarters in New York City. The array is the largest PV system currently installed in Manhattan. And at 737 feet off the ground, it’s also the highest elevated flat solar panel system in the world. The system is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 100 metric tons per year.

While there are not currently many skyscrapers with integrated solar systems, there are many interesting designs and proposals for the future of urban solar.

One example is the Chicago Solar Tower by Zoka Zola Architects. The Solar Tower is designed to feature a facade of round solar collectors that are set up to move throughout the day to follow the sun, leading to more efficient solar production. It is a very striking design and definitely an interesting project, though it remains to be seen whether it will actually get built any time soon.

Existing buildings seem to have a better success rate in terms of adding solar power. The CIS tower in Manchester, England is an office skyscraper that was originally built in 1962. In 2004, the building began renovations to install 575.5 kW of building-integrated photovoltaic cells. The building now generates 180,000 kWh of electricity per year.

With new technologies like building-integrated PV cells, transparent solar windows, and many new innovative design proposals for urban solar development, it’s very likely we will see more green energy emerge within major cities throughout the world.

Original Article on Kenergy Solar

In Focus: U.S Alternative Energy Subsidies


We’ve all heard about “energy subsidies” and “oil subsidies” but what are they really?  Subsidies in a general sense are money given by the government to various industries in order to make their goods more affordable than they would be in the open market.  There are agricultural subsidies, energy subsidies, and technology subsidies, all sorts of subsidies to help decrease the cost of living for the average American.

Sounds good right?

Except for one thing about this arrangement– the government gets to decide which things they want to make cheaper for people to buy, thereby somewhat manipulating what people DO buy.   

This issue is really coming to head in the relatively new alternative energy sector.  Alternative energies cannot compete in the energy industry if they are prohibitively expensive for the average person.  

Taking a look at the numbers, we see that between 2002 and 2008 renewable energies received $12.2 billion in government subsidies, while in the same time period fossil fuels received $70.2 billion in government subsidies, almost a 6-fold difference.

Original Article on Kenergy Solar

V3 Solar’s Super Efficient Cone Shaped Solar Modules

There are several aspects of current solar technologies that hold back their efficiency. For one, panels are usually mounted in a fixed position, meaning they are not always directly facing the sun. Some mounting systems use advanced tracking systems adjust their positions with the angle of the sun, but such units tend to be expensive. And heat is another factor that holds back efficiency. Most panels do not have an active cooling system and are therefore prevented from reaching peak efficiency as they heat up in sunlight.

V3 hopes its new design will help to solve both these issues. The V3 Solar Spin Cell uses several existing technologies, but combines them in a unique way to increase its efficiency.

V3 units are cone-shaped modules, unlike most flat solar panels, with PV cells arranged on the surface of the cone. The cones are set up to spin freely when in use. The units sit on top of magnets which allow them to spin with minimal resistance and using very little power. The spinning motion allows the photovoltaic cells on all sides of the cone to absorb photons from the sun, even if there is only sunlight on one side of the unit. This allows the Spin Cells to produce more electricity throughout the day, regardless of the angle of the sun.

And there’s a second advantage spinning design offers. The motion creates a constant breeze which helps to cool the Spin Cells. This self-cooling mechanism allows the cells to reach efficiency levels higher than conventional solar panels.

In fact, V3 Solar claims the efficiency per square meter of its units is 20X greater than conventional flat solar panels. And the company claims the units will not be prohibitively expensive, given the significant increase in efficiency.

v3 solar treePresumably the V3 Cells would be best suited to flat surfaces. But to pack more cells in a small amount of space, the company is offering a racking solution called the Power Pole, which is a pole that holds 10 Spin Cells in a vertically staggered arrangement, so the cells don’t shade each other. Looks sort of like a tree from an alien planet (see image at left). 

Hopefully we will see these Spin Cells available for residential and commercial installs soon!

Check out this video of the spinning cell in action. You can also view the manufacturer’s site here:

Original Article on Kenergy Solar