Due to solar panel gaining so much popularity over the past two years, installations have outpaced the combined installs of the past three decades. The U.S. has set up more solar energy systems in the last 18 months compared to how much they have set up the previous 30 years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Read more
Earth Day was first observed in the U.S. in 1970, and now observed in 192 countries worldwide. While it is good to recall history and how the Earth Day has all started, it’s also important that we think about the environmental movements that are being carried out lately. Let’s talk about electricity.
Electricity generated by modern society is soley dependent on oil and coal, both of which add to greenhouse gas buildup in the envieronment. While it is a known fact that fossil fuel supplies are limited, our homes and cars still require lots of energy.
Solar energy is ample throughout many parts of America. The amount of sunlight hitting the U.S. every single day is more than 2,500 times the entire country’s daily energy usage.
There are different kinds of technologies used to create electricity from solar power. To be able to create solar power, many homes and establishments install photovoltaic panels, which absorb sunlight. They may also use semiconductors to create usable energy. Larger structures use panels, but others use lenses or mirrors focused to a small area to deploy concentrated solar panel, thus creating electricity from tremendous heat. Both technologies help the Earth because they reduce the need to burn fossil fuels.
The wonderful thing about solar energy is that it produces its greatest output as demand spikes. During hot summer days, energy usage rises due to air conditioners, but that same exact sunlight that warms the country can be stored and used to power those devices.
So, how can you acquire energy and still help protect Mother Earth? Go solar!
A new report says that two Texas cities are among the the leading cities in solar power nationwide.
According to a report released on Thursday by the advocacy group Environment Texas, San Antonio ranks sixth among U.S. cities in installed solar capacity. Austin, on the other hand, ranks 16th. The report stated that San Antonio utilities and residents had installed 84 megawatts of solar capacity through 2013, while Austin had installed 12 megawatts. Nationally, one megawatt of solar power can supply an average of 164 homes.
Because improved technology has driven down prices, the U.S. has more than 200 times as much solar power capacity installed today as it did in 2002, according to the report.
“For a long time, the question has been when, not if, solar becomes competitive with fossil fuel energy,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas. “That time seems now.”
Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, San Jose and Honolulu were the top five U.S. cities for solar panel installations, report says.
Texas leads the nation by far in solar energy potential with its long-stretching boundaries and great supply of solar radiation. According to the State Energy Conservation Office, much of that capacity is in West Texas, where the sun supplies 75% more direct solar radiation than East Texas.
According to advocates, since Texas officials have not implemented the same mix of incentives for solar power seen elsewhere, solar energy makes up a tiny fraction of Texas’ energy use. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, compared to other states, Texas ranks just sixth in installed capacity, thus making it hard for the industry to gain an edge statewide.
The brightest spots for solar energy in the state are San Antonio and Austin.
By setting renewable energy goals and offering financial incentives for solar installations, the cities and municipally owned utilities continue to grow.
With at least 100 megawatts of energy derived from renewable resources other than the wind, San Antonio’s CPS Energy, for instance, has set a goal of using renewable energy to meet 20% of its electricity demand by the year 2020. Including 200 megawatts from solar power, Austin executed a renewable energy standard in 2011 that requires its utility, Austin Energy, to get 35% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Texas cities powered by competitive utilities inside the state’s deregulated energy market fell lower in the solar rankings.
With a solar capacity of four megawatts, Houston ranked 32nd; Dallas, on the otherhand, ranked 44th with one megawatt. In recent sessions, the Texas Legislature had taken some steps to boost solar power statewide. A bill that was passed in 2011 (House Bill 362) prevents homeowners associations from interfering with the installation of solar panels. Property Accessed Clean Energy, a program that enables cities to enroll in to help commercial property owners finance clean energy projects, was a program approved by the Legislature in 2013.
SOLAR MYTH #1
“Solar panels hurt the U.S. economy.”
In 2009, the solar industry employed around 50,000 Americans. It has now grown to over 100,000. At around July to September of 2011, the U.S. solar energy market grew 140%, therefore making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. Read more
Sunlight is a fascinating phenomenon. We experience it everyday, we rely upon it everyday. Without it life on earth would cease to exist. In addition to the very familiar ways we already benefit, sunlight also brings us solar power.
Solar power is generally defined as the conversion of energy from sunlight into usable electrical power. It includes indirect technologies such as concentrated solar power (CSP) as well as direct technologies such as photovoltaics (PV).
CSP systems require a great deal of land to be efficient. As a result, you’re probably not likely going to see a CSP system installed in your neighborhood anytime soon. Unless you live in the desert.
PV systems, on the other hand, are typically utilized on residential or small commercial applications. They can be efficiently scaled down to an individual’s needs or can be scaled up to meet the needs of very large utilities, such as Germany’s Neuhardenberg Solar Park, mentioned here in a recent blog.
Solar Power Technologies – Is the Future already here?
As the needs of a growing economy evolve and concerns around green house gases continue to increase, its important for consumers to be informed about all the various alternative forms of sustainable energy.
Photovoltaic electrical systems are appropriate for a homeowner seeking to make a lifestyle change. A decision to outfit your home with solar panels or solar shingles (a photovoltaic system) reduces your dependence on the electrical grid. Most large scale electrical grids in America are still powered by fossil fuels.
A home powered by PV technology is a home that is committed to reducing pollution and green house gases. For more information on the basics of a solar panel system, read our previous blog.
Concentrated Solar Power – In a Nutshell
Concentrated Solar Panels (CSP) also utilize energy from sunlight, but in a vastly different fashion. CSP systems use reflective mirrors to focus the sunlight towards a liquid medium. Energy is transferred by heating the liquid to extremely high levels. The liquid is channeled to a chamber where water is boiled and the resulting steam drives a turbine.
A few competing implementations of CSP technologies are competing in the marketplace. The first successful large-scale implementation of CSP utilized parabolic panels (pictured at right) to concentrate sunlight to a tube filled with synthetic oil.
The resulting light energy is up to 80 times more intense than ordinary sunlight. Synthetic oil is used because it can transfer heat up to 750°F without dramatic changes in pressure.
The parabolic CSP systems designed during the 1980’s and 1990’s and used to a great deal in California’s Mohave Desert are not sufficiently efficient to run independent of any other energy source. At night or during periods of extended lack of sunlight, they cannot support the electrical demands for its consumers.
Concentrated Solar Power Evolved
Pictured at the top of this blog and to the right, is the Spain’s new Gemasolar Plant. Heliostat reflectors direct sunlight to a centrally-located, molten salt-filled tower.
The molten salts are circulated into underground, highly insulated tanks where steam driven turbines run around the clock. The stored heat can push the turbines at full capacity for up to 15 hours without additional sunlight.
The third quarter of 2013, the most recent data available, was the second largest solar installation quarter on record in America. A 35% increase over the third quarter of 2012 was achieved with 930 MW installed. The residential segment saw 186 MW come online.
Texas’ cost of all PV systems is $5.83/W, which is 9th lowest in the country. In comparison, Ohio is the most expensive state in America, with an average cost of $10.09/W. In California, the nation’s leader in terms of capacity and total number of installs, the average cost is $7.08/W.
Because of the enormous growth in manufacturing capacity in Asia, the average price of a solar panel has declined 60% since the beginning of 2011. These lower prices combined with a favorable regulatory environment and increased demand will likely mean more record growth in years to come. By the end of 2013, 4,300 MW of PV were forecasted to come online, a 27% growth over 2012.
New Zero Energy construction and redevelopment projects might be coming to your community soon!
Is Tomorrow’s Future Zero Energy?
Science fiction authors have often painted a future where technology solved man’s greatest challenges. Perhaps you can envision an endless supply of clean energy?
Every great achievement begins with a goal. It’s known that solar collection panels have contributed to a reduction of electricity bills for millions of consumers. The question remains whether or not is practical to make new goals with greater expectations.
Is it possible to draw enough energy from the sun and from other sustainable sources to satisfy all your energy demands? This concept is referred to as Zero Energy or Net Zero.
Various building trade publications have featured many notable zero energy projects over the last few years. Some projects feature experimental, highly-efficient building components. Some projects utilize a greater than standard amount of insulation. Some projects minimize heat absorption with highly reflective external surfaces.
All of these notable projects have at least one thing in common. All have an abundance of highly efficient solar collection panels.
UC-Davis West Village
The largest planned zero energy community in America is the UC – Davis West Village expansion. Completed in 2013, it is spread across 205 acres. The development includes housing for 3000 students and 475 faculty and staff. It has 45,000 square feet of retail and office space, 60,000 square feet for the Los Rios Community College District and nearly 22 acres of recreational green space.
A four megawatt roof-mounted solar collection system is situated on the multifamily housing units at West Village. Residents acquire electricity through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the local utility.
Even the covered parking space, visible at right, are entirely covered with solar collection panels!
Highly efficient photovoltaic (PV) systems have become more affordable than ever over the last decade. The contributing factors are growing each year.
Improved engineering and manufacturing techniques are leading to greater product yield. Around the world, dozens of manufacturers with a solid track record of performance are competing for market share. In America, local, state and federal regulators are encouraging implementation through tax incentives and rebate programs.
USA Solar Electric has partnered with GreanGrid Solar to provide a solution to help homeowners move confidently towards renewable energy.
Solar Leasing and Your up-front Investment
With a solar leasing arrangement, USA Solar Electric will install and maintain the system on your property. GreanGrid will own the system and administer the lease. The homeowner purchases the electricity it generates at a fixed, predetermined rate.
When your system produces excess electricity it is calculated as a credit and channeled back to the power grid. At night or during bad weather your system will not produce enough electricity to meet your needs. During these periods your credit is drawn down. When your credits are exhausted you purchase electricity from your local utility.
The Affordability of Solar Leasing
Lease payments for a 2500 sq ft – 3000 sq ft home will be in the range of $50 to $60 per month. This type of a system will typically provide up to 60% of your electricity needs during the summer and up to 90% of your needs during the winter.
If you move and have to sell your property, your lease can easily be transferred to next property owner. All at no cost to you.
If you’ve had the system more that five years, you can exercise an option to purchase it outright and include it in the sale of the property. Studies have shown that solar-energy systems can reduce your time on market and significantly increase property resale values.
USA Solar Electric
We are San Antonio and Massachusetts’ hometown solar energy contractor. Contact us to find out why solar power is the most economical and socially responsible option for your family or business.