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Are Solar Panels Right For Your Family?

Off-the-grid early adopters weren’t as fortunate as today’s homeowners. Solar panels are so common and widely used that they are no longer considered a risky investment. In fact, take a closer look at your community. Chances are more neighbors are using solar than you realize!

The best thing to do is conduct some quality research before making your decision. You can find arguments for and against solar on the web, but the best thing to do is have a personal consultation that is customized for your home and real estate market.

We are experts in everything solar, and we offer free, personalized home energy analyses that can give you detailed information about the cost effectiveness of solar energy for you. This will allow you to make a more informed decision. Give us a call today at 888-926-0809.  We’ll give you the ultimate yay or nay on your burning question: is solar your home’s soul mate?

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Solar = Financial Sense

Although solar power has been around for well over a hundred years, it really didn’t experience its residential boom until the 90’s. In the beginning, solar panels were bulky, expensive, and misunderstood. Over the years, solar panels have experienced a complete makeover, adopting sleeker silhouettes and becoming exponentially more cost effective. Today’s solar panels blend seamlessly with modern rooftops, blurring the line between form and function. Recent advertising campaigns have even touted solar panels as being “sexy”.

Perhaps the real sexiness of solar energy isn’t in the newfangled photovoltaic panels, but in the savviness of consumers who are going solar. Research shows that residential solar panels can pay for themselves in as few as five to seven years, resulting in fifteen to twenty years of pure savings. Modern panels pay off so quickly because their efficiency allows homeowners to save around 30% on their monthly home energy costs.

While solar panels used to be reserved for the rich and famous, lowered costs, increased incentives, and even leasing programs are giving all people access to the savings that solar power provides.

The surge in solar’s popularity and an increased demand for renewable energy is good news for homeowners. While increased resale value of a home with a feature like solar panels is never guaranteed, solar energy organizations like ours tend to expand locally in areas with tech smart and earth-conscious consumers. We carefully select markets where homeowners will get the greatest bang for their buck with solar energy, because we know that solar has to make financial sense for our customers. The more solar panels you see in a community, the more solar incentives your municipality offers, and the more solar companies and organizations in your market, the more likely you are to see potential home buyers who recognize the value of solar panels.

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Reselling Solar

As homeowners ourselves, we know that we don’t even replace a lightbulb in our home without contemplating its effect on the resale value of our home.

If you’re like the majority of Americans, your home is your biggest investment, and you don’t want to do anything to compromise that.

The old school mentality was that solar panels intimidated homebuyers and could make your home more difficult to sell, or somehow decreased the value of your home. You may have heard this myth circulating as well.

So what is the truth? Will solar panels affect your home’s value?

We’ve got surprising news for you. YES. Solar panels will affect your home’s value… IN A GOOD WAY!

Recent research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory proves that homes with solar panels sell for higher values than homes without, and home appraisers are less reluctant to assign value to residential PV systems as home solar electric system value is better understood.

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Earth Day: Help Protect the Earth by Going Solar

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!

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Report: Among Solar Power Leaders – San Antonio and Austin

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.

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Top 5 Solar Power Myths

SOLAR MYTH #1

“Solar panels hurt the U.S. economy.”

FALSE

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

Solar Power

Solar Power – Free Energy from the Sun

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.

Solar PowerPhotovoltaic 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.

Solar PowerA 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

gemasolar-2011-11Pictured 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.

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Solar Electricity Across America

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.

Solar ElectricityThe falling costs of panels continue to be a driving factor in the growth of solar electricity.  The average cost of a completed PV system is 16% less than the previous year. It now stands at $3.00/W.

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.

Zero Energy

Zero Energy Construction – The Solar Connection

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?

Net ZeroEvery 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.

Zero EnergyOther developments feature geo-exchange systems, geothermal or wind energy-sourced electricity. Some even have co-located biodigesters where waste gasses are collected and reused.

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.

Zero EnergyA 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!