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Solar

Luminalt’s Response to “10 Questions to Ask Your Solar Installer”

“ Last month, we posted our top 10 questions you should ask your Solar Installer when you start the hunt... Read


Last month, we posted our top 10 questions you should ask your Solar Installer when you start the hunt for quality solar installation in your area.  Luminalt Solar Energy Solutions, a San Francisco based Solar Installer, took the liberty of answering all of our questions with the utmost detail!  Here are their responses:

Q:  How long has your company been installing solar electric systems?
A:  Luminalt was founded in 2004, but co-founder Noel Cotter did his first installation in 1980.

Q:  How many of your employees have solar panels on their homes?
A:  How many of your employees have solar panels on their homes? As a local company, most of us live in San Francisco and rent, meaning that solar won’t work for us (or rather, our landlords). Most of us who do own have a solar system – installed by Luminalt, of course!

Q:  How many NABCEP certified employees work for your company?
A:  A whole bunch of them! More than one-third of our company holds some kind of NABCEP Certification. Our CTO Noel Cotter, widely respected as one of the most knowledgeable solar installers around, serves on NABCEP’s licensing board, helping to devise some of the difficult tests administered each year. The pass rate is typically less than 50%, so only the best of the best receive certification.

Q:  Will everyone working on my system be an employee of your company?
A:  Yes! Beware of companies that will sub-contract to the lowest bidder. At Luminalt, we take care of our customers in-house to ensure that they have the best possible experience.

Q:  Can I see a list of ten clients that you have installed solar electric systems for?
A:  Check out the projects section of our website for a few case studies, or look at the San Francisco Department of the Environment’s Solar Map.

Q:  How do you determine your system output data?
A:  We’re in this with you for the long haul. Call us at anytime with questions about your new PG&E bills, your ideal rate schedule, or just to say hi.

Q:  How long is your warranty on all of my components and your work?
A:  All of our work is warranted for ten years. By using the highest quality materials available, we build systems to last for at least 30 years. The warranty on equipment varies by manufacturer, but is typically 25 years.

Q:  Does your panel manufacturer perform quality control audits on your installations?
A:  Only if you want them to! If you don’t want to be bothered, we’ll let them know.

Q:  What is the efficiency of the panels that you are proposing to install?
A:  Depends on how much space you have on your roof. Luminalt typically uses SunPower panels, the highest efficiency panels on the market. Luminalt is a SunPower Elite Dealer, making us one of only a few companies nationally that meet this designation’s customer satisfaction and quality standards.

Q:  How does your company implement its values?
A:  Luminalt believes in the transformative power of solar and the green economy on communities. As such, we have a Community Solar Grant Program and participate in Workforce Development training for those with barriers to entry into the job market.

 

Your search for Solar should lead you to an Installer like Luminalt! For more information on finding the right Solar Installer in your area, check out our Solar page.”

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Solar

Peel-and-Stick Solar Cells – So Fun!

The Scientific Journal Reports that Stanford University scientists have developed a thin “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to... Read

The Scientific Journal Reports that Stanford University scientists have developed a thin “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to almost any surface.

The fabrication process included a wafer of silicon, silicon dioxide, sandwiched metal and a film of nickel on which the thin-film solar cells are placed, and then attaching a layer of thermal release tape.  After being dipped in water, the target surface was coated with adhesives and the thin-film solar cells were attached to the sticky surface and the thermal release tape was removed.

These thin solar cells can be placed on a wide range of surfaces, and could someday be used commercially to generate solar power.

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Solar

Help your CA neighbors Do a Bit Better

Are you up on your California state law? Trees that are tall enough to block solar panels can cost the... Read

Are you up on your California state law?

Trees that are tall enough to block solar panels can cost the tree owners up to $1,000 fines (daily!). State Law requires homeowners to keep their trees, or other plant-life, from shading neighbor’s solar panels between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at it’s strongest.

Help your neighbors Do a Bit Better, it’s the law!

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Solar

The White House is Doing a Bit Better!

It was announced in October 2010 that the White House would be installing solar panels to its historic rooftops–we understand... Read

It was announced in October 2010 that the White House would be installing solar panels to its historic rooftops–we understand the delay, Mr. President. You’ve had a lot on your plate.

The big day is finally here! Solar installers have begun their work this week. We’re excited to hear that one of the most famous addresses in the world will soon be home to clean energy. Good on you 1600 Penn Ave! We hope this will inspire everyone to Do a Bit Better.

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Solar

Solar 101

“We are often asked the following questions:  What is solar energy?  How do the sun’s rays become electricity?  And can... Read

“We are often asked the following questions:  What is solar energy?  How do the sun’s rays become electricity?  And can you please explain both in common English?

That being said.  Welcome to Solar 101.

Solar terms defined
The solar cells that you see on calculators are called photovoltaic (PV) cells.  Photovoltaic combines two words: “photo” meaning “”light”” and “voltaic” meaning electricity. A solar panel is simply an array of many joined photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells are most often made from silicon semiconductors.

So how does sunlight become electricity?
Now, remember back in 8th grade science when we learned that light is a form of energy?  When sunlight strikes the cell, a certain portion of light is absorbed within the semiconductor.  When the sunlight is absorbed the semiconductor knocks a portion of the lights electrons loose.  (Again, remember that all matter basically has protons and electrons).

PV cells all have an electric field that forces the free electrons to move in one direction. This flow of electrons creates an electrical current.  To light up your living room, your solar wiring simply taps into this current.

And now you can wow your neighbors at the next block party.  Kudos.”

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Solar

PV Local History 101: California History of Solar

At times we like to fly our “Nerd Flag”.   Go Solar California has a great history of solar in the... Read

At times we like to fly our “Nerd Flag”.   Go Solar California has a great history of solar in the Golden State.  Here are just a few fun facts we enjoyed:

-The origins of the PV Cell are found in the work done by Chapin, Fuller and Pearson from Bell Laboratory in 1954

-In 1978, the US Congress passed the “Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act”.  This law established the right for independent power producers to interconnect with the local utility distribution systems.  So for people who today get a nice monthly check from their local energy company can thank the efforts made by Congress nearly 35 years ago.

-In early 1979 the world’s largest PV manufacturing facility in Camarillo, California started producing more than a megawatt of PV modules in one year.

-The Sacramento Municipal Utility District generated 1.0 MW of photovoltaic power in 1984.

Go to Go Solar California to read the entire history.

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Garden

A Greener, Easier Saturday

“When Saturday rolls around for many guys across America, there is one thing they can count on: mowing the lawn. ... Read

“When Saturday rolls around for many guys across America, there is one thing they can count on: mowing the lawn.  For some, rolling up the sleeves and gassing up the mower can be a stress-relieving ritual of good ol’ fashioned hard work.  But for many others, it’s just another item on a never-ending list of chores.  But either way you look at it, there’s still a good chance that you’re pouring carbon emissions into the planet with every rip-start of your gas powered lawn mower.  So, we at DAbB decided to do a little digging and found a solution.  What we found is a trick like man-toy to help make your Saturday less busy and more eco friendly.

Introducing, the Husqvarna Automower® Solar Hybrid: the world’s first fully automatic lawn mower that is partly powered by the sun.  Just turn it on, set the cutting schedule and let the Automower do the rest!  Think of it like a Roomba® for your lawn – you just lay down parameter wire and the Automower chomps everything else.

According to Husqvarna, the Automower® Solar Hybrid uses less energy than any conventional mower because, in addition to a charging station, the integrated solar panel extends its cutting periods before it needs recharging.  So you use less power and you do less work – who doesn’t like that?

Aside from being both quiet and good for the earth, it hosts a number of awesome additional features including:

-Remote text message that notifies you of any unscheduled disturbance

-Anti-theft alarm and pin code (which you’ll want with the hefty $3K price tag)

-Safety sensors to shut the mower off if it is lifted or tipped over

-A weather proof design that can handle terrain slopes up to 35 degrees

So if you’ve got a lawn up to ½ acre in size (and an extra three grand burning a hole in your pocket), the Husqvarna Automower® Solar Hybrid mower could be just the tool to make your Saturday a little bit better.”

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Solar

Solar Calculators – Meet Computer Calculators!

“You’ve seen the Solar calculator.  Now check out the Computer calculator. No, it’s not in your “Start” menu.  Rather, it’s... Read

“You’ve seen the Solar calculator.  Now check out the Computer calculator. No, it’s not in your “Start” menu.  Rather, it’s a calculator created by Utah-based firm, Xi3 – to show you how much you could be saving (not by going solar, but rather, by going modular).

 

Xi3 claims that their new “modular” computer uses up to 95% less energy than the average household computer – at a modest 20 Watts of electricity to operate.

In fact, the savings calculator isn’t the only thing they have in common with solar installers. Xi3 also offers a leasing option (cleverly named “ecolease“), in which it claims that the potential energy savings (mostly for small-medium sized businesses) actually offset the monthly lease payments – which they call “Getting a Free Computer”.

Another added benefit of the system is its ability to run multiple instances of the operating system on several linked-up machines.

So if you’re looking for a way to cut down on the power bill and you’re not quite ready to go solar, maybe green-tech is the way to go!”

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Mighty Leaf Tea

Tea Drinkers Rave

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Solar

Spring Cleaning Your Solar Panels

It’s spring cleaning time.  Aren’t you excited?   We have had a few questions about how to clean solar panels.  After... Read

It’s spring cleaning time.  Aren’t you excited?   We have had a few questions about how to clean solar panels.  After all, dirt, debris, and even bird droppings can quickly reduce the amount of electricity your system will produce.  Please keep in mind, this is how we clean our panels, however, we deeply encourage you to follow the specific instructions outlined in your user manual.

-We recommend you spray down your panels at least twice but preferably four times per year.  In doing so, you will spend a very short time cleaning your panels
–              You should spray in the morning.  You don’t want the water to evaporate due to the heat of the day

-Inspect after you spray.  Yes, this means you will most likely have to climb up on your roof
–              If you see a stubborn stain, typical glass cleaner will remove it quickly
–              Just one other safety note: never climb onto your roof if you are not comfortable with this activity.  Also, never do it alone…have someone hold the ladder

-Inspect the panel while you are cleaning it for cracks in the glass. Solar panels most often malfunction because of water damage. If you notice any cracks, fill the crack with a high-temperature silicon seal.

-Inspect wire connections as well for any sign of damage or decay. If you find a damaged wire, replace it immediately. Keep these connections clean and as dry as possible.

That’s it.  Now, get the kids to clean out the garage!

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Solar

Solar in the Tampa Community

Tampa Electric is showing the local community how they invest in renewable energy sources by supporting what they call the... Read

Tampa Electric is showing the local community how they invest in renewable energy sources by supporting what they call the Renewable Energy Program. Solar panels produce electricity from the sun’s rays, and installing solar panels is one example of how Tampa Electric is doing just that. They are working with various community-based businesses to provide a portion of the electricity used to support this program.  The following are a few of those highly visible, family-friendly locals.

The Florida Aquarium
In Tampa’s Channelside District, the Florida Aquarium’s Explore-A-Shore pavilion hosts a 10,000-watt solar array that helps support Tampa Electric’s Renewable Energy Program. In addition to the solar installation, Tampa Electric and the Florida Aquarium installed an interactive display to teach children about the benefits of solar energy.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
Tampa Electric joined with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and the University of South Florida’s Power Center for Utility Explorations on a 15,000-watt solar panel system at the zoo. The solar panels are installed atop an elephant shade structure and an adjacent maintenance building. The project includes a Renewable Energy Learning Center that provides research opportunities for USF and Tampa Electric to study the technical, economic and environmental benefits of a renewable, grid-connected photovoltaic system for Smart Grid electric power production.

Museum of Science and Industry
Explore Tampa Electric’s first solar panel system at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, Florida. This system is directly connected to the same electrical system that sends electricity to your home or business. The entire system consists of 60 solar panels, each containing 216 crystalline silicone cells, with a total rating of 18,000 watts of electricity.

Manatee Viewing Center
Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, Florida (near Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station) is home to the company’s largest solar panel system, rated at 23,800-watts. A 40-panel system is installed atop the Manatee Viewing Center’s education building and eight pole-mounted panels are located throughout the parking area.

Solar in Tampa is one way that the city of Tampa is taking care of its citizens and its environment.  To hear more about Tampa Electric and renewable energy, please visit www.tampaelectric.com/environmental

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Solar

Benicia, California is Doing a Bit Better!

Thanks to a new residential solar incentive program, Benicia residents can get  rebates up to $3,000 for installing a solar... Read

Thanks to a new residential solar incentive program, Benicia residents can get  rebates up to $3,000 for installing a solar system! The rebates  will be available until funds run out. Hurry up Benicia! Time to go Solar!

Three  East Bay solar companies are also offering incentives of matching discounts ($0.60 per watt, up to $3,000). Check out Diablo Solar Services of Martinez, Ally Electric & Solar of Richmond, and Verengo, Inc. of Concord.

Come on Bay Area! Join the Solar revolution and start Doing a Bit Better!

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Solar

Other Ways to “Go Solar”

“Solar panels are everywhere these days; on your roof, in the fields, on the sides of buildings, on eco-friendly cars,... Read

Solar panels are everywhere these days; on your roof, in the fields, on the sides of buildings, on eco-friendly cars, and even sprawling across hillsides and mountain sides.  You may or may not have noticed that they’re a few more places now.  Check out these additional ways to utilize Solar (no leasing model required):

“Array” Solar Backpack from Voltaic

 

This behemoth of a backpack can charge your laptop while on the go – and store it too. That way, you can charge up while riding your bike, at an outdoor conference, or while camping with the family. It also charges cellphones, portable gaming systems, and tablets – and at a modest $389, it’s a small price to pay to have independence from the outlet.

“Brighta30” Street Lamp

Cities are rapidly adopting this new way to light the streets. It’s not only green, but extremely cost efficient when you consider how many streetlights are in your town or city. We also see them coming up across college and corporate campuses.  The Brighta30 (featured above) is from Greenshine, who specializes in solar lighting solutions – from garden lights to full-scale city lighting.

“Soulra” Solar Powered Boombox from Eton

Solar Powered Boomboxes are a great idea in the summer, considering you don’t have to have an outlet to power it – making your family picnic or weekend bonfire the happenin’ place to be! This one from Eton is only $150 and is iPod and iPhone compatible, but also has an audio input line. Oh and for a limited time, it comes with a free messenger bag to carry it!

There you have it – if you’re not ready to go solar (or even if you are…), there are great ways to still show your love for Photovoltaics!”

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Solar

Retailers – The Quest to go Solar

“Many retailers today – large and small – are looking for ways to be sustainable, and also do things that... Read

“Many retailers today – large and small – are looking for ways to be sustainable, and also do things that make sense for the business.  Going Solar has been one of those things that make sense for both goals.  With growing frequency, companies from Apple to Walmart have been making this a reality.  Below are a few examples of companies who are utilizing renewable energy and paving the road to an energy-efficient world.

IKEA
IKEA, the largest home furnishing store in the world, is up to 30 solar installations in its stores across the US including Tampa, Florida (July 2012) with the one of the latest in Frisco, Texas (August 2012). The company has made a serious commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic technology.

IKEA owns and operates each of its solar power systems atop its buildings.  Drawing from its Swedish heritage, the company believes that Solar can be a good business while aiming for its operations to minimize impacts on the environment.

WALMART
Walmart has installed more than 150 solar projects across the US.  The company currently has 62 megawatts of solar panels installed, while operating fuel cells and wind turbines at other locations.  Walmart has plans to have 1,000 solar-powered locations by 2020.

APPLE INC.
By the end of 2012, Apple will meet the energy needs of their Maiden, North Carolina datacenter by generating onsite renewable energy.  They are building two solar array installations which use high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar tracking system.

Apple plans to buy solar panels from SunPower for the huge solar farm, and the projects should be completed by the end of the 2012.

MACY’S
In 2010, the Macy’s solar installation in Goodyear, AZ claimed the title for the largest single-rooftop system in the US.  Most of Macy’s efforts have been focused in California, installing solar panels on 26 stores.”

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Solar

Tampa, FL – Going Green with More than just Solar

The City of Tampa is dedicated to sustainable energy, an efficient future, and making Tampa one of the best cities... Read

The City of Tampa is dedicated to sustainable energy, an efficient future, and making Tampa one of the best cities for people to live and visit. It’s committed to investing in real, tangible solutions to protect the natural environment for future generations.

In doing so, the City of Tampa has created many green programs and services for residents and businesses.  There are several green operational programs that Tampa has put in place to meet these goals.  They include, but are not limited to the following:

 

Refuse-To- Energy Facility
The McKay Bay Refuse-To-Energy Facility provides a reliable, environmentally friendly method of managing the City of Tampa’s 360,000+ tons of municipal solid waste that citizens generate each year.  Energy created from burning this waste is converted into enough electrical power to supply electrical needs for up to 15,000 Tampa homes.

Household Recycling
Curbside and multi-family recycling, yard waste recycling, office paper and commercial recycling programs.

Yard Waste Recycling
Yard waste is collected once a week at curbside from residences.  All organic wastes collected are taken to a private facility where they are processed into mulch and sold for commercial use.

Solar-Powered Parking Pay Stations

The City of Tampa’s solar-powered pay stations offer parking patrons more payment options than the standard coin-only meters, making paying for parking more convenient than ever, and not to mention solar-powered!

Solar Powered Recycling Compactors
Tampa’s Solar powered compactors hold approximately five times as much waste and recyclables as a regular bin of the same size.  The compactors, which require fewer collection pickups, save money and help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
The Parking Division has installed 10 electric vehicle charging stations throughout City of Tampa owned-and-operated parking facilities.

 

Encouraging residents and local businesses to install solar panels is also an important part of this initiative. There are many Tampa Solar Installers in the area, as well as incentives and rebates available to home owners and business.

Check out how you can become a responsible Tampa, Florida resident and contribute to a green future by using our solar calculator today!

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Solar

Not Your Parents’ Solar Panels!

“With the recent explosion of the solar market, many people are turning to solar power as a way to live... Read

“With the recent explosion of the solar market, many people are turning to solar power as a way to live a more sustainable life by harnessing the natural power of the sun, and save a few bucks in the process.  But some are still hesitant to join the solar movement because they fear the benefits of solar will not live up to the aesthetic drawbacks of having a large system mounted on their roof.  But to those naysayers we say, never fear – Solar panels have come a long way!  Long gone are the days of ugly, chunky panels that look like an awkward toupee on your home’s head.  What’s more, the option to lease solar hardware allows consumers to focus their investment on the service, rather than the hardware.  There are a few on the market that we think help homes look a bit better…

Solar Shingles – These sleek solar panels are seamlessly installed into most standard roofs.  Depending on budget, usage, and roof design, they can be installed over entire roof sections, or blended throughout standard asphalt shingles for a virtually invisible look.

Solar Tiles – For those with Spanish style architecture utilizing terra cotta tiles, the Solar industry has you covered.  As with Solar Shingles, these tiles can be interspersed throughout standard tiles, or used exclusively to achieve a Greek Mediterranean look.

Solar Film – Ideal for sheet-metal roofs, solar film can be unrolled and installed between roofing ridges.  At only a fraction of an inch thin, these panels provide a great camouflaged solar solution.

Concentrated Photovoltaic Solar Cells – For those that opt for ground mounted systems, concentrated photovoltaic solar cells provide a very strong solution.  These systems use mirrors and/or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight, onto a small area.  The result is one of the most efficient panel options available.

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Solar

Vermont’s PUP program is helping people Do A Bit Better!

Recently, the local clean energy advocacy group, Energize Vermont,  announced the “Power Up Program” which is an unique partnership with... Read

Recently, the local clean energy advocacy group, Energize Vermont,  announced the “Power Up Program” which is an unique partnership with American Clean Energy Supply, LLC. Together, they are bringing affordable, high quality solar installations to Vermonters all over the state!

Way to go Energize Vermont! Thanks to your PUP program, you truly are Doing A Bit Better.

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Hansen Wholesale

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Solar

Maryland comes out on top!

The Ecotech Institute recently released the very first “Clean Jobs Index” (there are over 3,000,000 jobs across the county!). Something... Read

The Ecotech Institute recently released the very first “Clean Jobs Index” (there are over 3,000,000 jobs across the county!). Something that we are really interested over here at Doing a Bit Better are LEED Projects. For those who need some catching up, LEED Projects stand for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Projects. This could be anything from a building installing solar panels, to conserving water in the work place. And you all know how we feel about solar (it’s the future!). We would like to congratulate Maryland for coming out on top as the state who has the highest number of LEED projects per capita! Way to go, we hope the other 49 states follow your lead–no pun intended. To read about other states rankings, click here.

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