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Solar

Top 10 Reasons to Go Solar

“It’s pretty obvious that Solar is the future of energy for most of us – and why not? It’s clean,... Read

“It’s pretty obvious that Solar is the future of energy for most of us – and why not? It’s clean, for sure. But if you’re looking for a few pointers to help state your case to go solar, try some of these!

1. Savings
As soon as residential solar is installed, you begin to save money.  Also, when your solar units produce more power than you need, you will feed the electrical grid.  And who buys this electricity? Your friendly neighborhood power company.  The value of the electricity purchased by your local utility is seen on your monthly bill as a credit – which means they pay you (a nice change of pace, don’t you think?)

2. Peak Shaving
Many locals have “peak shaving time”.  Peak shaving time refers to the time of day when the greatest draw on the electrical grid is seen.  For most of us, we see this time during the heat of the Summer day. In order to aid in reducing the demand of electricity, many local utilities charge more for power during this time.  Solar power coincidentally produces its maximum output at this same time.  Since you’re using less power from the grid, your power bill does not see this peak billing.  Take that, summertime!

3. Environmentally Friendly
Solar PV produces no radiation, carbon emissions or noise.

4. Socially Friendly
By requiring less energy, there is more available for others and less need to construct new power plants.  It’s like the electrical equivalent to a cup of sugar.

5. Installation has never been so inexpensive
Due to local and federal tax incentives, competition in the marketplace and supply have significantly driven down the cost of solar power.  In fact, many places offer next to zero cost for installation.

6. New modern designs
Today’s solar designs are nothing like the big boxes of the 1980’s.  There are many designs that are completely flush with your roof.  There are many styles that are actual tiles / shingles themselves. (See our article about aesthetically pleasing solar tiles if you need proof!)

7. Longevity
The solar panels used in these systems are warranted for at least 20 years and often, even longer.

8. Low Maintenance
Solar PV requires little maintenance.  Just twice a year you need to hose off any dust/dirt.

9. Adds life expectancy to roof
The main element that destroys all roofing materials is Ultra-Violet light (UV) emitted by the sun.  If the roof is shaded or covered with solar panels, the UV does not attack the roofing system in these areas.

10. Solar PV can be mounted on shade structures
This can include such structures as carports in parking lots or exterior roofed lunch areas.

There you have it. 10 great arguments to help you win your to go solar!”

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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

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

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

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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Solar

Rainbows Could Double Solar Energy Output!

Increasing the amount of electricity a solar panel produces is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost... Read

Increasing the amount of electricity a solar panel produces is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost of solar power.

MIT’s Technology Review reports on a new $2.4 million project funded by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy aims to greatly increase the amount of sunlight that becomes electricity.

Harry Atwater, a professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech, is working on cells to sort sunlight into eight to 10 different colors (a rainbow!) and direct those to a second layer that contains an array of solar cells matched to each color. Light is absorbed more efficiently, and more energy is converted to electricity, rather than heat.

Most solar panels convert less than 20 percent of the energy of the sunlight that falls on them into electricity.  Atwater’s goal is a conversion efficiency of more than 50 percent, which would double the amount of power generated by solar panels of any size.

Rainbow solar power!  This technology will make solar more affordable for homeowners and industries, alike.

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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

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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Solar

Top 10 Questions for Your Local Solar Installer

“So you’ve decided to go solar – congratulations! But now what? Well, it’s time to research your local solar installers.... Read

“So you’ve decided to go solar – congratulations! But now what? Well, it’s time to research your local solar installers. If you live anywhere near any of the major DMAs, there’s bound to be plenty of options. That said, we’d like to suggest a few questions to ask the solar installers you interview.


How long has your company been installing solar electric systems?

In our opinion, you should look for a company that has been installing in your area for 4+ years.  With this level of experience, they understand local installation requirements, and have a long enough track record for you to review consumer comments on websites.

How many of your employees have solar panels on their homes?
We love this question.  If their employees don’t believe in solar, they why should you believe in them?

How many NABCEP certified employees work for your company?
A very large majority of licensed electricians do not have training or experience with solar electric systems.  NABCEP provides a well-respected certification process that requires the installer complete classroom hours, lead multiple PV installations, and pass a comprehensive exam.   If the installer is not NABCEP certified, we would encourage you to look for a new solar installer.

Will everyone working on my system be an employee of your company?
Sub-contractors are not always a bad thing.  However, you want to make sure that you meet everyone working on your home.  Additionally, if a company is using a sub-contractor, you should ask how long the two companies have worked together.  You are looking for a long-term relationship (no online profile required).

Can I see a list of ten clients that you have installed solar electric systems for?
An installer who has pride in their work will always be able to supply you a list with at least 8 names on it.  When contacting these customers, see if you can drive by their house to see the installation.

How do you determine your system output data?
We love installers who will come to your home free of charge at least once during the first year to evaluate how your solar installation is performing.  We believe a check-in at the six month mark is ideal.

How long is your warranty on all of my components and your work? 
In addition to manufacturing warranties, a qualified solar installer will also back their work.

Does your panel manufacturer perform quality control audits on your installations?
Few solar panel manufacturers will audit installations to measure the quality of the companies that sell their products. In our opinion, preference should be given to those companies who are audited.

What is the efficiency of the panels that you are proposing to install?
Positive Energy answer:  More efficient panels require less space, and allows you to get more energy output per square foot.  A smaller array footprint is very important to avoid shaded areas, when shading is an issue.  It also means less weight for the roof, fewer attachment points, less labor and less installation material required.

How does your company implement its values?
One way companies vote for a more sustainable world is with their dollars.  We give preference to companies who buy many of their products and materials locally.  Additionally, we believe that an employee-owned company with a profit sharing program shows a commitment to employees.

Now that you’re armed with an arsenal of important questions to ask, we think you’ll be able to find the right solar installer for the job! If you’re interested in being connected with a trusted, certified solar installer in your area, check out our solar page!”

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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

Massachusetts is Doing a Bit Better!

Did you know that Massachusetts has the nations eighth-highest electricity rates? It’s no wonder the residents are installing solar left... Read

Did you know that Massachusetts has the nations eighth-highest electricity rates? It’s no wonder the residents are installing solar left and right! In 2012, Massachusetts ranked the sixth highest in solar installation–generating $500 million dollars spent on solar energy!

2013 is going to be a great year for Massachusetts solar. Great job Doing a Bit Better!

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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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Mighty Leaf Tea

Tea Drinkers Rave

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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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Solar

First Solar Powered Airport

India has achieved a goal that is in the right direction. This past week Cochin International Airport, based out of... Read

India has achieved a goal that is in the right direction. This past week Cochin International Airport, based out of the southern Indian state, Kerala, has garnered praise for being the first airport solely ran off of solar power. The airport, which had installed a few solar panels in 2013, has claimed its right to be the first airport to run exclusively off of solar power. This immense project has led the airport to claim 45 acres of land, and includes 46,000 solar panels spread across the 45 acres. Projections show that if the airport runs functionally for 25 years, than it will be saving roughly 300,000 tons of emissions, which is equivalent to planting three million trees, or not driving 750 million miles. A milestone to say the least, and yet there is still so much we can do. But, it shows that gains are being made, and we’re striving to make our world healthier.

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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

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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