Solar Car Ports at Work

Let’s take anyone who argues with this blog and lock them up in leg irons, and throw them in the dungeon until they come to their senses. No basements in Arizona probably means no dungeons either… we we mean to say, is that this is something we’d really like to see happen.

Here’s our proposal: all businesses in the Phoenix Metro Area begin installing electric car charging stations at places of work and erect solar panel shade structures right away and keep doing it until every car in the Valley has a spot to recharge while the owners are working. SkyPower Electric Shade™ is our brand of choice, but any high quality brand of charging station will do.

And the voices from the peanut gallery shout “Sure, genius. Who’s going to pay for that?” The easy answer is, “All of us.” Come on people, who pays for anything? We do. We all pay for everything. Either we pay for it in taxes or fees or as we use a thing, or some other indirect way.

Paying for stuff isn’t nearly as big of a problem as NOT paying for stuff, like governments issuing flimsy IOU’s. This can only go on for so long before that system grinds to a halt as the venders and suppliers figure out that they aren’t going to ever get paid, and they stop doing things for free.

Our point about the charging stations is that we should do this as a good business move, and not wait and try to make it some state sponsored freebee. Companies that utilize EV recharging will certainly be the ones customers notice and smart employees will want to work for. It will essentially be a free benefit for people who support the business. Also, remember that if a parking space is open, then the solar power from that spot will still be used for running the A/C and pther electrical appliances in the building.

And by the way, it actually saves money, it doesn’t cost money. It’s cheaper by a real lot! What if your boss came to you and said that they would pay to fuel your car forever and all you have to do is … well, nothing? Also, you’ll get a covered parking space to use in the summer, so the drive home doesn’t feel like a sauna. By the way, once we get electric cars on the road, we’ll be able to roll down our windows on the highway without breathing in a mouthful of exhaust fumes.

Most folks won’t read our blog or study the tax code so they will think that this is a super expensive corporate perk. But you insiders will know that this doesn’t really cost the company anything. It’s all paid for with tax credit, depreciation and incentive cash. The company will actually get paid to do this for you. The fact that it’s free for your boss shouldn’t diminish the value to you, but you can certainly expect to find this wonderful benefit at your next job and one after that.

Right now, the economy is slanted such that it’s a hirer’s market out there. But for each electric car in the Phoenix area, that’s about $500 every month that used to get sent off to the oil companies, that will now be staying in our community, for use on local business. You better believe that just as fast as we see the adoption of solar and electric vehicles, that’s how fast we’ll see a turnaround in our regional economy.  Then, of course, companies will need to be competitive on the hiring scene, which they can help accomplish by providing solar covered EV charging stations for their employees for free. Thank goodness it will be a financial benefit for them as well.

Are you on board with this? Okay, we can take off the leg irons now.

 

** Click here to see how Solar Can Work for YOU!**


If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

 

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

 

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.

Qualified For the Job?

No one is expert at everything. Contractors like plumbers, carpenters and home builders certainly are examples of this. It takes a lifetime of study and experience to get good at even one thing. Doing it in multiple disciplines is just not a realistic expectation. The result is that people become specialized in their particular area. So when you have a leaky faucet, you call an expert for that –  a plumber. Need cabinet or molding work, then a carpenter. You get the idea.

The problem with this philosophy is that you expect an expert to know something about the thing they claim to have expertise in. We tend to trust that people are what they advertise themselves to be. We figure that a roofer who puts the shingles underneath the felt would surely have learned his lesson already, or be out of business long before they put up too many of these leaky roofs. Certainly you’d hope the contractors we all depend on would have shaken out those kinks before they get to YOUR house.

It follows that we need these folks to represent their knowledge properly, so that when we hire someone who looks qualified, we are hiring someone who IS qualified. Except this is not what happens in the real world. Everyone has stories of hiring “experts” that seem to know little or nothing about their craft. You might come across falsified credentials or make the mistake of failing to ask for them in the first place. It’s a very big world and shifty people often blend in with the honest ones.

You are certainly not surprised to hear that the solar industry is no different. In these times where finances are so tight, any industry that has a quarter of a billion dollars of incentive money out there is absolutely irresistible to people looking for easy money. The result is that the solar industry is full of self-proclaimed “experts” that actually don’t what they are talking about. Since the technology is new, regular folks don’t have enough knowledge base yet to tell who’s for real and who isn’t.

When SkyPower started, there were twenty solar companies in the Valley and maybe three or four that you would say were “experts.” With the demise of the housing market and increase in incentive money, there are now hundreds of solar companies here. So if you don’t do your homework, the chance that you’ll come across one of the bad companies is pretty darn likely. That’s when you end up paying for a solar array that doesn’t make very much power. We actually see this every day. Panels pointing north or panels that shade other panels, and then the array just don’t work as they should.

How are you supposed to know if this happens to you? Unless you watch your meters and understand what they mean, you can’t. Do you have to become an expert when you buy solar panels? You shouldn’t need to. That’s what SkyPower and other expert companies are for.

Fortunately, the real experts are not hard to find, as long as you keep it in mind that you’re looking for one. That’s why we write these blogs – to give you folks a clear picture of what questions and issues you should keep in mind when going solar.

Do a Google search and see who shows up a lot on the first couple of pages. Don’t get fooled by the companies that pay for placement … you know who they are … they’re the ones on the side of the page and at the top in the shaded zones. These are different than the companies that show up because they have actual web interaction taking place, often which takes years of work and industry presence to establish.

It’s important to you to work with a company that is going to give you the value you need. It’s important to us over here at SkyPower that people keep an eye out for the contractor’s qualifications before they so Solar with them, so that the bad apples to sour the name of the whole industry. We want the same thing that you want, which is to see the new technology work for us. To better use our resources so that we can all prosper better in this coming decade than we did in the last one.

 

** Click here to see how Solar Can Work for YOU!**


If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

 

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

 

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.

Here’s One for the Tax Geeks

As you all know, we are solar engineers and not tax advisers. We are licensed to design and build solar panel systems for your home or your business here in Arizona. We are not licensed to give you official advice on how to file, pay or manage your taxes or investments. We will share with you what we know, but make sure that, as you put this into practice, you CONSULT A TAX PROFESSIONAL!

Ironically, we don’t actually know of any CPA or other tax or legal professional that has read up and mastered the solar or renewables code. We don’t know why there aren’t more of them. We wish we could recommend one to you. By the way, if you are a tax pro and read this (ah, the chances of that are slim), let us know if you are strong on this topic. You don’t even have to be in Arizona. We could be a very nice referral source … for free!

Th important thing is that we are going to share ideas with you here that you should consider, especially if you are considering a solar array for a business. Discuss it with your tax preparer – you’ll benefit by saving a ton of money.

Okay, on with the show…

There is something called MACRS, which is a massively generous gift from the government. Google it for yourself and see. They will give you a gift of 30% of the cost immediately after we turn the thing on. When the local utility kicks in some incentive money, you can easily pop over 100% of the cost of the system. So now your solar array is free, if not profitable. And of course, it’s also free energy that this thing will make for you… forever.

There is also an extremely forgiving depreciation structure. The IRS allows business owners to deduct the entire cost of a solar array in five years. This is quite an accelerated time frame, considered that the solar array is guaranteed to last at least 25 years. And they will give you a 15% depreciation bonus. The government really wants you to go Solar.

Really.

There is no ROI on this because after five years, you have no invested capital. In essence, you are dividing the gain by zero … and for the math geeks out there, you can’t really do that. In any case, the ROI approaches infinity after the third or fourth year.

If you have your own cash, this is great. If you own a business with a decent performance history, we can get a bank to work with you and use their money. Even using bank money, the ROI is crazy high for a very long time. The five year payback extends out a few years as the bank shares the money with you, but eventually, you end up in the same place. Electricity for free … forever … and all of your money back.

Really.

This works for real estate investors and business owners. Since you cannot depreciate your home assets, you’ll just have to be satisfied with a five or six year payback return for residential – a good deal for sure. But the commercial scenario is honestly quite amazing. We wonder why more businesses aren’t jumping at these opportunities – maybe it’s because a lot of business owners don’t even know these offers are out there… but now you do.

** Click here to see how Solar Can Work for YOU!**

 

If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

 

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

 

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.

More Thoughts on “Buy It or Make It”

We’ve talked about this new option of making perfectly good electricity at home. Sort of like distilling your own Budweiser, or growing Chateau Rothschild grapes in your yard for identically produced wine. This has never been available to anyone before, and now it’s available to everyone. No wonder people are befuddled and confused. Yet it’s real, and folks that like to get a jump on these things are teaming up with pros like SkyPower and making it happen.

A quick report from the field … it works exactly as advertised. Our customers don’t have to do much more than point to the roof and sit for a few minutes to pick a payment option. The are lots of payment options, and ALL of them are a better deal than paying the power company as you’re doing now.

So then why aren’t droves of people going Solar? Well, they are, but it maybe happening slower than we would want… a big reason is that there seems to be a lag-time on the spread of accurate information. Many hurdles we faced in the solar industry a few years ago have now been solved, but lots of folks still haven’t heard about it yet. So, here we are, bloggin’ away, trying to get the word out.

Think for a moment on how a business runs. For any given operation, they have to decide if they’ll do it “in-house” or contract it out. This is the “Buy-or-Make” decision. Payroll is an obvious candidate – do you take care of it on your own, or get a service to do it for a price? Some questions come to mind: What is the cost of each option today? What is the cost of each option over the long-run? How long will I need this service? Is it worth it today for me to invest in the long-run?

Ford Motor Company started making their own steel a long time ago. Coors grows their own grain. Every business chooses their spots to Buy or Make just about everything. There are pros and cons to both sides – but generally, if you are sure it’s something you’re going to need for a long time, then the more you can do it in-house, the more money you can save and make.

Even big power companies have to make this decision. They often buy excess power from other companies rather than go to the expense of building another power plant. There’s a thing called a “Power Purchase Agreement” that says Company A makes power and Company B agrees to buy it for a certain amount over a certain time. This gives Company A a guaranteed sale, so they can make back their big investment, while Company B sells the power to you and me, and makes profit without risking the big capital. Many of our local utility companies are brokers as often as they are providers. (Likewise, this gives us the chance to just have one power company to deal with, while the energy we use may actually be produced by a number of companies.)

Company B (your local utility) would rather make their own power instead of buying it from Company A. After all, Company A turns a profit, right? So it stands to reason that energy can be made for cheaper than it can be bought. So why wouldn’t company A always make their own? Why would they ever buy it? …Well, maybe they don’t want to put up that big initial investment, the time and effort, the politics and PR. Building a new power plant is no small feat! Maybe their options for financing are limited, so they’re just playing their cards one hand at a time.

Recently, the question for you at home has become the same question the power companies are asking. Why would you buy electricity from someone else if it’s cheaper to make it for yourself? Of course, the answer for you is different.

For one thing, up until a few years ago, it wasn’t possible for you to make your own electricity. A home coal-burning steam generator? A home nuclear reactor? Of course not. But a home solar array – not only does that exist, it’s well within your reach.

Another reason you haven’t been making it is because you might think you have the same constraints as with the power company – the chunk of capital, the time and the energy – too much for it to be worth it, so you go on paying your power bill month after month. But actually, your situation is quite different! If you think you have to pay for the whole solar array upfront, think again! There’s lots of financing options, loans, leases, and combinations within. Plus, there’s incentives from the utility company, incentives from the government, tax breaks, companies that will pay you to use your unused tax breaks, and so on.

Basically, these offers are taking the long term benefits and converting them into more immediate savings, for those of us who need to make sure we’re covered in the near future before we can start worrying about the long haul. If the power company had as many helping hands reaching out to them as you have, do you think they’d still be buying their power piecemeal? No way! They would take the OPM (other people’s money) that’s being offered to them and build their own new power plant.  These opportunities ARE being offered to you right now, but a lot of folks out there simply haven’t heard about it yet.

Not to make your head spin… the point here is that making your own energy is absolutely a possibility, and it is a WAY better deal for you over the short-run and over the long-run. You don’t plan to stop using electricity, do you? You used to have to buy it, but not anymore. Call SkyPower or your local pro solar installer. We’ve already been at it for a while, so we make the steps easy for you. The most important thing is for you to know that you CAN indeed do it.

 

** Click here to see how Solar Can Work for YOU!**


If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

 

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

 

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.

The Lowly Grounding Clamp

Today is “Solar Panel Grounding Clamp” day in America. Let’s raise our glasses and make a toast to this one piece of solar gear that is crazy important, yet could be missing from your solar array. You’ll see it costs an extra ten bucks per panel along with some $15 worth of copper wire and a little installation time to put this all together properly. Some installation companies don’t bother to put them in, or they can’t because cutting corners was the only way to keep their price competitive. Of course, you could have told them you were willing to tack that onto your solar budget, but you just didn’t know at the time.

Some customers object to the bright orange wire up on their roofs, even though it takes less than a month for the wire to “green” out like the Statue of Liberty and become all but invisible. Besides, if you ask, they can probably put the grounding wire beneath the panels where you can’t see it anyway. So, visual appeal actually has nothing to do with it. Nice try, though.

Some installers put up a few of these to show the building inspectors, some use cheap steel that actually corrodes pretty quickly here in the desert. Others use something called a “grounding strap” in an effort to provide some of the protection but chop the price. Again, good thought – if it worked… but it doesn’t.

So what’s so important about this lowly grounding lug? This little beauty is the guardian of your house in a thunderstorm. Don’t be fooled, lightning could indeed hit your house – the chances a re small, but not zero. And now, with the solar array, you have literally a ton of very conductive metal up there potentially attracting the lightning. Without these stainless guardians, that stroke of massive power from the sky has nowhere to go, except to start your house on fire.

“What?!” you say, “the solar array makes my house more susceptible to lightning?!” Well, not if you have the proper grounding clamps!

When grounding clamps are installed properly … just like the picture … the lightning will flow instantly from your panels to the ground and all will be safe. They provide a “grounding path” that is not needed very often, but is wildly important when it is needed. It might even come into use on that rare day when a critter chews through a wire or a falling meteor damages a panel. Anytime big electricity is someplace it’s not supposed to be, you want the best grounding lug on the planet to be between you and that power.

Let’s not forget the copper wire. Even if it’s getting spendy these days to use the proper gauge, do make sure that your installer is using six-gauge copper for the grounding system. It’s code and just good sense. Lightning is a monster and for an extra few bucks and some care, you can make sure that your house still stands after a big storm.

“Thank you grounding lugs – it’s your day and you’ve earned it!”

 

** Click here to see how Solar Can Work for YOU!**


If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

 

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

 

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.

It’s the Little Things

Long ago, in a world of computer and network support, SkyPower’s founder tells a story of a sales call where things got particularly technical. When geeks meet, things get … well, geeky. This was in the mid 80′s when hooking computers up to each other was a strange and difficult thing to do. The Internet was still many years away and email was an extremely expensive and custom programing task.

The idea at the time was to give some folks access to documents and letters written by someone else. A lawyer could write a contract and a technical writer could go over it for typos, grammar and other general goofiness. Up ’til then, we all used something called “sneakernet” where the document was copied to a floppy disk and hand delivered from office to office. Knowing which was the “real” document and which had been altered for better or worse was a big question and problem.

This was a big company with many departments and would be a big “get” if the sale could be made. What did they want? Would our impeccable computer credentials be recognized for the value that we knew they brought to the table? Did the customer even understand what they where asking for, what they needed or how it was to be delivered?

All of this had to come together or we would not get the job.

As we walked the corridors and chatted about the problems and potential solutions, we happened upon the server room. You’d laugh at it today, but back them it was something. Three 386 towers with two 14kBaud modems hooked up to each. A PC that recorded each telephone call as it was completed and a big back-up tape drive (maybe 10 megabytes!) with a whole stack of tapes. Wires all over the place and a really big fan!

Over in its own room sat an IBM System 36 minicomputer … a hulking thing that cost a fortune to buy and a bigger fortune to maintain. This was the time between mini and micro computers and we were the micro guys … cheaper and more nimble … unproven and maybe unreliable. Would they take the chance? We gave it all we had. The meeting seemed to go well.

A week or so later, we got the call and the job. They wanted us to install a “modern” Novell network for them and take them into the future. It was a relationship that we had for nearly twenty years. We understood them and they trusted us to make good things happen.

Here’s the point of all this. Some years later, when we were all sitting around and just talking about stuff, we asked how it was that they called us in the first place. What was it that got us hired originally? It turns out that they had received a “blog” report that we sent out by snailmail. It was made using Aldus Pagemaker (which became Adobe InDesign after a number of iterations) and it talked about servers and stuff. There was a single line in one of the reports that mentioned that old greenscreen monitors could have a second life and worked great on servers and that big expensive color monitors were neither required or advantageous. It was a simple, cost effective, Eco-friendly solution.

This one sentence had conveyed a lot of information about us. It told the customer how we thought about things and how clever we could be using “old” stuff effectively. It was an eco-computer thing before there were eco-computer things. It was this little thing that showed us we both cared about being smart and forward-thinking … and sometimes that’s just what it takes to start a long and wonderful working relationship.

 

** Click here to see how Solar Can Work for YOU!**


If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

 

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

 

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.

A Good Deal Tomorrow

A wise old man once said, “If a deal is good today, it will be good tomorrow.” No doubt, he said this in response to the used chariot sales guy pushing to close a deal before the spring equinox. Anytime you hear “this offer is good for the next five minutes only,” it should make you want to run for the hills.

The solar panel hucksters here in the Valley try this technique all the time. “We only have so many of these panels at this great price. You need to sign now.” or “The incentives are going down. Get ‘em while they’re hot!”

Here’s our take … sleep on it for a day. If you wait a whole year,  you’ll feel a dent in your pocketbook. But a day or two– no problem. A good deal today will still be a good deal tomorrow.

Solar panels are a great thing and even if you buy them badly, it’s still a better deal than paying the power company month after month after month after month. But you don’t even need to do it badly because it’s not so hard to do it well. Take the time to get a little smarter. Take the time to find an expert to help you. Take the time to check to see if the folks you are talking to are respected and knowledgeable. Take the time to compare a few things. You have until tomorrow. In fact, you may actually have until the day after that or even the day after that.

This solar market is a bit like a moving train. Folks that got on a few stations ago are enjoying the ride. There are stops all along the way and eventually everyone will get on board. Whether you get on at this station or another one in a week or two, it won’t make that much difference.

“Why not?” you ask. Isn’t there a time that’s the best? Well, not really. We have customers that got on board a few years ago when the incentives were massive, but the tax breaks were only so-so. A year or so later, the tax breaks were terrific, but the prices for the systems popped up. Then the system prices came down and the incentives did, too.

The market is constantly changing with little ups and downs that basically balance each other out. It’s silly to wait because you think it’s only getting better later on. How long can that attitude last? By that logic, it’s better to wait fifty years. But of course that’s ridiculous, we probably won’t even be alive in fifty years. And if we are – think about how many power bills we’ll have paid by then!

Maybe you’re actually waiting to see if Solar is just a passing fad and we’ll get back to burning pulverized fossils for the long haul – if that’s the case, then hurry up and get over it! Renewable energy IS energy. That will continue to be true from now on. If you don’t see that already, then the time will come where fossil fuels are so expensive, you’ll be a complete fool not to get on board. But how many electric bills will you have paid by then, when the whole time you could have gotten free energy right from the Sun?

But if you have indeed realized that Solar is part of your near future, then go ahead and take a week to find out how you can do it best. A solar array is warrantied for 25 years. And it can last a very long time even past that. So it’s a purchase decision that may well last you and/or your house for life. So an extra few days to do your homework is no big deal.

 

** Click here to see how Solar Can Work for YOU!**

If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.

North by Northwest

Unless you live in Australia, solar panels are never, ever, ever pointed towards the north or northwest. If you did this in the US, it would cost you so much of your power that your solar panels would be almost as ineffective as if they were set up in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. So why write a blog titled “North by Northwest?”

The answer is simply enough. With a title like that, you might actually read it! And Google might give us an extra bump in our search position. Plus it just sounds cool. In reality, you want to point your panels south by southeast.

Some folks think that a western orientation is better for solar panels. This is generally not correct. It’s a holdover from the days when “solar panels” meant solar thermal hot water panels. In that case, a little western tilt gives you a bit of the afternoon heat. For solar electric panels, the afternoon heat hurts the power output.

It’s a funny thing that folks don’t think about all that much … even solar folks … the morning is just as long as the afternoon. Stand outside around noon where you live and wait for the Sun to reach the highest point in the sky. You will be aimed due south. Not southwest, southeast or any other direction with the word north in it. Look at your watch. The chances that it will say 12:00pm sharp are almost zero. Noon on your watch is not solar noon.

This difference is called the Equation of Time and takes into account the variance of the Sun, the Earth and all sorts of rotational things. Around the Valley of the Sun, it will be right around 12:35pm. How odd is that? Around here, noon is actually at half past!

If dawn is at 6:30am and sundown is at seven something, you will find that noon is actually right in the middle. In fact, that’s how they calculate such things. Figure the midway point of each and every day and you’ll know where to find noon. Armed with this incredibly insightful wisdom, you can deduce that the morning is the same length of time and same amount of light as the afternoon.

Since the morning is cooler in the desert than the afternoon (always… you can take our word for it, or drop by in August and test it out for yourself), so it makes sense to put your panels on the southeast roof and not the southwest if your house has a “A” line roof with an east/west orientation. For some reason, so many solar guys still don’t get this.

It’s almost as if they like the “North by Northwest” movie title and put up solar panels based upon that. Judging by what we see, they might as well have used this for their assumptions because putting panels facing west around here will actually get you just about the same power, which is not that much.
** Click here to see how Solar Can Work for YOU!**


If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

 

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

 

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.

The Heat Is On

Solar engineers know that heat is one of the enemies of solar power production. As the panels get hotter, the power goes down. Oh to be sure, it’s not anywhere near as troubling as shade, but it does add up … at least a little over time. Take a look at this snippet of a solar panel data sheet. Down under “Temperature Coefficients” you’ll see it … right there … the second line … where it says -0.47%/ºC. What that means is that your solar panel will produce something near ½% less power for each degree of centigrade temperature rise. Translate that to Fahrenheit and you lose ¼% for each degree.

So, if the thermometer in the Valley goes up 20º, you lose 5% of your power. A 210watt panel becomes a 200watt panel. It’s real and we can show you. Take a look.

Here is the power output curves for March 31st and April 1st …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are virtually identical. That’s one of the neat parts of solar in the Valley of the Sun. We get day after day of nearly perfect solar radiance. Here’s the thing … on April 1st, the temperature hit 100º in the Valley for the first time this year. It certainly wasn’t the last. You can see by the graphs that two things happened. The first was the top of the graph was ever so slightly below the day before when it was only 90º. The second thing was that the trace got a little “edgy” in the afternoon as the atmosphere got a little stirred up by convection heating of the atmosphere.

Both of the phenomena cost us power. How much? Not very much … but not zero, either. The total power produced on March 31st was 21.32 kW/hr. which is 98% of theoretical maximum … totally excellent! The next day which was a minute longer and 10º hotter was 21.30 kW/hr. … a loss of 0.1%.

If you are a geeky engineer, you see that this is exactly the expected loss of 2.5% over 3 hours of solar production time. What was this in money? About ½¢! Over the life of the array, this could be a couple of bucks … especially when you consider that the summer heat is just getting going.

Not to worry, though. Tomorrow will be 93 seconds longer and make up for this two or three times over. Plus, we have dust to deal with in the desert, too … but that’s another story.

 

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If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

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Circa 2100 ~ A World Without Oil

This blog post was written by Brett Dinner, our SkyPower intern.

Background

In the mid-1800’s, the United States of America rose to be a global power due in large part to its industrial revolution. The country became the industrial center for the western hemisphere, if not the largest manufacturing center in the world.  With the implementation of thousands of factories throughout the nation, the American labor market produced goods for both national use and for exportation to other countries. As a result of this activity, the economy boomed. Yet, this illustrious national economy was built on the use of fossil fuels.  With the United States setting an example for success, the rest of the world began to follow its lead.  Over time, these industries in other countries transformed their production processes from small-scale to large-scale manufacturing utilizing factories and assembly lines to achieve higher productivity. Fossil fuels became the catalyst for economic development worldwide.

Half a century ago, the United States accomplished an achievement previously thought of as impossible. Now, when venturing outdoors, one can immediately see the difference. From the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast, no matter the city, even Los Angeles or the Big Apple, the air is pristine.  The formerly dark hazy skies in large population centers, which would show throughout sunny days, remain no more.  It is hard to believe that the day has come when the air is finally purified of smog and air pollution. Fifty years later, this is the consequence of society’s actions.

In the year 2050, the United States of America, the nation established on its principles of freedoms and of which built its economy on its utilization of fossil fuels, finally became free.  In the 1941 State of the Union address, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed four fundamental freedoms for people everywhere in the world: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom of want, and freedom of fear.  Yet, the national population for the country’s first 274 years had not truly enjoyed these inherent freedoms.  Only for the last fifty years has the freedoms of want and fear diminished. The people of the United States have worked hard to achieve the freedom from oil.

In commemoration of a half century of attaining this most recent freedom, we will examine from a historical view this world without oil. However, we will not delve into the process, which took place for society to achieve this mark. Rather, we will paint a picture of life in 2050 to answer what these great changes were and their effects on society. As background, it is critical to understand the two most important causes of the freedom from oil: society’s changed viewpoint regarding renewables and the basic reasoning behind these changes.

Society overcame great challenges regarding the field of renewable energy technologies in the first half of the twenty-first century.  Previously, people had been extremely hesitant to go green due to their lack of experience with the technology. Yet, as the push to go green became more prevalent, people became more informed about and experienced with the technology. As a result, society felt less uncertainties and risks associated with investing in renewable technologies. Additionally, as the few utility-scale renewable projects opened in the early 2000s proved to be extremely productive, people’s worry of economy of scale over time diminished. Consequently, larger-scale projects have been opened, allowing for cost of production to decrease. In addition, people’s awareness of externalized costs has been conveyed to society through the price of fossil fuels. Not only is the price of fossil fuels to consumers no longer subsidized by the federal government, but also it is raised to reflect government costs of impacts of fossil fuel use on environmental and human health. With this higher cost, people are extremely supportive of renewables due to their cost effectiveness.

Society’s altered viewpoint for the first time as a whole saw change as a necessity for the sake of ecology. No more was it seen as a collective action problem. Rather, the widespread use of fossil fuels, especially oil, became a cooperative or uncooperative game; the population, at a societal and individual level, would win the maximum amount through the discontinuation of oil or would lose the maximum amount through the continuation of oil.  Freedom from oil was that easy.

 

Energy

In the early twenty-first century, over ninety percent of the United States’ petroleum use came in the form of energy production. Presently, renewable energy, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, clean coal and biofuels now carry that burden. Although all coal plants now use carbon capture and sequestration, coal burning for energy use has heavily diminished. In this world without oil, renewable energy technology is finally employed nationwide and is extremely productive. In fact, nearly three quarters of electricity comes directly from renewable energy resources. Due to the minimized transport of coal to clean coal plants and the slight costs of operation of renewable energy technology, the cost of electricity to rate-payers is finally manageable once again and even little to nothing for communities with distributive generation. In the past twenty years, electricity charges had been blowing up, escalating at unprecedented rates. Now, the environment and citizens’ bank accounts are saved all due to renewable energy technology.

Rivers are commonly utilized throughout the United States to generate hydroelectric power.  These systems produce electricity by utilizing the energy in moving water to turn a turbine.  On several large rivers, such as the Mississippi River and Colorado River, impoundment hydroelectric plants have been installed. These impoundment facilities effectively store water behind a dam, gradually releasing water to spin turbines and create electricity.  However, while the Hoover Dam along the Colorado River has proven impoundment hydroelectric plants success, it has also faced problems. Due to the high costs to build and operate these systems, utility companies wanted a more cost-effective system. Additionally, high resistance for impoundment facilities arose from their disruptive force upon aquatic ecosystems.

With these thoughts in mind, less costly and less disruptive run-of-river hydroelectric plants have become more prevalent than impoundment hydroelectric plants. In run-of-river facilities, a portion of river’s natural flow of water is channeled through a series of pipes to a powerhouse where the turbines are located and continues onward to the river.  The force of water, similar to impoundment plants, turns the turbines and generates electricity.  However, as these facilities are dependent on sustained flow of river and therefore are only located on the major rivers in the United States.  In the last several decades, people have begun utilizing another source of water for energy.

Ocean energy systems have developed covering the coastlines of the United States using tidal power, wave power, and ocean thermal energy conversion. Although Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems, which generates electricity through using the sharp temperature differences that exist between warm surface water and deeper cold water, only have been sparingly employed off the coast of New England, other solutions have proven more cost effective. In production of energy, ocean and lake energy systems only contribute less electricity than solar energy systems.

Tidal power, or lunar power, employs the daily rising and falling of seas due to the moon’s gravitational pull to create kinetic energy, which can be converted into electricity. Tidal barges have been developed most prominently off the Gulf of Mexico nearest to the Florida Keys, the Chesapeake Bay, and the San Francisco Bay. In each of these places exists large differences between high and low tides. These dam-like structures capture water moving into a bay through open gates during high tide, after which the gates are closed. During low tide, the water is released out of the bay through a sluice gate, spinning a turbine and generating electricity.

As an alternate system of ocean tidal power, tidal fences have been attached to the underside of bridges, which lie above channels. These systems, submerged into water, act as turnstiles. Flowing water pushes the systems’ vertical blades, causing the rotor to spin and the production of electricity. However, the system most utilized of tidal power systems is tidal turbines. Tidal farms are predominantly off the Atlantic Coast coasts throughout majority of the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet, the systems most implemented in ocean waters exploit the kinetic energy of moving waves to generate electricity thereby producing waver power. First employed off the coast of Washington and Oregon, offshore wave power systems have been greatly embraced and expanded throughout the Pacific Coast and even to large lakes such as the Great Lakes due these systems’ lack of size. These different systems work in two ways: the first of which utilizes the bobbing motion of the waves to stretch and relax hoses attached to floats to build up pressure on the water in the hoses to turn a turbine and generate electricity; the latter uses the bobbing motion of the ocean to power a pump that generates electricity.   Presently, in oceans along the coasts of the United States and lakes inland, the majority of buoys float not for navigational purposes but rather to produce electricity.

Solar energy is the renewable energy most used in the United States. Throughout all states in the Southwest, South, and Southeast regions, one can find solar employed at a residential, commercial, and utility scale. Much of the large, flat formerly barren land these regions are filled with concentrated solar power (CSP) systems and concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) plants.  Most houses in these regions also utilize PV systems. In fact, some city governments require that houses must have PV modules on their roofs. As a result, homeowners in these regions extensively produce their own electric current from sunlight energy.

Across the Northeast, Northwest, Midwest, Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains, stand thousands of wind farms. These clusters of wind turbines convert the kinetic energy contained in moving air into electricity. In addition, many wind turbines are interconnected with PV systems due to the ability of PV systems to operate at variable heights.

Of all the renewable energy technology, the one most affected by oil was no doubt geothermal. Without oil extraction, geothermal energy companies around the nation greatly benefit. Former oil wells and new wells can be used by geothermal direct systems to produce heat energy as a source of heat and hot water for industrial, commercial or residential purposes. Yet, oil wells are only one source of geothermal energy. In regions with magma conduits, hot springs, hydrothermal circulation, and drilled water, geothermal energy systems also prosper. In flesh steam power plants, dry steam power plants, binary power plants, each of these sources use the kinetic energy in hot water and steam from geothermal reservoirs to turn a turbine and generate electricity. In addition, these same sources are used jointly with geothermal source heat pumps. Geothermal source heat pumps use the temperature difference between the upper ten feet of earth’s surface and outside air for building heating and cooling.

Biofuel presents the primary replacement to the United States’ use of oil. Yet, with the large amounts of petroleum used, agriculture has become as prominent in the nation’s economy as ever before with escalated prices of crops. Farms of fast growing crops, most commonly algae and switchgrass, often cover at least fifteen percent of each state’s undeveloped regions in order to be accord with state regulations.

All homes and most land vehicles and smaller boats across the nation are powered by electricity. Plug-ins, which connects to the grid, are as widely employed as gas stations used to be. Many vehicles and homes also utilize electricity from distributive generation, while vehicles also often employ hydrogen fuel cells. Large trucks, boats, and airplanes are often powered in part by electricity, but require fuel and thus utilize biodiesel or natural gas.  Additionally, high speed electric trains connect all major cities throughout the country, utilizing hydrogen fuel cells, the grid, and often PV panels on their rooftops.

 

Manufacturing

Oil had been largely been used in manufacturing of everyday materials. Now, with oil use completely nonexistent, the manufacturing industry has completely changed. In fact, with components in biofuels and other replacements having to be naturally produced, the quantity of oil replacements produced is significantly less than the amount of oil that had been used in manufacturing but fifty years ago. Yet, in order to ensure that the supply of goods that had required oil for production are still sufficient, several fossil fuels have begun to be used as replacements for oil, namely coal and natural gas. They have allowed for gradual growth in the biofuel market while holding the price of products requiring oil substitutes to not completely skyrocket. However, natural gas and coal are not sustainable solutions. The United States does employ great natural gas and coal reserves, but in the end, each is a fossil fuel. Thus, neither will be on the earth forever. New solutions are sure to come in upcoming years. In the meantime, with the majority of energy coming from renewable energy, the United States can afford to use these fossil resources with biofuels.

Simple products like plastic have found unique ways to continue, although at a smaller scale. One innovative technique utilizes feathers from chickens, turkeys, and other birds in order to replace polyethylene or polypropylene in oil in the production of keratin plastic.  Thus, domestic farmers are provided with an easy way to sell the nearly three billion pounds of chicken feathers they accumulate yearly. The primary solutions for plastic production use natural gas, coal or cellulosic ethanol from plants, such as sugarcane, corn, algae, and switchgrass.

Plastic was seen everywhere in the past, but is now used much less frequently. An interesting result of this is that the use of once ubiquitous fiberglass has greatly decreased as well. Due to large decrease in plastic supply, it is now required by national law to be recycled. Goods bought in stores are no longer packaged in plastic unless refrigeration is needed. Instead, paper products such as cardboard are most prominently used. Glass is often used for containers, as it was a hundred years ago. However, its production process is now completely reliant on natural gas rather than its former use of oil. Also, many products, such as containers and chairs, utilize steel or other metals. In addition, farm grown superwood is heavily used as a replacement for plastic.

The widespread use of synthetic rubber has diminished due to the lack of existence of oil in the United States. Nearly seventy percent of rubber is now produced through at least partially biological processes with the other thirty percent of rubber using natural gas.  While natural rubber cultivation makes up the majority of rubber production, synthetic rubber production uses cellulosic plant components.  This plant material is crucial in the fabrication of isoprene, a key ingredient in rubber.  Natural rubber, similar to plastic, is only used sparingly compared to past usage and used based on greatest need.

Even clothes, curtains, rope, and carpets production have changed. Each often were composed of polyester, nylon, or acrylic, which most often utilized oil for its petrochemicals.  Now natural gas, coal and biofuels are used to replace these polymers in oil. Clothing and textiles are now mostly produced from natural fibers, such as cotton, silk, and wool, and manmade fibers made from cellulosics like bamboo and viscose.  Other daily products such as soapless detergent, make-up, dyes, candlewax, paint and even many pain relief medicines, which also employ petrochemicals, often have no alternative but using natural gas and cellulose.  Each of these products has greatly decreased other than medicine and paint.  Pain relief medicine now mostly uses new found natural solutions from plants in the rain forest. Paint has begun using pigments from fruits and vegetables. Detergent is now largely no longer soapless. Candles have given way to using vegetable oil or low cost LED lights.

With oil no longer in use and the great production of biofuels, natural gas and even biofuels are now needed more than ever before in order to produce biofuels. Pesticides, which help to ensure fast production and minimal loss of vegetation, had required large quantities of oil. But now, they utilize the very thing they help to make. Additionally, while oil had been needed for refrigeration of food, this energy source has been replaced by renewable electricity. In addition, much more food is locally grown due to most commercial farms being for biofuel production and the reduction of packaging with plastics.

Yet, with much less vegetable oil to replace oil for machinery lubrication, production of every manufactured product has been greatly affected. Even renewable energy technology has greatly risen in price. Fewer large vehicles are built because the rising costs due to materials that had required oil. More people taking intercity public electric trains or subways or buses instead. Even asphalt products, such as streets and rooftop shingles are hardly seen. Roads are largely concrete. Yet, in less developed areas many just have dirt roads.

 

Conclusion

This world has been affected in every way by no longer using oil. Over time, it has become much better and no doubt will only continue to do so.  In the next half century, many more changes have been made, especially with coal and natural gas. More substitutes for these fossil fuels continue to be researched and developed. It it all started when people realized oil was no longer in their future.  The world gradually became a smarter and more environmental friendly. Change has been embraced. The world knows now that it has to deal with the issues. America’s future is again safe and independent.

 


If you have any questions, please call Jay Leopold at 480-290-2040 or email Jay at jay@skypoweraz.com.

Sign up to receive our blog updates at http://feeds.feedburner.com/skypowersolar

 

Remember to tune in every Thursday night at 8:00pm on the SkyPower website for Season #3 of The Renewable Power Hour at http://skypoweraz.com/radio-show-season-3/.

 

Take advantage of a FREE SOLAR QUOTE—click here.