Orphaned Solar Panels (2012~31)

Orphaned Solar Panels (2012~31)

Oh, no! My solar panel maker just went out of business. What am I to do?

Nothing. Relax. … It’s no big deal.
How can you say that? This is terrible. … Oh, please! Tsunami’s are terrible. Nuclear plant meltdowns are disasters. Super Nova on your home stars are disasters. Worrying about something that might never happen and if it does, will require about three or four unlikely things to all happen at once … that’s not a disaster! But what if I need warranty repairs or replacement? … Don’t sweat it.

Okay, you are still loosing sleep so let’s look at this rationally. You thought that SuperDuper Solar was a sure bet. They had the best panels and cost only $100 each. How could they ever go bust? Easy … they were only charging you $100 for a thing that cost $1,000. Who could have imagined this outcome? … Duh! Everyone. But now you are “stuck” with them.

That’s true, but in order for you to need warranty service, one of the panels needs to fail … and that is a very rare thing in the solar business. SkyPower has been doing this for years and years and has NEVER seen a failed solar panel after installation. We’ve seen one dropped at the factory and heard about one that was dead on delivery, but was never installed. Other than that, this is a problem you are not likely to ever see.

If it does happen to you, call your solar installation company. If they are out of business, then call SkyPower. We’ll be there for you. Here’s a run down of what we will do …

(1) Call all of the panel distributors and see if the happen to have a matching panel in their warehouse.

(2) Check the Internet for “used” panel brokers. They exist and might have a panel for you.

(3) Try redesigning the system to handle one less panel. A 21 panel system (3 strings of 7) might be reconfigurable to 20 panels (2 strings of 10). This might also work for removal of a second panel (now you’d have a spare).

(4) Try finding a panel of the same technology (poly silicon for example) that is the same size and shape (and color?) and a very close match in voltage and amperage. This will also be close in watts because watts equals volts times amps. Go big on this … not too big, but a little big. Let’s say that you have Solon 235′s (good panel … but they they bellied up last year because they don’t know how to run a business) and one goes down. If you can’t find a Solon 235, then perhaps a Solon 240 might work. It very well could be from the same batch run only a better tester. Going with another panel maker will work if the new panel is more powerful than the one that failed. You won’t get more power from it than the one you are replacing so don’t get excited and think that replacing a failed 235 with a new 285 will give you 50 more watts of power. It doesn’t work that way. You’ll be lucky to get over 200 watts … be happy you found a working panel.

(5) Eliminate the entire string from the centralized inverter and reconnect the panels with micro inverters. You may need to reconfigure the entire array to get this to work, but it can be done. It also will cost you a fair penny as you will need to buy the inverters and maybe another panel.

(6) Take this opportunity to expand the whole system. Redesign with new and improved parts. Go big! The old system was 3kW and now you can go up to 6kW or more. You’ll need the power to run the A/C during these crazy hot summers or even to power your electric car. Use what you can and add what you need. This might truly turn lemons into lemonade.

So you see … this is not a disaster. It’s not even a likely scenario. Sure it could happen, but if it does, don’t worry. Panel and related parts prices are always dropping. Imagine what you would do if your PC-286 failed. It’s sort of like that.

 

 

The Ten Minute Window (2012~28)

The Ten Minute Window (2012~28)

It is possible that you may be new to these SkyPower blogs. Somehow, you have missed the four hundred and fifty blogs, radio shows, videos and other postings that we have put up on the web over the past couple of years. It might be the case that this article is the first one of ours that you have ever seen. If so … welcome! You are about to find out that we are solar engineers engaged in the business of putting up the finest solar electric power systems available for homes and small businesses in the sunny southwest United States. We write these blogs in an effort to document the trials and tribulations of the solar world for those that are using or thinking about using solar electricity to power their lives. For those that read this in the next year or so, it may help to understand what you are trying to do. If you are reading this sometime after 2014, then let it stand as a mark in solar history. This is how things seem to be right now.

Make no mistake, SkyPower wants to be your solar company. We want to sell you solar. We make our living selling solar and if you don’t buy into what we are saying or do agree, but go with another company … well, that’s not what we were hoping for when we offered up our knowledge. If you are reading this AND you are going to buy solar … but you are not going to do it with SkyPower … then STOP! If you are not in Arizona, then it’s okay to keep going. If you are in Arizona and you are going solar soon and you are doing it with another company, then why are you ready this? Read their stuff (as goofed up as it probably is) and buy their kool-aid. If four hundred articles about solar and SkyPower’s value proposition doesn’t win you over, then what more could we do?

We have found that the “go solar” decision happens unlike any other sale ever studied. It’s very strange that something so big and important is bought or discarded in so short a time with so little information. We call in the “Ten Minute Window.” It’s actually two five minute windows, but that doesn’t sound as cool or as easy to explain.

The first “window” is where the magic happens. Somehow, somewhere, someway a person decides that making their own power is the way they want to go. There are a million ways for this to happen and a million more places, but it almost always ends up with a “light bulb” going off in their heads (powered by coal from a big utility with a big utility bill) telling them that the time has come. It could be that you’re driving around, seeing other houses with solar. It could be just after opening a power bill. It could be after seeing a newspaper article on solar or it could be after a neighbor or friend does it. One thing we’re pretty sure of is that very little we can do here at SkyPower can make that moment happen. We simply don’t have enough marketing power. Google doesn’t have enough marketing power to make you go solar.

It happens in as flash. “Oh my. I need to go solar.”

No amount of web advertising or other media input can make this happen … actually, all of the media and advertising make this happen. The combined weight of society and all the messages that we all get each day add up to make it happen. Some are plusses … solar is cheaper. Some are negatives … solar stocks are down. Some are informative and some are just plain stupid. The oil and coal guys (through Fox “News”) tell you that solar is bad while at the same time they are buying solar companies because the see the writing on the wall. They didn’t get to own everything by passing up opportunities … especially those as easy to see as solar.

The solar guys (like us) tell you that it works … because it does. Even so, massive adoption of any new thing takes time. People are people and especially here in Arizona, nothing happens fast. It’s hard to make an important decision when it’s 115˚ outside!

Once the first half of our ten minute window happens and you’ve decided to go solar, the second one happens and that’s our one and only chance to sell you on SkyPower. It’s in that second-half of the Ten Minute Window that we are hoping you read this and decide to hire SkyPower to build your solar array. It only takes five minutes because that’s all the time you will give it. Your life is too busy and this is just not interesting enough to give it more time than that. We have five minutes to gain your trust. If we do, the deal is done. If not, then Solar City will get to build another crappy array … because you just don’t care to do it great and their green hybrid cars running around town have convinced you that they know what they are doing. (The $28million in warranty repairs they needed to perform last year did not come into your decision. Too bad!)

The “go solar” decision is made just that fast. Five minutes in … five minutes out. After that, it’s just education and overcoming buyer’s remorse that takes up a bit of time. If we didn’t want to be polite or hope for referrals that never happen, we’d instruct our sales team to say “thanks for the ice tea” and leave after five minutes when it appears that the folks in front of them are not buying what we are selling. It’s very clear. It’s also that clear when the folks are on board. We tell them stuff, but they don’t care. “Just take care of us.” is all they say as they sign on to do solar.

… and we do take care of them.

There are other sales that happen this fast … perhaps all sales, but this is solar and it’s a big deal. We are constantly amazed at how little folks care about something so important to them. Some just take electricity for granted and don’t know or care what it costs. They will be surprised soon enough and find that their attitude was very expensive. Some care about their power, but buy solar like they buy refrigerators. Too bad. It could have been done better.

We only had ten minutes and unfortunately, no solar company is big enough to do that … at least not yet. If you find this blog in that window or remember it for some reason when that window opens for you, call or email. We’ll be there to build great things and that makes these articles all worth while.

 

 

A Lifetime Commitment (2012~16)

A Lifetime Commitment (2012~16)

We were sitting in sales meeting this week and talking about solar leases. As you all know, this is the hot topic for the solar world these days because the government is throwing huge tax dollars at American Energy and the banks are working as hard as they can to catch as much of them as they can. The winner in all this is the homeowner here in the desert southwest who puts solar panels on their homes. They get free energy every day and the value of their house goes way up. You can read all about these topics in other blog entries, but the word from ground zero on this is that it’s very real. Free money and free electricity … can’t beat that!

Our future customer was wondering about the prudence of signing on to a twenty-year lease deal. It seemed like such a long time and to be sure, it is quite a while … until you think about how long the house will be standing and how long the owner (whether is you or the next guy) will need electricity. That’s when it hit us. The commitment to buy electricity is forever. Just like the need for water, air and food, we have decided to need electricity if we are to live in this part of the world. It’s a lifetime commitment. That’s all there is to it.

Could you live here without power? Sure. Native Americans have done so on and off for a very long time. There are places around here that could be fabulous to hang out without power even in the summer … but not for 4,000,000 people! A few hundred foraging, farming and hunting down by the Verde River in Fountain Hills is one thing (saw some wild horses over there a few weeks ago). Take this number up to 10,000 and the place won’t be pristine for very long. Ever notice the first call you make when you move to a new home or apartment? Yup … the power company.

So, get over it. We are addicted to electricity. We need it. We crave it. We can’t go fifteen minutes without it around here … especially when the Sun rises high in the sky (which is why solar panels here are so effective).

Why then, do folks get twitchy when asked to buy electricity in twenty-year chunks as they do with solar panel leases? The answer is that just like everything else with solar, this is new. Even though we are signed on for electricity for life, the purchase has always been month to month. No long term leases … just month after month after month after month … and that’s what the power company has been banking on all these years. They know that you will buy from them and that there is nothing you can do about it. They also know that if they raise the rates slowly enough, you won’t notice. And so they do and so you don’t.

Then, a couple of years ago, solar panels came along and all of the sudden you could make your own electricity, just like the power company only for a lot less. The thing is, like any machine, you need to provide a bit of up-front investment, not unlike when you buy a house or a car. Only now, you are buying an electric generator and you’ve never done that before.

Fortunately, it’s easy to do and you have zillions of options in case you don’t want it anymore. The options are not quite as simple as walking away from it as you can do with the power company, but they are pretty close and a lot less costly. So, why not?

The reasons for not going solar are clear … for some reason, you are not able to make a commitment to your current lifestyle … you need flexibility. This is true for folks who rent their homes or plan to move soon. They should hold off on going solar until their living situation is a bit more stable. For the rest of us, there is no reason to wait on solar. You have been committed to buying electricity your whole life so this twenty-year lease deal is no big thing.

 

 

 

One Size Fits ONE™ (2012~14)

One Size Fits ONE™ (2012~14)

A lot of talk this week has centered on solar customization.  Can you build the same thing for lots of folks and still do a great job? The answer is simple … no. You can build similar things and use pieces from one job on other projects, but ultimately each house is unique, sitting in a unique place with unique surroundings and unique energy requirements. It is just not true that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Could you get good at assembling similar components in the solar world and affect a “customized” solution in an assembly-line manner? To this, we can answer … yes. As a company gets more and more experience at a thing, while creating more and more component availability connections, they inevitably arrive at a point where they “just know” what to do and have the resources to do it. This is where SkyPower is.

 

A “customized” solution still has a fair amount of “custom” in it. There are still a fixed number of variables and fixed number of solutions. Mixing and matching these is what makes a great answer. You don’t have to be faced with a million options before the solution is called “custom.” However, calling a product “custom” when the choice is between two or three variations isn’t correct either. Clearly then, for a solution to be “custom,” one needs to be making a considered choice that spans a range of something more than three and less than a million.

There is one more component to “custom” and this may actually be the “magic sauce” that makes the whole thing sparkle … invention. A great and creative system designer needs to be able, on occasion, go outside even the million choice barrier and come up with something never before envisioned. Not by them … not by any one. This is true customization and the fact that it could be part of the package, even if not used in every case, makes the design truly “custom.”

If you want to know what parts of the solar design process lend themselves to this “custom” approach that we are talking about here, then you will need to go back and read all of the four hundred plus articles that we have written thus far because it’s this depth of knowledge that SkyPower relies upon when we come to look at your house. It’s not just your house that we look at. We look at the neighbor’s house and the neighbor’s trees. We look for shade and water marks and tiles and foam and walls and meters and ceiling fans and cooking tops and a thousand other clues as to how you buy and use power … and how we might be able to do it better, which translates into cheaper.

Better is better, but better without cheaper may not be worth doing. Better without enough cheaper is also suspect. Much better and much cheaper is the goal … and that requires lots and lots of options … leading us to conclude that “custom” design is the only way to achieve this.

Your house may look like others and your family may be similar to others. Your neighborhood might even be the same as is your dog and car … but … put all of this together and you are unique. Your energy profile is unique (this is why the power company sends separate bills to each customer) and so is your solar profile. We see this clearly and want to get you all the power from the Sun that we can and see that as much of it reaches your home as possible. It makes a difference … One Size fits ONE™!

Now Things Are Getting Interesting (2012~1)

Now Things Are Getting Interesting (2012~1)

This week in solar has been a little wild. Dr. Paul Krugman, the Nobel Laureate in Economics took a solar spin on his New York Times Op-Ed (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/opinion/krugman-here-comes-solar-energy.html?_r=1&hp) piece about solar. His take on it was more of a political swipe at the conservatives for obstructing solar tech or any idea that might advance our society. He feels that entrenched factions will do all they can to hold things that way they are because the money’s good. Why they don’t get the idea that while the money may be good now with bad tech, the new money to be made with good tech is a zillion times more?

On the bad side, he’s probably right, but he doesn’t talk much about how these same obstructionist factions are also the ones with the biggest megaphones. All people hear is dumb stuff from corporate lackeys.

On the good side, it won’t matter. Solar is winning. Solar has won and solar will continue to win. Think about it. Free energy … forever … and you don’t have to dig for it. And even conservatives need electricity. It they want to continue paying the power company, go ahead. The rest of us will simply collect the Sun that shines on our homes and use it to run our lives. It’s a little like the old Yogi Berra phrase, “If they don’t want to come, I can’t stop them!”

SkyPower customers are buying less (in some cases none) electricity from the utilities. This has only one way to go … and the power company folks know it. Let’s see what they do. (see our blogs about “decoupling”)

The reason that this article in the Times and others like it across the net are getting more frequent is not because of the Solyndra “speed bump” that the Republicans are using to bludgeon renewable advocates whenever they can, but rather because solar power is now actually cheaper than gas & coal for the first time … without incentive money. With incentive dough, it’s way cheaper.

Want to see this in action? Come to Arizona and watch the power companies build new plants. Guess what? They are all solar plants (and a little wind in the high country). This is because it simply costs less. The power guys couldn’t care less about reducing pollution or green house gases. They don’t mind shaving the tops off of mountains or putting heavy metal poisons into our water. They don’t care about anything except money and profits.

Okay … fine. Solar panels will give them (and you) more money and profits … and so they build them. While all the talk and arguing and yelling was going on, the solar engineers were perfecting their craft and building better and cheaper solar panels. Now … we win. A little good news at long last. It’s going to get better. More people will put up solar panels. The cost will continue to come down and the tech will get better and better.

… and oh, by the way, we’re saving the planet. Have a good week.

 

** 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 check out 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.

Solar Warnings (#357)

 Solar Warnings (#357) 

Be Afraid … Be Very Afraid! That’s what our previous President and his Darth Vader VP choose to talk to the American people about for a very long time. They even made a chart to tell us how afraid we should be. Go to any airport these days and you’ll hear a constant background noise of warnings about bags or walkways or smoking or delays or whatever. It’s constant … and so we don’t listen any more.

The National Electric Code was designed to protect us from poor levels of contract work around our homes and businesses and SkyPower is a big fan of their work. Except for a few things that as just plains silly, the Code stands as a good framework of safety reference. Even the things we disagree with are only because they are so obvious that making law seems unnecessary.

Make no mistake about it … solar electric systems are real power and because of that are extremely dangerous. There is enough power up there to run your house and enough power to knock you on your butt and kill you on the way down. Do not ever take out a screwdriver to your solar array. If you think something is wrong, call someone like SkyPower that knows what to do.  Really … just don’t do it!

Here is one of our favorite warning labels. It’s not red like most of the others and it doesn’t say “danger” or “warning” or something else that might tell you that what’s behind the panel is deadly. That’s part of the Code that we think could be polished up. However, look at this placard and you will see what we are talking about. The first thing to note is the “30A” number next to ISC.  This means 30 Amperes of power is flowing through those wires. Half of one amp will kill you … so this is sixty times more deadly!

Gotta’ love the ”439 VDC” on the top line. That means that the wires carry over 400 volts … DC! Without getting into a big thing here and boring the pants of you, this will also kill you in a big hurry, too … and because it’s DC power, it could very well kill the guy trying to save you if they grab you when you and your screwdriver get caught in this thing. Like we said, this is very real! Don’t mess with it.

In our construction world, we talk about a “fool and his tool” to indicate someone that doesn’t know what they are doing with a screwdriver or other device to take apart a solar array attempting to fix it. A solar panel system built properly will NOT need any service. It will not need cleaning and it will not need adjustment … ever! Don’t touch it. Just let it be and it will make great power for you and your family for a very long time … safely.

That’s our warning. Leave it alone and let it do what it 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 check out 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.