Tag Archives: energy conservation

Embedded Energy – Solar Module Manufacturing and Pay Back

Embedded Energy - Solar Module ManufacturingOne often stated myth is that manufacturing solar panels requires more energy than the solar module will produce is simply not true.

According to a 2004 National Renewable Energy Laboratory study that analyzes several different panel technologies, “Producing electricity with photovoltaics (PV) emits no pollution, produces no greenhouse gases, and uses no finite fossil fuel resources.” and it takes only 1 – 4 years for the energy savings accumulated by producing electricity from solar to equal the energy cost of producing the panel.

Solar technology has improved in the years since this study was conducted, and production efficiencies have driven the “energy payback period” down even further.  Solar modules generally have a 25 year warranty and can continue to produce long after that time frame(at a slightly reduced rate) lifetime production of a solar module exceeds far embedded costs.

Join the Solar Revolution

Solarize Missoula 2015-2016

 

Over the fall, winter and spring of 2015-16 Climate Smart Missoula worked with partners on the Solarize Missoula community campaign to dramatically increase solar installations in Missoula by making solar simple.  Solarize was a resounding success. Check up on the progress with Round 2. Be a part of the solution.  Call today.  406-541-8410

Solarize Missoula Update

Caroline Lauer with Climate Smart Missoula, quoted in the Missoula Independent in 2015 says Missoula is considered a pilot city for the Solarize campaign, a grassroots movement to increase home solar installations and educate interested residents across the city.

“There’s a tremendous amount of momentum behind renewable energy, particularly solar energy, and it just shows all of the dedication that community leaders have toward making Missoula a more sustainable place.”

Here are some fun installations from Solarize Missoula 2016.  Join Them!!.

Missoula’s City Life Community Center soaks up the sun

Northwestern Energy grant, local donations help youth center install 72 solar panelsNorthwestern Energy grant, local donations help youth center install 72 solar panels

City Life Community Center is getting into the energy-efficiency game after landing a $50,000 grant to install 72 solar panels atop the center’s roof.

City Life director Bob Grace was joined by 10 volunteers and a crew from SBS Solar on Saturday to install the 23,400-watt solar array. Nine tons of ballast ensures the panels won’t leave the roof. The only change to the physical roof was two small holes drilled to conduit the energy into the building.  (Read the entire article at http://missoulian.com)

Solar Electric System Missoula Montana

Solar Electric (Photovoltaic) Modules and Snow in Montana

It is December in Montana.  We received our first snowfall that stayed with us.  Temperatures have dipped.  We received a call:  “Help.  It is a beautiful day outside and my inverter is in nighttime mode.”  We asked if there was snow on the modules.  Sure enough, they were covered and the modules were shut down.

Not to worry.  In Western Montana, grid-tie, net-metered homes make a majority of their solar power in the summer months.  Winter power generation is a bonus, rather than a necessity.  The days are shorter, the sun is lower and the sky is often overcast.  This does not mean that we don’t generate any power, it just means that we generate significantly less in the months around solstice. Our sizing programs illustrate this well.  December sunlight is summarized as 1.7 equivalent average sun hours while July data shows 7.5 average hours.  So relax.  Modules are generally set at an angle that enough snow will begin to shed, temperatures permitting.  The cells are of dark colors that increases melting and with enough consecutive sunny days your modules will be generating power once again.

Fun Facts:  Net-metered homes in Montana, energy production and usage are reset annually April 1st.  So your solar electric photovoltaic system generates power in July (running your meter backwards) and you can use that generated credit now when your modules and you are snowed in.

IF you have 15 minutes and want to see the future, check out this video!

This article sums up where are heading with our Industry.  We are proud to say we are working with the SolarEdge inverters and have been for some time.  If you are interested in more fun information , click on the Video link to see a great 15 minute look at the future. Who of us will be driving the first Google or Apple car on your block?

 

http://blog.renewableenergyworld.com/ugc/blogs/2015/10/elon_musk_s_gigafact.html?cmpid=renewablestorage1152015

 

 

 

Ground Mounts Versus Roof Mounted Solar Electric Modules

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ground mounts versus roof mounted solar electric modules?

Roof Mounted solar photovoltaic modules have the advantages of low cost and height, generally above nearby obstacles and harms way.  This economical method utilizes the trusses of the structure to secure the modules.  However the roof is not ideal in every case.  Perhaps there are significant obstructions to sun exposure on the roof, such as nearby trees, buildings, or terrain.  Or the roof itself has obstructions that will interfere with full sun exposure, such as sky lights and chimneys.  Remember even the shadow from a deciduous tree limb in winter is substantial enough to reduce the output of a solar module.  In these cases a ground mount might be the preferred option.  Advantages here include ease of snow removal and variety in the location of the array.  We typically work with an excavator and pour concrete to secure the mount which increase the total cost of the system. Electric code also requires a fence surrounding the array to restrict access. Give Dan a call to discuss ideal installation for your solar electric system.

Considering a solar electric system for your home?

Considering a solar electric system for your home?  Begin with your loads, or energy usage.

According to the US Energy Information Administration conventional lighting can consume 15% of the average home electric usage on a monthly basis, 30% in commercial structures.

I dug around and found some of the early compact florescent bulbs that we have used.  Remember them?  Often we needed special fixtures because the ballast and the bulbs were so large.  And we always needed enlarged harps for our lamps.  Times have change and so have the bulbs.  Now we are actually switching to LED technology.  But what might be right for you?

 

Check out Consumer Reports latest take on CFs vs LEDs…cost, color, consumption and brightness.

 

Compact Florescent Light Bulbs

Vintage Collection of Compact Florescent Light Bulbs. Click here for What’s new.

The U.S. Now Has 20 GW of Installed Solar Capacity

Courtesy Solar Energy Industry Association

BOSTON, MA and WASHINGTON, DC – Applauding a record-breaking year, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today released the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Reviewreport, the definitive source of installation data, forecasting and policy analysis for the U.S. solar market. Newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity for year reached a record 6,201 megawatts (MW), growing 30 percent over 2013’s total. An additional 767 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) came on-line in the same period.
Solar accounted for 32 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity in 2014, beating out both wind energy and coal for the second year in a row. Only natural gas constituted a greater share of new generating capacity.
In 2014, for the first time in history, each of the three major U.S. market segments – utility, commercial and residential – installed more than a gigawatt (GW) of PV.
The U.S. utility-scale segment broke the GW mark in 2011 and has since grown by nearly 1 GW annually. In 2014, 3.9 GW of utility-scale PV projects came on-line with another 14 GW of projects currently under contract.
The commercial segment in the U.S. also first installed more than 1 GW in 2011 but has not shared the same success as the utility-scale segment. In 2014, the commercial segment installed just over 1 GW, down 6 percent from 2013. The report notes, “Many factors have contributed to this trend, ranging from tight economics to difficulty financing small commercial installations.” But GTM Research expects 2015 to be a bounce-back year for the commercial segment, highlighted by a resurgence in California.
The U.S. residential segment’s 1.2 GW in 2014 marks its first time surpassing 1 GW.. Residential continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S., with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.
“Without question, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has helped to fuel our industry’s remarkable growth. Today the U.S. solar industry has more employees than tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter combined,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “Since the ITC was passed in 2006, more than 150,000 solar jobs have been created in America, and $66 billion has been invested in solar installations nationwide. We now have 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity – enough to power 4 million U.S. homes – and we’re helping to reduce harmful carbon emissions by 20 million metric tons a year. By any measurement, the ITC has been a huge success for both our economy and environment.”
GTM Research forecasts the U.S. PV market to grow 31 percent in 2015. The utility segment is expected to account for 59 percent of the forecasted 8.1 GW of PV.
“Solar PV was a $13.4 billion market in the U.S. in 2014, up from just $3 billion in 2009,” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “And this growth should continue throughout 2015 thanks to falling solar costs, business model innovation, an attractive political and regulatory environment and increased availability of low-cost capital.”
Additional key findings:
• The U.S. installed 6,201 MW of solar PV in 2014, up 30 percent over 2013, making 2014 the largest year ever in terms of PV installations.
• Solar provided roughly one third of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in 2014.
• More than one third of all cumulative operating PV capacity in the U.S. came on-line in 2014.
• By the end of 2014, 20 states eclipsed the 100 MW mark for cumulative operating solar PV installations, and California alone is home to 8.7 GW.
• For the first time ever, more than half a gigawatt of residential solar installations came on line without any state incentive in 2014.
• Growth remains driven primarily by the utility solar PV market, which installed 1.5 GW in Q4 2014, the largest quarterly total ever for any market segment.
• PV installations are forecast to reach 8.1 GW in 2015, up 59% over 2014.
• 2014 was the largest year ever for concentrating solar power, with 767 MW brought on-line. Notable project completions include the 392 MW Ivanpah project. Genesis Solar project’s second phase of 125 MW and Abengoa’s Mojave Solar (250 MW), which achieved commercial operation in December 2014.
• All solar projects completed in 2014 represent $17.8 billion in investment ($13.4 billion in PV and $4.4 billion in CSP).
• As of the end of 2014, cumulative operating PV in the U.S. totaled 18.3 GW and cumulative operating CSP totaled 1.7 GW.

Bimodal Solar PV, Grid-tied & Off-grid Combo, Close to Missoula

9 kW array, just outside Missoula, Montana

SBS Solar was really excited to work on this bimodal system.  It is just a few minutes from downtown Missoula, and the customer wanted to be fully self sufficient when the grid was down.  The customer had a slightly higher then average residential load so we sized a 36 module Canadian Solar CS6P 250P for a total of 9 kW system capable of supplying over 10 Mega watt hours annually.
We used eight of the 6 volt Unigy II 1016 amp hour Gel batteries for storage.  At over 400 lbs a piece just getting the batteries in the basement was a feat for four strong guys.  We were concerned about the end nailed stair treads giving it up with the weight we were applying, but thankfully no issues.

6 volt Unigy II 1016 amp hour Gel batteries for storage, at over 400 lbs a piece!

We used the most advanced charge controller on the market (the Xantrex XW MPPT 80 600) capable of converting up to 550 volts DC from the array to battery bank voltages allowing us to use large strings of up to 12 modules in series.  This was a huge benefit on this system allowing us to achieve less then 2% loss running four strings of 10 gauge wire on a 250′ home run instead of 12 strings of 4 gauge with a standard 150 volt max controller with a dramatic cost difference.

Xantrex XW MPPT 80 600 Controller, Two Xantrex XW6048 inverters, Xantrex XW PDP Power Distribution Panel, and SCP System Control Panel

We used two of the Xantrex XW6048 inverters to supply the home, charge the batteries from the generator, and backfeed the utility from the PV Array for a total of 12,000 watts so there is room to grow in the future.  The combiners, disconnects, Xantrex XW PDP Power Distribution Panel, and SCP System Control Panel completed the system.  The Xantrex XW SCP allowed us to program the inverters and charge controllers to perform the complicated tasks of keeping our batteries happy through all temperatures, feeding critical loads during a power outage, and back feeding the power meter when the grid is up and the sun shining.
Our customer shut his power off the first weekend to see how the system would keep up with his usage and was very pleased with the power production.  When using the system off grid to power the critical load panel it only pulls as much juice from the array as is necessary to keep up with the loads and keep the batteries charged that weekend he only used approximately a third of his capacity.
This was a great system for the SBS Solar to complete, as we finished up just before installing the 22.5 kW Xantrex XW system in Hamilton with 5 times the battery capacity.  That post is coming soon!