We've all heard of Elon Musk, our very own Tony Stark, but have you heard of his newest plan? How would you feel about turning your entire roof solar? After merging his two companies, SolarCity and Tesla, he announced that his master plan is to release a solar roof. Now let me clarify here, this is not a roof that has solar panels on it with the normal asphalt shingle roof underneath it, but a roof that is actually made up of solar panels! This could potentially open up an entirely new market allowing for the sale of a solar roof instead of just the panels that go on top of it. The possibilities are endless here! Gone would be the days of being limited to the amount of panels that you can install at your home due to the available space on your roof! It's a very interesting concept, one we are very intrigued to learn more about! Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think about it, and if you think this is something you would be interested in!
As renewable and solar energy continue to gain global awareness one of the most common questions people have is:
"How Do I Power My Home From the Sun?"
The answer is with a Solar Electric Photovoltaic System.
Solar Electric Photovoltaic Systems, sometimes referred to as PV Systems, have many benefits:
- Reduce your electric bill.
- Take advantage of tax benefits and rebates.
- Help our country become less dependent on fossil fuels.
- And - Watch your meter spin backward (we never get tired of this!)
Nationwide, electricity rates have increased an average of 4.4% per year over the past 35 years, twice that rate in some parts of the country.
At the local level, Florida Power & Light (FPL) is asking for a $1.3 billion annual increase in base rates, which amounts to about $12.40 per month for the first 1,000-kilowatt hours used.
FPL dubiously notes that declining fuel costs will more than offset that increase for its customers. Regulators will vote on the increase in the beginning of 2010. As you probably know, the Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC) is not an energy producer and their goal is to buy all of their power from FPL within the next couple of years. This means rising prices at FPL will be passed onto LCEC and its customers.
One way to offset the inevitable rise in the cost of electricity is to become a small-scale energy producer at your home and/or business. Incorporating solar hot water and solar electricity (or PV) technologies into residential and commercial buildings can significantly offset the rising price of fossil fuels. As you move towards less reliance on nonrenewable energy from the large utility corporations, you´ll gain some independence from the utility companies, reduce your monthly bills, and minimize the impact our energy use has on the environment.
The first step is to apply the basic principles of conservation and efficiency to all of your energy choices. Then consider your energy appetite and needs, your site, and the resources available to you. A solar thermal system to heat hot water for the home, business, and/or pool can reduce about a third of your electric bill. Photovoltaics or solar electric will generate free electricity for decades and allow you to send power back to the grid. Think through your renewable energy choices carefully, speak with a solar professional, and evaluate how you can become a small-scale energy producer as there are numerous options.
You will immediately start saving money with solar technologies because the energy from the sun is free so rates will never increase!
Here's a lesson for you on the basics of solar electricity --
The direct conversion of sunlight into electricity is known as photovoltaics or PV for short...
Photovoltaics (PV) is a technology that uses semiconductors to convert solar radiation into direct current electricity.
If you live in south Florida, the next time you drive across Alligator Alley take note of the many small modules powering the lights along the road, or the next time you stop at a road construction site notice the modules powering the signage.
After many decades of improvement and a decrease in the cost, solar technology is becoming more common in the United States.
For the home, there are two categories of PV:
- Grid-tied - where the home is connected to the utility grid and supple- ments energy needs by generating its own electricity with photovoltaics; and
- Off-grid, where the home is located too far from the utility cable so it generates all of its own energy with PV systems and often other sources.
Residential and commercial grid-tied PV systems, or supplemental power systems, have become the largest growth sector for PV.
There are four major components that make up a batteryless, grid-tied PV system:
- PV modules
- The inverter
- A mounting system and
- The balance of system (or BOS).
The PV modules generate DC electricity from sunlight.
They are grouped and wired together into what is called a PV array. The DC electricity is converted to AC electricity by the inverter and fed to the utility.
Mounting systems are the structures that hold the PV modules and they vary depending upon the type of roof. Finally, the balance of the system includes the module wiring, combiners, junction boxes, and disconnects.
A photo of our building back in late 70's!
In 2002, I decided to renovate our 25 year old, Fafco Solar building in Cape Coral...
In doing so, I tried to use as many green products and practices as I could afford...
Problem #1: I didn’t know anything about green building.
Problem #2: I didn’t know anyone else who did.
So, I had to go to Sarasota to find someone who had some knowledge and experience with green building.
Unfortunately, after his one visit to my shop, he never called back and I could never get him to return my calls. So, I was forced to search for another builder.
Eventually, I decided to use a local builder.
One I was familiar with, even though he had no knowledge or experience in green building. I had known him and his wife for many years. They both knew my father and on occasion he played cards with him. They also knew my son. They had a good reputation and I liked them.
So, I educated myself a little and told my builder what I wanted in the building. He thought some of my green ideas were strange but he did as I requested. When all was done, I was happy with my decision.
Unknowingly, my decision to renovate my existing building, rather than move and build somewhere else, was my first green decision.
By far, the most visible and impressive green aspect of the building is the 21 solar lights (tubular skylights) installed throughout the building. They allow the employees to work in natural daylight almost all day long without using any electricity... and they love it.
It also is a great demonstration of a product we offer.
People who visit are usually quite surprised when we tell them there’s no electric lights on. Stop in and take a look for yourself when you’re in the neighborhood!
All interior walls were painted with no VOC paint. (That stands for volatile organic compounds.) It wasn’t hard to find...even in 2002. We just had to ask for it.
We sprayed foam under the roof and into the block walls of the air conditioned portion of the building. During construction, it was noticeably cooler under the foamed portion of the roof.
We reused lumber from the deconstruction of the old shop in the new offices.
We installed a tankless water heater to eliminate stand-by losses since we hardly ever use hot water.
We also installed a dual flush toilet, a water cooled air conditioner, low E windows, tile floors (except in two offices) and ceiling tiles made with partially recycled content.
On the outside, we planted native plants.
After moving into our newly renovated offices, we started improving our personal green habits, too. We, now, recycle almost all our paper, plastic, aluminum, glass and copper items.
Ultimately, my goal is to use zero fossil fuel within ten years. That would be a wonderful achievement! There’s still more to do, but we’re well on our way!
If YOU are interested in doing the same, contact me and we’ll make a plan to do it!
Energy independence is definitely possible!
For more information on green building, check out these links:
Have fun 'going green with renewable energy products', I sure did!
The most common question about solar energy deserves the right answer...
If you’ve ever asked yourself --
“Why isn’t there more solar energy used in Florida?”
you’re not alone!
In the 35 years I’ve worked in the solar industry here in Florida, that’s the most common question I hear.
The question is often followed with some version of: “I guess it’s just still too expensive.”
It’s a good question, but the right answer requires you to dig a little deeper. So, instead of just agreeing and letting you off the hook, I’m inclined to reply: “YOU know why.”
Then, I wait and let you think a little while I nod my head and look directly at you with narrowed eyes and a slight smile. When I see you start to fog up, I continue, “It’s because the utilities and the politicians don’t want you to use solar energy.”
Oh, you say. It’s pretty obvious and no one ever disagrees.
Within the last couple months, though, we're fortunate enough to have some help from the top, and I'm excited!
You know in your heart we should be using the beautiful gift the sun gives freely to all. It defies logic and common sense that Florida ignores its natural beauty.
The frustration is always audible. Solar energy is so obviously good and right.
Here are a couple organizations trying to help the people get their fair share of solar energy:
Florida is the Sunshine State, after all, right?!
Are you in love with your energy source?
A strange question, isn’t it?
a) more than likely, you don’t know where your energy comes from, and
b) even if you did know, what’s love got to do with it?
What I mean is, do you feel good about where your energy comes from?
I know you like the energy you use. That’s not the question. Electricity and gasoline have given many people around the world a wonderful life. Both are taken for granted. You use them without having to think much about it. Plugging in your cell phone or laptop is about the most effort you have to do. Filling up at the convenience store is all it takes to go anywhere you want to go. But these conveniences have a source… and a price… that is not often considered… which I won’t get in to here.
Do you know where your energy comes from?
Do you know where your electricity and gas come from?
And, assuming you do know, are you in love with your energy source?
After 35 years in the solar industry, I know I am in love with the sun.
When you get connected to the sun, in a real way, something fundamental changes in your head… or is it your heart?
You satisfy an unconscious desire to be at one. It’s an alignment… or perhaps an atonement.
At its core, solar energy is in alignment with all life.
And because of that, solar energy is an energy source that can be loved.
Solar energy has incredible universal appeal!
You probably get the concept of solar energy -- the idea of creating energy from the sun..
Nonetheless, here's the attributes of solar energy:
• An endless supply… the sun will continue to shine for millions of years
• A reliable supply… the output of the sun is predictable
• A secure supply… the sun cannot be a target
• A safe supply… the sun does not cause pollution
• A healthy supply… sunshine is essential for good health
• A free supply… sunshine is delivered to your house free of charge (and fast)
• Promotes energy independence… both national and personal
• Promotes energy democracy… ownership for many people (not just a few)
• Promotes a healthy economy…
• Promotes enjoyment… you like its beauty, its warmth and all it provides
• Promotes biodiversity… sustainable behavior in harmony with nature
• Promotes community… a world that works well… we’re ALL in this together
• Promotes life… all life depends on the solar energy
At its core, solar energy is in alignment with all you love -- and because of that, solar energy is an energy source you love.
Just a few thoughts for the day...
For more information, here are some good books:
This phot is of photovoltaic panels in Spain... and WOW, it's a really good one!
Today, I discovered this excellent article by National Geographic called "Plugging into the Sun"...
It explains how sunlight provides us with much more energy than we'd ever need - and slowly we're starting to tap into it!
It also reviews the two main ways to harness the energy as well:
- produce steam,
- convert to electricity with photovoltaic (PV) panels (be sure to check out our PV solutions on our web site to learn more!
Is Florida "FIT" for Solar?
Like many, you may feel that solar energy remains a distant dream, and that it's:
- too expensive to afford, or
- too hard to implement.
Feed In Tariffs (FIT) could change all of that...
FIT could bring the use of solar energy to life for MILLIONS of people in the US.
What is FIT?
FIT (Feed In Tariff) is an incentive structure to encourage the adoption of renewable energy through government legislation. Basically, the government offers home and business owners payments for electricity they feed into the electric grid.
Germany developed a FIT program in 1999 and because of that they are now the #1 photovoltaic country in the world… with 50% of the world’s photovoltaic market!
The good news?
FIT incentives are now starting to gain momentum in North America.
Gainesville, Florida was the 1st city in U.S. to implement FIT policies.
In their program, the Gainesville utility pays home owners $.32/kWh for energy that is fed into the grid, read about it here.
And everyone is watching to see what can be learned from them.
And Ontario’s new Green Energy Act pays a whopping .80/kWh! That's amazing! Learn more by reading this News Release.
The Florida Alliance of Renewable Energy (FARE) is a grassroots organization leading the way in Florida in support of FIT incentives… although, in Florida, FIT is called RED (Renewable Energy Dividends).
Both the State of Florida and the U.S. Congress are debating the benefits of FIT programs. If you want to learn more or help spread the word, go to the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy.
FIT programs will help solar energy become a dream come true for millions of people in the U.S!
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