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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Green Jobs (Infographic) from JobVine

Posted by SEPCO

1/31/12 9:30 AM

Green jobs are on the rise. Here is an infographic that was released yesterday by JobVine that shows the latest trends in green job growth and the opportunites for green jobs in the future.

What is the deal with Green jobs
Infographic by Jobvine 
Jobs

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Topics: Fun Green Articles, Infographics

Solar Power Advantages and Disadvantages

Posted by SEPCO

1/26/12 9:30 AM

I have been following a post on Wiki Answers for a while on the advantages and disadvantages to solar power and wanted to share the results. The discussion started a while ago and has had a lot of feedback. Here are the results.

Solar Power

Advantages:

  1. Solar power is pollution free and causes no greenhouse gases to be emitted after installation
  2. Reduced dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels
  3. Renewable clean power that is available every day of the year, even cloudy days produce some power
  4. Return on investment unlike paying for utility bills
  5. Virtually no maintenance as solar panels last over 30 years
  6. Creates jobs by employing solar panel manufacturers, solar installers, etc. and in turn helps the economy
  7. Excess power can be sold back to the power company if grid intertied
  8. Ability to live grid free if all power generated provides enough for the home / building
  9. Can be installed virtually anywhere; in a field to on a building
  10. Use batteries to store extra power for use at night
  11. Solar can be used to heat water, power homes and building, even power cars
  12. Safer than traditional electric current
  13. Efficiency is always improving so the same size solar that is available today will become more efficient tomorrow
  14. Aesthetics are improving making the solar more versatile compared to older models; i.e. printing, flexible, solar shingles, etc.
  15. Federal grants, tax incentives, and rebate programs are available to help with initial costs

Disadvantages

  1. High initial costs for material and installation and long ROI
  2. Needs lots of space as efficiency is not 100% yet
  3. No solar power at night so there is a need for a large battery bank
  4. Some people think they are ugly (I am definitely not one of those!)
  5. Devices that run on DC power directly are more expensive
  6. Depending on geographical location the size of the solar panels vary for the same power generation
  7. Cloudy days do not produce much energy
  8. Solar panels are not being massed produced due to lack of material and technology to lower the cost enough to be more affordable
  9. Solar powered cars do not have the same speeds and power as typical gas powered cars
  10. Lower production in the winter months

There is more solar power that hits the earth every day then the current population can use in a year. Let’s keep working to harness this great power and put it to good use. What do you think?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power, Clean Energy, Solar Tax Incentives

Safety Provided By Solar Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

1/24/12 9:30 AM

Safety Flood Light SolarA large industrial facility had a serious problem on their hands. In short, an employee was hit by a car one night after walking down a set of stairs and across a poorly lit crosswalk. Immediately following the accident, the facility managers knew they had to install a light to illuminate the stairs and crosswalk ASAP!

The challenge was the tremendous amount of time/expense required to bring AC power to this remote section of the facility.  A high performance SEPCO solar power flood lighting system turned out to be the perfect solution!

Installed at the top of the stairs, the power flood light fixture—equipped with a 39 Watt super metal halide lamp—does an excellent job illuminating the stairs and the cross walk from dusk to dawn thereby ensuring the safety of all employees who use this area of the facility throughout the night. Better yet, the solar lighting system was purchased for a fraction of what it would have cost just to run AC power to this remote area of the facility and installed the same day it was delivered!

Due to the overall success of the project, SEPCO is working with the Facility Manager to illuminate other areas of the property with high quality commercial lighting powered completely by clean, renewable solar energy.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Security Lighting

Solar Powered Battery Chargers

Posted by SEPCO

1/19/12 9:30 AM

The sun can be considered the best source of energy anywhere, if it is properly harnessed. It is an inexhaustible, renewable energy source like no other. That is why we have solar-powered devices in use now such as calculators, watches and lights. Solar technology is still far from being the primary source of energy for most of our gadgets today however; it can be used to recharge the batteries of these devices. They are called solar-powered battery chargers.

Solar Charger

What are Solar-Powered Battery Chargers? 

As the name suggests, these are battery chargers which are powered by solar energy. Practically any modern-day gadget you can think of (laptops, cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, iPods, digital cameras, etc.) can be recharged using these chargers. Nowadays, these have been integrated with other products as well such as cars and backpacks. Moreover, there are different voltage capacities available making it easier to purchase the chargers that will best fit our needs.

How do they work?

These battery chargers consist of solar panels that are composed of photovoltaic (PV) cell blocks which are responsible for producing electricity from the light of the sun. When the photons from sunlight hit the solar panels, they are absorbed by the PV cells. The cells are made up of semiconducting materials such as silicon. Two kinds of silicon can be used namely crystalline and amorphous, the latter of which is more durable, flexible and cost-effective. The absorbed photons are then converted to electrons.

A chemical reaction occurs in batteries which transfers electrons to the electronic circuits of our devices. During this process, residual particles slow down and eventually halt the production of electrons. This discharge cycle is countered through the current produced by the solar panels wherein protons are drawn to the cells of the battery using the electrons’ attraction.

Most solar-powered battery chargers have 12 volts in terms of capacities but there are other voltage capacities such as 24V, 36V and so on. There are also battery chargers as low as 3 volts that can be used to charge a 6 volt NiCad battery from a cell phone. Before buying one, make sure you do considerable research on what you need and don’t be afraid to ask a specialist.

It may be a little complicated to understand but knowing how it works is the first step towards appreciating it.

Why should I use this type of battery charger?

Using solar-powered battery chargers is a great alternative to conventional battery chargers. Here are some reasons why:

  • It uses a clean, renewable source of energy, the sun.
  • Cost-efficient
    • Save money on non-rechargeable batteries, if you use any
    • Save electricity usage and its corresponding costs
    • Minimal, if any, maintenance costs
  • Readily available alternative source of energy in case electricity is unavailable
    • If the power supply has been cut off
    • If you are in a remote location (rugged mountains, isolated islands, etc.)
  • Portability
    • Whether you are traveling around a lot or camping in the wilderness, there is no better alternative to charge your gadgets than solar-powered battery chargers.
  • Durability
    • Solar-powered battery chargers are most effective under a bright, sunny day however; they can also be efficient in cold climates. Some are even waterproof.
  • Convenience
    • Some solar battery chargers have an internal battery that is capable of storing energy. Should you need to charge any electronic device and you have no time or opportunity to use the sunlight to gather energy, the stored energy in the battery will be used to charge that device.

Some common types of solar battery chargers

  • Automotive solar trickle chargers
    • Specially designed for vehicles, these chargers can be conveniently placed on the dashboard and attached directly to the cigarette lighter plug which in turn, will charge your car battery, albeit slowly.
    • These chargers usually don’t have a big enough solar panel to completely charge a car battery but it is enough to compensate for the energy consumed by always-on features of the car such as the clock.
  • Clamshell solar chargers
    • The solar panels are put inside a folding case for convenience and portability.
    • It can come with multiple plugs and adaptors which makes it easy to use with different kinds of devices.
    • Some are designed to directly plug to the device and others are designed to charge batteries separately and easily swap them out.
  • Folding solar chargers
    • By using flexible thin-film solar cells, this charger can be rolled up for portability and opened up when in use to allow for greater surface area exposure.
  • Solar bags
    • The integration of these breakthrough solar cells with bags of all kinds (backpacks, laptop bags, briefcases, etc.) is pure genius. These can charge the device they are specifically designed to carry making them very convenient for the on-the-go traveller.
    • Some even have built-in pouches that can charge double A and/or triple A batteries.

Can these solar battery chargers completely replace the chargers we’re using right now? If you ask me, I would have to say no. Our devices currently consume a lot more energy than these chargers can compensate for. Time is gold and most people just don’t have the time to wait for the charging cycle to complete. However, like any breakthrough technology, you have to give it a chance to develop and improve and the best way to do that is to have consumers use it and give their feedback. If there are hybrid cars, then there are also hybrid chargers. Hybrid technology is the answer to bridging the gap between what we’re used to and what we ought to get used to. Even if it has a premium price tag on it, the benefits speak for themselves.

About Jessica

Jessica is a blog editor at Meiji Electric, the premier electrical supplier in the Philippines. She is a hands-on, technology-oriented girl and loves to tinker with the latest gadgets and equipment. She is also uses the best traveling adapters for that on-the-go convenience.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power, Solar Gadgets

Financials Behind Renewable Energy

Posted by SEPCO

1/17/12 9:30 AM

Renewable energy presents numerous exciting financial benefits to consumers, in addition to the obvious environmental merits. As fossil based energy reserves – natural gas, coal and petroleum – continue to dwindle, there is an increasingly growing drive to seek alternative sources that are more sustainable and eco-friendly.

From federal tax credits and bonus depreciation schemes to state incentives for efficient energy use, consumers stand to gain from adopting renewable energy alternatives. Additionally, a number of utilities offer rebates of up to $4000 for wind and solar installations. The most widely used forms of renewable energy in homes are wind and solar electric systems. Homeowners can either choose to power parts of their homes or meet their entire home power needs using a renewable source. Here’s how you can benefit from your renewable energy system:

Solar Save Money

Federal tax credits

When you install a renewable energy system or purchase an energy efficient appliance, you automatically become eligible for some form of federal tax credit. Some existing tax credits run through 2011, while others run through 2016.

Products eligible through 2011, according to the Department of Energy:

• A $300 credit on biomass stoves rated with at least 75 percent thermal efficiency assessed using a lower heating value.

• Electric heat pumps and central air conditioning split and package systems also carry a credit of $300. For central air conditioning split systems, the requirements are that EER ≥13 (Energy Efficiency Ratio); SEER ≥16 (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), and the package system requires that EER ≥12; SEER ≥14. For electric heat pump split systems, requirements are that HSPF ≥8.5 (Heating Season Performance Factor); EER ≥12.5; SEER ≥15, while the package system requirements are HSPF ≥8; EER ≥12; SEER ≥15. Other eligible HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems include $150 for furnaces and boilers, and $50 for an advanced main air circulating fan.

Products eligible through 2016:

• Geothermal heat pump systems carry a 30 percent credit without an upper limit. It applies both to new and existing homes as long as it is placed in service by December 31 2016.

• Solar electric systems carry a credit of 30 percent of cost without an upper limit. The requirements for a solar water heating system is that the qualifying property must generate at least 50 percent of the energy from the sun, as well as having a certification from the SRCC – Solar Rating and Certification Corporation. For photovoltaic solar systems, they must generate power for the home and must meet fire and electrical code regulations.

• Wind energy systems also carry a 30 percent credit without an upper limit. The requirement for small residential wind turbines is that the nameplate capacity should not exceed 100 kilowatts.

• Residential fuel cell systems with efficiency of at least 30 percent have a 30 percent credit but must have a capacity of 0.5kW minimum.

• Plug-in vehicles and other small electric cars also have tax credits of up to $7500, depending on battery capacity.

State and utility incentives

There are various state and utility incentives both for residential and commercial setups. Many states operate rebate programs through environmentally based non-governmental organizations. Other states allow consumers and utilities to directly enter into power selling arrangements, where a consumer can either sell excess power generated by their renewable energy system, or have their annual energy costs heavily slashed.

One of the most popular consumer-utility arrangements is the net-metering system, where the consumer benefits most. It’s no surprise that many utilities are hostile to this concept, and some have even opposed a number of proposed state policies that would have even made it easier for homeowners to use the concept.

The net-metering concept works under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which allows consumers who generate their own energy to connect to a utility grid and the utility must purchase any excess power generated.

Net-metering works for both wind and solar electric systems. Homeowners, for instance, can save between $10 and $40 a month with a 10-kilowatt wind electric system. But savings can be bigger depending on how much energy you produce.

In a net metering system, a meter will read backwards (credit) when there’s excess power generated. The value of that credit is normally calculated at the prevailing wholesale unit rate – for peak or off peak. When there’s less power generated from the system and the grid supplies the majority, the meter reads positive and the credit reduces. At the end of the year, if your meter has a net credit, the utility will pay you the equivalent in cash, calculated at the wholesale cost of a unit.

There are a number of other state specific incentives for renewable energy. It’s imperative to look for a particular scheme in your locality that you might be eligible for if you’re planning to install a renewable energy system.

This guest post was written by Couponing contributing writer, James Lander. Couponing is devoted to sharing couponing techniques and top retailer coupons.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Tax Incentives, Solar Rebates

Solar Cell Street Light to Light Dark Streets

Posted by SEPCO

1/12/12 9:30 AM

Dark Back Road

Ever drive down a back road in the middle of the night and think to yourself, this street really needs a few lights? Well a lot of rural areas like that do not have the necessary power lines available to install typical electrical lights. This leaves solar cell street lights to be the best option. Here's why:

  1. Solar powered street lights charge during the day with the power of the sun. The street lights then automatically turn on at dusk and can be sized to run all night for optimum safety for everyone on the streets.
  2. There are also no additional electrical costs for the city, county, or local residences as no one has to pay for the power that is generated by the sun, well that is unless the sun starts charging for its power.
  3. Solar cell street lighting also does not require the trenching of wires to bring the electric to each fixture.
  4. The improvement of safety of everyone on the road will lead to fewer accidents as well as less fatigue when driving down dark roads. No more straining of the eyes to see into the black ahead.
  5. Using energy efficient LED fixtures can lower the power consumption and improve visibility of the road and obstacles that may be present.

Given the many benefits of solar cell street lights, we may one day see all roads lit up with solar. Now wouldn’t that be nice.

Img Credit: One Eyeland

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, Street Lighting

Solar Flag Light to Honor Veterans

Posted by SEPCO

1/10/12 9:30 AM

Solar Flag Pole LightSEPCO recently helped Grayson Schoenbine, a Wooster, Ohio Scout working towards his Eagle rank; show off his eco-friendly side by the solar lighting of an American flag. The 30’ tall flag was to honor Veterans at the St. Mary Cemetery.

This Scout has truly endeavored to persevere in raising funds for this project, and we at SEPCO and as Americans should take up the torch that this young man has brought forward and honor all Veterans that have died in order to keep this country free.

Solar flag lighting is a great way to show off a green initiative and honor the country. If the flag is lowered at a certain time at night, the solar lights can be set to run till that time. The lights can also provide enough power to light the flag all night. And by utilizing high powered and energy efficient LED lights, the flag will have great coverage and use less power than traditional flood lights.

The solar flag light systems can also provide enough power for multiple flags on nearby poles or landscape accents that need to be lit. The solar power system can also be remotely mounted or be included in the surrounding landscape. So next time you find that there is a flag that needs lighting, and there is no available power to run the fixtures, think of solar lighting as the best option.

Check out the news article published in The Daily Record

 

 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Flagpole Lighting

Renewable Energy Across the Pond

Posted by SEPCO

1/5/12 9:30 AM

Happy New Year! Yeah, I know I’m a little late, but there is good reason for that. I took a trip overseas to Germany for the holidays and just got back. I figured I’d share all the different renewable energies I saw during my travels.

Germany is a very cloudy area, well at least the North is. I think we only had about four days of nice sunny weather out of the two weeks I spent there. The rest of the time was overcast and snowy, but still beautiful. We even had a day completely covered in ice which was amazing for a South Florida girl to see.

Germany Snow

I was not amazed at the amount of wind energy used throughout the country. They recently put in another wind farm in the town my family lives in. My grandmother says they just put that in about six months ago. I noticed a lot of other new wind farms on the drive from the airport and running around the surrounding areas. Wind farms seem to be popping up left and right, and why not, most of Germanyis still farm land and you can farm around the windmills so it’s a win-win situation.

Solar on House in Germany

I noticed something else while I was there. Solar is popping up everywhere. It is on the sides of homes, barns, buildings, just about everything you can mount a panel to. My grandfather’s business also has solar panels on the roof to generate power to the buildings. You would think that with the overcast and snowy days the solar wouldn’t work, but I have to say, even after a snow storm the panels clear off quickly. Also, the summers have extremely long days, so a lot of solar energy can be generated during the longer seasons.

Solar on Barn in Germany

One thing I did learn is that Germany does not look at solar as a complete solution, but as a way to offset their overall usage and look more towards yearly generation instead of monthly or daily as a lot of other areas look at. It would be interesting to see how many renewable energy changes happen between this trip and my next…hopefully in a year and a half. I’d love to see more of it in the summer and travel around to see what other great renewable energies are being used.

Solar on Roof in Germany

Have you ever traveled somewhere and seen what other areas are using? What about the area you live? Let me know, I would love to hear what you have seen.

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Topics: Green Ideas, Fun Green Articles, Solar Power

Protecting the Homeland with Solar

Posted by SEPCO

1/3/12 9:30 AM

Solar energy has made its mark on this world in terms of protecting our homeland.  It is a market that would be different if solar was not a viable option to carry out the tasks and duties necessary keep our homeland safe.  Solar energy is used on many military bases for various purposes.  One main purpose is to have a secondary security source to the electrical grid.  The electrical utility grid only offers one source of electricity for the bases to function, if that fails, the security of the facility is at risk.  Solar and other renewable sources are being used as primary and secondary sources to increase our grid security. 

Solar Parking Lot LightMany federal facilities are also doing their part to protect our homeland from environmental factors that can have negative affects on the people and the environment.  The right steps are being set in motion to reduce our dependency on foreign oils and CO2 emissions.  All federal facilities have been mandated to reduce their energy consumption and many are choosing to do so by offsetting the electrical loads by generating their electricity from clean solar energy. 

Our water treatment facilities, mining industries, and chemical facilities are also using solar technologies to create security through the addition of solar power lighting, solar power security cameras and motion sensors- the likes of which will work completely independent of the electrical grid. 

Solar Powered Satellite StationSolar is also used to protect our troops on the forward operations of our wars.  Smaller flexible solar cells provide small amounts of power for satellite cell phones, and other small electronic devices such as GPS.  At the Forward Operating Bases deployable solar wind and back up generator systems can be towed along with the military vehicles for stand by ready power generation.  Remote solar perimeter security lighting and stand alone remote power systems reduce the need for infrastructure and underground wiring. 

 

Far beyond security matters, solar technology is also being used with great success as a humanitarian aid.  In 1961 John F. Kennedy issued an Executive Order designed to offer assistance to developing countries and aid in disaster relief.  Solar energy is a key component in that it is readily available and can be shipped out and installed in the same day thus providing street and area lighting and remote power to underdeveloped countries as well as in areas hit hard by devastating effects of natural disasters and war.   Indeed, solar power and lighting was used extensively in the efforts to help rebuild war-torn areas within Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in Haiti following the devastating earthquake.  

In the final analysis, solar does far more than create electricity—it provides protection for our Homeland and fosters humanitarian aid, peace and hope abroad. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power

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