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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Bouton School Solar Power System: Blast from the Past

Posted by SEPCO

8/30/12 9:35 AM

St. Lucia is an oval shaped island oriented North / South. The southwest is rugged, isolated, and characterized by the Piton Mountains. There is an isolated village known as Bouton that remains without power, but has a diesel generator which only operates from 6 pm to 11 pm. There are approximately 70 families in the Bouton area.

St. Lucia

In 1996 SEPCO provided a solar power solution for the Bouton school. The school is for children K – 12 and is also serves as a disaster preparedness hurricane shelter for the families, a community hall and meeting place, and an adult teaching facility. The school is constructed of cement block and stucco and contains a steel beam roof. The building is 35’ wide and 70’ long and contains a classroom, a teacher’s storage room, and two restrooms. There is also a wooden library building with books and desks.

The solar solution consisted of a 1400 Watt system constructed of seven 200 Watt panel sections. The panels were attached by four legs welded directly into the interior steel beams. All roof penetrations are sealed with fiber sealing material strips and all wiring was routed inside trunking. Since each panel section power output cable was routed independently so there are no connections on the roof, there is a great increase of system reliability and the system has not required any maintenance.

The storage room contains a locking battery container and a 2400 Watt inverter which provides 220 VAC / 50 Cycles to power standard fixtures and appliances including light fixtures, a computer, color printer, a 29” color TV with VCR, large radio, and the freezer used for the school lunch program.

Steve Robbins provided a comprehensive training program at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College on solar electricity for the twenty students, college professors, electrical engineers, electrical contractors, solar contractors, and members of the Ministry of Finance and Planning, as well as members of the Ministry of Communications, Works, Transport and Public Utilities.

This system has been working flawlessly ever since initial installation with almost no maintenance needed. The solar power has allowed for better teaching environments and a more efficient learning process that doesn’t rely on time constraints like the past.

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Topics: SEPCO News & Information, Solar Power

Harnessing the Power of the Sun (Infographic)

Posted by SEPCO

8/28/12 9:30 AM

Solar Infographic: Harnessing the Power of the Sun

Check out REI's wide selection of Solar

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Topics: Solar Power, Infographics

Powerful Alpha Flood Light for BOR Tiber Reservoir

Posted by SEPCO

8/23/12 9:30 AM

A recent project with a new customer was a great opportunity for SEPCO to introduce a new product.  The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) at the Tiber Reservoir in Billings, Montana, wanted to use solar power to light their recreational boat ramp.  Working with light fixture manufacturer Beacon Products, SEPCO designed a system using Beacon’s new ALPHA floodlight and SEPCO’s 125 Watt solar electric power assembly.

SolarFloodLight

The ALPHA is a new design that efficiently and effectively provides a lot of light using LEDs and only drawing 18 watts.  As shown in the photographs the ALPHA provides targeted light to a large area.  Controlled with SEPCO’s timing system the floodlight runs during a customer-specified time range which conserves battery life.

Apha Flood Light Solar

With the success of this project SEPCO is looking forward to using the ALPHA in more installations.  We’re especially happy to provide a green solution for the BOR that allows increased use of Montana’s great natural resources.

Solar Flood Light at Night
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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, LED Lighting

Solar Power Systems – Selecting the Right One

Posted by SEPCO

8/21/12 9:30 AM

RoofMountedSolarPowerSystemSaving money on your energy bills is a priority that you can keep. Consumers are still learning about all of the great aspects of solar power, but you can jump into the savings today. Your choice of the components for your solar power system will determine how effective your system will be. There are several things you should look for when you're buying a solar power system. Don't choose components that will take forever to pay off your investment. After all, solar power is an initial investment. You want to select the right solar panels, inverter, and mounting system.



Solar Panels

The panels that collect energy from the sun are the most important part of the system. When you research prices online, you'll find that many inexpensive brands exist. Solar panels are not tools that you want to buy online. Check for the local retailers in Australia and contact their offices for price quotes. You can ask about the different types of solar panels they offer and the benefits of each.

You want to make sure that the solar panels have a positive power tolerance. Some solar panels lose more power over the long haul than others do. You can prevent losing money by having high-quality panels installed from the very beginning of your solar power investments.

Inverter

The inverted is the device that collects the power from the panels and converts it into usable electricity in your home. You might even be able to track how much power your panels have produced in order to compare your savings to traditional electricity. Some inverters can even connect to the internet. Investing in a quality inverter is the key to a successful solar power investment because it will be the first part to fail.

Inverters are sold at a wide range of prices, but spend the extra money on a better one if you can. A failing inverter will cause your solar power system to work improperly and it can go unnoticed for a while. The installation company could come and replace it, but that could cost you more money than an original, high-quality inverter installation.

Mounting System

You'll need to attach the solar panels to your roof with a mounting system. A quality solar panel must be kept in place with sturdy mounting systems. Depending on the type of roof you have, your system could be installed different ways. The efficiency of your solar panel is likely determined by the effectiveness of your mountain system. Some systems help the panels more than others. Shop around at several companies before choosing a complete solar power system to figure out the best prices and products for your home.

About the Author: Faith Fernandez writes on behalf of Solar Market. A fully independent advice site for anyone looking to make the move to cleaner, greener, solar energy.
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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power, Clean Energy

ABC Domes Solar Parking Lot Lighting: Blast from the Past

Posted by SEPCO

8/16/12 9:30 AM

With hurricanes hitting Florida so often, ABC Domes created dome security storage and business continuity facilities that can withstand winds up to 300 mph. Since lighting is a large part of security, they used our solar parking lot lighting systems to provide outdoor lighting, even when there is no electric available due to down power lines.

SolarParkingLotLights

Our solar parking lot lights provide safety and security to people entering or leaving the dome sites. When the project was initially started, they used our shoebox solar lighting systems, but have since moved up to high efficiency LED lighting systems. These systems run from dusk to dawn year round and do not require any power from the grid.

SolarParkingLotLighting

All the solar lighting systems supplied to ABC Domes can withstand up to 200 mph winds, making them a perfect match to the structural needs of the domes. So far there have been over 30 solar powered parking lot light systems installed at their two facilities since 2007, some in Lakeland, FL and the others in Sealy, TX. They have also installed solar sign lighting systems at each facility entrance.

SolarSignLight

Finally, by adding solar powered lights to their parking lot, solar power systems to the domes themselves, and creating the domes from efficient materials, ABC Domes has been awarded LEED energy savings certifications for each of their facilities. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information

Explain it like I'm 5: How Does Solar Power Work?

Posted by SEPCO

8/14/12 9:30 AM

Solar power is positioned to be one of the main energy sources of the future- along with wind turbine power, hydro power and a host of other green, natural sources of energy. But, at the same time, solar power has come under much scrutiny and criticism because the technology is viewed by some as being inefficient, insufficient, ineffective and very expensive.

The United States government has attempted many times to get solar power into the mainstream on energy use in homes and businesses around the country; but, for the most part, the attempts have been unsuccessful.

The most recent example was the case of Solyndra, which was a solar power company that was heavily sub subsidized by federal government funds. The business went bankrupt and the hopes of solar power entering the mainstream, in the near future, were crushed in the process. But, you can bet that it will not be the last time we see solar power, and sure enough, as the technology gets better and better over time, solar power will eventually be a main source of energy in the future.

The Sun

Obviously, the sun is the source of energy for solar powers. The sun contains so much power, which just needs to be stored, harvested and converted into electrical energy. That is the basic idea behind solar power, in a nutshell. Energy from the sun is free and it is one of the cleanest sources of energy known to man. We have all heard about how we may be running out of fossil fuel, but the sun will be around for a long, long time- we can feel assured by that.

SolarPower

How the Energy from the Sun Can Be Used

There are two main ways in which solar energy can be used: heat and electricity. The heat energy is called solar thermal energy. Heat from the sun can be used in much the same way as a water heater or electric heater: it can heat the air and it can heat the water. The electricity from the sun is called solar cell energy. This is the most common type of energy associated with solar because of the familiarity people have with solar panels, which can be placed on roofs and other places where the sun shines the most.

Solar Thermal Power Plants

These are the places that store solar energy, turn it into electricity, and then unleash it upon the masses. These plants work by capturing the heat and energy from the sun, and then put that heat and energy into water, which then turns to steam. The steam is then used to power generators, which can create energy outputs on a very large scale. The largest plant of this type is in the Mojave Desert of California, where there are 9 plants that cover more than 1,000 acres.

Jordan is a freelance writer and part time insurance agent. Click here to find out about home contents insurance.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power

Top Big Box Companies Using Solar Power

Posted by SEPCO

8/9/12 9:30 AM

In the news lately we have been hearing about big box stores going green by installing solar power on their stores. Which retailers are expanding their renewable energy strategies in an effort to make the world a little greener?

WalmartLogo

Wal-Mart just announced a large solar power installation on their 100th store in California. They are working in conjunction with SolarCity on the project and plan to build more stores with large solar power installations in the coming years.  Wal-Mart also employs other forms of renewable energy like natural lighting that automatically switches to commercial lights when there is a lack of natural light

IKEALogo

 

 

 

IKEA has installed solar power on a vast number of its stores.  Fact is that IKEA has always promoted sustainability by offering flat packed products that employ minimal amounts of packaging. Now, with the addition of solar power, perfectly designed to take advantage of the store’s huge rooftops, IKEA is fast becoming one of the greenest big box retailers on the planet! 

KohlsLogo

 

 
Kohl's is new to the solar energy game but they are quickly gaining traction. Their plan is to increase the solar power installed on their stores by 25% by the end of the 2012. Kohl’s also purchases renewable energy credits and has installed two wind farms to help offset their energy consumption.

What about the rest of the big box stores? While there are not any other large retailers employing solar to help power stores, there are a considerable number of big box retailers on the EPA's partner list that are active in helping support the development of renewable energy. This list includes companies like Best Buy, Lowes, Staples, Whole Foods, etc.

Beyond big box retail stores, many large consumer package goods companies are stepping up their renewable energy efforts.  Campbell Soups recently installed solar power on the rooftop of their Ohio plant while Coca-Cola has installed solar on their manufacturing plant in California.

With more and more large companies recognizing their responsibility to help the world become a greener place, I think the solar power will continue to grow among small and large companies alike worldwide. What other companies are stepping up their renewable energy efforts?

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Topics: Solar Power, Clean Energy

How To Create a Better Solar Street Light Specification

Posted by SEPCO

8/7/12 9:30 AM

SolarStreetLightSpecificationBefore examining the means with which to create a BETTER solar street light specification, let’s start by taking a closer look at very bad solar street light specification from a recently released bid—as there is much to be learned in the process.

  • Purchase and delivery of 10 solar street light systems with the following salient characteristics:
    • Solar panel
    • Sealed lead acid battery
    • Solid state system controller that regulates batteries and has a low voltage disconnect
    • Light fixture with LED lamp that produces good street lighting
    • Light fixture mounting bracket
    • Entire solar lighting system mounted to a pole

The primary reason why this specification is so bad is because it is too vague and thus open to a host of different interpretations.   The net result will most likely lead to the purchase of cheap solar street lighting systems that offer poor performance, reliability and return on investment (all of which, quite frankly,  gives the solar lighting industry as a whole a bad reputation)

Solar Street Light Specification
The only sure way to avoid this situation is create a detailed specification that establishes precise solar street lighting system design and performance parameters including:

  • Solar Array
    • Type and number of solar module(s) used in the array
    • Total solar array wattage
    • How is solar array mounted to the pole
       
  • Light Fixture
    • Type of Light fixture
    • Type of lamp
    • Salient characteristics of light fixture
    • Fixture bracket arm
    • Fixture mounting height
       
  • Light Level  Requirements
    • Specify area to be illuminated (ex. 2 lane street, each lane 12’ wide with no median, light pole set back 5’ from edge of street)
    • Light level requirements—the more detail the better (ex. lighting on street must be .3 foot candle average with lighting uniformity rations under 10:1)
    • Note:  Never specify light levels according to ‘equivalency’ (i.e. LED fixture equivalent to 150 Watt metal halide) –as this type of spec  lends itself to many different interpretations!   Such is not the case with foot candle specification as a foot candle is a quantifiable measurement of light
       
  • System Controller
    • Type/description of system controller
    • Detailed description of nightly system operation—which is critically important to ensure the solar lighting system meets needs
      • Ex.  Dusk + 6 hours at full 40 Watt fixture intensity…dimming to 20 Watt intensity…returning to full 40 Watt intensity 1 hour pre-dawn.
         
  • Battery
    • Type of battery
    • Total amp hours of battery
    • Autonomous battery storage to ensure reliable year round system performance
      • Note:  5 nights of battery storage should be a minimum (in certain parts of the world more than 5 nights of autonomous battery storage needs to be specified to help ensure ultra-reliable year round system performance
    • Salient characteristics of battery box and battery box mount
       
  • Light Pole
    • Type of pole
    • Light pole must support the total weight and EPA of the specified solar power street lighting system in MPH wind loads for your particular area

With these design and performance parameters incorporated woven into the specification, there is no question that the buyer will ultimately get high quality solar power street lighting systems at the best possible price.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, LED Lighting

What is LEED - Infographic

Posted by SEPCO

8/2/12 9:27 AM

A lot of people talk about LEED when building or updating an existing building. I came across this great infographic that helps explain what LEED is and how it is measured. 

WhatIsLEEDSource: http://www.archdaily.com/228578/infographic-leed/
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Topics: Fun Green Articles, Clean Energy, Infographics

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