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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Are Solar Panels Worth The Cost?

Posted by SEPCO

9/27/12 9:30 AM

Solar Power StationSolar panels carry the potential to deliver profits to installers, but with the acceptance that it will take a long time to see significant benefits. As a long term way of saving on electricity costs, and as a contribution to the environment, solar panels do have many benefits, and should be considered as a way of setting out an investment in clean energy. At the same time, the potential to receive feed in tariffs from the Government make it possible to receive a steady income after the initial cost outlay on solar panels. How much, then, do solar panels cost to install, and what are the benefits?

Costs and Benefits

The initial installation of a set of solar panels is determined by how large you want the panels to be, and how much of an area of a roof they need to cover. Installation costs typically begin at around $3,250 to $5,000 for a basic 3kW system. The more space you cover, the more panels will cost - a 4kW system can set you back $11,000 to $14,000 over a 300 sq ft. area. VAT is charged at a low rate of 5 per cent for installation. Once installed, solar panels hold many benefits.

Solar panels act as photovoltaic cells that create an electrical charge from sunlight, which can then be stored in a generator. This electricity can be used as a backup for the home, with about 2,500 kW generated every year. You can save up to around $800 to $1,300 a year on your electricity bills if using solar powered electricity. At the same time, the Government has set up a feed in tariff, where you receive payments for the energy you produce, and energy that you sell back to the national grid. This is worked out at about 16p per kw. The larger the system, the more energy you produce for your home and as a surplus. The initial cost, plus profits from surplus energy, is typically redeemed after about 20 years, making it a long term commitment.

Other Benefits

As well as producing extra energy from the home, and gradually recouping the initial cost of the installation through feed in tariffs and lower electrical bills, solar panels have significant benefits for the environment. Using solar panels over electricity means that your property will release less CO2 over time. Having backup energy through a solar generator can also mean that you lower the risk of being affected by a local power cut. Solar panels also don’t require regular maintenance, excepting the need to make repairs or replacements to a roof.

Again, it’s important to view the cost of installing solar panels as an investment in the future. You may be able to speed up the rate by which you recoup the cost of your panels as a result of higher electricity bills, with average increases expected to be about 2.6% a year. Earnings from selling electricity back to the grid can also be placed into high interest ISAs to make the most of your savings. In any case, it’s worth discussing how a solar panel installation will benefit your specific home - solar power calculators are available online. Moreover, always check that a solar panel provider is accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme to avoid being sold the wrong panels.

Author Bio: Liam Ohm is a regular home improvement blogger with a passion for windows and blinds. He highly recommends Web Blinds roman blinds for a great range of the latest blind designs.

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Is Solar Lighting the Answer? Here’s 4 Great Reasons Why

Posted by SEPCO

9/25/12 9:39 AM

SolarLightSolar power has been around for quite some time, and the sun has been around a little longer, a few million years or so. The solar industry is growing at an enormous rate, faster than ever imagined. Solar lighting makes up only a small percentage of the industry, but can provide many options to standard electrical lighting.

1. Solar Lighting Lasts Longer

Solar panels have become more efficient over the years. New panels are smaller while providing more power than their larger predecessors. LED technology has added to this efficiency to make solar powered lighting one of the most sustainable lighting sources other than the sun. And as battery efficiency has increased, there is no worry about lights running out of power after only a couple hours. Most commercially manufactured solar lights automatically come with a battery backup to provide extra days of energy storage.

2. Solar Lights Are Environmentally Friendly

Standard electrical lights need some sort of non-renewable energy to make them work; fossil fuels, coal, or nuclear power. All these forms of energy produce harmful CO2’s and also cost the owner lots of money year after year. Solar powered lights are practically free after the initial purchase and installation and produce no harmful pollutants to the environment. The upfront cost of solar lighting can easily be paid back within the first couple years of operation, even on the larger systems.

3. Look to the Government for Incentives

Want an even lower cost for a solar lighting system? Look to the Government to help you with your purchase and installation. Federal and State tax incentives can be easily found; the energy.gov website is a great resource. Even some local power companies provide incentives to install solar power both for your home, business, and lighting. This not only saves you money in the initial phase of the project, but also provides an almost immediate ROI.

4. Solar Lights are Maintenance Free and Movable

Solar lights provide great lighting for years with no maintenance. Solar panels are rated for over 25 years of life expectancy, and with high powered LED’s lasting 12 to 15 years and batteries lasting longer and longer every year, there really isn’t much to do after installation. You can even take them with you if you move since the units are self-contained. No losing your initial investment, which is always great!

So next time you ask yourself if going solar is worth it, think back to this and check all your options. The ROI on solar lighting isn’t just for you; it’s for our world too. Let’s help them both.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Tax Incentives

27 MW Solar Power Plant Unveiled in Bermuda

Posted by SEPCO

9/20/12 9:30 AM

If things go as planned, a new massive solar power plant with a total capacity of 27 MW will be built on a 56-acre section of the LF Wade International Airport. The massive solar power project would also lead to as many as 200 construction jobs, most of which would be filled by locals.

The entire power plant would include 83,000 state-of-the art solar panels, which together would produce about 44.7 GWh every year – roughly the same amount of energy it takes to power 4000–5000 homes. Bermuda`s total power consumption was 651 GWh in 2010, but the island has reduced their usage since then.

SolarPowerBermuda

Image credit: SolInvictus.

The solar panels will be stationary without tracking, but faced south for better absorption of sunlight.  What would happen in case of cloudy days? That`s where the battery bank comes in. During good and sunny days when there is an excess of power generated, some of the electricity can be stored chemically in batteries for later use. In other words, the battery keeps the power output constant. The battery bank is expected to last somewhere between seven and nine years.

“Not only will this project eliminate the need for an additional fossil fuel electricity plant to be built, but it will also be producing clean renewable energy, resulting in a positive impact on our environment” states Tim Maderios, the CEO and operations director for Sol Invictus,

The company had previously announced that they would build and install three new 14 MW diesel generators, which not exactly go under clean ways to supply energy. Fortunately, if everything goes as planned, the solar power plant would replace the need to install those diesel generators.

Estimations of costs have fallen between $200 and $300 million depending on how much land the company is granted for construction. The entire project comes with a warrant of 25 years, which guarantees a certain power output and workmanship. The solar power plant will be visible from Causeway and Tucker`s Town.

“The sunshine that falls on our shores is one of Bermuda's long-standing natural resources, and we feel that it is Bermudians who should benefit socially, economically and environmentally from this resource,” Mr Madeiros said.

Author: Mathias Aarre Maehlum is an Energy and Environmental engineering student from Norway and created EnergyInformative.org a few months back to learn more on the topic of renewableenergy.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power, Clean Energy

Remarkable Solar Lighting Solution for Jack McLean Park

Posted by SEPCO

9/18/12 9:30 AM

SolarParkingLotLightIn the summer of 2007, the City of Tallahassee, FL contacted SEPCO regarding a lighting project for Jack McLean Park.  According to the city’s website: “The 52-acre Jack L. McLean, Jr. Park provides active and passive recreation facilities, including five covered picnic shelters with grills, two comfort stations, a playground, four basketball courts, two tennis courts, a 24-station fitness trail, two bike trails, and two sand volleyball courts. The park is named for former City Commissioner Jack L. McLean, Jr., who was the driving force behind the acquisition and development of the former Southside Park.”  The park also includes a 20,386 square foot recreation center and aquatics complex.

The city was looking for a solution to light the parking lot for the park facilities.  No electrical power was readily available, so solar lighting was the obvious choice.  A SEPCO agent met with several city officials at the park to assess the site.  The lights would need to be placed on the east and west perimeters of the parking lot.  This seemed to cause one major challenge: both the east and west perimeters of the parking lot were lined with a tall canopy of pine forest.  This would cause serious shading issues for the solar panels.

SEPCO was tasked with solving the shading issue.  Normally the solar panels are faced directly south at an angle of 45° to the ground.  This allows the panels to be exposed to the most amount of sunlight in the winter-time; when the days are shortest, and the sun travels across the sky on a more southern plane.  If this mounting method was used for the parking lot, the solar on the east side of the parking lot would be shaded for most of the first half of the day.  The solar on the west side would be shaded for most of the second half of the day.

Solar Powered Parking Lot LightsSEPCO decided the best course of action would be to face the solar panels on the east side of the lot west, and the west side of the lot east.  This would allow the solar panels to take advantage of the maximum amount of sunlight when they are out of the shade.  Since the panels would still not be exposed to as much sunlight as they normally would, the solar power assemblies were also oversized for the load.  Time clocks were also included with the systems.  This would allow the lights to be set to run only during peak hours to conserve energy.  The clocks also would allow the runtime to be reduced in case the shading turned out to have more of an affect than anticipated.

In the end, the city used the SEPCO equipment to set specifications for a bid.  The city had the lights installed, and now has a solar lighting compliment to its beautiful family-friendly park.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information

Get Creative with LED Outdoor Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

9/13/12 9:30 AM

LEDLightsWith the right LED outdoor lighting you can turn your garden by day into an enchanted, evening wilderness, and save plenty of energy as you go. Whether it’s entertaining friends by night or creating a romantic setting for dining after dark, LED lighting provides a versatile and cost effective solution. 

At first you may be apprehensive about the effect strewing outdoor lighting all around your garden will have on your electricity bill, but so long as you use the right type of lighting this need not be the case. LED lights only actually use around 10 per cent of the electricity of traditional incandescent light bulbs, which affords you a great deal of freedom when deciding on the affect you would like to create. The benefits of LED lighting do not stop there. The efficiency of this type of light is such that even using just a fraction of the energy of incandescent bulbs, the light produced is both clearer and brighter.

The fantastic energy efficiency of LED lights is down in no small part to the fact that LED lights do not heat up when they are switched on, so rather than wasting energy by producing heat, LED lights produce light energy alone. 

Another factor so integral to the suitability of LED lighting to your outdoor space is their hardiness. LED lights are designed to be extremely tough and will not be affected by the weather, whatever the conditions throw at them. Come rain or shine, your outdoor space will be filled with light, enabling you to make the most of your garden’s best features.

The directional nature of LED lighting increases its suitability for garden use, enabling you to spotlight trees, water features, decking and other garden areas. You can also mix and match the brightness and coolness of your bulbs to create a night time garden which is entirely unique to you. Coloured LED lights can add another element to your garden, spotlighting, uplighting or downlighting entertaining or eating areas.

As well as making vast reductions to energy consumption, LED lights are also extremely long lasting. Don’t make the mistake of assuming LED lights will barely last the summer; depending on the particular LED bulb you buy, you can expect an average life of between 30,000 and 50,000 hours, making them cost effective as well as environmentally friendly.

If you’re looking for a simple and impermanent method of transforming your garden into a charming outdoor space, LED lights will help you to save up to 90 per cent on the cost of your energy bill and reduce the number of replacement bulbs required thereafter.

Author: Whichledlight.com is a website that lets you compare a wide variety of LED outdoor lighting products in a range of styles and from different manufacturers. Every penny counts at Whichledlight.com

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Topics: Guest Post, LED Lighting

SEPCO Helps Memorialize 9/11 Victims in Hermosa Beach, CA

Posted by SEPCO

9/11/12 9:30 AM

911Monument

Of the many impressive monuments around the country commemorating the events and victims of 9/11, SEPCO is both proud and honored to have provided a solar lighting system to illuminate this extraordinary site containing a 9/11 Victims Memorial ‘Button’ Bench, trellis and Twin Tower monument holding a piece of steel from Ground Zero—which together will memorialize the events and victims of 9/11 for many, many years to come.

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Topics: Holiday

Advancements in Solar Panel Design and Efficiency

Posted by SEPCO

9/6/12 10:00 AM

There’s been much discussion about the cost of solar energy and whether solar can really be an efficient and cost effective energy source.  One argument is that low-cost, efficient solar panels and systems will lead to greater demand which will lead to additional development and design to make solar systems even more efficient and cost effective.  Some critics say this hasn’t happened and that solar energy cannot be considered as a legitimate alternative power source unless consumers are willing to accept inefficiency and high costs for the sake of being environmentally responsible.

At SEPCO we’ve seen a lot of change in the solar industry over the years.  We believe that organic advancement in design, not necessarily driven by the market, is happening and leading to cost-effective solar power systems that meet consumer energy demands.  One example is in the solar panels themselves.  We’ll take a look at two different panels to see how far solar power has come in the past decades.

OldSolarvsNewSolar

The first panel for our example was made in 1963 and provided 18 watts of power.  The panel is large to accommodate the layout of the photovoltaic cells.  The panel has plate glass that yellowed and clouded over time and did not allow the solar cells to generate much power.  This panel was probably hand-made and cost over $10 per watt in 1963.

The second panel is smaller and stronger than the panel from 1963.  And while the panel is smaller it has more photovoltaic cells which generate more energy than the older panel.  The two panels also differ in the material used to produce them.  The new solar module uses tempered, conductive glass which has more strength than plate glass and will not yellow like the glass in the 1963 panel.  The aluminum frame of the new panel reduces the weight and makes installation easier.  For less than $2.50 per watt the new panel can produce 20 watts of power. This is a significant decrease from the cost of the 1963 panel.

The solar industry re-invents itself through the work of engineers and designers who are committed to the cause.  Their work leads to new products for consumers who are looking for energy options that are both environmentally and financially responsible.  It is this continuous improvement and advancement from within the solar industry that a major factor in driving demand for solar power systems.  As solar power systems continue to get better the use of solar power systems will increase.  And that is a great advancement for everyone.

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Topics: Solar Power, Clean Energy

Top Green Traveling Bloggers

Posted by SEPCO

9/4/12 9:30 AM

Green topics in the blogosphere are all the rage right now, and with good reason; given that efforts towards sustainability help ourselves, each other and our planet, it's no wonder that the entire movement is seen as positive and in fashion!

Green Blogging

One green niche particularly popular among writers and readers alike is that of travel. Because the very act of traveling tends to cause extra waste, working to combine your environmentally-aware attitude with your love of visiting locales around the world can be difficult, to say the least. Luckily green traveling is huge and it does make huge difference! Almost 50% of European business travelers say their company’s environmental policies have a direct impact on their traveling decisions and according to Diane Williams from Allinclusiveresorts.net, 70% of people who travel prefer green hotels.

Find support, ideas and insight into the act of earth-friendly globetrotting with the help of any one of these top green travelling bloggers

1. Green Travel UK

Green Travel UK

With a tag line of "Less Carbon, More Fun," you know you've come to the right place for green travel tips and ideas as soon as you land on the home page of the Green Travel UK website. With content offered by 17 professional contributors, Green Travel focuses on helping its readers to see the world without the need for commercial air travel or resource-hungry accommodations. From tree house-centric vacation plans to deals on ferry and train tickets, getting around Europe has never been so ecologically friendly and affordable.

2. The Ethical Traveler

Ethical Traveller

After writing a green travel editorial column in an Irish newspaper for four years, Catherine Mack took her journalistic skills to the web in an effort to enlighten people on the many eco-friendly travel opportunities to be found in Europe and around the world; the Ethical Traveler Blog was born. With each entry focusing on a particular event or vacation opportunity in a specific setting, Mack continuously offers an in-depth look at what it means to travel the Earth with the Earth in mind.

3. Green Travel Blog

Green Travel Blog

Focusing less on location and more on what each individual traveler can do to ensure that their globetrotting endeavors are colored green, the Green Travel Blog gives its readers hints and tips aimed at ensuring every aspect of their trip, from transportation to accommodations, is as energy efficient as possible.

On the locale side of things, Green Travel Blog offers a view of locations around the world, often focusing on adventurous safaris and tropical vacations, making for very interesting reading for those looking far from home for their travel plans.

4. Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel Logo

When authority in journalism is important, the blog of Sustainable Travel International brings an excellent team of writers and more than six years of experience in the niche, delivering a wide array of articles that cover everything from how to choose an eco-aware hotel to what it takes to turn your vacation into a pursuit in green tactics. Also offered in this blog is a look at excellent opportunities for combining tourism with conservationism, helping you to make a difference during your time abroad without the hassles associated with planning from scratch.

5. Traveling Naturally

Traveling Naturally

Offering a North American-centric view as opposed to the highly European focused blogs mentioned above, Traveling Naturally is another well-established writer's platform to discuss everything to do with environmentally aware travel, from the way you get to your destination to the food you eat while you're there.

Particularly helpful for those traveling throughout the United States and Canada, Traveling Naturally offers tips on local events and unique tourism opportunities, often combining information on how to get officially involved while they're at it.

6. National Geographic Adventure Blog

National Geographic Adventure Blog

If sustainability is on your priority list alongside the need for adventure, the National Geographic Adventure Blog is the online spot for you! Instead of focusing its articles through a green lens, this is the one blog on this list that puts remote adventure first with environmental issues a natural evolution of shirking norms in travel. Discover how you can visit the snowy Andes or the great African savannah, all with out-of-the-box thinking and accommodations that will suit even the greenest of minds.

Annie is the green geek blogging at DIY gadgets.

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Topics: Guest Post, Fun Green Articles

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