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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Solar Power Ensures Microgrid Expansion well Beyond 2013

Posted by SEPCO

1/31/13 9:30 AM

As a result of solar power becoming increasingly affordable and easier to install, many areas are using them to create their own Microgrids. Here is a look at how solar panels are helping to encourage Microgrid creation and what the future holds for solar energy in residential areas.

The Benefits of Solar Energy

In order to appreciate the reasons why so much money and technological research is being invested in solar power it is worth considering the benefits that this energy source has to offer. Solar energy can boast two main attributes, not only is it a sustainable resource but it is also completely renewable, so unlike fossil fuels we will never run out of it. It also enables homeowners and communities to generate their own source of electricity and reduce or maybe even eliminate their dependency on the main grid. Solar power produces zero emissions and is good for the environment especially when you compare it against fossil fuel generated electricity. Many governments around the world are embracing this concept of powering our homes and a good number of them offer financial incentives or even rebates to encourage individuals or communities to change to this cleaner and more cost effective source of energy and power.

Microgrid

Delivering Energy Locally

As the focus continues to intensify on producing renewable energy, Microgrids are considered to be the most viable way of approaching the subject of grid modernization and reducing dependency on the national grid network. Microgrids are essentially scaled down versions of the centralized electricity system that are able to deliver local power needs in the same way as a national network is expected to do. The fundamental difference of course is that a Microgrid offers communities the opportunity to control and regulate their power source on a localized basis which allows for greater customer participation in the electricity enterprise.

Scalable Growth of a local Microgrid

A Microgrid is essentially a collection of solar panels connected together to create a network that is capable of providing power to communities who are either looking at trying to reduce or eliminate their need to use the national network and at the same time, want to improve energy efficiency, control costs and reduce the impact of carbon emissions. Microgrids are the next generation of energy supply and should not be viewed as simply a backup system and they also have the ability to harness power for everyone within their vicinity by pooling together the solar panels in use rather than the less efficient way of each property having an individual stand alone panel. They use specifically designed software and power electronics to store the power generated in order to provide energy on a 24 hour basis and not just when the sun is shining.

Microgrids are understandably a very welcome solution in areas where there are significant power outages or in local communities where there is limited access to the national network. Linking up solar panels and creating a successful Microgrid is a viable way forward for every home and community to obtain their power in the future and that includes urban as well as rural areas that would benefit in many ways, such as substantially reducing emissions as well as creating the opportunity for reduced energy costs as the network grows.

Yogesh Mankani is an environmental researcher and consultant. He enjoys sharing his finding with the public through blogging. Visit the #1 site to shop and compare energy rates Save On Energy.
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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power, Clean Energy

How to Go Solar, Simply

Posted by SEPCO

1/29/13 9:30 AM

SunPowerGoing solar seems to scare many homeowners, because they think it is complex and costly. They want to have it done without having to make a large investment. This post will talk about how to go solar without spending a lot or doing a lot. The focus will be on three pieces of solar equipment you could start out with.

1. Solar-Powered Attic Fans

The verdict is not in on just how much this will help you save, but if you decide to go for it, here are a few things your should know.

* Price - This will cost you anywhere between $300 to $700.

* Function/Installation - These fans are used to help keep attics ventilated as well as keep them cooler. Large attics may require the use of more than one fan to achieve the cooling effect. A direct-current motor will require a 20 - 30 watt solar panel to power it (National Association of Home Builders). These attic fans should be installed with intake vents in areas where they will receive direct sunlight. The intake vents are usually mounted close to the ridge of the roof. Take the necessary sealing measures to prevent any problems with moisture or backdrafting. Experts indicate that the best results come when proper insulation is added along with the installation of the solar attic fan.

2. Tubular Skylights/Solar Tubes/Tubular Daylighting Devices

These lights are ideal for lighting small spaces and can be found in 10 - 12 inch diameter models.

* Price: $150 to more than $600

* Function/Installation - Sunlight passes through a mounted light collector on the roof. The sunlight passes through a reflective tube then on to a diffuser lens that is attached to the ceiling. Installation is easy, but may be a bit of a challenge if the roofing is metal or tile. You may have to seek professional help if that is the case. Install lights in areas that get several hours of direct sunlight everyday. No additional framing is required.

3. Solar Outdoor Lights

Solar outdoor lights are not only effective, but also add to the appeal of your garden or walkway at night. They are an inexpensive means of lighting up areas on the outside. They offer security, as they can be used to light up driveways and areas around the house.

* Price - Regular solar outdoor lights can cost as little as $10 apiece, while accent lights (hanging lanterns and post lights) can cost less than $100 each. You can purchase a solar floodlight kit for approximately $20.

Function/Installation - Installation is easy, but it's best to have your landscape plan done first, so you know exactly how you want your lights to be laid out. Before making the final decision and purchasing the lights, ensure they will provide the level of illumination you desire. You can use solar landscape lights or solar floodlights, or you can combine both to give you the desired lighting effect.

Going Solar does not have to cost the hefty sums that are customarily quoted. Assess your home to identify any particular area where you would like to use solar energy, and then try to find a suitable solar solution.

Sean Derrick has gone solar for over 6 years and has never looked back. He enjoys sharing his tips and insights on various saving energy blogs. Over 10 electricity providers information can be found on www.ElectricityTexas.net, visit the website to find out more.

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Topics: Guest Post

How is Solar Technology Being Adopted in the UK?

Posted by SEPCO

1/24/13 9:30 AM

Sunrise
TEKN Photography

As the oil dries up, the planet chokes in smog and we career blissfully toward an apocalypse of our own creation, the need for green energy has become more urgent than ever. With cold fusion still a distant impossibility, scientists and leaders are desperately scrambling to concoct a solution to the biggest problem of our times. Wind farms are sprouting up, debates are raging and consensus still looks far away. But all is not lost; from recycling to solar energy, the general public are supporting renewable resources in droves. Here we take a close look at the prevalence of solar energy in the UK; who is using it and why:

Regions: Who Goes Green?

Solar isn’t used uniformly across the country, far from it. For example, the amount of panels installed across Scotland and especially the Highlands is almost negligible. Obviously, this isn’t a surprise: the Highlands can have as little as 711 hours of sunshine annually, compared to nearly 1,500 for the UK. With winter seeing as little as 1 hour of sunshine per month in some areas, the idea of solar power doubtless seems like a daft Southern fantasy.

The trend continues down into the extreme north of England; Newcastle and the Northumberland area installing more solar panels than Scotland, but still relatively few. It isn’t until we hit Leeds that the first spanner appears in the works: although the city receives an average of 50% less sunlight than London, solar panel installations are in the top bracket. How come?

Well, a 2012 study measuring the ‘greenness’ of UK cities came to the conclusion that the richer a city is, the greener it is likely to go. Leeds may not compete with the capital, but it is ‘wealthier’ than nearby Manchester; and both are richer than Liverpool, which ranked bottom of the green list. Looking at the map of solar distribution, we can see that Manchester has fewer installations than Leeds, while Liverpool barely outranks the Scottish Highlands.

A vague correlation of wealth and ‘greenness’ continues across the country (with some outliers), until we hit the South. By the time we reach the notoriously sunny South West, only a handful of areas such as Torbay rank any lower than the top bracket for solar panel installation. Even traditionally poor, rural communities that haven’t been swamped by moneyed refugees from London rank highly. The obvious conclusion to draw is the opposite of the Scottish one: in the South West (avg. hours of sunshine, 1600 – 1900 annually), the benefits of going solar are immediately obvious.

The London Riddle

One of the most immediately striking things about the distribution of solar panels is the comparative lack covering London. Located in a high potential area (map) and famously crawling with wealth, the modest number of installations (at times comparable to the Highlands) seems counterintuitive. Despite being ranked as one of Forum for the Future’s top 10 sustainable UK cities (#10); the leap to harnessing solar seemingly has not yet been made.

One answer could be the great disparities between incomes in the population. For every enclave of super-rich bankers luxuriating in their millions, there are several more areas suffering real deprivation (Hackney famously suffered a 186.4% rise in long-term youth unemployment last year). No matter what subsidies are on offer, splashing out any amount on solar installation is an impossibility for those on the bottom of the economic ladder.

Another factor to take into account would be the high instance of renting in the capital, even where the middle classes are concerned; along with the widespread use of social housing. Put simply, unless you own a home with room for installation (immediately discounting flats), there is little point in even enquiring.

At the end of the day, solar is just one of many alternatives to fossil fuels currently on offer to UK residents. While it may not be practical for everyone, for those who can take advantage, it’s encouraging to see its use beginning to take off. Will it continue to rise in the face of economic Armageddon? Only time will tell.

This is a contributed report from UK based insurance company, PolicyExpert.co.uk. Find out how solar panels affect your home insurance by visiting their site.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power, Clean Energy

Solar Pathway Lights are the Perfect Solution for Remote Areas

Posted by SEPCO

1/22/13 9:30 AM

Solar Pathway LightsPathway and sidewalk lighting are great applications for solar lighting solutions. These walkways are often located in parks or generally off the beaten path. The electrical grid may not be available in these areas. Even sidewalks adjacent to roadways can present costly challenges related to extending the power grid for lighting purposes. Solar lighting can be used for lighting these walkways without the need of the electrical grid. Solar panels produce their own electrical energy that is stored in batteries which are used to power the lights at night.

There are a variety of reasons lighting may be needed on pathways. As mentioned earlier, often times these walkways are located in remote areas. These areas may not see any significant ambient lighting making them too dark to use at night. Solar lighting can make these spaces available for enjoyment at night as well as during the day. Safety from crime can also be a factor in the need for pathway lighting.  Proper lighting can be a powerful deterrent to criminals and allow people to feel safe walking at night.

Solar Power for Pathway LightsMost solar pathway lighting installations use one or more solar power assemblies to run power to a string of lights mounted low to the ground.  This reduces the cost of the overall installations by not needing a separate solar power source for each light fixture. This also allows the power assembly to be located in an area with full access to the sun during the day, while the fixture locations may be shaded part or all of the day. Usually low voltage DC power is run from the power assembly to the fixtures, allowing for the use of direct buried UF cable instead of having to run the wires through costly conduit. In other installations with longer strings of lights, an inverter may be used to run AC power out to the fixtures.

With the advancement of LED’s, several fixture styles have become available for use with solar pathway lighting systems. Most any size, shape and style of bollard lights are available. If preferred, pagoda style lights may be used also. Even lights specifically used for dock and boardwalk type applications have their place in solar pathway lighting solutions.

Like many lighting applications where light is needed in remote or hard to reach areas, solar lighting can be an ideal tool for improved pathways.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Solar Lighting Options for Your Logo Sign

Posted by SEPCO

1/17/13 9:30 AM

Solar Logo SignThere are three main solar sign lighting options that you are going to be able to use on your logo sign. The first one of these options is going to be natural light. Of course, this is going to be the most affordable way that you are going to be able to light up your logo sign. This is because it is going to create some shadows onto your sign.  This is going to give the sign a lot more depth than any other type of lighting. Therefore, all of the letters on the sign are going to pop when the sign is lit up.  The biggest problem with the natural light is that people are only going to be able to see your sign at a certain time of the day.  

The second one of these options of solar lighting is going to be the exterior flood lighting. This is going to help make your logo look as clear as possible from variety of different angles. Therefore, you are never going to worry about any of your customers that being able to see the logo on your sign. Depending on the geographic location of the sign and the amount of light needed can vary the cost of the solar light system. There are many options to consider, but talking to a solar lighting professional can help walk you through the process of designing the perfect system for your sign.

The third one of these options of solar lighting is going to be back lighting. Back lighting is a great way to have your logo to shine on your sign. This is because it does not require a setup like the exterior lighting but you are still going to be able to see your logo from a variety of different angles. Therefore, it is going to work for you no matter what your situation is as far as the location of your sign.  Plus it is going to be very appealing for all of your customers. Using LED strips within the sign can provide the best light and use the least amount of energy.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Sign Lighting

Decorative Solar Street Lights for Ginn Sur Mer

Posted by SEPCO

1/15/13 9:30 AM

Solar Post Top LightWith the rise in energy costs, street lighting can be difficult for many areas. Ginn sur Mer has taken steps to minimize energy costs and reduce energy consumption by installing decorative solar powered street light systems. Since the units are self-contained, installation is cheaper and easier than with standard electrical lights.

Since Ginn sur Mer is located in Grand Bahamas, a hurricane riddled area; lighting is one of the main concerns when power goes down for safety and security. Since the solar street lights provide battery storage for up to five days of light, lack of power is not an issue for these lights. If a hurricane does shut down the power, Decorative Post Top Solar Lightthe solar panels will still charge the battery and provide lighting, no matter how long the island is without power.

The street lights installed at Ginn sur Mer are a decorative acorn style light. These lights are powered from dusk to dawn year around. The solar panels are all on the bottom of the pole with the acorn light fixture on top. This provides a more decorative and architectural installation and lowers the wind resistance drastically on the pole. Once completed, the area will be completely lit by these solar powered acorn street lights and will add safety and lower costs of residences and visitors.

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

The Dollars and Sense of Solar Powered Security Lights

Posted by SEPCO

1/10/13 9:30 AM

Solar Powered Security LightsThe use of solar lighting technology can be a great advantage to businesses and other properties where lighting is required.  Solar technology allows the use of the sun's rays to store energy for lighting during the dark hours.

This type of technology is very economical for commercial and residential buildings alike.  It requires no expensive wiring, insulation or connection to electric outlets.  The simple exposure to the sun during daylight hours is all that's required to power this technology.

From a money saving angle, this technology is unbeatable.  Installation costs are minimal and are one time only fees. There are no monthly expenses as with standard lighting and electricity. You don't even have to worry about power outages since every solar security light has its own power system. Solar powered security lights are becoming the economic standard for many businesses, schools, and government buildings alike.

Solar powered lighting can also be used with motion sensor technology making security lighting the most sensible choice.  Not only is it cost effective, but the security motion technology deters trespassing during off hours.  The convenience and practicality of solar security lighting is as smart as its money saving technology.  For centuries cultures have engaged the heat and power of the sun to assist in everyday activities.  Safer than fire, solar technology has grown and become more efficient than any other source of natural power.

Illustration Credit: Couponaudit.com

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Security Lighting

Commercial Solar Sign Lighting Draws Attention to Your Business

Posted by SEPCO

1/8/13 9:30 AM

Commercial Solar Sign LightingCommercial sign lighting is essential to maintaining your business's visibility twenty-four hours a day, and whether you're retrofitting an existing lighting system or installing a new one, the benefits of choosing solar lighting are as clear as the illumination they provide. 

Why It Pays To Be Unconventional


The cost of electricity continues to rise, and whether your business is big or small, new or old, money saved is money earned. Solar is free, and don't think that you need to live where the sun shines all the time. It's a common misconception and one only needs to look to New Jersey, the second biggest solar consumer in the United States, to understand that you don't need to live in the desert to effectively harness the sun's power.

Solar Sign LightingSaving money on the power traditionally used in commercial sign lighting is only the first way solar will boost any business's bottom line. Unlike traditional grid powered lighting, solar lighting is easy to install with little or no electrical knowledge, and can be accomplished by just about anyone with a few simple tools. This means business owners can avoid the high cost of hiring contractors to do the complex electrical work associated with traditional lighting, which is necessary to comply with local building codes and insurance regulations. 

 


The Bright Side Of Solar

Solar outshines conventional lighting in more than just cost. While traditional commercial sign lighting relies on old technology, solar is constantly evolving to become brighter and more efficient than its conventional counterpart. One example of this is the use of LED light bulbs, which typically use 1/10th of the power of traditional High Pressure Sodium or Metal Halide flood lights and have a much longer bulb life. This translates to brighter sign illumination, making them stand out in any crowd. Plus, with the money saved by choosing solar in the first place, business owners can add more signs for even higher visibility.

Affordable, easy to install and maintain, and great for the environment - there's really no reason not to go solar!

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Sign Lighting

New Solar LED Street Lights for a Caribbean Community

Posted by SEPCO

1/3/13 9:30 AM

Solar Street LightAlmost 17 years ago a community in the Caribbean purchased solar street lighting systems for areas around the neighborhood. Now they are purchasing additional lights to expand their current installation. Technology has changed a lot since the first light was installed. Here’s a comparison of the technology used then and now.

Solar LED Street Light Fixtures

The old style lights use compact fluorescent lamps while the new design uses LED fixtures. The cost of the new fixtures is a little higher than the old style Cobrahead fixtures; however, the overall savings from using LEDs will pay for the new fixture design quickly. LEDs use about 1/3rd the amount of power to provide the same lighting as CFL lamps and last over five times longer.

Solar LED Street LightsSolar LED Street Light Power System

With higher efficiency lighting available through LED technology allows for lower power consumption. The old solar lights required a larger power system to light the streets from dusk to dawn. The lower power system also does not require as strong of a pole for hurricane resistance lowering overall system cost by as much as 10%.

Solar LED Street Light Mounting Brackets

Finally the new systems’ mounting system is a lot different. The new T-Top style mounting uses less resources, is easier to install, and provides less wind resistance than before which is great for hurricane prone areas. The fixture mounting is now a curved, tapered, upsweep bracket that is more architecturally pleasant compared to the old style straight pipe.

It is always nice to see how technology advances and changes over the years. After 17 years of service the new systems will fit in great providing the community additional security through LED street lights. What other lighting technology changes has happened in the last decade and a half?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Street Lighting

Happy New Year from SEPCO

Posted by SEPCO

1/1/13 9:30 AM

Happy New Year from SEPCOHappy New Year from the SEPCO Team
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Topics: Holiday

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