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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Green Travel While Minimizing Damage to the Environment

Posted by SEPCO

3/28/13 9:30 AM

SEPCO can provide you with solar electric power, helping to reduce the negative impact that you have upon the environment with regards to lighting, but this is only a single step towards living your life in an environmentally conscious manner. In order to truly possess a green existence, it is important to consider ecological issues in every area of your life. One way in which people can minimize the amount of pollution that they create is by ensuring that they opt for methods of transportation that cause the least possible amount of harm to the world that we live in. Whether you are traveling to another city within America or taking a vacation overseas, there are ways of making sure that you don’t pollute the planet any more than you need to. Here are some tips for environmentally friendly travel.

CruiseGoing on a Cruise

Nowadays more and more people are going on cruise vacations. They are a pleasurable, relaxing way to see the world. However it is important to choose a cruise ship that is ecologically sound. In order to ensure that the boat that you decide on for your journey is an environmentally friendly travel option, you should look at what steps have been put in place to reduce the amount of energy that is taken up by its air conditioning system. The Holland America Line has covered its ship windows with a dark film to provide the cabins and rooms with a degree of protection from the heat generated by the sun, thus decreasing the amount of work that the air con systems have to do. You should also try and go for a ship that is provided by a company that has fuel reduction initiatives in place. In order to ensure that its ships are a green form of travel, Disney Cruise Line keeps the cooking oil that is used to make food on its boats and uses it to power the machinery on Castaway Cay, which is an island that acts as a port for the company’s boats.

Traveling by Train

TrainTrains are a more environmentally friendly form of transport than buses or cars, as they are responsible for fewer greenhouse gas emissions per mile traveled per passenger than either of the latter two forms of transportation. However there are still steps that can be taken in order to make sure that you choose the greenest train company for your trip. Read up on each company’s corporate social responsibility before making your decision. A detailed examination will reveal that some companies are far more environmentally conscious than others. Walking the distance from the station that you arrive at to your intended destination as opposed to either using public transport or getting a lift can also help to reduce your carbon footprint providing it is not too far.

BusGetting the Bus

If you opt to travel by bus then you should take time to work out which companies provide the greenest journeys. Some companies use biodiesel fuel and / or ultra-low sulfur diesel, which can lead to a ninety percent decrease in polluting particulate emissions. Others monitor breaking and speed patterns, enabling them to save eight percent on fuel and five percent on tire tread. Sometimes there will inevitably only be a single company that can take you to where you want to go but it is worth making yourself aware of the options that are available to you.

Going by Car

CarThere are a number of different ways to reduce the impact that traveling by car has upon the environment. Firstly you can participate in a car share scheme. The more people that travel in a single car, the less cars there will be on the road and the less pollution there will be. You could also invest in an electric car or a hybrid car. The former causes less pollution, cuts fuel costs and slashes oil consumption. Studies conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists have concluded that these cars can save you between seven hundred and fifty dollars and one thousand two hundred dollars per annum based on eleven thousand miles of driving. Hybrid cars are a type of vehicle that utilizes more than one distinct power source in order to move. These cars have been proven to produce up to ninety percent less pollution.

PlaneFlying to your Destination

In recent years, some airlines have taken steps to reduce the destruction that they wreak upon the environment. Some planes are equipped with energy-efficient engines that decrease mono-nitrogen oxide emissions by up to a quarter and others have taken implemented measures to reduce the amount of pollution that is produced by their ground hubs. You might also want to opt for an airline that is working to reduce its municipal waste by forgoing in-flight magazines, using real dishes for meals as opposed to disposables and recycling food service items.

Walk or Cycle if Possible

BikeThe greenest methods of transport are clearly walking and cycling, as they have no negative effect upon the environment. You should therefore opt for these methods whenever possible. This might not be practical when you are going on long journeys but they are certainly practical when going to the shops or visiting a friend who lives nearby. Some people place their own convenience above the need to preserve the environment. However ask yourself this: would you rather avoid tiring yourself out and taking longer to get from A to B or cause irreparable damage to the world in which you live? Adhering to an ecologically sound way of life can ensure that you sleep easy in the knowledge that you are doing your bit to make sure that the future of the planet is a bright one, whether it be by using a green form of transportation or using solar energy powered lighting. What are you waiting for? Formulate a plan to help save the world today and see how much better you feel on account of doing so.

Author: Laura Whitehead

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas

10 years in the Solar Lighting Industry

Posted by SEPCO Staff Authors

3/26/13 9:30 AM

StephanieHere it is Tuesday morning and it is my week to write a blog post.  I think to myself, is this really important, is this the best and most efficient thing I could be doing with my time?  And of course coming from the GenX I Google the benefits of blogging and I come to the conclusion that it is definitely worth it.  Therefore, now I know it is important-- so important that I cannot find the courage to throw something together and move on with my daily tasks.  Surely, someone who has been in the solar lighting industry for 10 years has something to share.  Yesterday I received a call from a lighting designer who will speak on behalf of solar lighting at Lightfair, I find I can be long winded and passionate on the phone when discussing our solar lighting products and how great LED’s have become as well as all the reasons lighting designers should know when to use and feel comfortable specifying solar LED street lighting and beautiful solar decorative lights for their next lighting project. 

I had my 10 year anniversary at Solar Electric Power Company last week.  Then this week I conducted an interview with a young lady starting off her career and in her mid-20’s talking about her quarter life crisis.  I laughed and it brought me back in time, when I started out my career in the solar lighting industry.  I dreaded being stuck in an office setting; I had no clue what my career had in store for me.  I was ready to make the big leap from college studies to the big long time career.  I had worried that I might not be able to hold a steady career, or that I might let my family down.  Not only is this my career, but it is also my family.  I work for my parents in a family business.  I remember coming home from school and listening to my parents discuss projects over the dinner table.  I also remember going on family vacations to spots where projects were so they could get really good photographs of the installations, etc. 

I grew up thinking that I was going to stay out of the family business.  I thought I was going to go and venture out on my own and be independent and have my own career.  Then my quarter life crisis hit me shortly after I spent 7 years in college and completed my graduate studies.  It hit me like a ton of bricks; I wanted to be a part of the Family Business.  “WHAT?” Yes, you heard me; the one thing I thought that I wanted to stay out of is the one thing that drew me in.  Of course we all have to make money, so why not do it while enjoying the company of our family.  What I envisioned as a young child as mixing business and family as a negative, shortly became what I would embrace and love.  I get to work every day with the ones that I love.  Furthermore, family businesses play an influential role in society because of their commitment to community, their sense of responsibility to give back to those who aided them in their success, and because of a motivation driven by the ideals of family, partnership and responsibility rather than solely that of making a profit at any cost.

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Topics: Green Ideas, SEPCO News & Information

6 Must Have Tools for Working with Electrical Wiring

Posted by SEPCO

3/21/13 9:30 AM

ToolboxElectricity is dangerous: the electrician must have experience and qualification to perform work on electrical wiring. Any domestic electrical work, in the UK, must be covered by the relevant certifications unless it takes place in the garage or a defined external part of the home (that is, a room or an enclosed area that may be wired for light and power, but which is not technically part of the nominated living area of the house). So in a way the first and most important tool of all for working with electrics is the proper certification and the training to back it up.

In terms of hardware, though, there are a number of tools no competent person’s toolkit should be without. Here (in no particular order) are six of the best.

1: The Voltage Tester

The voltage tester is used to test the voltage passing through a system. It has a positive and a negative probe, which are touched to the relevant wires to create the circuit and take the reading. There are two types of voltage tester – the solenoid and the solid state. A solenoid tester will, over time, deteriorate in reading quality as the probe’s coating wears away. Solid state testers do not have this problem.

2: The Digital Multimeter

As its name implies, a digital multimeter is designed to perform a variety of measuring tasks. With multiple inputs, settings and reading types, the multimeter can give accurate readings in most situations. A multimeter featuring a low impedance function will allow the electrician to take ghost voltages out of the equation and achieve a more accurate reading. It may also be set to measure a number of different wave forms (apart from the sine waves usually measured by a standard meter).

3: The Non-Contact Voltage Tester

Non-contact voltage testers have a specific function – to measure the actualelectromagnetic field produced by a circuit. The non-contact voltage tester is placed on the wall or plug socket through or into which the wiring runs, and gives  a reading based on the impulses it fins there. May be used in all situations, commercial and domestic.

4: Lineman’s Pliers

The “lineman’s” plier is a standard electrician’s tool, featuring rubber sheathed grips and a plier head combined with a cutting blade. The blade is located in the two inner edges of the plier head, by the pivot, and is used for stripping wires whilst working. Extra cutting power is given by putting the blades right next to the pivot point.

5: A Quarter Inch Screwdriver

The quarter inch screwdriver is one of the most commonly used in electrics. It takes the holding screws out of many faceplates and safety brackets on electrical equipment. As with all electrical work, the screwdriver should be rubber sheathed for safety.

6: Multi Wire Stripper and Cutting Tool

The multi wire stripper and cutting tool – again rubber sheathed – allows the electrician to strip wire in a number of standard forms. It features a graded cutting blade, in which sharp-edged holes have been prepared (the holes are formed when the two jaws of the blade are closed, allowing the electrician to open and shut them over different wires) in common gauges, including stranded wire and solid wire.

Overall Use and Safety

As noted, there is no tool like the proper qualification. Only qualified, certified electricians should work with consumer units, mains wiring circuits and other imbedded electrical wiring. A non-qualified person may change the fuse in a plug, or wire a plug; but to install plug sockets and run wiring beneath plasterboard requires the knowledge that can only be given from training. Current qualifications are a must to ensure that the electrician is up to date with relevant procedures, tools and safety knowledge.

About the Author: Lisa Janeis a former electrician. He now writes for a trade publication and has just finished researching an article about modern consumer units

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Topics: Guest Post

Commercial Street Light LED Fixtures Powered By Clean Solar

Posted by SEPCO

3/19/13 9:30 AM

Solar LED Street LightThe last several years have seen the advent of new commercial lighting system technologies that have the potential to significantly reduce operating costs for those that employ them, such as commercial property owners, city and county governments, school districts and home owner's associations. Among these are commercial street light LED fixtures, which can offer reliable, cost efficient and environmentally responsible lighting for a variety of commercial and municipal applications.

Commercial street light LED fixtures powered by clean solar power offer a number of advantages over traditional, grid powered lighting. Installation, for instance, is much easier, faster and less costly with solar powered commercial fixtures. Grid powered lighting requires infrastructure, with a lot of engineering considerations, wiring and trenching in of cables, whereas solar powered street lights are separate, self contained units, requiring no underground connections. This easy installation is especially beneficial when new lighting is being installed on existing, already paved sites, eliminating the hassle and expense of digging through pavement for trenching and the subsequent repairs. Lighting remote areas, such as roadways or sports fields in a city park or the parking lot of a rural business, is much easier with stand alone solar powered street lights, avoiding the expense and logistical issues of tapping into a distant grid system.

Commercial Street Light LED FixturesReliability is another advantage well worth consideration. Solar powered LED street lights will still shine brightly when grid power goes down, offering security and safety during blackout conditions. A street lighting system made up of stand alone solar powered units offers more reliability during extreme weather as well, since having one destroyed by a lightening strike or a fallen tree will not cause the entire system to fail, as can be the case with grid powered street lighting.

Solar powered commercial street light LED fixtures are an extremely cost efficient option, offering lower operating and maintenance costs than typical, grid powered lighting. The most obvious and significant source of savings is the fact that these fixtures generate their own power, adding nothing to electricity bills. LED fixtures also last longer than other fixtures, with an average lifespan as much as five times that of incandescent types, and most require little or no routine maintenance.

Commercial streetlight LED fixtures powered by clean solar energyCommercial streetlight LED fixtures powered by clean solar energy are exceptional options for environmentally conscious city or county managers, commercial property owners, school districts or HOAs. LEDs produce light by passing electrical current through a solid diode, unlike other options that require incendiary gases to function. They produce no toxic emissions and generate a minuscule amount of heat as compared to traditional lighting, and since they are powered by solar energy, they do not take energy from power plants that may burn fossil fuels in its production.

Solar-powered commercial street light LED fixtures have been put to very successful use in a wide variety of settings. They have been installed at airports, corporate parks and military installations in the U.S. and abroad. They are used to light parks, city streets, housing developments, parking lots and government facilities. Flexible, cost efficient, reliable and environmentally sound, commercial street light LED fixtures powered by clean solar power stand head and shoulders above traditional commercial lighting options. 


Blog Street Lighting CTA
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Topics: LED Lighting, Street Lighting

Solar Rail Road Crossing for Remote Locations Improve Safety

Posted by SEPCO

3/14/13 9:30 AM

Solar Rail Road CrossingOne of the many benefits of powering equipment via solar energy is the ability to produce electricity in even the remotest of locations without significant complications and cost. As rail road lines traverse wide swaths of land that of necessity include isolated, "off the grid" areas, rail way crossing warning systems must be provided with a secure and trustworthy electricity supply the doesn't depend on connection to utility lines. Solar rail road crossing flashers are one of the few options available for providing adequate safety at crossings in secluded areas traversed by railways.

A solar powered rail road crossing flasher is a self-contained power supply that can be adapted to the needs of the particular location where it will be used. Often touted as an entirely green source of electricity, solar panels satisfy increasing concerns for the environment while boasting the additional benefits of being low maintenance and long lasting. Solar rail road crossings can be programmed to work at only certain hours of the day to maintain efficiency and can be relocated after their initial installation if the need arrises. Federal, state, and local governments have taken note of this environmentally friendly way of providing safety at rail road crossings by offering incentives and policies that favor the use of solar rail road crossing fixtures. 

Already a common site alongside our highways, solar panels are constantly being adapted to meet our energy needs in ever more convenient and practical ways. Solar rail road crossings are now in use by quite a few railway systems such as the North Carolina Department of Transportation railway crossings and they are likely to be used increasingly in the coming years due to their many advantages. 
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Topics: Traffic & Warning Flasher

Why You Shouldn't Wait to Use Alternative Energy

Posted by SEPCO

3/12/13 9:30 AM

In today’s world, there’s a lot of talk about fossil fuels, the greenhouse effect and global warming. These conversations often go hand-in-hand with living a green life, preserving the planet and being eco-conscious. In order to keep up with these talks and form an opinion, it’s important to understand what fossil fuels are and why some people are favoring renewable energy sources.

Non-Renewable vs. Renewable Energy

NonRenewable Energy

As much as 85% of the energy that’s consumed in the United States is from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include coal, oil and natural gas. These sources of energy are non-renewable, which means that when they run out, they cannot be replaced. Eventually, fossil fuels will run out and people will have to find alternative types of energy. Many people who are trying to live their life in an eco-friendly manner have already began using alternative types of energy. 

Dangers of Fossil Fuels

When fossil fuels are turned into energy, various threats to the environment can occur. Both the air and water becomes polluted, which becomes a health concern for individuals. The release of carbon dioxide worsens the greenhouse effect. When coal is burned, sulfur dioxide is produced, which in turn creates acid rain. Oil spills can cause extensive damage to the earth and natural vegetation.

Renewable Energy Sources

The two basic types of renewable energy are wind power and solar power. Wind power is both constant and abundant, and it’s also the least expensive type of renewable energy. Plus, wind power hasn’t been used much, which means this power source is so far untapped. To begin using wind power, businesses and towns have to have wind turbines set up. These turbines convert the kinetic energy from wind into mechanical power, which is then converted into electricity via a generator.

Alternative EnergyWhile solar power is more expensive than wind power, it’s also more reliable. The sun’s radiation is converted to electricity through photovoltaic solar panels. So long as the sun is shining, solar power will be an option. Everyone across the globe can be sustained with solar power. Homes and corporate buildings that utilize solar power often have large windows on the sunniest side of the building. Inside the building are walls and floors made from heat-absorbing material. During the day, the material collects the heat and at night it’s released to warm the building.

Benefits of Renewable Energy

There are several benefits to using renewable energy. The most obvious benefits have to do with limiting your use of energy and minimizing bills. Renewable energy benefits include:

  • You’ll help the environment by living a green life. Living green means being eco-conscious and eco-friendly. 
  • Alternative energy sources can lower your utility bills, saving you a lot of money every year.
  • You’ll be saving money because you’re saving energy, which means that your carbon footprint will be reduced as well.
  • Utility bills will be relatively the same from month to month, which means budgeting for your utilities is easier and more reliable.
  • When you install a solar energy system, you may be eligible for a high tax credit.
  • Homes and businesses that utilize renewable energy sources can gain and eventually sell Renewable Energy Credits.

Sunny Fernandez follows the energy sector in Australia and looks to provide a wealth of information on solar panels for residential and commercial homes.

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Topics: Guest Post, Renewable Energy

Comparing Costs of Solar Lighting to Electrical Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

3/7/13 9:30 AM

Compare CostsComparing costs between off-grid solar lighting and traditional electrical grid-powered lighting can often be confusing and seem like a daunting task. Upfront purchase costs, maintenance and utility costs, government incentives and rebates, and environmental costs all need to be taken into account when making these calculations. Once a list of all costs can be prepared for comparison between the two options, the task becomes much less daunting.

Calculate Purchase and Installation Costs

The purchase costs are relatively straightforward; although one needs to keep in mind that when purchasing solar lighting, all future power generation is being purchased upfront.  More on that later. 

The installation costs can be a little trickier to identify. The major costs associated with installing solar lighting will be erecting the pole and mounting the solar lighting equipment onto the pole.  This will, of course, be multiplied on a per pole basis for the entire project. As more poles are installed, the cost per pole should lower due to economies of scale.

The parts of the total cost of installing traditional lighting can often be hidden. As with the solar lighting, one needs to consider the costs of erecting the poles and mounting the equipment. One also must take into account the cost of bringing the electrical grid to each of the poles. This will include the purchase and installation of step-down transformers, electrical wire, and conduit. Running the conduit can often be an expensive proposition since this involves the labor of trenching plus the purchase of pricy copper wire. Often specialized machinery is needed for this trenching process.

Calculate Long-Term Recurring Costs

These include maintenance and utility costs. For the most part, the only recurring cost for solar lighting will be battery replacement approximately every 5 years. In the majority of cases solar lighting uses LED lamps which rarely need to be replaced. Also, all of the power generation was purchased upfront, so no utility costs exist.

Traditional lighting will normal make use of some form of HID lamp technology. These lamps will need to be replaced regularly. Also, the owner will need to pay a monthly utility bill to power the traditional lighting.

Consider Government and Non-Government Incentives for Solar Lighting

Many tax credits, rebates, and deductions are available for the purchase and installation of solar lighting at both the Federal and state levels. Most of these tax incentives can be found at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Also, numerous grants may be available from various agencies for solar lighting projects to offset a portion or at times all of the project costs. Also, various government agencies or even some corporations may require certain initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of facilities or projects. Solar lighting can be used to satisfy these requirements eliminating the need for the expense of additional carbon-reducing projects.

Consider Environmental Costs or Savings

The owner of each project will need to determine the importance of these costs. Solar lighting is a net-zero technology when it comes to carbon footprint. Traditional lighting consumes energy from the electrical grid, thus adding to the carbon footprint. The environmental savings associated with solar lighting over traditional lighting will need to be calculated and their significance identified.

When first assessing the overall costs of a solar lighting project vs. traditional lighting, the task can seem more like a puzzle. This puzzle can easily be solved by following the steps outlined above and creating a framework to view the project costs in their entirety.

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Topics: Solar Lighting

3 Ways to Market Your Business as Green

Posted by SEPCO

3/5/13 9:36 AM

Solar CanopyHow is your business different from those of competitors?  Does your brand dedicate itself to excellent customer service, a money-back guarantee, or dedication to the community?  Growing numbers of business owners are making respective businesses distinct, placing more emphasis on ‘going green.’ 

Telecommuting, using energy-efficient light bulbs, and participating in local recycling programs are some implementations exercised by owners with green intentions.  However, those endeavors take place inside the places of business.  But what about the parking lots outside?  Going green is an internal and external business endeavor in modern times.

Just how are outdoor green feats achieved?  The Wall Street Journal instructs, “From Long Island to the Arizona desert, developers are covering their lots with canopies of solar panels.” (1)  Solar panels are not a new discovery; the insight of turning light to power was first turned on the world in 1838. (2)  However, today’s technology allows for solar-paneled canopies, new to eyes and green enthusiasts.  How do those partaking in green efforts market and spread word?

Press Releases Championing a Bigger Cause

‘Men in suits’ are not the only associations to green motions and energy-saving parking lots.  The Washington Redskins covered 841 parking spaces with solar-paneled canopies, the system generating 20% of FedExField’s power needs (during game days and all electricity during off days). (1)

Make it a topic of news, as the football team did; businesses use press releases to inform the public about participation in bigger causes, such as energy conservation, raising awareness about the larger cause but also functioning as a marketing tool, aligning the business with the celebrated, green endeavor.

Solar Parking LotPitch Reporters with Green-Related Stories

The notion of suiting outdoor areas with solar panels is made possible by new-age technology; erected canopies, soaking up rays of light, turn them into usable sources of power.  This isn’t the latest film adaptation of the future.  It’s the parking lot scene taking place right now at local businesses.  It’s an interesting story; green companies pitch such stories to reporters (especially ones who have previously written on the topic).

For example, commercial rent is high for many, yet owners can make use of underutilized land, leveraging solar panels to reduce utility bills.  That’s a story people would read; the scientific element is interesting; and better, it saves people money.  Are you ensuring news reporters and publications know about your efforts?

Create In-House Conversations About Green Perks

Employees like benefits, whether it’s more money, a bigger office, or option of working some days from home.  It makes workers feel appreciated, also providing tangible value.  Solar-powered canopies are beneficial for employees too, employees who enact word-of-mouth and social-media sentiments each day.  What are they (potentially) saying about their places of work?

A number of owners enjoy the reputation of operating a ‘green’ business, fueled by the word-of-mouth and social media marketing of their own employees.  Why are panels good for workers and a topic of discussion?  Canopies block the sun, ridding car seat surfaces and chambers of excessive heat.  During times of inclement weather, the canopies provide protection from hail, snow, and rain, something car owners doubling as employees can appreciate.  Moreover, solar panels save businesses money, funds that can contribute to employee bonuses.  Are you creating in-house conversations, facilitating online and outdoor social marketing?

Author: Natasha Risinger is a personal finance consultant. Her articles focus on green energy and sustainability they appear on green and sustainability blogs. Visit Texas Electricity Providers for more details.


Wall Street Journal 

Solar Energy History


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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas

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