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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Bringing the World Back to Zero (Infographic)

Posted by SEPCO

6/27/13 9:30 AM

With the impact we are having on the world today, moving towards zero will be difficult, but can be done. The Infographic below can show you exactly what steps need to be taken to accomplish this. There is also information on the typical person and family's carbon footprint including traveling and what you can do to help bring us back to zero by offsetting the carbons we throw into the atmosphere. Let us know your ideas.

Energy Innovation: From the Crowd

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Topics: Infographics

Use Solar Powered Traffic Flashers for Increased Safety

Posted by SEPCO

6/25/13 9:30 AM

Solar Powered Traffic FlashersTraffic warning flashers are the perfect applications for off-grid solar power solutions. These safety devices are needed to warn drivers of upcoming obstacles and hazards of the roadway. The flashers are often located in areas where the electrical grid is not available. Solar powered traffic flashers can be used at these locations without the need for the electrical grid. Solar panels produce their own electrical energy that is stored in batteries which are used to power the flashers. As an added benefit, the flashers will still function during power outages.

Numerous different operational profiles are available for solar warning flashers. One of the most popular options is 24/7 operation, which is the standard configuration. Other applications require only nighttime operation using a dusk to dawn controller. School zone flashers usually require the flashers to operate only for a few hours a day Monday through Friday. This can be accomplished using a time clock that can be set for a weekly program or a more customizable 365 day computer. Radio or cellular transmitters/receivers can be used for activation from a central location. Push button and remote activation are also available.

In the standard configuration, the solar module is mounted at the top of an aluminum pole with a breakaway base. The battery and control electronic enclosure can either be mounted with the solar at the top to deter vandalism, or can be mounted lower on the pole for easy access. The flasher fixtures and informational signs can be mounted anywhere on the pole. 

Solar warning flashers provide convenient and functional safety for roadways virtually anywhere it is needed.

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Topics: Solar Flasher

2013 Summer Solstice Fun Facts

Posted by SEPCO

6/20/13 9:30 AM

Sun SolsticeIt’s the summer solstice coming up this Friday and you know what that means right? It is the longest day of the year and the most amount of sunlight will be hitting the earth, making the solar power absorb the most energy than the rest of the year. Where else did you think I was going with that?

One thing most people don’t take into consideration is the sun hours in a day for solar. The sun rises at 7 am and sets at 8 pm where you live, so there should be 13 hours of sunlight right? Not really, but close. However, on the summer solstice, the maximum number of sun falls on us and provides a lot of power.

Here are some other great facts about the summer solstice.

  • Solstice is derived from the Latin words SOL meaning Sun and Sistere meaning to stand still.
  • The solstice will occur this Friday, June 21st at 5:04 Universal Time, or 11:04 AM for us on the East Coast.
  • The solstice dates vary from June 20th, 21st and 22nd. A June 22nd solstice will not occur till June 22, 2203. The last time there was a June 22nd solstice was in 1971.
  • Stonehenge was built around 3100 BCE. Some people believe it was built to help establish when the summer solstice occurred. Interestingly, the sun rises at a particular point on the horizon as viewed from the center of the stone circle on day of the June solstice.
  • Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. If you stood at the Sphinx on the summer solstice and gazed toward the two pyramids, you would see the sun set exactly between them.
  • The solstice marks when the sun reaches its northernmost point for the year and has the longest sun hours of the year.
  • Look at your shadow around noon on the solstice; it’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year.

Well that’s about all I found. What other fun facts can you find about the solstice? Or how will you be celebrating it? 

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Topics: Fun Green Articles

ODNR Delaware Wildlife Solar LED Parking Lot Lights

Posted by SEPCO

6/18/13 7:30 AM

Solar LED Boat Ramp LightThe Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife (DOW) completed Delaware Lake east boat ramp. The ramp was built in the 1960’s and required a considerable update to improve not only condition, but also safety.  The ramp, parking lot and access road recently got a complete overhaul to better serve the angling and boating public. The old deteriorated ramp and abutment were replaced with a new wider and more visible ADA accessible abutment and a ramp with v-grooves to improve traction. The parking area was redesigned to improve traffic flow and offers 45 parking spaces.  Anglers and boaters using the ramp at night will be aided by two new solar lights. 

This ramp improvement project is made possible by monies generated from the Boater-Angler Fund, a state tax on fuel that motorboat users pay to provide better access to Ohio’s waterways.   

Solar LED Parking Lot LightThe solar lights installed at the park consist of a self-sustaining 340 Watt solar power assembly and battery storage for over 8 days of inclement weather that is common in northern states. The fixture is a Cruzer LED light fixture mounted on a short side of pole tenon bracket to provide the needed light at the boat ramp and parking area. These lights will save money by providing consistent lighting and power with no additional electrical costs to the park.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at http://www.ohiodnr.com/.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting

Great Tips from a Solar Lighting Specialist

Posted by SEPCO

6/13/13 9:30 AM

Great Tips from a Solar Lighting SpecialistWhen informing potential customer on the subject of commercial solar lighting, it is important to educate on the quality of the lighting system for long term use with a comparison to lower quality short term solar lighting solution. These systems cost much less than commercial grade solar lighting systems and will typically cause the customer more issues and more costs in the long run.

When choosing a solar lighting system, you should look for reliable solar lighting manufacturer with quality components and a warranty to back them up. You should ask for an actual light layout or fixture photometric of the light output of a particular wattage, mounting height, and distribution using an independent light program with at least IESNA standards in mind for the area to be illuminated.

The solar array and battery of a solar lighting system should be sized according to the wattage of the fixture, hours used per night (the longest night in winter if dusk to dawn) and average sun hours in winter when the least amount of sun is available for year round reliability. The size of the solar array should be enough to over replace the lost charge of the battery drained by the fixture every night. The battery capacity should be sized with back-up for inclement weather for at least 5 (more in some areas) nights of lighting in overcast conditions. This will also extend the life of the battery as you do not want a depth of discharge of more than 80% of the listed amp hours of the battery. In colder climates find out what type of batteries the company includes in their equipment and if they have problems freezing.

Keep these things in mind when looking for a sound reliable solar lighting system that will give you many years of lighting without the headaches or having to replace the entire system in a year or two. You usually get what you pay for, and in the world of solar lighting this is very true.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

New Flow Battery Propel Solar and Wind Power to the Grid

Posted by SEPCO

6/11/13 9:30 AM

A major obstacle to the widespread use of solar and wind power to supply the grid is the problem of storing the energy produced at a low enough cost. Energy generated by the wind and the sun is subject to unpredictable fluctuations. Until now, the cost of batteries large enough to smooth out these swings in production has made the technology relatively uneconomic.

The US federal government recognizes the importance of the problem and the Department of Energy has set up the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub - the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) - specifically to focus on the issue of power storage for alternative technologies. Any new technology supporting the use of renewable, non-carbon energy sources on a commercial scale is clearly of vital significance for the economy and for a sustainable future. It is the sort of development which players in the power industry need to keep abreast of through such agencies as Environmental Data Resources.

The flow battery The JCESR initiative has borne fruit: it has supported Stanford University’s Yi Cui and his team, in their work on a new type of battery. The new battery is an adaptation of the so-called ‘flow battery’.

Solar and Wind Power

Flow batteries use two different liquids, which can be stored in swimming pool size tanks, as anode and diode. They can easily be scaled up, with available space being the main limitation. The volume of stored liquid is the determining factor, as other components do not have to be changed to increase capacity. However, flow batteries utilize very expensive materials.The liquids used are themselves expensive, and they have to be kept apart by a membrane which is also costly.

A cheaper version Yi Cui’s team has adapted the flow battery to be used with cheaper materials: lithium and sulfur. Lithium and sulfur had previously been used in solid form in batteries but suffered from degradation after repeated use. The new type of battery is a combination of flow technology and lithium/sulfur technology. Like flow batteries, it has the potential for large scale use and durability, but it is much cheaper to make.

Instead of using different liquids for the anode and diode, the new battery uses one type of liquid only, along with lithium in solid form. The design is simpler, and there is no need for an expensive membrane barrier to separate different liquids. The lithium is coated with material to inhibit corrosion, which is much cheaper. The materials used, lithium and sulfur are themselves less expensive than those used in the conventional flow battery.

Next steps The prototype design has worked well in the laboratory. The next step is to produce a larger scale model, so that any problems in design and engineering can be worked on. Then, all being well, the team wants to work on engaging a power supply company in a commercial scale trial of the technology. It is early days for this technology: the work has just been reported in the May 2013 edition of Energy & Environmental Science. If it fulfills its promise of cheap, large scale, durable energy storage, we will have taken a step towards a more sustainable future.

About the Author: Tom Grant is a energy sustainability researcher. He enjoys blogging where he shares his findings to various environmental blogs.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power, Battery Storage

Reduce Energy Grid Drain With Energy Star (Infographic)

Posted by SEPCO

6/6/13 9:30 AM

When considering a new home, energy efficiency should be a foremost concern. Especially if the plan is to make a home that is self-sufficient for energy needs. While most homes don’t come standard with solar panels and windmills, there is an increasing number of new homes that are Energy Star certified. These homes must pass standards for energy efficiency as laid out by the Environmental Protection Agency who runs the Energy Star program. Ryan Homes has created the following graphic to illustrate how much an Energy Star certified home saves on energy costs annually when compared to a typical, non-certified new home.

While saving money is nice (up to $600 a year apparently!), another major benefit of Energy Star certified homes is there reduced demand from the energy grid. If someone is interested in having a self-sufficient home, than installing Energy Star labeled appliances and building elements is an important part of being able to balance energy demand with production. Gradual improvements to energy efficiency throughout the home such as installing windows that retain additional heat, LED lighting or replacing old appliances. From an overall green perspective, improving how energy is saved within a home is just as important as improving how it is produced.

Energy Efficient Infographic

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Topics: Infographics

Shading Concerns for Solar Lighting for Parking Lots

Posted by SEPCO

6/4/13 7:30 AM

lighting for parking lotSolar energy is a great source that offers free energy year round. However, the power production of a solar panel can be greatly affected by shading. It is best for each location to be analyzed for optimum sun exposure. SEPCO specializes in stand-alone battery powered systems. Our systems are designed for a specific amount of power for each day or night. Therefore, it is important to be able to calculate exactly how much energy the system is producing as there is not back up power from the electrical grid when shading occurs or there is cloud cover. 

Each project you need to make sure that the installation is free of trees, power lines, building structures and other obstructions to the solar panel. The solar module has electricity that runs through each cell of the module, so just a tiny bit of shading on a module could decline the power production by as much as 40%. There are new technologies that increase the power on the modules or bypass the shaded cells, etc. There are also programs that can complete a shade analysis for the exact locations.  

Most of our designs for North America the solar modules will have a degree of tilt to the south. Keep in mind that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but that the north and south locations will fluctuate during different seasons on the panel as well.  Also note that sometimes a tree line will actually spread out different heights when the sun hits it at different angles. 

Solar modules that have wind turbines, cameras or additional solar modules mounted directly above the panels will prove to be problematic for panel power production.  If your parking lot is a good application for solar power, but there are some trees, make sure to let your solar specialist know by providing an address, site information and details about the height and type of tree so that we can suggest what can be done to verify your systems will not be shaded. 

In lighting for parking lots or roadways with shade structures SEPCO can design a small distribution site of solar in the distance or outside of the tree line, can provide a panel separated from the light pole for single tree issues and we can also design taller poles and lower fixtures to get the solar panels above the tree lines.  We can sometimes overdesign a system to accommodate the power losses and we incorporate technically advanced electronics to lower the standard loses that are experienced from shaded modules.  

If your parking lot would be a great fit for solar power, but you are concerned with the shading, please contact a solar lighting specialist to see if we have a solution to your shading so that you too can benefit from free clean energy of the sun.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting

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