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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

3 Expected Solar Changes in 2014

Posted by SEPCO

9/26/13 9:30 AM

Solar_Panels_2Solar lighting is one of the fastest moving vehicles in modern science – whether it’s the vast installations you fly by on the highway or the domestic lighting you use in your yard.  Developments in the field might not seem immediately relevant to the home user who’s just trying to save a few pennies and do their bit for the environment – but the big changes filter down through the market and are important to us all.

2014 is shaping up to be a big year for science, energy and environmentalism.  Summits have thrown forward challenges to some of the best minds to make our world a cleaner place to live, to get us all to work every day without destroying our natural environment.  The past 10 years have seen solar lighting shoot from an enthusiast’s garage project to one of the most exciting and innovative changes to the way we live since cable TV.  The next big thing looks to be on a par with the bread slicer…

Ultra-Efficiency

It sounds like a marketing buzzword - but Harry Atwater, of Caltech, has seen the light in his solar research and is gearing up to design and produce an affordable device to generate more than twice the amount of power than any modern solar panel.  Normally made using a silicon semiconductor, the inherent disability for silicon to absorb the full spectrum of light results in a 20% net of usable energy.  With the rest lost as heat energy and pretty blue reflections, Atwater is getting some exciting results on the healthy side of 50% efficiency – by using a prism to split the sunlight into usable wavelengths.  A combination of different semiconductors would harvest the maximum potential and harness the broad range of light.

Heat Sensitivity

Stanford has seen its engineers in a flurry in recent years, trying to come up for a way to harvest that previously mentioned heat energy which is being lost.  Modern solar panels can’t deal with the rising temperature of their materials and they get less efficient as the sun gets brighter – a pretty debilitating flaw.  Reaching 100 degrees Celsius – the panels stop working altogether.  In the countries with the longest, brightest and hottest days (where solar panels should work the best), this is causing a real problems. 

Stanford engineers have now decided that coating the panels with a formula called Cesium – will allow them to absorb and store heat energy for conversion into electricity, along with light.  With a simple lick of Cesium, the peak efficiency of the device skyrockets to 200 degrees Celsius - effective for use on something like a parabolic dish where it can heat up to 800 degrees Celsius. And when you combine all of this with a new conversion cycle that takes into account the wasted heat, the system of solar conversion could reach almost 55%, so a dual purpose panel would be incredibly useful in many different sectors, public and private.

Chemical Conundrum

Currently there are over 50 dangerous chemicals that are used in solar panel production. Also, to power the entire world with solar panel energy, it would produce 63,000 times the waste of a nuclear powered world. The chemicals that are used in solar panel components, namely cadmium and lead, do not degrade very well. A considerable amount of energy is lost when you recycle these chemicals after the solar panels need to be changed out, which happens every 30 or so years. With any luck, this can be changed with improvements to the technology of solar panel creation, as well as the actual creation of the panels themselves.  Conservative efforts put the estimates of timeframe at somewhere around a decade, whilst excited scientists say a few years and their trailing sceptics mention thirty.  It’s difficult to get a handle on these things – but progress is progress!

These are just a few of the ideas floating around for solar power. If these get better researched and go to market, there is no telling how much better this era of efficiency could get.

Simon Calvin is the resident lighting expert at UK Christmas World, responsible for sourcing the best eco-stock, bossing the team around and being the only replacer of the company’s light bulbs! 

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Topics: Solar Power

Benefits of Solar Powered Security Lights

Posted by SEPCO

9/24/13 7:30 AM

Tibor-Reserve-1The best way to keep your parking lot, street corners and public places lit, like parks, clinics and municipal buildings, are the use of solar powered security lights. The reasons are simple; low maintenance, un-compromised performance and zero energy use. 


Maintenance is virtually non-existent. Modern versions are powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that will last for years before it needs replacement. The high output LED lights will virtually never burn out and the solar panel is maintenance free. Once the light is in place, the only maintenance there will be is to change the battery, and that won't happen for years down the road.

High output LED light fixtures give off a bright white light. This makes it easy to see in the illuminated area at anytime of the night. However, the best part about solar powered security lights are the fact that even in a power outage, they will still work. It doesn't matter if there is limited power, fluctuating power or no power at all. Since solar powered security lights get their power from the sun, they will come on at dusk regardless of what is happening with the electrical supply grid. No matter what, the area you need illuminated will always be lit.

Of course, solar power means there is no associated energy cost to make it work. The more lights that are put in place, the more savings you'll realize. For example, if you have ten 400-watt security lights surrounding a building, they are using 4000 watts of electrical grid power for 8 to 10 hours per day, every day. Since a solar powered security light uses no grid electricity at any time, once purchased, there is no more associated energy cost to use them. That also means that for those properties that are striving to meet environmental regulations, there is no easier way than to install solar powered security lights. 

The question that needs to be asked is, why doesn't every town, municipality or city with public buildings  have them installed? The price per fixture is comparable to a hard wired security light, there won't be any maintenance costs once they are installed, illumination quality is virtually the same, or better, than grid powered fixtures and the energy savings will continue to add up every night that they shine, week after week, month after month and year after year.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Security Lighting

Improving Your Home and Saving Energy: A UK Perspective

Posted by SEPCO

9/19/13 9:30 AM

Improving Your Home and Saving Energy: A UK PerspectiveWhen examining energy policy on a broad basis, it’s clear that European governments are committed to making significant reductions in the levels of greenhouse gas emissions. By the year 2020, all EU governments are aiming to reduce emissions to some 20% below levels that were seen in 1990.

Within that wider objective, however, there’s scope for a number of different approaches to be taken. The UK strategy has involved examining a range of areas, including nationwide energy generation, transport, home energy use, commercial energy requirements and commitments to reduce energy usage levels. Residential property improvements For members of the public, there is often the question of how to go about making improvements within the home.

Given the aims of policy-makers, there is often an expectation that there will be a considerable amount of assistance available, both in terms of advice and financial incentives. Unfortunately, residential energy users are often left frustrated, when they discover that such advice is not readily available. In part, this undoubtedly stems from the changing focus of consecutive governments. As environmental and energy issues are often given different priorities, depending upon the political party that dominates a government at any point in time, it’s natural that policies might change. The end result, as seen in the UK, is a set of regulations and incentives that can appear to be incredibly confusing.

The Green Deal, for instance, was introduced to encourage home owners to make changes that would have clear environmental benefits. Relatively cheap loans would be offered in order to finance structural alterations and bring about improvements in the UK’s housing stock. It appears, however, that many have simply been confused by what has been proposed. As a result, take-up of the scheme has been disappointing and there are real doubts about whether it can make a meaningful contribution to meeting future emissions targets. So how can you go about making changes that will save on energy and also be cost-effective for your family There are a number of alterations that can be made to your property, which will have clear benefits.

Insulating your home

Although it may be tempting to think on a grand scale, the truth is that seemingly minor modifications can often have a dramatic impact on the home. Improving insulation may not seem to be particularly exciting, but it’s one of the most cost-effective approaches available in many cases. You’re already paying to heat your home, so it seems like a real shame to think of that heat escaping via windows, walls, doors and roofs.

It’s a situation that is easy to remedy and there’s even scope to make improvements yourself in some areas. Ensuring that the amount of insulation within your loft meets current Building Regulations is something that’s easy to achieve and relatively inexpensive. Unless your home was built within the last 10 years, or has previously been updated, there’s a strong chance that it won’t meet the existing regulations, simply because they are updated at regular intervals. By adding the extra insulation that’s required, you’ll be able to start feeling the benefits immediately.

Cavity wall insulation will require assistance from experts, but can also be expected to have a relatively short payback period. The impact will depend on the type of property that you have, with effectiveness being greatest in the case of large, detached properties.As well as national schemes, there are often incentives offered on a local level within the UK. Approach your local council and see whether they are prepared to contribute to the cost of improving insulation within your home.

Changing windows and doors

You may also be tempted by the idea of investing in double glazed windows, which can reduce heat loss and will also provide better noise insulation. These represent a popular choice for those living close by busy roads. The biggest problem with installing double glazing is that the initial cost can be relatively high. Although you might expect to get that money back over time, the value of the investment will need to be judged on the basis of how long you are intending to stay at the property and whether such an improvement might also add value to your home, in the eyes of future buyers.

Examining energy generation

One of the key advantages associated with improving insulation within your home is that it means that you can ensure that you aren’t wasting so much energy and money. Why would you wish to pay to use more electricity, gas or oil than you really need to? This is an issue that can also be tackled by thinking carefully about how you heat, light and power your home.

The reality is that there are numerous ways of achieving this aim and that you have a multitude of options available to you. There’s a real chance for you to reduce your reliance on the national electricity supply, for instance. Unfortunately, getting information on what is suitable for your home is not always as straightforward a task as it should be. It’s mainly been left to regional suppliers of renewables to provide bespoke advice to home owners.

The commercial nature of such businesses rightly leaves consumers with doubts about the advice that they are being given. In particular, you may be left wondering whether you really will be able to generate the desired levels of energy, in order to make a system cost-effective. This is certainly a concern that has, until recently, seemed to limit the rollout of solar PV systems within the UK.

There was initial scepticism about the chances of receiving enough sunlight, in order to produce the electricity levels that had been predicted. As more and more properties have been fitted with solar systems, it’s clear that such reservations are reducing.

Heat pumps

The increasing number of heat pump installations that are being carried would appear to suggest individuals are prepared to look beyond the systems that have become increasingly main-stream. In effect, if a solution can help to reduce your heating costs, then it’s certainly worth investigating further.

It may also be tempting to think about making use of renewables within a domestic setting as part of a move towards lifestyle change. There’s absolutely no doubt that being good to the environment has often been associated with an alternative form of living, but it does seem that thoughts here are changing.

Modern solutions with a traditional feel

Many families are coming to realise that there’s a beauty associated with having a real feeling for our surroundings. Although some energy systems make use of cutting edge technology, they may also hint at a return to a way of life that seems so much simpler. A classic example of this is the use of biomass heating which can provide a real focal point within the home.

For those who don’t like the idea of imagining the constant need to add more wood pellets to the fire, in order to provide warmth within the home, it can come as a relief to discover that modern, automated boilers reduce the amount of feeding that’s required. This is a good example of how new technologies are driving a switch to something that, on the face of it, appears to be quite traditional.

Using less energy

In this post, I’ve focused on improvements that can ensure that heat is maintained within the home and that power is generated using sustainable means. There is a third element that simply cannot be ignored: making sure that you don’t thoughtlessly waste energy. There may not be much glory associated with turning off the lights when you leave a room, or ensuring that you don’t over-fill a kettle, but these small changes can make a massive difference. If you can encourage all members of your household to take such simple steps, then you’ll find that you’ll be able to save a surprising amount of energy. 

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Alternative Energy

How to Choose a Solar Street Light Manufacturer

Posted by SEPCO

9/17/13 9:30 AM

How to Choose a Solar Street Lights ManufacturerThe industry of solar street lighting manufacturing has advanced immensely from 2008 to today. Many solar companies have emerged as solar lighting experts, but how can you know if the solar street lighting manufacturer is a company that you can rely on? The following five questions will help clients to ask the correct questions to choose the solar street light manufacturing company they can actually count on:

  1. What light fixture are you recommending with the solar assembly? Many manufactures do lighting, but there only a select few that actually are the best in the business. For example; Hubbell, which we provide street lights with our solar assembly, is one of the biggest in this industry. This is a light fixture you can rely on because it comes from a lighting company with experience.
  2. What lighting distributions do you have available? Street lights would usually use a Type II distribution, but not all the scenarios are the same. Maybe you want a Type V rectangular distribution. Do the other solar street light manufacturing companies have this type of distribution? A reputable manufacturer has a variety of lighting distribution to choose from.
  3. Do you have a photometric layout to see how much foot-candle I will have below the light fixture and up to how many feet I would have light? This question is a tricky one because you can have 5 foot-candles below the light fixture but at 20 feet from the light fixture there isn’t any light. That’s where the light distribution comes on handy since you want a great distribution to a big area and not only a spot.
  4. How much battery backup you are offering based in days? Some solar street lights manufactures offer 2 day battery backup which is actually a bad solar system assembly design. Mother Nature doesn’t let us have everyday a sky without gray clouds or even rainy days that are quite dark. So what happens if weather inclement happens for two days?  The street light fixture won’t turn on the third day and that’s why SEPCO battery backup has a minimum of 5 days storage due to inclement weather.
  5. Warranty Document and Customer Service response? The warranties are very important because you don’t want one year warranty for the complete solar street light assembly. Yes, it could be less expensive but do you really want a solar system for one year and pay again. Also, what about the customer service response when you have problems? Check how many installations have been made through that solar street light company and there thoughts.

Anybody can provide service but there is a difference of service and confidence in the product that it is offered. Check the facts always and remember SEPCO will help you in your solar needs from the quotation to the installation. We will always look for exceeding customer service and provide help when you need it the most.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting

Solar Accessories: New Age Technology For Buyers

Posted by SEPCO

9/12/13 9:30 AM

Solar AccessoriesThe role of technology Ever since we discovered fire and invented the wheel, we have always used technology to reduce workload and ease the pains of everyday living. With mechanization and the advent of electricity, most of our enervating chores are carried out without physical discomfort. But with more and more gadgets for our daily needs and leisure, our dependence on power has increased manifold. Not only is this burning a hole in our pockets, it is also wrecking short and long-term damage to our environment.

More than 85% of all primary energy on earth comes from fossil fuels. Life today is impossible to imagine without electrical light, heating and cooling, cars and other means of mechanized transport, telecommunication, electronic entertainment, home appliances, computers and the internet. Everything is available with the turn of a switch. And this comfort comes with a price tag. Renewable energy sources for sustainable power generation and development are the only options in a world where fossil fuels are dwindling fast.

Green technology is a rapidly growing research field and an important industry. Solar energy, photovoltaics, efficient machines, vehicles that run on renewable energy, solar architecture, solar accessories for sale and biotechnology are areas that modern science is looking at today to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to save the fragile ecology of our planet. All this is being done in the hope that: present material needs are met without compromising the ability of future generation to meet theirs created products can be fully re-cycled or re-used waste, by-products and polluting emissions may be minimized alternative technologies would emerge to render obsolete existing environmentally hazardous practices, and economic activities are created around technologies and products that benefit the environment and create new careers that protect our mother earth.

Why use solar accessories?

The sun has been worshipped since ancient times as a symbol of power. Lately, we have begun to tap the wealth of the sun and the energy it supplies the world. Since this energy is absolutely free and readily available every day year round, it makes sense to make use of it.

Besides, solar energy is something we can use in our day-to-day appliances most easily. There are several solar accessories for sale that, for a one-time cost of installation, vastly reduces our electricity bill over years and years. The world is gradually turning to green energy and solar power is all the rage because it is clean technology providing efficient energy using photovoltaics – often integrated into solar architecture composed of solar panels. Solar vehicles are now more common and promote green living as they perform their own solar power generation. It is now possible to buy solar panels wholesale from many outlets and also the internet.

Harnessing the sun

Solar power is generated by converting sunlight into electricity mainly by using photovoltaics. Photovoltaics use light to free electrons from crystals such as silicon or germanium in which electrons are normally immobile. These electrons, when freed, move in a certain direction and produce a negative charge. As long as there is any form of light falling on two disparate crystals, within the photovoltaic material, the displacement of the electrons creates energy. Light is transformed into usable energy to operate all kinds of electrical gadgets. It was in the 1980s that the first commercial concentrated solar power plants came up. Now, a wide range of solar accessories for sale can be used in our own homes and workplaces. For a mind-boggling range of solar accessories for sale go to: http://www.trendhunter.com/slideshow/solar-powered-accessories

Although the sun is more than 90 million miles from earth, sunlight crosses the distance to the earth in less than 10 minutes. Every day more solar energy falls to the earth’s surface than what the entire population can use up in 27 years!

On a time scale:

  • the first time solar energy was exploited deliberately was 2700 years ago when glass lenses were used to magnify sun rays to make fire
  • Albert Einstein won the Noble Prize in Physics in 1921 for his theory on the photoelectric effect
  • the first solar accessories for sale appeared in 1956
  • high-tech utilization started back in 1958, when we started operating spaceships on solar power
  • the first practical solar cell was developed by Bell Labs in 1954. It cost $250 to produce 1 watt of energy.

Today, half the solar panels produced worldwide are used to power homes in Japan.

Size-wise:

  • The largest solar power plant in the world is located in the Mojave Desert in California and is spread over 1000 acres.
  • The largest solar electric plant is in Germany, a country with half the solar resource of the United States.

Comparison-wise, the total amount of fossil fuels used by mankind since the beginning of civilization is equal to just 30 days of sunshine. The production of 1 kilowatt of solar energy compares to burning 170 pounds of coal... which releases 300 pounds of carbon dioxide. Demand for solar items is currently greater than the supply. And yet, it is high time you switched over to clean, free sun power. Do your bit for the planet and feel good about it. Look through the internet for solar accessories for sale.

Bill Michaels is a powerhouse of information on alternative energy sources for sustainable and eco-friendly living. Michaels is an advocate of new ideas and innovations. He is an avid commentator on how we can use technology to save our planet. Here, Michaels endorses solar accessories for homes.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power

Park Safety with Solar Walkway Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

9/10/13 9:30 AM

Solar Walkway LightA city municipality in the greater Miami area turned to SEPCO to design a custom solar power walkway lighting system for a small park located in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  The challenge was to create strong enough illumination for the neighborhood residents to be able to enjoy and feel safe walking in the park during park’s evening hours, yet not so much light as to disturb residents with homes adjacent to the park.

SEPCO’s solution for the lighting aspect of the project was to illuminate the walkways throughout the park with 20 strategically placed bollards, each equipped with a high performance 8 watt LED light engine.  The next challenge was figuring out a way to power the 20 8 watt LED bollards exclusively with clean, renewable solar energy.

It is worth noting that while there are many solar power LED bollards on the market today that feature self-contained / built-in solar power systems. SEPCO does not subscribe to this design philosophy. The key reason being that our extensive testing has shown that available surface area of a standard bollard is simply not large enough to house a solar array that is large enough to power an LED bollard capable of creating commercial quality lighting for any meaningful amount of time (ex. 6-8 hours) without fail 7 nights week, 365 nights a year.  

SEPCO’s solution for the off-grid solar power portion of the project was to design one large, centrally located 340 watt solar power system with the inherent capacity to provide ultra reliable power needed to illuminate all twenty 8 watt LED bollards for a total of seven hours per night (i.e. system is programmed to operate from dusk for five hours…then turn off…then back on automatically two hours pre-dawn for the early morning walkers).

The net result is an ultra reliable, high performance solar power walkway lighting system that both local residents and adjacent homeowners can enjoy and appreciate. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Fighting for Solar – Know Your Rights

Posted by SEPCO

9/5/13 10:05 AM

Solar panels on house roof

With all the benefits of using solar power becoming more widely realized, many homeowners are looking to put solar panels on their roof to offset their electric bills while also helping the environment. Many communities and HOAs do not like these solar installations and will try to tell you that the installation is not allowed. This is completely untrue and knowing your rights will help you fight for your solar rights. I received a great email from Solar Citizen that explains just how you can fight for your rights and I had to share with you.

Rights of the HOA

HOAs are allowed to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the members of the community, especially when installing solar on their roofs. These restrictions can include forcing the homeowner to install the solar panels on first floor roofs, shady fenced in yards and can restrict the size and visibility of the solar array. This is all to promote “peace of mind” and reduce “eyesores” due to glare for the rest of the community.

HOAs can also use legal caveats to deny installations outright as to preserve or increase property values (doesn’t solar add to your value, not take away?) or keep with the standard “brand” appearance of the community. These types of clauses need to be challenged and the law needs to be changed.

Solar Access Laws

Since HOAs are taking the above actions, several states have enacted legal protections for homeowners who want to go solar. These may not interfere with “reasonable restrictions”, but they can prevent HOAs from making punitive demands on members. The Solar Rights Act that California implemented serves as a model to the other states implementing laws to protect homeowners.

This was once geared to HOAs, but has now been expanded to include municipal and regional government bodies as well. It also covers state-sponsored solar energy grants and protects people living in multi-unit residences like apartments or condominiums.

Florida’s Solar Rights Law is a lot like California’s; however, it specifically overrides any HOA bylaws that restrict the installation of rooftop solar panels. This basically means that, no matter where you live in Florida, you have the right to install solar on your roof. Massachusetts goes one step further by nullifying existing and future HOA restrictions to solar as well as from restricting trimming and clearing of vegetation that obscures the solar panels.

Remedies for Homeowners

The first thing a homeowner can do is try to persuade their HOA to abstain from unreasonable restrictions on solar panel installations. This requires the power of credibility; make your argument based on examples from reputable sources such as the US Energy Department or other amazing sources out there. Also bring up the increase home value due to solar panel installations. Focus on the positive aspects of installing solar and only use non-controversial sources.

If this doesn’t work, try to negotiate a compromise agreement. Maybe you can get them to allow you to install on the rear facing roof, keeping the front free from solar panels. Or to trim shade trees to allow for more sun. See what you can get them to agree to.

If nothing works, you may be forced to take legal action against the HOA. There are many pro-solar organizations (such as Solar Citizen) that advise homeowners to pursue this course of action. This shows how HOA action can be arbitrary, punitive or “unreasonable”. This will all work to make solar available to everyone.

Remember, with all the change going on in this world, there is more ability to fight for what your rights are, especially when it comes to installing solar power on your home.
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Topics: Solar Power

Solar Street Light with Sensors for Lower Power Use

Posted by SEPCO

9/3/13 9:30 AM

Solar Street LightSolar street lights are a great way to bring in lighting without having to trench in traditional electrical power; however, they can be costly. There are ways to lower the usage throughout the night and lower the cost of the solar power. Using sensors are one of the best ways to lower the power needs of the solar street light and provide a much faster ROI then ever imagined.

Since people do not typically travel down every road at all times of the night, figuring out the most active times is key to making the sensor street lights work well. The lights would turn on at dusk and run a set number of hours or time of night, say 4 hours or till 11pm. The lights can either then dim to a lower intensity to still provide lighting or turn off entirely. The lights can come back to full intensity when there is movement detected and then dim back when there is no longer movement. They can also come back on for a set number or hours before dawn or at a specific time and run full till dawn.

These types of solar street light application are perfect for neighborhoods and HOAs, even small communities. Use of the sensors can halve the amount of solar needed; therefore, reducing the cost of the solar street light assembly. By lowering the power usage and cost will make solar a more feasible option and help communities be a little greener in the end by reducing their overall electrical usage.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting

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