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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

13 Solar and Lighting Terms to Know

Posted by SEPCO

2/27/14 9:30 AM

Solar_and_Light_Terms1. Watt – A quantifiable measure of power consumed. If you have a 15 Watt lamp, it consumes 15 Watts per hour. The lower the watt, the less energy used and LEDs are providing the most light with the lowest wattage necessary.

 

2. Kelvin Kº (colors of light) – measured in degrees, is a quantifiable measure of color temperature. You can get anywhere between a bright white light to a softer yellow light, even a dark yellow for turtle friendly applications.

 

3. Color Rendition Index (CRI) – a way to assess how light sources make objects appear. Any CRI greater than 80 has good color properties and is closest to the light provided by the sun.

 

4. Average Rated Life – referred to in lamp life is actually the median

 

5. Mounting Height – the measurement from the ground to the light source. The higher the light fixture is mounted, the larger the spread of light on the ground, but also lower light levels.

 

6. Distribution (I-V) – Determines how far light is emitted to each side of a fixture:

  • Type I – long linear pattern, long distance to the sides with a short pattern out to the front and back
  • Type II – Progressively growing distance to the front and back and shortening of the linear sides
  • Type III – most commonly available in most fixture types has a perfect oval shape
  • Type IV – has a more circular pattern with linear sides that extend farther on the sides
  • Type V – Round circular pattern same distance from front to back and side to side

 

7. Optics – control of light distribution from a fixture, sometimes controlled by aiming of the light or use of a shield to direct the light a specific way.

  • Non-cutoff – light is emitted in all directions
  • Semi-cutoff – most of the light is emitted below 90 degrees
  • Cutoff – controlled lighting where less than 2.5% of the light is allowed to escape the fixture above 90 degrees
  • Full-cutoff – used in dark sky friendly locations, optics put the light on the ground below the fixture not allowing light to emit above 90 degrees

8. Amps – a unit of measurement to determine the amount of electrical charge passing a point in an electrical circuit, typically used to determine the amount of power generated by a solar panel to charge the battery and how much power can be stored in a battery, i.e. an 85 Watt panel produces a 5 amp charge per hour and charges a 82 amp hour battery that holds up to 82 amps at one time.

 

9. Current—a flow of electrical energy. Solar produces DC (Direct Current) power and can run DC electrical devices directly. LEDs run off of DC current and do not require an inverter or ballast to create an AC current for these types of fixtures.

 

10. Autonomy – The number of days storage an off grid system has for times of bad weather or low sun. This can be determined by calculating the number of amps used per day divided by the number of amps in a battery backup system.

 

11. Depth of Discharge - The amount of power pulled from a battery; i.e. if the battery is fully charged, its depth of discharge is 0%, if it has been used 25% to light a fixture, then the DOD is 25% etc.

 

12. Photovoltaic Power – The method of generating electrical power in the form of DC power by harnessing the solar radiation typically through the use of solar panels.

 

13. Solar Radiation – The radiant energy emitted by the sun on a daily basis. You can feel it on your skin when you step into the sun in the form of warmth. Solar panels convert this radiation into electricity. 

 

Well there you have it. Have any terms you would like to add? Share them below.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power

Milestone at SEPCO – 20 Years Strong

Posted by SEPCO

2/20/14 10:02 AM

20-Years

Solar Electric Power Company (SEPCO) is proud to announce that they are celebrating their 20th anniversary. SEPCO was founded in February 1994 by Steve Robbins, a pioneer in the industry and developer of the first commercial solar street light. SEPCO has been able to take the developing technology and educate and promote the products fueling the solar lighting industry growth.

Steven Robbins came from a background in electrical engineering and is a veteran of the US Air Force. Partnering with his wife, CFO Susan Robbins, as well as two generations of family, SEPCO is a true family operated business. SEPCO also employs an in-house staff of sales, support, production, engineering, and all other departments with all employees working in tune with each other helps to provide award winning customer service.

SEPCO’s growth is complimented by their integrated sales approach with North America’s largest lighting fixture manufacturer, Hubbell Lighting. This approach has been successful by integrating SEPCO’s commercial solar power solutions and top of the line LED lighting fixtures to promote projects through channel sales with manufacturers’ representatives and distribution. SEPCO has also cataloged their products with Grainger, a fortune 500 industrial supply company. SEPCO’s work with the government through their long term GSA contract, held since 2002, provides government direct sales.

The first couple of years as a manufacturer SEPCO was also an educator teaching the customers how they can deliver power and operate lighting and camera systems when no grid power was available at the sites.  Many other manufacturers in the industry have come on board to sell similar products and have helped to bring the industry to a sustainable market where it is today. The most recent shift in the maturing industry is indicative of the projects that were being funded by government backed funds switched to a sustainable market driven by municipal, commercial and privately funded projects. Consumers can feel confident in products such as SEPCO’s who have had their line of commercial solar lighting and off grid solar power systems NRTL listed for the US and Canada.

SEPCO and The Robbins Family are excited for the future of the industry and look forward to providing products which support sustainable clean energy for their customer’s needs.
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Topics: SEPCO News & Information

23 Fun Facts about Solar Panels: All That You Need To Know

Posted by SEPCO

2/20/14 9:30 AM

solar-panel-house1. A solar panel is a set of photovoltaic modules, electrically connected assembly of solar cells. It is mounted on a supporting structure and can be used as a system to generate electricity in residential and commercial applications.

2. Each module ranges for 100 to 320 watts, rated by DC output power under STC. The efficiency determines the area of a module given the rated output.

3. Most of the installations contain multiple solar modules as a single module can produce a limited amount of energy.

4. A photovoltaic system includes an array of solar modules or a panel, an inverter, a solar tracer or battery, interconnecting wiring.

5. There are two types of solar panels: one produces electricity (photovoltaic), another collects heat (thermal).

6. Solar shingles look like ordinary asphalt roof shingles, and it can be used to avoid the unpleasant look of traditional panels.

7. Micro inverters perform better than normal panels for they work independently.

8. Solar modules use photons from sunlight to generate electricity through photovoltaic effect.

9. Cells are generally protected from moisture and mechanical damage.

10. Most of the solar modules are rigid; but based on thin film cells, semi-flexible ones are available.

11. The conducting wires are connected to each other and to rest of the system, to achieve a desired output voltage.

12. Bypass diodes are incorporated to maximize output of module sections.

13. Some recent designs include concentrators to enable the usage at high cost per unit area in a cost-effective way. Modules can also produce electricity from a range of frequencies of light beams, but this usually does not cover the entire range. They can give higher efficiencies when illuminated with monochromatic light.

14. Another design splits the light into different wavelength ranges and directs the beams onto different cells. The efficiency can be improved by studding the semiconductor surface.

15. Use of aluminum over gold or silver is preferred as it can bring down the cost and improve efficiency.

16. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline modules are currently produced for better performance.

17. Third generation prefers advanced thin-film cells. Compared to other solar technologies, they produce relatively high-efficiency conversion for low cost. They can be rigid or flexible. Flexible films are portable and lighter than rigid films, and resistant to breakage than ordinary crystalline ones.

18. The requirement for commercial and residential purpose is different. Residential needs can be packaged and are simple whereas commercial arena uses complex parabolic reflectors. This is becoming the dominant technology in different fields and aspects of life.

19. Smart solar modules make use of power optimizers and this technology maximizes the harvest of photovoltaic energy. Modules must withstand natural calamities. Manufacturers guarantee electricity production for 10 years at 90% and 25 years at 80% rated power output.

20. Nominal voltage allows users to assure the compatibility of a module with a system. The actual voltage output changes due to lightning and temperature. Some parts of it are recyclable including semiconductor materials, glass, and ferrous or non-ferrous substances.

21. 80% of incoming weight can be recovered from silicon based modules, 90% to 95% from non-silicon based modules are recovered.

22. There has been systematic reduction in price of cells. Pricing information can be of three categories: small quantity, mid-range and large quantity buyers.

23. Rooftop installations supply power directly to electricity user.

About the Author: Shashank Kirloskar is a professional business analyst. Apart from his profession he is a freelance writer for Lancosolar.com. He loves writing and sharing articles related to solar energy and companies offering solar panel for homes and commercial buildings. 

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power

Uses for Discharge Lamps

Posted by SEPCO

2/20/14 9:30 AM

lampWhat are some of the main uses for discharge lamps? This type of lamp involves an internal electrical discharge being created between two electrodes in a gas filled chamber; the level of intensity generated by a discharge lamp can vary, and can range from low level wattage bulbs through to extreme intensities that can be used for filling large areas with light. There are consequently many different uses for discharge lamps. It’s worth looking at these uses and the kinds of discharge lamps available, in more detail. 

Discharge lamps can be highly effective at maintaining luminosity for an extended period of time. Their applications extend across a range of domestic and commercial areas, and are affected by the type of gas being used. For example, mercury discharge lamps can provide particularly high levels of brightness for outdoor use, as can sodium lights, which can produce the orange glow seen on street lamps. Fluorescent lights can also be used to create low pressure and constant levels of luminosity. 

Some of the other common uses for discharge lamps include neon signs, whereby electrodes are used with tubing to create different letters and graphics; the process of creating a neon light is fairly complex, and involves glassblowing and setting up different colors. Neon or mercury vapor with some argon elements are the common components for these tubes, which require high voltage sources to be able to run efficiently. 

In the case of high intensity discharge lamps, outdoor arenas can be lighted using lamps with extremely high voltages; lumen bulbs can also be used for smaller outdoor areas and warehouses, as well as on roadways to create long lasting, high intensity illumination. Indoor gardening can also be aided by the use of low intensity discharge lamps, as can underwater diving and bicycle headlamps, with each use employing different levels of intensity. 

When setting up discharge lamps, it’s necessary to fit a control gear, which acts as a transformer for the amount of charge passing through a bulb or tube. There are several different types of control gears available, which can include inductive control gears and electronic control gears, with the latter capable of limiting the amount of current passing through a lamp. Control gears can similarly be used to ignite lamps, and represent an important way of maintaining health and safety levels for different devices. 

Whatever the usage of a discharge lamp, it’s crucial to be able to understand the different amounts of current and voltage that’s being used; high intensity discharge lamps are particularly susceptible to overheating, and should be carefully monitored using iron ballasts and control gears. Lamps that contain sodium and mercury can also present a toxic risk, and should be carefully disposed of if they break. To this end, it’s important to make sure that you read up on the different types of discharge lamps available from suppliers before committing to a particular power level.

Author Bio:Tom Darnell blogs about effective lighting solutions for your home and his experiences as an electrician. He recommends using BLTDirect to pick up the latest discharge lamps. 

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Topics: General Lighting, Guest Post

What the Solar Tax Credit Can Do for Your Solar Installation

Posted by SEPCO

2/18/14 9:30 AM

30_Tax_CreditSolar has come down in price a lot over the last couple years; however, it is still out of reach for a lot of people. There are different tax credits available that can help cut down the out of pocket costs of solar and provide an incentive to installing solar. Here is a basic overview of the federal tax credit available to residences and businesses alike.

The Federal Tax Credit for solar installations allows for a 30% tax credit on costs at installation. The Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) states that 30% for solar, wind and fuel cells is available and 10% for geothermal and microturbines. The maximum incentive is $1,500 per 0.5 kW of solar installed, so there is a cap to the tax credit. Microturbines is only $200 per kW. If you install solar on your business and want to claim the tax credit, you need to fill out IRS Form 3468.

Residential Federal Tax Credits include solar electric, solar hot water, wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps and fuel cells. There is no maximum on most of these for the credit and it is 30% all the way around. There is more information on DSIREUSA’s website along with Energy Star and you will need to fill out IRS Form 5695.

Both Federal Tax Credits are available till the end of 2016 as of now. This may or may not be extended beyond and we won’t find out for quite some time. If you are looking for money to help your solar installation, make sure to push while the money is still available.

State incentives vary depending on what state mandates are available. Hot solar states provide better incentives then states that aren’t pushing for renewable energy installations. To find out what incentives are available in your state, DSIREUSA’s website is the best resource. You can also contact your local power authority to find out if they provide additional incentives for using solar on your home or business.

The final resource I will leave you with is 1BOG. They work with your local solar companies to help you get the best value. I personally have worked with them and it is a breeze. You type in your location and they will contact the local solar providers and set up appointments with you. The solar providers will come out and assess your home and provide you a quote for the system and installation. There are a lot of solar companies that will even deal with all the tax credits, rebates and such, find you money to help with the purchase, and quote you what is left. To read more about my personal experience, check out Solar Power is More Feasible than I Thought.

Solar is completely feasible, but make sure you jump on board while the financial help is still available. What other questions about going solar do you have? Let me know below and I’ll make sure to answer them.

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Topics: Solar Power, Renewable Energy, Funding

Common Solar Lighting Installation Mistakes We Keep Seeing

Posted by SEPCO

2/13/14 9:30 AM

It is time to install your solar lighting system. Have you read all the instructions? Determined the installation site of the solar lighting system? There are common mistakes that we keep seeing with solar lighting system installations that you can easily avoid. Here are a couple mistakes and what you can do to make sure your system is installed properly to ensure great performance and reliability.

1. Not facing the panel south

 

PanelsOppositeIf you are above the equator, the solar panel needs to face south. The only time this changes is if you have worked with your manufacturer or representative for a different configuration. Facing the panels opposite of each other, like the picture shows, may be aesthetically pleasing; however, one of these lights will begin to fail quickly as it will not get the required sun to charge the batteries properly. Make sure your systems are facing south to get maximum sun exposure and are charging the batteries to their fullest.

 

2. Swapping wires during initial hookup

 

There are installation instructions that come with each solar lighting system. When you hook the system up, make sure you have read all instructions thoroughly as not to reverse the polarity of the light fixture. In most systems, this will not hurt the system, but it will cause the light fixture not to operate correctly, or could even pop a fuse in the battery assembly. Make sure to look at the system, installation instructions and even for additional labels on the system for all wiring directions.

 

3. Shading on the panel

 

PanelShade.jpgWe hear over and over that lights are placed under a tree or up close to a building that provides shade to the solar panel. The sun needs to be able to reach the panel fully and any type of obstruction, even just a shadow, can seriously reduce the power output of the solar. Trim nearby trees and make sure the panels are clear of any obstruction. Remember, with off grid solar light systems, the panel assembly can be remotely mounted away from the light fixture if the light is required where there is shading. Moving the panel assembly is always an option. Also, like in the first picture, installing the solar power low on the pole can cause the pole to shade the solar power system. Just remember, the solar needs full exposure to the sun to charge properly.

 

4. Weak poles not meant to hold the weight of the solar

 

Cutting costs by purchasing poles that are not structurally certified to hold the weight of a solar power system will end up costing you more in the long run. These poles tend to fail in the first decent storm and will fall over, damaging the solar power assembly, brackets, fixtures, etc. and you will spend more replacing the broken parts than if you purchased a structurally certified pole in the beginning. Depending on the needs of your area, you can even get poles that can withstand 150 mph winds with the solar on top of the pole. Work with the manufacturer to provide the requirements for the pole.

Making sure your systems are properly installed will ensure their operation. If there are any installation questions, you can always contact the support team to provide additional information and answer any questions you may have for installation of the system.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Installation

5 Green Gift Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Posted by SEPCO

2/11/14 9:30 AM

Last year we wrote about how to have a green outdoor Valentine’s day. This year I thought we could look at some great gift ideas that are not only environmentally friendly, but will show your loved one how much you care. Best of all, they will last much longer than chocolate and flowers.

1. Solar Charger

SolarCharger

Giving a solar charger is a great way to provide something we all need at one point or another, but with a renewable twist. Solar chargers can keep all our electronics charged up so we can stay in contact with our loved ones and also provide a power source for those middle-of-nowhere dates.

2. Terrarium

Terrarium

Terrariums are a great way to bring the outdoors indoors. They range in size and do not require a lot of care to keep alive. You can either make one yourself or purchase one with a personal touch. Either way, it will last a long time reminding them of you.

3. Reusable Cup or Bottle

WaterBottle

I can’t live without my coffee and I use a reusable bottle or cup to keep my coffee by my side at all times. Give your love a personalized bottle to remind them of you when they are on the move. My favorite are the aluminum and stainless steel bottles.

4. Upcycle Something

Upcycle

Find something that may mean a lot to both of you and upcycle it into something new. I found a tutorial on how to make coasters out of beer boxes, tiles and cork. There are thousands of tutorials online and Pinterest is one of my favorite places to get some amazing ideas.

5. Organic Just About Anything

Organic

You can get just about anything organic today. From cotton sheets, bathrobes, food, etc. there is so much you can do to be not only environmentally friendly, but show that you are interested in their health as well. 

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday

The Green Solution to Powering Your Home: Understanding Solar Panels

Posted by SEPCO

2/6/14 9:30 AM

Solar_Panels_on_RoofSolar power has been widely available for many years now, but there's no better time to make the change than now. Did you know that at least 10% of residences in Australia are now powered by sunlight? Solar technologies have vastly improved since the early days, and the Sun's rays have proven to be an unlimited, reliable, eco-friendly, and free source of energy. Jumping on the solar energy bandwagon, however, requires buying and installing solar panels on your property - and that can be a daunting task if you're new to the game. Here are some things to know about solar panels before you spend a small fortune on them.

How Many Panels do I Need?

If you're considering making the switch to solar, wondering about how many solar panels for your house are necessary is completely valid. That number would mainly depend on the lifestyles of the occupants. A family that typically uses many electronic devices on a daily basis will likely require more solar panels than a family that only uses power for necessities like light and heat. Then again, the number of panels required would depend on how much energy each one can produce given ideal conditions. Solar panels are not all made the same, and they all have different efficiency ratings. A better way to look at things is to ask how much energy you require to maintain your living standard and whether a specific solar panel system is large enough to meet those needs.

Think Overall System Size, Not Numbers

Instead of concentrating on how many solar panels you'll need, focus on the total system size measured in kilowatts. Today, most photovoltaic panels vary anywhere from 190W to 327W. As you can see, the number of panels you'll need depends on what type of wattage your panels have. If you utilize solar panels on the lower end of the scale, you'll need to buy more to meet your energy needs. If you use panels with higher wattage, you'll require less of them. If you choose to use a mix of panel types, you would have to sit down to do the math if you want to make sure that they can produce enough energy for your purposes.

Generally speaking, a 5kW solar panel system should be sufficient for a family of four living in a larger home. This type of system should be able to power most types of lights, a refrigerator, multiple standby appliances, multiple computers and TVs, washer and dryer, a dishwasher, and a central air system. Two or three friends living under the same roof could probably get by on a 3kW system capable of powering a fridge, large LCD TV, multiple standby appliances, energy-efficient lighting, a computer or two, washer and dryer, and a small air conditioning unit or space heater. A couple or individual should have no trouble going with a 1.5kW solar panel system. This size of system should adequately power efficient lighting, fridge, single TV and computer, one or two standby appliances, and washer and dryer with limited use.

Solar Panel Efficiency

The average Australian home consumed 7,070kWh electricity in 2009. Nearly 40% of that was used for cooling and heating, 25% for heating water, and 21% for powering appliances. That's a lot of energy use, so you'll really benefit from more efficient solar panels. You might hear people speaking about high-efficiency panels being better, but what does it really mean for a solar panel to be efficient? Efficiency refers to how well something can do its intended task. More specifically, solar panel efficiency refers to how much electricity that particular panel can produce compared to the amount of sunlight it must receive. Efficiency is displayed as a percentage, and most solar panels have ratings of 15% to 20%. The percentage identifies how much of the sunlight hitting the panel actually gets transformed into usable electricity.

What Affects These Ratings?

There are a number of different factors that can influence how well your panel converts sunlight into electricity. The first is build quality. A poorly-designed panel made of cheap materials will not function correctly or last very long. Always buy renowned brands. Secondly, the placement of the panels makes a huge difference in how much energy they can generate. Experts say that south-facing panels generate the most electricity, so make sure that there is room for installation on south-facing exterior surfaces. Thirdly, the tilt of the panel also affects its efficiency. More energy is produced from direct sunlight exposure. Next, extreme temperatures can hamper solar panel performance. Finally, shade is the largest obstacle for solar panel efficiency. If you live in heavily-wooded areas, going solar might not be the best idea.

Choose Quality over Quantity

When it comes down to making a decision, you'll almost always do better to go with more resourceful solar panel - if you can afford them. If you can help it, buy panels that have ratings of 250W or higher. In addition to being able to convert more sunlight into electricity, running higher wattage panels can save you a ton of space since you'll need less of them. People who own smaller homes definitely need to take efficiency into consideration since they don't have much roof and exterior space to work with. The most trustworthy suppliers of quality panels are reputable manufacturers and dealers that have been in the business for many years.

What to Ask Your Providers

Before buying solar panels or getting a system installed, make sure to ask about: the brands of components used in the system, whether or not upgrading the system at a later time is an option, how much energy you can expect to get from the system, how much the initial deposit will cost, how long the installation will take, whether or not the installers are certified, and whether or not there are any promotional deals currently available.

About the Author: Jayde Ferguson writes for who writes for Gold Coast solar power company, Infinite Energy. Why not catch Jayde on .

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Topics: Solar Power, Renewable Energy

You are the solar light manufacturer, where are the prices?

Posted by SEPCO

2/4/14 9:30 AM

PriceForSolarLightThank you for visiting our site. As you might have noticed, there is tons of product information available; however, there are no prices. We get quite a few emails from potential customers that ask where our pricing is and I wanted to cover that with a quick post.

The answer is simple; because there is more to the solar light or power system than just a one size fits all. There are quite a few factors that need to be considered before you get into pricing. Let me break it down for you:

How much light is required? How long does the light need to run? How many days backup is required as most solar light systems are off grid and require a battery backup? There are quite a few factors that need to be taken into consideration before pricing can be offered.

Solar light systems go through a process. Contacting your solar lighting manufacturer or lighting representative is the first step to making sure your system works properly and you have an accurate price. Yes, you can go to some websites and find a price for a solar street light; however, there is no way to guarantee it will work the way you are expecting. A reputable solar light manufacturer or lighting rep will provide specifications and information on exactly how the light will operate as well as backup the product after installation.

Education is the best way to make sure you get exactly what you need. There is tons of product information available on our site and we are available to answer any questions you may have.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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