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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Recent Advances In Green Technology

Posted by SEPCO

3/13/14 9:30 AM

Solar_System

Attempting to make the world an improved and pollution-free place to live is not a straightforward task, and there are no settled principles. This is one of the tests we confront when making, executing and depending on different sources of energy; since no single source of energy is 100% 'clean'. Nonetheless, year-after-year we continue to make great strides along the difficult road to environmentally responsible energy sources.

As temperatures increases and population gets bigger, it’s clear that green engineering holds the way to the survival of Earth and all the species that live on it. Luckily, innovators all around the globe are endeavoring to create headways that will slow down or perhaps reduce the harm caused due to our over-reliance on fossil-powers.

According to Liberty Power, in a few cases, progress in green technology is dependent upon new discoveries and developments in science, physics and engineering. On the other hand, these advancements have been dead set generally by shift in thought processes. However, the thought of "green’’ is gaining popularity among people.

Several recent innovations are based on a century-old concept: that of using tidal power to generate electricity. Harnessing this renewable resource is rapidly becoming more practical and cost-effective. In the area of solar power, the use of copper-indium-gallium-selenide compounds in solar panels substantially increases the electrical power generating efficiency of these panels, plus the compounds make construction of the panels far easier. Bladeless wind turbine designs, based on the physics of ships sails, are expected to significantly reduce the number of deaths of birds and bats. Wind turbine technology is also continuing to evolve.

Some innovative advancement in green technology are as follows:

Marine Renewable Energy: Marine renewable energy works by harnessing the power of the ocean tides and currents; a continuous source of kinetic energy that can be used to power turbines which in turn produce electricity.

Solar Power: The sun provides enough energy in the form of light to supply the world with much more energy than we currently use globally.  Certain materials produce an electric current when exposed to light, and we can harness that current to generate electricity.

Algae-Based Biofuel: Algae is a simple organism ranging from single-celled to multi-cellular forms, and is typically thought of as a kind of plant due to its ability to perform photosynthesis. Using chemical and mechanical methods, oil can be extracted from algae and converted into fuel that acts in the same way as traditional petroleum fuels

Green Roof: Different countries are rapidly adopting idea of keeping their roofs planted with grass. It not only minimizes the heat effect but also reduce summer air conditioning usage.

With this transformation in green technology it is expected that we would not only be able to generate enough energy to fulfill our needs but also keep our planet safe and healthy.

Author’s Bio: Adam Prattler is an expert in geography and writes from time to time for different information sources. He is also fond of natural beauty so much that he prefers to have fake grass around his house since natural cannot grow.

Photo Credit: www.greenerideal.com

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Solar Power, Renewable Energy

Making Your Off Grid Solar Power Work Reliably

Posted by SEPCO

3/11/14 9:30 AM

Off grid solar power provides power at night when there is not sun and uses the sun during the day to charge a battery bank. The battery bank is what the device runs on at night, or when the power is needed. As long as power isn’t needed 24/7, off grid solar power is a great and viable choice.

Solar

There are ways to do 24/7 power with off grid solar; however, the battery bank and solar needs to be much larger. Since you only want to take your battery system down 20 per cent per day / use to ensure the batteries last, the solar and battery backup needs to be large enough to handle the load for days. This also will allow your off grid solar system to work during times of bad weather.

Battery

Sizing the system is a pretty easy task. Take the total load required on an average day and multiply that by the number of days the system needs to operate; typically 5 days is long enough. Add for a little overage, say 20 percent or so for times with bad weather. Finally, find out the number of sun hours you have available in your area in the dead of winter (the shortest day of the year) and you will have the total number of amps you need to run the load for the 5 days.

Find out how many amps are provided by the solar and the amp size of the battery system. You need enough power generated by the solar panel and enough storage in the battery to make sure the system lasts. To find out more about how solar power is generated, check out this video from the DOE:

 

 

That’s about how simple off grids solar power is. Making sure you have enough power being generated and stored is the key to making the system last. You can cut corners by lowering the power or sizing for the summer sun hours, but then you will be sitting in the dark when the sun decides to hide behind a storm or in the middle of winter. Best bet; make sure you have sized your system properly to always have the sun shining on you.

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Topics: Solar Power

Now You Can Have Great Light with LEDs

Posted by SEPCO

3/6/14 9:30 AM

SunshineNatural sunlight will always be the best light possible; however, LED lights can come very close to the natural sunlight. When LEDs started, the bluish light was very harsh on the eyes, but the technology has come a long way and there are many benefits to using LED lights today.

Most LEDs are running at about 5000 Kelvin for color temperature while the sun runs at about 6500 Kelvin. There are still the standard warm light and soft white colors available if you are not looking for too bright of a light; however, for nighttime outdoor use, as close to daylight will allow you to see the best.

LEDs also provide a much longer light as the LEDs last years, 15 years or more. On top of that, they use a fraction of the power than standard lamp options; granted incandescent lamps are being phased out at this point. The long life and lower power usage provides huge savings over the life of the lamp.

When using solar, LEDs will stay the go to option as they run directly from DC power and do not require any additional equipment to convert the energy produced by the solar panel to operate the fixture. This lowers the usage of the lamp as there is no loss in power for converters or inverters. In the end, this lower the size of the solar power system required to run the light and again saves money.

Replacing all lights with LEDs immediately may not be feasible as LEDs are more expensive for initial purchase, but as lights go out, either inside or outside, household or commercial, changing over to LEDs over time may be easier on the budget. And as the savings to your power usage adds up, you will easily be able to put the newly freed up funds into changing over more and more to LED. Then just sit back and let the light shine on.
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Topics: LED Lighting

4 Important Steps to Ensure Your Solar Lights Stand Up

Posted by SEPCO

3/4/14 9:30 AM

You have made the final purchase and your solar lights are on their way. Here are some tips before you install the light systems to make sure they stand up to the test of time. Have your lights already installed, these tips can be helpful for making sure your lights are installed properly and will continue to work flawlessly year after year.

1. Read the Installation Instructions Completely

I hate manuals as much as the next person, but reading the installation instructions for your new solar lights before you start to install them can save you time and frustration down the road. There is tons of useful information available on the installation manual and it can make sure the system installation needs are all met.

2. Make Sure the Solar is in the Sun

Well this one is a duh, but I can’t tell you how many times I have seen both large and small solar systems installed in the shade. This doesn’t work and will cause your system to fail in a matter of days. The solar panel needs full sun all day to work properly at night. If there is any shade, the solar panel will not be able to produce the power, to charge the battery, to run the light at night.

3. Follow all the Labels

4ImportantStepsCheck if there are labels on the wires or parts of the system. Read them and follow the directions. Additional labels are added when there are minor changes to the installation manual and will make sure the system is put together properly. Making sure to read all the labels before you connect wires will ensure you don’t overload the system and blow fuses.

4. Keep up Regular Maintenance

Just like your car and house, a solar lighting system requires maintenance, though hardly at all. Replacing the batteries at the end of their life span, cleaning off the panel every so often if you live in a dusty dry area and replacing the lamps / LED fixture at the end of their life will ensure that you will never go a day without light. Plus, by doing regular maintenance on the system will allow you to see if there could be any troubles popping up in the near future due.

So there you have it. No matter if you are using a commercial solar light system or a small landscape light, installing it properly and keeping up with the system will ensure your system will work flawlessly for years to come. Since most commercial solar light systems last 25+ years, make sure you get every moment of light these systems can provide.

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Topics: Solar Lighting

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

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

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

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, Clean Energy, Solar Tax Incentives

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

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