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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Advantages and Benefits of Solar Power Systems

Posted by SEPCO

1/12/15 10:40 AM

In 2012, I went to Wiki Answers to help provide you a post on the Solar Power Advantages and Disadvantages. In the last three years, a lot has changed in the solar industry and I thought it was time to reevaluate these and see what has changed over time and focus more on the positive, but don’t worry, we’ll hit the disadvantages to be fair.

Financial Advantage of Solar Power:

One of my favorite sites One Block Off The Grid (Now Pure Energies) provided an Infographic the year I wrote the original article: How Much Does Solar Cost? that showed the average cost and savings around the US at the time. SEIA states that as of Quarter 2 of 2014, solar prices have decreased 64% from 2010 and installations have increased dramatically. Between 2012 and 2014, the average price of traditional energy sources increased around 5% over the last two years and is projected to increase even more (see the Short-Term Energy Outlook provided by the EIA). With the large decrease of solar and the steady increase of standard forms of energy, solar is making more and more financial sense.

Pure Energies Infographic

That’s not the only financial advantage…for two more years; the Federal Tax Incentives are still available along with many state and local incentives that increase the financial savings of installing solar. These are mostly available for companies, groups and individuals who pay taxes; however, for all the non-profit organizations, there is still money available through grants for solar power and other solar rebates and incentives. There is a lot of financial assistance available to help lower the cost of the solar system even further.

Green Benefits of Solar Power:

Keep Calm and Go SolarSolar power is a renewable resource. Every day, enough solar energy hits the Earth’s surface to power the total requirement of energy for 27 years says the Texas Solar Energy Society. That is a lot of power! Harnessing this requires a lot of solar installations, and over the course of the last couple years, we have been able to increase the amount of solar energy we can harness. 2014 alone provided an increase of over 100% from the installations of 2013 says Renewable Energy World, from 6,048 GWh in 2013 to 17.5 GWh in 2014. These solar installations will continue to produce power for 25 years or more with little to no maintenance.

With all this growth, the amount of CO2 that has been diverted is amazing, and it doesn’t just stop there, it will continue the longer these systems operate and the more installations that are completed. And these benefits are not just for the local area, homeowner or business with the installation, the installations have a ripple effect on their surroundings and across the globe. The more solar we install, the more we work together to combat greenhouse gas emissions and global warming as we are lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Economic Benefit of Solar Power:

Green JobsNot only does solar power save money and lower our dependence on fossil fuels, the job creation has been huge for the solar industry. As of 2013, there were over 142,000 Americans working in the solar industry with new jobs being added all the time. A great overview of the jobs provided by the solar industry can be found on The Solar Foundation National Solar Jobs Census 2013. The more jobs the solar industry creates, the more solar systems get installed, the more we save.

Recently we learned that a select number of companies are also offering solar power systems to their employees in the Group Energy programs. This is a great concept and one that hopefully will catch on all over the US in 2015. Employees do not receive free solar; however, they do get a discount on their home solar power assemblies. Best of all, this discount can also be used in conjunction with the 30% Federal tax credit. Talk about a job perk.

Disadvantage of Solar Power:

Okay, we covered the three most prominent advantages of solar power, and those are quite heavy players, so what about the disadvantages of solar power? There are still a few things to consider, such as efficiencies are still not as high as we’d like to see in the mass market, still hovering around 15% to 20%, but advances are constantly happening to increase this efficiency rating.

Also, areas with a lot of overcast or foggy weather do not perform as well as areas with a lot of available sun. This doesn’t mean that these areas shouldn’t install solar, but it may be more efficient to combine solar with other technologies such as wind power as well. This would also allow for power generation to occur even at night.

All in all, solar is becoming more viable of a source of energy, and combined with other renewable energy sources, is working towards lowering our dependence of fossil fuels and will keep us moving in the right direction to fight global warming. All solar power systems, large and small, provide some form of an impact to our environment for the positive.

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Topics: Green Ideas, Solar Power

Happy New Year 2015

Posted by SEPCO

1/1/15 9:30 AM

Green little eCard to say Happy New Year! Welcome to 2015
Happy-New-Year-2015
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Topics: Holiday

2014 SEPCO Blog Year in Review

Posted by SEPCO

12/30/14 9:30 AM

SEPCO_Blog_2014_Review 

We wanted to highlight our top 5 articles for 2014 and provide you a little peek at what is coming up in 2015. We also wanted to thank our readers for continuing to come back for more information on solar lighting, solar power, green ideas and renewable energy news and information.

  1. 13 Solar and Lighting Terms to Know

This article covers a lot of terms found in the solar power and lighting industry and what they are actually referencing. This information is great to get you well-informed on industry terms and their meanings when communicating with a solar power or lighting company.

  1. Solar Street Light Components: What’s in Your System?

This article covers the different components that are in a commercial solar lighting system and the variations that can occur. There are many options and knowing what should be included in any commercial solar street lighting system will help you make sure you get all the necessary components to operate the system correctly.

  1. Why a Minimum of Five Days Autonomy is Important for Off Grid Solar

Five days / nights autonomy is required to make sure your solar power / lighting system operates as intended and provides reliability and longevity to the systems. This article covers why this is needed and how, in more northern climates, this can make or break a system.

  1. What You Need To Know About Light Distribution Patterns

Distribution patterns ensure that the required area you need to light is covered by the fixture or fixtures. Different distribution patterns are used for different applications. This article reviews them and explains the different applications each type of light pattern is used for.

  1. 4 Questions to Answer Before You Get a Solar Lighting Quote

There are four primary questions that should be asked before you get a quote and this article covers them and why. These questions make sure you are not getting a packaged “off-the-shelf” system that may or may not work how you expect it to for your application.

That wraps it up for 2014 and the SEPCO Blog. We here at SEPCO wish you a wonderful and fruitful 2015. See you on the flip side.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Solar Power, LED Lighting

Merry Christmas 2014

Posted by SEPCO

12/25/14 9:30 AM

From the Solar Electric Power Company Family to Yours...
Christmas_2014
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Topics: Holiday

Just a Little More LED Lighting Knowledge (Video)

Posted by SEPCO

12/23/14 2:21 PM

So I was browsing the internet looking for one final post to write for the year (well, writing now, not publishing last, but anyways) and I came across this great video from a Google Hangout between Lisa Reed from Envision Lighting Design and Greg Aranda from Graybar. The original post is Shedding Light on LED Lighting and it is a great article that goes over the new LED technology and some basic information. The video at the end of the post, or just below, shines even more light on the topic of LEDs and I wanted to share this information with you all.

 

 

There is some really great information in this 38 minute presentation; however, here’s a quick overview of what is covered.

Lisa goes over some great facts about LEDs including the lower energy consumption, lasting longer lighting and the lower maintenance factor. She even goes as far as showing a side by side comparison of LEDs vs HID lighting output and showing that not every light is the same. Finally she goes through the metrics you need to consider for LED lights.

LED_Lighting_CityLight Energy Metrics:

  • Candela (CBCP) – The light energy leaving in one specific direction
  • Lumen – The total light energy leaving a fixture
  • IES Files – Lighting calculation files from the Illuminating Engineering Society
  • BUG – Backlight, Uplight, Glare which replaces cutoff ratings for outdoor lighting

Electrical Metrics:

  • Watts – Power consumption
  • Efficacy – Lumens per Watt
  • Efficiency – Percent of total Lumens that leaves a fixture (Not used with LEDs)
  • Power Factor
  • Input Voltage
  • THD – Total Harmonic Distortion
  • UL/ETL/CSA – Independent lab tests for safety

Cost Metrics:

  • Initial Cost
  • Lifetime Cost
  • Warranty

Performance Metrics:

  • Projected Life
  • Dimmability
  • Flicker

The video goes on to explain the Color Temperature (CCT) and understanding how the lighting varies between different color temperatures and how this affects the visibility of different lights. This moves along into explaining the Color Rendering Index (CRI) and how this is an older way of determining lighting and now we need to use the R9 value as well as the standard CRI ratings. Finally, dealing with color of lighting, the Spectral Power Distribution (SPD) is covered to show the difference between different lighting types and how LEDs fall into this.

Finally, she compares old style lighting, both indoor and outdoor, to what is available in LEDs today. There is lots of great information in this section on replacing fixtures and lamps indoors and outdoors so you have a better understanding of what to look for.

After the presentation, Lisa and Greg do a great Q&A and go over some other developments in LEDs. They went over some new applications for LEDs to help with mood, therapy and having companies such as clothing stores using the lights to simulate the lighting that would be achieved during specific events such as outdoor lighting for bathing suits or evening lighting for trying on dresses.

All in all – great video. Go check it out above.

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Topics: LED Lighting

Happy Hanukkah 2014

Posted by SEPCO

12/18/14 9:30 AM

From the Solar Electric Power Company Family to Yours...
Happy-Hanukkah-2014
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Topics: Holiday

You'll Have a Green Christmas This Year

Posted by SEPCO

12/16/14 9:30 AM

green_christmasIt’s that time of year again; time to start your Christmas shopping if you haven’t already finished it. When you begin your shopping try to keep in mind how you can help your friends and family be green and still give them gifts they will love. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays but Christmas shopping on the other hands is my least favorite. I always worry rather my gifts will be right or if the receivers will like them and how eco-friendly my gifts are.

An easy start to Christmas shopping is to shop online. This prevents using gas for transportation and not to mention less stress from the Christmas craziness at all the stores. If you would rather go to the stores and brave the chaos try your best to buy all your gifts in 1 shot if possible. Here are some quick ideas for gifts you can give this holiday season. Hopefully these will be crowd pleasers and everyone will be able to enjoy the thought of helping the earth in every way possible.

For the home there are actually fairly simple ideas you can use. If you look at any farmer’s market or in even one of those center kiosks in the mall you will probably be able to find and echo friendly candle. Candles made with soy or beeswax are always an easy find and many now have cotton wicks which release less toxins than normal candle wicks. Along with candles there are many options out there for reclaimed items. You can find many items online or if you are crafty and give yourself a little extra time Pinterest is always a good place to get inspiration. Bamboo items are easy to find and can range from spoons, cutting boards to a nice bamboo plant in a glass pot that can be reused later.  Don’t forget about that person with the green thumb in your life, they are actually fairly simple to buy eco-friendly gifts for.  A real gardener will do just about anything to keep the blooms coming, even in the off-season. Satisfy their obsession with a gorgeous wooden crate filled with ready-to-pop bulbs or a simple all in one grow kit. A great site to check out with tons of options is Bambeco.

Kids_Wrapping_PaperFor the fashionista’s in your life there are a ton of options out there. Jewelry is always a hit and you can find pretty much anything from a necklace to a watch. Everyone loves clothes and a great place to find fashions that everyone is sure to love is ModCloth. Kids can actually be one of the easier people to shop for and clothes is always a great gift to give them, plus as parents that means one less toy to add to the collection. All natural and organic health and beauty products are agreat option as well. Some people can be hard to shop for when it comes to clothes so the tried and true gift is always a gift card.

Now that we have all our gifts in order what should we do when we present the gifts to the receiver? A way to stay green with these gifts it to put them in a nice reusable bag but if you want to wrap try to find recycled gift wrap. Try to avoid glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper because it can be difficult to recycle and can’t be used for much afterword because of the metal contained to make it. A favorite thing of mine to do for grandparents it use all my kids artwork that comes home and turn it into wrapping paper, less waste that way  and a great way to share your child’s work. Homemade cards are always nice and add a more personal touch to your gifts. Use last year’s calendar by using the great pictures and sticking them together to create a beautiful collage. Last try to use tape sparingly or not at all if possible. You can do use a pretty ribbon or even a little dab of glue instead.

Celebrating a green Christmas isn't about going without; it's about being thoughtful and considerate of not creating waste at a time of celebration. Most importantly remember the season is not all about the gifts and glam but more about sharing time with our friends and family.  If we all do our part little by little we can keep the earth a greener place so we have many more holidays to spend with them.

From all of us here at SEPCO may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday

Quick Overview of Sign Lighting from Big to Small

Posted by SEPCO

12/11/14 9:30 AM

Signs provide advertising and information to travelers day and night; however, if they are not properly lit at night, miss visual impact by someone driving by. There are many ways to light up a sign at night, including the use of solar when electric is not readily available. Here are some great tips and information for different types of sign lights from big to small.

 

Large Billboard Salt River Devco

 

Large billboard lights require quite a bit of lighting to see easily at night. Billboards are typically used for advertising along highways of local businesses and can generate great traffic for these businesses from travelers. Making sure they are properly illuminated during the night time allows for your message not to be missed. A typical billboard needs around one bright fixture every 10 feet to allow for proper illumination levels and to make sure none of the message gets left in the dark.  These can easily be solar powered as the solar panels can be mounted on top of the billboard to charge the batteries during the day and then power the lights at night. Best of all, there is almost never any shading concerns on a billboard. Since billboards are typically installed in the middle of nowhere and have no ability to install typical electrical grid lines, solar is a great option for these large signs.

 

Large Monument Sign Moraine Valley Community College

 

Large monument signs for communities, offices, businesses, etc. can also require multiple fixtures to properly illuminate the sign. These styles of sign lighting systems have fixtures mounted near to the ground angled upwards towards the sign face. These signs can be located along the side of a roadway or in a median. You can either decide to light up just the logo and information on the sign, or the entire sign along with surrounding landscaping. Solar can easily adapt to these signs as well since there is not always power located where the sign is installed, especially in a median, and the trenching involved with bringing in standard electrical power is costly and tears up the surrounding areas.

 

Small Sign Savannah HOA

 

Small signs typically use a single flood fixture and require much less lighting than larger signs. These too have ground mounted lighting; however, the light fixtures can also be mounted from the top of the sign. These too can easily be powered by solar power systems and typically require small solar power systems. For extra impact, additional fixtures can be used to light up the surrounding landscape to really light up the sign area.

 

Internally Illuminated Sign Denver Children Advocacy

 

The final topic to discuss is internally illuminated signs. These are typically either on a building face or stand alone along a roadway. Internally illuminated signs mostly used long fluorescent tube lights; however, there is a huge transition to LED strips to new signs as well as upgrades to older sign boxes. There are many options available with LED lights that can be installed within a sign box and can be as comparable to sizing in regards to the required lighting as a standard flood system to requiring much more power than an externally illuminated sign.

 

Speak with your sign company when deciding what type of sign you are having designed and the options available when it comes to lighting. Knowing the lighting requirements before the final sign is built will help you determine the best type of lighting and to get the most for your money. Most sign companies work with lighting companies directly and can help you determine what the best course of action is. If you are requiring a solar solution due to a lack of traditional power where the sign will be installed, contact your solar lighting designer to create the perfect solar sign lighting solution for your sign.

 

Blog Sign Lighting CTA

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Getting Better Solar Lighting Results by Following 3 Simple Steps

Posted by SEPCO

12/9/14 9:30 AM

Better Solar Lighting ResultsPurchasing a solar lighting system for any application can be a daunting task. There are so many options and decisions to make that you can easily get lost in the specifications. There are three simple steps you can take to ensure that you at least have good results with your system, no matter what the application.

Step 1

Use LED fixtures that provide a high Lumen per Watt output. This information can be found on any specification sheet, and if it is not right there, ask for it. A high wattage LED fixture does not mean that it provides bright lighting; it all depends on the Lumens provided from the LEDs. Knowing the available Lumens per Watt for the LEDs can help you determine which fixture would provide the required light. Want to know more about the difference between Watts and Lumens, check out Wattage vs Lumens: Know the Difference for Better Lighting.

Step 2

Make sure your solar power system provides enough power during the day and provides plenty of backup storage. Solar lighting systems should always be designed for worst case scenario since if you use more than you put in, the system will begin to fail. Sizing your system with summer or even yearly average sun will not ensure that your system will operate when the days are short and nights are long. Make sure your system always provides around 20% over for power generation and you have a minimum of five nights autonomy for those times of inclement weather. This will guarantee your system operates even when the weather is bad for days at a time.

Step 3

Make sure to follow installation instructions carefully and provide shade free south facing site for installation. Reading the installation manual before starting the installation will allow you to decide if you have everything necessary and alert you to any special needs of your system. There can also be labels on the system itself pointing you as to what is needed. Finally, ensuring the system faces directly south and has no shade on the solar panel all day will make sure that the solar lighting system can stand up to the test of time. If there are trees nearby, make sure they are trimmed well.

Following these three simple steps will guarantee that your solar lighting system will provide the best result possible.

Blog Solar Lighting CTA

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Solar Bus Stops & Bus Shelters for Energy Efficient Transit System

Posted by SEPCO

12/4/14 3:22 PM

Solar Bus ShelterBus stops and shelters are used along any bus transit system. These areas provide information to travelers along the route to make sure they get where they need to go at the times they need to get there. Daytime travelers do not have to worry about visibility; however, at night, lighting is required to ensure the bus driver spots them and they can see the information on the routes. This is where solar lighting can easily come in to play.

Most bus stops and bus shelters are located in an area that grid power is not easily accessible without tearing up the nearby area to bring wires out to the location. Solar makes the lighting at night possible since the solar is either roof or top of pole mounted. The power is generated wherever it is needed without the destruction of surrounding areas.

Solar bus stop light systems consist of a pole mounted solar power system that provides power to a fixture, sometimes integrated within the battery assembly, and can provide lighting all night, via a motion or push button activation, or on only when the transit system is in operation. These systems are completely integrated together and can be installed in just about any sunny location along a route.

Solar Bus StopSolar bus shelter light systems can integrate easily into an existing bus shelter or be specified with a new installation along a route. The panels can mount on the roof of the shelter structure or be pole mounted nearby. The LEDs are integrated within a battery assembly and mount under the roof of the structure to provide lighting within the structure.

Advertising bus shelters can also use the solar to light the ad boxes that are sometimes on these shelter structures. The solar can power the entire lighting requirements of the bus shelter. These typically use LED strips along the edges of the ad box and are fed by the same battery pack as the overhead light fixture within the bus shelter. These systems require additional solar power and battery; however, allow for the advertising message not to be lost at night by travelers and others just passing by.

Not only do these systems save money due to lower installation costs, they save on monthly electric bills. Since the systems provide the power by the sun, there is no need for standard electric and to pay the utility company for the lighting. With the rise of utility power costs, this can turn into a huge savings in the long run. Definitely a win-win.

Blog Bus Stop Lighting CTA

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Bus Stop & Shelter Lighting

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