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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Benefits of Renewable Energy

Posted by SEPCO

6/22/15 10:00 AM

Benefits of Renewable EnergyRenewable Energy and Green Power Energy efficiency opportunities have been available to some facilities across the county and some facilities may want to consider going green. It is studied that renewable energy is referenced as electricity distributed from energy sources in the form of Wind, Solar, Geothermal, Hydro and Biomass. These energies are abundant and based on energy flows that are replenished by natural process and does not become depleted when use, like fossil fuel or nuclear.

Renewable energy has unique costs and benefits than the conventional sources. Studies show that much higher level of renewable energy can be achieved while substantially reducing global warming emissions. Green power is more environmental, friendly, safer and healthy, if all the states embark on sound plan to created and maximize green, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Benefits of Renewable Energy:

Renewable energy improves health and environmental quality. Electricity generated from renewable energy rather than fossil fuels offer significant public health, environmental and economic benefits.

Renewable energy will significantly reduce premature mortality, lost work days and overall health care costs. Like the fossil fuels, they emit pollutions to our air and water which has been linked to breathing problems, neurological damaged heart attacks and cancer.

Green power is huge and in-exhaustible in supply, throughout the world, strong winds, sunny skies, plant residues, heat from the earth and fast moving tide can each provide a huge and consistent energy replenished supply. The diversity sources of renewable energy have immense potential to offer all the electricity a nation needs many times over if properly harnessed and managed as well.

Another important factor in using renewable energy sources is to help reduce the negative environmental effects associated with non-renewable energy sources such as coal and natural gas. Willingness to use a renewable energy source will not only decipher into cost savings for you over the long haul, but will also help protect the environment from the risks of fossil fuel emissions of non-renewable energy sources.

Economic Benefits:

Harnessing renewable energy is more labor intensive, as compared to fossil fuels, which is typically mechanized and capital intensive. On average, it creates a lot of jobs for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than fossil fuels. Increasing renewable energy has real potential to continue still job addition and creation.

Green energy in 2014 supports thousands of jobs in various capacities in the United State, for example Wind and Solar industries. These job gains would be enough on their own to reduce the unemployment rate in today’s economy by about two full percentage points, even after taking into full account the inevitable job losses in conventional fossil fuel sectors of the U.S. economy as they contract.

Sources: www.altenegy.com http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/09/24/is-renewable-energy-really-green/

About the Author: Peter Okwudi is a Machining Sales Engineer at Lere Technology. Prior to joining Lere Technology, he worked in strategic business development and consulting at several companies. Notably, his four years Energy Specialist of Business Development for Green Energy Expert LLC, where he directed major partnering initiatives. Also, a former mechanical engineering writer for Bright-Hub Engineering. Peter’s greatest strengths are his creativity, drive and leadership. He thrives on challenges, particularly those that expand the company’s reach. Peter holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, graduate certificate in renewable energy and sustainability and MBA in progress from Phoenix University. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, their three children.

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Topics: Guest Post, Renewable Energy

People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Summit 2014

Posted by SEPCO

9/25/14 9:30 AM

peoples climate march 2014

Last Sunday was one of the largest climate rallies ever, the People’s Climate March in New York City. Climate changes have been on the mind of people since the 60’s and 70’s, but realizing that we need to do something now is pushing people even harder, as we have already damaged the climate permanently and there is worse to come.  Many big names were out there in the crowd along with everyday citizens to demand action in the UN Climate Summit in New York on Sept 23.

Leonardo DiCaprio made one of the best speeches I’ve heard in a long time, see here:

I think my other favorite video this week was Jon Stewart’s video Burn Noticed:

So now what? Well some great ideas were put up and set to be put in action. The Green Climate Fund, which was established in 2009, was set into place to help developing countries move away from fossil fuels; however, it has not been kept up with and is not meeting the goals set forth. Pledges were taken at this year’s Climate Summit to push this program further ahead; however, most of the wealthier countries, including the US, needs to get on the boat and make their pledge.

Carbon emissions were of course one of the largest topics. Countries including Ireland and Chile are working towards reducing their carbon emissions; however, we need large industrial countries such as China and India to jump on board to make a real impact. So are they doing this? 2014 Was the lowest coal consumption year in the past decade for China and they are working to lower their consumption even more. As for India, no one knows as they didn’t show up to discuss their input, but we will see in time what they do.

Food security was another hot topic on the list along with deforestation. Deforestation is on a track to be cut in half by 2020 and finally ended in 2030. Will there be forests or even trees left by 2030? I guess we will see. One of the worst deforestation is due to the Palm Oil industry; however, large companies are finally getting involved and making zero-deforestation pledges and deforestation-free sourcing of palm oil.

As for the future, The UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants leaders to strike a deal in Paris. He states “We must agree to a global deal in Paris next year, we simply cannot afford to put it off any longer.” Maybe this is a good idea, a yearly meeting instead of every 5 years; help keep everyone accountable of their actions and on track for a global change.

All in all, the rally helped raise awareness and showed the people’s support  for action as well as showing  the UN how much everyone (well most everyone) wants change to happen immediately. We all want a green and clean world for our children for generations to come, but we need to start somewhere. Every drop in the bucket towards making the world better is a step in the right direction.

For more information, check out: UN Climate Change Summit, Vice News, The Guardian, Mashable

Img Source: Grist

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Topics: Green Ideas, Renewable Energy

Amazing Changes Happening Now for Sustainable Living: Renewable Energy

Posted by SEPCO

7/31/14 9:30 AM

Renewable-Energy

Renewable energy has been booming, especially in the last couple years. Renewable energy resources have been around for a long time; however, their popularity has increased with the ongoing movement towards trying to slow down global warming. There are many forms of renewable energy that have been used, developed and installed even as I write this. Here are the largest forms of renewable energy and a little bit about their usage today.

Solar Energy

We are a solar company so of course solar is our favorite. Solar panels provide energy during the day, from practically sun up to sun down. There is so much solar energy to be harvested, that like many statistics and memes say, so much solar energy hits the earth that if we could power the needs of the world for 25 years or more in a single day of sun. The only problem with that is creating enough solar panels to harvest all that energy and then storing the power so it can be accessed after the sun goes down; however, there are people working on energy storage as we speak. Solar energy can also be used for other applications such as water heating or heating a building / home.

Wind Energy

Wind energy can provide a ton of energy day and night as long as the wind is moving. Today’s wind power is generated by a windmill turning a turbine that generates power to feed electricity to power lines; however, wind power has been used in the past for grinding grain and pumping water. Wind farms can be installed in a large open area or offshore and provide a lot of power to nearby areas. Storage of this power is still being developed, just like solar power; however, seems to be a more popular approach to large scale power generation. New developments in wind power are being made to harness wind power when there is little wind and windmills that protect wildlife from harm.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal power extracts steam from underground and uses that to power turbines to generate power. The water is extracted during this process and fed back under the Earth’s surface to generate more steam. The main drawback to this form of power generation is the steam can carry a mixture of gases that contribute to global warming, bad smells and acid rain. These gases need to be contained and not put into the atmosphere.

Hydropower & Tidal Energy

Both hydropower and tidal energy uses the natural flow of water to turn turbines to generate power. Dams have been set up on rivers and underwater windmill looking devices have been setup on shores to harness this power. Since tides are more predictable than the winds or sun, tidal power is growing in popularity as a great way to harness power; however, there is still controversy in changing the natural flow of water and disturbing natural habitats.

Every form of renewable energy has its pros and cons; however, by combining forces and utilizing each form to its capacity, we will one day be able to move towards a more sustainable world. Here in sunny south Florida, solar will always be my favorite source of energy. What is your favorite and why?
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Topics: Green Ideas, Renewable Energy

6 Questions to Ask Before Going Solar

Posted by SEPCO

7/24/14 9:30 AM

Before_Going_SolarAs with any investment, purchasing solar panels for your home is a decision that shouldn't be made lightly. You will need to consider many factors and avoid the numerous pitfalls. By hiring the right company and asking the right questions, you'll be able to benefit greatly from solar panels.

It is important to decide if having solar panels installed on your house is the right decision for your situation wants and needs. Solar panels offer many impressive benefits, but there are other factors to consider. We take a look at what questions you should ask before you make the switch, and the pitfalls to avoid.

1. Is the company and brand of solar panels you’re considering reputable?

You should ask the companies if they use a reputable brand of solar panels. If you can't find much information about the brand or manufacturer, then you shouldn't use those particular types of solar panels. The solar company you go through should have fully trained employees, with skilled technicians and installers to help you with the process.

Don’t be afraid to ask how long the company has been in the business. An established company that has served many customers with a portfolio of work and testimonials tends to be a company that you’re able to trust and relay on. Years of satisfied customers means good work and a reputable company will be more than willing to show off their good work and previous clientele.

In the solar business, there are unfortunately many people trying to sell cheaply made solar panels and rip customers off. Opting for a cheaper solution or a company that doesn’t appear reputable will only lead to inexperienced installer doing the job for you, additional and costly repairs, and a service that won’t follow up on you and the product after it’s installed.

By concentrating on quality above anything else and working with the right company, you’ll be able to determine whether solar panels is a good investment for your home and avoid costly mistakes.

2. Should you lease or buy solar panels?

Depending on your goals, there difference between purchasing your own solar panels and leasing can vary dramatically. Because every homeowner has different goals, the “right” payment option for each person can change.

Whilst the initial cost of purchasing solar panels yourself can be expensive, most homeowners prefer to do so. The ongoing savings on power bills solar panels offer ensure the initial expensive of them are paid off in 10 years, depending on the home. Cash rebates can also reduce the cost of the system by 10%-50% and with government incentives in place, tends to be the better option for most people.

For those that choose to lease solar panels, the long-term financial benefits will be less than those of purchasing. The advantage though is that the upfront costs are lower and any maintenance or repairs become responsibility of the leasing company, not you. Lease terms are generally for 20 years but some can range from 10-20. To find out what option is best for you, it’s best to speak with the solar power company about your specific situation.

3. Does the cost outweigh the benefits?

There is no point in investing in something that doesn’t serve you and so weighing up the cost and benefits is crucial. For homeowners that haven’t yet experienced the benefits of solar power firsthand, making the switch can be fairly daunting with the costs involved.

On the brightside though, (pun intended) the savings through solar power are significant – not to mention the environmental impact it has too. Over the last few years, everyone has fallen victim to the ongoing utility costs on the rise and we’re all looking for ways to cut down on how much we spend. Installing solar powers and taking advantage of the sun’s energy is one of the best ways to do this.

Government incentives and tax breaks sweeten the deal for homeowners wanting solar a little more, the system and panels add value to your home and the sustainable energy is a growing and beneficial industry. Whilst the initial cost can seem like disadvantage, solar power systems are one investment that will pay off and give years of enjoyment. Always ask your solar company to go through the individual costs with you. You can bring a copy of the last few utility bills too to determine if the cost will really outweigh the benefits in your home.

4. What is the type of panel mounting system that’ll be used?

Understanding the type of panel mounting system for your home, and the materials it’s made of will ensure you’re getting a durable system. Look for mounting systems that are made from either stainless steel or aluminium.

When solar panels are installed, the mounting system is what balances everything and holds it into place. Check with the company whether roof mounts, ground mounts or pole mounts would be best for your home and how this can impact on the system quality and price. The most common style of system mounting is on the roof and this is held together by metal brackets between the solar panels and roof to ensure the panels do not overheat.

5. Will you be able to produce enough power in your location?

The biggest advantage of solar power is that it relies on the sun for its power source, making it absolutely free. But, this would be pretty useless if your sun gets little to no sun right? Cloudy days can be an issue and locations that suffer all year round winters can be very indecisive about making the switch.

To accommodate for lack of sun, a large number of solar powers can be needed to produce greater amounts of electricity. This can require more roof space and money so it’s best to check with your company if this will affect you.  If you’re unsure, ask a reputable solar power company. Most companies will come to your home and conduct a site examination, including shade analysis which helps to determine whether solar is the best solution for you.

6. How long will the solar panels last for?

No homeowner wants to fork out money for an investment that won’t last the distance. This is why choosing a company that is reputable and trustworthy, and that uses quality a product is of the upmost importance. 

The lifespan of solar panels depends on several factors including the quality of the materials, and the specific manufacturer. Look for products that come with a long warranty, and this shows the manufactures commit and belief in the product. Companies that offer only a few years warranty on their products is best to stay away from, you should be looking at least 10 years.  A durable and reliable solar panel inverter and mounting system will last the distance.

Author Bio: This article is written by Aidan Jenkins , Managing Director of Infinite Energy, Australia’s market leader in quality solar power systems. 

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

Making Your Community Green and Reduce Costs

Posted by SEPCO

5/15/14 9:30 AM

Communities all across America are trying to improve their green image and reduce costs, but some are having a hard time figuring out where to start. Here are some ideas that can help improve your community and lower overall costs in the end.

  1. CommunitySolarLighting.jpgBuild LEED – new buildings, either commercial or residential, should be done to the highest green standards. Using high efficient HVAC systems, energy efficient building materials such as Low-E or thermal windows, plenty of insulation and energy star qualified appliances will lower the energy pull for every building.
  2. Remodel to Higher Standard – the same as above can be used for remodels. Sometime the integrity of the original construction is what the community wants to preserve, but this doesn’t mean energy efficient improvements can’t be made.
  3. Use Solar Lightingsolar lighting can be installed anywhere since no electrical grid is needed. Solar lights for signs, parking lots, streets, billboards, etc. will lower the costs to the electrical company and provide more sustainable lighting systems.
  4. Provide More Bike Lanes and Sidewalks – people are becoming more eco-conscious and are doing things on their own. One of the largest issues is traffic for bikers. If communities would install more bike lanes or sidewalks where people can safely travel, more people will chose to use their own two legs to power themselves where they need to go.
  5. Promote Local Farming – if there is farm land nearby, promote using these farms for local restaurants and grocery stores instead of importing produce and meat from far away. The quality is usually better and lower transportation costs.
  6. Install Recycling Bins – Instead of just having trash cans everywhere, put recycling bins out as well. By making recycling easy, more people would be inclined to actually do it, even the not so eco-conscious.

Just doing some simple things will provide a much greener community. What steps has your community taken to improve its green image and lower costs?

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Green Ideas, Renewable Energy, Conservation

What is Included in a Remote Solar Power System Package

Posted by SEPCO

5/8/14 4:35 PM

Atlantic-Group-5

Remote solar power systems provide power to areas where power doesn’t already exist or is difficult to bring out the grid. These types of systems can operate anything from a small light to large scale applications. Every system should be built to specification of the device they are operating and provide enough backup power for times of bad weather.

When purchasing your remote solar power system package, make sure to understand exactly what is included and what you should expect to receive. Different manufacturers may include different brand of components, but the standard complete system should be comprised of the same type of parts.

Solar Panels – The first and biggest component of a remote solar power system is the solar panels. Each panel is able to produce a certain amount of power, so make sure to get specifications on the panel to find out exactly what you should expect. A solar panel is comprised of silicon cells placed on a grid and protected by glass and framing. Additional panel protection is useful in areas where there are high chances of vandalism or wind-blown debris. The protection can be in the form of Lexan on the top of the solar or aluminum riveted to the back of the solar.

Battery Assembly – The next component to pay close attention to is the battery assembly. Making sure there is enough power in the battery to handle the load can make or break the system. You never want the battery to completely deplete down to zero, especially not every day, due to cycling of the battery. Batteries only hold a number of cycles, and if you deplete your battery to nothing every day, your battery system will only last a short amount of time. This also does not provide backup for times of little sun due to inclement weather. A minimum of five days autonomy is best for most applications, more for areas with a lot of snow or bad weather.

Charge Controller – The charge controller tells the system when to charge the battery and when to utilize the power. Your charge controller should always have a LVD Low Voltage Disconnect so that if the batteries get below a certain point, they will no longer pull the power and wait for the batteries to be recharged by the solar. The charge controller also tells the battery when night has come and to turn on the system when you have dusk to dawn system. Additional control options can be used to provide different operating requirements.

Making sure all components of your remote solar power system’s package are high grade and can meet the specifications of the load will ensure your system will run reliably for years. Remember, solar panels last 25 or more years, batteries should be replaced every five to seven years and your charge controller varies, but should be good for about 10 years or more. Researching companies and getting the specifications and warranty information of each component will help you choose the best system for your application.

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Topics: Solar Power, Renewable Energy

Important Tips Linked To Solar Street Light Manufacturer Selection

Posted by SEPCO

3/27/14 9:30 AM

SolarStreetLightManufacturer.jpgWith the pressure on to conserve energy, many companies and local authorities are installing solar powered street lights. These lights not only help save money, but also help reduce the pressure on power generation plants thus helping reduce greenhouse emission production. It also helps reduce pressure on the power grid thus helping divert the energy to other sectors and industries which need it more. When planning to purchase a large number of solar street lights, it’s important to keep certain factors in mind so as to select the right solar street light manufacturer and brands. Below are some of these factors which will help make more informed decisions:

The amount of light required

Street lights are meant to light up large areas thus requiring the solar lights to be bright. It’s important the radius each light eliminates be taken in to consideration thus allowing the distance between lights to be calculated. This makes it possible to determine the number of solar street lights that are required and helps estimate the cost. The larger the radius covered by each light, the fewer the number of solar street lights you need, thus helping reduce solar street light purchase and installation costs.

Solar light maintenance tips

It’s important to keep in mind that street lights are a public utility and therefor tend to be mishandled. This makes it important to select solar street light which is made using strong materials which will prolong the usable life.

Insect and animals management

Keep in mind that the lights tend to be an insect attraction and require to be completely sealed to prevent insects and other animals seeking shelter inside the lights. It’s common to find small animals like rats and squirrels finding their way in to street lights and making themselves at home since the lights provides a source of warmth during the cold winter nights. Also make sure the lights are strong enough to support extra weight. This is because you are bound to find birds perching on the solar street lights which can result in breaking of the lights.

Preventing and avoiding corrosion

The materials used to make the lights also require being corrosion resistant to prevent deterioration over short periods of time. Today, there are several alloys and plastic materials which can be used on the lights to help prevent corrosion. On some parts of the light anti-corrosive materials can be used to coat the metals and prevent any damage from heat and water.

Reduced wiring and maintenance requirements

It’s also important to take the wiring in to consideration to help reduce the maintenance requirements. Today NANO technology has resulted in miniaturizing most electronics including solar street light controls. This means that they have all the required components inside the street light. They have an in-built solar charging unit, battery cells and an automatic light sensor which turn the solar light on and off. Select solar lights which offer a one in all solution thus helping reduce maintenance and repair requirements.

The cost of solar street lighting

When price comes to question, many people will consider just the tag price but with solar street light section several other aspects come in to play. To begin with it’s important to consider the area covered by the lights. Keep in mind that the wider the radius covered results in the requirement of fewer street lights. This makes it important to make the required calculations so as to determine each street lights “light span”. This measurement will help determine the number and eventually the cost of the solar street lights. Also take time to calculate other aspects such as the maintenance and repair costs linked to the solar street lights.

For companies, property developers and local government authorities that purchase a large number of street lights, the above points play an important role towards selecting the right solar light manufacturer, brands or models. Every aspect must be taken in to close consideration to make sure you get the most effective solar street light which delivers abundant lighting and results in the least amount of maintenance requirements.

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Topics: Street Lighting, Renewable Energy, Solar Lighting Design

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

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

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

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