Thursday, August 21, 2014

Solar + Battery Hybrid Inverters That Read Weather Forecasts

We know solar works, we know it is a billion dollar industry, but how is it going to evolve in the future? To answer this question we only have to look at the activity around batteries and the talk of grid independence, which is pervading all corners of the energy industry.

Solar with Battery Hybrid inverters (formerly known as Grid-Tie with Battery Backup or what the CEC calls multi-mode) have actually been around for a long time.

I, personally, got my hybrid inverter system installed back in the year 2000, and it cost a bomb. But systems were available for a number of years before then, from early movers such as Power Solutions Australia (whose product range was acquired by Selectronics and re-badged SB Pro), and Xantrex (which has now part of the Schneider Electric solar division).

In early systems, such as mine, the batteries were there primarily to bolster supply reliability. They stayed charged most of the time until there was an interruption in the grid (something that happens rarely on Australian’ grids, especially in cities with regulated service levels, meaning grid power must be supplied for 99.9+% of the time) at which point the household supply would seamlessly transition from the grid to solar and batteries or just batteries at night. This type of system was a niche product back then – for enthusiasts, but certainly not for the general public.

Fast forward to 2014, battery inverters are now being released by almost all inverter manufacturers, and their prices are dropping fast. Most of these units are converging on a number of capabilities beyond working as a simple “Solar UPS”.

Likely standard capabilities include the ability to timetable when the batteries will be charged from the grid, when batteries will be charged from solar, when the inverter will satisfy a customer’s on-site self-consumption by drawing on the batteries in preference to the grid (usually during peaks and/or critical peaks) and the ability to limit grid exports to a maximum amount, to keep grid operators satisfied (should they place a cap on household solar power exports) and also limit imports to a maximum rate.

Grid operators in future may only allow 3kW, 4.5kW, 5kW or 10kW maximum feed-in rate, but a hybrid inverter could have a higher rating itself (to both feed-in and satisfy local self-consumption) and be configured so as not to exceed those grid operator-imposed limits. In addition, grid operators could also mandate the maximum amount of energy that can be drawn from the grid through such an inverter. In this case the new hybrid inverters can be set to only ever pull say 3kW max from the grid (a requirement for battery inverters in some parts of the South Australia).

Such intelligent power management is the way that a solar hybrid inverter competes with the old energy industry – i.e. by maximising self-consumption of cheaper solar energy that you’ve generated whether it be consumed at the time or withdrawn from the inverter’s battery.

But next-gen hybrid inverters can save you even more money with just a simple software update and an Internet connection.

The third generation of hybrid inverters (very few people in Australia even have a first or second generation solar hybrid inverter) is hitting the market lead by the Bosch Power Tec’s BPT-S 5 Hybrid. Not (upfront) the cheapest solution but a premium, high quality one, and one that is showcasing weather forecasting technology.

What is weather forecasting technology, you ask? Well, without weather forecasting, a customer with a hybrid inverter and a decent sized battery bank to easily match his evening, night-time and morning demand on a day of low solar contribution would have to rely on the grid at some time during the evening peak (paying higher rates) and, if the next day was also to be a very low solar day (i.e. heavy rains and cloud), then they’d also be relying on the grid during that day and the next again paying higher peak usage rates.).

Enter weather forecasting by your hybrid inverter. A hybrid inverter with weather prediction capability generates solar during the day and uses approximately 30-50% of it on-site in real-time, depending on the time of the year. During the night the inverter downloads weather data from the Bureau of Meteorology or some third party aggregate of that forecast data. If at 11pm if it looks like the next day is going to have very little solar generation potential the inverter then decides to recharge the batteries based on that knowledge of tomorrow’s weather forecast at cheaper overnight off peak rates, which are often 50% or more cheaper than peak rates.

The net result is overall cheaper energy for the solar customer as any peak time usage will now just cost a small premium (losses in charging and discharging) over off-peak power instead of the full inflated peak power price.

Therefore weather forecasting reduces peak power consumption (peak power brings in more revenue for the conventional energy industry, including networks and generators) and causes more of old energy’s revenues to go to the solar PV juggernaut, which keeps it moving along as more volume and a bigger market decreases prices for everyone.

The hybrid inverter industry is moving fast and we can expect that within 12-24 months every offering on the market will be capable of processing weather data and making the decision to recharge our batteries on off-peak power if grid power is required.

In the future, with dynamic power pricing potentially matching 5 minute or 30 minute activity on the electricity market these kinds of inverters could become very reactive to price with minor updates to their software, something that would minimise costs to power consumers further.

In 2014 we already have the technology (with more coming) to really decouple our power capacity requirements (maximum grid power ‘upload’ or ‘download’) and our power usage requirements (kWh units used and billed) which now will allow us to always get our power at the cheapest price possible this also makes the risk premium that we are currently paying retailers for managing supply demand matching almost redundant which should lead to a further lowering of prices.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Super Computers, A Revolution in Solar Energy and One of The Coldest Places on Earth...

Quantum technology.

Not the easiest of subjects to get your head around. And it’s fair to say some scientists have a hard time defining it, too.

A physicist friend of mine tells me that no-one fully understands quantum theory, yet it’s accepted as fact.

Quantum technology is described as a new field of physics and engineering, which transitions some of the stranger features of quantum mechanics into practical applications such as quantum computing, quantum cryptography, quantum simulation, quantum metrology, quantum sensing, and quantum imaging.

Already the mind boggles, but I wanted to find out more about Lancaster University’s new Quantum Technology Centre, what it does, and how it aims to lead the race internationally in this relatively new scientific field.

Professor Yuri Pashkin is a director of the centre and Dr Mark Rushforth is head of the university’s business partnerships and enterprise in physical sciences.

Both meet me outside the new department on the university’s campus - which includes more than £4m worth of “clean room” – where the magic happens.

Before we enter the clean zone, Prof Pashkin explains a bit about the background of quantum theory, how it was developed in the early 20th century, and its practical implications today.

Essentially the new centre will be using quantum technology to develop chips that will have a range of benefits for medicine, computing, sensing, energy and security.

Prof Pashkin said: “Using the electron-beam writer we can create a pattern in the resist (layer) that is later used for the fabrication of nanoscale devices on the chip.

“We can fabricate various types of superconductor or semiconductor devices with a feature size down to 10nm, and it can take anything between a day and a week to produce one chip.”

Before stepping into the first clean room, which has no more than 1,000 dust particles per cubic foot, we don lab gear to protect the room from the dust we’re carrying on our clothes and skin.

Prof Pashkin shows me the state of the art machines used to fabricate the chips, with some individual pieces of kit valued at £1m.

“You can use these nanoelectronic devices as quantum two-level systems to construct quantum bits,” explains Prof Pashkin.

“You can use qubits as building blocks for quantum computing in that they can be used to build quantum processors.”

“Computers built of quantum bits would be much more powerful, you can do calculations in one hour that would take one million years with standard computers.

“Quantum mechanics tells us about some none classical properties of the quantum objects, and this can be used for different types of applications.”

“Many ideas are still just on paper, but there is progress being made on quantum communication and security, where the quantum nature of information makes any attempt at hacking or interception detectable, and the use of a special quantum key ensures that the transmission of information becomes completely secure.”

We step into the second clean room which has fewer that 100 dust particles per cubic foot and Prof Pashkin shows me one of the produced chips.

“There are many unknowns in quantum technology and the quantum states are quite fragile, meaning we must take utmost care to protect them. This dictates that we should engineer the measurement system very carefully, so that the quantum states live longer and can be used for practical purposes,” he said.

“There is continuing progress with the first generation of the quantum technology applications when it comes to energy production, including the development of solar cells using highly efficient multi-layer structures in photovoltaic cells, improving the efficiency of solar power conversion into electricity.”

Leaving the lab I visit another section of the university that has received very little attention – the ultra low temperature laboratory, where experiments are carried out at extremely low temperatures.

We’re talking temperatures of just above absolute zero, −273.15 °C (−459.67 °F), bizarrely making parts of this lab the coldest on the planet.

On leaving that day I must say I came out with more questions than I had before I went in, but what struck me the most was the university’s passion and drive for this type of new technology, and the potential of it becoming a world leader in this field.

Mark Rushworth said: “The university has made a significant investment in the Quantum Technology Centre, which forms part of the top physics department in the country for research.

“However, this is just the first phase. Our aim is to bring in additional funding to grow the centre into a world-leading facility.

“We believe the centre has the potential to become a significant driver for the future regional economy as we work with existing businesses to help them gain commercial advantages through our research, as well as attracting additional high-tech firms, and jobs, to the region.”

The university is now seeking additional funding for a range of activities including a new building, cutting-edge equipment, salaries for researchers, 
doctoral students, business support services with facilities access (to help companies to commercially exploit our research gains), basic research, applied research, Technology incubation/ new venture creation (spin-out companies)and high level skills programme.


NDMC Draws Up Plan for Rooftop Power Generation in New Delhi

In line with its project to earn the tag of 'solar city' for the New Delhi area of the national capital, NDMC has now drawn up a detailed plan for rooftop solar energy generation.

New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has identified 40 buildings in the area under its jurisdiction for installation of rooftop solar panels, its chairperson Jalaj Shrivastava has said. The buildings belong to the civic agency and range from NDMC schools, sub-stations, inquiry offices, hospitals, etc. "We selected our own buildings for the pilot project as we did not require NOC for that from any agency. We will implement it in other government and private buildings based on the response," said an NDMC official.

According to a proposal, NDMC will appoint an operator to identify, design, erect, install, test, and commission rooftop solar units as defined by the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
NDMC has already invited tenders for the same. The civic agency's area was in February selected as one of the first townships nominated to be a 'Solar City' after the New and Renewable Energy Ministry gave its in-principle approval for the same.

After the installation of the solar rooftops, New Delhi would become the second solar city in the country after Chandigarh.

According to an MoU signed between NDMC and Solar Energy Corporation of India, the civic body should meet at least five per cent of its total energy consumption needs through solar energy. The plan says that NDMC will procure all the solar power generated by the operator and inject into the NDMC grid on the basis of rates determined by Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC).  NDMC expects to generate almost 8MW rooftop solar energy within a year, Shrivastava said.

With the residents of the national capital grappling with an acute power crisis, NDMC officials believe the plan will go some way towards solving the energy crisis in the city.

On an average, the NDMC area consumes a daily 350 MVA electricity during summer and 150 MVA during winter.

In an effort to ease the power situation, the civic body is also contributing 16MW of electricity to 8,000 households in the city by generating power using solid waste as fuel at a 'Waste To Energy' plant on NDMC land in Okhla.

Delhi government studying Gujarat solar power generation model
The 'rent-a-roof' model for solar power generation which has been adopted by the city of Gandhinagar in Gujarat can for now only be replicated in government buildings in the national capital, Delhi government has said. According to environment department officials, as most private buildings in the city are not properly aligned, unlike in Gandhinagar, which is a planned city with buildings of similar height and size, 'the rent-a-roof' model can only be implemented in government buildings, offices and hospitals. Delhi government officials recently visited Gujarat to study the electricity generation system there.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

There are Already More American Jobs in The Solar Industry Than in Coal Mining

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says there are more U.S. jobs in solar industry than coal mining
For more than a year, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has delivered weekly Senate speeches about the dangers of climate change. He frequently denounces climate-change deniers, and urges growth of green jobs and technologies to reduce America’s reliance on foreign fossil fuel.

In a May 27, 2014 commentary in The Providence Journal, Whitehouse argued for a nationwide price on carbon pollution. And he expressed hope for a prosperous, clean-energy future and faith that "there is more economic security in our own American know-how than in corrupt foreign fossil fuel countries."

To that end, Whitehouse noted that there "are already more American jobs in the solar industry than in coal mining."

This claim is reminiscent of his November 2012 statement that "we have more people working in clean and green energy than in oil and gas in this country." (PolitiFact Rhode Island ruled that claim as True.)

The solar industry has seen tremendous growth.  But have solar industry jobs actually eclipsed the number of coal-mining jobs?

Whitehouse communications director Seth Larson cited two sources to back up the senator’s claim.

The first is a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued in May 2013 that counts an estimated 80,030 jobs for all occupations within the coal-mining  industry -- a sector of the coal industry as a whole.

For solar jobs, Larson cited The Solar Foundation’s "National Solar Jobs Census 2013," which states that the solar industry "employs 142,698 Americans as of November 2013."

First, let’s look at coal-mining jobs.

We checked with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that Whitehouse had quoted the May 2013 number correctly. (The more recent April 2014 BLS month survey counted  78,500 coal-mining jobs. Neither of those include self-employed contractors.)

BLS press officer Gary Steinberg said its estimated numbers are drawn from "an annual survey of employers, by occupation," based on data sent by businesses. They reflect jobs, not people.

We also found three other sets of coal-mining numbers. Spoiler alert: they are not all apples-to-apples. They use different methodologies and different definitions. But they provide an overall picture.

A 2013 report from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration cited 123,227 jobs -- substantially more than the BLS, but still less than the number of solar jobs Whitehouse cited. MHSA surveys the mines themselves as opposed to the companies, and therefore includes contractors as well as regular workers.  

SNL Energy, a leading energy data provider, analyzes MSHA data to capture "snapshot" industry trends. Its June 2014 report, "U.S. coal miner employment sustains free fall beyond 2nd year," cites an 8.3% drop in  the one-year period ending March 31, to 79,658 employees. That excludes contractors and 33 not-yet-reported mines. 

By contrast, the National Mining Association, a trade group, counted 195,494 coal-mining jobs in 2012. The breakdown: miners (including contractors): 137,650; support activities: 6,930; transportation: 50,914. That’s nearly 53,000 more than Whitehouse’s solar jobs number.

Spokeswoman Nancy Gravatt said the NMA maintains that the additional support services "should be included because all of these activities are integral to the daily work in the mines."

But the NMA’s definition of coal-mining jobs goes far beyond those used by the federal agencies, including such transportation workers as railroad engineers and seamen on coal freighters.

In other words, data from three sources supports Whitehouse’s claim.

The NMA count does not.

Now let’s check out the solar data.

Larson cited The Solar Foundation’s "National Solar Jobs Census 2013," which states that the solar industry "employs 142,698 Americans as of November 2013."

The Solar Foundation is an independent, national 501(c)(3) nonprofit, non-lobbying group, that strives "to increase the widespread adoption of solar energy through educational outreach, policy research, and market transformation." Their data is considered "the most authoritative" by the Congressional Research Office.

Its report defines "solar workers" as those who spend "at least 50 percent of their time supporting solar-related activities." According to its 2013 census, "approximately 91 percent of those who meet our definition of a solar worker spent 100 percent of their time working on solar."

Andrea Luecke, the foundation’s executive director, said the foundation surveys the "known universe" of self-identified solar companies, of which there are about 6,000 nationwide.

"We go out directly to those companies. This year, we made 74,000 phone calls and sent 11,000 emails," over the course of one month.

The foundation also surveys companies "that help supply the ‘known universe’ with raw materials," Luecke said. "It’s a census approach, so we’re doing a direct count and extrapolate to get national numbers, which is how the BLS does it."

Luecke said by the census report’s measure, "the solar industry is outpacing coal mining." But she noted, "You have to understand that coal-mining is one aspect of the coal industry - whereas we’re talking about the whole solar industry."

If you add in other coal industry categories, "it’s more than solar, for sure. But the coal-mining bucket is less, for sure."

Our ruling:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said that solar industry jobs have now outpaced coal-mining jobs.

The most recent data from three objective sources support his claim.

The one source that offered a contrary view, the National Mining Association, cited two-year-old numbers and counted categories such as off-site transportation workers on coal barges and ocean freighters.

Because Whitehouse’s statement was specifically about coal-mining jobs, we rule it True.

WC to Host American Solar Challenge Checkpoint


Weatherford College will host the first checkpoint of the American Solar Challenge 2014 on Monday, July 21.

Teams are expected to park their unique vehicles on the WC campus next to the Alkek Fine Arts Center between the hours of 1:30 and 6 p.m. for charging before they continue their journey to Norman, Oklahoma. The community is invited to come view the solar cars and talk with the teams.

Solar car teams will begin the 1,700-plus mile journey from Austin and make their way to Minneapolis, Minnesota over the course of eight days. There are currently 23 teams slated to make the journey.

This competition is usually held every other year and is open to solar car teams across the world. A three-day qualifying track race takes place before vehicles and drivers are allowed entry into the official race. The winner of the American Solar Challenge is determined by the total elapsed time to complete the race route.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Taiwan Design Recognized in Solar Decathlon Europe

A team from National Chiao Tung University on Friday beat 19 other contestants from around the world with their design for an energy-saving building in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014.

The team's Orchid House won a perfect 120 points in the decathlon's Urban Design, Transportation & Affordability contest, one of the competition's 10 categories.

The team is the first that Taiwan has sent to competition, the European version of the original Solar Decathlon initiated in 2002 by the US Department of Energy to encourage designs blending affordability, consumer appeal with optimal energy production.

The European competition has been held every two years since 2010. It brought together 20 university teams this year to design, build and operate a full-scale, entirely functional solar-powered house.

This year's decathlon is being held in Versailles from June 27 through July 12.

Universities from 15 other countries took part in the event, including France, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Romania, Germany, Japan, Thailand and the United States.

The overall winner of the decathlon is the team able to score the most points in the 10 contests.

In addition to design, individual awards are presented in nine other competitions: architecture, house functions, engineering & construction, electrical energy balance, comfort conditions, sustainability, innovation, energy efficiency, communication & social awareness.

The Chiao Tung University team, consisting of 30 students and 10 teachers, got some support from Delta Electronics' high-end technologies.

The major Taiwanese hi-tech firm provided the team with its building energy management system and newly unveiled Battery Energy Storage Solution, which allows electricity stored in the batteries in the system to be either used by the household when there is no sunlight or fed into a power grid when there is surplus energy.


Clean Footprint Participates in Orlando Mayor Dyer’s Climate & Energy Summit

More than 200 energy leaders gathered to share technologies and strategies in climate action and sustainable energy

Cape Canaveral, Fl., August 18th, 2014 – On Wednesday of last week, John Porter, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Clean Footprint, participated in Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Climate and Energy Summit. The focus of the event was, ‘How climate action spurs economic development and improves quality of life.’

More than 200 community, business, nonprofit and public sector leaders, including Clean Footprint, Central Florida’s leading solar development and finance company, gathered to share technologies and strategies in climate action and sustainable energy.

Held at the Amway Center, the Summit featured Peter Lehner, CEO of Natural Resources Defense Council and Skip Laitner, Senior Fellow, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

“Orlando is already a national leader in how municipalities are managing environmental challenges,” said Porter. “Incremental progress is ultimately what is going to make a difference long-term.”

During the Summit, Senator Bill Nelson praised the steps that Orlando has taken to address climate change while Mayor Dyer detailed future initiatives that will respond to climate concerns and create a better quality of life and economic growth in Orlando. Some of the plans the Mayor illustrated were for the City to increase its commitment to solar energy, explore waste solutions that produce energy and also decrease dependence on foreign oil, and increase the tree canopy to a 40-percent tree cover.

About Clean Footprint
Located in Central Florida, Clean Footprint is fully engaged in development and solar financing, EPC, solar monitoring, and the operation and maintenance of solar farms. Clean Footprint works together with solar developers to bring utility-scale commercial solar PV projects to fruition that are reliable, cost effective, and sustainable. For more information, visit or phone (321) 613-4424.

Minister Backs Port’s ‘Solar Revolution’ Role

THE Minster of State for energy and climate change praised a community-funded solar-energy scheme at Shoreham Port following a visit on Thursday.

Greg Barker scaled the roof of Shed 3a at the port to view Brighton Energy Coop’s (BEC) new 800-panel solar array, which will start generating green electricity from mid July.

Mr Barker said: “Since I became a minister in 2010, more than half a million homes have started to generate their own electricity using solar PV.

“New community energy projects like this are opening up the opportunity to join the solar revolution to engage in the community.

“This project here in Shoreham Port is a great example of community action.”

The £240,000 scheme has been funded entirely by members of the public, who have bought shares in BEC over the past three months, ranging from £300 to £20,000.

The 200kW solar array will provide enough green electricity to power offices, a repair workshop and other port operations.

BEC has now raised more than £700,000 in total for its two solar energy schemes, making it the largest community-funded, renewable energy initiative in the South East.

Director Will Cottrell said: “BEC continues to grow and grow, providing clean, green energy for the city and showing that there is a viable alternative to fracking.

“This latest scheme shows that people want to and can influence the future of energy supply,”

Development director at Shoreham Port Peter Davies said: “This is another successful and exciting stage in the relationship between Shoreham Port and BEC.

“We now have more than 2,000 solar panels at the Port, which will help us to cut our energy bill and reduce our carbon footprint.”

The launch follows another 1,000-panel solar array on Shed 10 at Shoreham Port, switched on earlier this year.

Port chief executive Rodney Lunn said: “As an eco-port, we are delighted to support the BEC in their goal of achieving sustainable energy development in the South East.

“The solar-panel scheme has received extensive support from the local community and we look forward to continuing to reduce our carbon footprint as the project grows.”


Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Delhi Railway Station to Generate Solar Power

The initiative to harness solar power at the New Delhi railway station is part of the Railways’ project to convert some of its stations into ‘green buildings’. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
Solar panels will be installed on the platform roofs to generate 1 MW power

The Railways is planning to generate 1 MW solar power at the New Delhi railway station by installing solar panels on the platform roofs. Officials said the power project that will be implemented on a public private partnership model is a part of the Railways’ initiative to convert some of its stations into ‘green buildings’.

“A consultant has been roped in to conduct the feasibility study. While we plan to install solar panels on roof tops of the platform and the station building, the consultant has been asked to identify the exact locations on the station premises where solar panels can be installed, apart from the cost of installation,” said Anurag Sachan, Divisional Railway Manager (Delhi).

“As per the initial plans, the private partner will install the solar panels and generate power and the Railways will buy power at a pre-determined rate,” he added.

According to railway officials, the New Delhi railway station is spread over an area of the 6,38,467 sq m, including the yard area. Around 4,21,388 sq m of the total is built-up area. The station has 16 platforms. Officials said with no major high rises located in the vicinity of the station premise, generating 1 MW solar power is achievable.

“Once operational, around 25 per cent of the energy requirements at the New Delhi station, which has an average daily demand of over 4 MW, can be met just by solar power,” a senior Northern Railway official said.

Apart from the New Delhi station, the public transporter is also working at converting more stations in the Delhi Division like Bahadurgarh, Deewana and Gurgaon into green buildings. Solar power plants will also be installed at other major stations in the city like Old Delhi, Nizamuddin, Anand Vihar and Bijwasan.

“Once the pilot project at the New Delhi station becomes successful, we will have a model that could be replicated at other stations in Delhi,” a senior Northern Railway official said.

With the Narendra Modi government emphasising on harnessing solar power and taking lessons from solar projects in Gujarat, sources said the initiatives in the field are likely to get priority and easy clearances from the Ministry.

Sources said after senior railway officials made a presentation before the Prime Minister, he instructed the department to “use solar energy more aggressively and install them on the roofs of station buildings and other areas, apart from considering installation of solar panels atop the train coaches”.

“Installation of solar panels on train coaches is possible. It can meet the general requirements like lighting bulbs and running fans in the trains. An experiment is also being done with a toy train running on the Shimla-Kalka route,” an official said.


Troy Library Was Heating Up With Solar Panels

TROY — Platform shoes and disco were hot in the '70s, but the Troy- Miami County Library was heating up with solar panels.

In August 1974, the Troy-Miami County Library — located at 419 W. Main St. — applied for federal funds to make their building the first solar heated building in the area. This would save the library approximately $3,000 in heat bills, according to a study conducted by the University of Dayton, according to past stories by the Troy Daily News.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a solar panel is a photovoltaic device that produces a specified power output under defined test conditions, usually composed of groups of solar cells connected in series, in parallel, or in series-parallel combinations.

Two years later, the library received a grant from the Energy and Research Development Administration for $297,000 to fund the solar panel project, the Troy Daily News reported. The solar collectors were installed by Owens-Illinois. Each one of the glass collectors was filled with water and brought the total weight of the tube to 6.7 pounds.

According to research, the sun's rays would penetrate the glass and warm the water in the tube. This brings the water to 180 degrees, but the heat doesn't escape because of vacuum insulation designed to hold the heat in. The energy is then used to heat the library.

Solar technology wasn't considered new then because people concentrated the sun's heat with glass and mirrors to light fires centuries ago. It may not have been solar panels, but the idea was there — use the energy from the sun. Today, we have everything from solar-powered buildings and homes to solar-powered vehicles.

In 1978, the library earned an “Award of Merit” for the Library Buildings Award Program, according to the newspaper. This award was jointly sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association.

As with almost any project glitches and bugs had to be worked out. The weight of ice and snow from the past winter cracked one of the trusses, which had to be replaced at the cost of $30,000. The roof that held the solar panels had to be redesigned to protect against further damage in the winter months.

The next step was to add 5 1/2 inches of pitch to the roof to eliminate the recurrence of standing snow and water. A small problem was the accumulation of dirt in the collector system that had to be cleaned out so the panels could work at full capacity.

In 1984, the sun set on the solar heating system at the Troy-Miami County Public Library. The library board of trustees voted to abandon the solar panels in favor a of a gas boiler, according to Troy Daily News reports. The system had technical problems throughout its use. The biggest problem for the panels came in the winter months, because the glass tubes would freeze, which caused the tubes to shatter and be replaced. The high cost of the repairs was too much for the library to afford.

The first free public library in Troy was organized in 1896 by members of the Alturian Club. City council set aside a room in the city building for library use. Soon the collection grew to occupy the entire first floor of the building.

In 1942, the late Mary Jane Hayner bequeathed her home for educational use, and the library moved there in 1943. As the collection size grew and the circulation increased, the library began to outgrow the stately Hayner Mansion.

Ground breaking for a new library building began Nov. 27, 1974. Materials were moved into the new library on Feb. 14, 1976, with dedication of the building taking place on May 15. The Troy-Miami County Public Library now serves an area of 42,000 Ohio residents. In addition to books and magazines, the library provides DVDs, audiobooks and even art prints. Public computers are available with Internet access and wireless access to the Internet is available for those with laptops.

The Troy-Miami County Public Library solar panel project might have been short lived, but the city of Troy was ahead of its time once again.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Don't Get Swindled by Solar-Energy Scams This Summer

Summer is here and homeowners looking for new ways to go green may find solar energy to be a great alternative, however, Connecticut Better Business Bureau advises consumers to beware of solar energy scams.

There are many state and federal rebates that offer a reduction in the initial costs of solar products. However, consumers need to be wary of the less-than-reputable and unqualified contractors that breeze into town promising a variety of “green” services at discount prices. Homeowners should find an installer that is trustworthy, as well as knowledgeable about the benefits of solar energy.

Fraudulent contractors prey on consumers who are unfamiliar with solar energy products and systems. In 2013, consumers inquired more than 90,000 times about solar energy equipment and system dealers. Unfortunately, BBB also received 259 complaints about solar energy dealers that detailed problems with products, installation and customer service.

If you are considering investing in solar energy:

Get expert advice before making your decision - Due to the high costs associated with the initial investment of solar power, it is important to conduct an energy audit to determine if solar energy is right for you. If your monthly bill is less than $100, consider alternatives that may be less costly than solar energy. Be sure to ask about local, state, and federal laws concerning the standards and codes of the solar panels.

Inquire about tax credits - Find out the amount of tax credits you will receive for the amount of energy that is generated. Ask about the length of time you will receive tax credits and if you will be taxed on those benefits.

Settle the details - Be cautious if installers promise no out-of-pocket costs prior to reviewing your specific situation. Be wary if an installer suggests obtaining credit for the full amount of the system even though they are promising very low or no costs due to rebates. Ask what will happen if you do not save as much on your post-installation utility bills as was promised.

And finally, make sure the roof of your home is equipped to sustain a solar panel system. Even though a properly installed solar system will not damage your roof, make sure your roof is in good condition before you begin the installation to avoid any future problems.


3 Reasons Why Chinese Solar Stocks Are Still a Buy

Over the past decade and half, the Middle Kingdom has fulfilled its potential -- many Western companies from Caterpillar to Yum! Brands have made fortunes in China as Chinese GDP per capita increased six-fold.

Domestic Chinese companies haven't done bad themselves. Chinese Internet companies Tencent and Alibaba are as big as any of the West's leading Internet companies. Likewise, the Chinese solar industry has done well. Chinese solar companies now produce the lion's share of the world's solar panels.

But Chinese solar stocks such as JinkoSolar (NYSE: JKS  ) , Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL  ) , and Canadian Solar (NASDAQ: CSIQ  )  have suffered lately as the U.S. Commerce Department has levied tariffs on imported Chinese solar panels. The tariffs have caused a dip in Chinese solar share prices, which have lagged their U.S. counterparts. 

Despite the dip, here are three reasons why Chinese solar companies are still worth buying.

A huge market

China has a pollution problem. The nation depends too much on dirty coal and it is stifling the environment. As a response, the Chinese government has declared war on pollution. China's war on pollution will undoubtedly help solar. Chinese solar demand should be higher than American solar demand because China does not have the luxury of cheap unconventional natural gas.

More domestic demand should translate to more revenue and profit for Chinese solar companies. 

Innovation in China

China has the image of being a low-cost commodity producer. This image is a fair one given that China has produced many low value added products over the past decade. But like South Korea and Japan before it, China is climbing the value chain as it builds up tacit knowledge and core competencies. Like Chinese Internet companies, Chinese solar companies may one day operate along the technological frontier and add their own innovation.

If this happens, leading Chinese solar companies may see their bottom lines grow significantly.

Unofficial government winners

In the West, it is the market that decides whether a company becomes a winner. It is, specifically, the consumer who decides whether to buy a company's product and it is the investor who decides whether to invest in a company. If one or the other is lacking, a company will most likely not be a winner.

In China, the government unofficially selects the winners by granting them generous state bank credit lines. The credit lines provide the winners with cheap growth capital that other companies don't have. The credit lines are also a competitive advantage in that the Chinese government's stamp of approval allows those winners to win more business from consumers.

By buying the Chinese government's chosen winners, investors have a better chance of picking the right winners.

The bottom line

After the Chinese reserve takeover scandals of 2011, many investors are understandably skeptical of Chinese companies. Their caution is warranted. Conservative investors should not invest in Chinese solar companies at all.

But for investors with an appetite for risk, shares of Chinese solar companies do represent a great opportunity. China is a huge market with an urgent need. Solar is in the early innings and there will undoubtedly be several Chinese solar winners.

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