Coal Ash

 

 

Eric Denisen

An issue I was not aware of. "Coal Ash". Yet another reason to consider alternative energy.

EPA Releases More Electric Utility Plans to Improve Safety of Coal Ash Impoundments

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing action plans developed by 20 electric utility facilities with 70 coal ash impoundments, describing the measures the facilities are taking to make their impoundments safer. The action plans are a response to EPA’s final assessment reports on the structural integrity of these impoundments that the agency made public last May. Coal ash was brought prominently to national attention in 2008 when an impoundment holding disposed coal ash waste generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority failed, creating a massive spill in Kingston, Tennessee, that released more than 5 million cubic yards of coal ash to the surrounding area and is regarded as one of the worst environmental disasters of its kind in history. Shortly afterwards, EPA began overseeing the cleanup, as well as investigating the structural integrity of impoundments where coal ash waste is stored.

“EPA is committed to making communities across the country safer places to live,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “The information we are releasing today shows that we continue to make progress in our efforts to prevent future coal ash spills.”

Since May 2009, EPA has been conducting on-site structural integrity assessments of coal ash impoundments and ponds at electric utilities. EPA provides copies of the structural integrity assessment reports to each facility and requests the facilities implement the reports’ recommendations and provide their plans for taking action. The action plans released today address recommendations from assessments of 70 impoundments at 20 facilities. Many of these facilities have already begun implementing EPA’s recommendations.  Last year, EPA completed comprehensive assessments for 60 impoundments that were considered to have a high risk of causing harm if the impoundment were to fail.

In addition to the action plans, EPA is also releasing assessment reports on the structural integrity of an additional 38 coal ash impoundments at 17 facilities across the country. Of these units, nine received a “poor” rating and none of the units received an “unsatisfactory” rating, the lowest possible EPA rating. The poor ratings were given because the units lacked some of the necessary engineering documentation required in the assessments, and not because the units are unsafe. Based on analysis from the engineers who conducted the assessments, the ratings for these units are likely to improve once the proper documentation is submitted. 

The assessment reports were completed by firms under contract to EPA that are experts in the field of dam integrity, and reflect the best professional judgment of those engineering firms. A draft of the reports has been reviewed by the facilities and the states for factual accuracy. The comments on the draft reports are posted on EPA’s website. EPA is continuing to review the reports and technical recommendations and is working with the facilities to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in a timely manner. Should facilities fail to take sufficient measures, EPA will take additional action, if circumstances warrant. EPA will continue to provide additional information to the public on the impoundments and facilities as it becomes available.

Following the TVA coal ash spill of 2008, EPA requested information from companies believed to have facilities with coal ash impoundments.  EPA has used the information provided by the companies to inform its ongoing efforts to assess the structural integrity of coal ash impoundments.  Today, EPA is releasing responses it has received from 12 additional facilities. These responses will be posted in an updated database. After inclusion of these additional facilities, there are now 240 facilities with 676 surface impoundments in EPA’s database. All these facilities have been assessed, are scheduled to be assessed, or do not have any units that qualify for assessment because they are closed, do not contain coal combustion residues (CCRs), or are below ground level.

In addition to conducting assessments to evaluate and address potential structural integrity issues of CCR impoundments, EPA is also in the process of developing the first national rules to ensure the long-term safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. The proposed regulations will not only ensure stronger oversight of the structural integrity of CCR impoundments, but will also address releases to the groundwater and air to protect people’s health and the environment. The agency is evaluating more than 450,000 public comments on the proposed rule, which was released in May 2010. The target date for release of a final rule will be determined, pending a full evaluation of all the information and comments EPA received on the proposal.

More information on the database
http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/surveys/index.htm#databaseresults


Summer Cooling Tips C/O The EPA

 

 

Eric Denisen – With summer around the corner, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program today issued its annual list of ideas to help the public cut cooling costs, protect their health and stay comfortable at home. 

WASHINGTON

 

The average home spends almost 20 percent of its utility bill on cooling.  Increased energy production to run cooling systems not only raises costs, it also can contribute to pollution that adversely affects the quality of the air we breathe.  Here are seven simple things that can be done to help protect your wallet and the environment:

 

  • Change to More Efficient Light Bulbs. Change out incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. Energy Star qualified lighting not only uses less energy, but also produces approximately 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting, so cooling bills will be reduced, too.
  • Find the Best Thermostat Settings. If you have a programmable thermostat, program it to work around your family’s summer schedule—set it a few degrees higher (such as 78 degrees) when no one is home, so your cooling system isn’t cooling an empty house.
  • Use Ceiling Fans Optimally. Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan.
  • Maximize Shade. Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun’s rays from overheating the interior of your home. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.
  • Reduce Oven Time. Use a microwave instead of an oven to cook, when you can. Ovens take longer to cook food and can make your house warmer, requiring your AC system to turn on to keep the house at a comfortable temperature.
  • Check Air Conditioner Filters. Check your cooling system’s air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. A good rule is to change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool—wasting energy. Also, remember to have your system serviced annually to ensure it’s running at optimum efficiency for money and energy savings.
  • Plug Duct System Leaks. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost due to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls, and ceilings. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.

Eric on R&D

Eric Denissen 

Greetings and Salutations.

One mans ramblings:

First I would like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season. Hopefully your are surrounding yourselves with things that are important to you, mostly family and friends. It is also a time to remember the people who are away from us during these times.

I myself was in a situation where I was away from family during the holidays but had the opportunity to join them at the last minute. While running through the airports I kept coming across young individuals in their fatigues and thought how selfish I was with my want to be around family and friends. I almost missed one plane because I was thanking each of those young people who were within arms reach.

Now I realize that the current conflict involves terrorism but whenever I see anyone in uniform I wish I could do something to minimize the amount of time these young folks are put in harms way so we can protect our dependence on foreign oil. That is one of my main motivators to push so hard in this industry.

A very heartfelt thanks goes out to each and every one of you folks.

Now, onto the gadget.

I just finished a small article on thermo leak detectors. It seems that there are more products out there these days that are marketed towards the homeowner instead of the installer. Once again I applaud the tool makers since an education homeowner is a good thing.

The product I read about is the Black and Decker TLD100. This is an infrared thermometer built for the enthusiast. At a price of $50 to $80 it is a no brainer when it comes to the tool box of any gadget person. Now you can see exactly where you are bleeding and become more energy efficient. (refer to opening discussion)

Now I don't own one of these items yet so I can't personally rate this product but "what the hey". With any luck Santa reads my blogs and I will be getting one soon. If not I know how to spend that gift card.

Till next time, Eric the gadget guy, over and out.

 

 

"Thirsty for Energy-Efficient Thursday"

 

 "TIP OF THE WEEK"

SEAL DUCT LEAKS

Seal leaky ducts with mastic, metal-backed tape or aerosol sealant.  This will reduce heat loss when your furnace is on and may last longer that duct tape.  Duct tape cannot take the heat.  Although testing has not been able to differentiate amongst other sealant products, that data shows that cloth duct tape is not a good sealant for use in ducts that operate at much above ambient temperature.  This is due to the rubber adhesive, but cannot state so difinitively.

For the most part, cloth backing and rubber adhesives go hand in hand.  Thus it is not surprising that the other sealant products have not demonstrated any of the failure modes seen in duct tapes.  Tapes with low tensile strength have done fine in testing.  Some field users dislike using such tapes because of their poor strength, but proper installation of duct systems (to meet code requirements and manufacturers specifications) require that mechanical support be provided by other means.  Duct sealants are not supposed to provide it, and are not allowed to by code.  

Clear, unreinforced, packing tape is used for factory built (i.e. UL 181) systems, and has been found to hold up well.  Similarly, there are now foil tape products commercially available with 181B-FX rating and expected to perform satisfactorily as well.  Many of the components of the UL testing address fire safety and strength issues. 

Finally, Make sure that you got good initial seals and make sure the section is clean and dry.  

Sherman, M. & Walker, I. - "Can duct tape take the heat"


 

Charles D'Angelo 

 

"Thirsty for Energy-Efficient Thursday"

Energy-Efficient "Tip of the Week"

 Keep your Fireplace Damper Closed

Keep your fireplace damper closed when not in use to prevent up to 5 percent heat loss.  When using the fireplace, turn down your thermostat and open a window near the fireplace to prevent warm air from being pulled from other areas of your house.

 

"Drink of the Week"

Gimlet

  • 2  oz. gin
  • 1  oz. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar syrup

Pour gin, lime juice and sugar over ice in a mixing glass.  Stir well and pour into a lowball glass.  Garnish with a lime wedge or hazelnuts. 

Charles D'Angelo

Greetings Energy Efficient Integrators, Charlie D here -

 It's Thursday, I’ll provide my energy savings “Tip of the Week” as well as my energy rewarding “Drink of the Week.”  

 Focusing on the energy savings "Tip of the Week" and incorporating it into your current lifestyle can save you money without sacrificing your comfort.  You can also join us in our passion by helping to share this tip and its message about energy conservation to your family, friends, and coworkers.'

 As applause for carrying out the “Tip of the Week,”   I offer ‘cheers’ to you in the form of the “Drink of the Week” - a weekly cocktail recipe given in recognition for your part to save energy.  Think of it as a conversation starter for the “Tip of the Week.”  The “Drink of the Week” also gives you the opportunity to offer cheers to whoever you wish, thereby sharing the positive benefits of energy conservation.

 You might think this sounds a bit eccentric, but we all do what we can, and maybe we can have a little fun doing it…

  Until next Thursday.......

"Stay Thirsty for Energy Efficiency"

ISSUES FACING THE PV INDUSTRY IN 2011 AND 2012

 

Chris Bolman is a senior analyst of the PV industry for Photon Consulting.  In a recent interview, he states that the largest issues facing the PV industry at this time are policy changes and capitalization.  He states that globally, a change in feed in tariffs in Spain and Germany as well as other areas will combine to reduce demand in the 2012.  Capitalization, the ability to obtain the required credit and cash, at all levels of the industry will also combine to reduce demand or at least the ability to install PV.  From a trending standpoint, Mr. Bolman indicates that a tendency of manufacturers to move into the project management side of the industry is going to be more of a trend than simply making cost reductions in the production of panels and BOS components.  Indicators seem to say that 2010 will exceed 17 gigawatts in installation and 2011 should exceed 25 gigawatts.  2012 looks to be a bit shaky though after changes in policy and the continued scarcity of capitalization.

So, what does this mean to those of us in the industry here in the U.S.?  If you are in the industry and paying attention, you already know that 2012 is going to be a bit rough.  Locally some of the incentives for consumer installations are being reduced as utility production goals are met or being used up based on a utilities yearly budget for these types of incentives.  There may be more incentives by the various utilities at the beginning of 2011 but they will be gobbled up quickly as well.  Feed-in tariffs are not something that is pushing production in this country at this time.  So the change in, or demise of, FIT’s are not going to change a lot of the economic picture in this country.  The exception would be if a Federal or State entity enacts a FIT.  Then grab some panels and find a roof.  Production would explode.  The ability to get a check from a utility at a locked in, better-than-wholesale, rate would motivate quite a few entities to make some moves.  Of course, a FIT will probably drive up retail prices for energy, which will drive up demand for installs, which will drive up prices etc…

Most companies that are doing installs at this time know that the consumers are not paying cash for their systems.  The ability to finance a PV system is pushing our market more than anyone wants to admit.  Those that have found institutions willing to lend on a PV system are keeping those contacts to themselves.  The increase in interest rates is inevitable at some point and will have an effect on driving up prices.  Again, most people who watch this kind of thing think the rates are going to start rising in late 2011 and early 2012.

So, as an enterprise, what can you do to ensure your renewable energy companies health in the coming years?  The same thing any company does to ensure their financial health. Diversify.  If you were at a craps table you would bet to give yourself the most chance of winning.  It’s the same with any industry.  Now is the time to get some people into wind and geothermal installations.  Now is the time to start exploring small standalone systems, or large commercial systems.  Get some people installing solar attic fans and solar tube lighting.  Don’t forget solar thermal.  Stay on top of the market and it’s changes and innovations.  You don’t really want to be on the leading edge of things but you do want to be a “fast-follower” if a particular product or market proves out.  The more income streams you can develop the more likely your chances of survival.  One-trick-ponies are usually unemployed once all the other ponies learn the trick.

The next thing you can do is educate the public.  An informed and aware public is the best thing for our industry at this time.  Being proactive and investing in public education at all levels creates future consumers as well as the educated public we need as we move forward.  Buy some coffee and donuts and throw an educational seminar at your local library or rotary club meeting.  Show some elementary kids how to run their PS3 and TV off of a couple of solar panels.  But do more than a magic show.  Explain insolation and a PN junction.  Show them a bit of the science and math that is being used in the technology.  Create an interest in the science itself.

In the next 10 years, the cost of energy, especially fossil fuels, is going to increase dramatically.  There is no choice in this.  Fossil fuels are a FINITE resource.  As the damage from fossil fuel use takes more of a toll on our children and our environment, the use of renewable energy WILL increase as conventional energy costs rise.

There are those of us that don’t believe that we will ever see a day without combustible engines on the road.  Then there are those of us that know that that day is much closer than everyone thinks.

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/video/player?bcpid=106573683001&bctid=635650496001 

OLD SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY?!?

 

Old School Technology

One of the more stressful parts of installing most solar arrays is working above ground.  There is an edge that allows for no mistakes and trip hazards are everywhere.  Once you are tied-off, you know in your head you are not going to hit the ground but there will still be a price for tripping and dropping that $800 panel you are carrying.  Even the rope that is keeping you safe is a hazard.

Asphalt shingles are like working on coarse grain sandpaper.  The shingles themselves have a tendency to shed sand grains and then, like a road, the sand builds up in low spots and becomes a slip hazard. So it very important to keep your feet under you.  The shingles heat up in the warm weather and tear easily. You need the right shoes.

But what shoes are those?  What can actually keep you from plummeting into the wild blue from the roof?  Truth is caution and paying attention are the best preventatives.  However, from a footwear standpoint, informal surveys seem to indicate that the Cougar Paws brand of roofing boot holds the best.  The soles are replaceable and composed of a soft compound that wears away after three or four roofs.   The soles are reasonable and replacement appears easy.  From an expense standpoint these boots make sense at the approximately $140 price tag.  However, there is another option that is a close second based on discussions with people that work on roofs for a living. Are you ready?  Converse Allstars.

No kidding, Converse Allstars are the recommended shoe.  I have worn my $150 running shoes on the roof and slipped around like I was on ice.  I have worn Merrel walking shoes and hiking boots on the roof.  The shoes slipped and the boots tend to tear shingles when things get even slightly warm.  Though the support from the stiff sole of the boots was a welcome relief to tired feet and tendons at times.  So, I tried the $45 Allstars.  I have spent a week on a roof and haven’t slipped once.  It’s not really the traction pattern but the material the soles are made of themselves in my opinion.  I would highly suggest a pair of these when engaging in this type of work on asphalt shingles.

Down side?  The technology hasn’t been upgraded since the 70’s.  There is no padding on the insole or the tongue of the shoe and of course, canvas tears.  I don’t expect the shoes to last long and at the end of the day your dogs will definitely be barking.  But, you will have a good grip on the roof you are moving around on.  You will have more confidence in your shoe grip and less of a tendency to worry about the edge.  They will allow you to work faster and better as you gain confidence in your footing.

So, in theory, if shoes that are refugees from a 1970’s basketball team work well for installations then what other shoes that might be a bit more comfortable, would work?  After doing a bit of research, it occurs to me that the technology going into “skater” (skateboarding) shoes may be a possibility. 

The skate shoes have a flat sole, which is great for contact on a roof.  They have small tread patterns that are built for gripping the friction tape on a skateboard.  There are a lot of similarities between friction tape and an asphalt shingle.  They have a lot more padding on the tongue and sole and the composition of the sole seems similar to the Allstars.  I haven’t tried them, but when it’s time to buy again I might give them a shot.

Let me know what you think.

 

"Thirsty for Energy-Efficient Thursday"

Energy-Efficient "Tip of the Week"

Buy some of the Energy Star products and use some of the FEDERAL TAX CREDITS to save $$$ before the end of the year.

Listed below are some of the Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency:

1.  Tax Credit:  30% of cost up to $1,500 (must be an existing home & principal residence)

  • Biomass Stoves
  • Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Insulation
  • Roofs (Metal & Asphalt)
  • Water Heaters (non-solar)
  • Windows & Doors

2.  Tax Credit:  30% of cost with no upper limit (existing & new construction, principal & second residence)

  • Geothermal Heat Pumps
  • Small Wind Turbines (Residential)
  • Solar Energy Systems

3.  Tax Credit:  30% of the cost, up to $500 per .5kW of power capacity (existing & new construction - primary residence)

  • Fuel Cells (Residential Fuel Cell and Microturbine System)

 

How do I apply?

  • 2010 IRS Tax Form - 5695 (line 52) residential energy tax credit
  • Save your receipts and the Manufacturer's Certification Statement

Further questions??

 

"Drink of the Week"

Blue Monday Martini

  • 2 3/4 oz. vodka or gin
  •    1/2 oz. blue curacao

Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass.  Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon or orange twist.

 

Charles D'Angelo

Greetings Energy Efficient Integrators, Charlie D here -

 It's Thursday, I’ll provide my energy savings “Tip of the Week” as well as my energy rewarding “Drink of the Week.”  

 Focusing on the energy savings "Tip of the Week" and incorporating it into your current lifestyle can save you money without sacrificing your comfort.  You can also join us in our passion by helping to share this tip and its message about energy conservation to your family, friends, and coworkers.'

 As applause for carrying out the “Tip of the Week,”   I offer ‘cheers’ to you in the form of the “Drink of the Week” - a weekly cocktail recipe given in recognition for your part to save energy.  Think of it as a conversation starter for the “Tip of the Week.”  The “Drink of the Week” also gives you the opportunity to offer cheers to whoever you wish, thereby sharing the positive benefits of energy conservation.

 You might think this sounds a bit eccentric, but we all do what we can, and maybe we can have a little fun doing it…

  Until next Thursday.......

"Stay Thirsty for Energy Efficiency"

Eric on R & D

Eric Denissen 

Greeting and Salutations:

This week I will be looking at a product I have absolutely no experience with but thought the idea was interesting. I noticed an advertisement and decided it peaked my interest so I bit. After a little investigation I thought it may be worth mentioning.

This is a solar thermo kit built by Butler Sun Solutions. It is yet another step toward simplicity. Now you can use your existing hot water heater as a storage tank for your solar thermo system.

First is the "wand" which installs in the hot water outlet nipple on your current hot water tank. All the required equipment is supplied to install the mechanical room end of your solar thermo system. It also self pressurizes and primes itself for added simplicity.

Now to the roof. Housed on the roof is a self contained expansion and air bleeding system and pv panel to run the circulating pump. It is ready to connect to the flat plate or evacuated tube collector of your choice.

Now I wouldn't go as far as saying this is a DIY system but I get excited each time I see a company trying to improve on a current product or process. I also can't attest to the efficiency of their "wand" component but what the heck. Let's see more of this kind of thinking.

Till next week, Eric The Gadget Guy, signing out.

Making the Case - Solar Cheaper

According to the American Solar Energy Association, in 2010 the levelized cost to produce one Kilowatt-Hour of electricity in a nuclear power plant rose about $0.23 U.S. At the same time, the levelized cost to produce the same power from a residential solar photovoltaic array in North Carolina fell below $0.16.
Read More

"Thirsty for Energy-Efficient Thursday"

Energy-Efficient "Tip of the Week"

Replace your water heater and save between $214 - $356 per year (CO2 Savings: 4,983 lbs.)

Water heating is typically the third largest energy expense in your home.  It can account for up to 20% of your utility bill.  Replacing your water heater might be a cost-effective option, but you should first consider the other water heater ways to save.

Heat Pumps:  These highly efficient systems operate by transferring heat from the surrounding air to the water.  Heat pump water heaters were very popular when they were first introduced about 15 years ago, but became less so because of design problems with the early models.  The greatest drawback is their high initial cost, but the savings over the electric tank system often justify this expense.

Conventional Tank Systems:  Efficiency gains in electric tank systems are due mostly to improved insulation built into the tank.  By adding an insulation blanket, you can often increase the efficiency of your older tank to levels matching that of many new tanks.  However, the most efficient models on the market today can provide even greater efficiency than an insulated older tank.

Switching Fuels:  If you are considering a switch, keep in mind that oil water heaters are generally more expensive than gas, typically making gas more appealing if it's available in your area.  The costs shown for switching fuels will include $1,500 to bring gas service to your house or $1,000 for an oil tank if the system cannot determine that you already have these fuels.  These are only estimates; actual costs can vary significantly.  Check your local gas or oil service providers for more information. (Xcel Energy, Responsible by Nature)

My Opinion:  Switch to a GE "GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater w/Heat Pump" ($2,000)

  • Energy Factor Rating (EF) of 2.35 - in hybrid mode
  • compared to a standard electric water heater - .88 EF
  • Uses less than half the energy compared to conventional 50-gallon tank water heater
  • Operates at 550 watts in eHeat mode vs. 4,500 watts in standard electric mode
  • Reduce water heating operating costs by approximately 62%
  • If 25% of the U.S. households purchasing a new electric water heater in a given year where to choose GE's hybrid water heater over the standard 50-gallon electric water heater more than 4 billion lbs. of CO2 emissions for the U.S. grid could be avoided annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 360,000 cars on the U.S. roads.

 

"Drink of the Week"

Stinger

  • 1 oz. brandy
  • 1/2 oz. white creme de menthe

Shake with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass.  (Instead of brandy, substitute amaretto for an Amaretto Stinger.  Vodka for a Vodka Stinger. and bourbon for a Dixie Stinger.)

 

Charles D'Angelo

Greetings Energy Efficient Integrators, Charlie D here -

 It's Thursday, I’ll provide my energy savings “Tip of the Week” as well as my energy rewarding “Drink of the Week.”  

 Focusing on the energy savings "Tip of the Week" and incorporating it into your current lifestyle can save you money without sacrificing your comfort.  You can also join us in our passion by helping to share this tip and its message about energy conservation to your family, friends, and coworkers.'

 As applause for carrying out the “Tip of the Week,”   I offer ‘cheers’ to you in the form of the “Drink of the Week” - a weekly cocktail recipe given in recognition for your part to save energy.  Think of it as a conversation starter for the “Tip of the Week.”  The “Drink of the Week” also gives you the opportunity to offer cheers to whoever you wish, thereby sharing the positive benefits of energy conservation.

 You might think this sounds a bit eccentric, but we all do what we can, and maybe we can have a little fun doing it…

  Until next Thursday.......

"Stay Thirsty for Energy Efficiency"

Eric on R & D

Eric Denissen

Greetings and Salutations:

This week I will be discussing the new Maximum Power Point Technology devices built for individual modules. MPPT is a technology that allows the PV system to work at its best given the current conditions of the string. Since this is the responsibility of the inverter the MPPT is only controlled on the string, not on each individual panel. With that said, if one panel were to be shaded, or not as productive because of orientation or because of manufacturing the entire string would then operate at that level. Now diodes in the panels themselves help with some of these situations but there is still room for improvement.

On come the distributed MPPT devices that connect to each solar panel. Now the MPPT is being dealt with at each panel instead of the string. If one panel were to be shaded the MPPT device would allow all other panels in the string to operate at greater efficiency and the effected panel would contribute what it could to the string.  

Another perk of the device is the ability to monitor each panel for performance. This would be akin to the Enphase micro inverter software. Now you can monitor each panel instead of just monitoring the string.

This all sounds great but what about return on investment? These devices are not cheap and will need to be installed. On my system I would have to disassemble quite a bit of the array to install them. Labor costs could become a little steep.

My opinion, which is the same as some propaganda I’ve read, is that unless you have some shading issues that need to be addressed or if you like the idea of monitoring each panel individually, this may not be a product for you. None the less these are still cool little devices to enhance your solar system.

Till next week, Eric The Gadget Guy signing off.

Do "McSolar Systems" Help Or Hurt The Industry?

Jason Mighell

I guess I should explain.  Twice previously, the solar industry has been “in vogue”.  Once during the Carter administration and once during the Clinton administration.  We are now on our third round, or is it strike.

In the past booms, everyone with a pickup was throwing black panels up on a roof.  The end effects were systems that did not operate as advertised and companies that weren’t around the next week to repair them.  Now business models are dictating the same sort of “one call does it all” sort of mentality.  I have spoken to people that were told over the phone what size of system they needed and were quoted a price during the same call.  The thought of this sort of impersonal service makes my skin crawl.  When a client is laying down enough cash to buy an SUV, I think they deserve better service or at least a better contact experience.  Don’t they?

Well let’s make a couple of assumptions.  First, there are those for whom this experience is exactly what they want.  Second, even if the interaction is impersonal, the installation does reduce fossil fuel use and reduce carbon footprints.  Third, they are making Solar acceptable in this country.  McDonalds paved the way for this business model for other outlets and the success of the model is indisputable.  Fourth, with the advertising campaign they are waging, on conservative radio no less, they are getting the word out and helping to “mainstream” this industry more than at any time in the past.

On the downside, I can’t testify that they are really giving every client the service and options they need for their special location.  I can’t think that the client really gets a system specifically designed for their needs.  This could end up with too much or too little “McSystem”.

I guess the biggest fear I have is that these “McSystems” will also be the end of the third renewable energy shift.  In my opinion only, the buying power contained by these larger companies will continue to reduce the installed watt cost of a system.  This will effectively cut the competitive throat of the remaining companies leaving boutique installers only.  Systems are already being installed at $5.45 per watt as opposed to the $6.50 per watt installations of a year ago.    So the question is; is an industry monopoly good or bad?   Will it force panel manufacturers and installers out of business in the U.S. much as the Japanese car companies put the squeeze on American car manufacturers?

Right now Chinese panels have a poor reputation in the industry for consistency, but they are significantly cheaper.  Will the “McProfit Margin” dictate the use of inferior panels soon?  It seems to have done so in the hamburger industry.  You go to the fast food chains and expect something that only marginally passes for food, but it is food. (sort of) Will we looking at “McSystems” in the future that only marginally pass as solar energy producers?  Will a solar repair company start making more money in the future when sub-par panels start failing?  I don’t have a good answer for these questions but I am a bit worried.

In the end, the environmental help “they” provide is required and “they” are a champion of that if nothing else.  The system of competition in the U.S. is proving out in their business plan and execution.  There will always be room for the boutiques in any industry. And finally, eventually I would expect that the big chains would purchase their own panel manufacturers to further reduce the costs.  This is just business in the U.S.  Lets just hope we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot like we did with housing.

I would be interested in your opinion.

 

Eric the Gadget Guy

Eric Denissen

Greetings and Salutations:

Here is a step in the right direction. Oelidon Solar, based out of Valencia Spain, has reported that they have launched a new production line called "Thin Fab". This production process will allow the company to manufacture thin film solar modules at a record setting price of .50 Euro per peak watt or $.60 US if my math is right. This product also boasts a 10% effecenciy rating. Now remember that is production cost and it is yet to be seen what the market price will be. Oelidon did comment that there goal was a 1 year pay back period on this product.

Another milestone Oelidon has achieved, with the cooperation of Corning, is a thin film cell called "MicroMorph". The efficiency rating of this cell is at a record setting 11.9%. Oelidon failed to comment on the production costs of the MicroMorph.

I have many ideas about application of such technology and we don't even need to mention the environmentally friendly production methods associated with thin film products. This is exciting stuff people.

Till next week, Eric The Gadget Guy, signing out.

 

"Thirsty for Energy-Efficient Thursday"

Energy-Efficient "Tip of the Week"

ELIMINATE GLARE: Any brightness or strong light from a window that annoys, distracts,   or reduces visibility.

(Wasted)

  • Illumination levels too high
  • Lamp size & type are not optimized for their use
  • Lights remain on too long because of careless or inadequate control
  • Lighting systems dirty

(Savings)

  • Lowering wattage by replacing lamps or replacing entire fixtures
  • Reducing the light's sources on-time by improving lighting controls and turn off unneeded lights
  • Replace electric lights with natural lights (daylighting)
  • Allowing lower initial illumination levels & preserving illumination and light quality by simple light maintenance

(Changes)

  • Redesign visual tasks and use light filtering shades
  • Reduce light levels when there are no visual tasks
  • Provide minimal light necessary for safety and security
  • Paint/decorate using light colors
  • Establish ambient lighting at minimal acceptable levels
  • Provide task lighting at an optimal level (sewing requires more light than cooking)
  • Increase the efficiency of lamps
  • Use lighting controls/dimmers

 

"Drink of the Week"

Margarita

  • 1 1/2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. triple sec or orange liqueur
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. lime juice

In a cocktail shaker, shake the ingredients with ice until frothy and strain into the prepared glass.  Garnish with a slice of lime.  Prepared glass: Pour coarse (kosher) salt into a shallow saucer.  Rub the rim of the margarita glass with lime juice and then dip the rim into the salt.

 

Charles D'Angelo

Greetings Energy Efficient Integrators, Charlie D here -

 It's Thursday, I’ll provide my energy savings “Tip of the Week” as well as my energy rewarding “Drink of the Week.”  

 Focusing on the energy savings "Tip of the Week" and incorporating it into your current lifestyle can save you money without sacrificing your comfort.  You can also join us in our passion by helping to share this tip and its message about energy conservation to your family, friends, and coworkers.'

 As applause for carrying out the “Tip of the Week,”   I offer ‘cheers’ to you in the form of the “Drink of the Week” - a weekly cocktail recipe given in recognition for your part to save energy.  Think of it as a conversation starter for the “Tip of the Week.”  The “Drink of the Week” also gives you the opportunity to offer cheers to whoever you wish, thereby sharing the positive benefits of energy conservation.

 You might think this sounds a bit eccentric, but we all do what we can, and maybe we can have a little fun doing it…

  Until next Thursday.......

"Stay Thirsty for Energy Efficiency"

"Thirsty for Energy-Efficient Thursday"

Energy-Efficient "Tip of the Week"

The Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program typically saves 10-30% of total household energy consumption.  80% of homes are oversized for heating and cooling.  

The United States of America, which is 5% of the world population, consumes 25% of the world's energy supplies.  95% of US energy consumption is consumed in homes.

Residential energy conservation programs use four main strategies to achieve energy savings in residential buildings:

  1. Making thermal improvements to building shells.
  2. Replacing older heating systems, cooling systems, lighting, and other energy-using devices with new and efficient equipment.
  3. Repairing or adjusting existing energy-using equipment.
  4. Educating building occupants about energy-efficient practices.

 

"Drink of the Week"

Sidecar

  • 1 1/2 oz. brandy
  • 3/4 oz. orange liqueur
  • 3/4 oz. sweet and sour

Shake ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker.  Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon.

 

Charles D'Angelo

Greetings Energy Efficient Integrators, Charlie D here -

 It's Thursday, I’ll provide my energy savings “Tip of the Week” as well as my energy rewarding “Drink of the Week.”  

 Focusing on the energy savings "Tip of the Week" and incorporating it into your current lifestyle can save you money without sacrificing your comfort.  You can also join us in our passion by helping to share this tip and its message about energy conservation to your family, friends, and coworkers.'

 As applause for carrying out the “Tip of the Week,”   I offer ‘cheers’ to you in the form of the “Drink of the Week” - a weekly cocktail recipe given in recognition for your part to save energy.  Think of it as a conversation starter for the “Tip of the Week.”  The “Drink of the Week” also gives you the opportunity to offer cheers to whoever you wish, thereby sharing the positive benefits of energy conservation.

 You might think this sounds a bit eccentric, but we all do what we can, and maybe we can have a little fun doing it…

  Until next Thursday.......

"Stay Thirsty for Energy Efficiency"