Easier, Cheaper Solar Panel Installation

A sure-fire way to increase investments in solar panel rooftops? Make ‘em easier to put together and cheaper to install. Many shy away from solar power because of costly labor and complicated installation, but two new products claim to put those complaints to rest.

Prefab Paneling

SOLON SOLquick arrives on site fully assembled on custom-designed shipping pallets.

Solar company Solon has rolled out a couple of photovoltaic products, including SOLfixx and patent-pending SOLquick, which the company claims arrive fully configured and can be installed solely by hand. Solon says both products are shipped directly to the designated work site and do not require staging.

SOLquick is intended for non-metal commercial roofs; SOLfixx for rooftops that can bear less weight. Both require flat roof surfaces.

Decreased Panel Weight

Solon advertises the SOLquick panels as frameless and lightweight, about 2.8 pounds per square foot. The SOLfixx is listed at 12.9 kilograms per square meter.

Once in place, SOLON’s innovative quick click U-bolt mechanically interconnects units.

The reduced weight also plays a role in easier installation — no heavy machinery is heeded to hoist and situate the solar paneling. According to Solon, the SOLquick roof can be installed in ten units per man hour, cutting the mechanical installation time by 85 percent and cutting the electrical installation time by 50 percent.

Those are some pretty huge time (and, thus, cost) savings.

Noninvasive

SOLquick is prerun with simple electrical interconnects. Electrical is connected by clicking together one unit with another.

Neither paneling system requires roof penetration in most instances. The SOLquick brochure, however, does list a caveat that roof penetration may be necessary in certain cases due to seismic activity, snow and wind loads, or due to the height of the building.Tool-free installation, lighter weight materials and snap together construction makes adding solar panels to commercial rooftops much more appealing to business owners of all stripes.

Source & Image/Caption Credits: SOLON

Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1ibMT)

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Wells Fargo’s Lofty Green Economy Goals: $30+ Billion for Renewable Energy, Community Environmental Initiatives


Photo courtesy Wells Fargo

 

Wells Fargo announced the setting of some lofty 2020 “green” goals last week, testament to financial industry players’ growing commitments to financing renewable energy, clean technology and environmental initiatives. The San Francisco banking and financial services group April 23 announced that, by 2020, it intends to make $30 billion in “green economy” loans and investments, $100 million in community grants for grassroots environmental initiatives and an increasing of the group’s own energy efficiency by 40%.

“Our commitment to the environment reflects our belief that Wells Fargo’s responsibility as a corporation goes beyond its mission of helping customers succeed financially. We also have a major role to play in promoting the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life of the communities we serve,” said Chairman, President and CEO John Stumpf. “By bringing our talents and resources to these efforts, we seek to work jointly with businesses and communities in protecting and preserving this planet and its precious resources for future generations.”

The results of its own consumer research played a big role in management formulating its green economy lending and investment and community-focused environmental initiatives. “Our research shows more than 80 percent of our consumers think environmental issues are important,” said Mary Wenzel, Wells Fargo’s director of Environmental Affairs.

“We share their values and concerns and are acting on them through a broad-based, financially powerful approach to the environmental opportunities and needs we see on the horizon. We hope to demonstrate that progress for Wells Fargo and for the communities we serve does not have to come at the expense of the planet we share.”

Wells Fargo’s “comprehensive commitment to investing in environmental solutions for stronger communities” is focused on these areas:

  • Accelerating the transition to a “greener” economy: $30 billion in loans and investments to promote a “greener economy,” including wind and solar energy, clean technologies, energy efficient buildings, environmental innovation, and environmentally responsible public financing
  • An approach to environmental and social risk management focused on responsible ways of doing business together with our business customers
  • Engage its 70 million customers through marketing and communications aimed at raising awareness about products and services that can help customers succeed financially as well as protect the environment – e.g. promotions of paperless banking services and financing for energy efficient home improvements
  • Encouraging stronger and more sustainable communities: $100 million in community grants and increased volunteerism for grassroots environmental initiatives, such as programs that bring people together to plant and care for city trees and open spaces. Grants also support “innovation” led by nonprofits and universities aimed at promoting clean technology and breaking down barriers to a “greener” economy
  • Target $1 billion for low- to moderate-income communities to prove the added value of community investments with environmental benefits
  • Reducing the environmental impact of Wells Fargo’s operations: Create a culture of sustainability by increasing team member environmental stewardship in our communities, at work and in our daily lives
  • Achieve measurable environmental performance goals by 2020: 40% increase in energy efficiency, 65% waste diversion rate, 35% reduction in absolute greenhouse gas emissions below 2008 levels, 35% of buildings will achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification,
  • Engage suppliers to enhance its environmental performance through increased accountability and transparency in its supply chain

More information is available on the Wells Fargo Environmental Forum.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1am20)

97% of Americans Overestimate Cost of Installing Solar Panels

A new study commissioned by Sunrun finds that a whopping 97% of Americans overestimate the upfront cost of installing rooftop solar panels. Meanwhile, of course, 8 out of 10 of those without solar say they would install it if cost weren’t a factor.

The study was conducted online by Harris Interactive® in February 2012. 2,211 U.S. adults participated in the study, and 1,475 of them were identified as homeowners.

“While only 3% accurately understand that installing solar can cost less than $1,000 upfront, 4 out of 10 U.S. Adults (40%) think it requires $20,000 or more in upfront costs, grossly overestimating the true cost of installing home solar,” Sunrun, the country’s largest home solar company, writes. Here are more statistics from the poll:

While people are concerned about rising utility prices, most do not realize that solar can chip off a big chunk of those costs and that solar essential means more money for them in the long run (and, if they decide to go the solar leasing option Sunrun is focused on, perhaps even immediate savings).

“The vast majority of Americans are concerned about rising home energy costs from utility companies — 95% of U.S. adults who do pay and/or are aware of their utility costs cited their rising utility rates as a concern — yet homeowners remain paralyzed by misconceptions about what it costs to install solar.”

“When it comes to money matters, ignorance is rarely blissful. When it comes to solar money myths, misinformation actually prevents U.S. homeowners from making smarter financial decisions,” said Manisha Thakor, Harvard MBA and former portfolio manager turned bestselling author and financial literacy advocate. “Solar power service has become something any homeowner should now consider as part of a modern investment portfolio, if it’s available to them. Among other benefits, it offers homeowners the unprecedented ability to plan and predict one of their largest household expenses for years to come: energy. Consumers can direct any savings from solar to other top financial priorities like paying off debt or investing in retirement.”

It seems that for this reason, and probably largely because of good marketing as well, most people going solar in California (the #1 state for solar power) are going solar via a third-party service (i.e. a solar lease or a solar PPA).

No matter how you go solar, though, I think the point of the matter very simply is that there are a variety of options available these days, and they all offer good financial returns for a large number of people, probably most people. If you’re thinking of going solar, certainly don’t assume it’s too expensive and dolook into the options available to you.

Source: Business Wire

Top 10 Solar Panel Companies in 2011

Lux Research has just released a report on the most productive solar panel (or solar module) manufacturers in 2011. The Solar Supply Tracker report notes that the top 10 solar panel manufacturers produced 12.5 GW of solar panels in 2011, 44% of the global market sector.

Japanese and South Korean solar panel companies rose in ranks in 2011, Lux Research also notes, with the two countries moving forward with strong solar power policies about as fast as any other country. “Expect to see a major rise in market share from Japanese and Korean suppliers, while European module manufacturers struggle with financial woes and reduced government incentives for solar in Europe,” Fatima Toor, the Lux Research Analyst who led the Solar Supply Tracker, added.

And, of course, crystalline silicon solar panel prices dropped considerably in 2011, benefiting companies that focus on that solar technology. “Crystalline silicon module prices continue to be at a record low with Tier 1 manufacturers selling around $0.9/W while Tier 2 and Tier 3 manufacturers sold at even lower rates to burn through their inventories and survive the current market conditions.”

But, now, the part you’re probably eager to see — here are the top 10 solar panel producers of 2011:

top solar panel companies

And, if you’re interested, here are some more details on the Solar Supply Tracker and what Lux Research includes in this analysis:

Available only from Lux Research, the Solar Supply Tracker provides a customizable platform for tracking the capacity and production of five key value chain segments in photovoltaics: polysilicon, ingot, wafer, cell and module. The cell and module segments track crystalline silicon (x-Si), thin-film silicon (TF-Si), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and organic photovoltaic (OPV) companies, while the polysilicon, ingot and wafer value chain segments are specific to x-Si. Lux Research tracks over 400 companies globally across all value chain segments.

Thoughts?

Source: Lux Research [PDF]

CERN Technology to Create Massive Solar System in Switzerland

Technology developed at CERN for use in particle accelerators has led to the creation of a specific type of solar panel that was delivered to Geneva International Airport on Friday, for what will become one of the largest solar energy systems in Switzerland.

In the end, some 300 high-temperature solar thermal panels will cover a surface of 1200 square metres on the roof of the Geneva International Airport’s main terminal building. The panels will be used to keep the buildings warm during the winter and cool during the summer.

And these panels are a direct descendant of technology that was developed for accelerating and colliding particles for science.

SRB Solar Panel - Solar field from Valencia

“We are delighted that Geneva International Airport has opted for this technology,” says Cristoforo Benvenuti, the inventor of the panels, who has been working on vacuum technology at CERN since the 1970s. “The panels emerged from vacuum technologies that were developed for fundamental physics purposes, and it is highly gratifying to see them put to use for renewable energy.”

“This new generation of solar panels is an innovative green technology that is the fruit of a partnership between CERN and industry”, explains Enrico Chesta, head of the Technology Transfer Section of CERN’s Knowledge Transfer Group.“Like medicine and information technology, energy is becoming a domain in which accelerator and detector technology is finding successful applications.”

The CERN press release describes the history of particle acceleration and collision much better than I can recreate:

Particle beams can circulate only in pipes from which the air has been removed, otherwise they would quickly be stopped. Vacuum technologies were therefore developed to meet the needs of the accelerators. For colliders, where accelerated particles are made to collide with each other, a high-grade vacuum is even more important. This is because they have beams of particles running for hours at a time, with a few particles actually colliding at any given crossing point. The world’s first proton-proton collider, the Intersecting Storage Rings (ISR), began operation at CERN in 1971, marking the start of ultra-high vacuum research at the Laboratory. At the end of the 1980s, CERN’s Large Electron–Positron collider (LEP) was setting new vacuum records, thanks to the use of 20 kilometres of getter strips, a material which attracts residual gas molecules like bugs to flypaper. But it was the marriage of thin-film coating techniques with getter technology for the LHC in the 1990s that paved the way for solar panel applications.

As a result of this technology, the ultra-high vacuum created within the panels’ heat chambers provides amazing insulation.

“We’ve had temperatures of 80°C inside the panel when the panels were covered in snow,” says Benvenuti.

Cristoforo Benvenuti proposed getter vacuum technology for LEP, and patented the technology of thin-film getter coating for CERN. CERN has made licences available to commercial companies in its Member States. In 2005, the Spanish automotive company Grupo Segura teamed up with Benvenuti to form SRB Energy. The company obtained a licence to exploit the technology, and production facilities were built near Valencia.  Its R&D activities are still based at CERN in Meyrin (Switzerland).

“The spin-off company SRB Energy is an example of how technologies developed for fundamental research can promote innovation in the Member States,” says Giovanni Anelli, head of CERN’s Knowledge Transfer Group.”CERN has recently strengthened its knowledge transfer policy with a view to optimising the positive impact of high-energy physics on everyday life.”

Image Source: CERN

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/17fBT)

High-Efficiency Solar Panels for Low-Income Houses (Nice)

SunPower, a leading manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels, and solar systems based in Silicon Valley, and GRID Alternatives, a non-profit solar installer in the Bay Area, have teamed up to put SunPower’s high-efficiency solar panel rooftop system on low-income homes in San Francisco. “Under terms of the supplier agreement, SunPower will provide GRID Alternatives with its high efficiency solar panels through a combination of donations and fair market value sales,” a recent news release stated.

However, this isn’t the first time SunPower and GRID Alternatives have teamed up. They’ve got a (in the solar industry) long relationship in this arena. “SunPower has worked with GRID Alternatives for the past six years to help hundreds of families in need, providing more than 1,000 employee volunteer hours, philanthropic gifts, equipment donations and sales. This partnership is expected to generate a combined $10 million in electricity savings for these families over the life of the systems.” That’s impressive.
“Partnering with GRID Alternatives aligns perfectly with SunPower’s commitment to building clean-powered communities around the world, and in this case, right here in our backyard.” said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO. “By providing GRID with the highest efficiency, highest-reliability solar panels commercially available today, SunPower is helping families in need to reduce their electricity costs over the life of each system, while our employees support local volunteerism.”

“We’re often trying to make solar work on modest homes with small roofs,” said GRID Alternatives Program Director and Co-Founder Tim Sears. “SunPower’s high efficiency panels can make the difference for those families being able to go solar.”

GRID Alternatives

GRID Alternatives has power with other solar panel providers, as well, over the years. “Since 2004, GRID Alternatives has installed over 1700 solar electric systems and provided hands-on solar installation training over 8000 community members statewide. These systems represent over 4.7 MW of generating capacity, which translates to over $44 million in energy cost savings over the systems’ projected life spans, while preventing 148,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.” There are many non-profits out there that are worthy of support, but this one definitely deserves a spot at the top.
In addition to the work above, GRID Alternatives manages the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program, which is part of the California Solar Initiative.

SunPower

SunPower tops the chartswhen it comes to residential solar installations in California, and it achieved the Guinness Book of World Records Award for “the most efficient commercially available photovoltaic modules on the market” last year. Its solar panels will benefit these low-income residents a ton.
Kudos to SunPower and GRID Alternatives for this great partnership and work.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/179pT)