Solar Panel History Part 2

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

The second section of Solar Panel History brings us from about 75 years ago to today! Jumping to the 1950s, Silicon solar cells began to be produced commercially for the first time after the Bell Laboratories discovered that semiconducting materials like silicon were more efficient at conducting electricity from solar energy than selenium, which had  been used since the 1870s. D.M. Chapin, C.S. Fuller, and G.L Pearson were behind this. Solar efficiency jumped to 6 percent, a huge leap for that age, though still in practice for most people to purchase due to their high manufacturing cost. The first building the integrated solar panels into the rooftop to generate energy for its use was “Solar One” in 1973.

Figure 1″Solar Converting Apparatus”, February 5, 1957 (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/sponsored/brief-history-solar-panels-180972006/)

Around this time the energy crisis in the US began to emerge, and the US government began funding more heavily into renewable energy. Congress passed the Solar Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 1974 to “to make solar viable and affordable and market it to the public.” After people saw Solar One, they became inspired to get solar energy onto their rooftops too and produce it for their home. Though there was a short drop in solar sales due to a declining energy market in the 1980s, overall during the next decades, the federal government became more involved with solar energy research and development. It began creating grants and tax incentives for to help Americans afford to go solar. In 2006, the Solar Investment Tax Credit helped solar become even more affordable, making installation costs falling 70 percent in the last decade. Solar growth had been increasing at a rate of 50 percent in the last decade, the largest increase ever.

Figure 2″Photovoltaic Roof Tile” patented June 26, 2018, by SolarCity Corporation (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/sponsored/brief-history-solar-panels-180972006/)

Over time solar energy is becoming more common on the energy marketplace and more affordable. Another major change that we see today in panel design has to do with aesthetics and smaller improvements in efficiency and cost. To increase purchases of solar panels for more Americans, panel aesthetics have been improving, making them less noticeable from afar and more “sleek”. For example, through the construction of building-applied photovoltaic, a type of discrete solar cell integrated into existing roof tiles or ceramic and glass sides of buildings. Influential companies like Guardian Industries Corporation, United Solar Systems, and Tesla have been integrating solar panels into their equipment that are both efficient and aesthetically pleasing. More Americans are getting solar today, which is why we are here to help you with the entire installation process from beginning to end, and be there to help post-installation. It is true that solar energy has come a long way in the past 181 years.

 

 

Solar Panel History Part 1

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

It is fun to find snippets of history that changed the course of solar panel development. The first part of solar panel history takes us from 181 to about 100 years ago. The first discovery of the photovoltaic effect was made in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel in France. August Mouchet, an inspired mathematician, began registering patents for solar-powered engines in the 1860s. This is during the industrial revolution, when many other useful inventions were being created around the world.

Figure 1 First solar panels invented by Charles Fitts on a New York City rooftop in 1884 (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/sponsored/brief-history-solar-panels-180972006/)

In 1883 a New York inventor Charles Fritts created the first solar cell that had an efficiency rate of 1 to 2 percent, less than a tenth of the efficiency of solar panels today. However, this was a start. US patents for solar began being registered as early as 1888 in the by Edward Weston.  Weston noticed that the heat given off from the sun’s energy (we know the sun is hot when we sweat in the sunshine) could be used to release elections from a thermopile, or bars of dissimilar metals. These electrons, being released, created a flow, which is electricity. This is the reverse process of the way that light bulbs work, which generate light from heat that is first created by electricity. More discoveries about how the photovoltaic effect works were made around the world during the late 19th century. Mounting them in a way so that the panels could follow the sun was a product of the American inventor Melvin Severy in 1889. This reduced the need for human to move panels throughout the day to follow the sun.

Figure 2 A drawing from Melvin L. Severry’s: “Apparatus for Mounting and Operating Thermopiles”,  October 9, 1894 (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/sponsored/brief-history-solar-panels-180972006/)

In the 1890s, Harry Reagan, another American inventor, created the first patent for thermal batteries, which store and release thermal energy from solar panels that was not being used immediately. These batteries however stored heat, not electricity. In 1913, William Coblentz from Washington D.C., introduced the “thermal generator”, which converted electrical energy into mechanical energy.  His invention was cheaper and stronger than those proceeding his, making them more accessible for others to purchase and improve upon. You can find more detail on this topic at the Smithsonian Magazine (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/), and other historical references articles.

 

 

Green News August 2020

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

Burning natural gas is a relatively clean fossil fuel compared with burning coal. Natural gas only produces about 117 lbs of carbon dioxide per million MMBtu of natural gas compared with 200 lbs of carbon per million British Thermal Units (MMBtu) of coal and 160 lbs of MMBtu of distillate fossil oil. Because one pound of carbon occupies 0.2426 m3, it would fill a cube about 2 feet high. So, for every MMBtu natural gas saves as much carbon as would fit into a cube 116 feet or 38.7 yards high.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over 100 coal-fired plants have been replaced or converted to natural gas between 2011-2019. Harsher emission standards, low natural gas prices, and more efficient natural gas turbine technology have incentivized plants to make the switch. By the end of 2010,316.8 GW of coal-fired capacity existed in the US, and by 2019 49.2 GW was retired, 14.3 GW had been converted to natural gas through changing how the boiler works, and 15.3 GW was replaced with natural gas combined. Candidates for this transition are mostly around the eastern half of the country, where they are smaller and mostly over 50 years old. Of the oldest plants, 86 of 104 have been converted to burn natural gas, representing 14.4 GW of capacity. Between 2015 and 2016, 10 generators located in four coal plants in Alabama had been converted to burn natural gas to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) from by the US Environmental Protection Agency. More change to natural gas is expected to happen in more plants over time, especially in the Midwest and Southeast. As of August 2020, eight planned NGCC projects exist and five are currently under construction.

 

Community Solar Projects in Massachusetts

 

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

Community solar is when a local solar facility is shared by multiple people who all receive credit for the power produced and is becoming increasingly common. This can be a good option for people who cannot install solar directly on their property. Many people live in establishments that are owned by someone else, like landlord, and do not have authority over if they go solar or not. Other people do not have adequate rooftop or ground space for solar, as it takes up a large surface area. People who benefit from community solar projects can still contribute to the system and gain energy returns regard less of the physical attributes of their property or lifestyle.

Community solar has been becoming increasingly popular around the country over the past few years. With only 26.67 MWdc installed capacity in 2011, there was 218.42 in 2016, 586.26 in 2017, and 609.45 in 2019. Though the virus does seem to be negatively affecting growth, community solar is over the longer-term still contributing more over time.

It is helpful for homeowners who want to participate in community solar to talk directly with others who might contribute to the same operation about how everyone could benefit. It is also helpful to understand your home’s electricity usage and options available to you. Other factors like personal preference, location, and pricing might play a role in your decision. Sometimes, simple rooftop or ground solar on your property is the best option for you and your household.

Each state has their own legislation that sets guidelines for installing community solar. According to the NREL Data Catalog (https://data.nrel.gov/submissions/95) there are 56 community solar projects just in Worcester county alone, where Second Generation Energy operates.  Grafton has the largest community solar project at 3700 kW. Unfortunately, Rhode Island does not have any projects listed online yet. Check out a local community solar site near you and talk to others about how solar is benefiting them! Here is a map of all community solar projects in Massachusetts according to the information from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Data Catalog from their federally funded research. Speak with a solar installation company for help on this. Second Generation Energy services Massachusetts and Rhode Island properties, and would be happy to assist you.

 

Changing Energy Economy

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

As the demand for solar and other types of clean energy jobs increases all over the country, blue-collar jobs in the field are booming. Forbes magazine states that over time it will become less expensive to build new renewable energy than run existing coal plants without. The construction and operation of new renewable energy plants that replace coal is the newest progressive transition in the energy economy today. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the two fastest growing in 2026 will be solar installer and wind technician.  The increase in green jobs is happening in both red and blue states. The American Wind  and Energy Association posted a map (https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960×0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fenergyinnovation%2Ffiles%2F2019%2F04%2FCongressional-District-wind-industry-footprint-1200×932.jpg) of congressional districts with online wind projects and wind-related manufacturing facilities.

Coal jobs however are in a general decline from 86,000 in 2009 to 52,000 in 2018 (with small 2,000 increase due to President Trump’s efforts between 2017-2018). This changing market economy has led to dozens of coal plant closures in 2017, with a 4% drop in coal consumption in 2018 and 8.4% drop in consumption in 2019. Many areas int he US see a general decline in cost of renewable energy, though in some areas the cost of it might not yet be below coal. VCE Energy Innovation produced a map (https://blogs-images.forbes.com/energyinnovation/files/2019/04/Coal-MCOE.gif?) forecasting this disparity visually for wind and solar systems. It shows that these systems may be cheaper than coal energy more-so in the eastern half of the country and in south-western states, with some difference in the center of the nation as well. This may be due to more sunlight exposure and wind energy capacity in these areas. In places with still a higher forecasted cost of renewable energy than coal we know coal is a major industry, like near the Mexican Gulf and in the north-west. This map is not necessarily complete and still misses detail, but it could indicate further geographical disparities in production of wind and solar energy by 2025.

According to Brookings Institution research, clean energy jobs are commonly available to people without college degrees, like 45% of all workers in the clean energy production industry doing electrical work, installation, repair, and plant powering. The institute took Occupational Employment Statistics data in 2016 to show that the mean hourly wage in the clean energy jobs market in higher than the national average mean hourly income by about 8%-19%.

We are excited to anticipate more people going solar to reduce their carbon footprint and save money! Request quote or send a referral today to Second Generation Energy and get started on adding solar panels to your home or business. We will help you achieve your specific goals every step of the way and are happy to help.

 

U.S Solar Statistics

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

The US Energy Administration is enthusiastic about solar, claiming it is one of the fast-growing renewable energy market sectors today, alongside wind energy. Private and public entities benefit economically from participating in the solar market, residents and business owners save money by reducing their need for utility electric costs and storing extra electricity, and solar panels use a free, non-polluting form of energy that comes from the sun, cutting need for  fossil fuels and improving the environment.

The U.S Energy Information Administration’s website has a data page showing data on the monthly solar Energy consumption across the country. Plotted on a logarithmic scale which shows the rate of growth in every sector well, it explains that the Distributed solar energy for residential, commercial, and industrial has been rising at similar rates throughout the past 20 years or so. There is solar consumption in the utility power sector that keeps rising as well! These are large-scale projects that help produce heat for thermal power plants. These systems are Concentrated Solar Power systems, which use mirrors, lenses, and solar tracking systems that concentrate slight energy into small beams. The focused light is converted to heat to drive a heat engine and produce power. Most residential systems are Photovoltaic systems, of PV systems, which generate electricity directly from converting sunlight into a flowing circuit.

The US Energy Information Administration states that two main benefits of solar energy are the system does not produce pollutants like carbon dioxide, and over all the systems have minimal effect on the environment. There are also federal tax incentives that they state online where an owner of a solar power system can reduce their income tax fees after  you both ensure you are eligible for the reduction and fill out an IRS form 5695.

Join the movement and help the US reach its renewable energy targets! Go solar today!

Rhode Island Solar Growth Incentives

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

Second Generation Energy installs solar panels in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. If you live in Rhode Island, you have special solar incentives to go solar that a resident or commercial property manager can negotiate during the installation process. The Renewable Energy Fund (REF) Commercial Development Program offers a cash grant for homeowners and businesses that install renewable energy systems depending on the size of the system being installed. These grants can cover up to 30% of the installation costs. There are applications for commercial and residential projects on the Rhode Island Commerce website.

Net-metering is a regulatory policy for systems above MW in size that allows electricity users to gain credit for delivering extra electricity to the utility. Net-metering systems must be sized to meet the need of on-site loads, based on the three-year average of electricity consumption of the company.  Virtual Net-Metering allows eligible customers to connect to an electric load that is not located on their property.  Customers are eligible to up to 10 MW per project site. Customers of this program include state agencies, municipalities, public housing authorities, schools, non-profits, and more.

There are also incentives in Rhode Island for solar panels installations that are located on Brownfields sites, or sites in previously contaminated and in the process of remediation. In March 2019, the state designated $1 million for eligible sites. This funding comes from the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Indeed, the state has been listening to concerned citizens and environmental advocates about encouraging more solar energy in the state.

Rhode Island offers the offers the Renewable Energy Growth program (REG), one of the most well-known solar incentive programs. It offers a fixed dollar-per-kilowatt hour payments for the energy you produce over a 20-year term. The owner of the system has agency in how the money is collected. The program is competitive however, though your solar installation company can help you through the process.  REG solar systems do need to be installed within certain parameters to receive the correct amount of credits, so the solar installer will know how to properly set that up. Customers who would like to install more solar panels in addition to their preexisting panels can be enrolled in multiple credit programs.  You can also use a meter that is set up on a site located away from the site that has the panels if that would be the best option. For example, for roadside-mountain meters instead of building-side mounted meters.

The Rhode Island Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) is a financing program for owners of commercial and industrial buildings for improvements on energy efficiency. It is designed to be self-sustaining, including applicants that cover the cost of sustaining the program, while administering development of energy technology that saved applicants money in turn. Applicants can work with many capital providers at competitive rates and repayment terms that are generally around 25 years, consistent with the lifeline of the improvements they make, like adding solar. The financing is assessed through municipal taxes and paid over the entire financing term. These owners will modernize their structures, bringing them into the 21st century. They will lower their long-term operational costs, increase building value, and most enjoy a positive cash utility flow! The C-PACE Program also creates more green jobs and advanced public policy to encourage more “green” infrastructure, reducing greenhouse gas use. One can also get involved with the C-PACE program from Massachusetts! Just speak with your local solar installation company search “C-PACE Program” in your area, and start making your company greener!

Solar Star

Solar Star farm in Kern County, California.

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

Sometimes solar panels can be truly awe-inspiring. In addition to community solar there are many enormous solar fields around the world, including Solar Star, America’s largest solar farm and the world’s largest when it was created in 2015. Solar Star spans over 13 kilometres squared, about four times the size of central park. It produces 579 megawatts of energy, and powers over 250,000 homes, and you can see it from hundreds of miles above the ground!

Located in Kern and Los Angeles counties in California, it was built on “disturbed” land, meaning land that was already altered by people and not in its natural state. These panels get cleaned in a way that uses minimal water, and automatically follow the sun’s motion across the sky, which makes them more efficient. According to Solstice, these panels impact the environment as if they took 108,000 cars off the road every year! Additionally, the project was reported to have created 650 jobs over three years, and 40 maintenance jobs through its lifetime. The panels are also a source of pride and leadership for the US renewable sector.

Mega-scale solar farms are becoming more common around the world. Since 2015, solar plants in Mexico, China, and India are all projected to reach a range of 1,000-2,000 megawatts soon. The UAE even plans on building a plant with 5,000 watts by 2030. Back in the US, there are other large fields too, like the Desert Sunlight and Topaz farms producing 550 megawatts each, but they take up more space. Solar energy is becoming more affordable for the average American to place on their properties and commercial buildings every year too. More efficient benefits of distributed energy generation and more resistance to outages for small-scale projects should keep getting better, making more numerous small-scale projects across our communities It brings more affordable energy to people across the country and thus helps us life more cheaply.

Still, we will keep our eyes out for updates on the production of these mega farms in the US and around the world. The solar industry creates many jobs for people for farms of all sizes and contributes to maintaining a clean planet and reduction in carbon emissions. The solar industry is growing exponentially, with an almost 200% increase between 2016 and 2017, and 2,056 megawatts of community solar has been installed in the US through 2019! It brings better energy to people across the country, including in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, which Second Generation Energy serves.

 

Photovoltaic solar systems

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

Solar power converts energy from sunlight using either photovoltaics (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP), or a combination. PV systems have cells that convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect. They are the most widely used and well-known systems. PV systems are easy for residents to use on their properties. They can be mounted on the roof or as a ground mount. You can install a PV system that is either fixed in place or that uses a solar tracker to follow the sun across the sky.

Second Generation Energy installs and designs commercial and residential PV systems.  We believe that renewable energy combined with conservation measures will have the greatest impact on solving our energy problems. Looking to go solar? Give us a call, email, or stop by for a visit today!

Solar Energy Storage

Solar Energy Batteries

More people are deciding to go solar every year. Going solar will reduce or eliminate your electric bill, earn a good return for your investment, increase your property value, protect against rising energy costs, and protect the environment by cutting your consumption of non-renewable energy.

SGE can provide Battery Back-up and Hybrid Solar to help you store energy and maintain a constant flow of electricity even when the power goes out!

Technologies “store” energy when they capture electricity, keep it as another form of energy, and then release it as needed. Energy storage is a critical component to solar power use. Usually we use the most energy during the summer months in the afternoons and evenings, when solar energy generation begins to fall for the day. There are plenty of times when we use appliances and other electricity and thermal heat during cloudy days and at night when little energy is being generated. Therefore, we need backup power to provide us with a reliable energy source. Energy can be stored at different “energy” and “power” capacities, referring to the amount of energy that can be stored (in kilowatt-hours or megawatt-hours) at a given time, and the amount that can be released (in kilowatts or megawatts) at a given time. Sometimes we need long-term storage over the course of a few days during a major weather event, and sometimes short-term storage when passing clouds temporarily block sunlight.

There are three main advantages to storing solar energy. One is balancing electricity loads. Storage acts as an insurance policy for sunshine, maintaining balance between the usage and generation on both cloudy and sunny days, and at night and in the morning. Two, storage “firms” solar generation, meaning quick changes will not greatly affect the output of the solar plant, ensuring the output power supply is dependable and steady. Three, storage provides resilience to the entire electrical system in the face of a major disruption to regular electricity, keeping critical facilities in operation.

Storage of solar energy is utilized at small scales for individual homes and increasingly at bigger scales. The Solar Technologies Office within the federal Department of Energy has taken on a Grid Modernization Initiative to better integrate solar energy into the nation’s U.S. electric grid. Together we can adapt our power usage to solar energy and reduce our electric bill, provide a steady flow of energy, and contribute to cutting non-renewable energy.

Contact us today to get a free battery quote and learn more about the connected solutions program!