Solar Panels For Domestic And Commercial Use

An introduction to solar power

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert solar energy into usable electricity. The solar panels generate a Direct Current (DC) and a solar panel system will include an inverter which converts this DC into an Alternating Current (AC) which can be used by your electricity system. By converting sunlight into clean, green energy, homeowners and organisations can reduce their carbon footprint, make savings on bills, and receive guaranteed payments for the electricity that they produce.

The differences between domestic and commercial installations

As a general rule, all installations not on a home will be classed as commercial. For example, if a farmer had solar panels installed on his house, this would be classed as a domestic PV system. If that same farmer had panels on his barn, it would be classed as a commercial installation as it would not be for domestic purposes. It would also probably be much larger than his domestic installation to meet different energy needs.

Commercial solar panel systems tend to be much larger than domestic ones. A domestic solar system will usually not exceed four kWp in output, whereas a commercial system can be hundreds of times this. However all systems should be designed to the specifications of the building in question and be tailored to fit the energy needs of the inhabitants. The energy requirements of a school or hospital would be much greater than a family home.

Benefits of solar power

In April 2010 the government introduced the Feed-in Tariff as a scheme to incentivise homeowners and organisations to install renewable energy sources such as solar panels as a means of reducing their carbon emissions. The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) ensures that solar panel owners are paid by their energy provider for every unit of electricity which is produced from their solar panels for 25 years, whether or not they use it. They are also paid an additional amount for each unit that they export into the National Grid for others to use.

Aside from the environmental benefits of significantly reducing a carbon footprint and lowering dependence on fossil fuels,payments provide a strong financial inventive to investing in solar panels, as they pay an average 11% tax-free return on investment. Another key benefit to investing is solar is the free electricity that a system produces. By generating their own electricity, homeowners and businesses need to buy much less from their energy providers, ensuring bill reductions. They also protect themselves against future energy price rises, as they have their own source of generating electricity. Installing solar panels can be particularly useful for companies or organisations needing to achieve certain set emissions or energy targets.
System sizes and the Feed-in Tariff

Photovoltaic system sizes vary according to the building size and the specific energy needs, however another factor affecting the size of a PV installation is the Feed-in Tariff itself. For example, the tariffs for a domestic system will vary slightly depending on the size of the installation. Most homes installing a retrofit solar panel installation on an existing roof will select a system up to or including 4kW as these systems which will ensure the largest payments from the FIT. Installations which are larger than this will receive slightly lower payments per unit.

The size of a commercial installation is also linked to the amount of Feed-in Tariff income that it can generate. From the 1st August 2011, commercial solar PV systems installed which exceed 50 kWp will receive lower FIT payments than they currently do. This is to ensure that the resources of the FIT are available to all installations including ones for homeowners and to ensure a steady rate of growth for the solar PV industry.

With a growing understanding of the necessity of renewable energy and the financial incentives of the Feed-in Tariff, more and more solar PV systems are being installed across the UK. Once a system is installed, all of the clean green electricity which it produces is free for the owners of the system. Thus increasing numbers of homeowners and organisations such as schools, farms and businesses are choosing to provide themselves with electricity in this way.

Article submitted by Carlo Ruggiero.
Carlo Ruggiero is a green aficionado who is passionate about getting the word out on renewable sources of energy and all things green, from funding your hot water to making money from your electric heating.  You can follow his struggle with social media and daily musings on Twitter.

Now Is The Time To Go Solar

The incentives to go solar at home are better than ever.
Government guarantee schemes and increasing electricity bills, combined with dwindling fossil fuel resources and the dire need for solutions to climate change make solar panels a compelling solution for the eco and budget conscious homeowner.

So what is solar power anyway?
Solar power uses photovoltaic (PV) cells on the roof of your house to convert light from the sun into electrical energy which can be used in your house, or fed back into the national grid. A chemical reaction creates a flow of electrons in the solar panel (direct current or D/C), which feeds into an inverter to convert this into alternating current (A/C) to power your house.

What if I don’t live in a sunny climate?
Solar panels don’t actually need sunshine to work, the photovoltaic cells react to daylight. So even on a completely overcast day solar panels can generate 40% of their potential electricity yield. And you are still connected to the electricity grid, so outside of daylight hours you can draw from the grid just as before. Plus, any extra electricity from your panels which you don’t use will be fed back to the grid and you’ll actually get paid for it! (See below)

The environmental case for solar
The environmental case for renewable energy is becoming louder and more critical all the time. Barely a week goes by without a major news story involving the rising price of oil and gas, the terrible environmental impact of fossil fuel recovery methods such as “fracking” and tar sands which leave areas of land devastatingly polluted and emit up to 45% more greenhouse gas than even traditional oil and gas (and of course 100% more than solar). With peak oil production rapidly approaching, solar is widely seen as an integral part of the low-carbon future, and thankfully one which you can start to benefit from now.

The financial case for solar
Arguably just as important as the environmental benefits, there are now real cost savings to be made by going solar. Government schemes both in the UK and US now provide homeowners with compelling cost incentives for installing solar panels at home. Last year in the UK the government introduced the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) as an incentive scheme to encourage homeowners to invest in solar PV. The FIT ensures payment of 43.3 pence for each unit of electricity that their domestic solar system produces, irrespective of whether they use that electricity in their home or not. Additionally, the FIT also pays 3 pence per unit for electricity not used in the home and exported to the National Grid. The scheme is guaranteed for 25 years, and the amount will increase with inflation linked to the Retail Price Index.

With this in place, homeowners can make around £12,000 ($19,000) profit over the lifecycle of their solar panels. This is on top of savings on electricity bills of between £70 and £130 ($114 and $212) every year.

So what’s stopping you?
Installation and all the technical know-how are handled by the solar panel provider, along with maintenance over the life of the panels. In the vast majority of cases you won’t require any planning permission to install solar panels.

Although the initial cost of the panels is between £8,000 and £14,000 ($13,000 and $23,000), the feed-in-tariff, and bill savings ensure you will start earning this back from day one. Also, many solar panel providers offer free panels in exchange for rights to the feed-in-tariff until the cost is paid off. So there really should be nothing stopping you from going solar at home.

Article submitted by Carlo Ruggiero.

Carlo Ruggiero is a green aficionado who is passionate about getting the word out on renewable sources of energy and all things green, from funding your hot water to making money from your electric heating.  You can follow his struggle with social media and daily musings on Twitter.

Is It Too Late For Renewable Energy?

You cannot define renewable energy that easily. It is the general term used for a whole range of unconventional energy sources, so the definition has to be all-encompassing. As most experts put it, renewable energy is any energy source that occurs naturally and very widely.

Most renewable energy sources are dependent on nuclear power. This nuclear power comes from the sun. In a huge nuclear reaction, the sun produces energy in the form of light and heat and this reaches the earth as natural sources of energy. The sun is the ultimate source of solar power, wind power, biomass energy and so on. Fossil fuels may be categorized under biomass energy, but are limitedly available and have plenty of disastrous side effects.

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a great renewable energy program that finds the upcoming energy saving building methods. We have realized that energy efficiency is the best way to go, and this is where people will be educated in this aspect.

They work together with the leading instances of the building industry, foreground endeavors to build using renewable energy and tell producers as well as consumers about what and how they can save money by using this form of energy. NREL also get together with agencies to set guideposts for buildings and other energy consuming gadgets.

Renewable energy use is beneficial for the environment in the polluted world of today. Wind and solar energy are two of the most prominent types of this energy. Biofuels, geothermal energy and wave or tidal power are fast becoming popular, though some of these may potentially harm the natural world.

Is there any difference between renewable and alternative energy?

Many people don't know the fine difference between the two. Renewable energy is fundamentally natural; it's the energy we get from the sun, wind or waves. Alternative energy, however, includes both bio fuels and nuclear energy sources which are not really healthy options for us to use.

The infrastructure we have is suited for fossil fuels, even though renewable energy or green energy more cost effective. Our government has not been busy taking any steps to change things and go in for green energy sources. With the present situation worsening every day, we have to get a change really soon.

If we try to find one positive thing about fossil fuels it could be that we can store the energy we get from them, which is more difficult with green energy sources. Solar power, for instance, is less effective in cloudy weather. Calm days there is not very much use of a windmill. This and initial costs to get energy from these unconventional sources are still a bit high, could be a small drawback as compared to traditional earth-killing sources of energy.

About the Author

Eric Q. Duncan reveals "The Secret Trick To Use Energy More Wisely"; a free e-book about building a cost efficient home with green energy and also check his other site about renewable energy Grab a totally unique version of this article from the Uber Article Directory

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Money Saving Ideas for Saving Your Home Energy

Many factors to save are facing us on a daily basis. Save money, save our planet, save the environment, save energy to name but a few.

But how many of us really take notice of these cries for saving. Many of us try to save money from our salaries, but with the low interest rates, how helpful is this?

In today’s slow economical world, there is one sure fire way you can save money on your household heating bills, along with helping the environment. C’mon, we all have to do out bit don’t we?

I work in the UK as an Energy Assessor covering Hampshire. During the past 3 years, I have seen firsthand how a great deal of money can be saved by making a few simple and cost affective changes to your home and in the way that you live on a day to day basis.

The first thing we all need to do is to increase the loft insulation (if you have one) to at least 270mm. This is really cheap to do, is very quick to facilitate and will stop your precious heat from escaping through the roof. If you feel inclined to, you can also insulate between the rafters for added protection. Just remember to leave gaps near the soffits to allow for air circulation as you could cause condensation if you don’t.

Next, if you have cavity walls, look at having these filled professionally to stop any heat being lost through them. If you have solid walls, you could look at having internal or external insulation applied, subject to any listing consents. From 1983 onwards, the building regulations stated that all properties built thereafter should have cavity wall insulation. From experience, this isn’t always the case and some builders have neglected this! Double check beforehand.

If you have an open fireplace which isn’t often used, consider using a chimney balloon. These are very cheap to buy, come in various sizes and can be inserted into the chimney to stop and down draughts or losing heat up through the fire place.

Another worthwhile exercise is to change all of your lights / light bulbs to low energy bulbs. The laws have recently changed and you can now only buy low energy bulbs. However, all too many homes are still clinging on to their old bulbs because they are brighter. They’re not! Today’s low energy bulbs are very bright and as time goes on they will get better and better. Much money can be saved using these bulbs not only through the electricity used, but they also last 10 times longer than our ‘old’ ones.

If you have a hot water cylinder with a jacket with your heating system, upgrade the jacket to at least 100mm to increase the insulation. Turn down the thermostat a little to save some energy. If you haven’t got a thermostat on your cylinder - then get one!

Whilst on the subject of heating. Ensure all of your radiators have Thermostatic Radiator Valves and turn them down or off if the room is unused. Ensure you have a room thermostat and again keep this low and finally, if you have a non condensing boiler, consider upgrading it to a condensing boiler.

In order to keep this article short, there are so many other ways to save money around the home. I will leave you with the thought of switching off electrical appliance at the mains when not in use. Items on standby, including the phone charger can use quite a bit of power.

Now, stop wasting money and protect our planet for the next generation.

About the Author

Simon from Property Assess is an independent Energy Assessor based in Hampshire offering Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s) for residential properties.

Article Source Earth Articles Green Directory

Green Idea Central: Submit Green Ideas

Green Idea Central: Submit Green Ideas: "Throughout the past decade people became more environmentally conscious. We now talk more about renewable energy, about being environmentally..."

...Do you have a "Green Idea"? If you would like to share your ideas (green idea, your product/service, discovery, testimonies, etc.) with me and others, you may submit it via a form below I will read your idea and I will post it on this blog if it is a great "Green Idea"... Submit Green Ideas

Points To Remember When you Purchase Solar Panels

Fundamental amenities of every day life, today, comprise of electricity also along with food, shelter, and clothing. Life today is unimaginable without electricity or power. This is something that accompanies us the whole day and our entire life for that matter. Because of becoming the primary source of energy and therefore is awfully expensive. You are able to buy solar panel as an option.

One of the ways that could help reduce utility bills is really a solar panel. The solar panel makes use of solar energy to supply electricity. It's much less expensive when compared to the conventional electricity supply. In a solar panel, a collection of photovoltaic cells is tied together having a wire. This really is further backed by some sort of support and then is installed in households.

Before you purchase solar panel, there are several important points that are to become kept in thoughts. The initial point would be to obtain feedback from family members or friends who have already installed them in their houses. Their experience may help as a word of caution regarding any possible problems. This way such problems could be handled or avoided.

Product guarantee is one more important element that is to become kept in mind when preparing to purchase solar panels. Usually, all well known producers give 25 years of minimum item warranty which translates towards the truth that the merchandise is long lasting and the provider is trustworthy.

It is not good to be guided by inexpensive prices of solar panels. Extremely low priced panels will obviously be of poorer high quality and hence may not be that efficient. High quality, in case of any product, doesn't come inexpensive. It's appropriate to believed how the end-product is going to be equal towards the quantity paid. If the cost of the gear is much less, then undoubtedly the effectiveness of the merchandise will also match the cost of the merchandise.

It is usually a smart idea to compare prices and obtain several quotes from a couple of sellers prior to actually buying the product. However, difference in price is not the major concern when obtaining quotes because, occasionally it may so happen that, lower priced solar panels might be created up of poor high quality components and hence may result in huge maintenance costs or repair costs in the future.

One last word of caution isn't to get carried away through the words of salesmen trying to persuade you too much and putting higher quantity of pressure in purchasing the merchandise.

About the Author

Thanks for reading this article, and I really want to help you more, so I have included some links for you to look at, click here!: cheap solar panels and solar panels power
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Hydrogen Fuel Cells

A fuel cell is a device that uses hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity. Fuel cells are more efficient than combustion engines and the hydrogen used to power them can come from a variety of sources. If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, fuel cells emit only heat and water, eliminating air pollutants or greenhouse gases.

Fuel Cell Stack
One of the more common types of fuel cell is the Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell. The PEM fuel cell consists of an electrolyte membrane sandwiched between an anode and a cathode.

The PEM is a thin, solid, organic compound, typically the consistency of plastic wrap and about as thick as 2-7 sheets of paper. This membrane functions as an electrolyte: a substance that conducts charged ions (in this case protons), but does not conduct electrons. This allows the solution to conduct electricity. This membrane must be kept moist to conduct particles through it.

The anode is the electrode at which oxidation (loss of electrons) takes place. In a fuel cell, the anode is electrically negative.

The cathode is the electrode at which reduction (gaining of electrons) takes place. In fuel cell, the cathode is electrically positive.

Flow Plates
Flow plates perform several important functions:
  1. They channel hydrogen and oxygen to the electrodes,
  2. They channel water and heat away from the fuel cell, and
  3. They conduct electrons from the anode to the electrical circuit and from the circuit back to the cathode.

The Chemical Process

Hydrogen fuel (H2) is channeled to the anode, where the catalyst separates the hydrogen’s negatively charged electrons from the positive protons.

The membrane allows the positively charged protons to pass through to the cathode, but not the negatively charged electrons.

The negatively charged electrons must flow around the membrane through an external circuit. This flow of electrons forms an electrical current.

At the cathode, the negatively charged electrons and positively charged hydrogen ions (protons) combine with oxygen to form water (H2O) and heat.

Fuel Cell
The amount of power produced by a fuel cell depends on several factors, including fuel cell type, cell size, temperature at which it operates, and pressure at which the gases are supplied to the cell. A single fuel cell produces less than 1.16 volts – barely enough to run the smallest applications.

Fuel Cell Stacks
To increase the amount of electricity generated, individual fuel cells are combined in series, into a fuel cell “stack.” A typical fuel cell stack may consist of hundreds of fuel cells.

Other types of fuel cells:



Search for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane
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Can the Use of Wind Really Power your Home?

Following on from my previous post on the applications of solar power for the home, the next part of this renewable energy series looks into the effects and uses of wind, whether this be for electric radiators, hot water, or another use. With the main usage, of course, being electricity. As we have been using this power for centuries (sails etc...), it seems only fitting that wind power has become a prevalent force in the small-scale renewable energies market. In this post I will attempt to cover the basics of the technology, its applications, and to what extent it is cut out for the task of small scale energy production.

The Hydrogen Highway is poised to take off

The first hydrogen-vehicle refueling station fed by an active industrial hydrogen pipeline was opened in May in Torrance, Calif.

The first hydrogen-vehicle-refueling station fed by an active industrial hydrogen pipeline was opened on in May in Torrance, Calif., just across the road from Toyota's national headquarters. A collaborative effort among Toyota, Air Products, Shell, South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Department of Energy, the facility will provide hydrogen for the Toyota fuel-cell-hybrid demonstration-program vehicles as well as other manufacturers' fuel-cell vehicle fleets in the Los Angeles area. 

The hydrogen station is adjacent to the Toyota Motor Sales marketing headquarters. As landowner, Toyota leases the land to Shell for a nominal fee. As station owner/operator, Shell works directly with Air Products, which provides on-site equipment and station maintenance. The pipeline gas also is provided by Air Products from its plants in Wilmington, Del., and Carson, Calif.

Using pumps that are similar in appearance and operation (the nozzles have control levers much like those on typical gas pumps), the station provides a high-pressure supply for all types of fuel-cell vehicles. 

“Toyota plans to bring a fuel-cell vehicle to market in 2015 or sooner, and as you see, we will not be alone in the marketplace,” said Chris Hostetter, vice president of strategic resources for Toyota Motor Sales

“Building an extensive hydrogen-refueling infrastructure is the critical next step in bringing these products to market. But infrastructure development is no easy task. It will require coordination and cooperation between vehicle manufacturers, government agencies, hydrogen producers and end users. This station, for example, is the result of years of planning and a truly collaborative effort.”

Having the hydrogen pipeline mere yards from its front door provided Toyota with some other options. As Hostetter explains, “It created an opportunity for Toyota to explore other uses for hydrogen. In fact, Toyota has partnered with Ballard Power Systems to place a fuel-cell generator on our Torrance campus. The fuel cell will provide electrical power during peak-usage months and draw hydrogen from the same pipeline that supplies this station. The system is scheduled to come on line in 2012 and will reduce an estimated 10,000 tons of annual CO2 emissions.” 

The fuel-cell generator will be fed directly from the hydrogen pipeline through an existing tap on the TMS property. Pipeline hydrogen used on campus will be offset with the purchase of landfill-generated renewable biogas. Plans include using heat created by the fuel-cell system to provide hot water and space heating in the Toyota employee fitness center and in the Lexus headquarters building within the TMS campus. Use of this heat will offset natural-gas consumption on campus, thereby avoiding an estimated additional 28 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Air Products teamed with Toyota and other fuel-cell vehicle manufacturers to develop the Hydrogen Vehicle Authorization System (HVAS), another first for the industry and unique to the Torrance station. The HVAS wireless-vehicle-recognition system allows station-to-vehicle recognition to facilitate quick and convenient fueling for customers.

The station also will feature a learning center on-site to provide hydrogen information and station information to local students and the public. Shell and Toyota will cooperate on the exhibits. With this new station, the city of Torrance will become part of the California Hydrogen Highway initiative, which aims to create clean-air solutions and develop new technology jobs across the state. 

For more information on the Hydrogen Highway initiative, visit

By BARRY WINFIELD on 5/18/2011

Getting Started With Renewable Energy

Getting started with renewable energy article in Home Power Magazine gives a straightforward advice about professional load analysis and site survey when starting with renewable energy.

The first step in renewable energy system planning is to determine how much energy is needed to be made:
  • If the site is off grid, the stand-alone systems must provide all the site’s required electricity with renewable energy sources or a backup engine generator. This is when energy efficiency and conservation becomes critical. For this reason, most renewable energy consultants will ask for a detailed load profile. These systems also need to be accounted for seasonal energy availability. For example, more energy will be used in the summer because the house is for vacation use or pumps a lot of water for irrigation. In a year-round home, the critical energy time may be winter, when more lights and other loads are used.
  • On grid sites doesn't require accommodating the complete load. Systems can cover as little as 10% to 50%, or even over 100% of home’s electrical use. Utility detects the imbalance and supplies only what is demanded from the user. Any extra energy produced will go to the grids, which will buildup KWH credits that can be used when system’s output is lower.
When determining energy requirements, most dealers will roughly calculate what size of system is needed and give a ballpark cost figure. Then the installing dealer or RE consultant will visit the site and assess what RE resources are available on the property. When planning the system, everyone who will be using it should know how it was planned, how it works, and what he or she can do to make it run well.

For solar energy, site surveyor will evaluate the property with a solar site selector tool. It helps determine which locations the property or roof are shade free. This will show the best location for PV array or solar water collectors. PV arrays can be put hundreds of feet away from home, but solar hot water systems need to be much closer because long pipes become costly and incurs high heat losses.

If the property has a potential wind energy site, wind turbine might be a great asset. However, wind turbine requires regular maintenance and poorly cared components can become hazards. Surveyor will determine if adequate room exists for a tilt-up tower, or freestanding tower is necessary. Freestanding towers have smallest footprint, and may be the only appropriate tower for a small lot.

Micro hydroelectric systems can be one of the most cost effective but sometime hard to implement because local, state, and federal authorities can have jurisdiction over the activity, unless water resource is completely privately owned. Hydroelectric works well with solar or wind energy sources since water still flows when there is no sun or wind.

Hybrid systems are best for off grid system because one source can backup another source and vice versa. However, hybrid capability is less important on grid-tied systems which use utility grid for backup. Battery-less grid-tied systems are often the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and easy to operate systems available.

Bill Gates thinks big, spends big in push for energy innovation

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is investing more of his own time and money in the search for clean energy and solutions to climate change.

Gates is moving into a third arena, after software and philanthropy, and is using his Kirkland-based incubator, BGC3, to fund related science.

"The more I learn about this problem, the more I see it as super critical," he said. "We need a breakthrough; we need multiple breakthroughs."

Gates spoke Tuesday to a sold-out audience at a fundraising breakfast in Seattle for the nonprofit Climate Solutions.

Gates said he has been meeting with energy experts, reading up on the latest science and investing in startups, such as Bellevue-based TerraPower, which is designing a new kind of nuclear reactor intended to run for decades on depleted uranium.

He also started the American Energy Innovation Council with a group of senior corporate executives, which has tried unsuccessfully to persuade U.S. political leaders to double government funding for basic research.
Science and market-based technology solutions have the potential for huge advances, Gates said.

"The capitalistic format ... is the main area where energy innovation is going to take place," he said.

Gates is unlikely to make energy a focus of the philanthropic work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which concentrates on needs of the poor, but certain things like biofuels for small farms in Africa or Asia might play a role.

His growing involvement in clean energy hasn't been without controversy.

He rankled some with comments that appeared dismissive of small-scale renewable energy at a conference last week in New York.

"If you're interested in cuteness, the stuff in the home is the place to go," he said in an interview with Wired Magazine. "If you're interested in solving the world's energy problems, it's things like big [solar projects] in the desert."

Gates might not give adequate emphasis to less exciting options, such as improving energy efficiency or rapidly deploying existing solutions, said KC Golden, policy director at Climate Solutions, but his focus on technology innovation is badly needed.

"Not surprisingly given his background, that's his primary emphasis," Golden said in an online conversation after the event. "It's not everything that needs doing, but it's great he's doing it."

Golden appreciates Gates' ability to think big.

"I want to participate in a real revolution, not make futile gestures," Golden said. "That's why retreating back to just private and local action alone won't work."

In his own speech, Golden acknowledged that even if the U.S. reduced carbon emissions to zero, the world would still be "swamped by just a few months of growth in the Asian economy."

Profitable solutions that can be applied globally are needed.

"What we can do is pioneer a new path to prosperity that works for us and billions of people across the world," Golden said.

Gates had some critical jabs at politicians, saying the optimism he feels when meeting with scientists fades when he thinks about "the political elements that should be in place" by now, such as pricing for carbon.

"The lip service that has been paid to energy innovation over the last few decades has been disappointing," he said.

The Energy Innovation Council's recommendations include establishing a national energy plan with concrete and measurable energy targets that various technologies and companies could compete to reach.

In making the case for increased government support for basic research and development, Gates said he and other business leaders met with President Obama.

"He said nice things, and I think he meant them," Gates said. "In a normal fiscal environment we probably would have been successful."

Still, Gates added that "I'm kind of stunned we can't get more bipartisan view on this R&D piece. It's about jobs and innovation."

While China has surged ahead in some areas, such as solar-panel production, the U.S. remains dominant in the power to innovate in the sciences, Gates said.

Innovation thrives where the top universities and best environments for high-risk startups are.

"I know of 100 great new energy ideas," Gates said. "I'd say 70 percent of them are based in the United States, even if they are looking at doing some manufacturing [in China]."

China is a necessary part of the solution because it's a much bigger market for energy than the U.S., he said.
Yet scientific innovation is an area where "the world counts on America to do well."

At the same time, it's important to take advantage of "practical, real-time solutions where we live," said McKinstry CEO Dean Allen, another speaker. About 70 percent of electricity produced in America goes to buildings and other physical infrastructure, Allen said. "What we've learned is 50 percent of the energy our customers use in their facilities is pure waste."

Eliminating energy waste from commercial and government buildings alone could cut emissions at a level equivalent to eliminating 200 coal-fired power plants, he said.

Allen raised a note of caution about too much reliance on "spectacular breakthrough technologies" as silver bullets. Much like reform in education, he said, "it's often not best to wait for Superman."

Seattle Times business reporter

How Geothermal Heating and Cooling Works

Basically, geothermal heating/cooling systems operates via sub-surface conductive heat transfer, using the naturally renewable temperature of the earth's crust as a heat source in the winter, and as a heat sink in the summer.


Cooling Mode Operation

In the cooling mode, the hot refrigerant (well over 100 degrees F) exiting ETA's compressor is sent directly into the approximate 50 to 60 degree F range deep earth, which now absorbs and takes the heat away. The cooled refrigerant fluid is then circulated through the air handler where it absorbs and removes unwanted heat from the interior air. The heated refrigerant travels to the ETA system's compressor unit where the process is repeated. Thus, in the cooling mode, the ground removes your heat for free.


Heating Mode Operation

In the heating mode, approximate 50 to 60 degree F range naturally occurring heat from deep within the earth travels to, and is absorbed by, a much colder refrigerant fluid that is circulated within the copper tubing inside a deep well/borehole. Such naturally occurring heat is transported by the refrigerant fluid to the system's compressor where the fluid is compressed, thereby raising its pressure and temperature, transforming the 55 degree F temperature into a temperature well over 100 degrees F. The hot refrigerant is then circulated through the finned tubing within an air handler, where the cold return interior air absorbs the heat. The heated air is supplied, via a fan, to the interior air space. With the heat now removed from the refrigerant fluid, it becomes very cold and is re-circulated into the ground to absorb more naturally occurring and renewable heat. Thus, the ground supplies your heat for free.


Hot Water Heating

Utilizing the ETA geothermal system's optional Hot Water Pre-Heater (HWPH), the system can also produce virtually free hot water. Capturing excess heat in the refrigerant, this module can typically provide about 50% of the total hot water needs for an average home or business. Additionally, the ETA system can be designed to solely provide heat for low-cost hot water generation for hot tubs, swimming pools, or for in-floor hydronic heating purposes.

ETA units can be specifically designed to solely heat water for residential, commercial, and industrial applications at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods.


Solar Energy DIY– Converting Your Home to Solar Power

When beginning a solar energy DIY home conversions project, one question many people have before they start is: What will I need to complete the conversion?

Of course, before you start with anything, you should get a good DIY solar guide, and you will be walked step by step through the process of setting up your solar energy solution. Aside from that though, let’s cover the basics of what you will need, in order to go solar!

There are 7 main components you’ll need when wiring up a solar energy solution for your home. It should be noted here that we’re talking about converting a home, and not just creating portable solar energy solution (in which case you’ll only need 4 components).
Convert Your Home Today:

Before you install your home energy solution, you’ll need the following components. These are listed in the order they will be wired into your solar energy system.
  1. Solar Panels – In most DIY applications these will be built by you. You order discount photovoltaic cells, and assemble those into 50W, 75W, or 100W Panels.
  2. Array DC Disconnect – This simple device is basically just a switch. It allows you to cut the DC power from your solar panels should system maintenance be required. If you shop around you’ll likely pay less than $25 for this component.
  3. Charge Controller – Most home systems will be built with a battery backup. The charge controller ensures that a consistent amount of power is sent to the batteries, and that the batteries don’t discharge at night. Again, if you shop around for this component, it won’t be a large expense.
  4. Deep Cycle Batteries – To store the power from your solar panels, you will need deep cycle batteries. If you find reconditioned batteries, these can be obtained for fairly cheap. Better yet, you can get old batteries for free and recondition them yourself.
  5. System Meter – This component is actually optional, but it is suggested so that you have a clear way to see how much power is being fed into your home from the solar panels.
  6. Converter – Since your solar panels produce DC power, and your home runs on AC power, the converter makes the solar energy usable by your home. A 1500W converter likely won’t cost you more than $50.
  7. Backup Power – Most systems will also include some sort of backup power. In an off grid application this would generally be a generator. In a city or town, the power grid itself provides the backup.
From there the system gets wired into your home breaker box. At this stage, unless you are qualified, you might consider getting a qualified electrician to install the system. At any rate, you now have an idea of what will be needed to get your home running on solar energy.

If you haven’t done so yet, you should also consider downloading a copy of one of the top guides to teach solar panel DIY. Doing so will ensure you have all of the information you need to get the conversion finished right – the first time! 

Click here to download your copy of 'The Easy DIY Guide To Solar And Wind Power'


Have you got the flare for Solar Power?

Following up my look into hydroelectric power on a personal scale, I’ve decided that next on my list for a detailed examination is Solar Power. It seems an obvious point that most people will want to know about this kind of technology to supplement their electricity, (that means electric power, electric radiators, etc...) so I will attempt to tackle the more pervasive issues in this field, such as how can you effectively produce this kind of energy on a small scale? Is it of any use in a place as devoid of sunshine as the UK is?! What are the uses of solar powering? These questions and more will be tackled in this blog post.

Ok, so sticking with the previous posts format, let’s start with the basics. Solar power is by far the Earth's most available energy source, easily capable of providing many times the total current energy demand.

At its most basic, solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity. This can be achieved in two primary ways. These are directly using photovoltaic’s (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). PV converts light into electric current using the photoelectric effect, whilst CSP uses lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. (I’ll explain both in more detail later).

These systems (especially CSP) can be built on massive scales. The 97 MW Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant in Canada is the world’s largest photovoltaic plant. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s, and the 354 MW SEGS CSP installation is the largest solar power plant in the world and is located in the Mojave Desert of California. Spain also boasts some impressive plants, the Solnova Solar Power Station (150 MW) and the Andasol solar power station (100 MW) in particular.


PV is a device which generates electricity directly from visible light by means of the photovoltaic effect. In order to generate useful power, it is necessary to connect a number of cells together to form a solar panel, also known as a photovoltaic module. The nominal output voltage of a solar panel is usually 12 Volts, and they may be used singly or wired together into an array. The number and size required is determined by the available light and the amount of energy required.
Concentrated solar power

CSP systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. The concentrated heat is then used as a heat source. A wide range of concentrating technologies exists; the most developed are the parabolic trough, the concentrating linear Fresnel reflector, the Stirling dish and the solar power tower. Various techniques are used to track the Sun and focus light. In all of these systems a working fluid is heated by the concentrated sunlight, and is then used for power generation or energy storage. The diagram here shows how one type, a trough, works. The pipes and arrows represent the working fluid. This is heated when the sun’s rays are reflected from trough, thus giving a higher thermal energy for the fluid leaving. 

Personal use
So there are the principles of solar power. But how can this work on a personal level for the home owner? Well, most small, personal use systems will involve the use of PV’s. The diagram on the left shows the basic principles of solar power for the home.

This highlights the fact that you can not only use the available electricity for your own home, but you can sell back any excess to the national grid. This is maintained in a Grid-connected system. In this system, the solar array is connected to the mains. Any surplus power is sold to the electricity company, and power is bought back from them when it is needed.

In a Stand-alone system, however, this is not possible, as this means you are not connected to a grid. Therefore storage of energy is needed. In this type of system the usual choice for energy storage is the lead-acid battery. Bear in mind, the number/type of batteries is dependent on the amount of energy storage needed.

Should you go Solar?

One of the first things to consider is, of course, the source of energy itself. Just as with hydro-power, this type of power generation is site-dependant; no sun=no power. So some levels of sunlight are necessary. 

So, to decide if you can go solar, and what system to use, calculating Insolation is necessary. To be able to make calculations in planning a system, the total amount of solar radiation energy is expressed in hours of full sunlight per m². One hour of full sun provides 1 kWh/m² (the solar energy received in one hour on a cloudless summer day on a one-square meter surface directed towards the sun). Insolation, or sunlight intensity, is measured in equivalent full sun hours. One hour of maximum, or 100%, sunshine received by a solar panel equals one equivalent full sun hour. The easiest way to measure your solar power needs however, (for those of us who don’t speak “maths”) is via an online calculator, such as at Renewable Resource Data Centre. You enter the number of kilowatts your theoretical system produces and it will tell you how much solar radiation is available throughout the year where you live and how much electricity that turns into.

Next to consider is the initial start up cost. Whilst these are relatively lower these days, (some can be bought for less than £500/$812 now) it is still a relatively costly procedure. However, these initial investments will pay off in the long run, normally within 6 years. 

Whilst finances are paramount for some people, others consider the environment. It was said that the amount of emissions saved from using solar was less than the emissions produced by making the solar panel. More recent studies however have shown that the emissions produced by manufacturing a solar panel are balanced out in three years of use. And as solar panels now have warranties of 20 to 25 years, and last even longer, the environmental benefit is massive. If you are interested in solar because of the environmental benefits, even generating a portion of your power with the sun will improve the environment.

So, with both financial and environmental gains to be had, is it time you switched to solar?

Article submitted by Carlo Ruggiero.
Carlo Ruggiero is a green aficionado who is passionate about getting the word out on renewable sources of energy and all things green, from funding your hot water to making money from your electric heating.  You can follow his struggle with social media and daily musings on Twitter.

Hydroelectric power, a new wave in personal renewable energy

Following responses on a previous post on basic and general principles for renewable energy sources at home, this writer will now attempt to go into some of the fundamental principles, advantages and problems facing the average person in their attempt to become as energy self-sufficient as possible. 

In this post we tackle one of the most problematic, yet highly efficient means of reaping the rewards of renewable energy on a personal level; using the kinetic energy of water to power your electricity. This is probably most applicable to the average person in the generating of electricity to power your electric radiators

First of all; the basics. As this rather dramatic picture of the hydroelectric plant in Columbia shows, hydroelectric power refers to electricity generated by hydro-power; that is the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. This type of power is one of the most widely used on large scales due to its many advantages over other types of energy generation. It accounts for approximately 20% of the world's electricity and about 88% of electricity from renewable sources. This method of garnering energy at hydroelectric complex’s has taken off massively in recent years, hitting unprecedented levels of usages; the Three Gorges Dam in China at 22,500 MW being the largest to date. Hydroelectricity has eventually supplied some countries, including Norway, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paraguay and Brazil, with over 85% of their electricity (nearly 90% in Norway). Even the US has gotten in on the act, with currently over 2,000 hydroelectric power plants which supply around 49% of its renewable electricity. 


So, how does it work? BASICALLY, in a hydropower system, dams on a river capture its power and direct the fast-flowing water through turbines and turning generators to produce electricity. The difference between the water levels above and below the turbine and the rate of water flow determine the amount of power generated.



However, this of little use to the average homeowner who doesn’t have a convenient river/dam, or the funding to build one. On a personal level, it is the use of Pico-hydro that becomes applicable. Pico-hydro is a term used for hydroelectric power generation of under 5 KW. As the average house wattage is less than 2 KW, this is ideal. 

Pico-hydro setups typically are run-of-the-river; meaning that dams are not used, but rather pipes divert some of the flow, drop this down a gradient, and through the turbine before returning it to the stream.

The main parts of this system are intake from stream or river, pipe (known as the penstock), water turbine, electrical generator, electronic controller, electrical distribution system, but they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, as seen here. 

  • Gives you uninterrupted and reliable electrical power
  • User controlled power generation
  • Can provide electricity to all typical domestic appliances (think electric heating), so is versatile. Power packs up to 1 kW can be used of non-motive loads such as lighting, TV, Computer, water heating etc. Larger power packs can be used for motive loads such as refrigerators etc...
  • No recurring fuel costs. All this is required is the running of the water down a slope.
  • Has next-to no maintenance costs as the rotating parts are fully balanced and are not exposed to high temperatures unlike internal combustion engine based power packs.
  • Starting costs. You need the funds to buy the equipment!
  • An obvious drawback to his type of renewable energy sourcing is the necessity of moving water on or near your property. So is very site specific
  • Run-of-the-river style hydro-power is affected by flow and ebb of water, meaning it can be unreliable in certain places or during certain times of the year
  • Certain head, flow and output characteristics are required.
  • Regardless of output, there are certain fixed costs.
Hydroelectricity eliminates the flue gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, including pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, dust, and mercury in the coal. Hydroelectricity also avoids the hazards of coal mining and the indirect health effects of coal emissions.
Compared to wind farms, hydroelectricity power plants have a more predictable load factor. If the project has a storage reservoir, it can generate power when needed. Hydroelectric systems can be regulated to follow variations in power demand.
Overall, hydroelectric power seems like an attractive prospect for the homeowner. So if you have a site that could run this system and the funds to start it, why not give it a go?

Article submitted by Carlo Ruggiero.

Carlo Ruggiero is a green aficionado who is passionate about getting the word out on renewable sources of energy and all things green, from funding your hot water to making money from your electric heating.  You can follow his struggle with social media and daily musings on Twitter.

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