National Geographic recently reported on an extraordinary innovation in solar power that involves the construction of floating solar panels on bodies of water. One of the first and thus far largest efforts along those lines is taking place in Japan, on top of the reservoir Yamakura Dam in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo.

The facility is due to be completed in March 2016. It will measure 180,000 square meters, consist of 50,000 solar panels, and will power 5,000 Japanese households. It may be the first of many such solar power facilities that will be built on bodies of water such as lakes, canals, and even wetlands. Japan, with its small landmass and its huge population, can, therefore, free up land for other uses such as agriculture.

Building solar power plants on the water presents certain technical challenges. Everything needs to be waterproofed, and great care needs to be taken to not contaminate the water supply. These types of plants also have to be proof against storms and tidal waves. However, because they are floating on bodies of water, these types of solar plants are better able to withstand earthquakes than those built on dry land, a prime consideration is seismically unstable Japan.

Building floating solar power plants on the ocean, offshore, is a possibility, but also one fraught with unique technical problems. From salt water corrosion to waves and changing water levels, offshore solar seems to be, for the time being, something for the future. In the meantime, inland bodies of water are the new frontier for increasing solar’s share of energy production.

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Have Australian Scientists Found A New Solar Solution?

 

Solar power is, without a doubt, a reliable source of green energy. The sun comes up every day, and it will always be there. The question has been whether or not we have the means to harvest it. Solar panel technology isn’t cheap after all, and they take resources to manufacture. Using a bunch of low-capacity panels to try to harvest energy was likely to be both expensive and difficult.

Fortunately for those who are invested in the success of solar power there has been a breakthrough in Australia that might solve many of the potential sustainability problems solar was facing.

More Solar Power With Fewer Panels

The big problem with solar power has traditionally been the amount of power that photovoltaic panels can absorb. Industrial strength panels can convert roughly 30 percent of sunlight into electricity, and the panels used by consumers for at-home power generation are lucky to convert 18 percent. With new technology that’s been created at the University of New South Wales though it’s now possible for solar panels to convert 40 percent of sunlight into electricity. The results of the experiments have also been replicated by the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory, proving that Australia’s breakthrough was not just a fluke.

How Does It Work?

A traditional solar panel takes in light to a single cell, and then converts it to electricity. What these new panels do is split the light among four different cells, which results in more of the light being converted into electricity. A relatively simple change, this can be used to get more energy out of fewer panels, which means that it’s even more possible to meet the energy demands of a community using nothing more than sunlight, particularly in locations that are bathed day in and day out with photons from the sun.

What’s more it’s now possible that fewer devices will be necessary overall, which might make solar a much bigger part of a sustainable, renewable energy solution both for today and for tomorrow as well.

For more information on sustainable energy and advancements in technology simply contact us today!

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The return of solar panel manufacturing to the United States to spark solar energy boom

While the installation of solar energy units have been undergoing a boom in the United States, the production of solar panels have languished in this country, according to a recent article in Slate. That is because from a cost basis, it only made sense of buy solar panels from China and other manufacturers in Asia. But that is about to change and consumers are likely to benefit.

First the costs of solar panels made in China are starting to rise. This is because the federal government has slapped a 35 percent tariff on the panels it retaliation for China unfairly subsidizing the product. Also wages are starting to rise in China, increasing solar panel manufacturers’ labor costs.

At the same time domestic solar panel producers have responded to competition by ramping up volume and instituting other cost cutting measures such as efficiency and automation. Domestic solar panel manufacturers such as SolarCity and Suniva are building solar panel factories in the United States.

Right now domestic solar panel manufacturers are filling a rising demand from the military for solar power systems. But as capacity grows, they will be competitive in the domestic market as well. America is the world’s second-largest supplier of polysilicon, which is used to make solar panels. Currently a lot of the product is sent to China and is returned in the form of finished panels. In domestic solar panel manufacturing takes off, more of the material will stay in the United States.

Solar Panel manufacturing has taken a black eye in the United States due to government inspired boondoggles such as Solyndra. But now it looks like that the free market is going to accomplish what the government largely could not do, causing a solar panel industry to rise again in this country. Lower transportation costs and better availability cannot but benefit people interested in going solar.

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Study suggests that covering the state of West Virginia with solar panels would provide solar power to the world

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported on the results of a graduate thesis by Technical University of Braunschweig student Nadine May on the question of how many solar panels would it take to supply all the world’s energy needs. It turns out that 25,000 square miles of solar panels would generate enough electricity to power the planet, taking it totally off of fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and any other alternative. That is the area of the state of West Virginia.

Leaving aside the practical and moral problems of paving over West Virginia, a state ironically known for its coal reserves, the results of the study have some caveats attached to it. Giving the fact that a lot of power is lost in transmission lines, it is likely a better idea to decentralize solar power stations, making them as close as possible to the communities they serve. In the purist form, these consist of solar panels attached to the rooftops of homes and businesses.

On the other hand the efficiency of solar cells are getting better all the time, with at least one innovation involving stacking solar cells promising to make them competitive with natural gas. On the one hand this means the less land area would be needed to power the world solely with solar. On the other hand, the world’s energy needs are increasing all the time.

The point of the story is not that we’re going to go 100 percent solar any time soon. However it does suggest that solar, hitherto considered a niche energy technology, is rapidly becoming more mainstream as the technology improves and public acceptance becomes greater,

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One of the vexing problems facing the solar power industry is the tendency of the sun to shine from different angles at different times of the day. A typical solar panel does not capture sunlight and convert it to electricity efficiently unless the sun is shining on it dead on. According to MIT Technology Review, a small, California startup has developed an adaptive material that greatly reduces the cost of tracking the sun.

In large scale solar plants, mirrors or lenses are used to precisely track the sun and thus concentrate sunlight precisely on solar panels. Unfortunately this greatly increases the costs of large solar plants by requiring the use of a large amount of concrete and steel.

The way the new technology works is divided into two parts. First an array of thin, inexpensive lenses captures the sunlight and concentrates it on solar cells. The second part is a sheet of glass that concentrates the light at its edges, boosting the concentration to up to 500 times. The glass, which is made of adaptive materials, is the key to the technology

The glass is covered front and back with reflective material. However the side facing the lens adapt when the sunlight focused by the lens hits a portion of the glass. As it heats up, the portion when the sunlight is concentrated loses it reflective qualities, allowing the light in. The light bounces around the inside of the glass until it reaches the edge where solar cells capture it and convert it into electricity.

The great trick is that the glass does not move. The area where the light is captured moves, eliminating the need to make it track the sun. The technology has so much potential that the company developing it has received a grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy. With the money the company hopes to scale up its system to 30 centimeters across, which would be almost enough to take it commercial.

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Solar energy, like many other renewable energy sources, has many benefits. Utilizing our sun to reduce pollution and to save money are just a few. As a result, there has been a collective push for scientists to research ways to make solar energy more efficient so that these benefits are easier to attain. Due to this push, a recent discovery using magnetism has been made that will help keep solar panels clean and productive.

Scientists Find a Solution with Magnetism

According to an article by the Christian Science Monitor, solar panels are often affected by particles and other elements that inevitably accumulate on their surface. Less sunlight is turned into electricity which affects the panels’ productivity. The solution to this problem was discovered by scientists at MIT and King Faud Univeristy of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM). A magnetic field was created by applying an oil infused with magnetic materials otherwise known as a ferrofluid to draw contaminants off the surface of solar panels.

What This Means for the Solar Industry

This magnetic force essentially reduces friction completely so that contaminants such as dust and moisture do not soil solar panels. This is important for the solar industry because solar panels and mirrors lose efficiency when these contaminants build up on surfaces. In addition, panels are often on roofs which make dust accumulation more prevalent. This new innovation to reduce fouling will increase the productivity of these panels and in turn make solar energy a more attractive energy source.

The new discovery to reduce soiling is also important because it will reduce the amount of time and money that is required to clean solar panels. Hosing down the panels is an expensive process that uses a great deal of water. By eliminating the need for this process, vasts amount of water will be conserved as well as less labor and money will be spent. The magnetic solution will be less expensive and more efficient for all solar panel users.

If you are interested in knowing more about solar panels and solar energy, please visit our website. Fidelity Home Energy, a residential solar company offers a complimentary energy analysis as well as a quote. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us today.

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Everyone knows The Bay Area is a great place to live- we’ve got perfect weather, some of the best beaches and parks in the world, good schools and jobs, melting pots of culture, and the best dinning around! Did you also know that the sunny Bay Area was rated as a “Solar Star” by Environment America’s 2014 study? They found that The Bay Area was the #2 area in the nation with more than 50 watts of installed solar PV capacity per person and the #4 area in America for total installed solar PV capacity!

As one of the leading solar companies in the Bay Area, Fidelity Home Energy isn’t surprised by the news. We’re headquartered in San Leandro and our staff installed over 500 residential solar projects in 2015 alone.

In addition to the 263 days a year of sunshine the Bay Area enjoys, the key reasons for this phenomenal industry growth include the energy cost savings for homeowners, improvements in property values (an average of a $20,194 premium to the sales price), and qualification for several government programs. The 30% IRS solar tax credit is unlimited and currently available until 2017. Lucky citizens of the surrounding Bay Area have access to financing at attractive rates and terms through the Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE program.

While some home owners are hesitant to buy solar now, fearing that prices will continue to go down in coming years, energy costs are only rising and crunching the numbers on a solar calculator show that your family will be recouping costs more quickly than ever. Another reason solar power is becoming so popular in the Bay Area and across America is the ability for a solar systems to be designed specifically to maximize your energy harvest. A solar solution can now be installed that powers your home, Jacuzzi and pool, and that can be placed on a wide variety of rooftops- from concrete to Spanish tile.

If you’re a Bay Area resident ready to join your neighbors in saving money, living more sustainability and investing in your home, contact us to find out how easy it is to go from a free in-home energy analysis to power on!

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Stanford University recently released a new alternative energy plan that outlines how the state of California can switch to wind, geothermal, water, and solar power by 2050. According to the study’s lead author, Mark Z. Jacobson, the plan “will eliminate air pollution mortality and global warming emissions from California, stabilize prices, and create jobs.”

Although there is an initial capital investment required to build the new power plants and other structures, the study predicts that overall energy use would be reduced by 44%. In addition, 220,000 net jobs would be created and deaths associated with air pollution would drop by 12,500 a year. The plan would also help California avoid the costly environmental effects of climate change, such as coastal erosion. All told, the savings to the state would pay for the cost of the plan in only seven years.

Solar energy plays a big role in the plan, accounting for 55.5% of the state’s energy. Although much of this comes from the 1,200 solar power plants that the plan calls for, homeowners and businesses would contribute as well with 15 million 5-kilowatt rooftop solar panel systems.

Installing rooftop solar panels doesn’t just benefit the state of California, however: between the California Solar Initiative, tax credits, and payments for unused electricity, homeowners can get both an immediate return on their investment and a long-term boost to energy savings. If you’re interested in saving money on your energy bills, get a head start on the plan now and get a free solar energy analysis. And for more information about solar energy and how you can reduce your energy costs, please contact us.

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Soccer isn’t the only thing that Germany is getting right these days. Recently the country set two new solar records – promising news for the future of solar energy.

During the first two months of June, Germany produced 50.6% of its total energy via solar (Science Alert). That’s right, over half of its energy came from solar! What’s more, the country set a world record in May by producing 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour. To put that in perspective, it would be the equivalent of running 20 nuclear power plants at full capacity – that is a lot of power!

What is remarkable about these breakthroughs in solar energy is that 90% of Germany’s solar panels are installed on the roof tops of private individuals – not solar energy farms. Since deciding to move away from nuclear energy in 2011, the country has had success in promoting solar energy to its citizens. Scientists also point to the excellent weather that occurred in June as a reason for how the country was able to produce over half of its energy this way.

Which begs the question – why isn’t the United States, and sunny Southern California in particular, producing more solar energy? Under 1% of energy produced in the United States is solar.  But in California, we’re doing a lot better than that at 18%, leading the nation in solar energy production and doubling solar power generation in the state over the last two years (Reuters). Fidelity Home Energy has been a leader in fostering this trend in California. If you are thinking about solar energy as an option for your home, please contact us today.

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When people think of California, they think of sunny California. The Golden State is doing more than its fair share of promoting the sun as the best energy source. The State Assembly is attempting to make it easier for residents to apply for solar panels by creating a standardized application process through Bill 2188. The legislation, which will be debated and voted upon in the State Senate in August, calls for “cities to process permits for small, residential solar installations within five business days. It also would reduce the review process to just one inspection after the installation is complete.” While on the surface, the bill looks promising, it has created divisions among solar companies in California. One owner of a solar company says the application process is not a cookie cutter situation. It can take up to three weeks to process a permit, install the solar modules and complete the inspection. Different cities have different standards for solar, the con side insists. Others insist that residential solar panels have become more uniform and a check list can be completed in an hour. Meanwhile, fire departments complain that solar panels inhibit access, create electrical fires and expose firemen to electric shock and there needs to be a balance between safety and ecological advancements. Another area gaining attention, and for which California is becoming a “guinea pig,” is energy storage. The ability to harness reserves of solar energy would benefit residents, who would not have to worry about wasting energy during times they are not at home. Solar energy could be used in the evening and blackouts would be more tolerable. People would gain more control of their energy usage, and subsequently, the costs. SunPower, which used to make panels and is now an energy service provider, has entered into an agreement with builder KB Home to offer buyers in El Dorado Hills, Irvine and San Diego free lithium-ion battery systems to be installed by the end of 2014. The goal would be to start selling the systems in 2015. The project will aide SunPower in determining the best ways to manage solar energy production and the charge and discharge of electricity from storage. They will also be testing batteries from different companies, including California’s Sunverge Energy. Another factor pushing energy storage in the state is that the three investor-owned utilities in California are under obligation to purchase 1,325 megawatts of energy storage services by 2020. We at Fidelity Home Energy are absolutely in favor of anything that speeds up the solar installation process for us or our customers. Different areas throughout California have long waiting times for permitting solar, and it would be nice to have a more streamlined approach. We have offices in San Diego, Torrance (Los Angeles), Hayward (San Francisco Bay Area) and Sacramento, Ventura and Fresno. We’ve been in business for over 30 years, before solar was fashionable. You will receive a free, extensive In-Home Energy Analysis, with a quote that is good for six months. Small job or big, we will work with you, providing a fully customized and “made for you” solar array system. We handle all paperwork and permits for you. Full installation is completed by highly trained and certified solar electric technicians using industry leading, top quality products. You are assigned a dedicated project manager throughout your installation process, and an Energy Specialis t for follow-up visits post installation, to make sure you know how to properly and safely operate your system. When you’re ready for solar in California, contact us, the solar company in California.

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