Monday, October 1, 2012

Are you ready for an energy evaluation that includes solar?

Click on the graphic to request the confidential energy solutions evaluation that can determine if solar energy is a good fit for your building and can eliminate your current grid based energy costs, or whether a new energy supplier contract can reduce your current energy costs.
The request is confidential, no spam is allowed on our system, and all requests are professionally backed with satisfaction guarantees that you pay nothing to get an objective building analysis that can save you 15% to 125% off your current energy costs with smart engineered solutions including digital switches, circuit load monitors, solar photovoltaic grid-tie solutions (that provide SREC revenues and tax incentives), off-grid solar and mechanical generators with emergency circuit backup and monitoring for mission critical circuits.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What is energy independence worth to all you energy voters?

NREL Study shows US has enough renewable energy potential to be energy independent now

I draw two conclusions from this NREL report and the Green Party's agenda on renewable clean energy which make a lot of sense to me and should to most conservative (tea party types who want fiscal reform) as well:

Solar photovoltaic energy is easily abundant and doable to cover all our use and then some.  In MD alone, where I live, 23% of the entire state's consumption could come from existing rooftops, and 43% could come from utilities scaling up solar development projects on parking lots and other larger scale infrastructure.  There is enough rural land to provide 10 times the current usage, and could easily make up the remaining 34% of demand.  The cost of distributed rooftop solar is still $5.00/watt in the US vs around $2.25/watt in Germany.  That has to change through further competition and demand.

A national  "Hoover Dam" type approach to build out renewable energy on every rooftop, parking lot and corner of America in every state could be paid for by the existing fossil fuel energy suppliers and public service utility companies by incenting them to shift focus from fossil fuels (by banning their use) to renewable energy and incenting them to hire every unemployed American or subcontract to companies that agree to hire unemployed Americans.  If the US signs a treaty and joins the rest of the world in making it illegal to sell fossil fuels altogether by the year 2032, these companies could very quickly implement this new national agenda and make a profit without the US having to go into debt to make this happen.  Give the fossil fuel companies the same tax incentives they have had for exploration and development in renewables with a ban on fossil fuels usage worldwide and watch what kind of competition emerges and what happens to the cost of energy and national debts.  My guess is the debt clock would be gone because such a worldwide scale of industrial development would provide jobs for everyone without having to go to war with everyone which historically follows such an economic slump and depression type conditions we're seeing with lack of spending by companies and uncertainty. 

It might lead to wars over cheaters that use fossil fuels or make land grabs for natural resources like China did against India in the 1960's Himalayan war (which was grabbing hyrdoelectric resources) and against Tibet, but countries like them would quickly be isolated by the world.  This would also make the entire world more stable if there was no dependence on oil from the middle east.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Breakthrough Reached in Spinach-Silicon Powered Solar Panels

Spinach Protein Boosts Photovoltaic Output

A grant from the National Science Foundation is partly responsible for breakthroughs in solar renewable biohybrid energy research like this one at Vanderbilt Univ.  Researchers published a study in Advanced Materials this month documenting their findings that the photosystem 1 (PS1)protein originally discovered 40 or 50 years ago as the photosynthetic protein that generates energy when exposed to photons from sunlight can be  enhanced some 2.5 times more than previously known when combined with doped silicon film used in manufacturing solar panels (moving closer to rivaling current solar panel output efficiencies). Research like this could have far reaching practical applications in the solar photovoltaic module manufacturing business with cheaper solar panel modules made available from readily available materials like green leaves from evergreens or spinach leaves.  It moves us another step closer to the day when solar energy wins the cost/benefit analysis over fossil fuels without any need for arithmetic to compare costs. 

The evidence will be seen in lower cost per watt coming from readily available renewable material such as the PS1 photosynthetic protein from plants.  This should work to eliminate doubts even from Republicans who have been bashing solar renewable energy as a threat to their fossil fuel industry over-lords.  The American Petroleum Industry has spent a lot of money on ads this election about how energy voters can create new jobs and unleash an economic boom in the US if only they could extract more natural gas and oil from the ground rather than let the government invest in funding research like this study.  The funding for research like this is exactly what Barack Obama was talking about when he said "you didn't build that" implying that the solar panel manufacturer or integrator that installs panels and is successful wouldn't be able to do that with research like this that was originally funded by government.  The far right has gone so far as to  denigrate renewable energy solutions as impractical and a waste of government funding that needs to be cut.  The O'Reilly Factor went so far as to let guests bash the Chevrolet Volt (possibly the best vehicle engineering achievement of our modern generation since the space shuttle) with claims that it wasn't successful because it was dangerous and other nonsense that comes from Rush Limbaugh or Fox News.  That vehicle has been on the drawing board for a long time, and if that co had gone bankrupt, we would not be where we are today, and that car by the way has won car of the year for 2011 and continues to receive award after award for achievements as well as the highest highway safety ratings (but hey don't let facts get in the way of pushing a message sponsored by the fossil fuel industry).   We need more achievements in research like these spinach power solar cells or the Volt power plant which might lead to the first production model solar powered rechargeable vehicle with integrated solar module arrays built into the skin that becomes available in the US for  $25,000.  That kind of advancement comes from investment in research like the kind done here on spinach-silicon powered solar cells.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Real Cost of Utility Based Power vs Solar Power

What internal rate of return do you need to invest in your own future?
How much power do you use or plan to use?
What value to you place on independent clean, renewable energy?
What message does your brand convey?
What would you do if you didn't have to invest your own funds up front to get solar?
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The cost of doing nothing costs something when it comes to solar energy today

To Nonprofits Interested in Investor Funded Solar PV Construction:

·         The cost (opportunity cost) of not choosing a solar power solution in the month of July went up by $44,000 in rebate dollars lost to those nonprofits who did not execute their agreements and get their grant application paperwork in to the Maryland Energy Administration.  Effectively the state of MD capped rebates to $6k from $50k as of July 1, 2012.

·         Investors who had purchased solar panels last year (under 1603 tax incentives) and were looking for nonprofit addresses to place them (through an extension granted until Sep 2012) and who were willing to put up all of the up-front construction capital to build on the nonprofits’ sites (and give the SREC revenues to the nonprofit to keep) will no longer be eligible after Sep 30.  Solar integration and financing companies are no longer offering this option to nonprofits after this month.

·         All nonprofits that are or were interested in investor funded construction of solar power plants and have not executed engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreements (or received one need to let their solar integrators know).  I have been communicating with over 900 people over the last 90 days about this and have sent out many EPC agreements and proposal offers and received many responses, but possibly not one from all nonprofits that were interested. 

·         We have until this month to get these EPC agreements executed if still interested.

·         We have until this month to get financing approved by investor co.’s offering up front capital for construction. 

·         If you have not already been asked to submit financials (last two years financial statements for approval) or have not been given specific lease financing term agreements to execute, please let your solar integrator contact know.  As you can imagine, people have become very busy and cannot predict availability.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Solar Energy Working For America (Independents, Republicans and Democrats alike)

Managing SREC Risk in Maryland

Understanding SREC Risk 

If you are among the many in Maryland who have been considering solar renewable energy certificates as a means to finance your new solar project, then consider these updated facts about the SREC market and understand that it is less risky than you might think as a financial vehicle:

    SREC Information for the Maryland Market

    1.       SREC revenue is created when you sell the energy certificate generated by your system.  1 SREC = 1,000kWh of solar electricity generated.  Your system will be read monthly by the utility co (remotely through an Internet based connection built into the inverter which is installed near the main panel).  BGE, Pepco, Potomac Edison (Alleghany Power), or Delmarva Power will report how many SRECs were created for the month by your system.
    a.       Once your system is active, we will help you activate an SRECTRade account which is an electronic bulletin board to trade SRECs.
    b.      You will see past, current and future SREC values listed by state or jurisdiction and what current values.  You place your SREC for sale in this system.
    c.       A utility from any jurisdiction can execute a buy of current and future SRECs from MD SREC owners and upon settlement or execution of each transaction,  a check or electronic payment is issued to the owner of the SRECs.
    d. transactions are somewhat similar to a commodities exchange or securities broker site. acts as your agent to execute your sell orders and also offers full brokerage service to trade your SRECs on your behalf and just issue you monthly checks if you prefer not to be involved in the process.
    e.      This SREC revenue is considered ordinary revenue and is usually taxable to for-profit entities (in your case it would be tax exempt due to your tax exempt status).

    2.       You use the electricity generated by the solar panels in your facility powering your main panel and you also sell what your system produces to help you offset the cost of building your solar power plant.  
    a.       You are essentially creating a new solar power plant within the state of MD that will generate clean renewable solar electricity (which creates a commodity purchased by utilities called SRECs).
    b.      SRECs are sought by many utility companies in the North American Grid system because they have to meet mandates set by jurisdiction within which they operate and sell energy.
    c.       Utilities are mandated to either buy so much of this type of clean power (as a carbon offset), build their own solar power plants at their own expense or pay an alternative compliance payment (called an ACP) to their state or jurisdiction for shortfalls to their SREC goal mandated.
    d.      Solar renewable energy is a carve out that has been set apart from other renewable energy sources.   Utilities are mandated to meet specific amounts of power sold in their region to come from clean renewable solar power sources.

    e.      10 different states have steeply rising solar mandates for utility companies in their jurisdictions through 2022
                                                                  i.      It is often cheaper for utility companies to buy SREC commodities on the open SRECtrade market than to pay the compliance payment.
                                                                ii.      In MD the ACP is :
    1.        $400/SREC through 2014, currently production of renewable energy is falling short of mandated goal and is trading at $200
    2.       $350/SREC through 2017,
    3.       $200/SREC through 2018,
    4.       $150/SREC through 2020,
    5.       $100/SREC through 2022,
    6.       $ 50/SREC  through 2028.
                                                              iii.      Utility companies can invest their own funds in building clean solar power plants but they don’t because their main expense is on maintaining the grid, and if you or other customers are willing to build solar power plants it helps them and you (their customer) in two way – less electricity they have to deliver to your site, and a source for them to buy to meet their SREC mandate. 
    f.        This SREC mandate is essentially what drives the price for SRECs in multiple jurisdictions and is designed (in MD especially) with bipartisan support to help development of solar renewable power plants distributed all over the grid because it takes strain off the grid which is largely centralized from large generation plants pushing high voltage transmissions out to substations.  Your church, school, business or home becomes an interconnected solar power plant at the distribution level behind the higher voltage transmission lines and becomes a valuable asset to the state’s utility companies.  This is why the states are mandating solar carve outs and utilities are willing to pay for SRECs to help you build distributed solar power plants for them (in exchange you benefit by using that power for your own site). 
    g.       Any solar power plant that is interconnected to the grid according to code and installed by a qualified contractor is eligible to sell their solar power as SRECs (in MD).  If you did not interconnect with the grid and used it just to power your church, you would not be able to sell the power SRECs or be eligible for the lease (or tax incentives).  You would still be able to power your facilities and we could configure that for you if you wanted or needed that.  This configuration is called an off-grid solar power plant system complete with battery and generator backups for mission critical data centers (that must have continuous power where the grid is less reliable than having their own solar power plant – as in the case of many remote military facilities).  This is very rare.  Most people want the incentives available from state or federal government to sell their solar power as SRECs which are only available when you interconnect and use a qualified contractor who abides by national electrical code which is what we design, build and interconnect for people on the East Coast.

    SREC Trade Information:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A new dimension for solar energy from MIT News Office

A new dimension for solar energy - MIT News Office

This article from MIT News highlights the proof of concept of 3D solar designs that you assumed could work, but weren't sure why they weren't already in place (at least I wondered why cell phone towers didn't have  solar panels hanging off of them everywhere, or why light poles on the interstates and roads didn't have solar panels hanging all over them as well feeding the grid during the day and providing light at night for the road).  I am glad to see that these guys at MIT are on top of this whole 3D shape concept and have taken the steps to prove the concept.   The cost to practically manufacture or mass produce this configuration vs a flat two dimensional rectangular shape is clearly a current hindrance, but as the article correctly points out, nearly two thirds of solar power solution costs are related to engineering and site specific costs like trenching to tie into the grid vs the cost of the solar panels and racking themselves.  The news out of MIT is another breakthrough, and I for one will be glad to see the changing dynamics of implementing cool conceptual solar photovoltaic solutions like this in the future.  Solar energy solutions are the front runner in my book for the future of human beings on planet Earth (unless of course, we can figure out how to convert our sea water into energy as cost effectively as our sunlight).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Maryland's 10 year lease net cash effect on a solar photovoltaic system - economic no brainer in Maryland in 2012

In Maryland, it is an economic no brainer to act now vs wait until tax incentives expire after September 2012.  The post 1603 (30% federal credit) world of solar project development will be largely based on jurisdictional SREC markets and rebates.  MD revised their $50,000 rebate cap to $6,000.00, and is counting on the fairly hot solar renewable energy credit (SREC) market now.  These projects can take up to 6 months to engineer, procure, construct, interconnect with the utilities and activate.  If you were considering solar power before now and have done some research into it this is not a tough decision.  Lease options get less attractive for you after the 1603 financier incentives go away and you will be stuck in long term Power Purchase Agreements without an opportunity to earn money through SRECs (the investors who own the systems will).

The above scenario looks at a 99kW system on a 10 year lease available to non-residential customers in Maryland and assumes electricity rates (including distribution and generation charges) added together to be about $0.13/kWh (the average in Maryland is $0.134/kWh, and has steadily been rising at 5.5% annually for the last 25 years like the national trend.

For those who are uncertain about dabbling in the SREC market over the next 10 years, will be forced to invest their own cash, or loans or enter into fixed rate Power Purchase Agreements like the summary below.  Energy rates start at 15% to 40% lower than your current rate and escalates at a 2% to 3% annually over the next 20 to 25 years (half the current inflation rate on energy).  Click on the images to enlarge and compare the pros and cons of each.

Call Raj Dwivedi at 410-992-2646 or email to learn more or get a specific free site analysis done for your site to see if solar photovoltaic power plants are a good fit.

Federal U.S. Department of Energy - Loan Guarantee Program

Federal U.S. Department of Energy - Loan Guarantee Program: Section 1703 of Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 created the Department of Energy

Monday, June 18, 2012

Learn More About Solar PV Electric Vehicle Charging Stations From Mercury Solar Systems & Raj Dwivedi

  PhotoVoltaic Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in your parking lot can power 10 electric vehicles using 33 parking spaces and provide clean renewable solar energy that is metered and billed to the Electric Vehicle driver's Charge Pass RFID card like an EZ Pass.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Finding New Ways to Cash In on Renewables

This article was sent from the CFO Magazine mobile App

This article is very appropriate today in MD, DE, PA, NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA and other states who have established renewable portfolio standards (RPS):

As longstanding renewable-energy credits expire starting this year, companies that have taken advantage of those hefty tax breaks will have to consider new alternatives to fill the void.

Wind-project developers or solar-facility owners typically have tax-equity partnerships with large-company investors such as Google or Chevron, where both sides benefit: the developers get necessary capital and the investors get the big tax write-offs.

Corporate investors in wind, solar, geothermal, and bioenergy projects are still eligible for the production tax credit (PTC), which provides a 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour income-tax credit for up to the first 10 years a facility is open. Similarly, the investment tax credit gives investors a one-time tax break of 30% on their investment or a cash payment from the Treasury Department.

But that’s all going to change. The PTC for wind projects, which allows companies to exchange the credits for cash based on production levels, is set to expire at the end of 2012, while the geothermal and other bioenergy PTCs will remain until the end of 2013. Solar tax credits expire in 2016. The 1603 grant, named after Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is also phasing out.

The uncertainty surrounding the renewable-project market after the tax credits expire is already affecting project development, though some participants are hopeful of an 11th-hour save by Congress extending the credits. Until now, as the programs’ expiration dates near, lawmakers have tended to extend them for no more than one or two years.

Only $3.6 billion in tax-equity financing will be available for renewable-energy projects in 2012, while the demand for renewable-energy project financing in 2011 was $7.5 billion, according to an American Council On Renewable Energy survey last year.

“That source of capital that is helping the industry grow is going to slow down if those incentives are not there,” says Brent Stahl, principal and partner at law firm Stahl, Bernal & Davies.

In fact, that’s already happening, as only those projects already under way are still receiving the tax credits. “Right now we are very busy, because people started construction last year and they are all rushing to get their projects done by the end of this year,” says Mark Regante, a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. And, he cautions, “if you have a [large wind] project that hasn’t already started construction, you are not going to get it built by the end of this year, so new projects are basically stalled.”

Investors have been particularly lured to the projects in the past few years, when the tax savings increased dramatically. “The cash-on-cash return that a firm is paying a tax-equity investor may be 3%, but in substance the tax-equity investor is earning a very high return because it’s using these tax attributes to shelter or reduce the tax burden on [its] other income,” says Regante. “In the case of accelerated depreciation deductions, the benefit is like an interest-free loan from the government.”

Before the recession, investors in solar facilities were earning 6% to 8% aftertax internal rate of return, and now they can earn more than 10% IRR on the renewable deals. With the tax credits expiring, however, other potential alternatives for soundly investing in renewable projects could catch on. For example, says Stahl, interested parties have started to discuss a master limited partnership as a financing vehicle, similar to pipeline businesses.

The concept would be a first for the renewables sector. “There’s hope and discussion out there that maybe at worst some of the things that are available in other energy sectors will become available even if some of the production tax credits no longer are,” he says.

Also, some already-existing tax-equity structures could draw new interest. Sale-leaseback structures, where the developer sells the project to the investor, could prove useful for short-term-horizon investors. And inverted-lease structures, which let the investor actually lease the project from the developer, could also become more popular, say market participants.

Similarly, accelerated-depreciation federal-tax incentives, such as for solar-project investments over a five-year period, are not expiring yet and could be more appealing with the traditional credits going away, notes Stahl. So far, relatively few companies have taken advantage of them.

Interest does vary by market, however. The wind sector may need more investor support, but the solar industry can stand more on its own because of its retail appeal, says Milbank’s Regante. There are more tax-equity investors in the solar market now than a year ago, he says, and developers are finding ways to get their projects financed.
Published: June 5 by CFO Magazine and reposted

For more information on your Solar Renewable Energy Credits and options for Energy Choices, contact:  Raj Dwivedi at 410-992-2646 office, or 301-892-0207 cell, or

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

EV Charging Stations and Solar Power Plants Go Together

 Let Raj Dwivedi with Mercury Solar Systems help attract new business to your commercial space with solar powered parking ports.  33 available parking spaces will generate around 73,088 kWh which has a SREC value in MD of $18,250 at today’s SRECTrade value of $250/SREC or 1,000 kWh.
Get multiple benefits by installing PV solar carports:
  1. Shade and Protect Vehicles
  2. Maximize available land use without disturbing fields or green space for farming or playing
  3. Avoid roof repairs and costly structural upgrades to accommodate solar PV arrays 
  4. Provide smart EV charging stations in your lot space powered by solar PV arrays
This not only improves the value of your space, but brings new awareness to EV drivers of your commercially owned space.  Level 2 smart charge systems from providers such as Semaconnect provide commercial building owners with intelligent charger systems which can fully charge EV batteries in 4 hours and bill the metered usage directly to a credit card using their intelligent RFID system which functions much like the EZ Pass system.  A 15 minute trip to the store extends the range on the EV by 15 to 20 miles and EV drivers seek out EV charging sites.
The EV smart metered charging station is a profitable solution for commercial shopping sites where having a Solar PV array as the source of the power benefits the property owners in measurable ways that are extremely profitable and cash flow positive from day one. 
Commercial building owners can easily convert their parking spaces into revenue generating opportunities encouraging EV drivers to seek out their facilities. 

Contact Raj Dwivedi for more information at

301-892-0207, 410-992-2646 or


Learn More Now!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

How do you install a 300kW solar power plant in 2 days? See this video

How do you make money with solar energy?

One way is the way this video shows with the meter running backwards (where your electric utility account is credited for the electricity generated by your solar array).  In addition, you earn a certificate issued by the state which takes a monthly reading of the amount of power produced by your system at it's peak during the month.  You then sell your solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) on a market called the SREC market.  If you want to learn how, just ask your solar energy experts.  They make it very easy for you, and Mercury Solar Systems actually automates the whole process for you with  Typical 10kW household system generates 1 SREC per month and current trade value in Maryland for an SREC is $250.  That means you could earn $250/month, plus offset your own use or what you buy from the utility every month with a solar power plant!  Amazing isn't it?  Isn't MD, CT, DE, NJ, NY, MA, CA, CO, TX and about 38 other states that offer incentives for solar just the best places in the world to live?  You hear a lot about the failure of Solyndra and how that it was a dumb investment, yet the Federal Government subsidizes the oil companies by about $39 billion/yr or about 52% of all the incentives out there, another $9 billion goes to nuclear, another $6 billion to coal, another $6 billion to ethanol, and finally $6 billion set aside for solar.  The incentives like the 30% federal tax credit and bonus depreciation schedule allowing you to depreciate 60% of the total system cost (in addition to the 30% credit) in the year it is installed totals out to about $6 billion/yr, and helps your house, farm, office, plant become independent of distributed power from the utility company.  As battery technology advances (see recent post about the A123 Systems batteries used in the Chevy Volt and the implications of applying that technology as a standby backup on every home) and you see the possibility of energy independence that actually helps everyone in the community and the world.  You tell me where you'd rather see your tax money get invested?

Friday, May 18, 2012

US Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels will not effect installation prices in the near term for smart installers

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Some solar installation companies have been crying that the sky is falling over the 31% tariffs that the US Commerce Department has imposed on Suntech, one of China's biggest photovoltaic cell maker and found that Trina, Yingli and other Chinese manufacturers that have captured a significant share of the US market should pay a 31% tariff for selling their products for less than fair value.  This all stemmed from a complaint filed by a US subsidiary of Germany's SolarWorld with the US federal government. 

Here's why it won't effect anyone interested in solar installations in the short term if they are partnered with the right solar energy company.  Smart solar energy companies that have invested in infrastructure, research and development and supply chain diversity are largely immune to disruptions from Chinese suppliers or any one supplier.  At Mercury Solar Systems, headquartered out of Port Chester, NY for example, they have multiple American, German, Korean and Chinese panel suppliers capable of filling orders as needed with a diversity in their supply chain specifically to avoid market disruptions that might effect one supplier or group of suppliers like the Chinese.

Mercury Solar Systems deploys a smart growth strategy and risk mitigation model within their management structure which has enabled them to grow and lead the industry's growth on the east coast. By employing top tier engineering and designers in house, Mercury Solar Systems keeps installation costs low while putting out a superior overall product that is bankable by investors, expertise sought after by other solar companies, electric utility companies looking for solar installation expertise and suppliers clamoring to try new technologies in the field with the NY State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) which uses the Mercury Solar Systems headquarters in Port Chester, NY as their proving grounds for new technologies.  They currently have 10 different photovoltaic technologies and mounting configurations on the company's headquarters.  While other solar installers have exited the industry, face disruptions due to tariffs and see the sky falling, Mercury Solar Systems sees opportunity to differentiate and make smart growth decisions.  Mercury Solar Systems executives are regularly approached by smaller solar installation companies in states like Maryland who look to be acquired by Mercury Solar Systems as they expand their reach into new states.  The smart approach and focus on the solar installation business has given Mercury Solar Systems a leadership position in the industry that can easily weather any disruption to price from Chinese suppliers.

Mercury Solar Systems expert supply chain wizardry and software maintain a just in time inventory level that anticipates and prices in market disruption and variability from multiple suppliers as a redundant back stop to fill orders as needed.  According to one wizard, the key to affordable solar energy is in efficiencies from every step of the process including site optimization design (pre-sale), panel choices, size of inverters, length and type of conduit run (overhead, underground), as well as optimized design and engineering configurations for each specific site.  Most other solar installation companies either outsource or have to figure out on the job what will work with engineers and installers who lack the experience of Mercury Solar Systems engineers and installation teams.  The company has completed over 2000 different systems with  close to 35mW under operations and maintenance.  The company can easily claim there isn't a roof or ground mount system configuration they haven't already seen or already tested on the east coast.

The photovoltaic panels themselves represent less than 20% of the overall installation costs in typical commercial or residential installations on the east coast, and less than 33% on larger utility solar farm projects.  Installation companies that relied to heavily on Chinese suppliers with too little inventory to meet their current or near term demand will be most affected by the US tariffs imposed on Chinese suppliers.

As new and innovative solar technologies evolve, smart solar installation companies who are large enough in scale to attract research and development investment partners (like NYSERDA), investment bank capital, diverse suppliers, engineering, design, installation and sales talent won't be affected over the long term.  Those companies don't want to be in the panel manufacturing business nor too reliant on one technology or supplier because of the evolution and advancements like the new Absolute Black Silicon Cell which almost eliminates reflectance loss and captures 99.7% of the solar radiation compared to 96% reflectance from standard silicon cells as demonstrated in the video from Natcore Technology and featured on ABC

Technology will be the driving factor for the most efficient and lowest cost for customers as American and other country's panel manufacturers compete for the US solar market.   Market dynamics force industry consolidation among installation companies, engineering companies and panel manufacturers to align themselves strategically and embrace the newest technologies and efficiencies.   We are not that far off from reaching grid parity with distributed solar energy in certain markets ideally suited for it.  The evolution of efficiency gains bring the solar energy industry closer each year with or without subsidies, tariffs or the efforts of the American Petroleum Institute (and their wholly owned subsidiary, the GOP) to slow that advancement down. 
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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Coolest camping gift ever for father's day if he likes to camp and catch NASCAR from his tent

This is the 2 kilowatt flexible fabric photo-voltaic array that has to be one of the coolest solar gadgets in field shelters ever.  This thing is made by OK Solar Power Film and is sold to the military with a pretty hefty price tag, but not as much as you might think if you combine some ingenuity and purchase the thin film direct from the manufacturer.  There are a lot of pretty cool DIY solar PV thin film videos on You Tube which show how to make a solar panel with multiple cells soldered together by the tabs from one cell to the next.  That film is housed under glass and aluminum frames in your typical rectangular panel because of the practical implication and fragility of the PV film if not housed in something that keeps it from easily tearing.  This configuration looks pretty sturdy for the PV film sewn into the flexible cover.  I would think anyone could modify this with a standard tarp and apply the same principle of a DIY panel using clear (package tape) on the back side of the PV film cells to stabilize them, and a clear dimpled film or tape (which can better catch the light) for the top to provide a lighter than glass design application for the PV panel that goes on this configuration.   Clear mylar film can be purchased relatively cheaply from a Dupont supplier if you wanted to go to the trouble of manufacturing your own version of this PV tarp cover for your field shelter.  But why go to all that trouble making one for your custom needs, when OKSolar will ship you one like this in about 7 weeks of your order.  Their standard size is 22x40 feet which generates 2 kilowatts enough to power almost any modern low voltage amenity you would need or take in the field to stay in touch, powering your electronics.  This thing isn't light enough to pack this on your back, it comes in at a pretty hefty 1560 lbs of weight with all the poles and everything you see, but easily vehicle packed.  If you'd like a quote for OKSolar to build one for you, join our blog or click on this link to request a quote.

Friday, May 4, 2012

More innovative solutions to solar energy are on the way

This amazing breakthrough in harnessing nature's solar cells (extracting the proteins that cause photosynthesis in chlorophyll) and practically applying it to usable electricity is a dream that is one step closer to being realized thanks to MIT researcher Andreas Mershin in this exciting video.

I can see it now, a powdered substrate sprinkled onto existing asphalt shingles, then hosed down with a green goo substance that contains the protein extract from grass clippings that bonds with the powder, then hosed down by a polyurethane type epoxy that binds it all together.  You add in a couple of electrical tabs or leads into a battery bank, and you're roof is now a photovoltaic generation plant.

Hopefully scientists and engineers can one day make this dream efficient enough to be practical and real.  I hope to see that one day.  I am simply a huge fan of the Open Courseware at MIT and love the fact that they pioneered cutting edge research and education.  On a side note, it is nice to see Coursera a joint Ivy league schools initiative with Yale, Harvard, Stanford and others funding the iniative to provide free higher education curriculum like MIT pioneered with  OCW.MIT.EDU!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Why the A123 Systems battery explosion in the test lab in MI is a good thing

I think another market exists for the A123 Systems, Inc. lithium ion battery power plant packs that are used to power electric vehicles.  If you didn't already hear about the explosion in the lab in MI, you may as well hear about it here.  While many may see the explosion (and I should mention an employee was injured, which is awful news) as a major setback, I see a major advancement in the safety of the technology coming from what is learned from such tests.  The company must have built these test facilities to put the battery power plant under incredible stresses to simulate operating in extreme environments of a vehicle, and determined that a recall was in order to protect from a faulty housing that causes volatile gases to leak out and ignite which caused the explosion according to news reports published last week.   While the battery maker's market is clearly electric vehicles, the industrial application of lithium-ion based power packs installed into a safer housing units in buildings, sheds, or on homes could be a viable solution to the noisy standby generator market as well.  This welcome capability puts the promise of solar energy even more closer to home for all of us with noisy gasoline powered generators that deliver cheap and reliable back up power.  Such a solution makes solar energy an even more viable option. 

While this technology is clearly in early stages of development, solar companies are said to be experimenting with different battery back up systems as an interesting alternative to the noisy standby gasoline, natural gas/propane or diesel back up generators that many businesses and homes currently use as standby backups.   I'm convinced we are that much closer to having safe continuous power at home from the technology offered by A123 Systems, Inc.

Related stories to A123 Systems, Inc. are below:

  • Over-Stimulus, EV Indifference a Lethal Mix for Battery Companies [National Legal and Policy Center]
    (Mon Apr 23 00:00:00 UTC 2012)
    The Obama Administration has over-stimulated the electric vehicle battery market, as companies inspired by the flow of federal stimulus support don't have enough customers for their products. The government promise of a coming electric car (and truck) revolution, thanks to moves such as President George W. Bush's signature to approve a $7,500-per-electric-vehicle tax credit and Congress's passage of the Recovery Act, instigated a buildup of capacity and inventory for batteries. Now putrid EV sales - including the newly introduced Ford Focus electric - have put their battery makers in peril, according to the Detroit Free Press. "A looming shakeout in the industry," the newspaper reported on Sunday, "which would likely include plant closures and layoffs, is also likely to touch off a fierce debate over whether federal and state government officials made a major error by using more than $1 billion in grants and tax credits to spur massive investments that are not yet needed." The latest ...
  • Infinite Taxpayer Money Needed for Electric Truck Company's Survival [National Legal and Policy Center]
    (Mon Apr 23 00:00:00 UTC 2012)
    Despite a new report out of the United Kingdom that says the future of the business is bleak without government subsidies, a three-year-old unprofitable electric truck company that received $32 million in U.S. taxpayer stimulus plans to raise more money via an initial public offering. Kansas City-based Smith Electric Vehicles was launched in January 2009, and despite its lack of track record and the inexperience of its leadership, the Department of Energy awarded the company $10 million in August 2009, and an additional $22 million in March 2010, for an electric truck demonstration program. The company was little more than a spinoff of a failed U.K. operation with the same name, owned by a troubled parent company called The Tanfield Group. In July 2008 - largely because of Smith-UK's shortcomings - Tanfield's stock price "collapsed" (scroll down at link) and was harming other holdings of its founder, Roy Stanley. Smith-UK's electric truck venture, part of the "green" energy economy eu...
  • Making the case for solar energy over other renewables

    A report in today's Wall Street Journal by Robert Lee Hotz about large wind farms causing increased ground temperatures as large turbine blades pull down warm air and churn up cooler air at the ground level shows a couple of interesting things about renewable energy impacts on the environment.  One is that there are impacts that will occur and have not yet been studied as to the potential adverse effects.  The study showed for the first time over a nine year study period by sensors on a NASA satellite (done by researches at University of Albany-State University of New York and and the University of Illinois that the average nighttime air temperature around the large scale wind farms (in TX with 2350 turbines) increased by 0.72 degree Celsius over time.  The study looked at the area air temperature when there were just a couple hundred wind turbines to a couple thousand.

    EPV (Electric Photo-Voltaic) or Solar arrays are the closest thing to nature that can impact an area where arrays are installed for the following reasons:
    1. They are usually going on existing structures so their impact is not in addition to some structure that doesn't already exist.
    2. They have no moving parts that can hurt or kill wildlife (birds are known to be killed or injured when flying into turbine blades)
    3. They mimic the natural photosynthetic process that basically gives the planet life, where plants create oxygen from synthesizing sunlight and carbon dioxide.
    EPV may not be as efficient in generating as much power as wind or hydro-electric turbines, but the trade-offs are pretty clear if you are looking to energize a smarter planet.  Municipalities and states (like Maryland) which are working toward mandating an ever increasing percentage of power come from renewables should consider the impact of the logical choices. 

    Solar energy is not free to install, but it is very cost effective, and damn near makes the cost of power free once installed and the equipment is fully depreciated.  There are no moving parts to be damaged or to damage the environment, and companies that know what they are doing and can provide the engineering expertise to builders, installers and building owners can rapidly deploy solar cost savings into a business model that is cash flow positive.  The leading companies in engineering solar solutions (like Mercury Solar Systems out of NY) have demonstrated for clients that solar can be and is actually a profit center for a business with structures exposed to sunlight that don't have solar arrays generating power and selling that power to the grid at standard offered rates.

    A solar company like Mercury Solar System that can leverage their economic scale to get the costs of various arrays down to their lowest price point from manufacturers, and with lean US engineering processes and low overheads provide local jobs, training to roofing contractors and local electrical contractors to install solar systems.  Solar energy is truly the most viable alternative renewable energy source we have in our modern world and can turn around our economy.  The American Petroleum Institute can either fight renewables or embrace the "all of the above" strategy espoused by the Obama administration.  The fact is their partnership is imperative for the success of solar.  BP Solar is a key strategic researcher and supplier of innovative EPV solutions that show they are part of the global solution on energy.

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Mercury Solar Systems is among the nation's best solar experts according to Raj Dwivedi and others

    I recently had a chance to visit Mercury Solar Systems in Portchester, NY and interview various senior leaders at the company and get a view of 10 different technologies in use today across the country generating solar power with different levels of efficiencies.  Every system that has been commercially built and installed in the US is on the roof of the company's headquarters, and is connected with a Locus monitoring system that also feeds in weather info in real time to a large 40" monitor in the lobby feeding real time data as to the power being produced by each array.  Solyndra's array is probably the most innovative in their tubular solar panels that are really light weight and efficient.  It is good to see that Mercury Solar Systems has positioned themselves on the east coast of the US as the premier authority that understands the solar system engineering, design, installation and provides ongoing operations and maintenance for any kind of system available.  Many solar companies have already gone out of business, but Mercury fixes and maintains other systems installed by their competitors.  Mercury Solar Systems has continued to grow by some 870% reaching the list of one of the 10 fastest growing solar energy companies in the US according to Inc. magazine and over 2000 installations under their belt in commercial, residential and in large utility solar farm projects.  Subsidies spawned the industry with incentives for both commercial and residential customers, but the facts are clear that solar is a solid investment even without the subsidies that provide parity to owners within 4 or 5 years just on pure economics of the power the solar arrays produce for their owners. 

    Commercial trade contractors including construction companies, HVAC, electrical subcontractors,  roofing companies and builders of all variety would be wise to establish a relationship with the experts at Mercury Solar Systems representatives who can help them with solar installations for their customers by providing the system engineering, design and provide all the components with an unprecedented economy of scale and buying power from all major manufacturers of Photo-Voltaic film products, inverters, rack mounting systems and electrical knowledge. 

    Contact Raj Dwivedi through email  or call at 410-992-2646 for information related to this article or before selecting a contractor or solar installation company.  A lot of the larger ones in Maryland have already shuttered their doors (including BP Solar's exit from the industry), or have approached Mercury Solar Systems to be acquired because they lack the access to compete with the engineering and design expertise as well as the master electricians and solar expertise.