Tag Archives for " renewable energy "

Why Have Solar Power Subsidies in the United States?

solar-power-subsidies

Does the US still need solar power subsidies when solar is so popular?

Without getting into too many of the nitty gritty details, energy subsidies exist in order to help get new or struggling technologies off the ground and able to compete on their own, and solar power subsidies are no exception. The reason new technologies need help is simple: money.

According to a recent study, energy subsidies have been around since at least 1789, when our country placed a tariff on the selling of any British coal entering America. Since that time, federal money has flowed to industries such as coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, and renewable energy.

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How Much Energy Does the Sun Produce?

how-much-energy-does-the-sun-produce

To answer the question “How much energy does the sun produce?” we turn to scientists for an answer.

If we want to move away from fossil fuels and to more earth-friendly and renewable sources of energy, we must be sure that any alternatives will provide us with enough energy to meet our needs. But how much energy does the sun produce? And is it enough?
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What are the Benefits of Solar Energy?

benefits-of-solar-energy

Taking a societal look at the benefits of solar energy.

As you can probably imagine, there are many benefits of solar energy. We’ve written about the benefits and drawbacks of solar before in our October 2016 Solar Energy Pros and Cons – Top 10, but in that article we mostly focused on issues important to homeowners going solar – solar panel efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and the high upfront cost of solar panels.

Today, let’s take a step back and look at the benefits of solar energy on a much wider scale. We’ll delve into how solar can benefit a nation or society’s economy while increasing energy independence and financial security.Continue reading

How Many Solar Panels does it take to Charge an Electric Car?

how-many-solar-panels-to-charge-an-electric-car

How many solar panels are needed to charge an electric car?

The residential solar industry has enjoyed a huge growth spurt over the last decade due to falling prices and new financing mechanisms. At the same time, electric car ownership has grown steadily, pushed forward by companies like Tesla and Nissan that are constantly researching and developing new ways to make electric vehicles cheaper and go further on a single charge.

Some electric car drivers are even installing solar on their home’s roof to charge their car. An electric car powered by clean, renewable energy? Yes, please! This idea though might leave you asking the obvious question “How many solar panels does it take to charge an electric car?”

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What are the Primary Types of Solar Power?

types-of-solar-power

What do we mean when we talk about the different types of solar power?

After all, all solar power comes from the sun, what else is there?

When we discuss types of solar power, what we’re really talking about is the different methods of harvesting and using the sun’s energy. With solar power, we can warm a room so we’re nice and cozy, heat water for our showers and baths, create electricity or even cook food! Today we’re going to focus on ways to create or harvest energy using solar power.Continue reading

What are the Best Options for RV Solar Panels?

rv-solar-panels

Things to consider when looking for RV solar panels

For RV dwellers, it’s really a no-brainer to get solar panels as they become more affordable each year. But how do you go about choosing your RV solar panels? In this article, we’ll discuss the essential factors you’ll need to consider when shopping for the best solar panels for your RV.

As a home on wheels, RV’s are an especially interesting case. They typically have everything a ‘brick and mortar’ home would have: microwave, water heater, air conditioning, TV, laptops, phones and everything else we use on a day-to-day basis. In the past, RV’s relied on loud generators or a connection to shore power to turn on all these appliances and gadgets. In comparison, solar panels are cheap, reliable, quiet, and easy to transport.

There are many considerations to think of if you’re planning to get a solar panel for your RV. Price, size, and efficiency all play a part. In the end, one solar set-up doesn’t meet everyone’s criteria and the best solar panels are the ones that fit your needs the best.

Let’s look at what you need to contemplate in order to find the perfect solar panels for your roof:

#1 What’s Your Goal?

Before looking into the actual solar panels, it helps to ask yourself what your goal is.

Do you want a solar installation to power your leisure batteries so you can use all your electrical appliances whenever you feel like it? Maybe you want a small solar installation to cover your electricity needs when you’re boondocking without electrical hookups for a few days a year. Maybe you want to supplement your generator with a solar panel so that you don’t have to listen to it hum all the time.

Before moving forward, have a clear goal in mind. Write it down so you can always refer back to it. This will help you decide what RV solar panel set-up is best for you.

#2 Cost, Warranty, and Reviews of RV Solar Panels

Just like any investment, you need to do your homework regarding the brands you are looking considering. Manufacturers of smaller, RV-sized solar panels aren’t as well known as the big boys like Samsung, Hanwha, and SunPower that produce solar panels for residential and commercial installations.

To this end, don’t just look at cost (which of course is important), but also the warranty details and online reviews of their products. Larger panel manufacturers typically provide equipment warranties of about 12 years, and production warranties around 25 years (guaranteeing the panels will produce a certain amount of power after 25 years). If you can’t find any warranty information or if it only covers a very short time period, it might be worthwhile to look at other brands.

Solar panels are fairly simple – they don’t have any moving parts – so you shouldn’t really have any issues. However, as these solar panels are constantly outside on the roof, experiencing rain, snow, heat, and extreme temperature changes, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Don’t just take the manufacturer’s word that they are the best RV solar panels. What do other customers say about them online? Check out reviews on Amazon, the Better Business Bureau, Facebook, and even Yelp to see what experiences other RV’ers have had.

#3 Portable or Roof-Mounted Solar Panels?

rv-roof-solar-panel

For RV’s, there are two types of solar panel mounting: portable and roof-mounted. Which one you choose depends on your needs.

Portable Solar Panels

Portable solar panels are typically stored inside the vehicle and set up in a sunny area when parked. Unlike solar panels mounted on your roof, with portable panels you can park your RV in the shade on a hot day and place the panels in a nearby sunny area, allowing you to be more comfortable inside and use less electricity for your fan or air conditioning. The solar panels usually come with legs attached so you can angle the solar panels towards the sun, allowing you to maximize energy production! Portable solar panels often come as a kit, like Go Power’s 120-watt kit to make it as easy as possible. Simply take them out, plug them in, and set them in the sun!

The downside with portable solar panels is that you have to take them out and set them up each time you want to go somewhere. One or two solar panels is easy enough, but do you want to set up 5 panels each time you park? Probably not.

If you have leisure batteries to power your electric gadgets, portable solar panels can’t charge the batteries while you drive – what a waste of sunlight! Because of these downsides, portable solar panels really are only good for RV’s with very small electricity needs. If you have many electrical appliances, roof-mounted solar panels are probably your best bet.

Roof-Mounted Solar Panels

Most RV owners attach their solar panels permanently to the roof. You can install as many solar panels on your roof as space allows, which is great if you use a lot of electricity. With roof-mounted solar panels, you can charge your leisure batteries while driving and, when you finally park, it’s easy to use your panels – just turn on your gadgets and go!

Roof-mounted solar panels do have their downsides, though. First, if you want your solar panels to produce electricity, you have to park in full sun. If you don’t have a fan or air conditioner, this means it could get pretty stuffy inside. Also, since the solar panels are mounted flat to the roof, you can’t adjust the angle to maximize production, so your solar panels are never going to produce quite as much as they could if they were angled towards the sun.

However, even with these drawbacks, attaching solar panels directly to the roof is a good option since you can install as much as your roof allows and using them is quite easy. Once installed, you are good to go!

Your Roof Matters!

If you’re installing solar panels on your RV roof, you don’t have a large, open space like a stationary home. RVs have a small roof and fans, air conditioners, and luggage racks up top, so solar panels have to be placed anywhere there’s an open space. Looking at RV solar set-ups is a little like looking at a Tetris game – solar panels placed anywhere they’ll fit!

To this end, RV solar panels come in different shapes and sizes. The typical 260-watt solar panel installed on residential homes is about 3 feet by 5 feet and is a large rectangle – much too big and bulky for an RV roof. Instead of one large panel, RV owners usually install multiple smaller narrow 100-watt panels or 100-watt square-shaped panels, or smaller rectangle-shaped panels. Often finding the right solar panel is simply a matter of finding the solar panel that fits your roof the best.

Buy a Kit or DIY?

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If you’re looking for a set-up that’s quick and easy, you can opt to purchase a solar kit online that comes with the solar panels, wiring, charge controller, inverter, and even battery bank. Costs for these systems range from about $500 to $10,000 depending on the size of the installation, whether batteries are included (which typically doubles the cost at least), and the brand of the equipment.

These days you have a wide variety of kits to choose from. On the smaller end, the well-known solar manufacturer Renogy sells a 100-watt solar kit that includes the wires, mounting brackets, and charge controller for about $200. If you’re looking for something a little larger, Windy Nation puts out a 400-watt solar kit that includes the wiring and charge controller as well as the inverter, though this will set you back about $800. Neither of these kits comes with batteries, so you’ll have to budget for that as well.

You might also be interested in doing DIY solar panels. Piecing together your own RV solar installation takes time and planning, but you’re able to choose the equipment to suit your needs and shop around for the best deals. You’ll need solar panels, wires, a charge controller and inverter like the kits provide, as well as batteries to store the electricity you create. Read about the basics of solar panel installation if you want to have a better understanding of how each component works. If you’re wondering how many batteries you need, check out our article How to Make a DIY Battery Bank for Your Solar Panels.

No matter if you buy a kit or piece your installation together yourself, you’ll be pumping out your own free, clean energy while you’re cruising down the highway to your next destination!

Images under CC License:  1, 2, 3, 4

What Is Bad About Solar Energy?

what-is-bad-about-solar-energy

There’s always a flip side: What is bad about solar energy?

We all know the good parts about solar energy: financial savings, cleaner energy, and little more independence from your utility to name a few. With all these positives, this might leave you wondering what is bad about solar energy? For the most part, solar energy is a win-win for all involved – you save money and the environment is happier- but there are two sides to every coin.

Read on for the top 6 most common bad things about solar energy.Continue reading

Smart Street Lights: More than Just a Pretty Glow

smart streetlight

On the road, the concept of ‘smart street light’ probably doesn’t jump to mind for most of us.

But in the last 5 years, as the boring street light has gotten a smart facelift, that’s exactly what’s been going on.

You might be saying to yourself “Streetlights? They just light our streets at night! What else is there?” Smart street lights – which use bright white LEDs – provide light, of course, but they are much more than that. They’ve got motion sensors, they reduce energy usage and therefore emissions, and they send data back to the utility and city about their energy usage.Continue reading

What Can We Learn From Samso, the 100% Renewable Island?

samso-island-lighthouse

Samso is a small island located on the east side of the Danish peninsula.

Home to 3,800 inhabitants, Samso became world famous in 2008 for becoming the first island run on 100% renewable energy. The project initially began in 1997, when Samso won a government competition to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable sources.

Since Samso became 100% renewable, cities, countries and islands across the world have made pledges to also go 100% renewable, including Hawaii, San Diego, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. In fact, several small cities and islands are already 100% renewable, including Aspen, Colorado, and Tokelau, a small island in the South Pacific claimed by New Zealand.Continue reading

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