Money talks and the Koch Brothers are the most loquacious of the anti-solar movement. They have crafted a well-orchestrated movement under the aegis of the innocuous sounding name of Americans for Prosperity to derail the solar and renewable energy movement in states throughout the country. We don’t know if the Koch brothers are behind every legislative initiative to scale back solar energy, but certainly their robust wallet bankrolls the most vocal of these efforts to limit solar energy’s encroachment on fossil fuels. The good news is that solar energy is now becoming a staple in the energy basket in the United States. But solar energy’s success now breeds these attacks from the fossil fuel industry and well-moneyed conservatives. This void is national policy left the states to craft their own energy policy and over forty states enacted renewable energy standards. But without a national policy, each of these states is a potential battleground vulnerable to attacks bankrolled by the Koch Brothers. We are now seeing the effect of no national policy on energy, and we can expect that with the recent successes in Oklahoma and Ohio, that these attacks will be expanded to other states.
Solar home panels are increasingly becoming part of the landscape in communities throughout the U.S. They are cropping up in cities and towns, in the burbs and in downtowns. Some of SolarTown’s best customers are farmers and ranchers. But wherever you live, do not forget to assure that your solar installer pays attention to the design of your array. It is going to be on your roof for decades to come and you don’t want something that is going to look lousy. If we are going to overcome objections from some quarters about how solar panels look, solar installers may want to pay more attention to how the arrays on residential roofs look. It would benefit not only the homeowner but the entire industry.
Home solar panels are becoming increasingly part of the home ownership landscape in many parts of the country. Many of our customers call up and ask whether they should install solar panels on their homes. Since we sell solar panels, we would love to say unequivocally yes, but the answer is more nuanced and our answer usually is, “it depends.” These are some of the considerations we usually give to our customers about whether they should be considering home solar panels. Just because you are intent on going solar doesn’t mean that your home wants to cooperate. Solar can be placed on homes in virtually every state, but not every home is suitable for solar. If you live in a forest, solar panels aren’t going to catch many of the sun’s rays. And if you live in the city and the adjoining building casts a long shadow over your roof for much of the day, then solar panels may not be for your home. I did see at a trade show a couple of years back, a solution to some of these issues by having concentrated solar on a long pole that would peek out over the trees, but I have not seen this application ever used. For today, if you have a huge hickory over your roof or have any other obstructions, then you may want to look into buying green energy or becoming a member of a solar cooperative, where you don’t have to host the panels on your roof.
Guest Blog: One of SolarTown’s customers recently purchased a solar refrigerator and we invited her to share her thoughts on creating a green home far away from the grid. So you’ve decided that you want a beachfront or close to it but can’t quite come up with the hefty prices in town. Consider the option of affordable beachfront “off the grid.” What does this mean? Well for one, you will be using solar energy (the most efficient) with a possible back-up generator. This means solar panels, batteries and an inverter to convert the solar energy to power your appliances. How large of a system is up to your needs? Myself, I use very little energy so have a small system. However, if you want the electric coffee maker, electric refrigerator, then a much larger system will be needed.
Are you digging out today on the East Coast or are you basking in the sun in Arizona? If you are getting a sun tan on the West Coast, then this blog post is not for you. If you are looking at a roof and your home solar panels under a foot of snow, then you may want to read further. Let’s get to the basics. If your home solar panels are under snow, they are not producing electricity. You have some choices to get those modules back up and generating solar power. The best choice is simply wait, but if you are in a hurry, then some homeowners may use a broom to gently take the snow off of their panels. But don’t risk life and limb on a slippery roof just to get an extra kilowatt hour of electricity.
The promise of the greenest of all Olympics may be fading in the mud of the Olympic Village. As the Opening Ceremonies are just days away, the more immediate concern is the condition of the hotel rooms. When a reporter for the Washington Post starts posting pictures of the sink in her bathroom, you know that you have a PR problem. It’s not that anyone is hoping that the Russians will fail to put on a stellar Olympics. But the reality is sinking in that the 2014 Winter Olympics, despite being the costliest ever, are not ready for prime time. The organizers made special mention (or was it window dressing) that they were using solar hot water heating. According to the press release, the “potential for solar energy” (sounds to me like Soviet speak) has been “successfully applied at the new railway station in Adler, where solar-powered radiators and boilers have been installed, to service buildings, including the water-based heating systems.” Is that all that was promised to make these the greenest of all Olympics? According to the press release, “The use of solar power as a ‘green’ alternative to traditional sources of energy will enable annual savings of up to 30% on heating costs, and will satisfy all of the venue’s requirements as regards hot water.” We will try to look at some of the reports to see how green these Olympics will be.
A day in the life of SolarTown is never boring. We field calls all day long from people all over the country, some who are interested in purchasing some of our solar energy products, and some whom simply want to talk solar.
This past week, an owner of a guest villa in Baja California purchased a solar refrigerator to provide off the grid electricity for some of her guests. If you want to supply soft drinks in an idyllic setting, you don’t want to have a noisy generator in the background. Do you want your guests to hear the sound of a diesel generator or the sound of waves crashing against the rocks? Well, if I’m the guest, a solar refrigerator sounds like exactly what I would want. And if it is in the single digits where you are, Baja California probably sounds pretty good right now. We did not receive a lot of calls this past week from those folks in the big freeze. I didn’t hear from anyone in Minnesota this week who planned on installing home solar panels in the next couple of weeks. We did hear from one of our customers in Michigan who is planning a large off grid system for one of his customers in the fall.
If you live in or around Washington, DC or one of the other many areas affected by the ice storms in the last couple of days, you may have woken up without power—which could make your home cold and not a lot of fun. So what do you do when you are out of power? If you need a quick jolt of energy, you can go and get your solar emergency system. It may simply be coincidence but at SolarTown we have been receiving a lot of orders for portable solar modules and solar bags in the last few days. It may be that people are shopping early for solar gifts for the holidays–or it may be that they are preparing for the next ice storm. These solar energy systems were rudimentary even just a few years ago, but now are much better able to provide you with exactly what you need in an emergency. If all you are looking for is something to power a mobile phone or a tablet, then by far the easiest option is a solar bag. We have a large selection of these solar bags. The larger device you want to power the more capacity you will need in your solar bag or solar backpack. You have other options if you need more power for your solar emergency kit.
SolarTown announced its annual top solar gifts today. Every year, I am amazed at the ingenuity of new products running on nothing more than the rays from the sun. This year is no different, and we are offering some new and some old products. We think that they are a good way to get your friends and relatives on the solar path. Of course, using one solar panel is not going to change the world, but you have to start somewhere. If everyone just threw up their hands and said no matter what we do the Chinese are still going to pollute, the Indians are going to pollute and whatever we do won’t make any difference, then we should all move to higher ground as the oceans rise. So what does that have to do with solar gifts? Actually, a lot. You have to start somewhere and that means every small step to use solar power helps. As you buy a solar light for your parents’ backyard, or a solar backpack to power your friend’s computer, you can know that you have started them down the right path away from fossil fuels and into the right path to solar energy. Have a happy holiday season!
Even though we think that top ten lists of states by usage of a website may be idiotic, as suggested by a recent article, we didn’t want you to feel left out and so we compiled the first ever SolarTown rankings. We looked at the users of SolarTown.com over the past twelve months and here are the top rankings of the states that contribute to the traffic on SolarTown. If you are reading this blog entry, then you probably (but not necessarily) come from one of the states in our top ten list. In our top ten list, only California, New York, Pennsylvania and Arizona are on the top ten list of states with the cumulative installed solar electric capacity. The other states on our list may be where the future lies. Look at Texas, for example, which is not a particular solar-friendly state, but there are a lot of SolarTown users from Texas. And which is the city with the most SolarTown users. Did you guess Los Angeles, as I did? Wrong. You are going to have to read the entire blog post to find out.