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From a Diva to a Solar Geek -- And Loving It!

So you're thinking about trying solar energy? Get a little thrill by charging off the grid? The Charged Up ™ SolarPak with 20 watt portable panel and lithium ion battery, is an entry level portable kit often referred to as a "gateway" kit. Sure you'll get free solar energy, and yes, you will lower your carbon footprint, but be careful, because the satisfaction of off-grid charging can become a steady habit. I know, because it happened to me!

 

I got my Charged Up ™ SolarPak and couldn't wait to test it out. Being in New Hampshire, in the winter, and working in an office no less, was not the ideal time or place to run my new “toys” through their paces, but I had a window, patience and hope. Then, one day it happened, … I was getting warm; it was the sun shining through the window, alas, it was time to play!

 

I unfolded my solar panel and laid it out where the sun was shining brightest (this happened to be across my partner's desk, but thankfully he was in the field, so commandeering his desk in the name of 'Solar Independence' went off without a fight). I plugged my panel to the charge controller, male cigarette lighter adapter into that, and the other end into my lithium ion battery. (Sounds more complicated than it is, but the enclosed Quick Start Guide with pictures, even made ME look like I knew what I was doing). I clicked ON the battery, and lo and behold, the indicator light was showing that the battery was being charged! I was harnessing the sun through my office window; shut the front door, who'd have thought it possible? I declared my first test a success, and I was starting to see where my little “solar habit” could begin to have a mind of its own.

 

I kept window charging, but as the battery also had a wall charger, I often just plugged it into an outlet to charge, as I started taking this little battery everywhere with me; drives, trips, and flights (as I often fly for business, in the “cheap seats,” where the luxury of USB ports are just not offered) this always kept me charged and ready for anything!

The weekend was coming, and winter was turning into spring, so it was time to test my portable solar kit outdoors! Saturday morning, bright and early (and who says miracles don't happen) and I am in the backyard unfolding my solar panel onto the back deck and in the sun. I again was charging my battery, so that I could use my power later, and tucked it under the panel to keep it in the shade. Before I knew it, I was sucking up solar watts like free cake at your neighbor's kid's birthday party. Within a couple of hours my battery was fully charged and ready; I was on a contact solar high!

 

Spending less time with family and friends as I surfed the web learning everything I could about solar energy, as well as all of the USB gadgets that used miniscule amounts of power that I could run off of my battery when camping, and I was off to the races! My first two gadgets were the Voltaic Touchlight and USB Reading light so that I had concentrated light to be able to download my pictures off of my camera at night, during my summer camping trips. (I do have my eye on a USB fan that I wished I had on a boat-camping trip to Lake Powell years back, where I discovered what a meat loaf feels like in an oven (if a meat loaf could feel, that is); so if anyone wants to know what I want for Christmas, hint, hint, wink, wink; you've got your answer!)

 

If you had asked me months ago if I could ever turn into a solar geek, I would have fought you tooth and nail on the subject, but it happens to the best of us – I can attest to that. I just wish that I had been this much of a solar geek back while on a long-distance, cross-country, motorcycle ride, when I left my lights on, and drained my battery. Nothing gives you the eebie jeebies more than being stranded on the side of the road, alone, in the seemingly middle of nowhere, waiting for your riding buddy to bring back jumper cables? You see, if I had the Charged Up™ Solar PowerPak in my T-Bag, I could have jump started my own battery all by myself (as it comes with jumper cables that attach to the lithium ion battery), and we'd have been on our way in no time. It all worked out well, and makes for a great story, although I could have lived without re-playing every horror movie I'd ever seen in my head, while waiting for my friend to get back with cables. Live and learn, and although I don't ride any more, I do take my Charged Up ™ SolarPak with me when driving on long trips, just in case. Greatest part is that I can lay the solar panel in the back deck of the car during the day, and charge my little battery while I drive; all for free!

 

~ Desert Diving Diva

How to Make Electricity from the Sun

Solar power THIS, and solar power THAT, but how does it really work? We've heard the terms: photovoltaic (PV), inverter, charge controller, deep cycle battery storage, grid-tied, off-grid, DC/AC power, but what do these terms truly mean? Here's a quick summary of what comprises a home solar system and how it works.

A Solar Power System, is comprised of four basic components to produce and utilize electricity from the sun. The components required are: solar panels, charger controller, power inverter, and of course, batteries.

Solar Panels

The solar panels will supply the electricity and charge the batteries. A very small system could get by with a couple of 240 watt panels, but a small to medium system will contain at least 4 to 8 panels.

Charge Controller

A charge controller is needed to prevent overcharging of the batteries. Proper charging will prevent damage and increase the life and performance of the batteries.

Power Inverter

The power inverter is the heart of the system and makes 120 volts AC (alternating current) from the 12 volts DC (direct current) stored in the batteries. A smart inverter is required in order to connect the system to a generator, or the AC line, when the batteries need to be recharged and there sun is not available due to weather conditions. A smart inverter also allows system expansion if wind or micro-hydro systems are later added to the system.

Battery Storage

Batteries are required to store the electricity produced during the day, and do so in the form of a chemical reaction. Battery storage makes electricity available at night and on days with heavy cloud cover or incliment weather, when the solar panels are not producing electricity. Without storage capability, power would only be available from the panels during the day, from the grid (if the home is grid-tied), or when a generator were running.

Deep cycle batteries allow for maximum energy output, rugged duability, long life and reliable performance day in and day out. Most renewable home energy applications utilize flooded lead acid batteries, but non-spillable battery designs for use in stationary applications, boats, RV's and tiny home applications are availble filled with Absorbed Glass Material (AGM) or gel materials, which require no maintenance.

Summary

To summarize, there are four basic components: the Solar Panels, Charge Controller, Power Inverter, and the Storage Batteries. You will of course need the proper wires, cables, and surge suppressors to connect everything, and a meter to keep an eye on things, is also beneficial.

 

 Solar Power Made Easy

Depending on system size and energy goals, system costs vary widely, with affordable solutions available for every budget. Whether your goal is to become independent from the grid, shave peak energy usage (in areas where tiered rate schedules are in effect) or your goal is to have back-up power available in case of natural or manmade disaster, we can customize a solution for your needs. Systems can be designed for incremental growth and expansion down the line, providing a very cost-effective alternative to the “all or nothing” approach some companies offer.

Call us today to discuss your energy goals, and start making the sun work for you!

How Do I Know If Financial Incentives Are Available Where I Live?

Perhaps you have read news articles and heard stories about the virtues of renewabe energy, and think that you are now ready to take a plunge into solar? One excellent resource to help you offset the upfront costs of such a system can be found at DSIREUSA.org. All you have to do is enter your zip code, and all local and federal incentive programs for that area will be listed. As any incentive program, there are sometimes limited numbers of rebates issued, as well as expiration dates associated with them, but this site is a very good resource to begin your search.

DSIRE is the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Click here to go to DSIREUSA.org.

Talk About Blowing Wind Into Your Sails!

Denmark Just Produced 140% of its Electricity Needs with Renewable Wind Power!

About a week ago, Denmark made the absolute most out of a particularly windy 24 hours by harnessing its power and producing not only all of its own electricity needs for the day, but enough extra to spread between three neighboring countries.  To be exact, the sustainable wind-power technologies harnessed and collected 144% of one days electricity needs.

Denmark had previously developed its wind-power plants but on that particularly windy day, it reached 116% of its domestic electricity demands through wind farms and then exceeded even that impressive surplus, reaching 140%, causing Denmark to export excess power to Norway, Germany, and Sweden. 

80% of the excess energy surplus was given in equal parts to Norway and Germany and Sweden received the remaining 20%.  Germany and Norway possess hydropower systems with storage capabilities and were thus able to store the extra away for later use.

Sources: trueactivist.com & Amanda Froelich

Click here to read full articule.

 

Maine Proposes to Replace Net Metering With a Market Based Alternative

Legislators in Maine have introduced a novel solar policy that could boost solar capacity in the state and offer a viable alternative to net energy metering, a policy at the center of several state-level political battles.

“In Maine, we come together to find innovative solutions to our challenges,” said Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon, a Democrat who sponsored legislation that kicked off a dialogue on the future of solar in Maine. “Our challenge here has been growing solar in a way that gives people energy independence, creates jobs and mitigates climate change. Now, we've created a way to do that and to do it in a way that remains sustainable into the future and will drive significant solar growth.” Read full article here: Maine Proposes to Replace Net Metering with a "Market-based" Alternative