Newsletter June 23rd, 2014
Why Residential Solar Power is Becoming More Affordable
For many years solar power was cost prohibitive for most residential use. It simply did not make sense to make an investment that might take 25 years to repay. After the price, there were the challenges that came with low panel efficiency. In the 1950’s the most advanced panels operated at 10% efficiency. However in 2014, solar panels are above 20% efficiency and constantly improving. With the advancement of the panel technology and materials, it costs less and makes more sense to install a residential solar system.
With competition, global warming awareness, tax rebates and desires to be free from large utility companies, solar is gaining momentum. All over the world companies and academic institutions are trying to build the least expensive but highest efficiency solar cells possible. This competition has been good for the market and is reflected (no pun intended) in lower panel prices and a larger number of manufacturers.
Although coal is a cheaper and more efficient fuel source, the solar battle continues. This, in part, is due to a heightened awareness of the destructive nature of coal on the environment which has stimulated interest in alternative energy sources. Solar is an ideal alternative because it is plentiful and renewable. It has the ability to move us away from the negative impacts of coal.
Tax rebates and incentives have certainly encouraged solar energy adoption by making the initial investment far more affordable. Not all states provide specific solar rebates and incentives, but many do and the Federal government provides Residential Energy Credits on Form 5695. Whether it is before or after the purchase, these practices help offset the investment.
Lastly, utility companies are often monopolies and can gradually raise their prices and since everyone is completely reliant on what they provide, there is no way to control the cost or dependence. You pay what they say. This is troublesome for some consumers. Therefore, people often try to go off the grid to establish energy independence. Solar can provide this independence.
Largest Solar Power Project in the World (as of this moment)
The fact is the determination of the largest solar project in the world changes from year to year. Currently there are several larger developments in the works that have not come online that are likely to take the title sometime in the near future. Where will the next one come online? India? China?
As of April 2014, the largest solar power plant is the Agua Caliente which is between Phoenix and Yuma, Arizona. This 290 Megawatt facility, owned by NRG Energy (NRG) and MidAmerican Solar will provide power to parts of San Francisco. Agua Caliente should provide enough electricity for 230,000 homes.
One of the other big winners in this development, besides San Francisco, is First Solar (FSLR). They built the project and used their own cadmium-telluride filmed panels. They have also agreed to manage the project.
The federal government is playing a large role in ensuring the success of this project by providing a $967 million dollar loan guarantee for Agua Caliente. Often guarantees result in an actual loan from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank. This certainly is an example of the federal government promoting alternative energy development.
Although more and more of these large projects are slated to open in the near future, they take large swaths of land that tend to impact wildlife. Some groups would like to see several small projects rather than these mega-projects. Smaller projects are thought to be less invasive. Despite the resistance to change and land impacts, these large solar installations are taking us closer to clean and sustainable energy.
Florescent Light Disposal
Many people think only OLD fluorescent lights have mercury vapor, but surprisingly, so do the new and improved compact fluorescent Lights (CFL’s). When mercury is not disposed of properly then it can end up in the water table or in the air. This can lead to the poisoning of plants, wildlife and humans potentially resulting in deleterious impacts.
While Mercury is great in thermometers and fluorescent lamps, it is best left alone in enclosed and undisturbed glass. When a fluorescent light is casually thrown into the garbage and broken, it inevitably ends in the landfill. Unfortunately, many are not lined which means the mercury will get down into the water table which heads to streams, rivers, wells and water treatment facilities. Just as problematic as the particles that get washed down are those released as poisonous gas.
Almost all levels of mercury are toxic. This means fish and other organisms in streams and the wildlife that drink the water, will feel the effects. They will develop various health problems and if they end up in the food chain, humans will ingest these toxins. Even people who don’t eat these specific animals, run the risk of drinking the polluted water. Either through water or the food chain, mercury ingestion can result in brain and/or kidney damage. If the toxic fumes are inhaled, serious mouth and lung troubles can develop. Studies have shown that cancer is another possible outcome. In children and pregnant women the affects can be even more devastating.
We understand the importance of keeping mercury out of garbage, landfills, water and the environment. The bottom line is we want to protect animals and humans from mercury poisoning. If you are in need of fluorescent light disposal, contact Eco Electric and let us know how we can help.
Replace Your Refrigerator
One of the quickest and best ways to reduce your energy costs is to replace your refrigerator. Many companies will even pick up your old refrigerator for free to encourage you to buy a new one. This makes the purchase more convenient.
The only item in your entire home that uses more energy than the refrigerator is the air conditioning unit. In the heat of the summer this makes sense, but can you believe your refrigerator sucks 14% of all electricity needed in your home. Ouch!
Here is an example to make this more tangible. A 1986 refrigerator uses about 1400 kWh, while a new efficient fridge uses about 350 kWh. That is a huge difference. Incidentally, this comparison is based on a comparison that did not use ice makers.
When you crunch the numbers you’ll quickly learn that the cost of running an old refrigerator can be up to 75% more. This is an avoidable expenditure. Be sure to purchase an energy star rated refrigerator to ensure you have one the most efficient models currently available.
Once you have a new and more efficient fridge, try to open it less frequently. Yes this is silly and contrary to why you have a fridge, but it will save money. Also keep the coils clean to help it run efficiently. These small changes will mean more money in your wallet.
Eco Electric can do a Home Electrical Evaluation to assess your energy uses and determine which adjustments will save you the most money year after year. We love helping people remove unnecessary electrical expenses.
Why We Use Biodiesel in Our Fleet
Biodiesel isn’t exactly a household term yet which means clients sometimes wonder what this is about. We use biodiesel for a combination of reasons; it reduces carbon emissions and demonstrates our commitment to the environment. Biodiesel produces 1/3 the amount of carbon dioxide as traditional fuels. Because plants and trees make up the fuel, the carbon absorbed before harvesting makes biodiesel almost carbon neutral and it’s sustainable. This practice makes it so we have a smaller carbon footprint and we get to live our values. At Eco Electric we want to do what we can to reduce overall detrimental impacts to the environment so future generations can enjoy clean air and a healthy planet. We only use biodeisel fuel, if you are interested, check out our other methods that make us a truly green electrical company.
If you have any questions about biodiesel or sustainability, please contact us.