Recent Solar Panel Adopter Sees Success in Eliminating Electric Bill

Helen Palmer installed solar panels on the roof of her home in 2012. And since then, basically, she hasn’t seen an electric bill. In fact, when last she checked, she had a credit of nearly $43 on her bill. She hasn’t paid off her initial investment, but she’s making progress.

Race Traver fits solar panels on the rear side of Helen Palmer’s roof, in Massachusetts. (Photo by Helen Palmer.)

Thanks to incentives and growing awareness, solar panels are becoming increasingly popular across the country.

Just over a year ago, reporter Helen Palmer had solar panels installed on the roof she shares with her neighbor in her two-family home. After rebates and incentives, the $13,000 solar panel install cost her about $6,000.

On one recent, sunny day, Palmer’s home was generating 2.82 kilowatts of power.

“Overall, in the year, I’ve generated 4,683 kilowatt-hours altogether,” Palmer said. “That offsets 1,389 pounds of coal.”

All told, it saved her about $770 in electricity costs. So, of her initial $6,000 investment, Palmer made up about 10 percent in the first year. In fact, Palmer said she hasn’t seen an electric bill since March 2012 — and she’s sitting on a credit of about $43.

But it hasn’t all come up roses. Palmer was hoping to get some special tax credits when she generated certain levels of electricity. Those dried up as thousands of Americans joined Palmer in going solar.

“In 2012 the U.S. added 3.3 gigawatts of solar power — that’s twice as much as they put on their roofs the year before and nearly as much as the nation’s largest nuclear plant can generate,” she said. “So the price of the renewable energy credits dropped, as the market was flooded with folks generating clean power, the price per megawatt in Massachusetts slumped to $200. But still, in Pennsylvania, it was only $10.”

But most of the installation incentives, which took out about half of Palmer’s costs, remain.

“Here in the Bay State, there’s a special program called Solarize Massachusetts,” Palmer said. “That has lots of incentives and the governor, Deval Patrick, he just announced a new goal of 1600 megawatts on roofs by 2020.”

And that’s not especially unique. Many states have programs to encourage residents to put solar panels on their roofs.


How Solar Panels Help Paramedics Save Lives while also Saving Fuel

AMBULANCES are being fitted with solar panels to power their life-saving equipment.

The devices have been installed on the roofs of 36 rapid response vehicles to help run defibrillators, sirens, radio systems, GPS and lights.

They mean ambulance crews should no longer need to return to their depots to charge the equipment or let their vehicles’ engines idle to do so while on standby between emergency calls.

South Central Ambulance Service Trust, which covers Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hampshire, is the first in the country to fit the panels on its vehicles.

Engineers came up with the idea as the trust tries to save £30million over five years.

“It is impressive that we are the first ambulance trust in the country to do this”, John Ayling, paramedic.

The trust paid £34,560 to equip the 36 vehicles with the panels, but it hopes to cuts its fuel costs by more than £50,000 over the five years as well as reducing its carbon footprint.

Brian Miller, the trust’s green team co-ordinator, said: “South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust is taking the initiative to introduce solar panels to its rapid response vehicles.

“It will reduce fuel consumption, fuel and battery replacement costs, the trust’s carbon footprint and the need for rapid response vehicles to return to base to recharge vehicle batteries.”

A report from the trust said: “The introduction of solar panels to our fleet is just one example of the imaginative ways in which we are achieving savings whilst delivering an enhanced quality service and best care to our patients as well as benefitting the environment.”

Paramedic John Ayling of Portsmouth, said: “It is impressive that we are the first ambulance trust in the country to do this. It is a fantastic idea.”


Solar Panels May Increase Home Values

Installing solar panels can be an asset and add tremendous value to your Santa Cruz residence because they offer savings on your monthly PG&E electricity bills , they are strong and long-lasting, and they function in most cases without much periodic maintenance or supervision. And one of the most important benefits for homeowner’s is, unlike other home improvements they don’t make your property taxes go up or increase.

Residential solar photovoltaic panel systems may seem to be a big initial home investment, without solar financing, but the recent LBNL study conducted on residential properties sold in California over a period of eight and a half years shows a very strong correlation to property values going up. For homeowners looking to increase the value of their home as well as save money on utility costs, the installation of a solar panel system will pay off the upfront costs. With the government’s green energy tax rebate initiatives, many Santa Cruz homeowners may even qualify for large tax rebates that can help recoup some of the initial cost of installing the photovoltaic system.

Studies have been conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U. S. Dep. of Energy to investigate and determine if solar panels actually increase your home’s value. The average California resale increase for a home with solar panels installed over a comparable home without them was found to be $5.50 per installed Watt. This means a 5kW system could potentially help your home sell for an extra $27,500!
Of course, these numbers may not be exact in all housing markets and individual cases, but value can take many other forms. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy, shows that homes with solar panels often sell up to twice as fast as comparable homes without them.

The study also indicated another interesting fact: That installing a solar panel system in your residence may increase the resale value over time, the even greater value actually may lie in the energy savings over the life of the system and over the time you stay and dwell.

One important advantage for installing a solar panel grid to supplement your home’s energy consumption in Santa Cruz, is that solar panel installations are among the most efficient in the country because of year-round sun power. Another advantage to installing a solar panel grid to supplement your home’s energy consumption is that it is hassle free, affordable arrangement.

With the obvious advantages of installing a residential solar power system, why does renewable energy continue to make up only eight percent of the energy used in the United States? In past decade the focus has been mostly on the initial upfront costs of installation of such a system. Fortunately, now solar systems can be installed for $0 upfront costs. And going forward in the future as demand continues to increase, prices will become even more inexpensive. This is wonderful news for savvy residential homeowners looking to increase the value of their properties resale price. Another important post recession factor to consider is, with the housing market currently flooded with an excessive amount of REO’s, foreclosures and homes for sale, any value added features that can make your home stand out from the rest is always great selling point for your realtor. Having a special, money-saving feature such as a solar energy grid can help buyers to realize and think about the long-term savings of living in your property and ultimately encourage a greater purchase price. It also adds interest and viability for new buyers looking to lower homeowner costs and become part of america’s energy independence alternative resource movement.

This is no longer just a niche and it should not be taken lightly as a novelty, as more and more santa cruz residents have begun to rethink the way they use and consume energy and search for new ways to cut their costs and live more sustainable. For many Santa Cruz residential homeowners looking to sell their homes in the current economy, this is an great approach to consider. There are business incentives also to think about when Installing solar panels in your residential home. Commercial installations also present a value able investment and savings opportunity. For small business owners who run and operate a home office, the potential savings is substantial and has many different levels. Whatever your beginning reasons for having a solar power grid installed in your home, you can rest assure that your investment will continue to add to the value of your homes resale and continue to recover its initial costs through continued energy savings.


Tesla & Solar: A Glimpse of the New Energy Economy

If you want a glimpse of what the nascent new energy economy looks like, pull off Interstate 5 in Southern California just before the steep climb through the Tejon Pass. There amid a cluster of fast-food joints you’ll find three Tesla Motors Superchargers sitting under a canopy of solar panels.

The 480-volt Superchargers, which resemble white mini versions of the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” add 150 miles of range to the Tesla’s Model S luxury electric sports sedan in 30 minutes. With six Supercharger stations in operation in California, Model S drivers can make a carbon-free dash down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles — or to Lake Tahoe or Las Vegas — without those nervous glances at the car’s battery range indicator. And the cost? Not a penny if you’re a Model S owner.

The solar panels installed by SolarCity juice up the Supercharger. Sunshine is free, after all, and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk told me that the panels will pay for themselves within a few years. (Musk is chairman of SolarCity, the Silicon Valley-based residential solar installer founded by his cousins, Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive.) Better yet, Musk expects to make money off the Supercharger stations by selling the excess electricity the solar panels generate to utilities.

“We can offer free long distance forever to customers,” said Musk, noting that for $25 million Tesla can install enough Superchargers to allow Model S owners to drive coast-to-coast without opening their wallets.

If the symbiotic relationship between the Big Three Detroit automakers and Big Oil defined the Age of Petroleum in 20th century America — and spawned many of our environmental problems — electrics cars and renewable energy are the paradigm for the 21st.

It is, of course, the very early days. For all the well deserved hype the Model S has garnered — winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year Award in 2012 and accolades from Consumer Reports as the best car the magazine has ever tested — it is still the only vehicle Tesla sells. With sales of 30,000 cars expected this year, the Model S remains a niche vehicle, as do battery-powered offerings from Nissan, Ford and General Motors.

Still, the Model S in the first quarter of this year outsold by wide margins the Mercedes S Class, the BWM 7 Series and the Audi A8 in the U.S. And even with only one car in its showroom, the decade-old Tesla on Thursday had a market cap of $10.7 billion. To put that in perspective, century-old General Motors’ market cap was $45 billion.

The solar boom, meanwhile, continues unabated. In 2003, the United States had a photovoltaic generating capacity of 83 megawatts. Today, 7,266 megawatts are online, enough to power 5.5 million American homes.

If you install solar panels on you home, electric cars become more attractive as you can fuel them from sunshine and maximize your return on investment. The converse proves true as well — buy an electric car and suddenly going solar starts to look like a good deal.

No surprise then that Tesla and SolarCity have teamed up to offer homeowners integrated solar arrays and electric car charging stations. The two companies also scored funding from the California Energy Commission for a pilot project that installed Tesla battery packs in homes to store electricity generated by rooftop solar arrays.

Such a system could not only provide backup electricity to homeowners in the event of a power outage but could return electricity to the grid to help utilities balance supply and demand. As wind and solar energy become a greater part of the power mix in states like California, energy storage has become increasingly crucial.

Electric cars themselves may become part of the electricity network in the coming years. Utilities are interested in tapping the electricity stored in the batteries to help balance the grid and avoid firing up fossil-fueled power plants to bridge gaps in demand and supply. In April, the University of Delaware began a pilot project that sends electricity stored in the batteries of 15 electric Mini Coopers to the grid when they receive a signal over the Internet.

The idea is that utilities would pay car owners for the electricity, another incentive to go electric and go solar.

As Musk says, “People understand and remember ‘free.’ ”


Oman Invests in Solar Energy — to Extract Oil

Heavy oil 2,000 feet below the surface needs heat to help it flow, something that solar power can easily provide.

Photo by goodbee_kk/Flickr

Aging oilfields in the Sultanate of Oman and other places in the Middle East still have a lot of oil beneath the sands, but extracting the deeper, heavier oil can be an expensive and difficult process. To help cut their costs, Oman’s national oil company is turning to a new technology: solar power.

The current process for extracting the oil in these old fields involves burning natural gas to produce steam. That steam is then injected underground, heating the rock and oil and allowing the crude to flow more smoothly, allowing it to be extracted. But that process requires a heck of a lot of natural gas. In fact, 22 percent of Oman’s total natural gas usage is in its oil fields. The country must import that natural gas at great cost.

In 2011, Petroleum Development Oman decided to try something different. They contracted with a California company called GlassPoint Solar to build a four-acre, 7-megawatt solar plant to generate steam at an old oil field. The solar technology would replace most of the natural gas used during so-called “enhanced oil recovery” or EOR, although some natural gas still needs to be used at night or on cloudy days.

“Over time, the light oil at the top of fields gets used up, so ultimately everyone will be producing heavier and heavier oil,” GlassPoint CEO Rod Macgregor explained to Bloomberg in 2011. “Oil producers will need steam from somewhere, so they can either burn gas, which many lack, or they can use solar energy.” He told The National, a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, that the oil being extracted in cases like this is 2,000 feet below the surface. “Imagine a cubic mile of rock and you have to heat it up.”

The first test of the solar technology has been in place for several months. This week, Oman launched the full-scale application. According to the New York Times, the system uses mirrors to focus sunlight on a black-colored pipe. The pipe heats up and the water inside gets converted into steam. The entire system is enclosed in a greenhouse to protect the super-thin mirrors from dust and wind. The greenhouse is the key to the technology, as it helps keep the cost of solar below that of natural gas.

Similar solar technology is already used in some parts of the U.S., and Macgregor predicted in 2011 that it would soon be in use throughout the Middle East. “We’re in discussions with pretty much every oil producer in the region,” he told The National. “As oilfields age, you’ll see more and more solar.”

Petroleum Development Oman is a joint venture between the government of Oman and Royal Dutch Shell. Two other companies have minority interests in the company.