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5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Solar

Most of us know that solar is the cleanest and greenest source of energy. We also know that it’s becoming more widely available as the technology improves to decrease costs and make it more user-friendly. But here are five more facts about solar energy you may not be aware of.

 

1. We Can Depend On It for About Another Six Billion Years

 

Though considered a renewable energy source due to the fact that sunlight does not deplete no matter how much we use it, solar energy will not be around forever. The sun is approximately 4.57 billion years old and will probably be there for another 6-7 billion years before it burns out and becomes what is known as a white dwarf. We obviously won’t be around in 6 billion years to see the sun burn out, which is a good thing because the event will likely consume the Earth as well.

 

2. The Necessity for Solar Energy Became Obvious in 1970

 

Most Americans were perfectly happy burning fossil fuels for energy until OPEC embargoed oil exports to the United States in 1973, causing shortages and skyrocketing prices. This event revealed how delicate was our reliance on fossil fuels and kicked off a surge of interest in alternative energy sources, with solar and wind technology quickly becoming the main focus.

 

3. The World’s Largest Solar Power Plant is in California

 

The Mojave Desert in California is home of the largest solar power plant in the world, covering 3,200 acres. Named Solar Star, the plant has a capacity of 589 megawatts and creates enough energy to power 255,000 homes.

 

4. The Earth is Hit with More Solar Power Than We Could Ever Use

 

The surface of the earth is hit with around 174 quadrillion watts of energy from the sun every day. In just one day, that’s enough to power a light bulb for every single person on the planet for the rest of their lives. However, we are unable to harness large amounts of that energy due to pollution, lack of technology, and the fact that we can’t cover the entire surface of the Earth with solar panels – nor would we want to! The good news is that there is still plenty of solar energy available and as we get more savvy about capturing it, the better off our planet will be.

 

5. The Space Industry Was One of the Earliest Users of Solar Energy

 

Use of solar energy is not new. In fact, NASA has been benefitting from it since the 1960s. In need of an energy source that would not burn out, NASA incorporated solar technology on spacecraft and on satellites. The Vanguard 1, which is the first earth satellite powered by solar cells, is the oldest manmade satellite still going. It has logged over 6 billion miles.

 

Solar energy will continue to play a large part in our planet’s future and give us the ability to create products and programs to further reduce emissions and make our world a greener place. If you have any questions about solar power for home or business installations in Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey or Delaware, please contact us.

 

 

 

What Is A Carbon Footprint?

Do you know what your carbon footprint is? As the debate over climate change rages on, the phrase “carbon footprint” is more prevalent than ever before.

Put simply, a carbon footprint is a way of quantifying the amount of carbon dioxide and other types of greenhouse gases released when burning fossil fuels. Every time you drive your car, you’re burning gasoline and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, adding to your carbon footprint and contributing to the warming of the planet through the greenhouse effect.

You can ascribe a carbon footprint to all activities that involves the burning of fossil fuels. For instance, the carbon footprint of a cup of coffee can be calculated by examining the process of growing, harvesting, processing and transporting coffee beans, as well as how much electricity is used when brewing the coffee. Even the way you take your coffee can drastically change its carbon footprint; a cup of black coffee has a footprint that’s just 6 percent of the carbon footprint of a large latte. Continue reading

Cutting Down Appliance Energy Usage

Most of the electricity we use in the United States is generated by burning coal, oil, and natural gas. When these fossil fuels are burned, carbon is released into the atmosphere. The negative effects of this on the environment are well known.

If your electricity is generated by fossil fuels, then everything in your home that uses electricity – including your lights, dishwasher, and computer – causes carbon to enter the atmosphere. More carbon is released if the device burns fuel directly – a gas stove or water heater or an oil-burning furnace, as examples. The amount of carbon that the device releases into the atmosphere is known as its carbon footprint. Continue reading

Direct Benefits of Installing Solar Panels

If you’re considering changing your home’s energy source, there’s never been a better time to look into home solar power. Prices of solar panels have dropped significantly since 2011, and the potential for major savings has never been higher.

At TerraSol Energies, Inc., we’ve been a premier solar power company servicing the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware) for since 2009, and our team of specialists sets the industry standard. How might adding residential solar panels to your home benefit you – both in your pocketbook and elsewhere?

Energy Cost

The most straightforward reason to switch to solar power is the cost savings. Electricity is one of the most expensive home bills the average resident pays every year, and lowering or eliminating these costs is a very attractive option.

Savings will vary by state and specific energy usage, but over the life of solar panels (typically at least 20-25 years), most people save a minimum of $10,000 in energy costs, and often far more. Unlike typical energy bills, solar bills remain consistent throughout the year, which helps with financial planning as well.

Environmental Benefits

Energy savings benefit your wallet, of course, but they also benefits the environment as a whole. Less need for costly forms of energy allows more sustainable forms to come to the forefront, and this is a snowball that will continue to grow as these solutions become more and more affordable.

Home Value Increase

Investing in solar panels is nearly a guarantee to increase your home’s value. It’s just one state, but homes with solar panels in California, for instance, appreciate in value at a 10 percent faster rate than homes without them. A recent report indicated that solar energy systems owned by the homeowner added an average of roughly $15,000 to a home’s resale value.

Tax Incentives

This will be different from state to state, but the government offers several incentives tied to solar energy. You can potentially get federal or state tax credits, and rebate programs are also available in many cases.

Want to learn more? At TerraSol Energies, Inc., our experts are here to answer any and all questions about the ways you’ll benefit from residential solar panels.

How A Grid-Tied Solar System Works

With solar panel installations on the rise, it’s important to understand the difference between a battery storage system and a grid-tied system. A grid-tied solar system sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple when you look at each piece of the system by itself.

The first step of the solar power process starts with the solar panel. Well, actually, it starts 92 million miles away at the Sun, but let’s skip ahead a little bit. Sunlight hits the surface of the solar panel, which is made up of a number of small photovoltaic cells. These cells use a semiconductor material, typically silicon, that reacts with the light energy on an atomic scale to produce an electric current.

Each photovoltaic cell is designed like a sandwich, with two layers of silicon, each of which has been treated with different materials, like phosphorus and boron, to give them a positive or negative charge and create an electric field between them. As sunlight hits the panel, photons that pass through the cell can knock an electron free of this electric field, which is then captured by conductive plates and transferred to wires.

The electricity generated by the solar panels is direct current, or DC, meaning the electric current only flows in one direction. To be used in a household or on the power grid, it has to be alternating current, or AC. Wires from the solar panel lead to an inverter that converts DC to AC. At this point, the electricity is ready to power your home and appliances.

Depending on your usage requirements, there may be days when your solar panels are generating more electricity than your home needs. In a grid-tied solar system, this surplus of electricity is sold to the electric grid, earning you credits from the utility company that you can use in the future when the sun isn’t shining as strongly. A grid-tied system connects your home to the grid through your power meter, where your electricity usage and production can be measured by your utility company.

A grid-tied solar system will not function during a power outage. If the grid is offline, your solar inverter will go offline automatically. Preventing your solar panels from outputting electricity to the grid protects the utility workers who are working on repairing the lines. A battery backup would allow you to continue using power during an outage. Some homeowners opt to install a natural gas or propane generator to produce electricity during a power outage, but these systems are costly.

Grid-tied solar systems are getting more and more economical due to tax credits, rebates, and advances in technology that are lowering the overall costs of solar power worldwide. Total costs of a grid-tied system will depend on several factors, including the size and mounting of your panels, and whether or not you install a battery backup system. In the tri-state (PA, DE, NJ) area, contact TerraSol Energies to find out if a grid-tied solar system is right for you and your home.

Testing Solar Power Voltage and Amperage

There are a limited number of steps involved in caring for a solar power system, but you’d be surprised how often one of them gets passed over: Properly testing the panels themselves. Not only is confirming their expected output before installation vital, but continuously monitoring the actual output compared to the expectation is very important.

At TerraSol Energies, all of our commercial solar power systems come with a metering system to help you test it for basic output. You can test for both voltage and amperage – let’s look at what you need to do in each case.

Testing for Voltage

To test your commercial or residential solar panel for voltage output, place it in direct sunlight and set the meter to the “volts” setting. From here, touch the meter’s red (positive) lead to the solar panel’s positive wire, then touch the meter’s black (negative) lead to the solar panel’s negative wire.

At this point, the voltage reading on your meter should be right about, or just slightly under, 60 volts. If the reading is different, this is a signal that there’s an issue with your solar panel output. Check all connections of solar cells and all stringers, and also check for the possibility of cracks within the solar cells themselves.

Testing for Amperage

To test for amperage output, again place the solar panel in direct sunlight, and change the meter to the “amps” setting. From here, take the same steps as above – touch the positive lead to the panel’s positive wire, and the negative lead to the panel’s negative wire.

The amp reading should not be close to, or just under, 3.5 amps. If it’s closer to 3, this is no problem – the panel may not be getting maximum sunlight. If the amperage is significantly lower than 3, however, this could be an issue, and you need to perform the same checks as above.

As an added aside: If you ever need to calculate the wattage of your panel, simply multiply the voltage and the amperage to find your figure. So for an 18-volt, 3.5-amp panel, the wattage would be 63.

To learn more about testing panel output, or any of the other solar power company services we offer, speak to the prost at TerraSol Energies today.

10 Ways to Keep Cool Using Less Electricity

As large swaths of the country are expected to experience higher-than-average temperatures this summer, the temptation to run the air conditioner grows ever stronger. Giving in can be costly if you haven’t made the switch to solar power. Fortunately, there are plenty of time-tested ways to keep your cool without using a lot of electricity. We’ve put together a list of ten of them.

  1. Keep shades closed

Curtains, blinds or shades will prevent the sun from heating a room. Certain types of window coverings are designed specifically to reflect sunlight and insulate a room from heat.

  1. Ceiling fans

Strategically-placed ceiling fans will help circulate the air, pushing cool air down towards the floor and drawing warm air up to the ceiling. In the summer, your ceiling fan should be set to spin counter-clockwise, whereas in winter, it should spin clockwise to push warm air towards the floor.

  1. Keep interior doors open

Leaving all the doors inside your house open will help the overall temperature balance out, rather than creating hotspots. This creates airflow so that warm and cool air can move around freely.

  1. Create a cross breeze

Depending on the layout of your house, you can open certain windows to create a cross breeze. The use of a box fan can help speed the process by moving cool air from the shady side of the house toward the side that is exposed to more direct sunlight.

  1. Change your bedding

Swap cotton sheets for cool, breathable silk. Silk bedsheets wick sweat from your body better than cotton, allowing you to cool off faster.

  1. Pour a cold drink

Sometimes the best cure for a hot house is an ice-cold drink. Staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do to cool off in the summer, and a cold beverage will reduce your internal body temperature as well.

  1. Switch to CFLs

If you still use incandescent lightbulbs, you’re essentially running little heaters in every room. Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are cool to the touch even after hours of use, and won’t raise a room’s temperature.

  1. Skip the oven

Who wants to be stuck in a kitchen with a roasting-hot oven when it’s already unbearably hot outside? Summertime calls for cool foods, like fruits, vegetables and salads. If you have to cook something, do it on the grill outside and keep your home cool.

  1. Soak a towel

Hanging a damp towel in an open window facing the sun will create an evaporative cooling effect. As the sun heats up the towel, the water evaporates and cools the air flowing through it. Use a light-colored towel for best results.

  1. Open all your windows at night

Once the sun goes down and the temperature drops, open all your windows to let the warm air out and the cool air in. Before the outside temperature starts rising again the next day, close all your windows and pull your shades to keep the air inside cool as long as possible.

If you’re interested in other ways to cool your house in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware without raising your electricity bill, TerraSol Energies is here to help. Contact us today for more information.

How Solar Works When It’s Not Sunny

It’s well-known that going green and installing a solar panel system on your home reaps both environmental and financial benefits, but to some just learning about the technology, it might be confusing how solar systems can provide electricity consistently throughout the day. After all, the sun isn’t always out; clouds and rain happen, and then there’s nighttime. How do solar systems work when it isn’t sunny? Continue reading