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CHOOSING AN EFFECTIVE SOLAR PV SYSTEM FOR YOUR NEED

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Written by Nani Pradeepan, P.Eng.

Choosing an effective solar PV system for your need can feel like a difficult task, but if you focus on the essentials it becomes easy. The main components of a solar PV system are the solar panels, the inverter, and the mounting system. Each of these have a range of options to choose from, but understanding the differences among them will ensure that you select the right system to meet your long term energy needs.

Solar Panels Options

There are a few different types of panels available today, with the majority based on crystalline silicon technology. There are two basic types of crystalline silicon panels – mono crystalline (mono-Si) and poly crystalline (poly-Si). Mono-si cells are slightly more efficient, meaning you can get little more watts out of a given area. They also perform slightly better in low light conditions, but their higher price compare to poly crystalline is downside. Poly crystalline panels are less expensive and for dollar-for-dollar, you can get more power out of them.

Other panels in the market based on thin film technology ranging from amorphous silicon to panels made from newer thin film materials. These panels tend to perform better in high temperature, low light conditions but their use are less common due relatively new technology and their lower efficiencies.

Inverter Options

An inverter converts the direct current (DC) produced by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) used at homes or businesses. There are three types of inverters are available today – central inverters, string inverters and micro inverters. Each type has pros and cons depending on a project size, site and suited for different applications. Central inverter is typically a large string inverter which is used in large scale projects. String inverters are currently the most cost-effective inverter option available and have been used for decades.

This type of inverters connects solar panels in series to create strings and number of strings are connected in parallel to create a single solar system and easy to install. If the roof is exposed to sun without shade throughout the day this type of inverter is a good option. If one or more of the solar panels are likely to be shaded during any part of the day, the power output from all the panels that are connected in series would be reduced to the lowest panel production level. Fortunately now we have optimizers to mitigate this problem associated with string inverters and provide additional functionalities to string inverters.

Micro inverters are a newer technology and more expensive than string inverters. Micro inverter is installed under each panel solar panels convert DC electricity into AC electricity at each panel. Since they are installed under the solar panels on the roof they are exposed the hash Canadian weather all the times increase the number of failure points. Since they installed under each panels they are not prone to the partial shading problem associated with string inverters.

Mounting System

Solar panels can be mounted on the ground, wall or roof. Depending on where the solar panels are mounted mounting system options will vary. Type of roof, soil conditions also affects the selection of a mounting system.

In general, a roof mount system has lower costs as the roof is already there to support the installation. In contrast, a ground mount system requires more upfront investment to prepare the site, but is less complicated for the actual installation process.

Along with new technology, mounting systems have undergone standardization, simplification and now mounting options are cheaper, simpler and easier to install.

Installing a roof mount system requires one to be more than a solar expert and need to have good understanding of building construction. Roofs have their own set of concerns, from durability to drainage that need to be considered when installing a roof top solar system.

Another challenge with roofs is that no two are exactly alike. Each rooftop is unique and will have its own set of variables—such as pitch, shingles, vents, drains and chimneys—that can complicate the design and installation process. This is compounded by the fact that one really does not know what will be found until up on the roof. These unknowns can add up and the amount of time spent designing and installing a rooftop solar system can become a large part of the total project cost.

Monitoring System

A monitoring system displays the details of the performance of a solar power system. There two main types of monitoring systems are in use, one display the whole system output while other displays each panel output. In either case the performance data of a solar power system is uploaded into a web portal and access through desktops, laptops, PDAs and smart phones ect.

Properly designed and installed solar power system can last for 40+ years. Hence a proper monitoring system can eliminate lots of headaches and reduce maintenance cost during these years.

Installation Partner

The best way to decrease the anxiety about the unknown is to work with a good installation partner who is vendor neutral, offer different solutions for you to choose for your specific needs rather than providing one cookie cutter solutions for all and abreast of the developments in the industry.

A good installation partner will be able to give you a number of tips and streamlined process for your project, support, and tech manuals to ensure that system you install is a success for its life time.

Bottom Line

When designing a solar system, site conditions and energy needs carefully considered and appropriate components must be selected to ensure customers’ energy needs are met. A good installation partner who anticipates the issues you might face, address them, and help you at every step of the way from initial contact to final installation is good to have on your side.

WHAT IS AN ENERGY AUDIT?

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WHAT IS AN ENERGY AUDIT?

Written by Narayana Asogan, P.Eng.

The term “Audit” has several meanings. The common meaning comes to mind is “Financial Auditing” which many Managers, Directors of Commercial institution understand quite well. Year-end Financial Audit is required by Stakeholders, Regulators etc. as a way to see how the organization had managed the finances. Banks ask for audited reports to approve loans and so on.

There are other meanings to “Audit”.

Here we are explaining what an “Energy Audit” is and its implications. Energy Audit also means Energy Assessment, Energy Analysis, Energy Survey, Energy Evaluation – all these intended to study the use of energy and find out ways to use the energy more efficiently. Efficiency is (Energy Usage/Energy Purchased) and higher this number means more efficient the system is. Higher efficient system means you are getting better return of the energy purchase. Or you can achieve the same result by spending less on energy.

Energy is a commodity purchased (hence Money) as Electricity, gas, oil, water in many commercial institutions. This energy is used for various activities of the institution for production activities (if any), heating and cooling of the building, lighting, ventilation and so on. Energy is measurable, hence its use could be analysed to see if the energy is used efficiently. In other words, is the money spent to purchase energy well used? Can we achieve the same effect of use of energy using less purchased energy?

Energy Equation in a building

Energy In (as Electricity, Gas, Oil, water) = Energy Usage (for the need of the building) + Wasted Energy + Energy Loses

Energy usage will be items like production activities, heating, ventilation, cooling etc. which are essential for the functioning of the business.

Waste energy are like exhaust from boilers and other fuel burning equipment, exhaust of used air, used water drained into drainage and so on.

Energy loses are due to undesirable leakage out of the building.

The first step in an Energy Audit process is to gather information of Purchased Energy by way of Utility bills – Electricity, gas, oil, water etc. for at least one year and 2 to 3 years would be preferable. Analysis of these bills – called Preliminary Energy Use Analysis (PEA), give an idea of baseline energy usage and Energy Use Intensity (EUI) and compare it to other buildings of similar function. This comparison indicates how efficiently your building uses energy compared to similar buildings and similar usage.

If EUI of your building is higher than the others, there is a good potential to go to the next step to become more energy efficient.

Next Steps:

Arrange a Level 1 Audit – which is a walk through audit to identify low cost/no cost measures for improving energy efficiency. Level 1 Audit additionally identifies potential capital improvements which can improve energy efficiency/reduce energy consumption.

This audit/survey consists of visiting the site and walking through all spaces of the building and noting of anomalies, talking with key personnel on the way the building is operated/used and to establish general energy saving potential.

If you are managing a portfolio of buildings, Level 1 survey of all the buildings can establish which building has higher potential and to prioritize for Level 2, Level 3 audit.

Stay tuned for more on Level 2, Level 3 audits and what results could be expected.

What are the costs of Energy Audit?

Managers know very well that Financial Audit has costs associated with it. In the case of Energy Audit too there are costs associated with it. However part of the audit fee is recoverable via Audit Financing programs by Utilities – typically 50% of eligible audits. The balance cost is usually recoverable on adopting the recommendations by way of energy savings. Capital equipment upgrades also have incentive programs.

Contact us by saveonenergy@newdawn-es.com or phone 416 855 9377 to book an appointment to help your energy management team.

WHICH IS YOUR CHOICE?

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Written by Nani Pradeepan, P.Eng.

Energy is one of the important commodities the world need as global economy expands to include nations around the globe. Not all the nations are blessed with the fossil energy sources we currently use. Depleting fossil energy sources in a growing energy need will pose new problems. Fossil fuel is the root cause for many problems associated with health, security, credit crunch etc. Reasonably priced energy is what separates us in North America from developing countries.

We all know the posted price for energy, but many of us do not realize the true costs. There are many hidden costs that most of us do not realize. It is not obvious but we are quietly paying these additional costs every day in different ways. These additional indirect costs actually make the real cost of the current fossil fuel energy sources many times higher than the posted price. Unfortunately we do not know all of the necessary cost components that contribute to the hidden costs of using fossil fuel. Listed below are some of the hidden costs of using fossil fuel.

  • Air Pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Water and Land Pollution
  • Thermal Pollution
  • Health Related Costs
  • Macro-Economic Costs
  • National Security
  • Global Warming

Costs of healthcare is getting out of control and becoming a major financial burden for many countries. Large part of health problems are due to the food consumed, the air breathed and the water drank. To increase production excessive use of fossil fuel based fertilizers, and fossil fuel powered engines are used in food industry. Combined with this fossil fuel power plant emissions and fuel related water pollution all make their way into our bodies through what they eat, drink or breathe and creating health problems. Costs associated with treating these problems are indirectly passed on through higher taxes, increased pollution clean up costs and higher medical costs.

Burning fossil fuels for power generation causes global warming. Even if we had unlimited and secure fossil fuels (which we don’t) we could not continue to burn them at the current rate of use. Scientists have already proved that the planet we all live on cannot support the current level of fossil fuel use. Hence we must turn to renewable energy sources and that create opportunities and not sources that destroy the space we live, our drinking water and our planet.

We need to turn to renewable sources of energy now; not in 5 or 10 years when our math shows us profitable; whatever that means? By turning to solar and other renewable we can lower healthcare costs, reduce air, water, thermal pollution and develop a more stable economy with local resources. To their part prudent governments are doing their part to encourage their people to switch to solar with incentives of various forms. It is up to us to make a choice to spend the money on renewable now and contribute to alleviating above mentioned problems or spent the money in healthcare and clean up expenses later.

RESIDENTIAL SOLAR POWER RISE TO THE MAINSTREAM

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Written by Nani Pradeepan, P.Eng.

Small ticket item trends, like DVD players, catch on quickly, and just as quickly, they fade away. But earth-friendly decisions those are economical start out slowly, and then gain momentum as time goes on. Solar power is one of those earth-friendly decisions which began as an unattainable power source for the average consumer, but within few years has quickly picked up speed as more and more households make the change. Solar panels on roofs are becoming common seen in cities and villages around the world.

Lower costs and tax credits

16tbThe cost of solar power system has gone down substantially as the volume and production technologies of solar energy have improved. Consequently, prices for rooftop solar systems dropped by almost three from since 2009.

Feed in Tariff, tax credits and rebates have encouraged many people to go solar in Canada and North America in general. Indeed, these feed in tariffs and credits make solar energy system more affordable and attractive to home owners. However, feed in tariffs and tax credits are set to decline and eventually disappear by second half of 2017. Taking that into consideration, as well as available financing options and growing number of solar energy system options, there has never been a better time to switch to solar power.

Easy maintenance

Maintaining solar panels is as easy as hosing them down once a year. For the average homeowner bogged down by home maintenance of many systems in a home, this is a huge benefit.

As the electricity price rise, easy maintenance and the fact that homes with solar power sell faster and for more money than homes without, will entice almost every homeowner to consider switching to solar power.

Businesses have also jumped into on the solar wave

In addition to homeowners, businesses have found that solar power can lower their operating costs. Solar energy not only lowers the cost to businesses but also allows companies to capitalize on improved environmental profiles and will help them in their marketing efforts.
Cities are mandating to require solar on all new construction

The Santa Monica City in California is the latest city to pass an ordinance requiring rooftop solar systems for all new construction in the City – both residential and commercial. The ordinance went into effect at the end of May 2016.

Energy Storage systems are promoted

Germany and California have set the example when it comes to energy storage. New York also budgeted $25 million to go towards storage development. In an emergency, backup power is often run by diesel generators, which cause pollution. As solar energy moves forward, solar power systems combined with battery systems are providing a safer stable power alternative.

Environmentally friendly

Solar power is more environmentally friendly than any other power system as it doesn’t rely on fuel or water to make electricity. Further, solar panels do not pollute the air as they generate electricity, and they produce no waste. Solar power has no fuel costs, which means there is no gamble of fuel prices increasing in global market. Solar power also make no nice and it is cleaner and more reliable than other sources of power.

The future

We predict this is only the beginning of the surge of solar energy use. As people continue to recognize the benefits of solar power, its use will be even more widespread.

LEASING VS. OWNING A SOLAR SYSTEM

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Written by Nani Pradeepan, P.Eng.

Reduced system costs, increasing electricity rates and incentives are bringing new solar customers into the market in greater numbers than ever before. Unlike early adopters who chose to go solar because of environmental concerns, or a desire to reduce their reliance on the electric power grid current shoppers are motivated by pure economics of switching to solar power.

shoppers some installation companies offer solar leases. Under this model, the solar company installs a PV system and pay the property owner a fixed price rent to their roof and keep the income / saving for the duration of the agreement. These companies’ aggressive advertising of solar leases created an artificial upsurge in demand for leases and many homeowners were led to believe that system ownership was cost-prohibitive.

Can going green by leasing solar panels for your roof cost you money — or give you headaches — when you go to sell the house? Possibly both.

Say you get pitched by one of the companies offering solar panels at no upfront cost and they will pay you money annually. Sounds like a good deal and you sign on. Then a few years later you decide to sell the house. You assume that the presence of solar panels can only be a marketing plus, maybe even get you a higher price. Some would-be buyers won’t sign a contract unless you buy out the remaining lease term with solar company which would cost more than if you had initially purchased it. Issues like these are popping up increasingly and are interfering in sales and closings of real estate sales, according to US real estate industry experts.

Be aware of the potential complexities that can occur when you lease, rather than buying solar panels. If you opt for a lease, understand your long-term obligations.

The $0-down solar loan makes it possible for homeowners to capture more of their solar energy system’s value, and provides a route to system ownership for those that cannot afford a cash purchase. Homeowners with access to loan can save significantly more over their system’s lifetime than if they entered into a lease agreement.

Ownership = Higher Home Value

Multiple studies have shown that solar system ownership means better home value. In addition studies have also found that installing a PV system on a home increases property values and only if the system is owned, rather than leased.

CAN YOU GO OFF-GRID WITH SOLAR AND ENERGY STORAGE IN GTA?

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residential_300x250The cost of PV keeps has come down substantially. Now, solar can compete with any other form of electrical generation. So, why don’t we just convert to solar based off grid? Off-grid solar is a system designed to help people function without the support of electrical infrastructure – utility’s electrical grid. A true off-grid house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services.

The sun doesn’t always shine. Nightfall, clouds, storms and seasonal variability in number of daylight hours make solar PV an intermittent source of power. The intermittency of solar makes it challenging to off-grid. So how feasible is it for the average household in GTA to go off grid – and is it really worth it? The short answer is that unless your electricity usage is minimal, it’s not very easy to disconnect from the grid and still have all the comforts you are used to. Even with the cost of solar and energy storage having fallen as much as they have, installing a stand-alone solar system really only makes sense if you are in a home where getting grid-connected is something you would have to pay for.

If you are in a major urban centers like GTA, deciding whether or not to truly get off the grid should be something you consider very carefully. To do so, you will either have to significantly change the way that you use electricity or spend a significant amount of money on a solar-plus-storage system large enough to get you through a cold, dark winter.
So at this time best options available for people in urban centers like GTA is to participate in programs like Micro FIT or Net Metering programs offered by the utilities. However, as the cost of utility power continues to rise, going off-grid will become justified in urban centers too.

NET METERING

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Written by Nani Pradeepan, P.Eng.

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator is preparing to switch incentive program from current Feed in Tariff program to Net Metering Program in 2017 hence it is important to understand the difference between these two programs.

Most grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) solar systems today have no equipment for storing the electricity generated by their rooftop solar energy systems to use later in the night and depend on the utility grid for its operation. Hence your solar power system under both feed in tariff program and net metering program do not need any kind of storage to operate.

With Feed in Tariff program, you sell all the electricity generated by your solar power system to the utility at higher price than you pay for the electricity when you consume. And you continue to buy all the electricity you need for your home from the utility at the lower retail price than the price paid under Feed in Tariff program. Because you are continuing to buy your electricity from the utility you do not need to have storage to store and use the electricity at night.

With net metering program when your solar panels produce electricity, it goes first to powering the lights, appliances and electronics in your home used at that time. If your solar power system produces less electricity than you need or if you need energy when the sun isn’t shining at all, that power is automatically supplied from the utility grid. If your solar power system produces more electricity than you need, the extra electricity is send back to the utility grid and you get credited for the electricity you send back to the grid at the same retail price that you pay for the electricity you consume from the grid.

With net metering, the homeowner is only billed for the “net” electricity used each month, that is, the difference between the energy produced by the solar power system and the energy consumed by the house over the monthly billing period. If your solar power system produces more than you consume in a billing cycle, you get credit and this credit is carry forward to next billing cycle and so on. Under the Net metering program offered in most jurisdictions any credit you accumulated must be used with in a calendar year. Ontario government along with IESO is currently formulating the rules for the Net metering program and it is commonly expected that this rule will also prevail in Ontario.

We have made an effort to explain the difference between these two programs, if it is still not clear to you or have other questions or would like to get a free solar assessment of your property do not hesitate to contact us.

FIVE ADVANTAGES OF GOING SOLAR

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Written by Nani Pradeepan, P.Eng.

houses

1. GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES

Federal, provincial governments offer incentives to encourage homeowners to switch to solar power. The solar incentives vary by province, Ontario government’s current incentive – Feed in tariff pays premium for the solar electricity for 20 year. And the federal government allows solar system owners to get 100% HST rebate and depreciate their solar energy system at 50% rate.

Ontario government’s feed in tariff incentive program set to end in 2017 and replaced by Net metering program. Contrast to Feed in Tariff program, under Net Metering program, whenever the solar system is generating more electricity than you actually can use, the system is designed to send the solar electricity into the grid and you receive a credit for the energy your system is pushing onto the grid.

2. LOWER or ELIMINATE ELECTRICITY BILLS

The most immediate effects solar power system owners will see are no or lower utility bills. Once you hit the point where your solar panels have paid for themselves, its real savings straight to the bank after that. With utility rates climbing regularly, each year you’ll save more with solar than the year before. However, the long-term advantage of solar energy is energy independence. Once the upfront costs for the system are paid, there is no longer a need to worry about the availability or price of energy as long as the system is running – you are the energy provider.

3. INCREASE THE VALUE OF YOUR HOME

Buying a home with solar panels directly translates into additional income or lower electricity costs. Just like homes in preferred school districts or homes with good Home Energy Ratings, solar panels will increase a home’s attractiveness on the market. A study conducted by Lawrence Berkeley Labs in US clearly shows that your home’s value will increase by $4000.00 for every kilo watt of solar powers. The exact numbers vary from property to property and installation to installation, but an average increase in resale value being $4000.00 for each one kilowatt (kW) of solar power installed. The property value advantages of solar energy only increase as you scale up. It’s important to note that these statistics only apply to today’s housing prices and utility rates. As electricity prices go up (as they most certainly will), the advantages of solar energy rise as well.

4. LOW MAINTENANCE AND HIGH RELIABILITY

Modern solar-electric systems are built to withstand normal and seasonal environmental conditions with little to no maintenance. Operating and maintenance (O&M) involves preventative routines mostly defined by inspections, both periodic and after significant events, such as storms. Owners of residential and small scale installations often can perform these inspections themselves. We freely educate our customers on low risk routines. Local conditions, such as winds, dust and birds will determine the frequency. We include monitoring system with each and every solar power system we sell. Monitoring system will help the owner of the system to keep a close eye on the solar power system and take an appropriate action when needed.

5. SECURE PLANET FOR THE FUTURE GENERATIONS

Yes, this is the most important benefit of installing solar panels. While generating electricity solar panels do not create any waste or emissions. Unlike coal or diesel power plants, solar power system produce clean, renewable energy from a fuel source that requires no locating, excavation, transportation, or combustion. Solar power is as reliable as the sun – shining again and again for thousands of years. Last but not least, solar also grants energy independence, since the fuel for solar panels is the sun’s energy and is available everywhere and it is free for everyone.

BENEFITS OF POWER OPTIMIZER IN A SOLAR PV SYSTEM

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Power optimizers are a module-level power electronics solution that can be installed on-site or integrated during the manufacturing of solar panel. Power optimizers offer many benefits to solar PV systems including the following.

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  • Increased energy yield: Through maximum power point tracking at panel level, power optimizers lessen the power loss caused by a number of factors including variances in module power, partial shading, soiling and/or uneven aging.
  • Real-time, module-level monitoring: Power optimizers enable module-level performance monitoring, reducing maintenance time and cost while increasing system uptime.
  • Enhanced safety: Power optimizers also provide protection for workers during PV system installation, maintenance and firefighters. Design flexibility: Through maximum power point tracking at panel level, power optimizers enable module mixing and placement of modules on different planes.

Overall, power optimizers offer immediate and long-term financial benefits from higher energy production from each module and reduced maintenance cost.

SOLAR BATTERIES – RE-EMERGING STRONGER THAN BEFORE

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Written by Nani Pradeepan, P.Eng.

In the mid-1990s solar PV had only one integration option that is with batteries. At that time very little support from governments, the off-grid (not connected to an electric grid) market was the dominant driver of solar business globally. Then solar PV was paired with lead-acid batteries and sold to people who had no other choice for electricity; even today this is the option for most of remote regions around the world.

California offered some of the first incentives for solar systems connected to utility grid in 1996. At that time frame, Germany and Japan also beefed up promotion laws, creating a strong burst of activity for the grid-tied solar (connected to an electric grid) market globally.

In 1997, nearly two-thirds of worldwide solar deployment was off-grid. Three years later, around 2000 grid-tied installations outpaced off-grid installations globally for the first time.

Over the last decade and a half, battery storage went from being the core enabler of solar PV to a marginal technology. Battery-based systems now only represent around one percent of yearly solar installations throughout the world.

But the industry is getting back to those roots and embracing storage once again. As lithium-ion batteries get cheaper and more abundant attention has turned back to batteries. In Germany, as feed-in tariff rates dipped below retail rates from the grid, batteries have become more popular to serve self-consumption.

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This time, interest in the technology is not coming from off-grid system designers; it is coming from Silicon Valley and savvy industry veterans who see it as the next big business opportunity.

Electric car manufacturer Tesla last week unveiled a suite of batteries for homes and businesses. It is not the only battery storage system on the market, but Tesla’s sleek-designed, wall-mounted batteries will definitely help to accelerate the use of solar batteries.

This time in addition to providing backup power when the grid is down, replacing noisy, dirty fossil fuel generators with zero-emission storage technology batteries are also coming with additional features that will reduce energy costs by using stored energy to reduce peak electricity demand.

Solar with energy storage is transforming the way electricity generated and delivered to end customers across the world. Grid will transform from primary source for electricity to back up source; with this trend we believe in the next decade, customers will decide what they want to pay the utility.

Phone: 416-855-9377