Home Solar Panel ,Solar Service
Written by Rick Peters

Peters’ Journey to Net Zero

Solar Service,Home Solar PanelsWhat Net Zero Meant for Us? Our Severna Park based, four-person family was looking to offset some of our home’s dirty energy, but we really did not have an expectation we could offset it all, but we had to start somewhere. We took our first step shortly after I joined the solar industry in 2008.

Low Hanging Fruit. In February 2009, we installed a 120-square foot solar water heating system to offset most of our water heating, and a small portion of our space heating for the first floor of our home. We saw big savings from this 3-panel system right away. Ever since, I enjoy the act of turning off the back-up water heating in April and leaving it off until almost October. For us, offsetting a dirty and expensive oil-fired boiler was the obvious low hanging fruit. We would later convert that remaining load to natural gas when the utility extended the pipeline to our home.

Solar Electric (PV) With the rest of the heat, A/C, and appliances all running off electric, it was time to look at the next opportunity. A few years later, when budget allowed, we decided to add a 5 kW solar PV system to our second story roof which faces SSE. My best determination was that we offset just over 40% of our electric load with that PV system. We were happy, but knew we’d want to find a way to get to NetZero eventually. , . I began to evaluate the remaining rooftops and consider what it would take to get us there. Solar panel efficiencies had improved a lot over the past several years so this reduced the remaining roof space we’d need to hit our goal

Phase 2 (PV). In the spring of 2016 we finished filling the balance of the south roof with some slightly higher wattage panels. As part of the same expansion, we added 24 relatively high efficiency panels to the E/W, low slope, rooftop of our one-story garage. We now had a total of 6.6 kW Equivalent of solar thermal and 13.8 kW of PV.

Not There Yet….We almost tripled our PV with the last upgrade and according to my calculations, this would get us to NetZero electricity. We’d know for sure by April, the annual true-up time frame for netmetering with BGE. When April 2017 came around, we were disappointed to come up a bit short (unfortunately, with a couple teenagers in the house, my usage predictions were a little off). Where do we go from here? I was not ready to put panels on the north roof, there had to be something available to us on the demand side.

Oops – More Low Hanging Fruit…One thing about Energy Efficiency, there’s always more opportunity. I had changed out many bulbs to LED over the prior several years, mostly through attrition, but I had not replaced any of the more than 2 dozen canister lights we had throughout the ceiling upstairs and down. Not only were these lights very inefficient, but the heat they generated in the summer was just adding to our air-conditioning load. We found the LED replacements on sale and replaced them all, as well as the remaining few incandescent lights in the house.

Commercial Solar Energy,Solar ServiceEureka. we have arrived!… In April of 2018 we received a $46 check from BGE for the annual overage from solar. With the kids heading off to college soon and a new refrigerator around the corner, I’m confident our checks from BGE will be getting bigger for the near future. At least until we purchase an electric car…

Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels
Written by Lisa Walsh

Poly Vs Mono Panels for Residential Solar Installations

IfSolar Service, Home Solar Panels,Commercial Solar Service ,Annapolis MD – like most educated consumers – you’re getting multiple quotes for your solar power installation, you’re probably having to compare between various equipment offerings by your solar vendors. Themostprominent of these offerings – both in terms of financial investment and warranty security –are the solar panels themselves.

Solar panels come in a variety of power ratings. For residential applications, the most popular panels today usually fall somewhere between 270 watts and 315 watts, with price points that usually increase with the wattage (in the standard size footprint). Less obvious, however, is the type of solar panel you may be asked to choose between.

In general, your solar quote will include a panel whose cells are made from crystalline silicon. Silicon is us

ed in solar panels not necessarily because it’s the most optimum semi-conductor available – but because of the extensive research on the processing and physics of silicon grown out of the integrated circuit industry. The processes used to access and arrange the silicon determine whether a panel is deemed to be

As the name suggests, monocrystalline panels utilize a single, continuous crystal structure in the processing of the silicon ingots from which the solar cells are made. It used to be that this high-grade silicon resulted in substantially higher efficiency rates than other solar panels. However, improvements to manufacturing in polysilicon processes have closed this gap significantly. Still, homes and businesses looking for the highest possible efficiency rating on a solar panel would likely choose a Mono panel.

The silicon ingots used for manufacturing the solar cells for Poly panels are manufactured by melting many fragments of silicon together to form the ingot. Because this results in many crystals in each cell, there is usually less freedom for the electrons to move. As a result, polycrystalline solar panels typically have lower efficiency ratings than monocrystalline panels.

Should I choose a Mono or Poly solar panel?

As with any choice it comes down to buyer preference:

Aesthetics: In general, Mono panels have more options if you are concerned with how your solar panels will look. If you want something low-profile; maybe a uniform, all-black aesthetic devoid of white lines, silver racking and diamonds – most manufacturers offer this aesthetic in a Mono panel. However, there are now a few poly panels available in all-black. For example, REC has a 280-watt poly panel on the market that is now available in all-black.

Cost:  Mono panels tend to cost more than poly panels. A small roof looking to get the highest possible solar fraction by going with a high wattage solar panel will most likely end up with a Mono panel as these include the highest wattage options (300w plus). However, if a homeowner has the roof space and is looking for the highest possible value, it may be most cost-effective expand the array by one or two more panels and go with a Poly. Many commercial applications utilize poly panels due to the focus on cost over aesthetics, particularly if the panels are not visible from the ground, due to a flat roof installation.

Performance:  Due to the amount of information out there disparaging efficacy of poly panels compared to monos, this is a subject worth broaching. It is true that under factory test conditions, poly solar panels tend to have slightly lower heat tolerance than monocrystalline solar panels. As a result, under high temperatures, poly panels would perform slightly worse than their mono counterparts. Heat can affect the production performance of solar panels and shorten their lifespans. However, this effect is minor, and most homeowners do not need to take it into account. This is evidenced by the standard 25 year manufacturer’s warranty is the same for both mono and poly panels.

Washington DC Solar Commercial Solar Service
Written by Rick Peters

Commercial Solar Water Heating: ANOTHER Renaissance?

Washington DC Solar ,Commercial Solar ServiceSolar water heating has quite a long history. In the United States alone, the industry has boomed and busted 3 times in the last 130 years – each time displaced by cheap energy. Many are surprised to know that the first US patent for a residential solar water heater was issued in 1891 to Clarence Kemp, a Baltimore inventor. That’s right, 1891.  In the 1920’s, 30% of the homes in Pasadena, CA had solar water heaters.  With the discovery of natural gas resources in the region, the industry evaporated almost overnight.  Solar thermal technology is mature and efficient; the problem lies with allowing our commitment to solar to dissolve in favor of decreasing natural gas prices.

In these previous industry “busts”, energy became cheap and we were lulled into a false expectation of stable prices. Each time, not long after the industry was dismantled, energy prices began to creep back up, making us long for that clean and cheap solar energy again. So today Solar Water Heating is on the rise again. Will it be different in the 21st century or are we doomed to repeat the same cycle? What was it that Winston Churchill said about failing to learn from history….?

The recent surge in US solar water heating deployments began in 2008. This resurgence, especially at the commercial scale, has helped to drive up adoption rates while scaling down installation costs. Several factors are converging in recent years to bring about this renaissance:

  • Engineers, architects, and contractors are becoming increasingly familiar with this mature technology – improving costs with increasing experience
  • Regional incentives are bolstering the existing federal incentives to reduce the capital investment.
  • The federal government has mandated that a minimum of 30% of water heating must come from solar for new construction or major renovations on federal buildings.
  • Project Developers like Skyline Innovations (http://www.nextility.com/) have introduced new business models to help deploy these systems for those without available capital.
  • Property owners increasingly want to have more control over their energy budget
  • Various societal pressures continue to reward solar adoption
  • An improving economy has allowed property owners finally to reinvest in their buildings

Remarkably, much of this has occurred despite a backdrop of rapidly falling natural gas prices (the primary heating fuel for commercial water heating), decreasing drastically from 2008 to 2012. However, in the last 18 months, natural gas prices are climbing again in a trend that is likely to continue: gas exportation; deployment of energy intensive manufacturing in the US; diversion of more natural gas to transportation (locomotives, trucks, fleet vehicles and eventually automobiles); conversion of more power plants and residential heating to natural gas.In light of these trends, property owners are rapidly moving forward to install solar water heating systems before the financial incentives expire. Business owners with substantial hot water loads in Washington DC and Maryland are able to achieve simple ROIs of 2-7 years. This approach requires them to take a slightly longer perspective, recognizing that they are buying 30+ years of energy up front for a fixed price (with generous subsidies). Whether financed independently or through the bank, building owners are able to lock in their energy prices and hedge the inevitable increase in fuel costs while leveraging all of the other benefits of renewable energy.

If you have any doubts about this trend, visit our commercial solar water heating page and take a look at the photos of just a subset of the projects we’ve been deploying in the region (https://solarsaves.net/commercial-solar-water-heating/).

If you want to know more about the history of solar water heating, check out this excellent book: The Golden Thread: 2500 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology, coauthored by Ken Butti and John Perlin.

Residential Solar Panels,Solar Energy
Written by Rick Peters

SES Embraces SunPower Partnership

Residential Solar PanelsMany of our prospective customers have been waiting to buy their panels in the hopes of significant advancement. “I want the technology to mature ” they say, “ and be state-of-the-art”. Well, the closest you can get to those standards with a production panel is with SunPower.

Ask around, do some Google searches. You’ll learn quickly that SunPower is considered the best with very little debate. In fact, it’s by far the best. This American born company launched out of the US university research system (the founder was a Stanford professor) has sustained a 23 year run to be acquired recently by a global energy company.

At Solar Energy Services we’re excited to report that we are now a SunPower certified dealer. We’ve always wanted to offer the very best PV product and now we can. SES is proud to tie our 35 year commitment to the industry to the world leader in solar panel manufacturing.

Many are aware that the cost efficiency of installed solar has improved dramatically in the last 5 years due to efficiencies gained through price competition, distribution improvements, development of installation techniques, and other process improvements. However, the physical efficiency of solar cells has advanced more slowly than most have hoped. The standard Chinese panel being installed by the majority of installers today (especially the large leasing firms) are in the 14-15% efficiency range. A few solar manufacturers have been able to stay notably ahead of the pack. SunPower remains out front with their standard 327 W panel (E20) at 20% efficieny. Sunpower’s new “X” (E21) is 21% efficient! That’s right, over 40% more efficient than the average panel out there. The X begins to ship in April 2013 – next month.

SunPower’s Maxeon cells are the industry leader in reliability and durability also. They’ve had only180 defects out of 7 million panels. That’s right, 1 in 39000! The Maxeon cell has redundancy in contacts, accommodating wear from thermal expansion. It has backside contacts that provide increases collection on the sunny side. They are highly durable with the best impact resistance ratings. They are backed by a solid company with great support and a bright future.

To recap, the physical efficiency of solar cells has been relatively stagnant, with the exception of a few leaders that have developed slow and steady progress. SunPower has led the way. The company has been around for over 23 years. They have the most durable solar cell in the industry and the highest performing. I must confess, the 3 year old solar PV system on my roof has panels made in China. If I were installing today, there is no doubt I’d choose SunPower…

Written by Rick Peters

SES Embraces SunPower Partnership

Many of our prospective customers have been waiting to buy their panels in the hopes of significant advancement. “I want the technology to mature ” they say, “ and be state-of-the-art”. Well, the closest you can get to those standards with a production panel is with SunPower.

Ask around, do some Google searches. You’ll learn quickly that SunPower is considered the best with very little debate. In fact, it’s by far the best. This American born company launched out of the US university research system (the founder was a Stanford professor) has sustained a 23 year run to be acquired recently by a global energy company.

At Solar Energy Services we’re excited to report that we are now a SunPower certified dealer. We’ve always wanted to offer the very best PV product and now we can. SES is proud to tie our 35 year commitment to the industry to the world leader in solar panel manufacturing.

Many are aware that the cost efficiency of installed solar has improved dramatically in the last 5 years due to efficiencies gained through price competition, distribution improvements, development of installation techniques, and other process improvements. However, the physical efficiency of solar cells has advanced more slowly than most have hoped. The standard Chinese panel being installed by the majority of installers today (especially the large leasing firms) are in the 14-15% efficiency range. A few solar manufacturers have been able to stay notably ahead of the pack. SunPower remains out front with their standard 327 W panel (E20) at 20% efficieny. Sunpower’s new “X” (E21) is 21% efficient! That’s right, over 40% more efficient than the average panel out there. The X begins to ship in April 2013 – next month.

SunPower’s Maxeon cells are the industry leader in reliability and durability also. They’ve had only180 defects out of 7 million panels. That’s right, 1 in 39000! The Maxeon cell has redundancy in contacts, accommodating wear from thermal expansion. It has backside contacts that provide increases collection on the sunny side. They are highly durable with the best impact resistance ratings. They are backed by a solid company with great support and a bright future.

To recap, the physical efficiency of solar cells has been relatively stagnant, with the exception of a few leaders that have developed slow and steady progress. SunPower has led the way. The company has been around for over 23 years. They have the most durable solar cell in the industry and the highest performing. I must confess, the 3 year old solar PV system on my roof has panels made in China. If I were installing today, there is no doubt I’d choose SunPower…

Written by Anonymous

Commercial Greenhouse Installs Solar Power System

HUGHESVILLE, MD:  Millersville, MD – based Solar Energy Services, Inc. completed the installation of ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system on a commercial nursery greenhouse complex.

The 19.9 kW solar electric system includes 72 solar power panels in two arrays of 36 modules.  The system is expected to offset a substantial portion of the greenhouse’s conventional electrical load.