SPRING HOME IMPROVEMENT

Recent developments

by DAN VOS
Vos Energy Concepts

I will take a break from the green design articles to talk about some recent developments in the renewable energy field.

Dan Vos

First, Consumers Power is offering a program that will pay you twice what you pay them for your electricity, if you install a solar electric system. They do this occasionally, to get people to become producers of electricity. The contract that is signed lasts 15 years. This program is called Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP), and takes all of the energy you produce and sends it through a separate meter so it is measured accurately. This program, along with the 30% tax credit and the cheaper pricing of the solar panels these days, makes this a deal for those of you who have been sitting on the fence waiting for this technology to be cost effective.

Second, micro-inverters are a new option. The inverter changes the solar panel power to that which can be used to power our homes. Normally one large inverter is wired to all of the panels. A micro-inverter is wired to each panel on a one-to-one basis right on the roof. You can get a monitor that will look at each inverter to see how each panel is performing. The advantages to this system is that if there is a problem, the troubleshooting time is minimal, but troubles are rare. Mainly the biggest advantage is that if you have some shading issues, one shaded panel will not drag down the whole system output as it would otherwise. You see normally each panel works like a cell in a battery. When one cell goes bad, it can affect the system output dramatically. So if you have some shading issues, micro-inverters are the answer.

Third, solar panel pricing has dropped dramatically in the past few years. The world recession and Chinese pricing have been the cause of this for the most part. Before the recession, many countries were installing many solar electric systems and new companies were popping up while others were expanding. When the money dried up, many panels were built and orders were cancelled. This led to failing companies and lots of product. We are still in this mode. So instead of costing three to four dollars per watt, they are now half that.

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