There are rumblings that Collier County may be adopting a streamlined approach to reviewing permit applications for solar electric systems. They have always been very responsive when dealing with solar pool heating and solar water heating permits, and the Growth Management department is full of class acts like Jamie French, Gary Harrison, and Tatiana Gust. I met with these three county employees recently, and they were instrumental in helping us clarify fees and streamlined permitting procedures. The whole solar industry is pushing for standardized solar plan reviews and inspections, and it appears that Collier County is listening. Now if we could just do something aboutRead More →

Microinverters are becoming more and more popular. The monitoring capabilities are awesome. The warranty is amazing. These little guys sit under a solar photovoltaic module and convert DC energy to AC energy right on the roof. I have been specifying the new M215 model, and the feedback from the installers in the field and from customers is great. I was taking a look at a system recently using the web monitoring, and it is blowing away expectations. Long term study will be needed, but this Sanibel Island 5kW Photovoltaic array has exceeded average annual estimates by over 10%, and this site has some real shadingRead More →

Some people have a strange love affair with their electric tank water heater. It’s true. When you tell people that you want to replace their water heater when you add a solar water heating system, they get a little misty-eyed, or even a bit angry. That’s okay – we can get you solar water heating and not throw your baby out with the bath water (pun intended)! Most traditional tank water heaters we see in Florida are pretty small – 40-60 gallons. This is different than our friends up north for a few reasons. We don’t need to store lots of hot water because theRead More →

They don’t exist. First, let me say that I am talking about traditional electric element storage tank style water heaters. I’m not talking about instant-on water heaters, point of use water heaters, heat pump water heaters, or anything other than your basic 30-80 gallon tank sitting in the typical Southwest Florida garage, closet, or attic. Virtually all electric element water heaters in this area have a power guzzling 4,500 watt element that runs at full bore whenever water heating in the tank is required. Actually, there are usually two elements, but typically only one runs at a time. 4,500 watts will make the hamster inRead More →

Solar electric modules perform best when mounted on the south facing roof in every northern hemisphere location (not taking into account any shading issues). What happens if you do not have a south facing roof, or if you south facing roof is not suitable for solar? Southeast and southwest roofs are the next best options, but east and west facing roofs are not all that bad. In fact, a tilted solar array facing east or west will only result in about 5-15% less energy produced here in Southwest Florida. But which is better? The tool that is commonly used to estimate solar electric output isRead More →

NOTE: Information on this page may be obsolete. Many hanges in incentive programs have occurred since 2011. What incentives are there for solar energy in SW Florida? Here are a few: Save the planet Reduce your electric bill Stick it to the utility company Give something lasting to your kids or grandchildren Impress your neighbors These are all legitimate reasons to install a solar energy product, but probably not what you were hoping to read here. No worries – I know what you want. MONEY! There have been a lot of misconceptions about solar incentives, especially in Florida where we had a virtually scandalous failureRead More →

My father-in-law who is a Professional Engineer made a very astute comment to me one day. He said that it is impossible to manage something without an accounting system. As a guy with a degree in Finance, I agreed wholeheartedly . But, he was actually applying this concept to energy. How can you manage your energy use if you don’t know what appliances and devices are consuming?! In a previous entry I promised to discuss the power and energy needs of a hairdryer vs. a 60 watt light bulb. If you need a primer on the difference between power and energy, please read this postRead More →

As I see it, there are three main reasons for using 3D computer models to visualize solar energy projects: To show how equipment will fit. To show what it will look like. To identify optimal orientation and avoid shading. I would like some feedback with other ways 3D models can be helpful for visualizing projects. Leave me a comment!

In times long ago (a few years ago), solar electric (photovoltaic) modules were very expensive. Eking out every watt of power from each module was critical. There was a huge incentive to mount your solar modules with “optimal tilt and orientation.” Unfortunately, most roofs are pretty darn fixed when it comes to slope and compass direction. We have to live with what we’ve got. But what happens when you want to mount solar modules on a flat roof. The conventional wisdom is to tilt modules toward the south. Generally speaking, approximately 25 degrees tilt toward due south is theoretically optimal for us in Southwest Florida.Read More →

I’ve said before that solar thermal technology like solar water heating and solar pool heating is the simplest form of solar energy. I take that back. What I meant to say is that solar lighting is the simplest solar energy product on the market today. Every morning, even if it’s a little cloudy, the sun comes “up” and we have light for the entire day. Whether it is hot or cold, cloudy or clear, we get sunlight every day. Even better than a traditional skylight is a solar tubular skylight. This product places a small dome on your roof, a reflective tube through your attic,Read More →

NOTE: The economics of solar water heating have changed since this article. Solar Water Heating is Dead is an article that has more up to date information. Solar water heating is by far the most efficient way to use solar energy in most homes. It always strikes me as strange that more systems are not installed in Southwest Florida. In some places like Hawaii, solar water heating is mandated for new residential construction. While I don’t think we have to go so far as to mandate installation through legislative means, it just makes great financial sense and it is common sense. Why are so manyRead More →

For those of you that know me well, you know that I’ve been consumed with a very exciting project recently. The Naples Botanical Garden, a Florida Gulf Coast University facility, is getting a substantial solar electric system installed starting next week. My employer was selected to install the system, and I am the Project Manager. The system will be capable of producing 35kW of rated AC power using 164 solar modules made in the USA by SolarWorld and 164 Enphase Microinverters. We will be attaching the modules to the standing seam metal roof using S-5! clamps that result in no mounting penetrations to the roofRead More →

The answer is yes; however, that’s a pretty open-ended question usually. There are several different kinds of solar “panels.” I’m going to nitpick now. Many people that ask this question are really looking for a solar “module,” as in a photovoltaic, PV, or solar electric module. We calls these modules in the trade because they are actually made up of many solar cells that are wired together. Solar modules create electricity that can be used in your home to offset electricity purchased from your utility company, or can take you “off-grid” altogether. Granted, they are are colloquially referred to as solar panels, but technically theyRead More →

To start off, let’s get something straight. Power and energy are not the same thing. I am asked all the time, “How much solar power does my home need to eliminate my electric bill?” The right answer is usually how much energy the home needs. Power is a rate of consumption. Energy is a quantity of consumption. Power over time equals energy! Pull out your electric bill. you will not find how many kilowatts your home consumed last month. Kilowatts is a measure of power – how much electricity you are using at any given time. What you will find is Kilowatt-hours, abbreviated kWh orRead More →