The California-based solar leasing firm Sungevity announced a deal on Monday with home improvement giant Lowe’s that could make obtaining a personalized estimate for installing solar panels a push-button affair at Lowe’s outlets.

The deal gives Lowe’s just under a 20 percent stake in Sungevity, according to a solar industry source, though neither company would discuss specific dollar figures.

Under the agreement, scheduled to launch in 30 Lowe’s stores in California in July, customers will be able to access kiosks equipped with Sugevity’s iQuote system, a Web-based application that allows homeowners to simply enter their address and receive a firm installation estimate within 24 hours, eliminating the expense of an on-site visit.

The system combines aerial and satellite image analysis with research by Sungevity engineers at the company’s Oakland headquarters to assess the geometry of a home’s rooftop, its disposition to the sun at different times of day and year and any potential occlusions presented by nearby vegetation or built objects.

In addition to an installation estimate, customers can also get a visual rendering of their home with solar panels installed. And if interested parties provide information on typical power usage, such as an account number or past electric bills, the iQuote system can estimate potential savings expected from using the equipment.

The iQuote system can already be used online, and the company’s founder, Danny Kennedy, estimated that roughly 25,000 users had taken it for a test drive, though only about 1,500 of those had been converted to sales.

The deal with Lowe’s, Kennedy said, could help Sungevity — a petite player in the solar leasing market compared to bigger players like SolarCity of San Mateo, Calif., or San Francisco-based SunRun, which raised $200 million in financing earlier this month — significantly expand its reach.

“This will help us to get in front of thousands more customers, in front of middle America,” Kennedy told The Huffington Post. “We’ll be taking it to the ‘burbs, as it were.”

Despite tough economic times and often uncertain economic incentives, a number of analyses predict a boom year for solar power in 2011.

A report published in December by IDC Energy Insights, a market research firm based in Framingham, Mass., estimated following a healthy 2010, the solar market in North America could well see two gigawatts of solar power installations this year.

Jay Holman, the report’s lead analyst, told The Huffington Post that those numbers had been revised somewhat, but that 2011 was still expected to bring in 1.6 gigawatts of new solar installations, roughly double the 2010 total.

Part of the reason for America’s interest in solar energy may be a decline in the robust incentives the once drew a deluge of equipment and installations to the European market, particularly countries like Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy, Holman said. Those countries have begun to scale back their subsidies, forcing companies to look to other markets.

Meanwhile, federal tax incentives, including a 30 percent tax cash grant extended through the end of 2011, have helped keep solar alive. Several states have healthy incentives in place as well, including the eight states where the Sungevity/Lowes deal will eventually be rolled out: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Holman also said solar leasing companies like Sungevity, SunRun and Solar City, which retain ownership of the equipment while reducing or, in many cases, eliminating the up-front installation costs, also help drive the expansion of solar power.

“Obviously, we’re obsessed with being customer-focused,” said Kennedy. “We hope that this deal will make going solar as easy as shopping for light bulbs.”

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What Is Solar Power?

July 11, 2008

Solar energy is among the cleanest forms of renewable energy on the planet. This important resource is being used across the Commonwealth.

 


 

Virtually all of the earth’s energy resources, including both fossil fuels and renewables, originate from the sun. Today, solar energy not only takes the form of the more basic passive solar design, but is also applied through highly advanced, cost-effective photovoltaic cells and other solar energy technologies. Solar energy can be divided into three major categories – passive solar, solar-thermal and photovoltaic.

 

Passive Solar

Passive solar design takes advantage of a building’s structure to capture the sun’s heat, either storing or distributing it, reducing the need for conventional heating, cooling and/or lighting. Examples of passive solar design include large, south-facing windows, dark colored tile floors, stone fireplaces, brick interior walls, “sunspaces” (or greenhouses) and super-insulation. Passive solar buildings are often equipped with features, such as overhangs and ventilation systems, which keep them cool in the summer months and warm in the winter months. Commercial buildings present a different type of challenge than residential ones because of the heavy lighting and equipment use. The most crucial aspect of passive solar design for commercial buildings is the building orientation relative to the solar path. Other aspects of passive solar design, such as shade trees and indoor atriums, coupled with energy efficiency measures, can help increase the overall efficiency of a commercial building.

 

Solar-Thermal

Power plants often use fossil fuels as a heat source to boil water. The steam from the boiling water then rotates a large turbine, activating a generator that produces electricity. Solar-thermal concentrating systems use sunlight as the heat source, eliminating the need for fossil fuels. There are three types of solar-thermal concentrating systems – parabolic troughs, parabolic dishes and central receivers. Parabolic troughs, primarily used for industrial purposes, are curved reflectors that focus sunlight into a line receiver in which fluid is heated. Parabolic dishes, also used in industrial applications, are bowl-shaped reflectors that focus sunlight into a small receiver through which passes a heat-transfer fluid. Central receivers, which have traditionally dominated the U.S. Department of Energy’s solar thermal program, are sun-tracking mirrors that focus sunlight onto a large receiver.

 

Photovoltaic Cells

Photovoltaic (PV) cells, or solar cells, convert sunlight directly into electricity. As the sun strikes a PV cell, the semi-conducting materials within the cell absorb the sunlight, producing electricity. Solar cells are often used as simple systems that power small calculators and wristwatches. More complicated systems provide electricity for pumping water, powering communications equipment, lighting homes, and running appliances. A series of solar cells form a PV array or “solar panel.” Between 10 and 50 solar panels are needed to power an average household. PV panels are installed on buildings in places of maximum sun and minimal shade in order to take full advantage of the sun’s power. There is very little maintenance required to sustain solar equipment. So long as panels are kept clean, they can last approximately 20 to 30 years.

 

Solar power can be used in a grid-tied system or in a distributed system. A solar grid-tied system links a series of solar panels through a power inverter to the utility’s electric grid. The solar panels generate a direct current (DC) by drawing on energy from the sun. The inverter then converts that direct current to an alternating current (AC), which electronic devices and appliances can use. Batteries are not necessary to supplement the system and any excess electricity generated by the solar panels is redirected by the inverter back into the grid where it can be used on other premises.

 

Distributed systems work independently from a utility’s electric grid, using batteries to store the power. Similar to a grid-tied system, distributed solar panels typically use a power inverter to convert the direct current from the sun into an alternating current, to be used on location. However, some systems function without an inverter and run only DC appliances.

HBS Solar … Smart Solutions for Smart Businesses

Email george@hbsadvantage.com to learn more about solar opportunities in Nj and the Phila area

 

A Michigan company, Energy Conversion Devices, plans to announce Tuesday that it is providing the solar electric system for what it says will be the world’s largest rooftop array, on a General Motors assembly plant in Zaragoza, Spain. The project will be 12 megawatts, a huge number in a field where most arrays are measured in kilowatts, units 1,000 times smaller.

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The project will use solar devices manufactured in rolls, like carpet runners. Installation will be completed this fall, according to the company, which is based in Rochester Hills, Mich. Energy Conversion will supply the equipment to Veolia Environment and Clairvoyant Energy, which will lease the rooftop space from G.M. and own and operate the installation, which will be two million square feet.

 

Spain has become a center of solar installations because it offers generous subsidies, 0.42 euro a kilowatt-hour (66 cents). That is about five times the average cost of a kilowatt hour to residential customers in the United States. The Spanish government is considering a reduction in the subsidy for installations after September.

 

Energy Conversion plans to produce about 150 megawatts of cells this year. Last month, the company raised $400 million in new capital and announced plans to raise its annual production to 1 gigawatt, or 1,000 megawatts, by 2012. The company did not say what the Zaragoza installation would cost.

 

Solar cell arrays on houses are commonly a handful of kilowatts, or thousandths of a megawatt. On big commercial buildings, installations of one or two megawatts have become common. A one-megawatt installation will run about 1,000 window air-conditioners simultaneously, at least as long as the sun is shining.

 

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group based in Washington, the largest installation planned in the United States, announced in June, was in Atlantic City, where the convention center will have 2.36 megawatts, about one-fifth the size of the installation to be completed in Spain.

 

Southern California Edison announced in March that it would install 250 megawatts of rooftop solar arrays, spread over 100 or more roofs.

 

Our Perspective:

 

With the demand for energy projected to grow at 1.5% a year for the next 8 to 10 years, you will be seeing a lot of these solar installations popping up. The providers will not be able to build sufficient new plants to help meet to rising demand so the alternative is to incentize businesses and homeowners to become their own source of electric. New incentives have been initiated to provide a ROI that finally makes sense.

 

NJ is planning to issue rebates of $3 per kwh for non profits, municipal properties and homeowners. Add to this the payment of SRECs (solar renewable energy certificates ) and the majority of the cost is underwritten by the state and the provider.

PA is also looking to roll at a program, more on that as it develops.

 

To learn more about solar opportunities in the NJ and PA area email george@hbsadvantage.com

 

Visit our website www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com to learn more about opportunities to create savings.

NJ has taken a very proactive step to provide incentives for businesses, non profits, municipalities and homeowners to join their effort to reduce the energy demand by 20% by the year 2020.

We are currently seeing an annual 1.5% increase in electric demand. At the current growth of demand, we face the problem of not being able to produce enough electric in the next 8 – 10 years.

The result will be rolling brownouts to help satisfy this demand.

NJ has intoduced a SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Credits ) program that will pay you for each 1000 kwh of electric you produce for a gaurenteed 15 year period. The SREC is designed to cover 50% of the total cost of installation.

Businesses also can take advantage of the 30% Federal tax Credit.

Combine these incentives along with the energy you produce, many are finding the ROI to finally make sense.

Non Profits and Municipalities are not eligible for these tax incentives and as a result grants are available to help assist with the cost of installation.

Click on the link provided below to see what grants are available in NJ for those interested in joining the solar parade.

http://www.nj.gov/dca/hmfa/biz/devel/gho/downloads/resources/08njgreenbuilding_resources.pdf

 To learn more about the benifits of solar or to recieve a free estimate, you may email george@hbsadvantage.com

Hutchinson Business Solutions

Creating Opportunities Today………………….Providing Saving for Tomorrow