If you can't explain it simply, then you don't know it well enough. — Albert Einstein

Advertisements

What is Community Solar? - Everything You Need To Know

Community Solar

Solar energy and especially community solar is something that we are starting to hear very often. If you are confused about what community solar is then let’s try to help you understand what it is. Consider a community garden, where anyone can come to grow vegetables, fruits or even flowers and plants. Basically, a shared local space that provides the people within the community organically produced food. Now just imagine this same scenario with the vegetables and fruit produce replaced with solar panels. This is what is known as community solar, wherein the solar panels generate clean energy to power nearby houses as well as equipment (oven, lights, computers etc.) within a community.

community solar energy system

This concept was popularised by The United States of America, as more than fifteen states in the country have passed legislation acts to develop community solar in order to be able to power residential, commercial and industrial buildings. The reason that this development is efficient is that many times people are not able to adopt this clean energy, as they are either renting a house or their rooftops cannot support the solar panels or they simply do not have the funds required to install the solar panels. With the help of community solar, anyone can be a part of the famous “clean energy revolution” because this community solar makes it easy to share solar energy to everyone within a community. Through this article you will be able to understand:
  • The benefits of community solar
  • How to be a part of community solar
    • Ownership project
    • Subscription project

The benefits of community solar

Now that you have understood what community solar is, it is important to understand the benefits of being part of the community solar. As mentioned before, the major benefit lies within the fact that anyone can be a part of the clean energy revolution by adopting community solar. Apart from this, another major advantage is in terms of finance. With the help of the Virtual Net Metering (VNM), the community solar option seems feasible to people who otherwise cannot afford a solar farm or have funds required for installation. Virtual Net Metering system allows people or businesses to receive Net Metering Credits that is directly related to any renewable energy project. These net metering credits are worth as much as or are equal to the cost of energy utilized from the utility company.
This concept can be a little confusing and so I am going to explain with the help of an example. Imagine you are a participant in the community solar and a share of your solar farm is 5 kWh (kilowatt/hour). This means that you will receive net metering credits worth 5 kWh and this will reduce your energy bill by 5 kWh on a one-on-one basis. The excess energy in any case of underutilization of the energy is fed back to the solar farm.

community solar virtual net metering
Image Source: https://www.letsgosolar.com/consumer-education/community-solar/

As you can see in the image above, it is very evident that Virtual Net Metering system provides obvious financial benefits to the participants of the community solar.
Apart from finance, the other benefits of community solar include environmentally friendly, as if more people start adopting renewable energy it will help sustain the world’s resources. It is indeed promising support for low-income households, as they will now be able to be a part of sustaining the earth, and the costs associated with using this energy is relatively low. Other than this, it is also a good investment as now, due to the low cost of solar farms, small local governments as well as powerhouses can be a part of this program and generate revenue.

How to be a part of the community solar program?

After understanding the benefits associated with community solar, the next question people generally have is “how do I become a part of this program?” There are two types of participation plans for the community solar program, which is explained in detail in this section.

Ownership Project

In this participation plan, you will be able to purchase the panels and enjoy the benefits of the power generated from the panels that belong to you. This plan is very similar to owning a rooftop solar panel system, as you will own a set of panels in the farm and not just a certain number of kWh out of the panel. It is quite common for a solar farm to be co-owned by the participants within a community, some examples of this plan are:
  • Not-for-profit: donors support a renewable energy farm that is owned by a not-for-profit organization by purchasing the energy generated from one or more panel.
  • Special purpose entity: in order to benefit from tax incentives, individual participants come together to launch a business endeavor wherein the share a renewable energy project.
This is a popularly adopted plan by affluent customers, as it makes it easier for people who cannot otherwise install rooftop solar to now have a solar farm of their own, provided they have the funds required. Though this model seems attractive, it sometimes hinders people from low-income households to be a part of the program, as owners tend to block out the panels.

Subscription Project

In this participation plan, once a utility company builds a solar farm, they offer members a chance to participate and gain benefits from renewable energy. This model does not require any upfront fees to be paid in order to be a part of the program, but it requires that participants must reside within the third party utility company’s area. This program, however, allows free and easy entry of participants unlike in the case of ownership project. In the case where a participant decides to leave the program, his/her spot will be open and available for another interested participant. This is the program that is most popularly requested by members as it holds economic as well as environmental benefits for the community.

[Also Read: Solar Photovoltaic street lighting system]

Community solar has definite pros and cons, cons such as the fact that it requires an appropriate area for the farm to be installed. The solar farm cannot be installed in a place where the sun does not shine, and the land space required is quite expansive as well. Apart from this, it also requires a lot of money and time to be built, making it a little tricky for companies as well as participants to consider investing in. However, as mentioned above the benefits of adopting this renewable energy source will definitely prove to be healthy as well as help in sustaining the earth. It is growing in popularity because people and companies are willing to take a step in adopting renewable energy and avail the benefits associated with it.


Author: Amit Bajpayee is a Solar Energy Adviser and nature lover, currently working with Agni Solar. He is a passionate writer and love to write on topics related to renewable energy and solar industry to help people improve their solar energy knowledge and stay update continues.
Read More...

How do solar and hydropower drive electricity?

Solar power and hydroelectric power have been under man’s use for a decade to produce electricity. With the growing need of time for smart production of electricity, these processes have become very reliable. Solar power is debatably the cleanest and the most dependable form of energy. As for the benefits of hydroelectric power, it drives 20% of the world’s energy requirements already.
Below is the description of how both of these sources are proving to be a benefit for humankind:

Hydroelectric Energy:

It can be defined as the form of hydropower where the wave of running water (kinetic energy) is transformed into electricity. Working on this cycle is dependent on solar energy as well. The sun plays a major role in driving the water cycle and keeping the natural process in its uniformity. Hydro-energy is potentially converted to kinetic energy under gravitation, which initiates it around.

How do hydroelectric power plants work?

By placing turbines on the way of a natural flow of water, we can easily convert the hydro-energy into kinetic energy. This, in turn, is used in producing electricity. The head and flow will determine the potential energy of the source. The whole process revolves around fast communication between the inlet, power station and turbine wheel, that water passes through. An opening in the dam is used to make gravity drop water through the penstock.

hydroelectric power plant

Similarly, the moving water makes the turbine spin fast which in turn cause the generator magnets to rotate. This proves out to be the source of generation of electricity. These hydropower plants can be run without the help of dams as well by a process known as run-of-the-river. The process is very similar to the one mentioned above; the difference lies in the natural source of water, that are the rivers.

Tidal power:

Tidal power is also a form of hydroelectricity. It is also a very promising source to generate electricity nowadays. It results from the sun’s and the moon’s gravitational influence on the ocean tides. The height differences between the tides serve a strong force to function turbines.

Solar Energy:

The solar-powered photovoltaic cells are used to convert sunrays into electricity. You can also calculate solar power in your house using a solar installation calculator. This process is done by the excitation of electrons present in silicon cells that consume the photons coming from the sun. This electricity can then be used in your homes and businesses. Here’s how you can use solar power to generate electricity:

rooftop solar energy system

Roof system:

In most of the areas, solar energy systems are planted at the roofs, under no shade to catch sunlight in the prime hours between 9 am to 3 pm. Energy potential is at its max if the installation is made facing south. However, other orientations can still be helpful. In a solar panel, if only one of the 36 cells is shaded, that can reduce the energy production to up to 50%. Some systems are designed with pivots. These pivots track the sunray journey from amidst the sky. However, if the panel is non-pivoting, it should mimic the latitude of the inclination of the land that it is placed upon. Alternations in the inclinations and orientations can be made to adjust weather changes and times of the day.

Solar Panels:

Solar panels, also called modules, work on the principle of the photovoltaic photon capture system. They consist of a positive and negative film of silicon placed under a thin glass. As soon as the photons reach this part of the panel, they remove the electrons from the silicon surface. No sooner, the negative charge of the electrons is attracted by one end of the silicon surface only, which produces voltage. Which in cycles, drives the whole process simultaneously.
The current produced is collected by wiring the solar panels with wire in series to form a solar photovoltaic array. Multiple loops of solar photovoltaic array terminate into a single electrical box, known as the fused array combiner. Within the solar o&m, the fuses work to protect the module cables individually. The electricity produced through the panel is in Direct form, which has to be converted to Alternating form to supply your needs.

Net Meter:

In an electric system run by solar power, the DC power is converted to 120/240 volt AC power. This is then fed to the utility power of the building through which it travels ahead. This power is under a net meter. This works to reduce the demand of power from the utility during the generation of the solar energy by the array. If the utility power offline, the grid system completely shuts off. These solar powered systems are known as ‘battery-less’ or ‘on-grid.’ They also account for 98% of solar installments being made nowadays.

Inverters:

The inverter is placed in an easily accessible location from the module surrounding. In a residential setup, the inverter is usually paced exteriorly near the sub-panels or the main switches. The main reason to put it according to your comfort it the noise it makes during the process. They work to convert the DC power to a 120 volt AC that can be consumed immediately by a dedicated circuit breaking device. The electricity production meter, electricity net meter, and the inverter are connected. This way the power produced by the solar energy will be first taken up by the electrical loads. There’s a balance kept between the electricity produced and the much that passes out the grid. Whenever there’s more energy production than the net requirement, the utility meter will automatically turn it backward.

Verdict:

Cities that have been in the process of using the sources above for the generation of electricity have seen a massive decrement in their overall cost of electricity. Not only this, but the pollution rates and the rates of diseases dependent on such environmental assaults have also declined. At the present day, there’s a very good rate of consumption of healthier and cleaner ways to generate electricity. If the remaining assaults to the environment are taken into account as well, the results can aid the future generations as well.

Author Bio: Michelle Joe is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on twitter: @michellejoe524
Read More...

Information on Solar Photovoltaic Street Lighting System & Working Principle

Solar Photovoltaic street lighting system works on photovoltaic cells or batteries, that convert sunlight or solar energy into electricity. If you come across a solar lighting system, note the dark panel on top of the light. That is the panel of the photovoltaic cells, which will convert sunlight into electricity. This electricity will then be stored in the batteries. This power can be used as and when needed. The batteries being connected to solar cells, charge themselves continuously while the solar panel is being exposed to available Sunlight. These batteries are inbuilt into these lighting systems. Hence the lamps are capable of drawing light from them. This consequently negates the solar lighting systems from any kind of need to be attached to wires, for power transmission. Hence solar street lighting systems are always wireless.

[Also Read: Solar Power System]

Being a lighting system, meant for the outdoors, solar lighting comes in many shapes and styles, which are aesthetically appealing.

solar photovoltaic street lighting system

How does a Solar lighting system work?

The working principle of these lights is fundamentally simple. During daytime, the PV cells absorb light. As the Sun goes down, an automated switch, which is a photoreceptor too, sensitive to the intensity of available light, deciphers the low Sunlight. This triggers the system to switch on the solar street lights. At this point in time, many would wonder about how will this receptor work, when the sky becomes overcast with clouds? This is a tad tricky to answer.
If the days have been cloudy, most of the time, it is unlikely that the solar cells have charged themselves abundantly. This will mean weak electricity production from these batteries, which in turn, will imply that the lights will not sustain through the night. However, if the sky becomes overcast suddenly, the photoreceptors will kick in to switch on the lights.
Here is a list of information on solar street lighting systems, for a better understanding.
  • Reach into difficult terrain: Since these lighting systems are without any hassle of wires, the installation of solar lighting systems is easy. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why these lighting systems make for an ideal system in difficult terrains. Hence it is these lighting systems are the ones reaching the most remote areas of rural India today.
  • Ideal for parks and dark places: Solar lighting systems are efficient and powerful. They are cost efficient also which makes these systems a great choice for lighting parks, playgrounds and other darker areas for security.
  • Resistant to blowouts and power outages: Solar lighting system is not dependent on any kind of external source for electricity production, like thermal electricity production. It is therefore unlikely that a storm or bad weather can get these lights to stop working due to a power outage. This is probably one of the reasons why is Solar lighting systems are preferred in areas which experience storms and power outrage often.
  • Low Maintenance: Solar lighting systems are low on maintenance cost. Most of the systems come to with a warranty of 25 years. With hardly any disturbance or human manipulation needed to get the solar lighting system going, these systems are perfectly capable of running flawlessly for years.
  • Once in a year or six months check up: Solar lighting systems need an unobstructed reception of sunlight. However, these light systems, are exposed to outside world 24*7. Hence collection of dust and grim on the surface of the PV cells surface is not surprising. This said, the outdoor lighting systems should be regularly checked to ensure that the panels are free of any accumulation of dust that may form a film of obstruction on the PV panel. Attention must also be paid to the batteries that need to be changed once in a while.
  • Enhances landscape and aesthetic lighting: Whenever it is about the lighting systems, meant for the outdoors, the stress in the aesthetic appeal is always more. This is because the normal solar lamps have a bluish hue to it, which makes it a perfect aesthetic enhancement. This creates an amazing essence of night lights.
[Also Read: The future of solar energy in India]
Conclusion:
The solar photovoltaic lighting systems are the stepping stones towards making outdoor solar lighting a reality. The pros of these systems are many, yet much is left to be explored.
Read More...

Electrical Safety Inspection: Importance and Checklist

No one hesitates to call an electrician whenever a fault is seen. However, most people will take their electrical wiring safety for granted.

Importance of home electrical safety inspection

All electrical installations/wiring will deteriorate with age and use. However, most home owners often overlook the wiring condition. At the most, an electrical safety inspection will only be called when a breaker has already been tripped or a fuse has already been blown. It is not surprising that an electrical fault is a common cause for house fires.
Having your electrical wiring inspected is one of the most important things to keep your home safe from electrical hazards. You don't want to risk the lives of your loved ones, nor getting your property damaged due to electrical fires. Therefore, electrical safety should be a top priority in your home.

home electrical safety inspection

A proper electrical safety inspection will:
  • Identify electrical wiring and components that may have degraded over time.
  • Reveal if any electrical circuits are overloaded.
  • Reveal if any lack of earthing.
  • Identify any defective wiring or other mistakes made by non-certified electricians or DIY home-owners.
  • Spot oversized fuses or breakers that may cause an electrical fire hazard.
  • Find any potential electric shock risks.

When to do home electrical safety inspection?

  • When purchasing a home. It is better to ensure that your new home is electrically safe before moving in.
  • If your home is more than 25 years old and has not had an electrical inspection.
  • If you have had a major renovation to your home.
  • If you observe an electrical appliance that is operating erratically, especially if it is much older.
Periodic safety checks are also important and should be carried out every 10 years or while adding a new appliance.

[Also Read: Electrical Safety for manufacturers]

Home electrical safety inspection checklist

  • All light fixtures, sockets, switches are in good condition and working.
  • All wires are in good condition without any signs of deterioration, wear and tear.
  • All circuit breakers, RCDs etc. are operating properly and fuse elements are appropriately installed.
  • Suitability of all switchgear (MCBs, RCDs etc).
  • Proper grouping and labeling inside the distribution panel.
  • Earthing/grounding system is proper.
  • Wiring method is up to date to ensure that it is suitable for current use.
  • All wires of a circuit are grouped together.
  • Proper insulation of electrical system near wet and damp locations.
  • Wires or sockets are not being overloaded.
  • Reducing the necessity of extension cords by adding permanent fittings if required.
This is a general checklist while inspecting a home electrical system. However, a certified professional electrician will inspect thoroughly to ensure the safety. It is important to call only a licensed electrician for safety inspection or for any major electrical work. You may be able to easily find a licensed electrician in your local area by searching on the internet. For example, these electricians in Perth provide electrical safety inspection and recommend you what can be done based on their inspection.
Electrical safety inspection is must for every household to ensure safety from electrical hazards. Worrying about electrical inspection costs? Well, you may actually save more by preventing repair costs by calling an electrician after a fault has occurred. And it's not just about costs, it could be about lives.
Read More...

What to do when your RCD or Circuit breaker trips

When it comes to electrical safety, it is extremely important to have various safety devices installed, such as RCD and Circuit Breakers. These devices, when properly installed, protect from electrocution and fire hazards caused by electrical faults. An RCD or Residual Current Device is also called as Safety switch.

switchboard, RCD, Safety switch, circuit breaker

Is an RCD same as a Circuit Breaker?

RCD or Safety Switches are often confused with circuit breakers. While both of these devices protect us from electrical hazards, they are not the same thing.
A safety switch constantly monitors the current flowing through the live and neutral wires. Under normal conditions, the current through live and neutral wires is equal, that means the circuit is balanced. However, if returning current through the neutral wire is not equal to the current going through the live wire, it means a part of the current is going somewhere else. This could just be a current leakage or maybe someone is being electrocuted. Whenever an RCD (Safety switch) detects such an imbalance in live and neutral current, it breaks the circuit almost instantly (within 0.03 of a second).
A circuit breaker basically protects circuits from short-circuit and overcurrent conditions. It detects when the current flowing through is greater than the rated value and cuts off of the circuit. A circuit breaker is not designed to protect an individual from electrocution. So it is important to have safety switches installed in addition with circuit breakers.

What causes an RCD or Circuit Breaker to trip?

When something is seriously wrong with electrical wiring or circuit, the RCD and/or circuit breaker trips disconnecting the circuit from power supply. There are various reasons that can trip a safety switch or circuit breaker.
  • Circuit overload: Overloading of a circuit is the most common reason for tripping your circuit breaker. When a circuit is overloaded it consumes more current. When this increased current reaches beyond the rated limit, the circuit breaker "trips". A safety switch may not trip in case of overload as the circuit still might be balanced.
  • Short circuit: This occurs when the live wire touches neutral wire directly. In this case, a large amount of current flows producing a large amount of heat and may cause a fire hazard. A circuit breaker trips almost instantly in case of short circuits.
  • Ground fault: Similar to short circuit, a ground fault occurs when a hot wire or live wire touches the ground. In this case also, current increases rapidly causing the circuit breaker to trip.
  • Faulty appliance Damaged or faulty appliances can leak excess current. When this leakage current is detected by an RCD or safety switch, it trips and disconnects the circuit.
  • Damaged wiring: Damaged wiring may cause current leakage, ground fault or even short-circuits.
  • Moisture: Current leakage can also occur due to moisture present in electrical switchboards, sockets etc. Wet appliances also produce electrical faults when switched on.
Along with these, there are various other reasons that can produce electrical faults and trip your RCD or circuit breaker.

What to do when your RCD or Circuit Breaker trips?

Resetting a tripped RCD or Circuit Breaker is pretty easy. You just need to flip back the toggle switch to "ON" position. However, it is not a good idea to directly reset the tripped RCD or Circuit breaker without knowing what may have caused it to trip. Following are the steps to figure out the cause of tripping of an RCD or Circuit breaker.
  1. Turn off all the lights and unplug as many appliances as you can. The circuit breaker may have tripped due to overloading of the circuit. So if you directly reset it without disconnecting appliances, there is a good chance of causing the same problem again. Also, if you have recently added and switched on an appliance, make sure to disconnect it before resetting the breaker.
  2. CAUTION! Working with electricity can be dangerous. Never try to touch an electrical panel or any electrical equipment with wet hands. Also, make sure to stand on dry surface with rubber shoes at all times while working with an electrical panel.
  3. Go to your electrical panel and find out which RCD or Circuit Breaker has tripped. This may be easy as you just need to find out which toggle switch has flipped from ON position to OFF position. Once you figure our the tripped device, follow the below steps.
    • First, move the toggle switch to full OFF position (Tripped position is half-way between ON an OFF position).
    • Then move the toggle switch to full ON position. This will restore the power to the circuit.
  4. If the device does not trip again immediately and the power is restored, you can skip to the next step. But if the device trips immediately again, it may be a sign of a fault in wiring or a serious electrical problem. In this case, you need to call a certified electrician to get it checked properly.
  5. After restoring the power, plug in the required appliances one by one and check if the RCD or Circuit breaker trips again. If you plug in a faulty appliance, the device will trip again. Make sure not to overload with too many appliances.


This article is sponsored by:
Westline Electrical Services is a proudly WA owned and operated family business. Their professional Electricians serve residential, commercial, and industrial customers.

Read More...