Waring Architects is extremely interested in promoting and endorsing opportunities for property owners to take absolute ownership of their own electrical power generation and consumption! In this era of wildly accelerating concern over energy costs; the questionable reality of any kind of meaningful future in fossil fuels; and serious concerns about global climate change, the time has never been better for owners to seriously consider investing in proven technologies of electrical cogeneration using freely available resources of sunlight, wind and running water.
Tax incentives: The State of Louisiana and United States Government are also extremely interested in promoting cogeneration, so much so that they are offering combined incentives that will actually pay for 80% of the cost of designing, purchasing, and installing these systems using State and Federal tax credits and rebates! Other states also have generous credits and incentives but Louisiana’s is among the very best. Detailed information is available on a web site that covers the complete database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.
Storage: Because these systems actually rely on the electrical grid to store the power generated, no banks of batteries are required but, there is usually a minimum charge by the utility provider (usually around $20/month) for the use and maintenance of the power grid as a storage medium. Any electricity you generate in excess of what use actually spins your electrical meter backwards accumulating kilowatt hour credits for your future use.
Which system is right for you: The decision whether to use photovoltaic panels, wind turbine generators, hydroelectric generators or some combination can be a complex one. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to approach a “Net Zero” status; that is, your home or business produces, on its own, all of the electricity that it consumes. Waring Architects can perform the detailed micro-environmental site analysis to help you decide which alternative is best for you. We are knowledgeable about all of these technologies and each of them has its own advantages and drawbacks. Waring Architects is experienced in the design and specification of Photovoltaic Panel Electrical Cogeneration Arrays (Solar Panels).
Some of the advantages of solar panels: Solar panels make better sense; in all but a few cases, than any of the other cogeneration technologies available. You don’t need a 44-foot tall pole with a huge foundation held 300 feet clear of any building, with an average minimum of 12-15 mph winds year-round, the way you would for a wind turbine generator; you don’t need your own river, waterfall, or rushing mountain stream, the way you would for a hydroelectric generator. For a solar panel array you only require an unshaded section of rooftop oriented between the south-eastern and western compass points. Southwestern and southern orientations are considered optimal for generating the maximum amount of electricity. Photovoltaic panels use silicon cells to convert light into electricity. More sunlight equals more power.
Four primary factors affect and enhance solar panel effectiveness
1. Optimal alignment to the angle of incidence of sunlight at any given time.
2. Counter-intuitively, the cooler they are; the more efficiently they will operate. Solar panels generate more power in the wintertime than in the summer.
3. The efficiency of the Inverter utilized (the device that converts Direct Current to Alternating Current).
4. They must be kept clean; a dirty solar panel can easily lose 15% or more of its efficiency!
Hurricane protection: Since solar panels are generally mounted on rooftops, it is imperative they are mounted in such a way that they can comfortably withstand hurricane force winds. Waring Architects coordinates with professional, licensed, insured structural engineers to certify the installations we design.
Hail protection: Speaking of environmental issues, your solar panel should also be designed to handle all but the worst hail stones. While you might be tempted to believe that this means that your solar panel should be covered with Plexiglas or Lexan (and some of them are). As I mentioned above, the efficiency of a solar panel is largely based on the clarity of the cover. Plexiglas, Lexan, and other polymer based materials quickly yellow and cloud under ultraviolet rays, they scratch easily, and are difficult to clean. Therefore, your solar panel should have a heavy-gauge, tempered, armored, easily-cleaned, glass cover.
Micro-inverters: Solar panels convert sunlight into Direct Current Electricity (DC); in order to use this electricity it must be converted into alternating current (AC). This requires a component called an Electrical Inverter. We believe strongly that individual warranteed micro-inverters incorporated into each individual panel offer significant advantages over larger single-inverter systems. In a single-inverter system, the bulky inverter is a considerable separate added expense, it must be planned for in your attic space, it may or may not be covered by its own warranty, and it must be kept cool (air-conditioned). None of this is required for micro-inverters, which are actually built into each individual panel. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if any part of your 20′ x 50′ solar panel array has a shadow on it, the entire system shuts down. With individual micro-inverters, only the individual, shaded 2 ½’x 5′ panel shuts down, the rest continue to generate electricity.
Choosing quality-build solar panels: After reviewing the array of solar panels available, the one we recommend highly is the Andalay by Akeena Solar. These units are clean, thin, rugged, simple to install, and, because they utilize the latest-generation monocrystalline solar cell technology, they generate the maximum possible solar power per square foot. The Andalay is slim and good-looking and still has clear airspace beneath it above the roof to keep the unit relatively cool. They can handle golf ball-sized hail and, once installed, they’re covered by your homeowner’s insurance.
The Andalay also has a built-in, plug-in, micro-inverter, covered by their 25-year warranty that can be quickly and easily changed in the unlikely event that it needs to be. The panels also are particularly easy to install in that each one literally plugs into the next one so that you don’t have lots of loose wires hanging around. Finally, the mounting rail system is already rated for 140 mph wind speeds. Simplicity of installation means the system goes in more quickly and inexpensively.
Disclaimer: Having said all of that, please remember that I’m sharing with you my best understanding concerning all of this. Every project is different; otherwise, why would you need an Architect? Before you absolutely rely on anything here, it is really important that you let us take a look at your individual situation, your individual home, your individual property. I don’t want anyone to construe any of this as the absolute last word on anything. Stuff changes all the time. Needless to say, we’re not structural engineers; nor are we solar panel manufacturers, wind turbine generator manufacturers, accountants or, for that matter, lawyers (thank God). That is why I believe that consultation with licensed, insured, professionals is so important.
We have much more good information about solar panels, so please don’t hesitate to call us if you’re interested in solar panel electrical cogeneration.