Posts Tagged ‘photovoltaic’

Mobile Solar with Innergy Power

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

When we think of solar power the first thing that comes to mind is usually rooftop photovoltaic panels and utility-scale solar farms growing in the desert, but there is much more to solar power than this. Solar can also provide the perfect power source when the grid is unavailable or unreliable, and can be adapted readily for mobile power applications. To take advantage of this opportunity, companies are designing, producing and selling mobile solar systems for use in outdoor products, charging mobile electronics, emergency lighting, and for uses in regions with poor power quality or consistency.

Innergy Power Corporation designs, manufactures, and distributes a wide variety of products providing mobile solar power, including products like “Solar Binders” with integrated solar panels producing 15 or 22 watts of power, and the “Solarmonkey”, for charging power-hungry mobile electronics like smart phones and iPods. For emergency power solar also offers some strong advantages. Diesel generators providing backup power are noisy, polluting, and require a constant fuel supply, something that might not always be available in an emergency.

Mobile solar power systems such as Innergy’s Portable Solar Charging Station have many advantages as the primary power source, for many applications, where the grid is not reliable. Darrell Musick, President and CEO of Innergy Power, reports that their products attract the rapidly growing group of mobile phone users, many of whom live in parts of the world without reliable power from the grid. “Other needs are focused on our Portable Solar Charging Stations,” Musick said,” which will allow businesses and residents in markets with poor grid quality of power (Iraq, Nigeria, Turkey) to have a reliable sun powered way to run a wide range of devices. They are currently negotiating agreements with 17 potential distributors around the world.

The market for portable solar applications like these has grown steadily, in parallel with the growth of the rooftop solar market. Musick reports that Innergy “has seen significant increases in the demand for portable solar products over the past two years.” The potential range for portable solar applications remains huge, integrating not just solar power but also batteries for power storage into an expanding array of products. With expertise on the integration of solar and batteries into products, Innergy is also helping companies bring products to market through contract manufacturing.

Since Innergy Power has almost 20 years of battery manufacturing experience it was a natural evolution to move into the design and manufacturing of EV batteries with targets ranging from eBikes to PHEVs.  Innergy is one of the companies owned by ECOtality, and works closely with another ECOtality company, eTec, in developing EV batteries and EV charging solutions.

Using the sun as a free, reliable and inexhaustible source of energy remains a great solution for a broad range of products, and a powerful opportunity for many different businesses. The more the market grows, the more opportunities it opens up for new renewable energy products and sustainable growth.

The Wide Range of Solar Opportunities

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

With over 20,000 attendees, the Solar Power International 2008 Conference held in San Diego October 13-16 was one of the largest solar events around and with the recent US Government extension and expansion of tax credits for renewable energy there was good reason for optimism. The 30% tax credit for renewable energy has been extended for eight years, and the previous cap on residential tax credits has been lifted, all of which should have a great impact on the market for solar, particularly for the residential market. Solar has already been growing at a blistering 40% a year, and even in the midst of the current anxiety about the economy and the stock market, almost everyone I talked with at the meeting expected the industry to continue growing rapidly in 2009.

There is a lot more to solar than producing and installing photovoltaic panels. Many representatives of these businesses were present, of course, but the opportunities don’t stop there. The opportunities being developed by businesses include:

• Producers of photovoltaic panels (like Kyocera, Sharp, Schott, Suntech)

• Producers of inverters that convert DC power from panels to AC (like Fronius)

• Solar integrators working out in the field designing and installing systems (like Borrego Solar)

• Those developing new solar technologies (like Morgan Solar, developing their own low cost concentrating solar technology)

• Solar hot water and heating (Rheem)

• Solar gadgets, like bags with integrated panels (Innergy)

• Robotics for panel production (Adept)

• Panel mounting systems (Power-Fab)

• Utility scale solar power systems (Abengoa, Greenvolts, Optisolar)

• Monitoring solar performance with IT systems (Fat Spaniel, Solar Sentry)

• Storage of power with batteries (Trojan Battery Company)

• Training for solar workers (Solar Living Institute, DC Power Systems)

• Financial Solutions (SunRun Inc.)

These are only a few examples, with more businesses introducing new solar innovations all the time.  It’s hard to say that this, or any industry, will be completely unaffected by the credit crunch, but many in the solar industry who I’ve talked have found that the impact of these issues has not been great so far, or they are finding their way around these limitations.  If the solar business slows, producing only 20-30% growth, this is still a healthy, even a dizzying rate of growth by almost any standard.

Going Green with Vote Solar and Maroon 5

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

The rapid growth of the solar industry is creating jobs and businesses that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  Solar power still provides only a small portion of the electricity in the US, but several factors are driving the continued growth of solar power.  Solar energy is clean, renewable, and its cost is determined by the initial cost of putting systems in place, without a need for increasingly expensive fuel. 

To encourage the growth of the solar industry, the government has put in place policies and incentives that support it.  There are 24 states that have renewable energy portfolio standards requiring utilities to produce a portion of their power using clean energy alternatives like solar and wind to replace more polluting resources.  State governments have created incentives like the Million Solar Roofs initiative in California that is working to install 3000 megawatts worth of solar panels by 2016, saving the state an estimated $6 billion in the process.  Tax credits and rebates reduce the cost of solar energy, helping it to compete with energy from more polluting resources like coal, but putting these policies and laws into places is not always easy.  Providing tax credits to support renewable energy creates green collar jobs and makes economic sense, as well as helping the environment, but an extension of the tax credits for renewable energy past the end of 2008 has remained stuck in Congress.  Even now a last ditch effort is underway to provide an extension for these tax credits.

Vote Solar is working to support consistent, long-term support for solar power.  When key actions in government are coming up, Vote Solar alerts supporters so they can email or phone their representatives in Congress and express their support.  Government seems to respond when people are watching and let their representatives know.  While many are skeptical about government, by getting involved and supporting solar people help to drive its increased use.

Reverb's Eco-Village at a Maroon 5 Concert

Reverb's Eco-Village at a Maroon 5 Concert

One way Vote Solar is getting the message out about solar is by showing up at music events, collaborating with Reverb to connect with fans at concerts like the Maroon 5 and Counting Crows tour this year. Reverb works with a variety of eco-aware musical performers to green events and get the word out with fans about environmental issues and solutions.  The growing list of performers working with Reverb includes the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, and Jack Johnson, among many others.  At these concerts Reverb creates an Eco-Village of booths promoting the green cause, and works to green the event itself by recycling, reducing waste, encouraging carpooling to the shows with PickupPal, and connecting to fans to carry the changes home after the show.

Last weekend I volunteered at the Maroon 5 show in San Diego, manning the Vote Solar booth in the Eco-Village set up by Reverb there.  Many interested fans dropped by the booth and signed up to get involved, and perhaps change their lives to be greener.  Every person who gets involved is another step in the right direction.  Solar still costs more than coal, but with continued growth and technical progress, its cost will continue decreasing.  Consistent federal action will help to make this happen.  You can help to make it happen too by getting involved.  Next time you see your friendly Vote Solar or Reverb volunteer at a concert, go say Hi and see what they have to say.  Then, enjoy the show.