Posts Tagged With: Solar power

Green Building December 12th Luncheon: Unstoppable: The Transition to Renewable Energy

Today, building owners and designers are looking to minimize the energy and carbon footprint of new and existing buildings. LEED V4 and the Architecture 2030 Challenge are pushing the industry beyond energy efficiency features into on-site renewable energy generation. Join Taylor Brown and Devin Welch from Sun Tribe Solar, a Charlottesville-based solar energy company, as they discuss renewable trends and design best practices. Come learn more about solar photovoltaics, battery storage options, and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) from leaders in the field.

Taylor Brown co-founded Sun Tribe Solar to increase solar PV’s market share on the east coast and is now operating as the Technical Director. Before launching Sun Tribe, Brown worked for Siemens Energy North America. For the first five years with Siemens, Brown was a field project manager performing modernizations and upgrades on steam turbine generators ranging from 150 MW to 920 MW throughout the United States. Brown holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

Devin Welch, co-founder, is also responsible for market strategy at Sun Tribe Solar. Passionate about sustainability, Welch has spent his career championing free market principles as a means to achieve positive change across a broad range of environmental issues, with a focus on finding and capitalizing upon the critical intersections of sustainable best practices and corporate self-interest. At Sun Tribe, Welch continues his work on market transformation by engaging with individuals, businesses, and governments to reimagine the way energy is produced while realizing tangible benefits for all stakeholders. As a member of the leadership team, he has helped Sun Tribe to become one of the fastest growing solar companies in Virginia. Welch is a published author and holds a B.S. in Management from Virginia Tech.

When:
December 12, noon to 1:00pm (lunch provided)

Register for Lunch Here!

Where: 
City Space
100 5th Street, NE, Downtown Mall, Charlottesville, VA

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Rayton Solar Panels

If you have been thinking about adding solar panels to power your home but have been priced out, that may all change soon. This startup called Rayton is claiming to have built a solar panel with 25% greater efficiency and 60% less expense. If they succeed, it is a game changer for alternative energy!

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Underground Greenhouses

Earth Sheltered Greenhouses use the fact that the earth is a stable temperature all year round to greatly extend the growing season. These were known to native people as walipini or “place of warmth”

http://www.inspirationgreen.com/pit-greenhouses.html

There are so many different types of greenhouses and clever adaptations that books upon books have been written on the subject. Has anyone seen really clever designs in action?

pitgreenhouse

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Site Solar Shading Survey App How-to Guide

The first thing you need to do before building any sort of solar-powered project is to figure out how much sun the site receives. Trees, mountains and houses can all block solar energy from reaching whatever you have collecting it. In the olden days you would go out to the site armed with a compass, protractor, cardboard, string and a washer and plot out the obstructions on paper. Now we have some slick apps for android phones and tablets to help us. Here’s a guide for making a Solar Site Survey Chart using apps for android with a little post processing on a computer.

1. Use the Solar Shading app to make a new project and trace the solid horizon. Follow the directions for the app; there is no need to repeat them here.  Make sure that the program knows your position or things will be thrown off. It is important to trace just the mountains and other solid things that aren’t going anywhere because you certainly can’t change those. Use the share icon in the app to export the pdf of the report; it is useful as it is, but we’ll do more with it later.

dbh

2. Use the Solar Shading app to make another new project and trace the “green” horizon. This time, trace the outer edge of all the trees and any other objects that aren’t completely solid. Use the share icon in the app to export the pdf of the report; again, it is useful as it is, but we’ll do more with it later.

dbs

3. Download all of the reports from your phone to a computer.

4. Download a clean solar chart online for the survey location from http://solardat.uoregon.edu/SunChartProgram.html

Sun Chart - Charlottesville

5. Use Photoshop, GIMP, or another image editor that allows the use of layers to superimpose and line up the solar chart made in step 4 over the chart that the app made in step 1. On a new layer use the paintbrush and masks to make a clean horizon on the chart. Hide the chart from step 1.

SS - Powerline Trail-horizon

6. Now bring the solar chart that the app made in step 2 under the chart built-in step 6 just like you did in step 5. On a new layer use the paintbrush and masks to make a clean “green” horizon on the chart. Hide the chart from step 2. Put some text to let everyone know where in the world the survey was taken and you’re done.

SS - Powerline Trailsummer

7. Doing the survey with the less expensive augmented reality apps SunPlan and Sun Surveyor is a similar process, but is more labor intensive. Use the app to take augmented reality screenshots to create a panorama on a computer later. I like to turn on the winter and summer solstice sun paths in the app because it gives a nice reference point when using them later. It’s a good idea to take a panorama even if you used the Solar Shading app to make the solar chart because it shows what the obstructions are. They are the most valuable together.

SunSurveyor_2014_02_07_111537 copySunSurveyor_2014_02_07_111550 copy SunSurveyor_2014_02_07_111607 copy SunSurveyor_2014_02_07_111618 copy SunSurveyor_2014_02_07_111630 copy SunSurveyor_2014_02_07_111640 copy

8. Turn the images into a panorama using a panorama maker program like Microsoft ICE. The augmented reality pieces confuse these programs pretty badly, so it’s not going to be flawless. Let me know if you find a way to get a cleaner panorama!

SunSurveyor_2014_02_07_stitch

9. Download a clean solar chart online for the survey location from http://solardat.uoregon.edu/SunChartProgram.html

10. Open Photoshop, GIMP, or another image editor that allows the use of layers to open the chart made in step 9 side by side to the panorama made in step 8. On a new layer use the paintbrush and masks to make a clean horizon on the chart from step 9 using the panorama as a reference. On a new layer use the paintbrush and masks to make a clean “green” horizon on the same chart using the panorama as a reference. Put some text to let everyone know where in the world the survey was taken and you’re done.

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Site Solar Shading Survey Apps

The first thing you need to do before building any sort of solar-powered project is to figure out how much sun the site receives. Trees, mountains and houses can all block solar energy from reaching whatever you have collecting it. In the olden days you would go out to the site armed with a compass, protractor, cardboard, string and a washer and plot out the obstructions on paper. I’ll let Builditsolar.com describe how to do that in detail: http://www.builditsolar.com/SiteSurvey/site_survey.htm

Here’s what an old-fashioned solar survey looks like:

survey

Thanks to google sky map, everyone now knows that smartphones and tablets have all the sensors that one would need to make one of these charts digitally, plus a camera. The burning question is which app works the best and how do you make a chart with this technology? We pitted a few against each other using the same android smart phone hardware and here are the results. There is also a guide for creating this chart using some of the apps mentioned below.

1. Solar Shading: For the purpose of making a site solar survey chart, Solar Shading is by far the most capable app for android, which makes sense because it is the only one specifically designed to make this chart. The interface is a bit harder to get used to than the other apps, but it is by far the most powerful. You trace the obstructions to the sun either using the crosshairs with the camera or looking down the edge of the phone/tablet. Once you’ve completed tracing the horizon for a complete circle, the app generates the solar chart as well as two graphs showing the solar power generated and the penalty that the obstructions are causing during each month of the year. This app is easily the fastest way to accomplish the task and provides great looking reports, so it can be done at several locations on a site to find the optimal location on a site for a solar collector or a passive solar house. The only downside is the $16 price tag.

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 2. Sun Surveyor: This is an “augmented reality” application that displays sun paths and/or moon paths on the camera preview. This is the smoothest, most polished, and most feature rich of this type of app that was tested. The 3D compass, compass calibrator, and map view are nice additions to your smartphone toolkit. The augmented reality view shows any sun or moon path that you would like to display, as well as degree grid lines, which are very helpful in building a solar chart back at a computer using the images captured with this application. These images can then be taken back to a computer and obstructions plotted onto a chart if needed. This is a nice companion to the Solar Shading app to have pictures for later reference that are geographically referenced. This app carries a $6.49 price tag.

2014-01-24-13-24-49  2014-01-24-13-23-53  2014-01-24-13-27-40

3. SunPlan: A little Less polished than Sun Surveyor, the augmented reality view works almost identical to it. Sunplan doesn’t have the 3D compass, Map view or moon information, but it has a shadow compass. At $3.99, it’s a little easier on the wallet if you don’t need the vast array of sun and moon data.

IMG_20140124_131137  2014-01-24-13-08-00

4. Helioserver: Works similar to the solar shading app, but the interface is confusing and not very polished. It probably does a lot of heavy lifting in the background, but only gives you an output of what direction to point solar panels; I wasn’t able to accurately come up with reference points from the output to plot the data onto a chart. I couldn’t figure it out, not to say it can’t be done.If it works for you, the $1.33 price tag is certainly the cheapest.

2014-01-24-13-18-28 landscape

Conclusion: After actually doing a few surveys with all of the software, I personally choose to use the Solar Shading app to do the heavy lifting. Its professional looking output can be imported directly into Photoshop and excel. It collects real data in a couple of minutes so that several locations can be investigated to find the optimal solar site location in a short amount of time. I also use Sun Surveyor and SunPlan to get a good panorama of the site for reference further down in design. They are both very similar, so use Google Play’s 15 minute refund policy to try them both out before you decide which one you prefer.

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Solar Panel Orientation

The more research you do into renewable resources, the more you realize that matching demand for power to the renewable supply is the trickiest part. According to this study, for people that are away at work in the middle of the day, it makes more sense to point solar panels south-west instead of directly south. Makes sense right? Well, yes and no. If you aren’t attached to the grid, or your power company doesn’t allow net-metering and you work all day then yes, this makes perfect sense, why not make the power when you’re using it. If you have net-metering from your power company, why not produce the most power and use the grid as your battery; then due south is still the way to go.

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Solar Powered Portable Stove

The gosun stove is the best thought out simple solar food cooker I’ve seen! It looks like this is going to be a reality soon as they got 5 times the funding they were looking for to get it started. Campouts, tailgates, off the grid parties, third world countries and greenies everywhere will love this.

gostove

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