Posts Tagged ‘energy’

I received an email…

Name = Richard Brown
State = California
FromEmailAddress =
Comments = Greetings, 
Our company is in the process of exiting the solar installation business and we have excess solar panels, inverters and batteries to sell. 
All items in original packaging.
1. LDK 245-P-24 and 250-P-24 500kw
2. LDK 280-P-24 500kw
3. LDK 285-P-24 600kw
4. Perlight 300w 500kw
5. ET solar 295w 700kw 
1. Delta 5kw
2. Chint 10-20kw
1. Prismatic Lithium ION

I'm sorry to see them go out of business but, there might be some high end solar equipment at discounted prices?  Thought I would share.

Have a good one, 

If you’re into solar power, chances are that you have, or know, children that you’d like to encourage to learn about its potential.  In keeping with this blogs theme of “do it yourself”, I thought I’d try to find some curriculum and fun solar projects suitable for kids K-12.

One of the first sites I came across was Florida Solar Energy Centers section on education.  For younger children there is a link to Energy Wiz (click on experiments) which outlines projects like making a solar oven, a solar still and electrolysis. Below is a video about the State of Florida’s Energy Whiz fair which should give you some ideas for projects you could undertake with your kids.

EnergyWhiz Olympics from Florida Solar Energy Center on Vimeo.

This site out of Canada – Green Learning has renewable energy projects like the wind turbines, hydroelectric generators and various thermal solar ovens.

Try out this page for renewable energy lesson plans from the Texas State Energy Conservation Office for additional teaching ideas.  The lesson plans are a bit dated (2005-2006) but as it turns out, the information is pretty timeless.  The sections are broken down into K-3, grades 4 & 5, 6,7,8 and 9-12.

If the kids are still at the age where coloring is fun, here is a free solar energy coloring book you can print out.  Also check out Solar Answers for Younger Kids.

This last link is from Teaching & Learning Resources from Federal Agencies – Energy.  It contains all around great information and projects as well.

Do you have any good solar activities for kids to share?

Want to Build a Solar Something?


Are you looking for a fun, do it yourself, solar powered project?  Or, maybe you are looking out of some sort of necessity like saving money on heating bills?  Either way, I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 best solar DIY websites & a review of each.  I’ve chosen not to put them in any particular order because placement would depend on relevance to your objective.  (for example: a project to complete with the kids or looking to solar power your home in an emergency even)  At my other website, I have a list of specific DIY endeavors that I find interesting – Solar Powered DIY Projects.  Anyway, here’s the best..

Instructables – This site came online in 2006 and houses over 100,000 DIY projects.  The projects are uploaded by the community and vary widely in scope.  The vast majority of them contain excellent step by step instructions and photos.  Many contain videos and access to the maker through posts.  They’ll include a list of tools and materials required to make the object.  Some have external websites dedicated to their build.  Basically, the things shown at Instructables are typically very well documented and easy to follow.  The link provided will take you to the DIY solar channel of the site.

Build it Solar – Site started in 2005 by Gary, a retired airplane product development engineer.  Contains TONS of links to DIY solar topics & great onsite guides for solar projects.  It seems many are geared toward home energy, like solar thermal & electric.  One benefit of this site is that it contains links to many different projects where the creators may be making the same things but, approaching it in different ways.  This site contains allot of very useful information & is extensive in size.  If your looking to build or make a homemade solar anything, definitely worth a view.  Careful not to fall into a rabbit hole when visiting this one though!

Hack a Day – This site has been around for a few years that I am familiar with but, the website doesn’t give any indication as to when it was started.  I may be a bit bias in adding this to the list as many of the projects don’t contain clearly defined instructions or documentation.  However, the projects are usually very “techie” and that is right in my wheel house so I find them appealing.  There is a forum to exchange ideas / questions and the site is very active – frequently updated.

Make – Started in 2005 by Dale Dougherty.  Extensive site contains DIY makers projects, kit reviews, forums and blog.  There is also a quarterly magazine for $36 a year.  (I check mine out from the library)  Solar projects you can make are categorized into easy, moderate and difficult.  All of the things to build here are documented very well, broken into steps & presented in a very professional manner.  Certainly worth a visit.

DIY Network –  If you have cable or satellite I’m sure you have seen this channel listed in your guide.  The website has step by step guides, fluffy articles and several well produced videos of DIY solar projects.  They are mostly general overviews and do not contain extensive materials or tool lists.  However, if used as an informational resource in conjunction with a project from above it can be a very handy supplement.

Ok, there are the top 5 best solar power project websites I know of!  If you have a site that you think should be included in this list, let me know!


How the Solar Power System is Setup

OK, so you’ve buttoned up your house and it is as energy efficient as is practical and are now familiar with some of the hardware.  The next step is to decide what configuration you’ll choose for setting it all up.  There’s almost an infinite number of ways to accomplish your objective.  For the purpose of brevity, I’m going to go into just three potential solar power system setups…simple on-grid without battery backup, on grid with battery backup, and hybrid wind & solar on grid.  (I didn’t include off-grid because it is basically the same as on-grid w/ battery, just not connected to the utility company.)  I’ve included some simple wiring diagrams and videos for reference.  Later I will include a post with useful links for finding additional information and DIY solar power kits that are easy to install.

Please keep in mind that each of these can be done in different ways, and with different equipment than I show below but, they should give you enough information to get your gears turning.

Simple On Grid System:  This is the type of setup that you would use if you want to power your homes appliances and potentially sell power back to the utility company (if you make more energy than you use).  You can either save or make money with this type configuration.  Also know that there will be no batteries involved and the system will NOT provide emergency backup power regardless of it’s size!  It is technically possible to do but against regulation / law / code pretty much everywhere in the US.  I think this is do to safety concerns with ‘islanding‘ but, don’t quote me on that.  Anyway, this is a simpler and cheaper setup compared to the others.  You can also scale it up easily over time by adding more solar panels.


Below is a video discussing some specifics regarding a simple grid tied inverter.  He explains about running straight through to the utility and skipping the battery bank.

On Grid with Battery Backup:  This system can do what the one above does in addition to providing power during a power outage.  It differs in the fact that partial shade on your panels can keep all of your panels from producing power if wired in a series.  It’s more expensive but much more versatile.


The two videos below demonstrate good grid tied solar power systems with battery backup.  If you open the second video in a new window, below it (click more on description) he lists links to all of the individual parts.

Wind Turbine & Solar Grid Tied with Battery Backup:  This type of system can provide power when the sun isn’t shining.  It can also make electricity when there is no wind.  It costs more but is very reliable and will pay for itself over time.


Next, will be useful resources for each of these steps and links to do it yourself solar electric power kits.


Power Estimations

After researching the regulations and finding what types of incentives are available, it’s time to find out how much energy you currently use.  Dig into your file cabinet…ugh, I mean download your online utility statements for the last year.  (preferably the last whole calendar year, Jan – Dec. if you intend to deeply analyze things)  Add up how many kWh’s (killowatt hours) you used for the year & divide by 12.  That will give you the average kWh’s used per month.  According to the US Energy Information Administration the average US household uses 940 kWh per month. (fyi – 1 KWH = 1000 watts for 1 hour)  Your 12 month average will be a factor in what watt size solar panels you should get, and how many.  If you’re going with a backup solar power system, these numbers will also play a role in buying batteries and inverter size.

If your original goal is just to save some money on your utility bill (from Step 1), then precise usage calculations are not really absolutely necessary.  But, if you are looking to live mostly off grid or make a profit selling energy back, then you should try to calculate and estimate as much as you can prior to purchasing anything.  Either way, there are free tools online to simplify the research.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory offers PVWatts which calculates hour-by-hour performance simulations that provide estimated monthly and annual energy production in kilowatts based on your location.  It’s pretty cool and not nearly as complicated as it sounds.  Just plug in some numbers (or hypothetical’s) and it will spit out useful information.  If you want to get all kinds of nerdy with it, download the Homer Energy hybrid modeling simulation software.  The program is a fully functional 2 week demo, or you can use the previous version free for six months.  Below I’ve included a PV (photo voltaic) solar map for the US which shows how many kWh of energy are typically available for your location.  Additional solar maps, for your visual stimulation, can be found here.  A very helpful resource in doing your solar site survey in a more traditional way can be read at Build it Solar. (recommended)  If you need to make conversions (Watts, Kilowatts, Amps, Volts, etc.) the users at this forum seem to know everything!


Anyway, keeping your goal in mind, determine how much energy you use & how much you want to produce as it will be a primary factor in what solar hardware you buy.

On a related topic, prior to installing a home solar power system you should make your home as energy efficient as possible.  There are allot of simple things you can do like The Over 100 Ways to Save on Your Energy Bill.  A free and simple energy savings estimator is also available online.  If you are really serious about conserving energy and money, you should consider getting a home energy audit.  The money would be better spent on energy efficiency in the home, than using expensive solar equipment to support the exaggerated need.  (Example:  Rather than getting up to close the front door all the way in the dead of winter…just turning up the heat until you don’t notice the cold draft.)  I’ve included a video below that shows some of what’s involved in an energy audit.