Showing posts with label solar panels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label solar panels. Show all posts

Friday, June 24, 2011

5 Reasons I Love the Solar Panel Industry

Its funny how a simple thing like a computer virus can make take a step back appreciate your business. This morning a virus shut down my computer and let me have some time to just think about the business I have. (Anyone else notice how useless you are without a computer these days?)

And in thinking about my business I was able to break down what I love about this industry and why.

1. The People
The people in the solar power industry are different. They get it. Sure there are some jerks and scam artists, but for the most part they people in this business are here because they are passionate about renewable energy and want their work to make a difference. And this translates to how they relate to others and conduct themselves. And the customers that are interested in solar panels usually share the enthusiasm and become infected by it.

2. The Purpose
In my previous business I owned a concrete and excavation company. And my purpose was to make as much money as possible. I wanted to do good work, and provide a living for my employees, but at the end of the day there was very little satisfaction. With solar, I know that even a little system is going to provide clean energy instead of using fossil fuels, and that is very satisfying. Knowing that I can make a good living and help people and the planet? Slam dunk.

3. The Science
I’ll admit it, I’m no genius. How solar power actually works is still a bit of a mystery to me. I know the basics of photons and electrons and yada yada. But how this wonderful science came to be and how we actually turn sunshine into power still amazes me. Making something powerful and wonderful out of something you can’t really see sounds like the stuff of children’s books, and the child in me loves it for that reason.

4. The Technology
I love it that this business changes, if even a little, everyday. All over the world, at any given moment, someone is having a ‘Eureka’ moment in a lab somewhere that will improve how solar power works for us. Whether its more efficient solar panels, racking systems, inverter technology or even financing, millions of people worldwide are working their butts off to make this technology more viable and more affordable.

5. The Future
I’ve never had a business where I could look into the future and say “In 10 years, this industry will be lightyears ahead of where we are now”. Whether its rules requiring solar panels on all buildings (eg in Japan), costs being cut in half, or just widespread acceptance of solar as an alternative to dirty fuels, the future is bright. There will be bumps and misses and setbacks, but the future belongs to solar.

Kriss Bergethon is an entrepreneur and solar writer from Colorado, visit his site at Solar Panels for more information.

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Three Cool Solar Power Competitions That Could Change Our World

It seems that we are finding a new use for solar power everyday. Whether its grid-tie applications, lighting, or backup power, solar is rapidly becoming our green energy alternative of choice. Solar is rapidly evolving as the technology and applications for it are changing daily. In this light, here are 3 great contests that are stretching the limits of what solar can be used for and may just change the way we use energy in our everyday lives.

1. The American Solar Challenge
What Is It?
It’s a cross-country race held annually with futuristic cars powered exclusively by the sun. Dozens of university teams from the United States, Canada, and Europe design and build their own solar cars.
What does it involve?
Teams have to build cars using the absolute lightest materials available. They also have to engineer the power systems that will collect energy from the sun, store it, and transfer it to the drive mechanism. All of this must be done in the most efficient way possible so that the car can travel the course safely and in the shortest amount of time. The University of Michigan won this year’s event that stretched from Kansas to Chicago.
How will it help us?
Transportation consumes about 40% of our energy resources now. Electric cars have taken huge leaps in the last few years and can reduce our dependency on carbon fuels if they can be charged using renewable energy. But the technology needs to make huge advances to really make an impact. Changing the way we use materials in vehicles, storing power efficiently, and harnessing solar power will be essential if electric cars are going to help solve our energy and climate crisis.
Read more here: American Solar Challenge

2. The Solar Decathlon
What is it?
A contest sponsored by the US Department of Energy to create the most energy efficient homes in the world. Teams from American, Canadian, and European universities design, build, and then transport a home to the Washington Mall to be judged by industry and government experts.
What does it involve?
The homes are judged on 10 separate factors: Architecture, Market Viability, Engineering, Lighting Design, Communications, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment, and Net Metering. The challenge to balance energy needs, comfort, and aesthetics while making a home that could actually sell in the market. The team from Germany won the event in 2009 and won major points by incorporating solar panels into the exterior shell of the home.
How will it help us?
In order for us to change the way we use energy, we have to change the way we live. The best way to do this of course, is to change the way we build our homes. We can have beautiful, comfortable homes that actually produce as much energy as they use. Contests like this challenge the brightest minds to redefine the spaces we live in.
Read more here: Solar Decathlon

3. Solar For All Design Contest
What is it?
A contest to develop effective and affordable off-grid solar solutions. The contest is geared more toward finding power solutions for the developing world where electricity is often unreliable or nonexistent. The prize is an investment from Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation of $250,000.
What does it involve?
Contestants from 58 organizations and 29 countries enter solar inventions that address lighting, home systems, mini-grid, and hybrid solar-wind systems that can help low-income communities. The winner this year, Greenlight Planet, developed a way for everyday Indian citizens to afford and install their own home solar system.
How will it help us?
Worldwide about 1.7 billion people live without electricity. Bringing electricity to these people can mean improved health, communications, education, and quality of life for millions. It also means that fewer communities will be exposed to the environmental and health risks that are posed by traditional means of power, which include kerosene lanterns and diesel generators.
Read more here: Solar For All

Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado. Fore more information visit his site at Solar Power.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Solar Leasing: An Exciting New Way to Get Solar Panels

(photo courtesy SunRun)

There are many ways to go about getting solar panels on your home. Most of them involve hiring a good contractor to design and install a system on your roof. And, unfortunately, it often involves spending a lot of money up front on the system and installation. Fortunately, there are alternatives that are rapidly evolving that can bring the initial cost of the system down to something much more affordable and sometimes can cost NOTHING up front.
(photo courtesy SunRun)

What are these programs?
They come in many forms, but for the most part they are called solar leasing programs. You may also hear them called solar financing, solar power purchase agreements, or solar rental programs.

How do they work?
They vary slightly, but here are the basics:
  • You contact a solar leasing program provider (we’ll discuss them below)
  • The provider comes to your home and determines if your home qualifies for their program. They evaluate things like sun exposure, roof angle and access issues.
  • If your home is right for solar power, the company usually collects a deposit and you sign an agreement ranging from 10-20 years. In some cases, depending on local solar incentives, the provider may not require any money from you. That’s right, your system could be FREE!
  • The provider hires the installer and oversees the installation. They also manage all maintenance and warranty issues with the system for the life of the contract.
  • The provider collects any and all utility incentives and tax breaks.
  • You immediately start seeing benefits in lower power bills. The solar leasing company is essentially selling you power at a reduced rate that they generate from the solar panels. Savings vary from 5% to 25% on monthly electric bills.
  • Here’s where it gets really good: your power rates from the leasing company are locked in for the life of the agreement. So when the utility rates start to rise (and they most definitely will) your rates will stay the same and your power savings will really take off.
  • You get the satisfaction of generating clean, renewable energy while helping the planet.
What’s the catch?
There are of course some qualifications for the program. People who qualify generally meet these guidelines:
  • They live in states with great solar incentives like Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Programs will be in place very soon for other places like Texas and Florida.
  • They are serviced by a major utility that has a solar incentive program in place, not a local or municipal power cooperative.
  • They have a large space on the roof that is clear of obstructions and faces south.
  • They have a desire to save money and help the planet at the same time.
How do I find a provider?
There are several major solar leasing firms nationwide. They include SunRun (, SunPower (, and SolarCity ( All of these companies have an online form that you can fill out to be contacted for an estimate. There are other programs nationwide, and you can find out more by contacting your utility provider or finding a local solar contractor.

This can be a great way to get solar installed on your home and start seeing the benefits of renewable energy right away.

Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado. Please visit his site at Solar Panels.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

5 Easy and Affordable Ways to Start Using Solar Power

There is so much talk of green and clean energy these days, most people have at least thought about how they can use solar in their lives. The problem is that with a tough economy and bleak jobs market, most people just don’t have the money to invest in solar. Here are 5 cheap and easy ways to start using solar power that won’t break the bank.

1. Affordable Grid Tie Kits Are Here For The Handy Homeowner
Thanks to rapid advancements in inverter technology, you can install a solar grid tie kit on your home for far less then ever before. It used to cost at least $10,000 to install a small system on a home. But using micro-inverters and 200W panels, homeowners can install a single panel and inverter for about $1000 and start to reap the benefits of free energy from the sun.

Many homeowners are adding panels on a regular basis, on Earth Day, or as their budget allows. The new technology allows you to add on to your system as you wish, without spending a fortune. You could start with a 230W system, add a panel every 3 months or as your finances allow, and have a 4000W system that covered your entire power bill in a few years.

2. Solar Leasing Programs Often Cost You NOTHING
Now that solar has gone mainstream and is a viable investment, companies like SunRun have leasing programs to help homeowners get started in renewable energy. Here’s how it works:

  • A local installer works with a solar financing company like SunRun to evaluate the suitability of your home for solar.
  • If your situation is right, the financing company will pay the installer to put the panels on your home, usually at zero cost to you.
  • The financing company owns and maintains the panels, and receives any rebates associated with the installation.
  • You get charged a fixed, discounted rate for your electricity for the life of the lease, usually 20-25 years.
  • You save money in the short term in the discounted and fixed rate, plus you won’t experience the sharp rate increases that are inevitable as carbon taxes and renewable subsidies become more prevalent.
  • You can choose to purchase the system from the financing company and reduce your energy bills to nearly zero.

Best of all, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you are saving money AND helping the environment at the same time!

3. Simple RV, Boat & Golf Cart Systems Keep You Charged Up
Many people forget that they are various uses for solar panels. Boats, RVs and even golf carts are great uses for solar. Solar panels generate direct current, or DC power, which is what most boats and RV’s need anyway. Adding a simple panel and charge controller to the system will keep the batteries charged, save the expense of charging those batteries, and allow you stay out longer and go farther.

In most cases the panels will allow you get rid of the generator or shore power you relied on before. For folks in southern climates that use golf carts in lieu of traditional vehicles, a 200W solar golf cart kit means you can say goodbye to the power cord and hello to lower energy bills. Starter kits can be as little as $100, the larger units are over $1000.

4. Take Your Stuff ‘Off the Grid’
It was not that long ago and that the components in solar power systems were so complicated that using an electrician to install them was a must. That is not the case these days (and thank goodness for that!). Simple ‘plug and play’ solar power kits now allow you to gather, store, and use the sun’s energy easily. They work much the way a computer does, you simply plug the panel into the control box (like you would a computer monitor), and then plug the control box into a battery (like you would plug the computer into the wall). Then, start plugging your stuff into the control box.

This is a great system for remote cabins, work sheds, or garages. Often people that live in hurricane country keep them for backup power when the inevitable outage comes. They’re great for campers and travellers too that have added laptops, iPhones and stereos to their ‘can’t live without’ list when they’re in the back country. These kits can be had for as little as $300 and can be expanded for your future needs.

5. Make Your Space Brighter and More Comfortable With the Power of the Sun
Unfortunately solar lighting has gotten a bad rap by the proliferation of those poorly made solar garden lights. There are, believe it or not, great solar lights out there that are high quality and look terrific. Many communities are doing away with the gas lamps that appear on every front lawn because they are expensive to run and maintain. A nice solar lamp post light can replace the gas lamp, spruce up your yard, and cost less than $200 in most cases.

There are also tons of affordable options for heating and cooling your home with solar. Solar air heaters have recently become more popular, and they have the added benefit of using recycled cans in many cases. There are even solar air conditioners now, too. These use the sun to heat the medium in the cooling process, whereas traditional AC’s use electricity. These new solar AC’s are about 50% more efficient than their traditional counterparts.

So solar doesn’t have to be out of reach for everyone. With a wide variety of applications and prices, solar power can help you save money and the planet.

Kriss Bergethon is a Solar Power expert and author from Colorado. For more information visit his site at Solar Panels.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Solar Power Industry Trends From An Installer's Point of View

Having been in the renewable energy and solar power industries for the last 10 years, I often get asked about what the future holds. Whether you are interested for investment purposes or general curiosity, I would say in the general the future is extremely bright for clean energy. Here are some things that we see coming in the next 5 to 10 years that will shape the markets for the industry, and specifically solar power.

Feed-in-Tariffs Will Proliferate
The most widely used model for encouraging solar power installations now is giving rebates for installed watts. The problem with this model is that it doesn't actually give incentives for producing more clean energy, which after all is the point. Installed watts don't always translate to produced watts due to installation issues and equipment efficiencies.

(courtesy Sharp Electronics)

This is where feed-in tariffs come in. This actually rewards the solar power producer by paying them a rate for the electricity they feed back in to the grid at 3-4x the actual retail rate. So some homes might be paying $0.11/kw-hr for power but selling power back to the grid for $.45/kw-hr that is produced by their solar panels. This can produce a profit and much faster return on investment for the system.

Most importantly, this method actually encourages clean energy production (instead of just installation) and energy efficiency, since reducing the building's consumption will increase the profitability of the solar power system.

Feed-in tariffs have been wildly successful in Germany, making it number one in terms of installed watts in the world. We have seen several programs in Florida, California, and Ontario get implemented with success over the past 5 years. There are similar initiatives in New Jersey, Michigan, and several other states.

Look for these programs to proliferate over the next decade, driving the demand for all sizes of solar power systems higher.

Solar Components Are Changing Rapidly
The next 5 to 10 years will be shaped in part by the technology advancements that we are seeing now. All solar power systems require additional components like racking, inverters, and sometimes batteries. This is where we are seeing serious shifts in technology.

The advent of the micro-inverter has altered solar power significantly. Before, all systems required a large centralized inverter to alter and condition the power that panels produce so that it can be fed to the grid. This system worked fairly well, but the expense of the inverter and the performance of the panels could negatively affect the project's economics.

An Enphase Micro-Inverter, with solar panel. (courtesy Enphase)

The micro inverter actually alters and conditions the power directly as it comes out of the panel. This means that power from each panel can be monitored and optimized, and it means that a solar power system of any size is now available. With centralized inverters, which cost upwards of $2000, it made sense to install at least a $10,000 solar power system to cover the cost of the inverter. Now, with micro inverters costing less than $200 in some cases, homeowners can install one panel, and expand as much as they like.

And solar panel manufacturers, like Sunpower, Sharp, and Mitsubishi, are getting into the act and building the inverter right into the panel. This gives much more flexibility to the solar power systems available and open up the market to millions more customers.

Power Storage Will Get Better
One central issue facing all renewable energy sources is storage. After all we need power when the sun's not shining and the wind is not blowing, right? Rapid advancement in this sector will drive growth industry-wide, as century old technology (like lead-acid batteries) will be replaced.

Several universities, including MIT and Stanford, are dedicating tens of millions of dollars to research and development of battery technology. Advancements in the technology are making the batteries lighter, more affordable, and environmentally friendly.

Some of the emerging technologies are in heavy duty Lithium Ion batteries (already used in small electronic applications), and ultra-capacitors. Check out this article for more information on ultra-capacitors.

With these advancements in technology and policy, the future for solar power and renewable energy is indeed bright!

Kriss Bergethon is a solar power professional and writer from Colorado.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DIY Solar Part 6: Planning the System Install

Ok, we've got solar panels, we've got tools, now we're ready to start putting them up! Woohoo! Well hold on there partner, the better we plan this out the smoother the install will be. So let's take a minute and a piece of paper to figure out how we're going to do this.

Simple Roof Diagram
Most building departments will require a sketch of where your panels are going anyway, so this is not a wasted effort. If you can do a scale drawing your install will go that much faster. Make a basic sketch of the roof area in question. Then do some reconnaissance and figure out where the rafters are and their spacing. The roof mounts, which will hold the rails, will attach to rafters. Mark the rafter locations on your drawing.

Panel Strings
Solar power systems are laid out in strings to achieve certain voltages and amperages required by the inverter. So if you have 10 panels, you may have two strings of five panels. The panels will be wired in series (positive to negative) generally in that string, to get the voltage up to a level acceptable to the inverter. Refer to your inverter specifications or your kit drawings to make sure you get this right, its critical. You'll want one string in a row, with the next row/string adjacent to it since that one will likely be wired in parallel (positive to positive). Layout the strings and rows on your drawing and make sure its all going to work. Your local building code will probably tell you what the spacing on supports should be.

In this picture, each row is its own string. So the panels in that row are wired together in series.
Then each row is wired together in parallel. This is how most systems are wired, yours may be

Equipment Check
Ok you have a drawing of the system, now check with your equipment again to make sure you've got everything. Nothing like getting everything on the roof only to find out you're missing some mounts. Also, if you're getting permits, its worth a call to the building department to see what stages they want to inspect the system at. Some just want to see the final install, other want to see the roof penetrations, which means you will have to call them before you actually put the panels up.

Roof Specifications
One final note before we get to the actual install. Certain roof materials have requirements for sealing up penetrations and temperature during roof work. If its too cold your roof materials may crack or chip. If you can take a sample of your roof material to a local supply house and have them tell you about minimum temperature requirements and sealants. This ensure that you are not damaging your roof and shortening its life.

Next up, mounting panels. Kriss Bergethon lives off the grid with his wife in Colorado for more information visit his website at Solar Panel Kits.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

DIY Solar Part 3: System Components

DIY Solar Part 3: System Components

In our previous posts we talked about the design process and then different kinds of systems to choose from. Now let's talk about the system components that you need to be aware of before tackling a project like this. Many people believe that you just get some panels and wire them into the electrical system. It's not quite that simple.

A typical grid-tie solar power system.

Solar Panels and Film
Of course the most obvious part of the system is the panel. But there are several types of panels to consider.
  • Crystalline panels: these are the blue-ish black solar panels that are encased in aluminum and tempered glass to protect them from weather. These are the most common panels and generally the easiest to find. Their advantage is that they can be mounted to nearly any surface and they have the highest efficiency.
  • Solar film: these cells look more like rolls of roofing materials than photovoltaic materials. This is probably the future of solar as these are much cheaper to produce. Currently the only solar film that isavailable has to be stuck to a metal roof. This will definitely change in the coming months and years as this technology advances.

Solar power makes direct current, or DC power, and your home uses alternating current, or AC, power. An inverter can turn steady stream DC power into wavy AC power. There are several different kinds of inverters and they differ in the kind of wave they create.
  • Modified sine wave inverters: create current that resembles connected up and down stair cases, as the inverter creates steps in the current.
  • Pure sine wave inverters: these inverters create a nice even up and down sine wave.
  • Micro inverters: this is a new development where each panel has its own inverter. This helps in several ways. First it means that you can have a far smaller system to start with since you could wire one panel and one micro inverter and tie into the grid. All other grid-tie inverters require a higher voltage and need at least 1000 watts (or 4 to 8 panels) to work properly. Secondly inverting at the panel means you can use small gauge wire (instead of large diameter wire that DC requires) from the panel to the main power panel, saving money on wire cost.

Sensitive electronics, like entertainment equipment, require a pure wave to operate properly, while smaller electronics, like small kitchen appliances, work just fine with modified wave. Pure sine wave is more expensive but it recommended since we have so many advanced-technology electronics in the home these days like computers, plasma televisions, and stereo equipment.

Charge Controllers
Whenever batteries are present in a solar power system, a charge controller is needed. Most grid-tied system won't have batteries and therefore won't have a charge controller. Controller's are needed because, unlike other power sources that have an off and on switch, solar panels are pretty much 'on' as long as the sun is shining. This can be a problem if the batteries are at full capacity as overcharging them would ruin them. So the charge controller controls how much charge goes into the batteries.

A typical battery-backup grid tie system.

Most controllers are now Multi-Point Power Tracking, or MPPT, units. This a fancy way of saying that the controller optimizes the amperage and voltage in the system to recover the maximum wattage. This is becoming a standard feature and you should not consider a non-MPPT controller.

Control Panels, Disconnects, and Wiring
There are a lot of fuse panels, disconnect switches, and wiring in a solar power system. These are mixed and matched to suit a particular solar power system. Usually there is a disconnect between each component. The wiring can get expensive, so the distances between components should be minimized. DC power runs most efficiently through thick, heavy gauge wire, much like water flows better through larger pipe. The bigger the wire, obviously, the more expensive. So keeping your panels and inverters

Next week we'll talk about system and component costs.

Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

DIY Solar Part 2: Choosing A System

Last week we started talking about DIY solar and covering the topics that will help you decide if you can do solar yourself. There are plenty of different systems that can fit your solar needs. Let's cover the three most popular systems.

Grid Tied Solar
This is the easiest and most popular way to get started in solar power. These systems simply tie into your existing home power system and the utility grid. If your array generates more energy than you use, the energy is sold back to the power grid and creates a credit for you. The advantages of these systems are the relative simplicity and lower initial cost. A system like this typically requires a few panels, some wiring boxes and disconnects, and an inverter. The inverter converts the electricity from your panels to power that your home and the grid can use.

This system also requires an interconnection agreement with the local utility. This outlines just how the connection to the grid should be made and what the inspection schedule is. It is generally advisable to get your power company involved early on for a grid-tied system. Since there are often incentives and rebates in place from the state and the utility, it's well worth the call.

Advantages of a Grid-Tied System

* Initial Cost: The upfront cost of purchasing a system that would provide for a home's entire electrical needs can be very high. With variable climate and weather conditions across the globe, the use of off-grid systems requires expensive batteries. Off-grid systems generally require a secondary power source, such as a gas generator, to provide backup power which adds significant cost to the system. Grid tied systems are much cheaper than off grid.

* Operating Cost: The maintenance cost of grid-tied systems is very low. Solar panels routinely have 20-25 year warranties and some of the panels created in the 1950's as part of NASA's space program are still operational. Batteries associated with off-grid systems require regular maintenance and have a much shorter life than the panels. Backup generators also require significant maintenance and access to a cheap and reliable fuel source.

* Reliability: Grid-tied systems are relatively simple and can have virtually no 'down time' where the customer will be without electricity. The increased complexity of battery and generator backup systems often leads to significant down time and can be frustrating to a home owner. Often poor weather that leads to little energy collected from the sun also means decreased battery and generator performance.

* Flexibility: Having an alternative energy source AND a utility source means you can design your system to meet whatever needs you have now and still have the flexibility to add solar panels later. It also allows you to change your system parameters to meet your different needs in the future.

Disadvantages of a Grid-Tied System

* No Backup Power: Most grid-tied inverters are programmed to shut down when the grid shuts down to precent power from the panels going into the grid and potentially harming utility workers.

Grid Tied with Battery Backup
These systems are very useful in areas with frequent power failures. Provided there is ample sunshine, these systems give the customer more autonomy, while still providing a backup system in the utility grid.

Advantages of Grid-Tied with Battery Back-up Systems:

* Backup Power: with proper system design, they provide continuous power to the customer regardless of utility availability or weather conditions.

* Power Management: these systems make it easier to manage your power consumption, production, and storage.

* Power Pricing: Depending on the utility company's policy, the cost of the batteries can sometimes make up for the rate 'gap', meaning it is worthwhile to store the excess electricity you produce as opposed to selling it back to the utility.

Disadvantages of Grid-Tied with Battery Back-up Systems:

* Complex: increased system complexity means more components to install and tie together.

* Cost: adding batteries and their components can nearly double the cost of a system.

* Maintenance: batteries require regular fluid check, corrosion cleaning, and replacement every 5-10 years.

* Efficiency: batteries are usually about 80-90% efficient meaning you may be losing 10-20% of the power you generate.

* Environmental issues: The manufacturing and disposal of batteries involves chemicals and metals that most eco-minded consumers would rather avoid.

Off Grid Solar Power Systems
For reliable power in remote locations, often these systems are the only choice. They generally consist of a battery bank, a charge controller, an inverter and a solar array. Many systems require a secondary power source such as a gas generator.

Advantages of Off Grid Solar Power Systems:

* Remote Use: these systems are great for cabins or cottages that don't have a utility nearby. The cost of a system is usually far less than running power lines into the property.
* Independent: Maybe best reason of all, the user is not dependent on an outside entity for the power needs.
* Power Management: Since you generate, store, and use all your own power you can optimize your usage.

Disadvantages of Off Grid Solar Power Systems:

* Complex: increased system complexity means more components to install and tie together.
* Backup: most people will want a backup generator in case of inclement weather, which can cause additional headaches.
* Cost: adding batteries and their components can nearly double the cost of a system.
* Maintenance: batteries require regular fluid check, corrosion cleaning, and replacement every 5-10 years.
* Efficiency: batteries are usually about 80-90% efficient meaning you may be losing 10-20% of the power you generate.
* Environmental issues: The manufacturing and disposal of batteries involves chemicals and metals that most eco-minded consumers would rather avoid.

Next up we'll talk about the fun part: installation.

Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar professional from Colorado. He lives off grid with his wife. Check out his website for more information at Solar Garden Lights.

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