Cleaning Solar Panels – Yeah, There’s a Gadget for That

If you read the news with regards to lighting, power grid, and renewable energy, you’re going to read a lot about solar.  Solar companies, solar panels, solar panel efficiency, and all kinds of other stuff that has to do with using the sun to generate electricity.

Here’s something wacky – nobody ever talks about cleaning their solar panels!  I mean, it’s probably not something you have to do each weekend, but as grime, dirt, and pollution build up on them, they do need to be cleaned off in order to efficiently capture the sun’s rays.  German company Schletter GmbH has just released news of their crazy new photovoltaic power washer for exactly this problem that nobody knew we had – solar panel cleaning!

I’ll be honest – most of the people I know who either manage or own PV installations just clean them with a freaking hose and some tap water.  But Schletter is going to be changing that in April 2011.

Hold onto your horses, folks.  This thing is a solar panel cleaning party animal!

Wow. Now THAT is some solar cleaning! I think. At least that’s what I’ve heard. All I can really say is that I didn’t invent this thing, but it seems cool! Probably a lot easier than the 20-foot-long handle with a carwashing brush on the end, huh?

Thanks, CleanTechnica!

From the WTF File: Xcel Energy Drops Out of Colorado’s Solar Market

In a move that is less than popular, energy company Xcel Energy has pulled its support out of the Colorado solar energy market.  You might remember Xcel Energy from a story I wrote back in 2009 about how Xcel Energy was charging solar customers who were using their solar panels to make electricity but not drawing power from the power grid.  I thought that was kind of a pretty rude move.

This one is yet another unpopular decision by Xcel Energy.  I find it kind of hilarious that their catch phrase is “Responsible by Nature.”

So back in 2004, Colorado voters passed Amendment 37 – the amendment says that by 2015, Colorado’s energy market will have 10% of the total contribution be from renewable energy sources.  At the time in 2004, 95% of the energy coming to the grid was from fossil fuels (coal and gas), and only 2% was from renewable energy sources.  From an article at Inhabitat:

Ammendment 37 was passed by Colorado voters in 2004 and required that public utility companies set aside money for a renewable energy portfolio. A small percentage of that power needed to be installed on consumer roofs where demand was great. Many companies opened shop or grew as the price of solar was cut nearly in half. As prices for solar equipment fell, and Xcel Energy met Ammedments 37′s requirements, they have gradually been able to lower the rebate amount to balance the total cost, while still maintaining a predictable pricing scheme for customers. The rebate money comes from a 2% charge on rate payer bills.

Hmm.  So what exactly does the pulling out of Xcel Energy have to do with Colorado and its future?  Well, tons, actually.  Job losses are expected to be about half of the total renewable energy jobs in Colorado, which is about on par with the entire number of fossil fuel gigs in the state.  Again, from Inhabitat:

While the solar industry was relying on a stepped approach for reducing the rebates, their sudden elimination has put nearly every planned residential and commercial project on hold. Being a capital heavy industry many solar company’s cash flow will be severely restricted, limiting opportunities for distributed generation.

One such project that was finalized the day of the announcement puts solar panels on the Denver Rescue Mission by the nonprofit Atmosphere Conservancy in order to help them reduce energy costs. Executive Director Alex Blackmer said that three solar projects the Atmosphere Conservancy finalized would have to be renegotiated and may not go forward after the announcement. Hundreds of  halted projects  will result in real job losses for a workforce that today totals more than 5,300 people and growing. Early estimates reveal that half of these jobs will be gone – more than the total number of jobs in the coal industry in the state.

Energy companies across the world: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  One of these days soon, the population of the world is going to get its collective head together and bring you to task for this kind of bullsh*t.  It’s time for one of these corporations to stand up and man up in order to change our future.  Profits are just profits – you all already have more money than you can possibly spend in your lifetimes – how about helping the rest of us by changing the future of the planet Earth?

Where exactly is the disconnect here, Big Oil and Coal companies?  Don’t you realize that if you switched to renewable energy sources to push on the market that you would make unbelievable amounts of money that won’t run out?  Even my neighbor’s five year old daughter realizes this fact.

Perhaps we need to let companies like Xcel Energy know how displeased we are with their decisions.  After all, a corporation by definition has rights and privvies like US citizens do.  If we made poor decisions publicly, people would call us on them, or we go to jail.  If you are affected by this decision or if you want to let Xcel Energy know how it’s doing, you should send the company an email at inquire@xcelenergy.com.

Sunday Solar News

I was digging around in the hundreds of tabs I have open in Google Chrome (yes, hundreds), and I have so many tabs open right now on solar news and products that I figured a list would suffice.  After all, those hundreds of open tabs aren’t doing $#!& sitting on my machine, right?

America, there is so much news on solar tech right now.  I urge you to seek it out.

A DIY Solar-Powered Walkway Weekend Project

MIT and the Indian Government in Talks for A High-Power Solar Battery System

Stored Solar Energy and Georgia’s Suniva, Inc – Grid-Stored Solar Energy

VASIMR Plasma Rocket for A Lunar Tug

A Solar-Powered Herb Dryer

Huge Parking Lot Solar Array Powers NJ Grid with 1 Million+ Annual kWh

A Solar-Powered DIY Bottle Boat

21st Century Solar Tech Meets 15th Century Architecture

Ventamatic Ltd CX2121 Power Automatic Gable Vent Shutter

High School Students to Make an Old Tractor Run Clean on Solar Power

A Solar-Powered Eco Freezer

Solar and Wind Power Feel the Hear from Low Natural Gas Prices

First Solar Begins Operation of the Largest Thin-Film PV Plant in California

Solar iPods? QUE?!

There is news out right now that Apple has filed for a patent on adding photovoltaic cells to their iPods.  That’s right.

I almost put this in the What? category, but I am staying strong that maybe it’s a possibility.  Can you imagine?  I mean, I have replaced the battery in every iPod that I have ever owned.  It’s not hard to do, and it’s certainly cheaper than buying a whole new iPod – who does that anyway?  Doesn’t the Apple Store gouge you for changing the battery, or do they just replace it?  That hardly seems resource efficient.

I wonder how long it’s gonna take to charge this little puppy – I can see myself forgetting my charger right before I have to do some programming or something where I need to really focus “because I figured I would just charge it in the sun.”

Interesting.  I say GO APPLE! on this one.

Check out the schematics, from CleanTechnica:

The skinny on the street is that this patent will cover basically all of their mobile devices, from Shuffles to iPhones.  Crazy.

Denver Utility Company Wants to Charge Solar Consumers A Fee for NOT Using Their Power

gracie_wtf

Hey, guess what?  A utility company in Colorado is going to charge a fee to people using solar panels and not using their electricity.  Doesn’t that just defeat the point?  Do you think their own profits might be superceding what’s good for the rest of the country?

Of course they are.  God forbid someone would actually try to do something that wasn’t putting money in the pockets of the power barons, and maybe save the Earth or something.

Denver, Colorado-based Xcel Energy wants to charge a fee to solar power customers who are, well, not using their electricity by generating their own electricity.  Xcel Energy wants customers using their solar panels to pay extra regardless of whether or not they used a drop of Xcel energy each month.  Fortunately, Xcel isn’t putting this fee into place until April 2010, and people who got Xcel PVs before then wouldn’t have to pay the fee.  The Public Utilities Commision still needs to vote on this, and they’ll do so on August 5.

In short, this means that if you try to take charge of your own electricity use by generating some power with Xcel’s solar panels, you’re gonna be penalized by Xcel for doing exactly what you tried to prevent in the first place.  This also means that it might be time to choose someone else’s solar panel service or find another way to purchase some photovoltaic installation action.  It’s time to stop being screwed by companies that think you’re so stupid that they can charge ridiculous fees and you’ll just blindly pay them.

A guy named Tom Henley at Xcel told 7 News that this fee is a preventative measure so that solar customers don’t get a “free ride” down the line.  What?  Wait, what?  A free ride?  Oh, but it gets even more awesome.  From the article that Christian Ayers wrote for The Denver Channel:

Henley also called the absence of a connectivity fee for solar customers a “double subsidy” because many solar customers receive rebates to install the panels. Amendment 37, passed in 2004, requires that a maximum of 2 percent of all Xcel customers’ bills go toward funding the Solar Reward program, which provides rebates for solar installation. Henley said since 2006, the program has given more than $86 million in rebates. The federal government provides tax credits for installing solar panels.

Xcel, I just puked in my mouth a little because of that.  You guys need to get your heads out of your collective asses.  What on Earth is wrong with you?