• New Discovery Could Improve Organic Solar Cell Performance

    While there is a growing market for organic solar cells ­­– they contain materials that are cheaper, more abundant, and more environmentally friendly than those used in typical solar panels – they also tend to be less efficient in converting sunlight to electricity than conventional solar cells. Now, scientists who are members of the Center for Computational Study of Excited-State Phenomena in Read more
  • Know Your Rights

    Arizona law protects individual homeowners’ private property rights to solar access by dissolving any local covenant, restriction or condition attached to a property deed that restricts the use of solar energy. This law sustained a legal challenge in 2000. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of homeowners in a lawsuit filed by their homeowners association seeking to Read more
  • Agua Caliente PV Power Plant Among World’s Largest

    The Agua Caliente solar farm near Yuma features First Solar’s thin-film cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar modules. Located 65 miles east of the city of Yuma, Arizona, this plant is one of the world’s largest operational PV power plants with 290MW (AC) connected to the electricity grid. Read more
  • Solar Hot Water

    There are two types of solar water heating systems: active, which have circulating pumps and controls, and passive, which don't. The typical solar water heater is comprised of solar collectors and a well-insulated storage tank. The solar collector is a network of pipes that gathers the sun's energy, transforms its radiation into heat, and then transfers that heat to either Read more
  • Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

    (Information provided by DSIRE - Last reviewed 02/19/2009) Incentive Type: Personal Tax Credit State: Federal Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Other Solar Electric Technologies Applicable Sectors: Residential Amount: 30% Maximum Incentive: Solar-electric systems placed in service before 2009: $2,000Solar-electric systems placed in service after 2008: no maximumSolar water heaters placed in service before Read more
  • Solar Building Design in Arizona

    The idea of using the sun to meet the energy needs in our buildings has been with us since the time of the Greeks, with some of the design manifestations even evident in the prehistoric structures of Arizona and the Southwest. There is a great historic tradition for Arizona buildings that utilize our most abundant resource, and the current increases Read more
  • How Not to- Battery Connections

    Photo shows the situation after a battery discharge test at 300 amps was terminated on a 1530 AH IBE battery string when one post melted. During the discharge test all cell voltages are logged. The sum of the cell voltages was 2.73 volts lower than the 48-volt string voltage. This is an average of 118 mv per inter-cell connection, 5-10 Read more
  • 1 New Discovery Could Improve Organic Solar Cell Performance
  • 2 Know Your Rights
  • 3 Agua Caliente PV Power Plant Among World’s Largest
  • 4 Solar Hot Water
  • 5 Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit
  • 6 Solar Building Design in Arizona
  • 7 How Not to- Battery Connections

Blogs

  1. Solar Center Blog
  2. Guest Blogs
Lucy Mason
06 January 2018

Wishing you a wonderful and Happy New Year!

The year 2017 has gone by quickly, and AriSEIA has accomplished a full and active agenda to further solar and renewable energy in Arizona. 

Geoff Sutton
25 November 2017

In the desert south-west the intense sunshine and long summer days result in uncomfortable and even dangerously high temperatures for about four months.


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Wed, Jun 20, 2018
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Some things to pay attention to in Arizona

SRP Board Elections were held April 3, 2018

The policies set by the SRP Board of Directors have had severe impact on the installation of residential PV systems in the SRP service area in Arizona, reducing the rate of new residential PV installations by 97% due to a major solar unfriendly change in rate schedules. SRP is a public power utility (in contrast to the investor owned utilities that are governed by the Arizona Corporation Commission) and as such is governed by its elected Board of Directors.

A slate of five Clean Energy candidates were on the ballot:

  • Randy Miller (at-large 14) Elected
  • Corey Hawkey (at-large 12) Elected
  • Sheila Motomatsu (Seat 10) Not elected
  • Jeffrey Grout (Seat 8) Not Elected
  • Dennis Michael Burke (Seat 6) Not Elected

Details at: SRP Elections link

ASEA REBOOT

The Arizona Solar Energy Association (ASEA), State Chapter of the American Solar Energy Society ASES), will be holding meetings in a follow-up to the-long awaited updated ASES‚  Chapters handbook and directives.

ASES evolution, in response to some problematic economic and operational conditions, has resulted in a hearty and robust context for the present and the future. ASEA is now responding with an appropriate updating, through local and statewide discussion. 

Interim Chair, Andy Gerl, a past ASEA Chair and Board member, is making arrangements for Arizona solar advocates and supporters, members and non-members, to receive both an update re: ASES adaptation and changes, and to discuss solar in Arizona and the “reboot" of the ASEA  context, goals and objectives, within the context of varied renewable energy groups within the State, such as AriSEIA (the solar trade association); various sustainability groups; Green Building organizations; the recently formed solar hot water businesses non-profit entity; research and development at the universities; and others.

For more information about the ASEA Reboot discussions, contact Andy at andrew@blazingsolar.com  or 602-799-5942

 

Meetings:

General News

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From Calculators to Power Plants: PV Systems in Action

 

Photovoltaics systems are quite different from traditional methods of generating electricity. Their power production is directly affected by the weather and the time of day – I. e. they can’t produce electricity without sunshine. Ironically, photovoltaic cells are also affected by the sun’s heat becoming less efficient at high temperatures.

One important quality of photovoltaics is their flexibility. Unlike nuclear plants, for example, PV systems can be made small enough to power a hand-held calculator, or large enough to power an entire community. When the demand for electricity increases, a PV system can simply be enlarged, provided the owner can afford it.

Photovoltaic is a young technology and important questions remain as to how it should best be used. Among these questions are:  What kind of backup should be provided for nighttime or cloudy days?  should solar systems be installed at homes or at special generating stations?  and should utilities or individuals own and operate solar electric systems?

Despite these questions, photovoltaics are already used in hundreds of different ways.  Those applications fall into four broad categories: stand-alone systems, grid-connected units, central utility stations, and consumer products.  Each category is discussed below.

  • Stand-alone systems

As the name implies, stand-alone photovoltaic systems are virtually self-sufficient.  They provide all the electricity for a particular application, operating without a utility-line backup.  They are typically small systems, generating less than 10 kilowatts of electricity, but some are substantially larger.

Stand-alone systems are most commonly found in areas far from power lines.  Ranchers, for example, often install solar-powered water pumps to replenish livestock watering holes in distant grazing areas.  These solar systems do not require constant refueling like diesel generators and often cost half as much as power line extensions.

More than 1200 Arizona homes or cabins rely on stand-alone photovoltaics as their main source of electricity.  In particular, PV powered homes are becoming a common sight on Arizona’s Native American reservations.  More than 140 homes on the Navajo Reservation get their electricity from the sun, and the Hopis are working toward 350 such homes.  The Hopis do not allow power lines to enter their villages and have relied for years on diesel generators or batteries, or have simply lived without electricity.

“Four villages have (utility) power lines running 1/8 to 1/4 miles from the village”, said Doran Dalton, sales manager for the Hopi Solar Electric Enterprise.  “We don’t hook up to the power lines because of our long-standing tradition of self-sufficiency.  We don’t have an objection to electricity, we simply want to own the source by which we get it.

Most Hopis live with very little electricity, and rely on small PV systems that power only a few lights and perhaps a television set.  Families that consume more energy install larger PV systems that provide electricity for all the conveniences of a modern home – microwave ovens computers, stereo systems, washing machines, evaporative coolers and lights.  Home PV systems can also power energy-consuming air conditioners and clothes dryers but these sizeable PV systems can cost more than $40,000.

Despite their vast electricity resources, utility companies also use stand-alone photovoltaic systems instead of extending costly power lines.  Many warning sirens at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station draw their power from solar panels.  Photovoltaics also furnish electricity for mountaintop microwave repeater stations owned by Salt River Project.

Stand-alone photovoltaics are used for numerous other applications in Arizona, including:  nearly 100 monitoring stations owned by the U.S. Geological Survey, some fire watch towers, a commercial radio station transmitter near Prescott, numerous emergency roadside telephones, billboards, and many irrigation or watering system controls.  At a recreation area near Roosevelt Lake, photovoltaics furnish all the electricity for indoor and outdoor lights and toilet fans.

  • Grid-connected systems

Homes or devices connected to photovoltaic systems as well as utility power lines are called “grid-connected systems.”  The utility can supply power at night, when electricity is cheapest, or simply serve as a backup. Federal law mandates that utility companies must purchase any excess power produced by the PV system, although at a reduced rate.

Homes or devices that employ both types of power are not common in Arizona, and the biggest reason is probably money.  Photovoltaics can be extremely cost-effective when compared to the price of extending power lines.  However, for individuals who live in cities or already have grid electricity, the choice to install PV is more difficult.  Homeowners must weigh the cost of utility bills – a few hundred dollars a month at the most – against the price of a photovoltaic system that can cost thousands of dollars for a typical house and a typical energy lifestyle.

As the price of PV decreases, and the cost of utility power increases, PV systems will compare more favorably for grid-connected applications.  In fact, utility companies like Salt River Project are already preparing for that possibility. 

Individuals who are not connected to the utility grid sometimes install utility lines to power only one or two home items.  One Scottsdale couple lived without utility power for seven years, relying entirely on a PV system and propane generator backup.  This off-grid system was sufficient to power an evaporative cooler and the other electrical devices in their home.  When in 1990, temperatures reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit, they decided to install an air conditioner.  To meet the unit’s electrical demand, the couple had to choose between doubling the size of the solar system (another $17,000), or paying for a power line at less than $8,000.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The same couple discovered an interesting problem that sometimes occurs with photovoltaic systems. Electricity provided by their PV system did not follow perfect sine-wave form, as does utility power.  That change in the quality of electricity ruined their computer printer two times before the couple discovered the reason—a faulty inverter. Low cost, high quality inverters are now available that avoid this problem.

 

  • Central Power Plants

There are now some enormous fields of photovoltaic arrays among the Saguaro and Ocotillo of Arizona’s deserts. Connected to the utility grid, their combined power may equal production at large coal plants such as the Navajo Generating Station near Page. 

Today, however, the world’s largest central photovoltaic power plant generates a maximum of only six megawatts of electricity – 125 times less than each of three units at the Navajo station.  This plant, called the Carrisa Plant project, was built in 1984 by ARCO Solar Corporation (now called “Siemens Solar”) and is connected to the grid owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

The Carissa Plain plant covers dozens of acres of land with photovoltaic arrays mounted on two-axis trackers. Mirrors, placed next to the arrays, help reflect light to increase the potential power output.  Unfortunately, the intense reflected light has partially destroyed the protective module coatings and has actually decreased production of electricity.  Further development of better coatings should solve this problem.

For those reasons, the Carissa Plain plant is slated to be dismantled. Since, 1984, its only revenue has come from electricity sales to Pacific Gas and Electric Company.  The electricity is purchased at PG&E’s “avoided cost” of producing electricity – a price even lower than wholesale.  In the meantime, worldwide demand for photovoltaic panels has dramatically increased and their value has risen.  Consequently, it is more economical for the owners of Carissa Plain to sell the individual modules than to sell the electricity they produce.

Near Sacramento, California is another photovoltaic central power plant that has operated since 1984. The plant was built in two stages, called SMUDPV-1 and SMUD PV-2 and together they generate up to two megawatts of electricity at maximum production – enough to power 400 to 500 homes.  The total plant employs more than 58,000 photovoltaic modules and occupies more than 20 acres of land.

So far, three photovoltaic central power plants have been built in Arizona.  One completed in 1982 at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, was once the world’s largest grid-connected photovoltaic power plant.  It was designed to produce 225 kilowatts of power using concentrator solar modules.  The plant was dismantled in 1987, when the lease was not renewed.

APS has donated many of the panels from the plant to Arizona high schools and others are still being researched at the Solar Test and Research Center (STAR Center) in Tempe.

The Solar Test and Research Center was established in 1998 to test the effectiveness of different photovoltaic equipment in the Arizona climate.  It features five photovoltaic arrays, each producing 2 kilowatts of power used in the APS grid.  Many different types of photovoltaic cells are represented in the arrays.

Data obtained from the STAR Center provides valuable information about photovoltaic systems and how they operate.  For example APS has found that single-axis sun tracking systems improve electrical output by about 20 percent and double-axis trackers improve output another 20 percent.  They have also found that output decreases about 10 percent in midsummer, when the weather is hottest.

Arizona’s other photovoltaic central power plant is not utility-operated.  It belongs to a 24-home subdivision in Glendale, Arizona called “Solar One.”  The first-of-its-kind subdivision was constructed by John F Long Homes, with a photovoltaic field along its south side.  The 2600-panel system provides 192 kilowatts of electricity at peak output and provides much of the electricity used by homeowners during daylight hours.  The utility company provides nighttime power and purchases any excess produced by the PV system.  Until rates changed in 1991, some Solar One homeowners actually received refund checks from the utility company.  Photovoltaic central power plants have also received attention abroad.  They have been constructed in Denmark, Greece, Spain, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Number cells or modules needed to power various applications

Number cells or modules

Item powered by photovoltaics

Electricity (in watts) produced at peak output

1 Small Cell

(1” X 2”

Calculator

.1 Watt

1 Standard Cell

(4” X 4”)

Small Yard Light

.5 Watt

Module  4’ x 1.5”

 

Color TV for 3 hours

60 Watts

110 Modules

(47 watts each)

A 1500-1800 square foot house with an evaporative cooler, not air conditioning

5.2 kilowatts

169 Modules

Same house with an air conditioner

8 kilowatts

2,600 Modules

Solar One, 24-home subdivision in Glendale, Arizona

192 kilowatts (PV system provides only part of total power used here)

58,000 Modules

SMUD PV-1 and PV-2 photovoltaic central power plant in California

2 megawatts

  • Consumer Products

From toys to security systems, ever-growing arrays of consumer products operate on electricity supplied by photovoltaic cells.  These products are available through catalogs, at many Arizona photovoltaic companies, and even in some department stores.

An estimated 200 million people already own PV-powered calculators and wristwatches. Other solar-powered devices include: portable camping lights, Frisbee-sized pool cleaners, small fans that roll up in car windows, and hats with tiny fans for extra cooling.

Car manufacturers such as Mazda and Audi now offer a “solar sunroof” option in some new car models.  These sunroofs, incorporating see-through photovoltaic cells, power ventilation systems that help cool a parked car as much as 20 degrees.  PV cells have also been used to power entire electric cars.

Landscape lights and security systems are practical, photovoltaic-powered products that are growing in popularity.  Depending upon the size and complexity of these systems, owners can avoid hundreds of dollars in expenses for digging power line trenches or hooking-up to a power line.

Fundamentals of Photovoltaic Systems

 

The basic element of a photovoltaic system is the solar cell. Modern solar cells are made in sizes up to about 6 inches square and are most often made from silicon, a semiconductor.

The photovoltaic effect occurs when sunlight shines on the silicon, freeing electrons and generating an electric current. The electricity is collected and transported by metal contacts on the top and bottom of the cell. The current flows through a wire to provide electricity. 

A single cell produces only about 0.45 volts. It takes 36 cells connected in series to generate the voltage required for charging a 12-volt battery. The power produced in full sunlight is a function of the size of the solar cell and the efficiency (always getting higher as the technology improves).  These cells are usually mounted (laminated with a clear plactic) behind a tempered glass sheet with the cells wired together to form a photovoltaic module (also called a” panel” or “flat-plate collector”). For instance, the most popular design in 2016 is to use 60 cells, each about 6" square, to produce 230 to 310 watts (depending on efficiency) from modules that are about 39" x 66".  The rear of the module is sealed with plastic or glass for protection, long life requires a moisture tight assembly. The modules connected together for one system form an “array.”  Large systems will have these photovoltaic modules connected physically and electrically in "sub-arrays". 

Single cells produce little power and are not often used individually.  They can be found, however, in some items such as small yard lights.    Arrays, depending on the number of panels used, can provide all the electricity for a home or even create a huge generating station.

Modules or arrays are sometimes mounted on tracking systems, which follow the sun across the sky.  These devices help maximize electricity production because sunlight shines directly on the PV modules throughout the day.  Single-axis trackers move as the sun changes position from the east to west.  Two-axis trackers not only follow the suns east to west movement, but also allow for its apparent change in attitude with different seasons. Trackers can increase the energy production of a photovoltaic system by nearly 40 percent, but the tracking equipment costs more than a simple fixed mounting.

Electricity storage is a critical component of many PV systems. If power is needed at night or on cloudy days, solar-generated electricity can be stored in batteries.  It is even possible to have large PV-powered homes, for example, it is not uncommon to find banks of 50 or more batteries.  These battery banks usually store sufficient electricity to power the home through one or two cloudy days and nights.  However, it is generally more cost effective operate larger photovoltaic systems inter-actively with the local electric utility.

All photovoltaic, cells produce direct current (dc) electricity.  That electricity can be used immediately if the PV cell is connected to a device designed for dc power – many refrigerators in recreational vehicles, for example. However most homes and appliances are designed to operate on alternating current (ac) electricity provided by utility companies.  For applications, an inverter, which changes dc electricity to ac must be added to the PV system.

If a system uses batteries, charge controllers are also important components.  These devices protect batteries from excessive charge when the modules produce more electricity than the batteries can store.  They also keep batteries from releasing electricity if their charge is too low.  Without charge controllers, batteries suffer extreme wear-and-tear and become less effective, and last a shorter amount of time.

Insert links from Art 141 Photovoltaics (PV) - Introduction

Solar Electric (PV)

Photovoltaics (PV) covers the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, a phenomenon studied in physics, photochemistry, and electrochemistry.

Solar electric has been a gaining strength for a number of years.  In the beginning, early adopters turned to solar for the independence or its environmental benefits: solar homeowners could live beyond the utility lines, and solar was a non-polluting resource.

The earliest adopters were almost exclusively people that lived beyond the reach of the utility lines.  Solar generated electricity and battery storage allowed people to live where ever they wanted. Land was cheaper beyond the power lines and even with the expense of solar, this made economic sense too many people looking to escape urban living. But, the numbers of people living off grid was still a small number.

Environmental concern represented the second wave of solar adopters – as people concerned about the impact their electrical demand was having on the planet turned to solar to lessen their carbon footprint.

According to a 2011 report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation, the International Panel on Climate Change calculated the life-cycle global warming emissions associated with renewable energy—including manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance, and dismantling and decommissioning—as minimal [1].

These findings were repeated in other research and data collected and reported on in peer studies over the past decade and helped fuel the environmental argument for solar energy.

The Union of Concerned Scientists compared the carbon dioxide emissions equivalent per kilowatt-hour for coal and renewable energy resources.

It is no surprise that coal is ranked the most polluting electricity generating resource and renewables the least. Coal emits more than 20 times as much carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour of generation compared to the life-cycle carbon emissions for solar PV. The comparison between coal and wind is even greater. Coal emits 71 times more carbon dioxide than wind for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated [2].

In addition, a study by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory explored the feasibility and environmental impacts associated with generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and found that global warming emissions from electricity production could be reduced by more than 80 percent [3].

The healthy alternative extended beyond the concern for the planet, the third wave of solar adopters included people looking for healthy alternatives for humankind.

This wave looked to generating electricity from renewable energy rather than fossil fuels because of the  significant public health benefits.  From reduced premature mortality to lost workdays associated with breathing illnesses, the economic impact of fossil fuels on overall healthcare costs has been estimated at between $361.7 and $886.5 billion [4].

The last wave came was the during the Great Recession of the late 2000s and early 2010s. Solar PV offered the opportunity to re-tool America and create significant jobs as a result.

In 2009, the Union of Concerned Scientists conducted an analysis of the economic benefits of a 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2025; it found that such a policy would create more than three times as many jobs as producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels, resulting in a benefit of 202,000 new jobs in 2025 [5].

For the past two or three decades, the reasons for adopting solar have been growing stronger every day.  The tipping point is cost-parity and that day is not far off, and in some cases, it has already been realized.

References:

1.      Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2011. IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation.

2.      Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). 2009.

3.      National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 2012. Renewable Electricity Futures Study. Volume 1, pg. 210.

4.      Machol, Rizk. 2013. Economic value of U.S. fossil fuel electricity health impacts. Environment International 52 75–80.

5.      Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. Assessing the Multiple Benefits of Clean Energy: A Resource for States. Chapter 5.

 

For more information, follow the topics below.

Links about larger scale photovoltaic systems:

Some interesting uses of PV:

In Hot Water - Experiences of Solar Hot Water in Arizona

Summary of Presentation given at the World Renewable Energy Forum (WREF)/ASES Conference in Denver, CO in  May 2012
(Full presentation is available for download below.)

During a utility (APS and SRP) funded 2010 Pilot Study to assess SDHW installations for assuring compliance for RECs, it was determined that there was an extremely high rate of failure in meeting basic national guidelines (SRCC), and now with over thousands of audits executed since the Pilot study, there is critical information that needs to be shared with the various solar arenas in Arizona - utilities; governmental code and inspections departments; State licensing agencies; the solar equipment industry; and the design and construction industry; as well as outside Arizona - the nationally growing trade education element; utilities; state and local governmental agencies; and trade organizations in other states.

With the implementation of permanent programs by both Salt River Project (SRP) and Arizona Public Service (APS), the AzSC, acting as a 3rd party neutral resource, has executed over 3000 audits. The findings of this effort are significant, not only for Arizona but also for the larger community - nationally and possibly internationally - for both the solar industry and for the consumer.

The Forum established by the AzSC is intended to share Arizona's experience in various contexts with participation of Daniel Peter Aiello and Geoff Sutton of the AzSC, and Joel Dickinson of Salt River Project. The presentation describes lessons learned, and significant issues discovered that impact the ongoing viability of this technology for government, industry, and the consumer.

The presentation comes from different contexts:

  • The utility experience and viewpoint of lessons learned, issues discovered, and actions taken (and planned) within the context of meeting utility incentives programs requirements.
  • Lessons learned in the trenches, and issues found in the quality of work and industry practice.
  • Conditions and issues involved with the numerous "players" in this arena including the utilities, and those outside the utility context - Registrar of Contractors (ROC), solar equipment organizations and trade associations, building departments and the inspections systems, and the design/construction community.

Full presentation available for download here (7.97 MB PDF).

About

  • Welcome to the Arizona Solar Center

     This is your source for solar and renewable energy information in Arizona. Explore various technologies, including photovoltaics, solar water heating, solar architecture, solar cooking and wind power. Keep up to date on the latest industry news. Follow relevant lectures, expositions and tours. Whether you are a homeowner looking to become more energy efficient, a student learning the science behind the technologies or an industry professional, you will find valuable information here.
  • About The Arizona Solar Center

    Arizona Solar Center Mission- The mission of the Arizona Solar Center is to enhance the utilization of renewable energy, educate Arizona's residents on solar technology developments, support commerce and industry in the development of solar and other sustainable technologies and coordinate these efforts throughout the state of Arizona. About the Arizona Solar Center- The Arizona Solar Center (AzSC) provides a broad-based understanding of solar energy, especially as it pertains to Arizona. Registered Read More
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