Friday, December 30, 2011

Save the date!

Mark your calendars! UMA Solar's 2012 online dealer meeting is scheduled for February 8, 2012.

For the first time ever, our annual meeting will be open to all UMA Solar dealer professionals including: owners, sales, marketing and technical personnel. This webinar-style meeting will offer a variety of different topics throughout the day at set times. Choose the topics that interest you!

A full agenda and registration details will be available soon.


Groupon-Style Solar Rebates in Arizona

One Block Off the Grid, a community solar group, is offering a unique rebate program to Arizona homeowners. The rebate is offered to participants based on the total number of Arizona households that go solar within a 90-day period.

Group Solar Rebates in Arizona

The group will credit each eligible Arizona household with $100 in a community chest account. Each time an eligible homeowner goes solar in the Grand Canyon state, the company will add an additional $10 to each account. At the end of the three-month program, homeowners who purchase or lease solar panels will receive a solar rebate check from the community chest.

The rebate offer is available to homes in the greater metro areas of Phoenix, Tucson, Glendale, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria, Mesa and Sierra Vista.

One Block Off the Grid, which calls itself the Groupon of solar, says its membership has grown 98.4 percent in the past two years due to the increase of utility bills and major outages this past September.

New $500 Solar Rebate in California

The Marin Energy Authority is offering a $500 solar rebate to customers who purchase their electricity from the authority.

The $500 rebate is available to customers who install a solar photovoltaic system in Marin County, California of at least 1/2 kilowatt in size. Customers will be required to fill out a form verifying that the solar panels were purchased on or after Dec. 11, 2011.

Solar Rebate in California

Marin Clean Energy currently serves 13,000 customers. More than 400 of those customers have already installed solar systems on their roofs. Marin Clean Energy expects the rebates to incentivize not only the installation of new solar projects but also the expansion of existing solar projects which would increase renewable power flow onto the electric grid.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Einstein and Solar Energy?

Did you know Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize for his work toward the future of solar electric energy?

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1921 was awarded to Albert Einstein "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect".

The photoelectric effect is the emission of electrons from a material, such as a metal, as a result of being struck by photons. The photoelectric effect is used in photoelectric and solar cells to create an electric potential.

Einstein was, in fact, responsible for numerous solar experiments with early photovoltaic solar panels. (Maybe that's the mystery behind his electrified hair halo?)


albert einstein

Solar energy cheaper than grid power by 2027?

A new animated map, published on the Energy Self-Reliant States website, predicts which U.S. cities can achieve solar grid parity first. Grid parity describes the moment when electricity from solar power is less costly than electricity from the existing grid.

Energy policy analyst John Farrell predicts San Diego will be the first city to achieve grid parity in 2013, followed by New York City in 2015. By 2027, Farrell surmises that more than 40 metropolitan areas nationwide will reach grid parity.

Farrell based his projections on current decreases in the cost of solar electricity and increases in grid electricity rates.

Grid Parity Map

Sustainable Solar Art!

An Alabama artist's unique style is currently showcased in a new, 15-foot solar-powered sculpture in downtown Clearwater, Fla.

Deedee Morrison, a Birmingham, Ala. sculptor and installation artist, dubbed the sculpture Sun-Catcher. The large art project is constructed from recycled aluminum and vibrant yellow lucite that evokes hues of the sun. A solar panel is attached to the top of the sculpture, capturing solar energy by day and emitting dramatic golden light by night. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Landfills Converted to Solar Farms

Solar farms, which supply large amounts of clean energy while consuming less water than traditional power plants, are nonetheless more and more difficult to situate in the United States. Nearby residents complain of the aesthetics and biologists worry that farms located on undeveloped land will endanger delicate ecosystems.

But what if solar arrays could be installed in the hundreds of capped landfills throughout the nation? Several states, including Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii and Colorado, are doing just that.

New Jersey's Brick Township is one of the most recent communities to commence plans for a solar generator at the soon-to-be-capped French's Landfill. The township says it expects to save about $9 million over 15 years. According to township officials, the array will generate revenue in year one and provide free energy to the township after year 15.

In Georgia, the Hickory Ridge Landfill has already been transformed from a full capacity landfill into a commercial scale, solar energy generating facility. The landfill,  developed by Republic Services using $2 million in funding from GEFA as a result of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009, will be one of the largest single producers of solar power in Georgia and the state's first landfill solar farm. The site will sell 1 megawatt of power -- enough to power 400 homes -- to Georgia Power.

Hickory Ridge Landfill Solar Farm

As municipalities continue to buckle under budget strains, solar farms on closed landfills could be a welcome source of income and a bright lining on otherwise unattractive and unused lands.

Seven Truths About Solar in 2011

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, recently published this review of the U.S. solar energy market in 2011, including what he called seven truths about the American solar industry.

“In contrast to some of the recent headlines, the solar energy industry is a strong, thriving industry in the United States that is creating jobs and lowering costs for the consumer. In 2011, a number of myths about the solar energy industry circulated nationally. Let’s set the record straight. Here are seven truths about this thriving American industry:

1. Solyndra did not kill the industry. In fact, the solar energy industry is expanding rapidly and has become a highly competitive, thriving industry in the United States. Solyndra’s high-profile bankruptcy in August was an anomaly in what proved to be the industry’s most successful quarter on record. Although Solyndra couldn’t compete, the rest of the industry grew by 140 percent in the last year and costs came down by 40 percent. America discovered that one company’s failure does not reflect an entire industry. In fact, 9 out of 10 Americans feel it’s important to develop and use more solar in the U.S., according to an independent national poll conducted a month after Solyndra declared bankruptcy.

2. Today, U.S. solar is an economic force: employing more than 100,000 Americans at 5,000 businesses across all 50 states. The solar industry proved itself to be a strong job creator in the United States. The vast majority of the 5,000 companies that make up the industry in the U.S. are small businesses, engines of growth for our economic recovery. These are real people in real solar jobs as reported by The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2011. The solar value chain includes engineers, sales people and other administrative professionals as well installers, roofers, electricians, plumbers and contractors – skilled labor professions hit hard by rampant unemployment in recent years – now finding new opportunities to put their expertise to work in the solar industry.

3. The solar industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy.The solar industry set a record for installations and achieved 140 percent annual growth in thethird quarter of 2011. In fact, more U.S. solar electric capacity came online in Q3 2011 than in all of 2009 combined; Q4 2011 is forecast to be even larger as solar becomes a cost competitive choice for more homeowners and businesses across America.

4. Consumer, business and industry support for solar continues to grow. Solar’s growth is leading to rapid innovation across the spectrum – from factory improvements to new financing and sales mechanisms – that allow more and more Americans to turn to solar energy. Target, Walgreens, Whole Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Safeway and others are powering their businesses with solar. In addition to GE’s investment in new manufacturing in the U.S., 2011 also welcomed new household-name corporations to the solar industry, with Warren Buffett’s MidAmerica Energy, Total Energy and Google all making sizeable investments in solar in 2011.

5. Solar is now affordable for more Americans. Today, there are 1.5 million households using solar water heating and enough solar electricity to power 730,000 homes. And solar is becoming more affordable every day with technology innovation, scaled up manufacturing, faster installation techniques, and new financing options. The price of solar panels dropped 40 percent since the beginning of 2010 and the average installed system price ropped 14.4 percent from Q2 to Q3 in 2011 alone.

6. Growing markets bring increased competition. Global trade in solar products has benefitted the United States by expanding export opportunities for domestic manufacturers, creating jobs and driving down costs. In fact, the U.S. was a net exporter of $2 billion in solar products in 2010. As global competition intensifies, the need is even stronger for open markets operating on rules-based trade principles and for governments and private parties to follow the framework of internationally-negotiated trade rules.

7. Uncertainty remains as a successful investment mechanism expires. Congress left Washington, D.C. without continuing the important 1603 Treasury Program, a program that provides flexibility in how developers finance projects. This program, which allows the market to choose winners and losers, was the single most effective policy for deploying a dozen energy technologies in the last year. The program has spurred completion of more than 22,000 energy projects across all 50 states and attracted $23 billion in private investment. The industry will push to renew this successful program when Congress returns in January 2012.

Solar works for America and 2011 was a record year for the U.S. solar industry. Although the past year presented challenges to the solar industry, with American ingenuity, hard work, and smart and consistent energy policies our industry is on track for another record year in 2012.”

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA

Friday, December 23, 2011

New Solar Paint Could Power Home Appliances

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame recently announced the development of a new paint that generates electricity using semi-conducting particles. The paint, dubbed "Sun-Believable," would be cheap enough to cover an entire house and could produce enough energy to power home appliances.

solar paint

The research team says the paint was the result of an effort to move beyond silicon-based solar technology. By mixing power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, the scientists created a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any surface.

Currently, the light-to-energy conversion rate of the paint sits at 1 percent. But the research team says further research will make increased efficiency possible. With the ability to make the paint cheaply, and in large quantities, researchers believe Sun-Believable paint will make a tremendous difference in meeting future energy needs.

The paint could play an important part in the construction of affordable zero-energy homes and buildings, complementing a combination of other green technologies such as solar water heating and energy-efficient design.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Online Solar Career Tool

Looking for a job in the solar industry? A new online tool makes it easier than ever to explore great solar career opportunities.

Developed by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) as part of the Department of Energy's Solar Instructor Training Network, the new interactive solar career map website maps three dozen solar jobs across four sectors: production, design, sales and marketing, and installation/operations. According to the IREC website, a team of national experts selected the 36 occupations within the map. Each job requires some training in solar-specific skills and each is essential to building a thriving solar industry, the IREC said.

Visit the IREC information page outlining the map for more information, including an informative video.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Are you a wrap star? What are your eco-smart gift wrapping techniques? Here are six budget-friendly green wrapping tips. 

Brownie Points

Plain brown paper bags or brown shipping paper looks beautifully natural when tied with twine and decorated with pine cones or evergreen sprigs.

Remains of the Day

Remnants of wallpaper or fabric you might have leftover from a home decor project makes a great statement while repurposing those scraps.

Shine On

Recycled aluminum foil looks sparkly and festive and is perfect for those odd-shaped gifts.

Read Between the Lines

Old newspapers and magazines can wrap your gifts for one last use before being recycled. This technique is an oldie, but a goodie, and you can choose the section according to your recipient's tastes.

Map it Out

Old roadmaps make a colorful graphic statement when used as wrapping paper. Who uses those old maps anyway in the age of GPS devices?

Bag It

Many stores offer holiday-themed reusable shopping bags this year. They make a great gift bag that can be used repeatedly for shopping after the holidays.

Friday, December 16, 2011

7 Reasons to Go Solar

Solar energy is the ultimate renewable energy option!


Reduce size of your carbon footprint

Using solar energy results in lower greenhouse gases, reduced acid rain and lower smog levels.

Reduce dependence on fossil fuels

The use of fossil fuels strains not only our environment, but our independence as a nation. Reduce dependence on foreign oil by taking advantage of clean, unlimited, solar energy.

Commit to a healthy nation

According to the Sierra Club, power plants contribute to 600,000 asthma attacks each year. Solar panels provide Americans with clean, harmless energy.

Save money

Solar energy is free, after the initial purchase cost of your solar system. Years from now, the solar energy you collect at your home or business will still be free.

Add value to your home

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a solar energy system may add $10 to $20 to your home’s worth for every dollar in energy costs saved in one year. For example, a system that reduces energy costs by $500 per year might add $5,000 to $10,000 to the home’s value. In addition, solar panels can help extend the life of your roof by protecting it from ultraviolet rays and weather.

Leave a legacy of clean energy for generations to come

Investing in solar energy is an important step toward leaving the next generation with a safer, cleaner world. 

Create green collar jobs

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the solar industry employs about 60,000 Americans. By 2016, SEIA predicts that increased demand for residential and commercial solar installations will add hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs in research and development, manufacturing, construction, sales and marketing, and other fields.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Solar-Powered Holiday Gift Ideas

Give the gift of green this holiday season and avoid the dreaded "no batteries included" clause with these solar-powered gift suggestions from UMA Solar.

Solar Holiday Lights

All the festive charm of traditional holiday lights without paying the traditional electric bill! Most solar-powered holiday lights use LEDs which run cooler and shine brighter than incandescent lights. Not only will they last longer, there is less risk of fire from overheating. Best of all, you won't have to worry about extension cords!

Solar Backpack

Convert an existing backpack or messenger bag into a solar-powered super bag with a Piggyback Solar-Powered Gadget bag from ThinkGeek . The charger includes two pouches, big enough for computer tablets and e-readers, plus built-in channels for running USB cables between pouches.

Solar Wireless Keyboard

The Logitech K750 wireless solar keyboard charges itself in any kind of light, artificial or sunlight, and will stay charged for up to three months in total darkness!  Just 1/3" thick, the keyboard features sleek lines and portability, perfect indoors and on the go.

Solar-Powered Sound System

Let the music move you, wherever you are. The portable Soulra XL solar-powered boom box features a flip-out solar panel. The panel allows you to charge your mp3 player or smart phone while listening to music through its eight speaker drivers (two tweeters, two woofers and four passive radiators).

Solar Hybrid Automatic Lawn Mower

The Husqvarna hybrid automatic lawnmower comes with a large integrated solar panel that allows the mower to extend its cutting periods before it needs charging. Best of all, you can leave it to cut your lawn while you sit back with a cold glass of lemonade. The fully automatic robotic mower will happily graze your lawn, return to its charging station when power is low, and send you a text message if anything goes wrong.

Solar Pool Heating

A gift for the entire family that keeps giving, a solar pool heater by Heliocol or SunStar will double the swim season in any climate. Enjoy a resort lifestyle in your own backyard! Heliocol and SunStar solar pool heating systems are maintenance-free and work with your existing pool pump, providing you with free heat from the sun.

Solar Toy Robot

For the eco-concious kiddies on your list, consider a solar-powered robot. The 3-in-1 Transforming Solar Robot not only teaches kids about solar energy, it transforms from a robot to a tank to a scorpion!

Solar Charger and Battery Back-Up

The Solio BOLT is a slick little charger that also works as a battery back-up for your smartphone, mp3 player, e-reader, GPS or camera. Just connect to the BOLT using your device's own USB cable. The BOLT holds a charge for up to a year and gives most smartphones more than two charges! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

MyGenflex offers increased flexibility and monitoring

Kyocera Solar's MyGen Kits — all-inclusive kits available as part of UMA Solar's Heliolectric line for residential and light commercial solar energy installations — have expanded to include MyGenflex. This latest addition offers increased versatility for installation, expansion and monitoring services, featuring Kyocera’s premier KD240 watt solar modules, and new M215.

The MyGenflex kit is Enphase Energized™ with high efficiency M215 microinverters from Enphase, enabling a scalable solar system by converting direct current (DC) produced by solar modules into alternating current (AC) from each individual module in an array. This allows owners the flexibility to add to their solar energy system as needed. Further enhancing the MyGenflex system is the Enlighten monitoring and analysis software from Enphase, which monitors each microinverter and solar module in the system. Performance information is available via the web as part of a monitoring solution that allows owners and installers to track system performance. “A Kyocera Enphase Energized solution not only enables a flexible, high-performance solar energy system that is expandable and intelligent, it is also backed by the same dependable support that Enphase customers swear by,” said Bill Rossi, chief marketing officer of Enphase Energy.

Kyocera’s current MyGen line is already recognized as a comprehensive, convenient way to integrate solar power — the pre-engineered systems include the modules, inverter, racking, monitoring, grounding, manual, drawings, and minor components needed to complete a grid-tied solar energy installation. MyGen “Made in America” kits, which qualify for participation in the ARRA “Buy America” Program, offer the benefits of U.S.-based manufacturing with the expertise that comes from Kyocera’s 37-year experience in the solar industry.

“Kyocera’s pre-engineered MyGen kits greatly simplify the task of installing a solar electric generating system on a home or business,” stated Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, Inc. “These turn-key kits offer the reliability and industry-leading output of Kyocera’s modules, which have repeatedly achieved record-breaking cell efficiencies. With the innovative features of the Enphase Microinverter System, MyGenflex represents an ideal solution for those seeking to invest in solar energy for cost and environmental benefits.”