The Sun Rises on Solar Power

The Sun Rises on Solar Power -- Ford Focus Electric -- © Westend61/SuperStock
by Denise DiFulco
The price of solar electric systems has fallen rapidly in recent years, making solar energy more accessible than ever. In 2010, the installed cost of residential and commercial solar photovoltaic power systems fell by 17 percent from the previous year, falling an additional 11 percent in the first half of 2011, according to a report by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). So is now the time to take the plunge?
Well, such statistics don’t mean that solar power systems are cheap. The average cost nationwide last year was $6.20 per watt, says Ryan Wiser, a Berkeley Lab scientist. An average-size home (about 2,000 square feet) generally requires a 5-kilowatt system — approximately a $31,000 investment. “There’s a large up-front cost, but there’s also economies of scale,” Wiser says. “The cost per unit on a smaller system will be higher.” So if you opt for more power — say, a 10-kilowatt system — the price per watt will be substantially lower. Your circumstances could also help: It’s cheaper to install a system on new construction versus an existing home. There are several ways to defray the overall costs. One is through state and federal solar energy rebates. A list of current rebates is available through theDatabase of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Another is by entering a net metering agreement with your utility company. When your system generates more power than you need, the excess returns to the electricity grid and your meter runs backward. This allows you to receive full retail credit for the power your system generates. A way to avoid up-front costs altogether is to lease. Leasing has become a popular option in recent years, Wiser says, with more than half of new installed systems being leased through companies such as SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity. How much you can potentially save on electricity depends upon many factors, including the size of the system you choose and your current retail electricity rate. Online calculators, such as Berkeley Lab’s Home Energy Saver, can help you make that determination. They also can help assess other ways to make your home more energy efficient, which is the best first step to take when switching to solar power. “We tell people they really need to look at their building energy use,” says Sherri Shields, a spokeswoman for the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida. “The more energy efficient you make your home, the less equipment you need to put on your roof.” If you’re purchasing your own solar panels, as opposed to leasing, it’s best to hire a local solar contractor or an electrical contractor that specializes in solar power. The contractor will take into account many considerations, including how much energy your home uses and potential sites for the panels. The type of roof you have, which direction your home faces and even nearby trees and other shade-producing obstructions all need to be factored in as well when designing a system. “It’s not just something cookie-cutter, out of the box,” Shields explains. Other things to keep in mind? Check with your insurance company to make sure your system will be covered under your homeowners insurance. Sometimes, a separate rider to the policy is required. Also, be sure all components carry the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) mark for quality and safety, and inquire about a truss-mounted system for roof panels — especially if you live in an area prone to severe weather. “We have to be especially careful in Florida,” Shields says. “If it’s not part of the roof structure, it’s going to come falling off.” Still in need of more information? A good basic guide for getting started is also available here, through the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. So put your plan together, go solar, and expect many sunny days in your future.

The CORE Home

There is a new type of dome home being developed by Sustainable Living Systems called “The Core Home” Basically, it is a hollow Tubular dome structure surrounded by  wood panels just as in a regular geodesic dome. But the best part of this idea is that there is a coolant fluid running through the Tubular pipe structure with a pump in the top of the dome that keeps the fluid in constant motion. This fluid is then sent to a ground heat sink that stabilizes the temperature. Thus the whole house remains relatively a constant temperature. This fluid transfers the heat or the cool throughout the house. Heats up at the top of the house, and cooled at the bottom. or if it is cold out, collects the heat of the ground, and transfers it through out the structure.

This amazing idea gives the net energy usage as ZERO. since you are using a subterranean heat sink to to keep the house at a relatively constant temperature.  The average temperature of the earth. below the frost line is appropriately  65 degrees. To augment the savings you could use a solar pump to push the fluid through the pipes, and add Solar Panels to create more energy for your home usage.

For a better explanation visit the website Sustainable Living Systems.

“Core Home Video”

Going Green: 10 Tips for Eco-Friendly Exhibiting

Article by Graham Green

There’s no question that consumers are starting to pay attention to eco-friendly companies. With the threats of global warming, over-filled landfills, water shortages, and many other environmental concerns looming on the horizon, some businesses that want to make a difference in the world—and attract a large amount of consumer goodwill—are choosing to go green.

There are plenty of reasons to consider environmental factors when planning for your next exhibit. If your industry is not traditionally linked with environmental movements, having a “green exhibit” is a great way to stand out from the crowd. Add to that the fact that you’re doing your part to make the world a better place, and you’ll feel less guilty for blowing your competition out of the water. Here are ten tips for going green at your next exhibit.

Building a booth? Use eco-friendly materials. If you’re building a custom booth this year, you have several options for greener materials. First, try to avoid wood. The earth’s forests are nearly 80% depleted, and that’s bad news for our atmosphere. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen—so they may be our first line of defense against global warming. Leave a few trees standing by choosing another material to build your booth.

One more eco-friendly choice is recycled metal. While this may not seem like the most biodegradable choice, it’s much better than using non-recycled metals. For example, the process of recycling aluminum takes about 95% less energy than it does to create new aluminum from ore. Recycling steel uses about 60% less energy than making it from scratch.

Another option is wood/plastic composite. This building material is made up of sawdust from lumber and furniture companies mixed with fragments of plastic trash, such as soda bottles and garbage bags. There are many different brands, and the wood comes in colors ranging from deep ambers to espresso browns—as beautiful as natural wood, without the environmental price tag.

Consider your paints. Oil and latex-based paints are toxic to the environment—they contain poisonous chemicals that can’t be removed at a treatment plant. Leftover paint is often poured down the drain, and it gets into oceans and waterways. It also leaches from painted items in landfills, further damaging the environment. Even worse, VOC’s—volatile organic chemicals, such as cyanide—in paint evaporate at room temperature, contributing to global warming while coating your booth.

Instead of traditional paints, look for non-VOC paints made by big-name paint manufacturers such as Sherman Williams and Behr. Other eco-friendly paints are made from talcum powder, clay, and chalk.

Get green giveaways. When looking for a good giveaway item, choose with an eye toward minimizing trash. Avoid items that come in plastic packaging. Avoid plastic altogether, in fact, unless it’s recycled. Good ideas include cotton or hemp tote bags, food in recycled-paper wrapping instead of plastic, recycled plastic Frisbees, pens and other items, and ceramic mugs. Stay away from plastic bags, wood, and non-recycled materials.

Use energy-efficient lighting. Incandescent light bulbs are notoriously inefficient. They emit only 10% of the energy they use as light. The rest is given off as heat—which is why these bulbs can catch your lampshade on fire if you’re not careful. Instead, use fluorescent bulbs. These are much more energy efficient.

Use recycled paper. There are a lot of paper products involved in a typical exhibit: business cards, signs and displays, brochures and promotional materials. Why not use recycled paper? While most people think of rough, textured and off-white paper when it comes to buying recycled, there are many companies that make smooth, bright-white papers that are comparable to virgin papers.

Consider green printing. Some inks can be as toxic as paint. You can go green with your printing by choosing a green printer. Not all are created equally; their commitment to green printing can range from using energy-efficient operating procedures to printing with soy-based inks on recycled papers. Be sure to shop around when looking for eco-friendly printers.

Talk to your vendor. Some booth vendors are more eco-friendly than others. Some may operate under environmentally mindful conditions—using alternative energy and energy-efficient practices, for example—while others may have pre-fabricated booths built from eco-friendly materials. Be sure to ask your vendor for more advice on how you can create a green display for your next exhibit.

Going green doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. While you may have to buy a custom booth to go green, recycled and eco-friendly materials sometimes cost less than their non-recycled alternatives. Talk to your vendor, research your options, and take your time in designing an approach to green exhibiting that works for your company. No matter how far you go with it—from using recycled papers to building an entire booth from eco-friendly materials—you’ll be making a positive contribution.

About the Author

G Green is director at based in Essex, UK. For a wide range of information on producing exhibition stands including a range of folding panel stands visit