The 2013 Solar Decathlon is well underway and one important competition is actually not only open to the public, it is determined by the public. Here’s how you can play a part!
We are talking about the Solar Decathlon’s People’s Choice Award - where the general public gets to cast a vote for their favorite entry. Now we have a dog in this hunt, and that is the awesome fluxHome from Team USC. Above you see the home, ready to welcome the public, at Orange County Great Park in Irvine. And here’s a look inside on an especially sunny day:
Check out the plea for support from USC Team member, Evyn Larson:
Thank you for your support of the USC Solar Decathlon Team thus far. We have one more request: Vote for #111, Team USC, in the People’s Choice award! All you need is an email address. Votes must be cast before 11:00 am on Friday, 10/11/13.
Please pass the link around to your family, friends, and colleagues. We need all the votes we can get - together, we can win this!
Always, Fight On!
Evyn Larson and the Team USC students
So there you have it - do your part to support our local team by clicking on the link above and vote for #111, Team USC!
We have previously reported on - and been critical of - the handling of defective solar tile systems installed in new “solar” homes built by Centex. Now we are happy to report that after much delay, Centex is stepping up to the plate and replacing defective solar tile systems with new, conventional solar arrays. Here’s our update.
Centex Solar Home in Pleasanton, CA
First some background - between 2006 and 2009, Centex built “solar” homes like the one at the right in Pleasanton, California. These homes featured solar roofing tiles that became the subject of a recall by the Consumer Products Safety Commission and were manufactured by Open Energy Corporation, which became Applied Solar, Inc., which became Applied Solar LLC - which then went bankrupt and ceased operations.
That left Centex to address these problems and as we previously noted, they were taking their time in doing so and were asking homeowners to sign an especially pernicious release of rights before agreeing to undertake repairs. Then this summer, Centex stopped making repairs altogether after a series of fires broke out in homes that had been “repaired". Clearly what was needed was for the old tiles to be completely removed, the roof restored and a new, conventional solar array installed.
Well now we are happy to report that Centex has agreed to do exactly that.
Based on an independent review of the OE-34 panels, Centex is not confident in their long-term viability and safety. Because of this, we are pleased to inform you that we will replace all existing OE-34 solar panels with new solar panels at no cost to homeowners. This includes all homeowners who have previously had their systems repaired.
In short, we believe resuming repairs is simply not sufficient to address the issues with the original solar panel system. When repairs were suspended and investigations underway, all homeowners were instructed to turn off their systems. We remind you to continue to keep your solar system turned off until the new system is installed.
Our goal is to replace all existing solar panel systems by February 2014. This replacement schedule is aggressive, but we have retained several companies to conduct the necessary work that entails: removal of current solar system panels, installation of new roof tiles in their place, and installation of a new raised-panel solar system. We estimate that it will take approximately two days per home for the removal and installation process.
This is very good news indeed and we applaud the decision by Centex to take this step. Finally these homeowners will have the “benefit of their bargain” and once again have the opportunity to live in a solar home.
The letter identified the solar modules to be used as coming from either Hanwha or ET Solar and had links for more information about each of those. Unfortunately, those links appear to be broken so we have uploaded the datasheets for the identified solar modules. Here they are:
We will continue to monitor this story and we encourage affected homeowners to provide us with info about their experiences with this repair and replacement program in the comments below.
Regular readers of this blog will know that we have been actively involved with Team USC and their fluxHome entry into the competition - and things are moving along great for them. But for the overall competition to be a success, lots of volunteers are needed and that's where you come in.
So without further ado, here's a word or two from the competition organizers at the U.S. Department of Energy:
The Orange County Great Park is very excited to announce volunteer opportunities with Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO!
When: Event dates are Thursday-Sunday October 3-6 and 10-13, 2013. Volunteer opportunities range from September 22-October 17, 2013.
Where: Orange County Great Park, Irvine, CA
Experience the excitement of being an important part of the West Coast debut of the Solar Decathlon and the first-ever XPO clean, renewable and efficient energy exposition as a volunteer. Hundreds of volunteers are needed for roles that include greeters, docents, production assistants and more.
The volunteer experience promises to be unforgettable and rewarding. Volunteers will feel the passion and excitement of the 20 collegiate teams competing in Solar Decathlon 2013 and work side-by-side with event organizers as well as other volunteers from all over the United States and the world.
“I’ve been a part of several Solar Decathlon events as the volunteer coordinator and the experience is something people never forget,” said Mary-Lyn Chambers, Volunteer Manager for Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO. “It’s why we have volunteers traveling from as far away as China and Columbia and returning to volunteer in their second or even third Solar Decathlon.”
To sign up now and for more information:
- To register an individual volunteer, please visit http://www.solardecathlon.gov/volunteers.html .
- For more information, please visit http://www.solardecathlon.gov/volunteers.html.
- Please print or share the attached digital flyer (Recruiting-Flyer).
Hope to see you there!
In a curious bit of timing, two reports of great significance are being released today. The one that will get all of the headlines is the latest assessment on climate change coming from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The second report will see far less attention, but is inevitably linked - the report for the California Public Utilities Commission on the costs and benefits of Net Metering. We will have more to say about both in the coming days, but here is our first take.
Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has kept a “Doomsday Clock” showing how close to midnight - and thus, human-induced annihilation - the world was. At the depths of the Cold War the clock was as close as 2 minutes away, but by 2007 the clock was wound back to twelve minutes to midnight - the “safest” the world had been since the dawn of the Atomic Age.
But for Rajendra Pachauri, the lead scientist on the IPCC report, climate change has replaced nuclear destruction as mankind’s greatest threat. According to him, “we have five minutes before midnight." The report’s Summary for Policymakers, which can be downloaded now from the IPCC website, includes numerous graphs and illustrations to buttress Pachauri’s conclusion, here are two:
That map makes it pretty clear that the globe is heating up and in some parts of the world, heating very significantly.
But what about the “Global Temperature Standstill” that deniers like to tout? Isn’t it true that for the past decade, surface temperature rise has leveled off and thus, Climate Change is nothing to worry about?
The short answer to that is, not so much - take a look:
That last bar is for the past decade and it clearly shows yet another decadal increase - and that is based on observed temperatures, not computer models. And keep in mind that these are surface measurements - yet many climate scientists believe that the majority of the warming effects are occurring in the deep ocean.
So no, warming hasn’t halted, and we need to do all that we can to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases if we are to avoid making the clock strike twelve.
Which brings us, sadly, to the other report just released on the Costs and Benefits of Net Metering in California. Currently, the overwhelming number of residential and commercial solar installations in the state benefit from Net Metering which provides a one-for-one credit for energy produced and exported to the grid against energy consumed at a later time. In a sense, the grid acts as a storage device for solar clients, allowing them to bank credits during the day and then drawing on those credits in the evening, at night, or on cloudy days when the solar system cannot meet current needs.
The take-away from the 319-page draft report is summarized in this chart:
According to this analysis, the net cost of Net Metering by 2020 when the caps on how many net metering customers the IOUs must allow is reached, will be over $1.1 billion, or slightly more than 3% of the “revenue requirement” of the three utilities studied.
That sounds like a significant imbalance—until your realize that the report contains this incredibly important caveat which renders the entire analysis suspect:
Lastly, it is important to note that the attached NEM [i.e., Net Metering] Cost-Effectiveness Evaluation is focused exclusively on the utility ratepayer impacts of NEM, and does not include the overall societal benefits from the deployment of clean energy resources, although significant environmental, public health and other non-energy benefits occur.
We are supposed to suspend consideration of environmental, public health and other non-energy benefits, even though we know that they are significant? How can that make any sense? Worse still, we are supposed to suspend those very considerations at the same time that we are being told that it is “five minutes to midnight” for the world if we do not reduce our GHG emissions. Talk about a disconnect.
It is patently absurd to ignore the societal benefits provided by solar installations, particularly in light of the existential threat posed by climate change brought about by burning fossil fuels. The entire analysis views the world from the perspective of the status quo in which fossil-fueled utilities have a “revenue requirement” that the rest of us are expected to provide. Such a world view - and such a business model - leads to skewed results like these and if followed, would push us all closer to Midnight.
We spent yesterday with the great group of folks from Team USC working to re-install their solar PV system. Here’s our update.
Although the Team had the house entirely complete for the Send-off Celebration, it had to be deconstructed into its three component pieces for the trip down to Irvine. That meant cutting open drywall and unbolting sections from each other before the three sections could be loaded onto trucks. But it also meant that the solar array, which actually consists of four branch circuits, had to be partially disassembled since three of the four cross section boundaries. Yesterday’s task was to restore those connections in a manner that was up to code - since these houses need to pass a rigorous inspection process before being hooked up to the local “micro-grid” - and help the Team stay on track.
While next weekend the Irvine competition site will be a solar village, right now it is very much a construction zone with massive cranes in all directions manipulating the different homes into place. Here was the view to the North from atop fluxHome:
The view to the South featured a similar display of activity - and the Great Park’s trademark orange sphere is there in the background:
With all of that activity going on, the competition organizers were taking no chances with safety - everyone entering the competition area was required to wear hard hats, eye protection and proper foot protection. When working on the roof - where I spent the most of my day - harnesses and fall protection gear were mandatory. In fact, if a team member is spotted without proper safety gear, the team is docked competition points. A powerful incentive to follow the rules and maximize safety - always a good lesson to learn.
This image shows us fully decked out in all of our safety gear, working on restoring one of the branch circuit connections:
As you can probably tell, it was a beautiful day to be working on a solar project, particularly an inspiring gig like USC’s fluxHome. Here’s a view of the roof yesterday:
In the foreground you see the massive, automated skylight that forms the aperture for the “solar chimney” that is an integral part of the home’s systems. Behind the skylight is a portion of the solar array.
It is a privilege to be a part of the Solar Decathlon - but for the teams involved it is also a massive fund raising project and success, or failure, can be tied to that aspect as much as a great design. In fact we learned yesterday that one of the teams from Virginia had to drop out of the contest because they couldn’t raise enough money to complete their design and then ship it to California. So sad to think that two years worth of hard work went down the drain because they fell short on their fund raising. (As they said in The Right Stuff, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.")
While Team USC has not suffered such a depressing fate, they could still use your support. So if you would be interested in contributing to the team, you can jump over to their Support page and make a donation.
Finally, while we were taking a break on the ground, we came across a film team that was documenting the Team’s progress and they told us about this video that was shot while we were doing the initial installation. The entire video is well worth watching as it documents the efforts of the four teams from California that are competing this year. But we have to admit, we are partial to the section that begins around the 35 minute mark - and stick around for the happy conclusion after the break!
Best of luck to all the schools competing, and especially to Team USC - Fight On!
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