Welcome to part the third of the solar quiz! Check the rules from part one here. Again, if you haven't participated quite yet, please do so!
Last time's answers:
3. The most commonly used element in a solar panel is silicon.
4. False! The surface of a solar panel is not cooler than the air around it when it is generating power. They actually get really hot, so you don't want to touch!
Today's questions are:
5. What type of current does a conventional solar panel produce?
6. To test a solar panel before installing it on your roof, your friendly neighborhood Run on Sun solar installer will do what?
Welcome to the second round of the solar quiz! Check the rules from Part One here. Even if you haven't yet, you can still participate, so please comment!
The previous answers:
1. A typical solar panel weighs as much as a medium size dog.
2. When working on a severely steeped roof, your friendly neighborhood Run on Sun solar installer wears a harness.
Today's questions are:
3. The most commonly used element in a solar panel is...
4. True or False: The surface of a solar panel is cooler than the air around it when it is generating power.
So far, our ranking is like so:
Remember, that even if you haven't tried yet, you can start with the new questions today. You still have a chance! Please participate!
Today marks the beginning of a great contest - a solar quiz! The winner will be awarded a to-be-announced tchotchke. I can tell you that it is really awesome, and I have one too.
There will be ten questions in all, and each question right adds ten points to your score. Two questions will be posted every Wednesday and Saturday. This will give you a few days to answer, each time. But, make sure to post your answer by my next post, or you won’t get a chance to earn points that week because I will be posting people’s rankings to help keep track and the answers to the previous two questions.
If you come in late (let’s say you miss this post and the next), you can still participate but you cannot earn the points you already missed.
I will ask you not to use Google because most of the information can be found on the Run on Sun website. If you download the Run on Sun Alexa toolbar here, you can search the website, along with some other cool features.
Post your answers in the comments section, please.
Alright, begin! And good luck!
1. A typical solar panel weighs as much as…
2. When working on a severely steep roof, your friendly neighborhood Run on Sun solar installer wears…
To finally destroy the myth of solar panels being very fragile, look at this image on the left. Solar panels are actually strong enough that you could stand on them. I wouldn’t recommend this, though, because you could slip, fall, and hurt yourself easily. Don’t try this at home!
Don’t solar panels wear out in less than a decade? FALSE. Solar modules have performance warranties of twenty or twenty-five years, and guarantee 80% of its original power by the end of that time. If that isn’t crazy enough (for that is more years than I have lived, and maybe more than some of my readers), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (also known as NREL) has panels that have been working for over forty years!
So solar panels are stronger than we thought, even ones made many years ago…still working today.
The long awaited second installment in the Misconceptions series! This time I will tackle the the misconception that solar panels are really fragile and break super easily. Let me shatter this myth for you.
Behold this marvelous video!
This was what was running through my head at the time: Eesh, that's a hailstone? It is gigantic. Oh no, don't hit the solar panel! What? The panel isn't broken? Not damaged in the least? I don't even see any cracks or anything. Wow, that's really cool. Oh yes, let's watch it again.
The truth of the matter is that solar panels are tested to withstand the impact of a one inch hailstone at 60 mph without any damage. The Conergy panels, offered by Run on Sun, are the ones you saw in this video. The video shows that the Conergy panels were recently certified to withstand a 55 mm (about two and a quarter inches) hailstone going at speeds of 120 km/hr (74.5 mph).
If you aren't already amazed, just stay tuned for the next post! This myth will be put under wraps.
Due to the not-so-ancient bloggers' dilemma of "Does anyone actually read my blog? Eh. . . Probably not," I am always surprised and thrilled when I get comments. It means that somebody, somewhere, is reading my work.
Now I have a big heads up: someone is indeed reading my blog and, wonderfully, is liking it! KACO new energy is one of the biggest inverter makers. Today, their blog featured me in their most recent post, accessible here. I am honored to be featured by such a forward-looking company. Their whole commitment is to creating solar PV inverters whose production is carbon neutral.That is really cool.
Thank you, KACO!
Just recently, my Girl Scout troop came over to my house to learn about solar. We are a troop of Cadettes and learning about solar helped us earn an interest project badge. And so my father and I taught them some basics about solar panels.
First we went onto the roof where the panels were installed. "The orientation of the panels is important," my father said. To be extremely efficient, the panels must be perpendicular to the sun. In our area, that means that they should be facing towards the south and raised at latitude (I will explain this in more detail in another post).
After the roof, we went to see the inverters. Although it was late afternoon and the sun was low in the sky, we could see that the inverters were still producing power.
Next, we went inside to look at data. My troop looked at some graphs. Click here for the link to the installation from my house. The first graph on the upper left shows temperature compared to power generated. "TmpAmb" is the air temperature; "TmpMdul" is the panel temperature; and "Insolation" is the amount of solar radiation received, which is measured in watts per square meter. Anything that is measured in watts per unit area is a measure of power density. The second chart, to the right of the first, shows the total amount of kilowatt hours generated, a measure of energy. The bottom chart displays the energy yielded by the North String vs. the South String. Each "string" of solar panels has its own inverter. Our house has two strings: the North String and the South String.
After all of this, my troop found that solar power was demystified. If this post has helped demystify solar, then it has done its job.
ALSO! To any troops in the greater Pasadena area: if you think that learning more about solar would be cool (which it is) and want to be taught by us, just contact me by posting a comment below. We would love to teach you and your troop!
As the new year begins - 2011 - I shall tell a tale of three grocery stores and my adventures buying food inside them.
Grocery Store A was the most common type of grocery store. The fruits and vegetables did have labels stating where they had come from, but they were small and easy to miss. I needed garlic so I went to Grocery Store A to buy some. When I got there, I read the label to find the garlic's origin. The garlic came from China, yet I live in California, which houses the garlic capital of the world: Gilroy. Why would Grocery Store A sell garlic from China when the plant is grown much closer, in California? China is many times farther away! It didn't make sense. Later looking through the produce section, I found that the vast majority of the fruits and vegetables where not from California or even from within the country. What was from California did not have any special marking to let the buyer know that he or she was reducing his or her carbon footprint.
I would later go into Grocery Store B. When I went into the produce section, an ostentatious banner proclaimed, "Get local food here!" I noted the special emphasis on the word "local" and thought that it was a good thing that this store had taken the initiative to get food from local farms. My warm and fuzzy feeling was soon dashed when I read the label on the grapes. "From California and Chile," it read. Wait...what? Again I was confused. Why would Grocery Store B buy grapes from both California and Chile? Why not just from California, famous for grapes (and vineyards)? Glancing around, I could see that other labels said the same sort of thing, using California's name first and another agricultural center's name too. Was Grocery Store B buying most of the grapes from Chile and a few from California just so it could declare itself "local"? How would a consumer know where what he or she was buying came from?
Finally, I strolled into Grocery Store C. Again I saw banners professing the same thing as in Grocery Store B: "We're local!" I frowned. After my previous experiences I had no reason to believe that fruits and vegetables were really local, as advertised. I stalked over to the produce section to have a look. To my surprise and intense delight, I found "local" stickers on more than half of the produce. On each label with a "local" sticker, it said, "From California," and nothing more. Grocery Store C let the buyer, me, know the origins of the food I was buying and allowed me to make a choice.
...Or is it?
If you think back to the best green thing you can do, it said practice your geography. Go ahead and reread it so you can remember why you should do that. Some, but not all, grocery stores make sure that buyers have the choice to buy locally. If you can, remember (or remind your parents!) to be conscious of where your produce comes from. The less distance food has to travel, the less fossil fuel it uses up. It's that simple. If your grocery store does not label the origins of its produce or if it does not make it easily visible or easy to understand, try talking to the manager of the store about it. Ask him or her to buy closer to home. Explain why you think the store should change. You can make a difference where you live.
And that is our New Year's Resolution:
Happy New Year!
Yesterday was the Harvest Festival. It is a small fair at my school that is put on every year by the eighth graders. I was one of them this year! I was a parade co-chair with two other girls. We organized younger kids into parades to be judged by teachers (harder than it sounds). There is a lot of work that goes into a Harvest Festival, and our teachers don't let up on homework at all!
Every eighth grader was required to wear a costume. I was an electrician. I own a blue CBS shirt, courtesy of our chief electrician Velvet. I borrowed my dad's tool belt and a few tools of the trade: needle nose pliers, a voltmeter, a distance reader, and a flashlight. I also borrowed a hard hat from my grandmother (kept in the trunk of her car in case of emergencies). It was fun and easier to move around in than other people's floor length dresses or tutus. I got to wear jeans (so comfy!).
Yesterday, Harvest Festival. Tomorrow, Halloween. What will you be?
Yesterday, energy from oil. Tomorrow, energy from solar panels. What will you choose?
This morning was foggy, but that did not dampen the spirits of anyone going to the tenth annual Solar Power International. This year it was in Los Angeles in the LA Convention Center. Today marks the first day of it. It goes on during tomorrow and Thursday. Stopping by would be awesome. I was unable to go, but my dad did. When he came back, he brought a wealth of chotskies. Here is a list of the amazing loot you can get if you go there:
There are many more goodies to find. Run on Sun does not have a booth, but look around for our logo on a cap. Tomorrow Dad will be there and on Thursday Brad will be there. We hope you can come!
What do you think will happen next?
The fan still worked, just not quite as well. We could tell that the panel was still generating power in our cloudy day by using a voltmeter. A voltmeter measures voltage. We then shaded the panel completely, simulating night. The fan stopped working.
So, the conclusion from our public experiment?
Solar panels work best in bright sunlight. They don't work during the night. They even work well in cloudy days, disproving the misconception that solar panels don't work unless it is very sunny.
Stay tuned for the next misconception debunking!
Many Southern Californians probably already know this, but if not you will be shocked. In Los Angeles today it was 113°F (or 39.4°C). This sets the record for highest heat in Los Angeles. In Pasadena, where I live, it is over that. Very hot, I can tell you. It feels lke I am melting away.
Does this have anything to do with solar? Yes, it does. Solar panels want lots of sun, but they don't like a lot of heat. Solar panels actually work better in cooler weather! Why? The basic answer (the answer that won't take me an hour and a half to write) is that the physics of the materials are such that they just work better in colder temperatures. So the bright sun is great, just not the heat.
What is the best day for a solar panel?
A cold, bright winter's day.
Today I will be starting with 'Solar panels only work in bright sun'. That would be terribly inefficient if that were genuinely the case. Think about it: would solar panels even be a good idea if they didn't work for a lot of the time? Why would anyone choose that as their business, even in mostly sunny California? It would not be a very good line of business!
At a solar fair in Altadena, we brought a demo solar panel (a diminutive solar panel made specifically for demonstrations) hooked up to a fan. Standing under a white easy up we could demonstrate how solar panels can work in different lights. When I moved the solar panel to the bright sun, the fan picked up speed, whirling rapidly, making everyone feel cool (as opposed to melting in the summer heat). Then I placed the solar panel underneath the easy up. The color of the easy up mimicked a cloudy day. Guess what happened?
Here begins a new set of posts. What are these posts about? They are about misconceptions about solar. I'm sure you have heard many rumors:
...and some more. But are these really true? Hopefully my misconceptions posts will shed some light on the truth. Stay tuned for the other posts in this series!
This series of posts is my Top Ten List of Things To Do to be green even if you don't have solar. Read the previous post. Here is tip number one, the top tip in my list.
Is the tension rising?
Are you wondering what it is?
I hope so!
Again I am going to make a reference to a previous number; this time it is number six (again. Well, at least I'm reusing it). In the grocery store, food comes from a wide range of places. Delivering food from these places uses a lot of fuel. A lot of fossil fuel, a resource that will run out sooner or later. Places that are farther away use more fuel to deliver to your grocery store. Become a Produce Police! Check to see if it says where it came from and if you can, buy from the closest place to where you live. It makes no sense to live in California where they grow zillions of grapes and buy grapes from Chile or somewhere far away. If you can, go to a farmer's market. Local farmers' bring in their crops for you to buy at farmers' markets. Their food tastes better than in the grocery store AND is less expensive.
Thanks again to Tiffany Hsu for her article, which you should read. It has some more tips not listed here.
This series of posts is my Top Ten List of Things To Do to be green even if you don’t have solar. Read the previous post. Here are 4, 3, and 2.
There are different types of light bulbs. Some are energy gobblers while others are still shining but using less energy. The bad guys are the incandescent lights. The good guys are the CFLs, also known as the compact fluorescent lights. The CFLs use less energy and take a longer time to burn out: average CFL lifespan is 6,000 to 15,000 hours vs. average incandescent lifespan is a measly 750 to 1,000 hours. So, when your incandescent lights burn out, replace them with CFLs, a more cost- and energy-efficient alternative. One note: while it is always a good idea to turn lights out if you don't need them, the lifespan of a CFL can be reduced if turned on and off too frequently. If you will be away only 15 minutes, then don't turn it off.
Even better are LED lights, which last longer and use less energy than even CFLs, but are harder to find and are more expensive.
Chemicals are bad for the environment! Especially the ones used for cleaning. Buy cleaning supplies free of harmful chemicals or create your own to use with your handy rags from number seven or recycled paper towels from number five. Use vinegar to make windows glimmer, shimmer, and sparkle. Use some baking soda and a damp sponge to scrub counter tops or tough stains on floors. It is much better because harmful chemicals aren't just harmful to the environment, they are harmful to you, too.
What vegetables do you like? Herbs? If you like them so much, why not grow your own? You can have your very own home garden. You don't need much space: enough room for some pots is ample room. If you do have enough space you can create a four foot square garden and divide it into a grid. My family has a four foot square garden in our back yard! We have had radishes, carrots, mustard greens, cilantro, and tomatoes. In a couple of pots we have a radish we let keep growing and an onion plant (which has a very pretty white flower) growing from an onion that started growing roots before we could use it in a meal. Here are some pictures on my dad's personal facebook page (get parents' permission!) of the place that we have nicknamed Marshy Acres after my dog, Marshmallow (My dad, however, calls it Marshie Acres). It tastes better than stuff in stores and, if you put the money into getting the materials, makes a great alternative to the herbs and veggies in stores.
Number one is next!
I couldn’t wait a week, so it is earlier than expected!
This series of posts is my Top Ten List of Things To Do to be green even if you don’t have solar. Read the previous post. Here are 7, 6, and 5.
Rags are useful things when cleaning. You can dust with them, wipe spills, clean glass, and pretty much replace paper towels. Rags can be old soft clothes (t-shirts are good, but jeans won’t work), handkerchiefs or towels: any soft fabric that you can’t use anymore. I don’t mean when you grow out of a t-shirt to use that for cleaning; that should go to the salvation army or something along those lines. If you have a shirt that has a gigantic stain that won’t come out or a hole in it; that is perfect rag material! When a rag becomes too grimy, throw it in the washing machine with your towels.
Many people don’t realize the impact making new things has on the environment. It uses up a lot of energy making these items, delivering them to stores, and later, when you don’t want it anymore, simply throwing it away to create larger and larger hulking landfills. Ewww! That’s not good! What can we do, though, when we need that book for summer reading or want a cowboy hat for a Halloween costume? Go to a garage sale, thrift shop, hand-me-downs, clothing swap, used book store, so on and so forth! It can be fun and less expensive, too. And if you have something that someone can use, but you don’t want it anymore, donate it. Also, if a piece of jewelry, such as a necklace, breaks, don’t despair! You can turn it into a new necklace that is more unique! You can sometimes find a bag of broken jewelry at a thrift shop and you can mix and match and work a little to create pieces all your own. Going to these shops is like an adventure waiting to happen.
Remember number six’s whole ‘impact of making new things’ bit? Well, that applies to paper as well. Somewhere between 3 billion and 6 billion trees are cut down each year, a humongous amount. Buying products made out of recycled paper is a wonderful way to lessen this monstrous figure. You can get napkins, paper towels, facial tissues, and toilet paper made out of recycled paper. Go to this page for a list of products that are green and which to avoid! Remember, some of the paper they are using is from households that recycle, so be sure to recycle as much unsoiled paper as possible (no napkins with food on them, no chemicals, nothing like that. You CAN recycle newspaper, old notebooks, homework assignments from last year, etc.).
Stay tuned for the next trio.
This series of posts is my Top Ten List of Things To Do to be green even if you don't have solar. Read the previous post. Here are 10, 9, and 8.
Not everyone has a yard, but some people do. If you are one of those people with a yard, and you are planting in your garden, try getting drought hardy plants. By drought hardy I mean plants that are fine with not getting a lot of water; succulents are a good example. Plants that are native to California (because most folks reading this are likely from California) are also a terrific choice since a lot of California is a desert (some places are mountains or beaches however).
You aren't always using small appliances like chargers, printers, laptops, and DVRs. They all have things called "phantom loads". Spooky, right? They can continue to "eat" power even when they are turned off! They best way to combat these phantom loads is to simply unplug the appliance when you aren't using it.
Saving water is a good idea. You use it every day. Flushing, drinking, washing hands, taking baths, brushing teeth, watering plants...its important to everyone. Lots of people have faucets that spurt out water - way too much, more than what is needed! Stop water wasting by making sure that there are aerators on faucets (a faucet with an aerator is probably on your kitchen sink, one without is the hose outside). When taking showers, use a low-flow water head, and, if possible, use a water monitor. They check the amount of water or time you are taking, and at a certain point tell you to turn the shower off.
Next week's will be even more useful!
Sometimes your parents can't always get solar, even though it is very cool and is great for the environment. Especially when they are renting, it makes getting solar a bit harder. I have compiled a list of top ten things to do to be green, even if you don't have solar! Most of the information for this list is from Tiffany Hsu's awesome article from the Los Angeles Times on August 15. In the next four posts, 3 tips will be posted in each one, with number one having its own special post at the end.
Here's the names of the tips in our list:
10. Drought? OK
9. Unplug it
8. Down the Drain
7. In Rags and Tatters
6. Reuse It Again and Again
5. Paper Saver
4. Bright Idea
3. Green Your Clean
2. I Got a Planter, Got a Planter Full of Sunshine
1. Practice Your Geography
Get ready to read!
On this blog I am going to write about interesting things that have to do with going Green - solar and beyond. My Dad is one of the founders of Run on Sun, so I get to see lots of cool solar stuff and I really like to write, so this should be fun!
I hope you enjoy this - if you do, please tell your friends! I look forward to reading your comments - if you have any Green ideas that you would like to share, please let me know.