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|Residential Spotlight: Off-grid Revamp |
I'm straying from our standard project spotlight in several ways in this month's feature. First, this project exemplifies the capacity of our Service Department, an incredible asset to our operations that often goes unrecognized. Beyond performing maintenance and repairs to our existing systems (as well as those installed by other companies) our service team, under the Management of Steve Werner, provides expertise for bringing existing systems into improved condition. This off-grid revamp is one that he and Service Technician Allen Lushbough worked with, increasing the system's capacity by a third. Secondly, I'm taking the opportunity to address developing battery storage technologies, in which there has been so much interest lately. Thirdly, as the customer wishes to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, this will be more about the system than the customer's story.
This off-grid solar energy system serves a hunting cabin in a remote part of South Carolina and was installed by the building contractor about 6-7 years ago. The customer contacted us a few months ago as he was never satisfied with the amount of power available in the battery bank, and the storage capacity had been declining over the years. After consulting with the owner about his needs and examining the current equipment, Steve presented a solution that involved increasing the pv array, replacing the battery bank, and moving the equipment into a new shed to protect them from the elements and increase their lifespan.
The existing solar array consisted of eight ground-mounted modules. Four SolarWorld Sunmodule Plus SW 275 Watt modules were added, increasing the output from 2.2 kW to 3.3 kW. SolarWorld modules are manufactured in America and carry a 25-year linear performance guarantee, and a 20-year product workmanship warranty. In addition, the whole array was rewired so that the existing charge controller could be used after the expansion. For storage, twelve new Rolls Surrette S-605 6 Volt flooded deep cycle batteries were specified to provide a 24V 1446 Amp-Hour battery. This should provide amply power for the cabin's electrical loads for at least 5 days of cloudy weather. The batteries carry a seven year warranty, and with regular maintenance and being housed in the new shed they should last longer than the first set. In addition to the battery bank, the shed houses the balance of system components (the inverter and charge controllers) that were relocated from simple boxes out in the yard so they will be more easily accessible as well as more protected. These improvements should serve the customer for many years, and he is pleased with the results thus far.
Battery storage with solar PV systems is a hot topic these days, thanks to a renewed interest in self-sufficiency and resiliency, as well as the publicity around the Tesla Powerwall product. Therefore, this is a good opportunity to address the developing technologies. Sundance has been designing and installing battery-based solar PV systems for more than 20 years, so we have loads of experience to help you navigate the confusing landscape of battery storage options.
Historically, lithium-ion batteries have not been used for battery- based solar PV systems due to their high cost and questions about their life-cycle longevity when cycled deeply on a daily basis.
We are now seeing a move to market Li-ion batteries for use with solar systems, but primarily for grid- connected systems rather than off-grid systems that require daily deep cycling. Sundance is a preferred installation contractor for Tesla car chargers as well as the Powerwall battery once it is readily available.
We are excited to compare the cost and performance of the Powerwall with our current battery options. Currently, we recommend deep cycle Lead Acid AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries for grid connected solar PV systems, where the battery bank is sitting on standby and not deeply cycled regularly, and for peak load shifting/shaving. We recommend Deep Cycle Flooded Lead Acid (FLA) batteries for true off-grid systems due to their longer life cycle longevity and low cost per amp hour. FLA batteries are less expensive than AGMs and can be used for grid connected systems if exercised regularly.
It remains to be seen how well the new generation of LI-ion batteries can compete with AGM and deep cycle FLA batteries on performance and cost. Until LI-ion is more widely installed in real-life solar installations, we can say only that they are winning the marketing competition. Stay posted for more updates in future newsletters.
|Energy Current: An Interview with Dave Hollister|
The other night I sat down to interview our Sundance visionary, Dave Hollister, about renewable energy, specifically about solar in North Carolina. The question I posed: “What do you think is important for us to know right now in North Carolina regarding the landscape for solar?” Dave’s response follows:
Solar is awesome. The most important thing to realize is that in North Carolina there are really two solar industries. There is the utility- scale industry which is financed and powered by very big, wealthy interests. These include the insurance industry and other powerful corporations that are looking to invest in long-term income streams, developing utility- scale projects that sell power to Duke Energy and then Duke Energy sells it back to us. So Duke becomes a middle man in the process and profits. Those types of projects have been very lucrative and they represent about 97.5% of all the solar development that has happened in North Carolina.
North Carolina is the only state that has this type of discrepancy between the two industries. North Carolina has been a very unique state in developing solar; when you hear that North Carolina is second or third in the nation for installed solar, it is almost exclusively the utility- scale industry. This has been creating havoc on the grid as most of these projects are in the eastern part of the state where land is cheaper but there is no load.
So, the industry that really benefits the people of North Carolina and truly enhances our ability to be competitive, to have long- term stability in the price of our energy, are the customer installed and locally sited systems that are owned by the people and for the people. The energy is created and used by and for the people and the energy produced can offset somebody’s electric bill. It is the difference between a dependency model and an inter-dependency model. And this second solar industry has taken a major hit with the ending of the tax credits in 2015. The little known fact is that the customer- owned solar industry which actually represents the majority of long- term stable jobs in the solar industry for North Carolina has taken a major hit, and it has not been getting the attention as everyone still thinks North Carolina is #2 or #3, but it is all these utility- scale projects. The utility- scale sector creates short- term jobs, with the number of folks employed full- time in these companies usually under a dozen. They hire temporary workers, install the systems and boom, the jobs are gone, whereas jobs in the rooftop solar industry are long- term, stable green collar jobs.
|Employee Spotlight: Michael Upchurch|
This month we are getting to know Michael Upchurch. Michael is a Field Technician for Sundance.
Michael was born in Grayson County, Virginia to parents that were both teachers. Michael has a sister and a brother, as well as 3 nieces and a nephew to celebrate. Currently living in NW Asheville, Michael is on his own, unconventional and enjoying it in his current home, but is considering moving closer to Sundance when his lease is up.
Beginning with Community College and continuing on to Radford University, Michael graduated with a BS in Media Studies, TV and Radio Broadcast Production. In 2009, Michael was living in Austin, TX and took a prep course for solar PV. From there, he gained a certificate in entry-level NABCEP and is studying for full NABCEP certification. Inspired to work in the renewable energy field by a fatigue of running sound and other audio visual production tasks for corporate people and functions, Michael began to study solar, wind and biofuels. It was really a gut feeling for him that he should make the switch to the industry of renewables and do something that felt rewarding. Solar was the field that beckoned and eight years later he is happy that he made a full career move.
Michael has a passion for the renewable industry and believes in offsetting fossil fuel consumption with renewable energy as much as possible. With Sundance since last November, Michael has a vision for the planet of environmental preservation, less human impact and world peace!
On to the list!
Three words that best describe you: Real, Honest, Friendly
Last music listened to: Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By
Reading: Life in Double Time: Confessions of an American Drummer
Favorite scent: Florida Orange Groves
Favorite pastime or hobby: Playing my drums
Favorite meal: Thai soup and green chicken curry
Last movie: Silver Streak, 1976. With Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor
Philosophy: The golden rule- do unto others …
|Community Connections: Dharma Fund|
We want to give a shout out to Dharma Fund! Dharma Fund is a funding support system which supports individual’s visions, missions, right livelihoods, and overall dharma in life (Dharma is the natural universal laws that we are compelled to observe in order to be happy and contented. Dharma is thought to be the principle guiding our life trajectory.) Dharma Fund provides a network which brings together like-minded people and communities.
Through the Dharma Fund Community, projects and project leaders have access to a wide web of support, exposure, resources, and knowledge, and an opportunity to present themselves and their projects to the world. Through a platform of online fundraising, Dharma fund users can help to spread the message of their own project while also gathering resources to execute their mission. Check them out online at dharmafund.net.
|Contact us at:|
11 Salem Hill Road
Weaverville, NC 28787
1200 Woodruff Road, Suite A3
Greenville, SC 29607
Be sure to check out our website for more information and resources~
Stay Connected with Sundance
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It's Home Show Season! If you are looking for ideas for home or garden improvements, there are three shows coming to the area to check out the latest, or find a contractor to help you with our project. And if you are really into getting prepped for the upcoming growing season, the Organic Grower's School is having their 24th Spring Conference!
Build & Remodel Expo
The Asheville Homebuilders Association brings this Expo to the WNC Ag Center in Fletcher, NC. Find more information here.
Spring Southern Home & Garden Show
The Greenville Homebuilders Association brings this Show to the TD Convention Center in Greenville, SC. Find more information here.
Organic Growers School's Spring Conference
With over 150 workshops over the weekend, this year's conference will once again feature intensive learning, sharing, and celebrating between homesteaders, farmers and business owners from throughout the region. Don't miss “Powering Your Homestead with Solar" on Saturday, presented Matthew Bennett.
WNC Home Garden & Green Living Show
March 17- 19
Peak Productions brings this Show to the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville. Find more information here.
We’ve got a great action you can take for solar in North Carolina! Duke Energy is trying to limit the growth of solar energy in NC – again. We all know that the growth of solar has been a success in North Carolina. There has been a common sense rule requiring utilities to buy power from solar developers when solar costs less than electricity from a new power plant. Duke is asking the Utilities Commission to change the rules to limit the size of eligible solar projects and the length of contracts Duke is required to provide.
The NC Utilities Commission is accepting public comments on the proposed changes that Duke Energy would like to make to the policy that has made North Carolina a leader in solar; follow this link to make a comment today. And, don’t delay, the Utilities Commission is only taking comments until February 21st. While you are commenting, please take the time to express your support specifically for residential solar and ask the Commission to bring back incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar.
In celebration of the $6.4 billion in revenue and approximately 34,294 full time jobs credited to NC's clean energy economy in 2016, The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) released this video. We're proud that they shot live footage of one of our recent solar installations for use in this production, and that the clip of Governor Roy Cooper with the solar backdrop shows our work as well (taken at SACE'S office during the campaign.)
The impressive figures highlighted in the video are drawn from the NC Sustainable Energy Association's (NCSEA) annual Clean Energy Industry Census, a report that has been hugely instrumental in demonstrating the impact of the industry in the state since the first report in 2008.
While the 2016 Census reflects that the industry is a major economic driver for the state with 31% employment growth over 2015, it acknowledges that political and regulatory uncertainty present challenges to some clean energy sectors. "Challenges face all businesses, but to continue growing, the clean energy industry will need to remain adaptable. Similarly, state clean energy policy and utility business models must also continue to adapt to shifting market and technology dynamics. Market conditions will almost certainly change in coming years but technologies that are both cost competitive and effective will still see the highest demand and continue to thrive."
Our gratitude goes to both SACE and NCSEA for their tireless work for clean energy policy so that we can do ours, rising to the challenge of continuing to bring the best technology to our customers cost-effectively.
View the video on youtube here.