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Nuclear power plants are the “thirstiest” of them all

It is not often thought about that all modern techniques for energy generation consume a vast quantity of water, and some consume a great deal more than others. Although each technique is very different in principle, they all consume water in some fashion. Cambridge, Massachusetts research consultants, Synapse Energy Economics, released a report entitled “The Hidden Costs of Electricity Generation” that outlined the water impacts of all the different energy generation outlets including coal, natural gas, nuclear, biomass, wind and solar.

Wind energy consumes anywhere from 45 to 85 gallons of water for every megawatt hour of electricity that is produced by a wind turbine. This figure includes the water that is used for manufacturing, transporting and constructing the turbine and wind farm.

Solar photovoltaic energy production doesn’t necessarily require water, except when it comes time to clean the panels. After a clean solar installation, the sun is the only major resource that is being utilized.

Coal, uranium, gas, and biomass based power plants use these fuels to create enough heat to produce steam, which is then used to spin an electricity generating turbine. These types of plants – known as thermal plants – require a large amount water for cooling steam. According to the results produce by Synapse, natural gas power plants consumed 50 to 180 gallons of water per megawatt hour, coal and biomass plants consume 300 to 480 gallons, and nuclear plants consume up to 720 gallons just to cool steam. The numbers see a steady increase when life cycle costs are accounted for.

For example, growing enough biomass to produce a megawatt hour of energy can consume up to 100,000 gallons of water. Coal mining products pollution that dramatically contaminate the earth’s water supply. Building and maintaining a nuclear plant can exceed up to 6,900 gallons of water consumption per megawatt hour.

The fact that nuclear power plants can consume up to 90 times more water than green sources such as wind and solar energy signals the importance of renewable energy for the future.

Source: The Star

Ontario’s electricity system thrives

The temperatures across the province of Ontario this summer have been at an all-time high in many locations. During this time period, Ontario’s electricity system continually meets demand and keeps homes and businesses powered across the province.

July saw the highest monthly summer demand of electricity since August 2007. The peak daily demand reached as high as 24,600 megawatts. The installation of many clean energy systems onto Ontario’s power grid have helped the province meet its electricity demand on its way to phasing out coal-based generation by 2014.

The province has made a conscious effort to utilize clean energy. Since 2003, Ontario has installed over 10,000 megawatts of clean energy from wind, solar and bio-energy sources, which generates enough power to accommodate more than 2 million homes during these peak summer months.

Ontario’s Premier, Dalton McGuinty, has made strengthening Ontario’s electricity structure an important part of his government’s plan to build a clean and reliable energy system. Ontario has been at the forefront of renewable energy, and will be a mainstay for years to come.

Source: Government of Ontario

A comparison of Central Inverters and Microinverters

One of the most essential pieces in a photovoltaic solar array is the solar inverter. Its purpose is to convert the direct current output of the solar array into an alternating current that can be tied to the electrical grid or used by external devices in off-grid situations. In the past, photovoltaic systems generally used central (string) inverters which contain several solar arrays that are wired in series, which generates a photovoltaic string. These strings are connected in parallel to an inverter which is tied into the grid. On the contrary, a solar microinverter converts direct current to alternating current on a panel-by-panel basis. Both central inverters and microinverters have advantages and disadvantages: each has an importance that varies for different types photovoltaic installations.

Central Inverters

Central inverters, or string inverters, have been around for quite a long time. They have been proven to efficiently convert DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current), and thus remain to be the most popular option in photovoltaic systems.

Central inverters are the less expensive option of the two, and contain fewer moving parts. For large-scale systems (especially systems greater than 100kW in size), central inverters can reduce the per-watt cost of power conversion up to 90%. For smaller systems, the operating and maintenance costs remain much lower than the cost of microinverters.

The largest issue associated with central inverters occurs when solar panels are connected together. If a single solar module experiences a period of shade, the output of the entire system can be reduced by up to 50%. The shaded panels act as a “weakest link”. The overall system performance is affected greatly because of that weak panel’s output. Another important drawback of central inverters is that they can be extremely dangerous, especially for workers performing routine maintenance. Each inverter carries 700-1600 volts, and continues to collect energy even when completely shut off.

Microinverters

Microinverters are a fairly new technology, having only been produced since the 1990’s. They were designed to resolve some of the issues associated with typical central inverters. The biggest advantage is that each panel has its own inverter. Because of this, when the output is reduced in a single panel, it does not have a negative effect on the output of the entire system. This improved technology creates an ideal option for solar energy consumers that may be prone to above average periods of shade.

Another great advantage of microinverters is safety. Direct current is converted to alternating current at the panel level which allows for a low individual total volt output, whereas central inverters contain a single dangerous voltage level.

Microinverters are a great improvement over central inverters in most areas except cost. Each panel in a microinverter requires its own inverter which escalates costs quite greatly.
In smaller solar panel array systems (less than 10kW), microinverters are becoming the more popular option, especially in systems designed to achieve the highest performance level from each solar panel. In these small systems, the cost of the inverters has a much less effect on the overall cost of the system. Microinverters have become the favourite among residential solar arrays, where roof space and contributors to shade (ie. trees, neighboring houses, etc.) are important factors for system performance. The decrease of cost for microinverters will lead to an increase of use in much larger solar power systems over time.

The importance of renewable energy: forward thinking for the future

The idea of renewable energy is still relatively new; let alone the implementation of it. It is often thought of as the next great technology that will one day replace mankind’s dependency on fossil fuels. Although the current problem remains to be cost, one can be optimistic to believe the cost to install renewable resources will decrease over time. A consistent dilemma continues to be focused on where country funding should be spent: should it be used to build sequestration sites to eliminate carbon dioxide or to install renewable energy systems?

It seems that in every era exists a perceived fossil fuel shortage that leads to panic and an urge to develop renewable resources. The United States alone accounts for about 50% of the world’s energy consumption, and as such requires 25,921 km² to be covered in solar photovoltaic panels to generate enough energy for a single year. This number is reduced when alternate renewable energy types are considered, such as wind or geothermal renewable energy systems. The amount of land required to power the United States could be greatly minimized by determining the location of large-scale arrays in desert regions of lesser importance ecologically. California in the United States and Ontario in Canada have been the two largest contributors of rooftop solar arrays in North America, which also use land that was already accounted for.

The process to reduce and potentially eliminate carbon dioxide involves building pipelines to transfer carbon dioxide to sequestration sites, which are extremely costly at one to two million dollars per kilometer. In addition to cost, the process also takes a great deal of energy to complete. The sequestration process is also very dangerous: if a reservoir happens to break and lead to carbon dioxide reaching the surface, it would displace oxygen.

It is merely a matter of time before fossil fuels do run out permanently. Now is the time to start thinking toward the future and implementing renewable energy resources across the globe. The combination of solar panel arrays, wind turbines, and geothermal energy systems will help the future population live on a cleaner planet.

A Realizable Renewable Energy Future (John A. Turner, 1999)
Organic-Based Photovoltaics: Toward Low-Cost Power Generation (Sean E. Shaheen, David S. Ginley, and Ghassan E. Jabbour, 2005)

Follow Solar Logix on the social networks

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Don’t forget about free solar! Click here to learn about Solar Logix new free solar program.

Solar Logix raises the bar with free solar campaign

Over the past two years, Solar Logix has grown exponentially. The company has expanded from its one location in Thunder Bay to six locations across Ontario: Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Oakville, Hamilton, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. With the intention to be Ontario’s leading provider of OPA microFIT approved solar arrays in tact, Solar Logix has continually made every effort to keep raising the bar. This time is no different.

For the very first time, Solar Logix is offering free solar arrays to qualifying rooftops in Ontario — completely installed and fully functional. This unique program affords every homeowner in Ontario the opportunity to harness solar energy without having to pay to have it installed. To begin, Solar Logix will pay the qualifying applicant a $500 sign-up bonus once their rooftop is approved and the installation is underway. Once the rooftop solar array is installed, the applicant has the potential to earn between $500 and $1200 annually for 20 years. After the 20 year term, the applicant becomes the owner of a free solar array which can be converted to off-grid use or can be renewed with the OPA if it is available.

If you would like to take advantage of this incredible offer, please click here and fill out the form on the right. If you would like more information about the program, do not hesitate to call a consultant at any of our six locations across Ontario. Our solar consultants are more than happy to help you take advantage of free solar.

Ontario solar leads the way

Ontario continues to be a leading market for solar energy in North America with its comprehensive renewable energy incentive.

In October 2009, the first ever FIT (feed-in-tariff) and microFIT (FIT installations that are under 10kW in size) solar energy programs were launched in Ontario. The program offered customers a unique way to develop clean sources of renewable energy while earning a profit in the process. The feed-in-tariff is a policy to increase the investment in renewable energy technologies by offering long-term (generally 20 year) contracts to producers of solar energy. Typically, any home or property owner in Ontario has the opportunity to benefit from solar energy and take part in the FIT and microFIT programs pending approval from the Ontario Power Authority.

The Feed-in-Tariff program has allowed Canada to build two solar farms, and has set a standard for the future of renewable energy. The solar farm in Sarnia, Ontario is one of the largest of its type in the world. The photovoltaic power plant is bigger than 80 megawatts in size and can power more than 12,000 homes. Not even a year later, the Sault Ste. Marie Solar Park became the second largest photovoltaic plant in Canada at 68 mW.

As of May, 2012, Solar Logix has been proud to have completed over 200 OPA microFIT approved solar array installations across the province of Ontario. A vast majority of these installs have been rooftop solar arrays seen on rooftops all over the province, but Solar Logix has also installed a handful of trackers and ground mount solar arrays for customers with large areas of available land.

Solar Logix has been a positive example of the growth of the solar industry. In just two years, the company has expanded from one office in Thunder Bay, Ontario to six across the province – Ottawa, Oakville, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Hamilton (Stoney Creek).

Solar Logix installations featured in Thunder Bay’s “Walleye” magazine

The April 2012 issue of Thunder Bay’s “The Walleye” magazine saw a sharp focus on solar energy, and featured several of the Solar Logix installs that were completed in Thunder Bay. The article “On the Grid: Why go solar?” featured “The Homeowner”, “The Business” and “The Church”. Solar Logix are proud to have been the solar installers for the McLean family (The Homeowners) and St. Stephen Martyr Anglican Church (The Church).

Feature #1: The McLean Family
The McLean Family were among the first participants in Thunder Bay to take advantage of Ontario’s microFIT solar program to earn a determined rate per kilowatt hour of solar energy they feed into the province’s power grid. Their Thunder Bay home has been a great revenue earner since they chose to hire Solar Logix to design and install their very own rooftop solar array.

Feature #2: St. Stephen The Martyr Anglican Church
The St. Stephen The Martyr Anglican Church in Thunder Bay was the first church building in Current River, and now is the first in its community to generate solar energy. Click here to view their daily and monthly stats and real time graphs, as well as information on the environmental benefits from the church’s wise choice.

The Walleye is an alternative arts and culture magazine in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

OPA releases their proposed rules for new microFIT program

The Ontario Power Authority has released their proposed rules for the new MicroFIT program. The new rules contain some drastic changes that will affect all applications going forward and all applications that were submited to the OPA as of September 1st, 2011. The OPA is expected to release a concrete set of rules on May 7th, 2012.

Below is an outline of some of the important changes made to the program:

1. If more than one person owns the title to the property on which the project is to be located, the OPA microFIT application MUST go into ALL names of the legal property owners. For example, it can no longer be in just a wife’s name because she may be the lower income holder. In addition, this means that the wife could not be on the application if she is not a legal property owner.

2. Individuals and farmers, as defined in the Eligible Participant Schedule, may only have one microFIT Project and may not have multiple applications active at one time. This is regardless of whether or not the project or application is in respect to separate properties.

3. The OPA will review the microFIT program annually with a cut off date of December 31st of that year. All applications will be subject to new microFIT rules and price as of January 1st of the next year.

4. The OPA is setting up an Annual Procurement Limit which means that applications that exceed this limit will not be able to move forward with their installation that year. At the end of each year (December 31st) all applications that fall outside the Annual Procurement Limit will be terminated and the application will have to be reapplied for.

Click here to read the full OPA microFIT rules booklet.

Solar Logix will be at Geraldton Trade Show

Solar Logix representatives will be at the 23rd Annual Geraldton Trade Show on April 20th and April 21st. Several of our solar professionals can be found at Booth #20 at the follow times:

Friday, April 20th – 5:00 pm to 9 pm
Saturday, April 21st – 10 am – 3 pm

In addition, Solar Logix will be doing two presentations at the following times:

Friday, April 20th – 7:00pm.
Saturday, April 21st – 10:30am

Please come and say hello and talk about the benefits of solar energy with one of the fine Solar Logix representatives!

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