Watt Does It use

The go-to blog to save energy, save money, help the earth.

Month: March 2015

The Future of Solar: high sodium solar thermal technology

While at the Solar Power Finance and Investment Summit, I got to sit down and chat with Hank Price, CTO from Abengoa Solar, about solar thermal. Solar Thermal Electric (STE) uses concentrated solar energy to generate high temperature thermal energy (1050°F) that can either be stored for later use or used to generate electricity in a conventional type power plant. A key aspect of solar thermal is storing the energy for when the sun isn’t shining or during peak hours when generation can’t meet the demand.

Abengoa Solar ThermalAbengoa leverages molten salt, also known as Solar Salt, which is a mix of sodium nitrate (40%) and potassium nitrate (60%). It has a very high melting point and retains heat well. This is used as their primary storage medium. Hank explained that this is a very efficient way to store energy, and it can be stored for multiple days. Abengoa focuses on large scale deployments in the form of power plants, like one down in Chile that is designed to operate at 100 MegaWatts, 24 hours per day.

While this application is a great technology for energy generation and storage, it isn’t as cost effective as photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, for residential deployments. This may change over time, but PV solar panels have a higher demand and production, which keeps the cost down.

As far as the future of solar goes, Hank stressed that we need to keep our focus on the bigger goal at hand, which is to reduce the Carbon output generated from Electricity Plants. Leveraging a technology, like Solar Thermal, will offer an alternative source of energy that has the ability to scale and meet demands even when the sun isn’t shining. Deploying STE requires about 3-5 years to finish a project that can be leveraged by utilities.

Look Up Power Consumption of Lightbulbs & Light Fixtures

Lighting and lightbulb power consumption

We just deployed the Lighting category on WattDoesItUse and now have over 5,000 lightbulb or lighting based products including their power consumption. It is like having over 5,000 great ideas pop up at once 🙂

Check out the new Lighting section and make sure you create an account to make it easy to aggregate the products that you own.

Industry Feedback: Solar Investment Tax Credit

I attended the Solar Power Finance and Investment Summit this past week. The most common theme of the summit was the ITC expiration.

What is ITC?

ITC stands for Investment Tax Credit. In this instance, it is a 30% tax credit for residential and commercial solar systems. The ITC started in 2006 and has been extended a couple of times, but is currently set to expire Dec 31, 2016. When it expires, the tax credit will drop to 10%.  Learn more about the ITC.

Why was it discussed at the Summit?

The ITC has helped facilitate a lot of growth within the solar industry, and many smaller solar installers depend on this credit to stay in business. The removal of this credit could cause a major loss of jobs and growth in the solar industry. Both are huge detriments to the economy and the planned deprecation of carbon output based energy creation (Coal).

What was the feedback from the Summit?

I sat in on many panels and talked individually with business owners, financiers, and lawyers about their thoughts on the expiration of the ITC. I got mixed feedback including the following:

  • The ITC will be extended, so there is nothing to worry about.
  • The ITC has made it easier for many companies to start solar, but not all are keeping the industry’s best interest in mind. The expiration of the ITC would act as a cleanse, and only the strong would survive.
  • The expiration of the ITC will require companies and their backers to come up with more creative financial models that are still profitable and enticing to their customers.
  • The expiration of the ITC can be leveraged as a carrot to close more business now. This will create a large backlog to address immediate business needs while a transition plan is figured out.

Current solutions for the possible expiration?

Companies aren’t waiting for the worst case scenario to happen. A good example of this is SolarCity’s recent MyPower financing that lets the consumer file for the ITC, but includes a balloon payment in the 2nd year, after solar install, which is equivalent to the ITC.

How does it impact you?

If you want to take advantage of the ITC, then now would be a good time to do so. There are a lot of factors to consider, which I’ll be adding in upcoming blog posts. In the interim, if you are considering installing solar and you want a Free and Unbiased opinion of the approach you should take, feel free to contact us, and we’ll provide insight for your specific situation.

Additional thoughts from the Summit

There was a lot of great information that I picked up at the Summit, which I’ll be adding in upcoming blog posts. The topics will range from residential solar to large power plant size deployments. Make sure you Follow or Like us to be alerted of new posts.

Look Up Power Consumption of New Computers

This week we’ve added over 1100 computers, and their power consumption information, to WattDoesItUse. Included in this batch are the power consumption numbers for Arduino and Raspberry Pi. As always, if you can’t find the power consumption for a device, please fill out our Request Device Watt Usage form and we’ll find it for you.

Wattvision: your must-have energy consumption app

Real time energy consumption data delivered to your smart phone sounds too good to be true, right? Well that is exactly what you get with Wattvision. I got to chat with Savraj Singh, founder of Wattvision, about the inspiration around his company and features of the service. Wattvision energy consumption monitoring

Wattvision provides a device that you attach to your electricity meter, which then gathers your energy consumption data in real time and displays it for you through their site or through a smartphone. Thousands of people leverage Wattvision to monitor not only their household energy consumption, but also to monitor solar panel performance.

If you already have a smart meter, or an add on like Rainforest, then you can send that data directly to Wattvision for more robust analysis and better accessibility to the data. Wattvision also ties into home automation systems like SmartThings so that you can turn off devices from your smartphone and immediately see the impact on your energy consumption.

As Savraj highlighted, “You can’t improve something without measuring it.” You can start measuring and improving your energy consumption by purchasing WattVision on Amazon or on their site.


Look Up Refrigerator Power Consumption

We’ve released a new category and added over 900 products to it: Refrigerators. Check them out and make sure you create an account so that you can add the devices you own and see their power consumption. 

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