SolFarm partners with non-profits to train and employ individuals from economically marginalized communities
The renewable energy sector, and solar energy specifically, is not known for diversity in the workplace. SEIA, Solar Energy Industries Association, tracks diversity by gender and race. SEIA’s 2019 report (linked here: https://www.thesolarfoundation.org/diversity/) provides great insight into not only current figures but also growth and progress. The report shows that the solar industry is less diverse than the national average but is progressing at an accelerated rate.
The topic of diversity in the workplace is always on our minds here at SolFarm Solar Co.. Mike Diethelm, owner and president of SolFarm, has personally taken steps in learning how to be a community leader in this space by attending the Building Bridges program. Building Bridges’ mission is to dismantle racism by fostering relationships that respect diversity, seek understanding, and encourage action.
For our latest effort to diversify our workforce, SolFarm has partnered with Green Opportunities (GO) in Asheville, NC. GO offers training and job placement for those in marginalized communities for many different trades. For our part of the June 2021 training program, SolFarm hosted three GO trainees. At the end of the program we were able to offer full-time employment to two of the trainees. This program has proven to be a great resource for us as a company and we are excited to see what the future holds for this partnership.
We would like to encourage those seeking employment, and those seeking employees, to reach out to GO to see how you may be able to get involved.
For additional details about our experience with this program please see our press release:
It really is a “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” type of scenario. Do we jump in with both feet and flood the streets with EV’s or do we wait on the infrastructure expansion of hundreds of thousands of chargers to be installed?
Those of us that are in the market for our first electric vehicle often worry about range and charging options. We understand that the infrastructure isn’t nearly where it needs to be for longer trips. With EV sales numbers multiplying each year, we also understand that if the infrastructure doesn’t start expanding right now then it will become increasingly more difficult to find an available/open charging station. Recent projected numbers from leading automobile manufacturers show literally hundreds of new EV models hitting the market in the next 3-4 years.
Like a lot of things in the energy sector, solar energy not excluded, favorable policy will be necessary to make progress for EV infrastructure. Electric utilities, in general, see the gigantic opportunity before them to expand as the EV market grows. However, it seems many utilities are not eager to move forward with investments until the rubber hits the road. This hesitation to invest slows expansion and ultimately delays our transition towards electric vehicles. It will take effort on the consumer end to move forward. Pressure will need applied on utility commissions, political representatives, and communities.
To further complicate things, the declining fossil fuel industry is fighting with everything it has left to lobby against EV’s. The oil industry has requested additional fees for EV’s and lobbied to overturn subsidies for EV purchases, chargers, and infrastructure. Despite combustion engine vehicle bans in targeted cities throughout the world, the oil industry is still battling for a path forward. Our representation that is beholden to the oil industry will also stifle progress.
If you are interested in joining the effort to electrify our transportation systems here in the US, we encourage you to reach out to local groups already in the trenches. Many existing groups that are already out there trying to make a difference would welcome your support.
We have found that individuals with interest in EV’s and solar energy tend to be aware of climate change, and are active in reducing their carbon footprints. Many of our customers are already EV owners or soon will be. If an EV is in your future, we would love to talk to you about expanding your solar energy system or installing a new solar energy system that will cover your driving needs.
There has been a lot of buzz about solar shingles and solar roofs the last couple of years. Is this new(er) solar medium worth the hype? Most experts in the industry agree unanimously, NO.
Tesla’s famous roof tiles made their debut in 2016 where they were presented as a non-functional prop at Universal Studios. Since then, many people have gotten attached to the idea of a more aesthetically pleasing look. Unfortunately, our advice to those people is to forgo the hype and install traditional solar modules on their existing roofs for the following reasons:
- Despite misleading prototypes and mock-ups, so far there has not been a company that has successfully constructed a full-scale solar roof. Currently there are solar shingles in production, but they are not designed to replace an existing roof entirely, just a section as traditional modules would.
- Solar shingle installations are more difficult and expensive. Installers must be very meticulous in preventing roof leaks as they integrate the solar shingles with the existing roof shingles. Additional attention and materials must be used to layer water barriers between the roof sheet and the solar shingles. The added labor and level of expertise needed drives up costs significantly.
- The productivity and efficiency of solar shingles has not yet come close to traditional solar modules. On average, the thin-film solar cells from that which solar shingles are made are about 10-12% efficient. Traditional modules, made of polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon, average 17-20% efficiency.
- The market for solar shingles is very narrow. Buyers must be building a new home, need a roof replacement, or have the capital to fully replace a functional traditional shingle roof.
- Advertising of solar shingles often states that they are less expensive than replacing your shingles; but this is not entirely truthful. The fine print of this statement typically compares the cost of solar shingles to the sum of replacing your roof several times over many decades.
There is no doubt that solar panels of the future will take different forms and that the technology will change and improve. Research and development from around the globe is producing many different, promising photovoltaic technologies. But, for now, what is readily available on the market, is our installation of choice. For those worried about aesthetics, we offer all black solar panels with black racking. If you ask us, it looks great and functionality is top notch.
Call us at (828) 332-3003 or Click Here for a free quote!
Enphase Energy’s Ensemble
Enphase’s newest and eighth generation microinverter, the IQ8, debuts with a new “grid agnostic” system. Enphase has now officially stepped into the hybrid PV system arena with energy storage under the name Ensemble. With convenient features like smart phone monitoring and virtual assistant integration with Alexa, Enphase is giving homeowners easy control and understanding of their system and its performance.
Ensemble’s AC battery provides you with energy during a grid outage, and continuous solar energy production. Solar production during an outage is crucial to recharge your battery and power loads in the home when the sun is shining. Whether you have an outage lasting hours or days, Enphase’s Ensemble is capable of powering you through.
Ensemble is expected to be released mid 2020 and will be compatible with existing IQ6 and IQ7 systems. If you have an existing installation and are interested in battery backup we’d be happy to provide you a quote.
Here’s an informative video by Enphase introducing Ensemble:
What is a microinverter?
A microinverter is a small inverter that typically connects to only one solar panel. A microinverter solar energy system will have a microinverter placed under, and connected to, each individual solar panel on your roof.
Why use a microinverter?
Microinverters offer several incentives over their string inverter counterparts: Microinverters are great at reducing the impact of shading. Should you have trees or structures casting shadows over your installation area micro’s will minimize the losses. Micro’s also operate completely independent of each other. Each solar panel then has the opportunity to reach peak performance without its neighbors bringing it down. In contrast, string inverters utilize strings of several solar panels all connected in series. When a solar panel in a strings’ performance is low it has the potential to bring down its neighbors with it; reducing the output of the whole string of solar panels.
Why use anything other than a microinverter?
Microinverters are a great option for smaller systems, say less than 10kW, where shading will be an issue and, formally, when battery backup was of no interest. On larger system installations microinverters quickly become more costly to install. There are other options to minimize shading losses, such as optimizers, when utilizing a string inverter for bigger solar energy arrays.
Subsidies in the form of tax credits, rebates, and other incentives for clean energy have been a major contributing factor to the growth of solar installations in recent years. Detractors of renewable energy often use the argument that renewables cannot survive without these subsidies. What these detractors are often not aware of is the staggering amount of fossil fuel subsidies spent both nationally and internationally on the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel subsidies keep the cost of this outdated and dirty energy source affordable to the public.
Recently the International Monetary Fund released a report with some scary findings: China and the United States are the two leading players in the world, spending well over 25% of the global GDP in 2015 on oil, gas, and coal subsidies. In the United States, we spend more money subsidizing fossil fuels than on our entire military defense budget- yes, you read that correctly. We spent over ten times the funds defending outdated fossil fuels than what was approved for education.
Besides the almost unfathomable monetary amount spent, there is also a huge toll on human lives and welfare. Another recent study shows that if fossil fuels would have been fairly priced starting in 2015, carbon emissions worldwide would be reduced by almost 30% and nearly half of human lives lost to air pollution could have been saved.
As a part of the solar and renewable energy industry, we believe government subsidies should be aligned with the welfare of all people and the progression of technology, jobs, and sustainability. The International Monetary Fund determined without fossil fuel subsidies, the global net economic gains would have been more than $1.3 trillion. The findings of these reports are shocking and we hope this information may serve as a wake up call to how important it is that we make the switch to renewable energy.