When we started our solar business, Cosmic Solar, ten years ago, we were having classes educating people on how they would benefit by installing solar on their homes or businesses. Today we are trying to keep up with the demand. Everyone wants to go solar.
The solar business is experiencing phenomenal growth. There is a number of reasons for that. A few years ago we reached grid parity. That means it is actually cheaper to install a solar system and make a payment on a loan than it is to pay your electric bill. The price of solar has come down, and today there is available loans for every situation. Solar systems are hooked up to the utility companies’ grid. If you generate extra electricity it goes onto their grid; if you under-generate, you pull electricity from their grid. You can use your electricity just like you always have. The utilities charge around $10/month for this service.
As of April 1, 2018, the utility companies incorporated ‘Time of Use’ billing, and electricity is more expensive from 4pm to 9pm in the evening. We are advising homeowners and business owners to try not to use electricity between those hours. Instead of turning on your air conditioning when you get home from work or when the home starts to feel too warm in the afternoon, turn it on in the morning and then turn it off before 4 o’clock when the price goes up. The other high electric items are dishwashers, wash machines, dryers, and electric heaters in the Winter where the same rule applies. Turn them on during the day and then after 9pm. For lighting, be sure to install LED or fluorescent light bulbs.
With all the battery research, they have developed a storage battery which doesn’t take you off-grid, but it does store your extra generated electricity. Your home or business can use up those extra kilowatt hours before it pulls from the utility’s grid. This is especially useful with the new ‘Time of Use’ billing. The solar system is a great investment for homeowners, with a four or five year payback, no electric bill, and a Federal Tax Credit until 2021, but the storage batteries are still quite expensive with a ten year payback.
The storage equipment will continue to improve with research & development and hopefully the costs will come down in the same way the solar equipment has come down over the last ten years. This is very evident at the solar conferences.
In September, our company attended North America’s largest solar event, Solar Power International. The conference was at the Anaheim Convention Center with 700 booths from 27 countries. From all of the solar manufacturers, distributers, and other solar related companies, 182 were storage companies, and 65 were battery manufacturers. There were other solar projects that are also a result of new research and development. With solar, the sky is the limit, but one project took solar to the road.
It is a solar car with SunPower panels. This solar powered car was designed at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Over 60 Cal Poly students from 17 different Majors, both engineering and non engineering, have been working on this project for three years. Three students, George Luebkeman, Mechanical Engineering, and Matt Nygun and Natalia Cieply, both Aerospace engineering Majors, were there educating the public. The world record for a solar car is 56 mi/hr and the Cal Poly solar car will break that record at 65 mi/hr at Palmdale Airforce base in California. Plant 42 at Palmdale is a historic site for testing experimental aircraft. This is a hands on work with alternative energy.
This car is 100% renewable energy from the sun. It has a 2.2 kW solar capacity, with 605 SunPower solar cells, and it runs on direct current. The car has converters to regulate the voltages. SunPower solar cells are epoxied onto the carbon fiber body, and only the roll cage where the driver sits is steel. Lacey Davis is training to be the driver. The tires are heavy duty custom spoke bicycle wheels. This was a very exciting development. It just shows the feasibility of solar for the future. If anyone is interested in following this project, their website is www.provelab.com. Cosmic Solar, Inc is a San Diego County based company with offices in Valley Center and Vista, CA. https://www.cosmicsolar.com/ Cosmic Solar has been invited to the Solar Power International Convention for the last 5 years to receive an award for being one of the top 500 solar companies in America.
By Judith Shadzi, Vice President, Cosmic Solar, Inc.