Friday Field Notes 022219

Solar Power Portal reported on a fire caused by an electrical fault in a solar PV system. Solar cynics love such stories, claiming they’re proof solar power is dangerous. First of all: False. Solar, in and of itself, does not pose a threat. As a matter of fact, according to a report published in 2017, the risk of a PV system causing a fire is 1 in 80,000. Here in Idaho, the Fire Department helps set installation rules, including rapid shutdown and setbacks. In addition, you can take steps to help ensure the safety of your system. For one, hire a company that is bonded and insured. The article referenced above also suggests hiring an installer accredited under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. In the United States, that’s equal to the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Not a bad idea. However, be advised: you can receive your NABCEP certification without having your journeyman’s license. So for added peace of mind, we recommend hiring a solar installer who’s also a journeyman/master electrician.

Now, for other solar news of the week . . .

Solar and wind companies are working to ensure they are well represented when it comes to policy changes. Specifically, they want a say in the decisions of grid operators as they relate to market structures, and the rulings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). (PV Magazine) Seems fair.

In the New Mexico legislature, there’s a bill pending that would provide $500,000 in funding for San Juan College to become a Center of Excellence for renewable energy training. San Juan College already has a new system that simulates solar and wind generation to help train students. And Qinqin Schoser, an instructor in the School of Energy, says many of the classes she teaches can also prepare students for careers in renewable energy. “We don’t call ourselves renewable energy, but our skill sets definitely fit the need.” (Clean Technica)

Startup Insolight has developed solar panels that boast a 29 percent yield–that’s nearly twice as much as those currently on the market. Their secret: Insolight brings space technology down to Earth by relying on a patented optical system that concentrates sunlight on a type of miniature photovoltaic cell normally used in satellites (TechXplore). Interesting for sure, but I must admit: I’m not really loving the look.

Then there’s China . . . China wants to build a solar farm in space. That’s right. China intends to launch a specialized solar station into Earth’s orbit; it will collect solar power 24-hours a day, beam it down to receiving stations on Earth, then feed it into the grid. They intend to test the concept between 2021 and 2025 (New York Post). Oh, the intrigue!

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are pretty awesome. Sure, for some, driving the likes of a Tesla Model X is pure status symbol. But for others, driving an electric car makes them more mindful of the energy they use. According to CleanTechnica‘s latest EV driver report, at least 13 percent of those who drive an electric car also have a solar PV system; and at least 24 percent indicate that driving an electric car makes them conserve more energy at home.

Time has an interesting way of changing things. For example, there was a day when solar power was a means to distance oneself from society, to break free from the grid and live a quiet existence away from the prying eyes of the masses. Now it seems it could be used for quite the opposite. You see, Seattle-based startup Xnor unveiled a prototype AI camera that is 100 percent solar powered. Prototype being the key word here–there are still kinks to work out. Still, it’s on its way. In the words of James Vincent (author of This Wireless AI Camera Runs Entirely on Solar Power, published on The Verge): “Are we comfortable with a world full of AI eyes that are always watching? it’s a problem we’re already grappling with in the context of smart CCTV, and as Xnor’s work shows, the technology is only going to get smaller and more unobtrusive.” Yikes. Yeah, I don’t know. Suddenly, the humble beginnings of solar power aren’t looking so bad.


Now, for our disclaimer: Friday Field Notes is a weekly post about the goings on in (and possibly around) the field of solar. We simply link to news articles from the week to help you stay in the loop. While we try to stick with reputable sources, we cannot attest to the accuracy of each and every piece. Furthermore, the link and subsequent views and commentary are purely the opinions of the writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the company, nor should they be considered professional opinion, backing, and/or advice.