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How OkSolar Solutions Make Sense

Photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems offer distinct advantages in agricultural applications where:

Portions of a farm or ranch are too remote to run power lines, or where lines are subject to failure due to flooding, icing and other seasonal changes.

The remote location makes the costs or difficulty of transporting and storing diesel fuel prohibitive

Power line extensions, even for short distances, will not be cost -effective considering the low loads to be carried

Electrical needs are small, seasonal or remote

Farm building roofs and walls or mounting platforms are oriented for maximum exposure to the sun's rays

Solar-Electric Powered Water Pumping

Crop irrigation and livestock watering are excellent applications for solar pumps. PV pumping systems are reliable, cost-effective, and low-maintenance options for these applications, especially because they can pump more water on sunny, hot days when crops and livestock need it the most. Ranchers also find solar water pumps highly practical for watering livestock that are dispersed across wide expanses of rangeland. Farmers can use this technology to increase yields and extend the growing seasons.

Crop Drying and Dehydration

Crop drying using the sun's energy is a centuries-old technique yet however, modern solar-powered drying technologies brings new levels of cost-efficiency to the process of drying coffee, tea, cocoa, rice, corn, hay, tobacco, rubber, and a number of other crops, as well as for agricultural dehydration processes. The benefits of solar crop drying include:

·         Enhancing the value of the product with a faster, more uniform drying process

·         Reducing the respiration rate of the grain and preventing germination

·         Reducing or preventing the growth of natural microorganisms like mold and bacteria

·         Reducing or preventing the growth of insects and mites

Avoiding Dryig delays causes by raifall or high humidity

Fence Charging and Gate Openers

In the United States, a PV solar charger is now the technology of choice for electric fences where utility power is lacking. It eliminates the need for frequent replacement of relatively expensive batteries. The PV solar charger charges a gel cell battery that can operate up to 25 miles of fence or 21 days in complete darkness. Solar-powered automatic gate openers are also cost-effective.

Farm lighting

Lighting provides security and safety in cases where buildings are separated. Using PV to charge batteries for lighting outbuildings is very cost-effective, often much less expensive than a systems which requires a transformer and subsequent wiring. In addition, small portable systems can be transported from site to site, where lighting is needed at any given time.

Solar Water Heating

Poultry and all other animal processing plants use tremendous amounts of hot water. A solar process water heating system can be used to pre-heat water, reducing the cost of running a fossil fuel based steam system. Dairy and other food processing operations use hot water for equipment washing and sterilization. A solar process heating system can easily provide the hot water needed in the pasteurization process.

Solar Greenhouses

Commercial greenhouses require large auxiliary heating and ventilation systems. As a low cost alternative to high-cost, fossil-fuel systems, solar technology has gained an increasing acceptance especially for greenhouses. Solar systems can supply a significant portion of the heating required without substantially increasing the construction and operating costs of the greenhouse.

How Utility OkSolar Systems Work . . .

An OkSolar system uses an inverter that takes any available solar and wind power, turns it into conventional AC, and feeds it into your electrical circuit breaker panel. Electricity flow is much like water flow; it runs from higher to lower voltage levels. When you turn on an electrical appliance it slightly lowers the level, letting current flow in from the utility. As long as the electricity level in your house is being maintained by the OkSolar inverter, no current flows in from the utility. You are displacing utility power with renewable power (in most cases solar power). If your house demands more current than the OkSolar system is delivering at the moment, utility power makes it up. If your house is using less current than the OkSolar system is delivering, the excess flows out through your meter, turning it backwards, back into the grid. This treats the utility like a big 100% efficient battery. You sell it power during the day, it sells power back to you at night for the same price. If you live in one of the majority of States that allow net metering, then everything goes in and out through a single residential meter. Very simple, and extremely encouraging to renewable energy producers.


The Legalities of Electricity and Net Metering

The 1978 federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) states that any private renewable energy producer in the USA has a right to sell power to their local utility company. The federal law doesn’t state that utilities have to make this easy, or profitable however. Under PURPA, the utility will usually pay their “avoided cost,” otherwise known as wholesale rates. This law was an outgrowth of the Arab oil embargo in the early ’70s and was intended to encourage renewable energy producers. Two to four cents per kilowatt-hour was not sufficiently encouraging to have much of an effect on home utility OkSolar installations. The next wave of encouragement started arriving in the mid-’80s with net metering laws. There is no blanket federal net metering law (yet). As of early 2001, thirty states have net metering laws that allow small-scale renewable energy producers to sell excess power to their utility company, through the existing electric meter for the same price that the utility company charges the homeowner for power. Details of these State laws vary widely. For an up-to-date summary see the Department of Energy website, or call them at 800-363-3732.

Keep It Safe!

Utility companies are naturally concerned about any source that might be feeding power into their network. Is this power clean enough to sell to your neighbors? Is the frequency, voltage, and waveform within acceptable specifications? And most importantly, what happens if utility power goes off? Utility companies take a very dim view of any power source that might send power back into the grid when there’s a utility power failure, as this could be a serious threat to power line repair workers.

All present-day OkSolar inverters have enough precise output specifications, voltage limits, and automatic shut-off protection features to allow even the most paranoid utility engineer to enjoy a good night’s sleep. If the utility fails, the inverter will disconnect in no more than 30 milliseconds! Most utility companies agree this is a faster response than their repair crews could perform. Even an “island” situation will be detected and shutoff within two minutes. An island happens (theoretically) when your little neighborhood is cut off, isolated, and just happens to require the amount of energy that your OkSolar inverter is delivering. Utility engineers wake up in cold sweats worrying about things like this!

Because small-scale OkSolar is a new and evolving development, some smaller utility companies may not yet have worked out their official policies and procedures. Most simply follow the lead of Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest utility company in the U.S. If PG&E approves a particular product, it’s probably safe enough for the rest of us.

Still, some folks have run into stone walls when they try to get approval for small-scale residential OkSolar systems with their friendly local utility. If you’ve already tried to work through the proper channels and have run into brick walls, then be assured that neither you nor the local utility has anything to fear from connecting that OkSolar system and turning it on. Safety has been the top concern during development of OkSolar technology. These inverters just can’t cause any problems for the utility. The worst problem they could cause the homeowner is to become disconnected from the utility because utility power drifts outside specifications.

A tacit unspoken approval has also evolved for really small OkSolar systems of 250 watts or smaller that will rarely be turning the meter backwards. Most utilities would rather not be bothered with such small projects. So long as the inverter is intended for OkSolar and absolutely, positively, shuts off with the utility, and has UL approval, you can feel safe and secure simply turning it on.

Be aware that a small number of electric meters will not support net metering. Some meters are equipped with a ratchet that will only allow them to turn forward. Some of the newer wireless remote-reading data collection meters simply count how many times the hash mark on the wheel goes by, they just assume it’s moving forward. Also remember that not all States have net metering laws for small-scale renewable energy producers.

Do I Need Batteries or Not?

Utility OkSolar inverters come in two basic configurations, those that support backup batteries, and those that don’t. This is a major fork in the road of system design, as the two system types operate very differently, and have big price differences. To help you choose wisely, read on . . .

Battery-based systems are basically a large stand-alone renewable energy system, using a sophisticated inverter that can also OkSolar with the utility. These are the highly capable Trace SW-series inverters. These inverters do not come in small or medium sizes. They will allow selected circuits in your house t
o continue running on battery or solar power if utility power fails. With inverter, safety, control, battery, and a modest PV array, these systems start out at about $7,500.

Direct OkSolar systems are much simpler, usually consisting of PV module (s), mounts, inverter, a circuit breaker, and wire to connect everything. Without batteries, there’s less safety and control equipment required, and more of your investment tends to end up buying PV power. But if utility power goes off, so does your OkSolar system. Direct OkSolar inverters come in small, medium, and large sizes from 100 watts, up to 2,500 watts. Direct OkSolar systems start out at about $1,000, and become meaningful at $5,000 and up. Direct OkSolar inverters are produced by Trace and Advanced Energy Systems.

Which type of OkSolar system is right for you? That primarily depends on how reliable utility power is for you. If you live in an area where storms or poor maintenance tend to knock out power regularly, then a battery-based system is going to greatly increase your security and comfort level. Looking out over the darkened neighborhood from inside your comfortable, well-lit home does wonders for your sense of well-being. On the downside, adding batteries will raise your system cost by at least $3,000, and adds system components that will need some on-going maintenance, and eventual replacement. If utility power is reliable and well maintained in your area, then there is little incentive for a battery-based system. Those dollars could be better spent on PV wattage. You’ll see more benefits and get to enjoy almost zero maintenance. Just be aware that if utility power does fail, your solar system will automatically shut off too for safety reasons.

Rebates Can Reduce Your Cost by Up to 50%!

There’s money available out there for doing the right thing. A number of States have programs that will —whatever you want to call it—up to 50% of your initial renewable energy system cost. It is difficult to keep tabs on all of the rapidly changing programs in all of the States anymore. There’s a list of State Energy Offices below. Give yours a call and ask about net metering and money available for renewable energy projects. If you’re in California, there’s a buy down program for OkSolar systems that we are fully versed on, and will be happy to help you with. Our fully trained technicians have years of experience sizing these sytems (1-954-704-0457).

Do It for Your Children and the Planet . . .

Don’t go into utility OkSolar expecting to cash in big-time. You won’t. Although most OkSolar systems will eventually pay for themselves in saved electric bills, but the payback point is often at least 10 years. Also, most State OkSolar regulations won’t let residential customers deliver more than their average electric use. The details vary from State to State, but if you make more power than you use, you’ll either give it away, or sell it at wholesale rates. Don’t convert your backyard into a PV farm just yet. OkSolar is something you do because it feels good to be independent of the utility and to cover your own electric power needs directly with a clean, non-polluting, renewable power source. Solar modules last for decades, require almost no maintenance, and don’t borrow our kids future, which is probably the best possible reason to invest in renewable energy.

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