LiDar: The Future of Home Evaluations for Solar

How Lidar Technology Can Change Your Perspective on Solar Readiness

In many regards, solar works the way one would expect: the sun shines on the solar panels, the panels produce electricity, which means your home needs to be facing the right direction (south) without anything blocking the Sun’s access. But what exactly is the “right” direction? And how much solar access is enough solar access? LiDar has helped us change the answers to these questions. So, What is LiDar?

The Past

For a long time, basic tools were needed to measuring solar readiness for a home: a tape measure to measure available roof space and obstructions, a compass to determine a home’s orientation to south, and a tilt meter to determine roof pitch. With the creation of the SolMetric SunEye, these hard measurements were combined with panoramic photographs of the sky to factor in shading from trees for a complete solar analysis.  

However, these methods had their drawbacks, requiring evaluators to climb on the roof and capture data from all possible areas. This means steep, tall,  dormered and generally human-unfriendly roofs would have to settle for the site evaluator’s best estimate, often prefaced with” you could go solar but…”

Until LiDAR.

The Present: LiDAR

LiDar stands for Light Detection and Ranging Technology, and is, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. In layman’s terms, LiDAR uses a series of lasers and scanners to obtain measurements by shining or “pulsing” infrared beams at an object. The scanners and lasers then measure the reflection of light from the targeted object, and calculates the distance between the object and point of reflection or the “range”. This allows for increased measurement accuracy in areas where it is not feasible or practical to measure by hand.

lidar

 

LiDAR has been used to obtain measurements since the 1960’s.  Commercial aviation has allowed for the use of LiDAR in air crafts to combine light measurements with terrain maps to create accurate topographical maps with laser precision (pun intended).  In 2013, NASA (a major user of LiDAR) combined their existing LiDAR technology with thermal imaging to create a system that would not only accurately measure land surfaces, but would also simultaneously measure the levels of heat they are exposed to.

Now I know what you’re thinking- “What does all of this have to do with solar?” Well, the sun shines on rooftops, heating as it illuminates. So, by measuring the distribution of heat on a roof it is possible to accurately measure the given amount of sun exposure that roof has. In this way, each area where the sun hits the roof can be mapped and measured.  This is head and shoulders above the Solmetric SunEye, which is limited to capturing sun exposure to only where the pictures are taken. LiDAR measurements are so accurate, in fact, that shade reports that include them (such as Aurora’s shading analysis) is accepted by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) as a valid proof of a home’s solar access when providing funding.

Your Home

The LiDar allows solar evaluators to measure the hard to reach spots on a roof as well. It accurately measures the amount and effect of shade created by obstructions such as trees and chimneys. For many homes, the effect of a tree’s shadow on the far, east side of a southeast facing roof is too hard to judge with the naked eye.  Dormers, while they can be shade causing, deepening on their placement, there still might be enough sunlight to suit the electricity needs of a home owner. And while you can’t necessarily change the orientation of an east-west facing house, you’d be surprised the amount of sunlight a home facing due east receives!

The Future: Solar For Your Home

Though the seasons change seemingly unexpectedly in the northeast, one thing is for sure; they will change and change again. Likewise solar still works the way you expect it: the solar panels collect sunlight, the sunlight collected is converted to electricity, and the created electricity can help offset your electric utility needs.   With that said, certain homes may still be better suited for solar than others due to factors they can’t change. However, just as every New Englander knows to carry an umbrella even when the sun is out, even though it seems “obvious” that your home may have some challenges for solar, LiDAR has helped reveal the potential of otherwise disqualified homes. It never hurts to take a second look.

 

References

  1. “What is Lidar” – US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2012, October 01). What is LIDAR. Retrieved September 08, 2017, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/lidar.html

 

 

 

Article Written By Lumyr D. – Installation Team – Rayah Solar

 

 

Bookmark and Share

Consumption Monitoring: An Industry Game Changer

“What I really like about consumption monitoring is that I can check my SunPower portal on my phone and see when my electric dryer is being used! I have full control of my electricity. The power is in the palm of my hands!”

- Brad Stoler; SunPower customer & Rayah Solar Employee.

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 12.49.37 PMThe SunPower PVS-5 monitoring system allows you to monitor your solar production, energy consumption, and net difference. This feature sets SunPower apart from the competition. All SunPower Equinox solar systems installed by Rayah Solar, come standard with consumption monitoring.  This tiny device, hidden and integrated into your solar system, allows you to monitor your home power usage every minute of every day.  That means you will know both how much power your home is consuming and how much power your SunPower Equinox System is producing; day to day, month to month for the lifetime of your solar system. In this article, I will discuss what consumption monitoring is, how it works, and it’s purpose.

Solar panel monitoring is a common feature with almost all solar systems. This helps keep track of how much power your solar system is producing.  In recent years, this is done in a way that is visually appealing and easy to understand, with detailed charts and graphs. However, this has traditionally been limited to production monitoring only.  If you wanted to know whether you produced more solar power than you used that month, you had to wait until your electric bill came in and then compare it to your production monitoring. If you had a negative bill, then you overproduced that month. If you had a positive bill, then you know you produced less solar power than you used.  And if you really wanted to get precise, you could subtract the kWh on your electric bill from your solar production to see how much power you actually used.  Ugh! That’s a lot of work.

Consumption monitoring has changed the landscape of solar monitoring and moved us one step closer to Smart Homes.  Think of a car. It’s good to have a car to take you places, but imagine that car without an essential feature, the fuel gauge.  Without a fuel gauge, you would not know how close you were to empty. Many drivers would probably spend most of their time driving in fear – “oh no, I might run out of gas!”

Consumption monitoring is like that fuel gauge. It gives you true insight into what is happening with your home.  In a nutshell, here’s how it works: during your solar installation, we install a pair of consumption Current Transformers  (CT) inside of your main service panel (these are tiny devices that you can’t see from the outside).  This allows SunPower to connect to your electrical supply to monitor what’s being used every time your AC kicks on or when you are cooking on your electric stove, doing a load with your electric dryer, plug in your EV car, or even flip a light switch at night.

Are you producing more or less power than you are using?  That’s the bottom line of dollars and cents for most homeowners  We call that the net difference. Essentially, how many kWh did you deposit into your solar electric bank account – in other words, how much money are you saving.  The below screenshot captures one of our customer’s solar savings information at a glance.  This customer can clearly see a lifetime overproduction of 138% or 5,473 kWh deposited into the grid. That’s a saving of $2,490!  This dynamic information would not be available with typical solar monitoring.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 2.34.05 PMBest of all,  SunPower has managed to put all this useful information in a user-friendly, easy to navigate format that is accessible via your phone, tablet or computer. You can view your solar production and household power consumption in real time. You can view production and consumption down to the minute, or by day, week, month, year and even the lifetime of your solar system. For each segment, it gives you a simple display saying how much power you used during that time versus your solar production. It tells you if you were net positive or negative, and the exact dollar amount.

  It’s really easy to view your system on a minute to minute basis using our monitoring system. I like to turn it into a game and watch the green line of production move above the blue line of consumption!”          

- Isaac Opalinsky SunPower Corp employee and customer.

Here is an example of what a solar energy graph in SunPower’s monitoring portal looks like with consumption and production monitoring (please refer to the image on the leftScreen Shot 2017-08-30 at 7.31.51 PM). The green bars (solar generated) on the graph shows how much energy this system is producing and the blue bars (household use) display how much energy this home is using each day.  Notice the blue spike in the morning? That must be when this customer woke up and was getting ready for the day. As a certified SunPower dealer, we install fully integrated solar systems that give our customers the total package:  a beautifully designed system with top-rated panels and the ability to monitor system production and home energy consumption on all mobile and computer platforms.

Give us a call today at (617) 564-3159 or visit us on the web at www.rayahsolar.com/free-quote.html to start your process with going solar.

 

 

Article Written By Doretta J. – Project Management – Rayah Solar

Bookmark and Share

Is It Time To Backup? A Brief Talk on Battery Backups and Energy Storage

 

sonnenbatterieSonnen Batterie

Recently, I attended the Smart Energy America Conference in Boston. My goal was to get a better understanding of the prospects of battery backup systems, especially in conjunction with solar systems. As many know, battery backup and energy storage has been a hot topic in recent years. I’ve been heavily involved in the industry for years, being certified as an Outback and Sonnen designer and installer, and I have traveled abroad performing energy storage installations.

If you had called Rayah Solar a year ago inquiring about a battery backup, the conversation probably went something like this: “Battery backup is great, and I love it, but the truth is, you will spend about twice as much on a battery backup system as you would a natural gas or diesel backup generator.” So has that changed? Has my expert opinion changed? Perhaps, and I will explain.

Read More…

Bookmark and Share

SRECs in Real Life – A Case Study

Welcome to the second installment of everything you need to know about SRECs. Last week we discussed the basics of SRECs – what they are, how you get them, and how they can affect your return on investment and years to pay off your solar system. If you didn’t have a chance to catch that blog click here.

We think that it may be easier to understand how SRECs contribute to your solar system by using some real numbers. So this week, we’ll be looking at an actual Rayah Solar customer, and how SRECs changed their bottom line.

Read More…

Bookmark and Share

SRECs 101 – All You Need To Know

Bob: “Hey. What’s happening?”

Chris: “You know. Same ol’, same ol’.  Kids just finished up with school, busy with work. And oh yeah, we own a power plant now.”

Bob: “A power plant?”

Chris: “Yeah, we just put solar panels on our house.”

Bob: “So how does that work, you get paid for any excess solar you don’t use?”

Chris: “Nope, we get paid for all the power we produce?”

Bob: “So does the electric company pay you for the extra power.”

Chris: “No, it doesn’t work like that.  You see, the State of Massachusetts doesn’t have enough power in the grid, so for every kWh of power our solar panels produce, we get paid. Not just the extra. Think of it like this, whether we use all the power or send it all back into the grid, we are still offsetting the burden of the utility company by producing that power. Does that make sense?

Read More…

Bookmark and Share

Here Comes The Light – Solar on an International Front

Rayah Bringing the Light to Men

Solar has been an increasing trend for countries such as Germany and the United States, bolstering their economy and creating jobs with the implementation of solar. However, as many of us probably know, solar is still an unknown and untapped resource in countries throughout the world. In many locations financing, electrical infrastructure and even corruption play large roles in keeping countries and communities from taking advantage of the benefits of solar. Despite all of this, with one home and building at a time, solar is slowly making its way across the globe, helping those less fortunate to have a more consistent means of electricity; many times creating a thriving economy – where there had only been chaos and theft – against all odds.

For instance, last summer, Rayah Solar’s non-profit, Rayah.org, set out to Nigeria to install solar on a local church. We were able to sit down with one of the installers for the project to talk about his experience bringing light to men in a foreign country.

Read More…

Bookmark and Share

Solar Production – Recently disMAYed

Man… Doesn’t it seem like we have gotten a lot of rain lately?  In fact, from a solar production point of view, it feels like the month of May was a wash – literally!  That is how we felt at Rayah Solar, so we did what we do, we ran an analysis of the past and current solar production.  We compiled the production outputs from our customers and compared the following factors over the last four years; 1) Yearly Outputs, 2) Q1 Outputs, 3) Q2 Outputs, and 4) Month of May Outputs.

Research Overview

Please note, we choose to only use data since 2014 since any prior data did not include panel level monitoring. Yes, we have been using panel level monitoring since 2014!  We were one of the first to do so. Solar systems without panel level data were not chosen because there were too many potential variables. Also, we excluded systems that had inconsistent monitoring data (i.e. internet connection issues, etc).

Read More…

Bookmark and Share

Rayah’s Leading Panel

Looking for the right panel is never easy unless you’ve done your research. Not sure where to start? Here are a few key points you should look out for when searching for the right solar panel.

Many solar companies do not see the value in searching for the right panel and believe that panel and brand do not matter. But the truth is, every part of a solar system contributes to how well it works for you. Rayah is backed by SunPower products that produce incomparable results. SunPower is leading the charge with innovative ideas for the solar industry and is light speeds ahead of any other solar manufacturer! So does the panel matter? Is the type of inverter that big of a deal? Is the name backing your system really that important? Read how SunPower stacks up against the competition below, and you be the judge.

Read More…

Bookmark and Share

Redefining Qualified

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 2.08.33 PMsunpower equinox1

As an Inside Sales member, most of my day is spent talking to customers interested in solar, checking out their home’s solar potential, and setting them up to speak to an expert about the benefits and perks of solar for their unique situation.

When looking at a home to find out if solar is a good fit there are three main things our designers assess: the amount of shading (from trees or other obstructions) around the house that will affect the roofs that we want to put solar on, how much space is available on the roof for the panels, and what direction the house faces.

Now, I know solar isn’t for everyone, and historically only one in five homes are qualified to go solar. Either there’s too much shading for the system to get adequate sun, the available roof space is limited, or the house is simply facing the wrong way. However, each time I have to tell a customer that their house doesn’t qualify my heart breaks a little. If I had my way solar would cover the earth, every rooftop, every open field. And SunPower has brought the solar industry a few steps closer to that dream becoming a reality.

So what did SunPower do to open up the doors of solar to those who’d previously been locked out? Check it out…

Shading

Shading is quite possibly one of the largest factors that disqualify a home for solar. Simply, if the sun can’t get to the roof (and therefore the panels) the one thing that is absolutely necessary for the solar panels to do their job is taken away. SunPower answered this challenge by inventing a more efficient solar cell. Though this may sound simple, SunPower has been the only company to figure out how to do it (they have the patents to prove it). The SunPower Maxeon cell captures low and dim light in addition to bright sunshine, converting it all into power, making shading less of an issue.

Also, the SunPower Equinox system includes the SunPower solar panel with an inverter built into the back of each module. Each micro-inverter turns each panel into its own solar system functioning almost independent of the panel next to it. This means that if one panel is shaded only that panel is affected, leaving the rest of the system to function at its best. This is quite different from other inverter systems who function much like old Christmas lights; one light breaks and the whole string goes down.

Visit our website to learn more about SunPower: http://rayahsolar.com/sunpower/

Roof Space

In New England, the next biggest concern when considering solar is available roof space to fit the panels. You need enough space on your roof to install a system to fit your needs.

As one of the oldest areas in America, our architecture many times reflects our history, with old Victorian towers and turrets, asymmetrical roof design, and mansard structures. Plus the need for extra space typically translates to shed and gabled dormers. All these different features, while many times beautiful, mean less space for panels.

SunPower’s answer to this was once again their more efficient panel technology. A more efficient panel means you need fewer panels to get the production you are looking for.

Azimuth

Azimuth is the direction your roof faces in relationship to North on a compass. Because we live in the Northern Hemisphere the best roof surfaces for solar face south. Traditionally, the further you move from true south the less production you could expect to receive from your panels.

As SunPower has continually worked to improve their efficiency of their solar systems they have worked to make use of every ray of sun that the panels come in contact with. Because of this, the panels recognize sunlight and turn on to begin producing power earlier in the morning and continue to produce later into the evening. For a roof facing more east-west than south, this is very good news. Now sunlight that would have been lost as the panels waited for the required threshold of light to turn on, is captured and used by the panels.

As you can see SunPower has completely redefined “qualified” when it comes to a home’s potential for solar. If you’ve ever considered solar but thought it wouldn’t work for you or if you looked into it but had a company (even us) tell you it was impossible, NOW IS THE TIME TO TAKE ANOTHER LOOK! Don’t count yourself out. Give us a call today and let our experts find a way to make solar work for you! (617) 564-3159

 

Article Written By Selah S. – Inside Sales, Rayah Solar

Bookmark and Share

Mass Solar Loan: A New Way for Homeowners to Save

MSL

In 2015, designs were put in place for a $30 million residential solar loan program. Built to complement the nation’s leading solar market in Massachusetts, the Mass Solar Loan (MSL) program was born. This program was launched by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) as an initiative for Massachusetts residents interested in directly owning their solar electric projects. By the end of 2015, the Mass Solar Loan program had begun.

Designed to make it easier for homeowners to finance solar photovoltaic projects for their homes, the MSL program works with different banks and credit unions to expand borrowing options through lower interest rate loans. In addition, it encourages loans for homeowners with lower income or lower credit scores. The lower interest rates offered by the banks is made possible through a process called the Interest Rate Buy Down (IRBD), in which the MassCEC pays a percentage of the interest rate of the loan (they currently pay off 1.5% of the interest – previously it was 3%).

This program allows homeowners to not only purchase a solar system and save money on their electric bill (yes, we all know that by now), but homeowners also have the chance to be eligible for an additional rebate through the program (the Income Based Rebate) as well as receiving the other added benefits of being a solar owner such as receiving Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) for ten years.

Read More…

Bookmark and Share
« Older Posts