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On Current and Changing Technology in Solar Power

With regularity we at Northwest Renewables are asked about state-of-the art developments in solar power, and about research teams scrambling to build more efficient and utilitarian solar technologies such as thin-film and integral solar roofing shingles.  Our residential and commercial solar work though primarily focuses on monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels as these are the dominate products available in the North American market.

Crystalline silicon is the base material for both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar power panels.  Both products start as a silicon crystal ‘seed’ which is placed within a vat of molten silicon.  From there ‘mono’ crystalline is slowly removed from the vat, and ‘poly’ crystalline is simply allowed to cool.

Previously thought to be inferior, polycrystalline cells have become the dominant technology in the marketplace due to a less costly manufacturing process.  While slightly less space efficient than monocrystalline, on large solar power projects without space constraints polycrystalline panels certainly deserve consideration during a solar design.  These larger projects can generally afford the expense of additional panels to equal solar production and do so with considerably less cost.

Presently in Washington State where much of Northwest Renewables work is done, residential solar power installations are largely utilizing made-in-Washington monocrystalline panels and capitalizing on Washington state’s solar production incentives.  In coming years as these state incentives decrease and polycrystalline continues to improve, we may begin to move some of our residential installations over to poly.

Lastly, as the state-of-the art continues to improve we at Northwest Renewables remain committed to thoughtfully analyzing each project’s unique criteria, and NWR will adopt such technological developments when the time is right.

– Gavin Tenold

Design for Optimal Indoor Air Quality

Clean air is a primary metabolic need for humans, yet Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is an overlooked part of our indoor built environment.  A recent study performed at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health sheds light on the enormous affect IAQ has on our health and productivity.  Given that 90% of our time is spent indoors, it is time to prioritize IAQ in your home and commercial property.

The Harvard T.H Chan COGfx Study demonstrated that improved Indoor Air Quality doubled the cognitive functioning of building occupants.  The performance of study participants averaged 101 percent higher in buildings with enhanced ventilation compared to those in conventional buildings. Crisis response, information usage and strategy were the categories with the largest improvements in cognitive function.  In dollars and cents, the team demonstrated that on a commercial property this works out to an investment of between $1 to $40 per person per year yielding $6,500 in improved productivity per person per year.

Ask yourself: “Would I want my employees or my family to respond to crises in a more effective way?”  According to the COGfx study, crisis response scores are 131 percent higher in buildings with high Indoor Air Quality.

Ask yourself: “Is utilizing information important to my workplace and family?”  According to the COGfx study information usage scores are 299 percent higher than in buildings with high Indoor Air Quality.

And ask yourself: “Is it important to have my employees and family thinking strategically?”  COGfx scores on simply strategy tests were 288 percent higher in buildings with high Indoor Air Quality.

Northwest Renewables offers two primary turnkey solutions, Energy Recovery Ventilators and ductless minisplits, for creating and maintaining optimal Indoor Air Quality in a new-construction or retrofit situation.  Each system offers the occupant the ability to easily clean their ventilation system without the need for a service call, and more importantly each system minimizes or eliminates dust, allergen and VOC trapping duct-work.

In the end the COGfx study is yet another story of false dilemmas, whereby our society’s focus on project and operating cost leads to a code-defined “acceptable indoor air quality.”  This acceptable level has in-fact been hamstringing our potential, and is far from desirable.  Let’s begin designing for our potential.  That potential requires Optimal Indoor Air Quality.

–Gavin Tenold

New Solar Bill Expands Opportunity for Eastern Washington

Since 2005, Washington State has offered some form of solar incentives to customers. Net-Metering combined with the state production incentives made solar a great investment, but only for some.

Inland Power and Light, a major Eastern Washington utility, had to put a moratorium on their payouts to solar customers because, as the law was written, they could only pay incentives equal to the amount agreed upon in the legislation. Once they met their cap they were no longer eligible to pay their customers the full incentive rate, leaving eager homeowners without the same opportunity as other regional utility customers.

In July of 2017, new solar legislation changed that. Now, interested customers with Inland Power and Light, and other regional utilities, are eligible once again to take advantage of state solar incentives. In a truly bi-partisan bill, several concessions were made by both Republicans and Democrats in order to get the bill passed in Olympia. Some of the changes include the removal of sales-tax exemption for all solar installations as well as the extension of the program for eight years, instead of it sun-setting in 2020. Solar incentive payments are not as high but are being offered for a longer period, solidifying the solar industry here in Washington for the foreseeable future.

Much of Eastern Washington is made up of rural small towns and rolling hills full of sunlight. Harnessing the power of the sun has never been a better investment. Not only can customers support the local “Made In Washington” solar industry, they can reap the benefits of state and federal incentives for doing so, producing clean, reliable and renewable electricity for decades.

Please contact us soon to schedule your solar site assessment, Grant Neely

Welcome To Northwest Renewables

I’m very proud to be launching Northwest Renewables after years of education, planning and networking with team members and suppliers.  We hope this blog will become place to share what we are learning and creating in our work, and to discuss a few of the cutting-edge projects we’re working on.

Northwest Renewables’ focus on Solar + Storage + Climate Control is about helping the Inland Northwest to become resilient in increasingly uncertain times.  Our team understands the importance of built-in redundancy, and intends to raise the standards of workmanship in this new and exciting field. With our NABCEP Certification and Master Electricians, we consistently deliver the highest quality Work in which you can have the utmost confidence.

Presently the marketplace for electricity is undergoing a massive disruption to the asset-based one-way directional flow business model of yesterday.  Thanks to Moore’s Law, or Swanson’s Law, as it is observed in the Photovoltatic Industry, the price of silicone PV cells has fallen by over 800% since the late 1970s.  A marketplace of distributed energy resources is emerging, and yet another demonstration of Moore’s Law is occurring in the marketplace for Lithium-Ion battery packs.

Our future Electricity grid will be flexible, dynamic and resilient; and largely run on renewable resources. Your comfortable and efficient 21st Century home or commercial building will be a prosumer in this grid of the future buying and selling electricity back and forth with your utility.

Into this shifting landscape we launch, intending to innovate and collaborate.  It is likely that there will be numerous technology paths unfolding before us and our teammates in the coming years.  Northwest Renewables intends to continue our investment in our education as the pace accelerates.

We look forward to working with you, Gavin Tenold