ASES Solar Electric Division Newsletter April 2012

Letter from Solar Electric Division Chair

Hi All,

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the awesome weather all over the country. Global warming? Seems like this is the new norm. The weather here in New Mexico has been amazing and if we don’t have a frost I’ll get peaches and apricots this year.

Welcome to the first ASES Solar Electric Division (SED) Newsletter of 2012. The newsletter is a way for all of us to see what is happening within our community. I will regularly ask you for articles. The response with determine how often we send out a newsletter. ASES has many divisions. We are the Solar Electric Division. If your work is more related to wind or solar thermal, that would be a better venue to show off your work. I know we have a lot of talent in this group so I’m looking forward to contributions. If you are working on a technical or humanitarian project, these are perfect to share with others in the SED.

I could also use some bloggers. Any of you that attend other conferences or events regularly in your own community, in other states or countries, please send me updates and information. Do you think others are not interested? I beg to differ. There is so much going on that it would be great to tie some of those events to people in the SED. For instance, as I said, I live in New Mexico, Albuquerque to be exact. We currently have a Governor and Mayor who do not have RE on the top of their “to do” list. Instead of being frustrated, which I am, I am trying to get some community solar projects started. It’s slow because I have a full time job and am working on a second master’s degree, but I’ll get there. I’m trying to model what I’m doing in my city after the campaign that was carried out in Portland Oregon. They even created a guide on how to do it. I think I may have my first (guinea pig, I mean test) neighborhood. Actually, I’m excited and I’m moving forward. If others have any insight or guidance they want to share, email me at I’ve been teaching hands-on PV classes for about 15 years and somehow I’ll work that into this project. Yup, one person, one community, will it make a difference? I certainly hope so. Will it inspire others? I hope so also.

The ASES Annual Conference in Denver is coming up May 13-17. I hope you are coming.

PLEASE: Come to the SED Annual Meeting on Tuesday May 15 at 7:00 am. It is at the Convention Center and breakfast is free.

This is your chance to provide input to ASES’ largest division. There are always opportunities to help or serve ASES. Please join us. Last year the room was overflowing. We hope for the same again this year. Mark your calendar!

The SED has three forums. These are:

  • Strategic Distributed Generated Values from Photovoltaics, Wednesday May 16 at 4:15 pm
  • AC Micro Inverters for PV Technology Shoot-Off, Thursday May 17 at 1:15 pm. This is back to back with
  • DC-to-DC Converter / Optimizer PV Technology Shoot-Off, Thursday May 17 at 2:45 pm

I’m also hosting the Women in Solar luncheon on Wed May 16 from 11:45 am to 1:15 pm. This is to inspire women to be more technically involved in the field. It is also a time to network and be even more inspired. The speakers this year are an awesome educator Susy Elliston and the Women in Solar award winner. Who is it? Come and find out! It is for women in solar but open to all. Yes, it is an extra fee but worth it. This one usually sells out so get your tickets early.

Have a great spring and see you in Denver,


The world’s first solar powered nation

Pranay Kar, Powersmart Solar

The South Pacific nation of Tokleau will soon become the first country in the world to have all its electricity needs met by solar power. Tokelau is made up of three tropical atolls (Fakaofo, Nukunonu, and Atafu) in the South Pacific Ocean. The atolls have a total land area of 10km2 and a population of approximately 1,500 people.

Powersmart Solar has recently signed on as the lead contractor for the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project. Starting in April 2012, the project will replace the diesel electricity systems currently operating on each of the islands with solar power systems and battery storage. The solar power systems will enable Tokelau to be the first country to meet 100% of their climate change obligations as well as the first 100% solar powered nation on earth.

At present the diesel generators burn around 200 litres of fuel daily and provide only 15-18 hours of electricity each day. The installation of 4,032 solar panels (one megawatt of solar) and batteries across the three atolls will eliminate diesel fuel use and provide consistent high quality electricity. The original tender specification called for the solar systems to supply 90% of Tokelau’s electricity demand.

Through creative design, project management methodology, and sheer scale Powersmart Solar will be installing solar systems capable of providing 150% of current electricity demand allowing the Tokelauans to expand their electricity use without increasing diesel use.

Powersmart Solar is uniquely experienced in designing solar power systems for harsh and remote environments and has taken special care to design a robust system suitable for tropical atolls. The system is designed with respect to the high ambient temperatures, salt-laden air, and risk of cyclones and/or flooding.

For this high-profile project, Powersmart Solar has partnered with the highly regarded energy consulting firm IT Power. Through this partnership Powersmart has access to IT Power’s extensive experience over ten years of successfully delivering renewable energy projects in the Pacific region.

You can check the Powersmart Solar website ( for pictures and news of these beautiful islands and people as the project gets underway this year.

Solar – The Safest Investment Available Today!

Tom Ferraro, Solar & More

If you’re like me, the recent performance of stock, bonds, real estate and some other so-called “safe” investments have been playing havoc with my tolerance for risk. Our 401k has performed like a yoyo since our financial markets crashed back in 2008 and actually, more like deadweight!

Since then, I’ve moved most of my investments into low return but “safe” money markets and certificates of deposits, lowering my returns down to what I call “why bother” rates. The returns promised by investment houses just don’t materialize any more unless you’re willing to take on high risk.

But there is an option not very well understood…a way to diversify your investment portfolio while garnering double digit returns. Known to only a select few, a solar photovoltaic (PV) system can return between 13-20% on your investment. Here’s how it works.

The cost of a typical solar PV system in New Jersey is averaging about $30,000. First, right off the top, you’re eligible for a 30% Federal Tax Credit, or in this case $9,000. So now you’re down to an adjusted cost of $21,000. A typical $30,000 system would probably reduce your electric bill about $1,300 in the first year. And through a New Jersey incentive program called SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates), you’d generate another $2,000 per year in income. This results in a total annual cash flow of $3,300, or a simple Return on Investment of over 15%. A payback on this investment would come out to 6.4 years on an investment that will last for at least 25, and probably 30 – 40 years.

With this cash outlay, you’ll recover about 40%, or $12,000 in the first year alone. And there are programs to help you get to the end of the first year without any out of pocket outlays. In effect, buy a $30,000 solar system and only pay $18,000…after the end of the first year!

So, the question you have to ask your investment advisor is, can you get me 15% on an investment whose principle can’t go down without affected my current cash flow? The answer is yes…if you invest in solar!

The author may be reached via his website:

World Renewable Energy Forum

Denver, Colorado, Ma 13-17, 2012

For the very first time, the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Conference will be held under the same roof with the biennial World Renewable Energy Congress. The combined event is the World Renewable Energy Forum 2012. The conference will draw prominent speakers and technical presentations from universities, renewable energy laboratories, installations and industries around the world. WREF 2012 will examine how renewable energy technologies address the world’s economic, environmental and security challenges at every scale, from off-grid villages to gigawatt power plants.

Featured speakers include Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, US Department of Energy

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