Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Future Build - Future Solar!

Just wanted to give a special shout out to the recent solar students of Future Build.  You guys did a wonderful job with your first of what I'm sure will be many installs.   I hope that you enjoyed the class!  As mentioned in class, no matter if you stay in solar industry or not, you've learned a lot of new skills that can carry over in whatever path you take.   Where ever you go, I encourage you to be a good representative of the solar industry.   Share your new knowledge with your family and friends.  Help them learn about the wonderful benefits of solar.

Good luck to all of you!

Future Build Cohort 12 - Photovoltaics I (09/18/2017, Pittsburg CA)
For more information on Future Build and how you can join:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


 Bipartisan Governors send a letter to President Trump.
"Renewable Energy is an American success story"
 See Article here.

We want your opinion!  Do you think that our new President will help or hinder the renewable energy movement?  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Like silicon through the hourglass, PV makes sense in these times.

When I began my exciting journey into the world of solar in 2009, there were a good handful of American solar manufacturing companies. Evergreen Solar for instance, was the proprietary producer of a string ribbon cell wafer at a plant in MA. Some other companies who had manufacturing plants in the US were BP (cells and modules in MD), Sharp Solar (modules in TN),  Solon America Corp (modules in AZ), Abound Solar (modules in CO), and Nanosolar (modules in CA) just to name a few. Solar is still going strong, even though these aforementioned companies have since moved production out of the US, or closed up shop.  

PV is still a booming industry and rightly so! Especially in California,  where energy rates are forecasted to potentially rise at 3.4% per year through 2040.  
How do we know that investing in current PV technology is going to pay off? For starters, the average PV investment pays off in 4-7 years depending on the cost of energy it is covering and whether or not the investment is purchased outright or financed.  But what if they come out with some new technology that is way better than traditional PV in the next few years? Cell phone and computer technology change by the year. The truth is, there are emerging technologies. Ones like cylindrical PV cells and spinning concentrated PV cells. These all sound like the next best thing when they come out. It is important to note though that the solar panel design popularly used today is the same design that was invented in the 1950’s by Bell Labs. The solar cells developed then were 6% efficient. Now we are developing solar cells with efficiencies up to 34.5%! This accompanied with a square ingot design allow for maximum efficiency per square foot. Most solar panels come with a 25 year power output warranty stating that the unit will be producing no less than 80% of the original output in 25 years!  
square solar cells Four Phase Energy install.JPG
Square Solar Cells Example Four Phase Energy Install
Even the first solar panels that were made are still putting out power! This means that unless the panel or conductors are physically damaged, we don’t really know when or if the cells will quit producing! Take these factors into account when considering investing in the current technology. There is a reason that PV is and has been used in the same way for over 50 years! It’s working.

Sources: , ,

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

PG&E energy bills are soaring in Northern California Districts

 It’s the New Year and homeowners in PG+E territory are feeling a squeeze with higher than expected rates showing up on their monthly energy bills.  Time of Use rates have changed with both PG+E as well as SMUD but what PG+E customers are not aware of is that even if they have Solar installed on their homes, gas rates are also going up. Might be a good time to invest in an electric water heater?

 There is speculation on why some homeowners have seen their bills triple recently. PG+E says the gas rates went up 13 percent in August and electrical has a 1.4 percent hike as of January 1st, 2017. Also, cool rainy weather has attributed to above norm conditions for Californian’s to heat their homes. Another source says that there has been 62 gas leak ruptures in distribution lines in East Folsom and that the costs to repair them is the reason for the gas hike.

 If you live in the Sacramento area, spend more than $150 a month average for electricity and have PG+E as your Utility provider, going solar now will save you money in the long run. 

See SMUD rate comparison chart-

Article Resources-

SacBee- "Northern California customers fume as PG+E bills soar"

To learn more about time of use Utility structure and receive a free consultation,
contact Four Phase Energy . or


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Solar Knowledge Can Be Yours Follow up to the seminar!

Oh boy was that informative!  If you missed last week’s What About Solar Power? seminar at the Learning Exchange Sacramento, then you missed a chance to learn from the best for sure!  In case you missed my first post about this class, the attendees had the opportunity to learn from top college professor and head of Sierra College's Construction and Energy Technology Department our very own Steve Geiger about all things solar power!  

Folks from all over the local area were stoked to learn about varying subjects relating to solar including; PV basics from technology to applications, utility rates and what to expect once you go solar, mounting options and a slew of other topics that are a must know for everyone who is interested in solar!

Did you know that regular grid tied systems aren’t normally designed to work when utility power goes out? Or that a solar investment shouldn’t be considered maintenance free?  How about the different options of monitoring and inverter technology that are available to choose from these days?  If you want to learn more, stay tuned!  

We are hosting another Learning Exchange event soon!  Date to be announced! Follow the Four Phase Energy Blog or our Facebook page to get info on your next opportunity to Learn from the Best!

Check out some snippets from the seminar HERE!

Exchanging knowledge at the Learning Exchange

Steve Geiger teaching about solar power at the Learning Exchange 1/28/17

Joel Ussery lecturing about utility rates and going solar at the Learning Exchange 1/28/17

Four Phase Energy photos from The Learning Exchange Seminar - 
What About Solar Power? 1/28/17

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump vs Renewable Energy

As America can see, the energy policies between the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration are at odds with one another as is most American's opinions between the two Presidents. We are divided but solar is a bipartisan issue. At least that is what we thought.

In the last few days, the climate change and renewable agenda has been whipped off the White House web site and instead replaced with 'An America First Energy Plan' that does not mention renewable energy. Instead, all the oil, gas and coal we can drill, frack and mine right here! And in a blink of the eye, the Dakota and Keystone pipeline has been approved and the EPA is taking a beating as well. 

Trump has never been a fan of solar and wind. See where he stands on the issues- Donald Trump on Energy and Oil. The new president made clear in his 2015 book, "Crippled America," that he believes renewable energy is a bad investment. Even developing alternative forms of energy from renewable sources is "a big mistake," he said. 

This sounds pretty dismal for all the hard workers in the Clean Energy Industry. Solar Industry Magazine has a more in depth analysis on where we are heading into the new year. See 'What a Trump Administration means for U.S. Solar'.

As proponents of solar worry about the fate of this industry, which employs more people then coal, oil and gas in our Nation, there is renewed faith that we will overcome on one simple principle of Capitalism; supply, demand and hopefully an awakening. 

Industry Paths to Energy Storage (part 2 of 3)

As long as I've been aware of solar, Outback Power has always been associated with off-grid and they continue to show why their brand is tied to the solution.
Their latest product is the SkyBox Inverter (available mid 2017).   Check out the marketing on their website.
You can also see their press release here: OutBack Power Launches Energy Platform Breakthrough, SkyBox

When we hear the words "inverter", "battery".. we don't really bat an eye over it. But what I find interesting about this system is that Outback promotes the systems as a solution that you can starts you off as being tied to the grid and then, when you're ready, introduce batteries for the off-grid flavor.    The ability to "go off-grid" is a common inquiry to new solar system owners.  Most of the residential systems installed today are grid-tied only.

How is that any different to battery systems you ask?  This particular inverter system works with lithium ion, standard batteries and other battery technologies, including Aquion Ion, an interesting salt water based storage solution.

If that wasn't flexible enough, the system also allows for 600 volts of input and comes with an integrated monitoring system for that.

What solar companies are going to need to address is how to introduce energy storage solutions to systems that were not originally designed for battery back-up.  As the series points to, the solar industry is moving towards more efficient energy storage solutions like an "all-in-one" such as the SkyBox.  For systems going forward, it only makes sense to install a solar system that is ready for energy storage.


See also "Industry Paths to Energy Storage (part 1 of 3)"