DIY Solar Panel Plugins

May15, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

DIY Solar Plugin PanelsFor many homeowners in various parts of the country, the idea of solar panels feels like a dream—something outside of their current capabilities. If that’s been you, then you’ll be glad to hear about the latest development in solar: DIY solar panel plugins.

Developed by a company called SpinRay Energy, specialists in solar photovoltaic panels, these plugins are perfect for adding solar power to an existing outdoor deck. Customers may install panels one at a time and up to five panels, which can be plugged into an outdoor power outlet. With five panels, a total of 1,000 watts of energy can be produced.

The plugins, available through a few online retailers that include Amazon, boast UL safety certification and the ability to qualify users for a renewable energy 30% federal tax credit. They come with the same type of warranties offered by other commercial companies, for both the panel and the microinverter. Plus, as a protective measure, the panels will stop generating current when there’s a loss of grid power.

The president of SpinRay Energy, Arthur Chew, has five plugins installed to his own deck at home, and he’s had no problems with them. Still, he says, they are not exactly the same as professional installations and use relatively new technology.

“Our plug-and-play systems are not a replacement for a rooftop solar system,” Chew says. “They should be considered a stepping stone for those interested in being green and to learn the benefits of solar.”

The plugin panels are currently available for $999.00 each. For more information, see their Amazon listing here.

(Image source: Amazon.com)

Portland’s New Solar-Powered Pay Stations

May14, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

Solar Parking Station PortlandWhen it comes to solar power, Portland, Oregon, is one of the premiere cities putting itself on the map. Not only is this northwestern town known for its focus on clean and green energy in general, but it also has made recent headlines with its solar-powered toilets and now, its solar-powered parking pay stations.

“The purpose of doing this is to improve the customer experience and customer satisfaction,” said Portland parking manager John Peverada.

In the city’s pilot program, Portland is receiving 18 parking stations powered by solar energy, each serving about 10 parking spaces—and if the new stations prove popular via unsolicited feedback, the city may add more. Drivers can pay via credit or debit cards ($1 minimum), with Portland’s traditional parking rates of 25 cents for 15 minutes and a maximum parking time of two hours. Coins will also be accepted.

In total, Portland is paying $175,000 to purchase and install these machines and their signs, as well as handle regular upkeep. The new stations will be located on portions of Commercial, Fore, Federal and Free streets and in the West End near Maine Medical Center. They are expected to go live on May 21, reports say.

The meters come from Cale Parking Systems USA, the business behind similar meters that have already been installed in cities such as Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Baltimore; Minneapolis; and Indianapolis.

(Image source: PressHerald.com)

Iron Mountain to Install Solar Panels

May10, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

Iron MountainFor the first time ever for the company, Iron Mountain, Inc., has announced that it plans to add solar panels to the roofs of eight of its document storage facilities, located in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey. Once installed, the panels will allow the facilities to produce more than 5.2 million kilowatt-hours of energy in their first year of operation alone and ultimately to offset almost 7 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, according to reports.

To complete the process, Iron Mountain is working with SunEdison. Through power purchase agreements, SunEdison will be the one to pay for, build and keep up with the solar installations; Iron Mountain will buy the energy at a fixed rate for 20 years.

“This is a win-win for our company and the communities where we do business,” said company CEO and Chairman Richard Reese. “We’re able to lock-in energy rates over the long haul, while our facilities produce clean renewable energy for the communities where we do business. Given our sizeable real estate footprint and the economic model of solar energy, this was a no-brainer. We’re excited to install these solar panels, and we’ll look to identify additional locations.”

With construction beginning as early as this summer, the panels will be added to two Iron Mountain facilities in Windsor, Connecticut; one in Northborough, Massachusetts; three in East Brunswick, New Jersey; and two in Freehold, New Jersey. The panels are expected to be operational by early 2013.

Although these panels will be Iron Mountain’s first-ever solar installations, they are part of the company’s broader initiative to support environmental sustainability. For more information about its corporate responsibility program, Taking CARE, visit IronMountain.com/Company/Corporate-Responsibility.aspx.

(Image source: IronMountain.com)

5 Eco-Friendly Mother’s Day Gifts

May9, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

green mother's day

It’s almost Mother’s Day—do you know what you’re giving the special mothers in your life? Why not set the bar a little higher this year with an eco-friendly gift that’s not only fun but also good to the environment!

Here are some of our favorite ideas for eco-friendly Mother’s Day gifts on Sunday!

1. Flowers
What’s more traditional than fresh flowers? Instead of giving your mom a cut bouquet that lasts a week or so, consider buying her a beautiful potted plant instead, one that will last for months to come!

2. Jewelry
Jewelry is a classic female gift, but rather than purchasing the typical beads and chains, hunt for items from from recycled materials like glass, silver, etc. Likewise, handmade earrings and necklaces from artisans in your area are a special gift.

3. Chocolate
Show your mother just how sweet she is through the gift of sustainable chocolate. Look for brands with a Fair Trade label at the store, or visit one of these sources online: Theo, Kopali Organics or Divine Chocolate.

4. Heartfelt Note
You may be surprised how much a letter can mean, especially to a woman who’s invested her life in you. Take the time to jot down the things you’re most thankful for about your mom and be prepared to see her smile.

5. Service
Here’s a gift any mother would love: treat her to the luxury of being served. Make her breakfast, clean her house with earth-friendly products, do whatever you know she would appreciate and that would make her life easier. Not only is this a meaningful, low-cost gift, but it also will mean no waste (from gifts she doesn’t use) and thus, no damage to the environment.

We hope these five ideas have got your creative juices flowing! Whatever you do for the moms in your life this year, make sure it’s filled with thought and love—both for those special women and for the earth we all live on together!

Happy Mother’s Day from Soluxe Solar!

(Image source: OliveandMyrtle.com)

The LogiTech Solar-Powered iPad Case

May4, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

logitech iPad case

Best Buy recently let the cat out of the bag on LogiTech’s upcoming solar-powered iPad case. Possibly prematurely, the techie superstore posted the eco product on its site, listing it with a pricetag of $129.99 and adding a “coming soon” label, leading to ripple effects throughout the Web.

Tech blogs and sites have been weighing in with commentary on the case’s “stiff keyboard” (The Verge) that “charges in ‘direct light’ and features 121 keys, with dedicated Internet and multimedia keys” (Mashable). It is only the keyboard that will be powered by the Sun, not the iPad itself; and for that matter, it’s only the new iPad that’s listed in the Best Buy product description, not the iPad 1 or iPad 2. The case weighs just under a pound and connects to the iPad via BlueTooth.

Made by Logitech, the case comes from the same company that recently launched the UltraThin keyboard cover, dubbed “well made, comfortable to type on, and – arguably most important for many iPad owners – [matching] Apple’s style rather than clashing with it,” according to SlashGear.

The solar-powered case from LogicTech has been rumored, but there was nothing concrete until now.

“Best Buy may simply have jumped the gun a little,” writes Adi Robertson of The Verge, “but this means we might also be seeing some tweaks to the keyboard before it’s released.”

What tweaks will come before the official release by LogiTech? It may be too soon to tell. One thing is for sure, though: people are talking about it.

(Image source: iclarified.com)

Butler University’s First Green Roof

May3, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living
sarah strobl

Butler University's Sarah Strobl

Indiana’s Butler University recently added the college’s first-ever green roof—a 1,300-square-foot installation that now sits atop the school’s four-story College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences building. The roof was completed at the end of March by Eco-Roofs, maker of environmentally friendly green roofing systems. Installed entirely by volunteers that included university students, faculty and staff, the project was led by Eco-Roof’s Pat Maloney.

“The green roof may double, even triple the life of the roofing membrane,” said Pat Maloney, Midwest representative and accredited Green Roof Professional and project coordinator for Eco-Roofs, in a press release. She added the roof “also provides insulation to help reduce heating and cooling costs.”

Before Maloney and the Eco-Roof team could begin their work, the idea was originally instigated by Butler student Sarah Strobl, who researched eco roofs as part of her honors thesis. Strobl was also the one to secure about $25,000 in funding from Butler’s Student Government Association so it could be completed before she graduated with a biology degree.

“It’s awesome,” Strobl said of the completed project. “I’m amazed how green it is already, and it’s going to brighten up with color.”

To revolutionize the roof, Eco-Roofs hoisted 650 trays of soil and sedum from the building parking lot to the rooftop, and the volunteers laid the trays, eventually covering a 90 by 15 foot spread. With these changes, the roof should last longer as it is protected from the sun; enjoy better insulation, reducing heating and cooling costs; and improve local plant and animal life as it attracts bugs, birds and other creatures that can be studied by the school’s science students.

To learn more about the roof, take a look at Butler’s announcement or visit Eco-Roofs.com.

(Image source: Indiana Living Green)

Solar-Powered Street Lights in Canada

May2, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

Canada’s science superstore, EfstonScience, has recently launched a new division, Enlighten Solar and Hybrid Lighting Systems—-one that specializes in solar-powered street lights. And now, after more than four years of testing various systems and designs, EfstonScience has a solar high-efficiency LED lighting system that combines with Clear Blue Technologies’ to offer real-time management, monitoring and troubleshooting as well as solar power.

“We have redesigned the overall look of the light arm and panel mount for aesthetics as well as maximum sun exposure and we have tested several wind turbines and now we have the ideal combination of hybrid power and looks that we have been striving for,” said Irene Efston, owner of EfstonScience and Enlighten Hybrid Powered Lighting Systems, in a recent press release.

The Enlighten Hybrid Lighting Systems can generate enough power to maintain light standards from dusk till dawn, using a fraction of the energy typically required. Already being used in the King Township, the city of Toronto and Ontario’s Centennial College, the systems are made of one or two solar panels and come with an Internet connection on every pole, making it possible to track performance, manage problems and oversee the systems from anywhere in the world.

Potential future applications include business complexes, shopping centers, academic institutions, public parks, city roadways and more. The solar lights are also available for areas that are larger, requiring more light, through a two-panel, dual-LED model or other custom solutions.

To learn more about this development, visit EnlightenHybrid.com.

(Image source: Virtual-Strategy.com)

New Solar Energy Solutions to Save Massachusetts Town $1.5M+

April23, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

As we’ve said before at Soluxe Solar, there are many reasons to pursue new solar energy solutions–not the least of which is a financial one! The power that comes from the sun can be harnessed to provide clean energy that not only benefits the environment but also your bottom line.

Take the example of Lee, Massachusetts, an historic New England town that describes itself as “a unique blend of small town living, great schools, retail establishments, restaurants, shopping and services, in abundance and of a high caliber more often found in much larger communities.” Citizens of this Massachusetts town could be saving as much as $1.5 million in new solar energy solutions from a proposed solar bill aimed at helping power the northeastern city’s municipal buildings.

Through a tentative deal with a Boston company, the deal would mean the installation of three solar arrays that will cost $11.8 million to install but will generate three megawatts of electricity that will save the town money each year–even as much as $65,000 the first year and $1.57 million over the next 20 years.

“We will earn energy credits [from WMECO], with the money saved going to help pay other bills,” said committee Chairman Thomas Wickham.

According to the proposal details, there will be solar arrays installed at a former landfill, a wastewater treatment plant and on three acres of a 171-acre land parcel. The latter location has drawn considerable controversy from citizens in favor of farming the land, but officials believe the savings outweigh the drawbacks.

“There’s really no way to take out one (part) without affecting the rest,” Wickham said. “They are all tied together.”

(Image source: Conserve Energy Future)

Portland Markets Solar-Powered Toilets

April20, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

 

Ask anyone you know about public restrooms, and you’ll probably hear the same thing: notoriously filthy, smelly and unpleasant, public restrooms are not the kind of place anyone is excited to go to.

Except maybe in Portland.

This Oregon city has five solar-powered, highly durable downtown toilets–all of which are defying preconceptions, working well and remaining resistant to vandalism. Standing 10 feet high, the so-called “Portland Loos” currently average about 200 flushes a day and have over 250 followers on Facebook. Features include a graffiti-resistant metallic-gray finish, prison-grade toilets, a tiny hand-washing faucet outside and workers who clean the bathrooms twice a day.

“We can ship them to somebody for $99,000 and all they have to do is bolt them on to their sidewalk and hook them up to sewer and water,” said City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who originated the idea for the loo after Portland had its own publicized failure with public bathrooms.

What’s more, the bathrooms have been designed to be protected against vandalism and damage. ”The whole idea behind it was to design it not as this beautiful, aesthetic piece of work and then be aghast if somebody did something bad to it,” Leonard said. “We designed it anticipating all of that.”

The Portland Loo has a pricetag of about $60K, with yearly maintenance averaging around $12K.

There’s already been one sold to Victoria, British Columbia, and the cities of San Diego and Anchorage have expressed interest, as well.

To learn more about the Portland Loo, called the nation’s “most loved toilets,” check out PortlandOnline.com.

Earth Day 2012 Deals

April17, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

There are more than citywide festivals happening this April 22. In honor of Earth Day, several stores and organizations are offering exciting, cost-savings promotions—from free reusable bags to 20% discounts and more. Check out some of the hottest green shopping deals below!

1. Target: Not only is Target giving away $1.5M in reusable bags to customers on April 22, but the retail giant has also launched a temporary website at target.com/earthday, providing $50 in savings on sustainable products, as well as partnering with Recycle Bank to reward individuals for making earth-friendly choices.

2. Chipotle: Purchase one of Chipotle’s limited edition reusable bags before Earth Day 2012, and you get a free burrito April 22!

3. Barnes and Noble: 20% off your purchases at B&N on April 22!

4. National Parks: Commune with nature on the day that celebrates it–at no cost to you! The National Park Service and National Park Foundation are offering free admission at all 397 of the nation’s major parks during the entire week of April 21-29.

5. Groupon: In honor of Earth Day 2012, Groupon is launching new eco initiatives: GrassRoots and a partnership with Edward Norton’s CrowdRise. As of April 16, you can take the Groupon Challenge by visiting CrowdRise and donating to a cause of your choice. Learn more at groupon.com/pages/earthday.

7. Starbucks: Bring in your own mug on April 22 and participating Starbucks will reward you with a free brewed coffee or tea.

8. Origins: Simply bring in this filled-out form with your current skincare to Origins, and the skin care company will trade you a full-size version of their Origins cleanser.

(Image source: Plover Organic)

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