Another innovative new system

February 23, 2011

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President Illinois Renewable Energy Association

We recently spoke with Dewaine Nelson of Solergy about an update on some installations he had done and how they are working. We remembered that in 2007, he was proud of having installed an 8.2-kW system, the largest home installation in the Chicago suburbs. We asked how that project was performing. He indicated it seems to be performing well, and he had not heard from the owner.

Nelson briefly mentioned there was not much interest in solar hot water systems this past year, although he had recently charged the solar hot water system at Jim Hutchison’s straw-clay farm work shed near Rock City. He remarked that he is interested in how well the system performs since Hutchison saved money by not including a storage tank in the design. This past cold spell should have provided a good test for the system, designed to produce 296,000 BTUs.

Nelson is starting an interesting project along I-90 that travelers will soon be curious about. Near the Edgerton, Wis., exit, he has installed concrete pads for two pole mountings to support a tracker system with solar panels. Each pole will stand 20 feet high, hold 12 panels mounted in a 3-by-4 panel pattern, and cover an area roughly 14 feet wide by 15 feet high.

The trackers are unique in that they do not follow the sun, as traditional tracking devices do. Instead, they will follow the solar path designed into a computer program that determines their daily movement. The trackers are being made in Prairie du Chien, Wis., serving as an example of supply chain opportunities in support of solar energy within the United States.

The 250-watt polycrystalline panels are made in China, but remain unbranded. The 6-kW system will provide 80 percent of the nearby Vico Plastics factory’s electricity. The factory will assemble LEDs made in China into various fixtures for lighting applications in the United States. It is less costly to assemble the panels in the United States than in China when shipping costs and quality control, which can be more closely monitored as they are assembled here, are taken into account.

In a recent article in Electronic Products, Illinois Renewable Energy Association Board member Vic Zaderej pointed out that lighting systems containing LEDs are twice as efficient as those with compact fluorescent bulbs and that manufacturers are overcoming some of the obstacles that have limited their penetration into commercial and residential lighting. For example, most LEDs have been hard wired into fixtures requiring that one failed LED would necessitate the replacement of an entire fixture. Some electronics manufacturers are now offering replaceable LED lighting modules. The new LED systems emulate traditional bulb and socket lighting systems. They are also made of recyclable components and appear well positioned for mass market penetration.

On your next trip north, note the progress of Solergy’s installation along I-90, and watch for new, lower-cost LED fixtures in local stores.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Feb. 23-March 1, 2011, issue

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