Solar Power Benefits for Veterans and the Military

low cost solar panels

Organizations work to bring low cost solar panels to the homes of returning US soldiers.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to past and present military personnel who defend our freedoms.  The solar energy industry has found various ways in which to say thanks, including providing cost-effective solar-powered electricity for veterans and current military members who are home from deployment and more.


In New Jersey, for instance, the Adopt-A-Solar-Panel program can benefit military families in a couple of ways.  First, veterans are given the opportunity to sell solar panels; when they do, they are able to be rewarded with commissions of an above-average amount.  In addition to that, organizations and companies can allow a portion of the money they pay for new solar installations to go toward providing free solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems to organizations which benefit the military, such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

In a recent release, the Adopt-A-Solar-Panel Program was introduced as a way to help veterans garner sizeable sales commissions for each organized program sale and as a way to provide clean energy to non-profit organizations by linking them with sponsors.

Military Base Installations

solar panel installations

The US military is always looking for ways to use more alternative energy.

The United States military is also aggressively pursuing partnerships that encourage greater use of clean energy.  There is a billion dollar effort underway to add solar panels to 120,000 housing units that are privately managed housing for use by the U.S. military. A federal loan guarantee worth hundreds of millions fell through in 2011, but the developer and a solar-savvy bank got together to provide funding for this huge solar project for use by the military with a combination of debt and equity.

These privately managed military projects will be able to qualify for 30% tax incentive credit which applies through the end of 2016. Combine that incentive with the fact that PV modules have experienced a drop in prices in the last few years and we have an entirely new set of financial circumstances; thus, making it possible for the military to proceed with ambitious plans for going green.

The original plan that called for generating 371 megawatts of solar power from a total of 160,000 PV installations on military bases situated in 33 different states has been downsized, but the effort still qualifies as the largest single rooftop solar project in the U.S.

San Fernando-Santa Clarita Valley Habitat for Heroes

An offshoot of Habitat for Humanity, which is a nationwide organization, the San Fernando-Santa Clarita Valley Habitat for Heroes has announced recently that they will team up with solar installers in California to provide solar PV arrays for veterans’ homes at no charge.  The current plan is to build 80 brand new homes beginning in spring 2013, all of which will be powered with solar energy.

The program will also allow qualified veterans the opportunity to get a drastically reduced rate on a new California solar installation on a home they already own.  Thanks to the program, one family has been able to afford the purchase of a system which would have otherwise cost them about $23,000; they are now well equipped to reduce their previous $300 monthly energy costs.

subsidized solar

The organization called Habitat for Heroes helps out US soldiers by providing them with free or subsidized solar panels for their homes.

Naval Weapons Station Goes Solar

The largest solar installation used by the Navy has been installed at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, which is located approximately 120 miles from Los Angeles.  About 30% of the station’s annual electricity needs are being provided by a new PV power plant which generates 13.78 megawatts of solar power.

This installation has the benefit of solar trackers, which ensure that the panels can track the sun and capture the maximum amount of electricity possible.

This power plant was financed through a 20-year term solar power purchase agreement (PPA).  Neither upfront capital nor maintenance obligations were required by the Navy to secure this system which will provide electricity at up to 30% below the available rate through 10-year PPAs.

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Solar PV Parking Lots From Coast to Coast

solar parking lots

Cities all across the country are seeing the benefits of installing solar panels over parking lots.

From San Diego, California, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, some cities in the U.S.A. are bold about committing to renewable energy sources such as solar power.  In particular, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed in parking lots are making a showing from coast to coast, shining a light on the benefits and value of clean energy.

The San Diego Zoo is set to generate energy from the sun which will be used to charge electric cars, shade the parking lot, and more.  A solar photovoltaic canopy is scheduled to be installed in the San Diego Zoo parking lot, a project shared by the zoo and Smart City San Diego, a consortium of local businesses.

The solar PV canopy will provide shade for 50 cars and will also provide electricity for five car-charging stations.  The system will be comprised of ten solar canopies, and it will feed into a 100-kilowatt battery storage system.

san diego zoo solar

This major solar PV project at the San Diego Zoo is one of the first of its kind in the entire country.

Excess energy produced from full batteries will be redirected.  It’s expected that enough additional power will be generated to provide all of the peak-production electricity needed for 59 homes. The batteries which store the solar energy will allow for overnight charging, as well.

According to a project spokesperson, this is one of the first ever projects like this one, in which solar energy is the direct source used for charging electric cars.

Have you ever seen a solar PV canopy?  It will look like a tree – a solar tree.  There will be solar panels above, and the base is a charging station.

Construction of this solar project is well underway and expected to be completed in November.  The ten solar PV canopies are positioned in the zoo parking lot’s southeastern section.

The Department of Energy provided federal stimulus money which is paying for these innovative car-charging stations through a program called the EV Project.  Eventually, 1,000 car charging stations total are slated to be installed in San Diego County as part of this federal initiative.

Attempts to move forward with the EV Project have been hindered because of difficulties in finding locations for charging stations where parking spaces are already scarce.  In fact, many businesses in the San Diego area have refused to sacrifice their parking spaces to make room for the solar charging stations.  So there has been much cause to celebrate the addition of the solar canopies in the San Diego Zoo parking lot.

electric car charging spaces

The 6 electric car charging spaces will be powered by the solar PV panels overhead.

In Atlantic City, a state-of-the-art parking facility has recently opened which also features a solar PV system and a charging station for electric cars.

At the Atlantic City Expressway – at the intersection of Fairmont Avenue and Mississippi Avenue – a parking lot has been constructed which some consider to be downright amazing.

The beauty of this parking lot isn’t even the fact that it offers convenient parking for convention center overflow, Tanger Outlets, the Walk, and other large events which are held in Atlantic City.  In short, this impressive garage is an asset to the entire Atlantic City Tourism District.

The cost of this parking facility was $32 million.  It features 1,677 solar panels which are installed on the top floor and which generate over 400 kilowatt hours of solar electricity daily.  The garage has over 16,999 square feet of retail space, glass-enclosed elevators, and 1,180 parking spaces on five levels.

Electric cars will find six charging stations to choose from in this amazing garage, which has been nicknamed the Wave Parking Garage.

Perhaps these solar PV powered parking areas on the east and west coasts will help to start a whole new wave of innovative solar projects across the nation.

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A Solar-Friendly Fair and Portable Solar Stages…Really?

solar carosel

This merry-go-round is completely powered by the two solar arrays behind it.

Have you ever wondered whether solar energy is truly becoming more practical?  While solar panel systems are being installed on enormous warehouse rooftops, are there advancements in solar technology which make short-term and smaller solar powered projects feasible?  There is good evidence that besides being practical for homeowners interested in clean energy and lower electricity bills, solar is useful for entertainment events, using both stationary and portable solar panels.

Marin County Fair

Last month at the Marin County Fair in San Rafael, California, much fuss was made toward achieving environmental friendliness. In addition to the usual blue ribbons, thrilling rides, animals, and enticing foods, environmental stewardship was at the heart of the event.

On the roof of the fair’s exhibit hall, 744 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels were installed. A good 40% of the annual kilowatt usage at the fair is supplied by the sun.  Incorporating clean energy into the equation prevents an estimated 133 tons of carbon dioxide emission, along with other benefits provided by additional (non-solar) eco-friendly measures.

Sun-Powered Carousel

The Marin County Fair touts the first ever solar powered carousel at a county fair.  This eco-friendly carousel, which features 18 horses and one chariot, can accommodate 40 passengers. The ride is retrofitted with over 1,000 LED lights and a single-phase motor.  The carousel is powered not by the solar panels on the exhibit hall but instead by a portable solar array.

solar powered stage

The lighting, sound, and all other equipment are powered by the solar panels standing out in the crowd.

Performance Stage

The solar powered carousel isn’t the only solar record that the Marin County Fair has broken.  In fact, the Ben & Jerry’s Solar Stage at the fair which is generated by solar panels is the first solar-powered stage at a county fair.

Solar is just one of numerous routes toward a cleaner world and increased use of renewable resources.  Other sources of green energy are also a focal point of the Marin County Fair.  For instance, another concert stage at the fair is powered by 99% vegetable oil biodiesel.  And the wind is also harnessed as an energy source at the fair.  A propeller-free (bird-friendly) vertical turbine runs exterior lighting near the entrance of the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium; another record – this is the first ever wind turbine that has been installed at the California fairgrounds.

Making Solar Tracks

One more solar achievement to be mentioned here which was on display at the Marin County Fair was a trackless train which is all-electric and solar powered.  Fair guests were able to take excursion rides on the solar train daily.

Crank Up the Sound

County fairs are annual events and, as proven at the Marin County Fair, excellent occasions in which to utilize clean solar energy.  A portable solar powered concert stage is another type of entertainment that’s growing in popularity and which, in contrast to a county fair, can be utilized year-around.

If you imagine that a portable solar-powered stage gives a diminished experience, think again.  Solar stages provide the full sound experience as well as the added bonus of being environmentally friendly.

Solar-powered concert stages have a proven record of providing the volume and quality of music audiences expect.  And over time the stages have gotten bigger so that just about any event can now be powered by a portable solar stage. Besides the solar panel array, huge batteries, weighing about 3,500 pounds, are a part of what helps to make large portable solar-powered concert stages work. So back to the original question that many homeowners may ask:  Is solar energy becoming more practical than ever?  It’s accurate and fair to concertedly say “Yes.”


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Are Solar Panels a Sound Investment for New Jersey Churches?

church solar

In Trenton, New Jersey, a local church chose to save money, save the environment, and break free from the power companies by installing solar panels on the church roof.

A series of solar panel installations have taken place on church rooftops across New Jersey.  Is such an investment a smart choice for a house of worship?  Churches obviously don’t have the amount of roof space as compared with massive New Jersey solar panel projects such as Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester City – the largest in North America – or even Macy’s.  But evidence shows that solar panels are cost effective for smaller projects, as well, including homes, small businesses and churches.

A power purchase agreement (PPA) led to the installation of a 50,000-watt solar panel system on the roof of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Medford, New Jersey.  Many other churches followed suit, and reasons given included addressing the reality of tight finances and meeting a spiritual obligation to be responsible stewards of the environment.

This trend was hottest – and not just for churches – when federal and state incentives were a bit more substantial.  Part of the appeal of installing solar panels was that power companies were paying approximately $500 for Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs.  Once solar panel ownership soared in New Jersey, the value of SRECs dropped to below $100, which put the solar industry in jeopardy of serious decline.

The New Jersey solar market has recently received a nice boost from state government, since the amount of solar credits that power companies are required to purchase has been significantly increased.  Thanks to Senate bill S1925, there is at least temporary relief from instability in the solar market.

But installing solar panels is not dependent upon SRECs to qualify as a practical investment for churches and homeowners.

Solar Panels are Durable

Did you know that many solar panel retailers now guarantee 25 years of power output in which capacity for output will remain at a level of at least 80%?  This kind of guarantee can buy a lot of peace of mind in knowing that a solar panel is a long-term investment which will provide long-term results.  Such durability is especially appealing considering speculations about the future and steadily rising costs of the energy provided by power companies.

solar sustainable

Solar can take the place of harmful fossil fuels, as a completely sustainable and renewable source of power.

Solar panels are valuable for those with only limited roof area as well. Homeowners save money on energy costs using the roof space they have.  Even a few panels will save money for the long term, particularly if they are used to heat water, which accounts for 30% of most energy bills.

There IS Enough Sun Where You Live!

People often have the misconception that only sunny places like California and Florida have the right conditions for use of solar panels.  That’s not the case at all.  When the sun is shining in cold locations like Alaska, the solar PV panels actually produce solar energy more efficiently.  Anyplace the sun is shining can benefit from solar panels and the energy from the sun.

There is an Environmental Impact

Every bit of solar power that displaces energy created with fossil fuels reduces the carbon footprint and contributes to a cleaner planet.

Compared with other counties, such as Germany, solar power has been a bit late in being implemented in the U.S.A., but even so, solar power is quickly gaining in popularity and becoming more commonplace. There are plenty of reasons to be assured that it’s here to stay and is a worthwhile investment for all types of homeowners, small businesses and religious institutions.

Solar Store in Hamilton, NJ 

Bowden’s offers sales and installations of residential and small business Solar PV Electric and Solar Hot Water systems. Bowden’s is a well established and trusted business that has provided energy solutions since 1904!

Photo Credit: AP/Mel Evans

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