2017 UN Sustainable Energy Access for All Forum

New York Skyline

Sequoya Cross, CEO for Backwoods Solar and a Network Practitioner for the UN SE4All Initiative headed to New York this April to attend the annual Forum. The event was hosted at the re-purposed Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Naval Yard. 1,400 business leaders from over 110 countries convened to discuss energy access globally in a marketplace setting. They shared ideas, successes and Se4All Duggal Warehousechallenges in an effort to educate and facilitate success in the initiative to bring energy access to all corners of the globe.

Several breakout sessions focused specifically on off-grid technologies, micro-grid implementation, and appliance efficiency in developing countries. One of the stars of this global movement is East Africa, where off-grid solar companies are flooding the market with new technological advances that center on mobile phones and mobile money. These areas of the world hinge on the use of cellular data for almost all business transactions, and access to power for charging their devices has become paramount. Small scale solar access in these remote regions has become the go-to method.

Pages from GTFOne key area that was identified (even with all of the successes discussed) is that there is still a need for more involvement and that overall, the initiative will not meet its goal of 100% access to energy by 2030. There are still 1 in 7 people living in the dark without access to power. The rate of implementation needs to double in the coming years in order to achieve the objectives. Energy efficiency was the only area that saw tangible gains within the report. The chart to the left shows the total goal, with the inner circle being where we are to date, and the middle circle where we may be at the current rate of achievement. With a gap of almost 50% for renewable energy adoption, policy makers and governments need to be a part of the adoption and change for implementation to be a success. Several African, South American, and Southeast Asian countries are leading the charge, but others need to follow their example for true global action and change.

screenshot participantsUpon reflection of the event, Sequoya noted: “One key take away was that thinking about this as a poverty solution or impoverished country issue is not necessarily the right framework for change. This isn’t about giving people access to energy and power, it’s about building economies and improving the economic success and stability of individuals once they have access to power. By providing the framework of energy improvement, better lighting for education; better fuels for cooking; better tools for doing business, economies improve and people’s health and lives improve which enables them as individuals to have the ability to pull themselves out of poverty. This is where we can help make a difference. We as a company and as people can use our knowledge to help others help themselves. This isn’t about what Backwoods can do; it is about empowering people to raise their standards for themselves and their community.”

You can visit the website and read articles and review highlights from the event: http://seforallforum.org/

Solar Power International 2016

By: Erika Karnitz, VP of Wholesale Sales

Solar Power International (SPI) 2016 was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center September 13-15th. David Katz and I braved the crowd and walked the maze of booths making up the show. There were over 17,000 attendees this year, a 10% increase from last year, and more than 600 exhibiting companies.

David having fun with lightsSimilarly to last year, there was a lot of focus on energy storage at SPI 2016. We saw many advanced battery technologies on display, including lithium ion, sodium ion, and nano carbon lead acid. Each technology has advantages and disadvantages in comparison to the flooded lead acid batteries that we are used to seeing in off grid applications.

There were several inverter companies introducing “storage” inverters, such as SMA. These inverters are different than an off grid inverter in that they are high voltage and they don’t function when the grid is down. They are designed mainly for commercial applications where peak shaving and load shifting makes financial sense to the customer.

Many module manufacturers have begun to produce “bi-facial” solar modules, which Solar World Bi-Facial Modulescan harvest more energy by capturing sunlight reflected off of the surface that the module is mounted on. Module manufacturers are reporting up to a 10% increase in output by using these in the proper conditions. Proper conditions would include having a reflective surface (white EDM roof etc) and a tilt up rack that allows the reflected light to be exposed to the back of the module.

Erika and smartflowerModule manufacturers are always striving to achieve better efficiency. Some techniques we saw being employed were using more bus bars and using half cells. The idea behind both of these strategies is that more electrons are able to pass through.

SPI is mainly geared toward larger distributors and installers but we always manage to find some new products that we think will be interesting to our customers. We saw two new inverters that will be available in 2017 that Backwoods will be excited to offer.

Midnite Solar MNB17-5 – The MNB17Midnite B17-5, Erika and David Katz-5 has 5 bays in which you can configure your
system components. Each bay holds one inverter or charge controller module. It is a very customizable product, and the first we have seen with multiple inverter modules and charge controllers that can be “hot swapped” in the field if servicing is required. It will work in off-grid, battery backup grid tie, and self-consumption applications.

Outback SkyBoxOutback Power SkyBox/SkyBoss- The SkyBox is an all in one hybrid energy system. It includes the inverter, charge controller, battery, and energy management system (SkyBoss) all in one enclosure. Unlike many of the grid tie/storage inverters we have seen, the SkyBox allows for use as a straight grid tie anDavid chatting up Outbackd can be upgraded later to include storage. The SkyBoss management system allows for advanced programming and load prioritization with the goal of optimizing your energy distribution.

Another item that we saw at SPI that may be interesting to our customers is a ready-made awning bracket. Solar awnings can be a great way to reduce solar gain and harvest energy at the same time. These hand welded in the USA awning brackets are aesthetically pleasing and can be bolted directly to your structure. They are available in 3 tilt angles to best Fronius Boothaccommodate your geographic location.

We love going to these large trade shows and meeting with our valued manufacturing partners and customers and deepening those relationships. We also love to check out all the new technologies so that we can keep our customers up-to-date with what is happening out there in the big wide solar world. Perhaps our favorite part though, is returning from the big city and getting back to the woods.

Visit our site to learn more about the products we viewed this year: www.backwoodssolar.com

2016 Tiny House Jamboree

John at TinyJam2016Tiny House Jam imageAt the beginning of August 2016, John O’Hara and Krista Miller from Backwoods Solar attended for the very first time, The Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs, CO. The event was held on a Friday through Sunday on the field just west of Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. Tiny House people of all types from builders, dwellers, vendors, and tiny living enthusiasts came for inspiration, ideas, and perhaps even to buy a tiny house. John said, “There were lots of different people with different life experiences heading toward a similar goal of living with less. Also, people seemed interested in the personal/financial freedom that went along with a Tiny House movement.”

Last year’s inaugural event attracted 40,000 attendees and increased in size so much this year causing the organizers to choose a new larger site or face being shut down. “The incredible attendance numbers showed us that the tiny house movement is more popular than anyone imagined,” says Coles Whalen, president of Tiny House Jamboree and event lead coordinator. She’s also the vice president of marketing for EcoCabins. “We had supporters from all over the nation – people from every state. Tiny house enthusiasts have been under the radar – they prefer to be under the radar – but they all came out of the woodwork for this event.”

Tiny house systems
An example of the tiny house systems we can design

The Backwoods Solar booth experienced a large number of attendees stopping by on their way to and from the speakers or tours of the houses. “We had several hundred people come by our booth to check out how to power their tiny houses with solar, micro-hydro, or wind. They were very interested in our flyer showing some example systems that we can design for people,” said Krista. And, “We pointed out to folks that Renewable Energy of a Tiny House can vary as much as the homes themselves do,” said John.

Mandi Kinder from Primus wind, manufactured in Colorado, joined us in our booth for one of the days to be on hand to answer questions about wind power systems specifically for tiny homes as well as general questions regarding wind power. “It was a joy to represent Primus Wind Power and to interact with so many different people.  I loved being able to discuss the benefits of combining wind and solar ultimately creating a smart hybrid system.  Tiny house people are so cool!” said Mandi. We were thankful to have her there to help.

The event featured 50 tiny buildings ranging in size from 150 to 308 square feet, including a handicap-accessible house, a tiny tailgater house by the Air Force Academy and a mini chapel by EcoCabins. Nearly two dozen speakers lead informative talks, question-and-answer sessions and book signings. Completing the picture were 40 vendors including Backwoods Solar, a kids’ corner, food, beer and wine. Friday night featured live music, and on Saturday night one of last year’s tiny house speakers was married in the tiny chapel.image - Tiny Home Flyer

“Tiny houses are a way to build equity. They’re easier than traditional real estate. Also, people are looking for a home they can own that is relocatable – they can take their whole lifestyle with them. They don’t have to settle down in one place”, Coles said.

Backwoods left the 2nd annual Tiny House Jamboree event feeling exhausted from the excitement of thunderstorms and a very engaged crowd, but looking forward to next year. John remarked that, “It’s neat to see so many people engaged in DIY on such a human scale. On a personal level – I enjoyed helping people – all at various stages of the process – continue to move in the direction of their dreams. The process is filled with excitement for a new future and it was fun to share that with them!”

InterSolar North America 2016

Solar Trade Show
2016 Crowd at Intersolar NA
Happy Birthday InterSolar
2016 Celebrates 25 years of InterSolar North America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having just returned from Intersolar North America, the largest solar industry event in the northern hemisphere, we are energized by all that is transpiring in the world of solar.  Leaving our remotely located homes for the city to mingle with a crowd of more than 18,000 people from over 80 countries is one of the ways we strive to bring our best to customers, vendors and employees.

Socializing at Intersolar NA 2016
From L to R, Bryan Norkunas, Annie Katz, David Katz, and Jason Austrus

The relationship building that occurs during the many meetings and social events is essential to our ability to stay up to date with the industry.  Our time is filled by engaging with new and established vendors and manufacturers; such as companies building solar modules, battery storage developers and project contractors.  It is always rewarding to meet face-to-face the people we know from our long-distance phone based relationships.  We share stories, get to know each other, and talk business.  These relationships shape the backbone of our ability to bring you the “latest and greatest” best equipment and service possible.

There are a myriad of ways to participate in InterSolar and we love to get involved wherever possible.  Over the years this has included: conference presentations about off-grid solutions-domestically and internationally, best practices to ensure the sustainability of the solar industry, and battery storage technologies, as well as; sitting on the InterSolar planning committee, serving on industry and advisory boards and sponsoring co-located events such as the Solar 2016 conference presented by American Solar Energy Society (ASES).

Happy Birthday SEI
Happy Birthday SEI

The highlights from this year’s event for us here at Backwoods Solar were; celebrating Solar Energy International’s 25th year, meeting with potential partners on projects located in Africa, checking out a cool new heliotropic tracking device, and as always strengthening relationships with our network of system manufacturers to ensure consistent supplies, pricing and customer service.

image - Backwoods Solar CEO Sequoya Cross
CEO Sequoya Cross

While both Sequoya Cross, CEO and David Katz, Corporate President of Backwoods found the event to have many of the same technologies presented as in previous years, David did find it interesting to see an ever increasing amount of storage companies in attendance. Further showing a shift back, with a renewed emphasis, to where the industry started when David founded his solar company some 40 years ago. Sequoya also commented that it would be fun and informative to have more participation, “nuts and bolts”, type demos of the equipment such as what QuickMount and IronRidge show in their booths with their product lines. “Having complete balance of energy systems that integrate these new technologies from multiple manufacturers in a hands-on approach would give depth to their use and compatibility in all types of system scenarios”.

Backwoods looks forward to sharing more from future InterSolar experiences. Until then please find the “nuts and bolts” information we produce for you in our Learning Center or give our technicians a call to ask about the latest upgrades you can make to your system.

2016 Mother Earth News Fair

168 188For the last four years the crew at Backwoods Solar has been tending a booth at the Mother Earth News sustainable living fair. This year Sequoya Cross and Krista Miller packed up three wooden crates full of components, giveaways, and information for the thousands of attendees that pass through the Linn County fairground gates.

Even the heat wave didn’t stop dedicated self-reliance folks from venturing out into the sun to find the Backwoods booth. And they were rewarded with our DC Fan and double shaded space which we shared with our favorite Primus Air representative, Ken Kotalik.  The searing heat encouraged questions about the effects on overheating solar panels efficiency, as well as, inspiring a brilliant D.I.Y. AC invention to take place right in our booth!

As people came in to our space they were greeted by us and a table full of components showing an example of what an off-grid or grid-tied system generally includes. This year we had informational title cards explaining each piece of the system from the solar module and mounting options to the battery bank and everything in between including various loads like water pumps and lights.

Everyone seemed very engaged this year and asked great questions. The Primus Air Breeze drew a lot of interest as did our DC direct fan and of course the Sunjack solar charging system. The kids loved the solar flashlight giveaways generously provided by MorningStar and waterproof cell phone holders provided by Roof Tech. We were really impressed with the amount of time people spent in our booth checking everything out.

We would like to thank our old friends Roger with Unforgettable Fire and Angela. We can’t wait to see you in August for the Tiny Home Jamboree and thank you for introducing us to Thomas and his father of Eagle Log Cabins!  Of course Ray and David of Outback Power for being very supportive and sending many folks our way during those hot hours following their presentation on the Solar Stage.

Check out our new friends John and Nathan with Alpha Electric Scooters. Thanks guys for keeping us smiling during the heat. Also, our neighbors Barn-to-Door and Sow1Farm were truly super cool. A special thank you to Kevin with Fire Mizer who created a D.I.Y. bucket style AC unit for his booth and in chatting with us on his rounds discovered the Sunjack battery pack would run the USB fan that pushed air through the unit. It was truly an instance of necessity being the mother of invention!

In addition to our old and new friends, our regulars came by to visit and many of them went away with one of our Backwoods Solar T-Shirts. We had a winner for the Sunjack Solar charger who happened to not answer her phone because it had died. She was very excited and said that she was really lucky to win the Sunjack so that won’t happen again!

Finally a huge thank you goes out to all of our vendors who generously provided demo units, information sheets, freebies, and products to showcase at this year’s fair. Without your support we wouldn’t have been able to do this.

Backwoods-Summer-2016-Road-Trip
Participating Vendors at our booth

Backwoods Summer 2016 Road Trip Report I

OSEIA 2016

By Erika Karnitz VP of Wholesale

I attended the 2016 Oregon Solar Energy Conference (OSEC) on May 4th and 5th in Portland Oregon. The conference drew 380 attendees this year, as opposed to last year’s 251. Each day was chock full of training’s, policy round tables, and networking opportunities.

Tuesday May 3rd kicked off the event with a “solar soiree” in the evening featuring drinks, snacks and a chance to say hi to everyone before we got down to business. Jeff Bissonnette, Executive Director of OSEIA gave an opening speech about the bright future of solar in Oregon.

Wednesday morning started with a keynote address by Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). He took a poll of the room and it was interesting to see that many of us had Customer Owned Utility round tablebeen there 5, 10, 15, and even 20+ years. He talked about Oregon Senate Bill 1547, which set as 50% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2040 and requires the elimination of coal-generated electricity in the state power mix.  The bill also creates a community solar program, allowing Oregonians without solar suitable roofs to own a portion of a larger central array and have credits applied to their electricity bills. SEIA expects Oregon have one of the fastest growing solar industries in the country in the coming years.

Wednesday I attended some interesting training’s. The first was a product and technical training by Solarworld. They talked about their new line of high efficiency monocrystalline modules, which are 60 cell and 300W. They are using a 5 busbar technology, which in conjunction with high quality mono cells is enabling them to reach 300W in the same footprint as they have used in the past. Per Solarworld ” By moving from three to five bus bars, the primary electrical contacts that stripe photovoltaic cells, SolarWorld can manufacture cells and modules in which electrons travel shorter distances from grid lines to bus bars and thus enable more to reach the bus bars. The advance lifts module power by 2 percentOB training Sandraage points. “

Another interesting new product being offered by Solarworld is the “Bisun” module, which is a bifacial solar module. Bifacials have been offered in the past by companies such as Canadian Solar and Sanyo, but the Solarworld will be the only one currently in production to my knowledge. The amount of additional power generated by bifacials depends greatly on the reflectivity of the surface that they are installed on and the method of install. An ideal install would be elevated and on a white membrane roof. Solarworld claims up to a 25% increase in power generation compared to a standard module of the same wattage. They are currently testing outputs at an install in VA.

The next training I attended was “Inverter Best Practices”, taught by Jeff Laughy from Solar Edge. It was a good overview of different inverter types, with a focus on SolarEdge inverters and optimizers. He discussed the significant impact recovery from shading that is possible by using MLPE (module level power electronics). Rhone ReschMLPEs include microinverters and power optimizers. Tests have indicated that if you are in an area that receives shading, you can recover 25% of the lost power by using MLPEs. According to SolarEdge, 60% of residential installs are currently using MLPE technology.

Jeff also spoke about SolarEdge’s partnership with Tesla in making a storage solution for grid tied systems. The StorEdge 7.6kW inverter and appropriate optimizers can be used with the Tesla Powerwall to create a grid tied solar system with a 6.4kW storage capacity.

The last session I attended on Wednesday was “Preparing for Disaster Resiliency”. Rick Williams, Director of the Columbia Region Leidos Maritime Solutions, has been working with Portland State University and others to come up with solutions to make the PV installs in the area more ready in the case of a large grid outage. They have been discussing establishing community centers that would allow residents to shelter in place.

Thursday I attended the “Grid Tied Battery Backup Systems” class, taught by Sandra Herrera and Brian Lawrence from Outback. We learned a lot about Radian system design and implementation. We also talked about the other products in Outback’s lineup that are suitable for grid tie with battery backup.

The 2016 OSEC was a whirlwind of learning, networking, and fun. There were several after-hours opportunities to mingle with other solar professionals, and it is always a pleasure to see the faces of my northwest solar friends. OSEC remains one of my favorite conferences because of its smaller size and ample training opportunities. See you there next year!

 

Off-Grid and Grid-Tie Education from InterSolar North America 2014

San Francisco Intersolar conference 2014  was amazing! The Backwoods team strengthened their off-grid and grid-tie education at the Intersolar conference this year.

Solar Industry Exhibition and Conference - Solar Panel Efficiency - Backwoods Solar
Attendees meet up on the rooftop at the Intersolar welcome reception.

Intersolar is held each July in San Francisco, California and is the most well attended solar industry exhibition and conference in North America. Over the course of three days, more than 17,000 visitors from 74 countries visited 530 exhibitors, and saw the latest innovations in the photovoltaic, energy storage, balance of systems, mounting and tracking systems, as well as, solar heating and cooling market sectors. With events spanning four continents, Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition series for the solar industry and its partners. A total of 530 exhibitors and more than 17,000 trade visitors participated in Intersolar North America in 2014. The conference featured 40 sessions and 25 workshops with more than 200 speakers. It unites people and companies from around the world with the aim of increasing the share of solar power in our energy supply.

David, Sequoya, Erika and Krista from the Backwoods Crew adventured to the city of San Francisco, California to attend this important annual solar energy industry event. Intersolar kicked off with a keynote presentation by California Govenor Edmund G. Brown Jr. who characterized the solar industry as the next Gold Rush, speaking to the economic benefits the industry can deliver as it matures. His speech reflected the positive mood we witnessed on the show floor and at the Intersolar North America conference, which was due, in part, to the strength of the U.S. solar industry (and the excitement of the World Cup games). This mood is reflected everywhere especially in the press. In 2014, the United States is expected to add between 5.2 and 6.3 gigawatts to its total installed capacity, according to NPD SolarBuzz.

Intersolar North America expanded its focus this year, on energy storage, project development and financing and downstream market developments. This included more conference sessions on the topic, as well as new offerings to exhibition attendees designed with Intersolars’ robust roster of partners. Sequoya Cross was on the planning committee for the conference and proudly moderated a session on Off-Grid technologies in Emerging Markets

As Backwoods Solar is a battery based system supplier, we found the conference sessions informative and were excited to see new development and innovation in battery storage technologies. Several of which we plan on testing in the coming months. One of the most excited battery technologies are Silicon Salt water batteries. These have all of the benefits of sealed lead acid batteries in terms of maintenance, but are also non-toxic, allow for fast charge and discharge rates, can be depleted to almost 0%, and operate at almost full capacity at sub-zero temperatures. We are currently testing several brands in Canada now!

Last year, InterSolar had a successful energy storage exhibition resulting in an increase in the number of energy storage companies this year. This allowed us to see some really cool stuff. Reflecting on the important link between solar and energy storage technologies, Intersolar forged a new partnership with the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (NAATBatt) to better address key concerns of solar developers. In addition to consulting on the development of energy storage conference panels, NAATBatt also hosted a storage workshop that addressed the industry’s challenges and opportunities.

This was also the first year that Intersolar was hosted alongside ASES’s (American Solar Energy Society) annual conference. ASES has lead the charge in providing highly technical sessions that focus on all aspects of solar energy, not just PV. This melding of both conferences allowed for some high level, hands on training opportunities for the attendees.
www.intersolar.us