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EnerWorks Gets the Star

EnerWorks (www.enerworks.com), a Canadian solar water heating manufacturer, has just announced its qualification for the new Energy Star residential solar water heater program. EnerWorks's solar collectors and pre-engineered systems are also certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation, a requirement for the federal 30% solar tax credit. One of the company's collector models, the COL-4x8-TL-SG1-SD10, includes a patented temperature-limiting device that vents excess heat. This feature is designed to minimize or eliminate the effects of overheating during a typical summer vacation of two to three weeks without hot water use. A thermally actuated spring inside the collector operates the overtemperature-protection device, which opens an air baffle at the top of the collector, venting hot air from inside the collector and maintaining the heat-transfer fluid at approximately 260°F.

The average U.S. household spends $400 to $600 per year on water heating—the second largest energy expenditure behind heating and cooling. U.S. tax credit legislation requires that a residential solar water heater cut water heating costs by at least 50% to qualify for the credit.

Flexible Tubing Makes for Easier Solar Hot Water Installations

If soldering copper tubing is a challenge or you just want a quicker piping job, Thermo Technologies' (www.thermomax.com) Easyflex stainless steel tubing may be what you're looking for. Their insulated Solar Line tubing has a working temperature of 350°F and the 50-foot rolls are manufactured in %-inch to 1-inch sizes. The UV-resistant insulation has an R-value of 4.8 and the return line includes a sensor wire. Brass fittings with a silicone sealing ring and nylon gaskets include couplings, tees, and adapters for threaded pipe or copper tubing. Bends are easy with the flexible tubing and a pair of adjustable wrenches is all that's needed to tighten the fittings.

—Chuck Marken

Courtesy www.thermomax.com

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Jump-start your renewable energy education with these time-tested tomes written by experienced RE users.

Want to live with solar electricity?

For a classic read on all aspects of solar-electric homes, check out Joel Davidson and Fran Orner's The New Solar Electric Home (AATEC Publications, 1987). Now in its third edition, the book uses plain language and easy-to-understand tables to walk you through the process—from sizing and selection to installation and maintenance. View the complete table of contents and purchase at www.solarsolar.com.

Want to install your own system?

Get down to the nitty-gritty of PV system design and installation with Solar Energy International's Photovoltaics: Design & Installation Manual (New Society, 2007). Go step-by-step through system design and installation, and test your know-how with exercises throughout. The 112-page appendix—with a glossary, solar data, sun charts, and system sizing formulas—is an excellent go-to resource. www.solarenergy.org.

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Building a wind generator is not simple, but the best instructions can be found in Hugh Piggott's A Wind Turbine Recipe Book. Piggott's book gives a real-world account of what it takes to build and operate a wind generator. Find the U.S. measurements edition at www.scoraigwind.com.

Well Read Powell's Books, one of the nation's largest booksellers, is greening its operations with a roof-mounted, 100-kilowatt solar-electric system on its 60,000-square-foot warehouse in Portland, Oregon. One of the largest solar-electric installations in the state, the newly installed system features 540 PV modules (Mitsubishi UD5 series) that will offset about 25% of the building's electricity use.

Grid Alternatives Provides Low-Income Solar Options

Marvas McCladdie always dreamed of buying a home, but with the high cost of housing in Northern California's Bay Area and rising energy prices driving up the cost of living, he never thought it would be possible. He tried saving for the down payment and closing costs with little success: A single father raising two teenage girls, Marvas often worked extra shifts at his job as a cook at the local hospital just to make ends meet.

Just as he was about to give up on the idea, he learned that his application for Habitat for Humanity had been approved. In 2007, after putting more than 500 hours of sweat equity into the construction, Marvas and his daughters moved from a cramped apartment to a three-bedroom house, made possible by a 30-year, no-interest mortgage through Habitat for Humanity.

Marvas's home is one of 26 built on a reclaimed industrial site in the Sobrante Park neighborhood of East Oakland. In keeping with Habitat's emphasis on green building, each home comes

Low-income homeowners spend a higher percentage of their incomes Consequently, they are the hardest-hit by high energy prices.

equipped with a roof-mounted 2-kilowatt solar-electric system from Grid Alternatives, an Oakland-based nonprofit group providing low-income families with the benefits of solar power.

Founded in 2001 during California's energy crisis, Grid Alternatives is the brainchild of Erica Mackie and Tim Sears— two engineers who previously worked with energy efficiency and renewable energy systems in the private sector. After seeing how rising energy prices practically crippled low-income households, the duo set out to create a program to help low-income communities throughout California access the benefits of solar power.

"Low-income homeowners spend a higher percentage of their incomes on energy. Consequently, they are the hardest-hit by high energy prices. They pay into the tax system that supports rebates and incentives, but most cannot afford the up-front capital investment, and miss out on the benefits of renewable energy," Sears says. "Our goal was to make the economics work for everyone."

Marvas McCladdie and his daughter, Camille.

Their efforts led to two programs: the Solar Affordable Housing Program, which trains and leads teams of volunteers to install solar-electric systems for low-income homeowners, and the Energy Efficiency Team Program, which installs energy-efficiency upgrades for low-income seniors and disabled persons. The programs' success led to the company's current partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

Since 2004, Grid Alternatives has helped Habitat for Humanity provide more than 165 families with solar-electric systems and, in the process, trained more than 2,000 volunteers in solar-electric installation. Habitat for on energy. Humanity coordinates the grants, and funding from participating utilities and rebates through the California Energy Commission cover the cost of the systems. The Grid Alternatives crew takes the lead on system design, procurement, and installation.

In the Sobrante project, each system is designed to reduce a family's electric bills by approximately 75%, resulting in more than $15,000 in savings over its expected 30-year lifetime. But for Marvas, the benefits go beyond the monthly savings. "My girls ask lots of questions. It's nice to see them genuinely excited to learn more about renewable energy and understand how it all works," he says. "I am sure they will take this with them into the future."

—Kelly Davidson

Another 28 solar-powered Habitat houses are planned for an adjoining site in Marvas's neighborhood. To learn more or lend a helping hand, log on to www.gridalternatives.org.

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Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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