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Category: Solar Panels

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5 Quick Ways to Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint: Part 1 of 3

Now, more than ever, our world is being impacted by climate related mega disasters, due to extreme climate change. We as a whole, need to act quickly to lessen our carbon footprint to save the planet, otherwise there will be dire consequences.

Over the past two weeks, five areas across the United States alone, have experienced flooding that happens once every thousand years. Areas in Dallas, St. Louis, eastern Kentucky, Mississippi and southeastern Illinois have been inundated with historic levels of rainfall. According to the Washington Post, this amount of rainfall usually has a .1 percent chance of happening in any given year; it has happened in five different areas in less than two weeks!

This type of flooding and other massive natural disasters is not uncommon for people to experience anymore. Natural disasters have been gradually getting worse while becoming more frequent as global temperatures continue to rise, in fact the United States experiences the highest number of natural disasters every year.

Carbon FootprintTo reduce the number of natural disasters and lessen their impacts, we need to balance the carbon equation. Per the Paris Agreement, the United States has pledged to eliminate its emissions and work towards capping the global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050 before climate change turns calamitous. If we fail to reach this goal the natural disasters happening around the world will be amplified to biblical proportions.

There’s good news though, we as consumers and businesses can help to reach this goal! It will require radical and rapid changes across the entire American economy, but by working together to reduce our ecological footprint we hold the keys necessary to counteract climate change.

According to Seth Godin, best-selling author of The Carbon Almanac, states that “it’s not too late.”  He believes we can start to solve the problem of reducing our carbon footprint with businesses leading the charge in sustainability and ecological innovation and technologies. With businesses spearheading this revolution, consumers will start to follow suite until it’s a normal idea to support companies that are backing green initiatives.

Building businesses that create more demand for carbon-zero products or services is not something that can be accomplished overnight, but there are ways you and your company can quickly take steps in the direction of reducing your carbon footprint. By supporting sustainable causes and ideas, we can all start building a sustainable and hopeful future.

In today’s blog post, we are going to look at the first two ways you and your company can start reducing your carbon footprint!

1. Buying Electric Vehicles

Our first way to help shrink your ecological footprint is to look into switching fleet vehicles your company currently uses from gas to electric, especially if those vehicles put on a lot of miles in a year.

Transportation is a growing source of global greenhouse emissions that is helping drive climate change. A PBS article on global warming states that, “in 2019, 23% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions came from transportation and contributed to 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.”

Not only can switching to electric vehicles cut emissions by 60% over fossil fuel vehicles, but they can also save an average of 1.5 million grams of carbon dioxide! Since electric vehicles do not have tailpipes, they emit nothing when operating, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, most models can go more than 200 miles on a fully charged battery.

In other great news, EV batteries can now be recycled! The Department of Energy (DOE) recently launched the first lithium-ion battery recycling center, The ReCell Center, in hopes of creating a profitable method to improve recycling rates and reduce the reliance on supplies from foreign countries. Recycling EV batteries reduces the production costs by 10 to 30% along with reducing emissions, waste, and the need for new materials.

Outside of government incentives that lower the price of purchasing electric vehicles, they also have a lower operating cost. The DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center states that “the operation and maintenance costs of EV’s averages about 3 cents per mile and they achieve their best fuel economy during stop-and-go driving conditions.”

While some companies don’t need a fleet of vehicles; the ones that do have fleet vehicles should take consideration into moving the company fleet to electric. There are a wide range of electric vehicle options available from your typical run of the mill electric vehicle to off-road EVs, forklifts, mowers, tractors, school buses, and public transit.

If we work towards transforming how we fuel our transportation needs, electric vehicles could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions anywhere from 80 to 90% of current levels by 2050!

2. Installing Solar Panels

The second way to reduce your carbon footprint is to harness the suns energy by installing solar panels. What’s cool about solar energy is that it’s completely renewable and one of the cleanest sources of energy out there.

The best part about shrinking your carbon footprint with solar energy is the reduction for demand of fossil fuels and less greenhouse gas emissions are produced. By going solar, users can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning over 5,000 pounds of coal each year.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also found that widespread adoption of solar energy can significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions.

Solar energy is becoming one of the fastest growing sources of sustainable energy. According to the International Energy Agency, “solar and wind energy account for almost 10% of total electricity generation.” The U.S. is now the third largest market in the world for solar energy. 23.6 gigawatts of solar were installed in the U.S. in 2021. The United States receives so much solar energy that an array of solar panels in the Mojave Desert could generate a year’s worth of our energy needs in a single day.

In fact, solar power will account for almost half of United States’ new electricity generation this year. At the beginning of 2022, The U.S. Energy Information Administration expected solar generating capacity to grow by 21.5 gigawatts, which would surpass last year’s 15.5 gigawatts of solar capacity additions, with many of these additions in Texas (6.1 gigawatts, or 28% of the national total).

Not only is solar energy great for the environment, but it’s beneficial to its users too! Solar energy is the most affordable source of energy in the world and the coast of solar panels has dropped by 80% since 2008. In December 2016, the cost of building and installing new solar electricity generation dropped to $1.65 per watt; it’s renewable counterpart—wind—was $1.66/watt.

Aside from solar energy being extremely affordable, there are also incentives to switch to solar power. Users can receive 30% system costs back from equipment and installation as a federal income tax credit, along with receiving Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) by selling any excess energy produced to utility companies.

In order to reach our goal in 2050 set out by the Paris Agreement, almost 90% of global electricity generation needs to come from renewable sources, with solar PV and wind together accounting for nearly 70%.

 

Now that we’ve covered the first two ways you and your company can decrease your ecological impact, come back Saturday for the second portion of this post! I’ll be detailing three and four in how to quickly reduce your company’s carbon footprint!

 

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Kari Norvell. Please reach out to SUNTEX directly if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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Here’s How to Go Green: 5 Easy Lifestyle Changes to Implement Today

So you want to go green? Living an eco-friendly lifestyle that is both personally rewarding and environmentally viable is all the rage these days and for a good reason. You’ll see your carbon footprint decrease, electricity bills go down, and property value skyrocket. If you’re looking for compelling ways to live more green this year, SUNTEX breaks it down below. 

 1. Start with Your Home

GreenIf you’re shopping for a new home, this is the perfect time to start your eco-friendly mission. Look for specific features in potential homes that will support your sustainable ethos. For example, homes that come with Energy Star appliances are a good sign, as these appliances conserve energy and power. Next, consider the home’s building materials. Are the materials used eco-friendly? For example, pre-cast concrete and recycled steel structures will lower your gas usage while reducing the negative impact on the carbon footprint (you can learn more about how pre-cast concrete helps with carbon foot-printing by visiting Informed Infrastructure). Lastly, look for pre-existing LED light fixtures, which are great for reducing energy consumption.   

2. Go Solar 

 According to Solar Power World, one out of every 600 U.S. homes are installing solar panels every quarter. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint and reliance on depleting resources like fossil fuels, going solar comes with significant economic benefits. solar power can cut down on your electricity bill by half each year, and the government also offers solar tax rebates and incentives if your home is powered by solar energy. For more information on adding solar panels to your home, connect with SUNTEX today. 

 3. Watch That Insulation 

 Be sure to check for drafts in your new home. Drafts are a good indication that your insulation isn’t working as it should, which means you’re using more energy for heating and cooling. Patching up any holes or leaks in insulation will be critical here, but luckily, the fix is simple with a little bit of caulk. You could also spring for a complete renovation to overhaul your insulation system to a more robust, eco-friendly option (if you have a bigger budget). 

4. Green Up Your Landscaping 

Green

Growing a lush, green lawn is the dream of many homeowners. However, traditional lawns are high-maintenance, requiring regular watering and fertilizing. They can also be damaging to the environment, as chemical runoff from lawncare products can pollute waterways. For a more sustainable option, implement eco-friendly landscaping in your yard. Opt for drought-friendly plants or native flowers, add more hardscaping, and ditch the sprinkler system. If you need help pulling this off, connect with local landscapers that get top marks for eco-friendly design and execution. Start by reading online reviews and customer testimonials to find the ideal provider in your part of town.  

 5. Look at Those Small Details

Last but not least, watch out for those small details. It doesn’t quite add up if you’re using solar power but also cleaning your home with toxic and harmful chemicals. Create an exhaustive list of all the products and items you use regularly, and consider more environmentally-sound swaps. You can also cut back on consumption and waste starting by swapping paper towels for reusable rags or ditching plastic baggies for beeswax wraps. Consider powder detergent over giant plastic bottles, and purchase refills instead of buying new hand-soap containers. You can even start composting on a small scale.  

Green

Going green is more than implementing a few strategies around your house. Instead, it is a holistic lifestyle that you will need to practice in all your decisions for it to make a difference. Start by working toward solar power, or update your landscaping to avoid water waste. Implement a kitchen composting system, and change out your cleaning products. The good news is that consistent effort in the eco-friendly department can stack up to real and tangible environmental benefits, so keep on keeping at it!

Note: This article was written for SUNTEX by guest writer, Emma Grace Brown. Please reach out directly to SUNTEX if you have any questions regarding this article, or the blog post content.

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Solar Panels in the Winter: Myths and Motivators 101

It may not be surprising to you that when the sun is further away from the earth, ie during the fall and winter months in the northern hemisphere (Nov-Feb), less sunlight reaches the earth’s surface.

So, it would stand to reason that less sunlight is hitting your roof-top during this time-frame than the remainder of the year.

In today’s blog post we’ll explore this phenomenon in more detail, as well as some of the myths about producing solar energy in the winter, as well as a couple of reasons why you might still want to make the purchase anyway, to take advantage all year long of energy savings.

Solar Panels

Myths 

  • Solar panels do not produce energy in the winter.”

False. In fact, solar panels produce on average produce 35% of their overall annual energy production in Texas during the winter time (“On average, 65% of our local solar system’s annual energy output is generated between March 21st and September 21st of each year. The other half of the year, between September 21st and March 21st, accounts for the other 35% of annual solar output.” https://www.lighthousesolarny.com/blog/2017/february/the-seasonality-of-solar-energy-production/).

During the winter storm in February of 2021, Texans learned first-hand just how helpful solar panels can be in an emergency winter storm – check out the following article from Pecan Street’s Chief Technology Officer, Scott Hinson, here: https://www.pecanstreet.org/2021/02/solarstorm/.

  • Solar panels are less efficient in the winter, because of rain and snow.”

This one is partially true, if you live in Seattle or Greenbay, where rain and snow in the winter time should come as no surprise at all. However in Texas, with average rainfall reaching 27.25″ (https://learn.weatherstem.com/modules/learn/lessons/182/19.html#:~:text=The%20average%20annual%20rainfall%20for,climatic%20regions%20of%20the%20state), and average snowfall typically in the ‘none’ range, it’s safe to say that your solar panels will absorb energy as efficiently in the summer months, if the distance of the sun were negligible.

  • The further distance of the sun during the winter months means that your panels will produce less energy than they would in the summer months.”

True, but only if you live in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere the sun is actually closer to the earth, and therefore would produce more solar energy in what American’s would think of as “winter time,” and if you don’t believe me, just check out the following link which explains this exact phenomenon: https://solarcalculator.com.au/solar-panel-orientation/.

Motivators

Winter Solar Panels

Even if you live in the northern hemisphere, where solar production may dip in the winter months, you’re still likely to produce some extra energy – as we saw in myth buster #1.

Additionally, if you were to perhaps accompany your solar system with back-up battery power and/or a generator, you could also keep your heat on should say a winter storm hit and take down the energy grid in your neighborhood for 4-5 days. This is a huge incentive to start looking into solar power generation from your home, because outside of a zombie-apocalypse occurring, you’ll want to start preparing to save money and keep your home well insulated against the negative effects of climate change as well, and having solar energy & energy storage could make a difference if the grid in your area is shut off.

However, if you’re not interested in saving money, or want to save money and carbon emissions in the most effective way possible, going green has really never been easier with solar! Harvesting energy from the sun is renewable and there is a lot of sun to go around, however unlike geothermal heaters or wind turbines, the set up for rooftop solar is fairly simple, and will only require a few months of planning and execution before you’re able to enjoy energy credits on your utility bill from your solar production.

Finally this brings us to the #1 motivator to go solar: Net Metering. If you don’t know what this is, we’ve discussed it on earlier blogs so be sure to check those out (here: https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common/, and https://suntexllc.com/electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common-part-2-of-2/ – to reference just a couple, feel free to uncover more using the search feature).

Net metering is the icing on top of the solar cake that makes this technology feasible in modern every-day life. Net metering works exactly how it sounds: your meter is typically upgraded to a smart meter so that you’re able to measure not only energy consumption, but energy production as well. Therefore, when your solar array produces energy to send to the grid, your utility company can then take the “net” or difference between what energy was consumed and what energy was produced and apply energy production credits to your utility bill. These credits are applied to your energy bill each month and deducted (in simple terms) from your total energy bill, thus making your energy cost more affordable.

So, if emergency planning, saving money, reducing carbon emissions and gaining energy credits on your utility bill haven’t convinced you yet of the benefits of solar, I’m not sure anything will, but feel free to share some additional comments in the section below, and hopefully we can help get those myths busted, and those panels installed!

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Preparing Your Solar Panels for Fall

Solar Panels in the FallAptly named, fall brings about the shedding of leaves which accumulate in your yard at a much faster rate than the rest of the year. Almost immediately, even if you don’t notice the transition in temperature, the wind starts to blow and the trees shake, leaving you plenty to do on the weekends.

Of course if you’ve installed solar panels on your home, or if you’ve done your homework before going solar, you know that any shading whatsoever can impact the efficacy of your panels, and their ability to produce energy for your home.

That’s why we’ve gathered a few helpful tips on how to prepare your home, and especially your solar panels, from the dire consequences of leaf accumulation.

Check them out below:

All joking aside, I hope you’re enjoying the start to September, and have already begun planning your fall garden as well! Do you enjoying working outside or decorating for the season? Feel free to share your Fall Home prep or Favorite Fall activities in the comments below!

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Energy Preparedness: Summer Edition

Summer Travel  Summer is a fantastic time to escape the rigor of daily activity. You can go to any number of lakes to swim or jet-ski, head to the beach to build sandcastles and catch waves — or for the really adventurous spirit, you can even go camping or hiking in the great outdoors! This year, my husband and I have decided to take a month-long road trip, camping along the way, in order to explore all that this beautiful country has to offer! Or, at least we’ll get to see quite a bit of the West. We’re heading to Colorado first, then through Utah and Oregon and onto Seattle, Washington where we’ll get to see some family we haven’t seen in a while. Then, it’s off to Glacier National Park in Montana (https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm), Custer Gallatin National Forest (https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/custergallatin/home), Yellowstone (https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm), the Gran Tetons (https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm), and finally back home!

While we’re both anxiously counting down the days until we’re sleeping under the stars and cooking s’mores, one huge reason we also decided to take this trip during August is to escape the August heat. Every year in Texas this seems to be our highest energy bill — no matter what we do to mitigate it.Glacier National Park

This is a common theme in August in Texas, as any Texas resident will tell you, however with the effects of climate change more prevalent now than ever before in our life times, and with more and more people moving to this great state every day, the peak energy demand season is sky-rocketing. It’s no wonder that as the heat index moves above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, people want to escape inside an air-conditioned building as quickly as possible — but what people don’t realize is that the short spurt of increased demand must be managed by Grid operators — similar to the reports we read in February during the winter storm. Just take a look at what the Texas Tribune reported about summer energy outages this past June: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/19/texas-power-grid-ercot/. The good news is that because we’re in Texas, engineers have designed these systems to withstand the heat (so it’s very likely that you won’t have any of the natural gas plants freeze up during this time of the year like we saw this past winter), however any time there is increased demand on the energy Grid, the additional loads must be managed. This week, we’ll explore what to do if your power is interrupted or even goes out during the hottest days on record — and hopefully you live near a body of water if so! For those of you with solar + battery storage, you can tune out for now.

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Product Deep-Dive: Solar Panels

Product quality is important to us, and luckily in the solar market, it doesn’t always counteract Product Cost. Using locally sourced materials and products are part of our company fiber.

Thus, we proudly use Mission Solar panels for most of our Solar-Panel System installations and we have provided their website for more information on how these panels are manufactured, with a special video featuring how they’re built with Texas weather in mind.

When Mission Solar Panels are not available however, we will substitute for other high-quality panels that are not manufactured in Texas, such as REC Alpha solar panels, or Hanwha Q-cells. For more information about these specific panels, please check out the following links from Solar Electric Supply:

If you’re curious to learn more, you know what to do – ask us for a free quote for your home, today!

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Earthly Innovations to Celebrate Around the World

Everyone wants to build their own home, or must, to survive the earthly elements – try being in a hail storm, for example, without even a tarp over your head. When we ask ourselves what our ideal homes would look like, how many of us ask what the ideal energy solution would look like too? For example, you might want vaulted ceilings and marble flooring – and all of the latest Energystar rated appliances, of course – but how many architects are ensuring that these tall-walled rooms are bright and warm in the winter, and lit but cool in the summer? By design, and perhaps a couple of windows/sky lights in the right place, and you’re set! When you apply then the carbon footprint cost, how many of us decided to build our homes with locally-sourced materials?

Some people are clearly making this connection, like the woman in Kenya who created her own recycled bricks using locally sourced materials. Nzambi Matee’s buildings are not only structurally sound, but installations of art as well: “Kenyan woman’s startup recycles plastic into bricks that are stronger than concrete”(https://www.designboom.com/technology/gjenge-makers-recycled-plastic-bricks-kenya-02-08-2021/). According to the article on Designboom.com, “before creating gjenge makers ltd, nzambi matee majored in material science and worked as an engineer in kenya’s oil industry. in 2017 she quit her job to start creating and testing pavers, which are a combination of plastic and sand. she gets the waste material for free from packaging factories and also buys it from other recyclers. through experimentation, she understood which plastics bind better together and then created the machinery that would allow her to mass produce them.”

For another example of a local innovation, check out the young entrepreneurs featured (right) whom created a solar-powered cooking station! According to his account on Twitter, Mr. Usman Dalhatu and partners had this to say of the collaboration, “We met with Dalsman Technologies Limited, creators of the iCart Solution. We explored areas of mutual interest, and avenues to empower petty traders in Kaduna. iCart is a solar powered, compact kiosk targeted at small businesses including Shayi, Suya and Kosai vendors,” and also the following: “The journey from ideation to final development of products is a truly fascinating one. It was delightful to discuss with @KadunaMarkets, our dev’t vision for Kaduna through deployment of the iCart. Looking forward to the exciting implementation journey that lies ahead.” https://twitter.com/UsmanDalhatu5

What’s in your area, or in your home, that could be re-purposed into something sustainable? It could be something as complex as designing a brick for a home using locally sourced materials and keeping natural heating and cooling elements in mind, or a solar-powered food-cart instead of using a gas or electric-powered stove – to something as simple as a dish-rack, for example – which is a much more sustainable way to dry your plates and dishes, and costs little to nothing to purchase and use. What else will make a difference in energy consumption in your home, your schools, in your business?

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Stars that Decided to Harness the Power of the Sun

Perhaps you’re not the type of person that just does something because “everyone else is doing it,” which is of course smart, but you might be interested to know that celebrities aren’t just sipping cocktails by the pool, they’re also going solar! It’s no surprise that California has lots of sunshine, making it a very appealing place for solar panels, in fact it’s the #1 state in the US in solar production according to the Solar Energy Industry association, or SEIA (https://www.seia.org/research-resources/top-10-solar-states-0). While it pains me to write this, at least in this race, Texas came in second. Even though their careers have taken them in some very funny/dramatic turns, celebrities such as Will Ferrell, Scarlett Johansson, and Jim Carrey decided to invest in this renewable energy source, see the full list here: https://www.purepointenergy.com/blog/2016/may/10-celebrities-who-support-solar-panels/.

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Solar Panel Efficiency

Though most of today’s solar panels are nearly equivalent in efficiency, it’s important to understand what you’re paying for, and why you might want to go with a higher wattage panel in some instances, versus a lower wattage panel which is likely a cheaper system, in others. For a simple example, using the same type of materials, a 290-Watt panel will be less efficient than a 390-Watt panel. The higher the wattage, ignoring all other factors, the higher the efficiency. Seems easy, right? The truth is that the quality may vary depending on the type of materials used, and the way in which each solar cell is built, however again, we’re talking in almost negligible differences in productivity. Let’s take a look at why:

According to CleanEnergyReviews, “solar panel efficiency is determined by two main factors; the photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency, based on the cell design and silicon type, and the total panel efficiency, based on the cell layout, configuration and panel size” (https://www.cleanenergyreviews.info/blog/most-efficient-solar-panels). This article may seem somewhat cumbersome, however it outlines the key differences pretty well – check it out! The author goes on to explain that “The efficiency (%) of a panel is calculated by the maximum power rating (W) at STC, divided by the total panel area in meters,” however if you’re not designing a system yourself, this equation isn’t the most important part – it’s understanding how this will impact your system and your budget, based on your current and perceived energy usage. Again, to understand why – let’s keep digging! If you keep reading on to find the image below, you might start to see the differences in panels the article is referencing – for example, take a look at the labels below each to note the difference between the silicon types: “multiple busbars (MBB), and passivation type (PERC)” – while we’re here, also note the percentages at the bottom of each label – the variance is only ~7% from the lowest efficiency panel, to the highest efficiency panel, however the cost difference can be significant. Keep in mind, this is not to say that the lower efficiency panel is poor quality necessarily, since you might not need the amount of energy that the higher-efficiency panels produce (these are often used for commercial projects, instead of residential homes).

Finally, this article goes on to list the top efficiency panels from 2021 (see below, updated as recently as February of this year), but the paragraph just below it really outlines the whole picture, saying “what matters most is the manufacturing quality which is related to real world performance, reliability, manufacturers service, and warranty conditions.” Please do continue reading through the end – not only is it an interesting read, but it just might help you make a more informed decision when selecting the solar panels for your solar system. For questions on the information outlined within this article, give us a call today! We’re happy to walk you through it or provide you with a free quote for your home or business.

* List of the most efficient solar panels announced and expected to reach high volume production during 2021 – Residential 60 to 66 cell size format size panels only – Last update Feb 2021.

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Spring has officially Sprung!

If you’re like me, and thought that the Spring Equinox fell on March 21st every year, you would be wrong for 2021! I was waiting to post about it until today, however the first official day of spring was yesterday, March 20, 2021.

What is the spring equinox? It’s a sign that the days will continue to start getting longer and longer, but for a more scientific answer, check out the following link (https://www.space.com/vernal-equinox-2021-spring-arrival-equal-day-night) which states, “Spring will officially arrive on Saturday morning (March 20) with the occurrence of the vernal equinox. That occurs when the sun will be positioned directly over the Earth’s equator at 09:37 Universal Time; 5:37 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time or 2:37 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. At that particular moment, the sun will appear to shine directly overhead from a point 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of Meru, in Kenya; a city of approximately 241,000 residents.

From that moment, until the occurrence of the summer solstice on June 20, the sun will appear to migrate northward and the length of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere will continue to increase. As the altitude of the midday sun gets progressively higher, the arc that it takes across the sky will also increase. On the date of the equinox, the sun will rise due east and will set due west.”

What does this mean for solar customers? Now is the time to go solar and start saving on your monthly electricity bill! With summer just around the corner, and longer days, full of sunshine, those solar panels are poised to help support the high energy demand on the grid, and keep your house cool even when we get to those triple digit days. Call us today for a free quote!

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