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Aesthetics are Key to a Great Installation May 25, 2007

Posted by solarpundit in California, Solar News, Solar Panel Technology.
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DRI Energy’s Roof Integrated Solar Tile

One of things that has always been of concern to me is the pure lack of aesthetic appeal most solar panels and installations have.  Let’s face it, a common residential installation takes an architecturally integrated roof and places large black panels on the bulk of it.  The result is an energy generation system that hinders the overall beauty of the building and frankly makes the home look like it needs a new roof.

There are however a few options that residential owners can look at to improve the aesthetic appearance of an installation.  Photovoltaic shingles and shingle laminates are now available, although their efficiency has not traditionally been great.  However, DRI Energy has introduced a new solution that may address some of these issues.   

This week DRI Energy introduced their new roof integrated solar S tile.  This new installation is great for those of us in Southern California where every building is covered by a bar tile roof.  The new DRI solar panels integrate into an existing tile roof, and should be great for new construction. 

“The Lumeta RIPV product line is the first in its class to directly address the critical issues of building aesthetics and roof system functionality,” says DRI Energy Chief Operating Officer Stephen Torres. “We’ve literally changed the face of roof integrated PV while fully maintaining the functionality of both the roof system and the solar modules. We think these innovations will change the way designers, architects, builders and consumers think about solar energy.” 

Personally I feel that aesthetics need to be addressed as a business opportunity in this industry as more and more individuals turn to grid-tied options to reduce their economic and environmental energy burden.  Kudos to DRI for taking a steps in that direction. 

TAGS:  DRI, Solar S Tile, Bar Tile, Solar Roof, aesthetic solar installation, commercial solar, new solar products, full service solar installation


Beauty In Solar May 24, 2007

Posted by solarpundit in Solar News.
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London Oasis

John Coulthart’s art blog caught my attention this afternoon.  He features a picture of the London Oasis which is a beautiful (and functional) sculpture made of solar panels in The Clerkenwell Green in London.  Here is a link to the streaming film of the sculpture in action

TAGS:  John Coulthart, solar art, London Oasis, Clerkenwell Green

A Cool Idea To Cut Lighting Costs May 24, 2007

Posted by solarpundit in Solar News, Solar Panel Technology, Uncategorized.
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Sunlight Solar hybrid solar lighting system


After reading this, I and many of my friends have stated “now why didn’t I think of that.”  Duncan Earl created a technology a few years ago that is now in the process of larger commercialization.  His company, Sunlight Direct, uses fiber optics and a roof-mounted solar collector to collect and distribute natural light inside of a building.  This technology can essentially replace much of the interior lighting of a building; as long as the sun remains shining. 


solar traker from Sunlight Solar

Duncan’s innovation is quite remarkable.  Essentially, his device consists of a solar collector that is mounted on the roof and connected to a collection of fiber optic cable.  The cable is routed to the interior of the building, and can be wired directly into existing light fixtures as well as attached to “light” switches within the room.  Sunlight that is collected in the collector goes through the fiber optic network and is used to power the “lights” within the building.  These lights can be turned on or off through the light switch.

Now there are a couple of caveats to Sunlight Direct’s products.  The first is that the system reduces the need for electric lighting, but does not eliminate it.  Fixtures will still need electric lighting to compensate for gray days, or night.  Also, running a fiber optic system into an existing building is as expensive as re-wiring it for electrical.  All in all however, I think it is a cool idea and a great approach for new construction to reduce electric usage.

Tags:  Sunlight Direct, Duncan Earl, Solar Collector, fiber optics, hybrid solar lighting

Akeena solar financial data May 16, 2007

Posted by solarpundit in Finance, Solar News.
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Akeena Solar Quarterly Report

I find it interesting when public companies post their quarterly results because it give some great insight into how their business is run; where their money is going, and the overall direction of their organization.  Monday, Akeena posted their first quarter earning results for their business, and their balance sheet and income statement reveal a lot about their business.


In looking at Akeena’s earnings statement, their first quarter revenue was around $6.2 million; with a gross profit of 24% and an installed base of about 830 kW.  In addition, their general administrative costs are now around $1.6 million.  If we break down these numbers, we can see the following:


Their general cost per watt for an installation is around $7.58 per Watt, with their cost for the installation at around $5.77 per Watt and for each watt installed, they make about $1.81 (24%).


Akeena has opened five new offices this year and their G & A expenses have grown from 384 thousand to 1.6 million.  If we assume that each office has roughly the same costs, it takes about $84,000 to run one of their offices for a month. 


Their accounts receivable are currently $5.2 million which seems a bit high to me, but may be accounted for by their growth rate.  Their inventory also seems high, but that is the cost of spreading your service proposition across multiple geographies.


Finally their sales and marketing spend has grown significantly over the past year.  I’ll be the first to admit that they are in the media and are doing a good job of getting noticed.  However, in an industry whose growth rate is still in around 20%, it looks like their strategy is one of a land grab.  It resembles the old internet philosophy of “Get Big Fast.”  If they have the capital necessary to support their growth goals, they should do okay.


Tags:  Akeena, Solar, Quarterly Report, Growth, Energy Land Grab, Cost per Watt, Cost of Solar, Solar revenues

Governor fixed the Glitch May 14, 2007

Posted by solarpundit in California, Government, Solar News, Uncategorized.
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Governor Schwarzenegger changes legislationThis year there has been a significant drop in the number of
California solar rebate applications; and indeed, many small installers have suffered an slowdown in their business this year.  This is primarily due to an un-intended clause in the recent
California rebate policy that required rebate recipients to purchase time of use power contracts.   For a residential customer, this essentially made the cost per solar watt, the same as the peak rate (highest daily rate) from the utility.  The consequence of this is that power would cost more from a person who made the investment in solar, than it would from the utility.

Now this obviously is a contradiction to the Governor’s million solar roofs program which is an ambitious goal to cut California’s dependence on fossil-based energies.  In order to address this problem the Governor is rushing an amended bill through the California Legislature to fix the obvious fly in the ointment.  The LA Time story has the details of this change and the benefits that removing the problem-causing clause will have.

Personally, I commend the Governor for taking steps to address this issue.  I have been reading a number of solar blogs lately, and there seems to be discussion of conspiracy around the legislated loophole.   Regardless, I will do my part to make sure the million roofs number happens. 

Tags:  California, Governor, LA Times, Million Solar Roofs, Legislature, California Rebate