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  1. When you hear about solar panels, you often think of monocrystalline or polycrystalline units. However, with the competition in the solar industry heating up, manufacturers in this sector are banking increasingly on sophisticated technologies to create more innovative products for savvy consumers. Some of the solar firms are now bringing the advanced thin film solar modules in the market that have unique features and higher efficiency as compared to the traditional crystalline panels. If you are one of the thousands of homeowners in Tampa and other sun-bathed cities who are looking for solar solutions for their homes, you must compare the options before installing a system. What are Thin Film Solar Panels? Also known as thin film photovoltaic cells, thin film solar cells are manufactured using very thin layers of photovoltaic material. Thanks to the cell structure of thin film panels, shade, and high temperature do not have any significant impact on their performance. It offers greater design flexibility for a variety of applications. Their homogenous appearance makes them suitable for a wide variety of exterior home-designs, and it has a shorter energy payback time which provides production and resource savings. Types of Thin Film Solar Panels There are three types of thin film solar panels available in the market today: Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) Solar Cells Amorphous silicon solar panels are the first commercially manufactured thin film solar modules. These solar cells use amorphous silicon, which is a non-crystalline form of silicon. An amorphous silicon solar cell contains only a fraction of the amount of active material used in a crystalline silicon cell. The cell structure has a single sequence of p-i-n layers in its simplest form. The ability to produce very low power limited the use of amorphous silicon solar cells to small applications such as pocket calculators and other small electronic devices for a long time. However, a few recent innovations have made them fit for use in large applications as well. For example, several companies use a new manufacturing technique called stacking that involves combining several layers of amorphous silicon solar cells. This new production technique can go a long way to achieve higher efficiency rates. Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) Solar Cells Till date, cadmium telluride is the only thin film photovoltaic technology to have surpassed crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells in terms of cost-efficiency. These innovative units based on cadmium telluride usually operate with a high degree of efficiency ranging from nine to 11 percent. A simple mixture of cadmium molecules, like cadmium telluride and cadmium sulfide can produce the necessary electric field to convert solar energy into electricity. This simplifies the manufacturing process as compared to producing silicon solar panels by joining two types of doped silicon. Also, cadmium can be found in abundance because it is produced as a by-product of industrial processing of metals like zinc. So, it is cost effective as compared to silicon. Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIS/CIGS) Solar Cells CIGS solar cells are more efficient than the other two thin film technologies used for producing solar modules. Also, they provide better heat resistance than silicon solar panels. The world is waking up to the immense possibility of solar energy. Why stay behind? Embrace solar solutions if you reside in a city like Tampa which is blessed with yearlong sunshine. You can still go solar even if you are not in a so-called sunny state. Thanks to the new technologies, solar makes a lucrative option no matter where your home is. So, adopt the green energy and play an active role to change your country’s energy future.
  2. If you are a pool owner, you will definitely want to make the most of your swimming pool. But this is mostly possible during the short span of summer months, and that too till the sun has not gone down the horizon. Most of the people residing at Tampa are installing solar panels for home to run various electrical appliances along with cutting down the monthly expenditure on electricity bills. But not many people are aware that they can also keep the pool water at a comfortable temperature even after the sun is down. Wondering how? Take a peek into the era of new age solar sun rings and know more about this promising technology that has already caught the fancy of a lot of solar enthusiasts. First Things First: What are Solar Sun Rings? Solar sun rings are passive solar swimming pool heating devices that uses heavy-weight U.V. resistant twin sheets of vinyl. Such rings have a clear upper layer that holds insulating air and also focuses the sunrays on the blue colored lower layer. The lower layer can absorb almost 50 percent of sunlight falling on it, which is then converted into heat. The sunlight that is left is then allowed to infiltrate through the lower layer in order to heat the pool water. During the night, the contained air between the upper and lower layers of the solar rings functions as an insulating blanket that retains heat which is saved during the day. How is Solar Sun Rings Designed? Solar sun rings come equipped with as many as six magnets that help in decreasing the hardness of the water in your swimming pool and also in improving its clarity. The magnets in the rings are positioned to facilitate rafting. The magnets are powerful enough to allow single position removal, but you can easily separate them to avoid entrapment in case of accidental falls. Also, these solar rings are designed to be compatible with automatic pool cleaners. Something New at Your Disposal A newer version of the solar sun rings known as the water anchors is also available. These anchors are a series of pockets on the opposite side of the ring that get filled with water when the ring is placed on the surface of your swimming pool. These pockets help in keeping the ring on the water surface of your pool. Such a solar ring with water anchor is suitable to be used on swimming pools that are present in the areas that face strong winds frequently. Do Solar Sun Rings Work? YES! Although they work the same way solar pool covers do, the difference lies in the fact that you can easily disassemble the sun rings to ensure easy usage and hassle-free storage. Solar sun rings are not only a great alternative to bubble pool blankets and solar pool covers in terms of cost, but they also reduce the loss of energy due to evaporation. On a day to day basis, only a single solar ring can save as much as 21,000 BTU of heat. Another advantage lies in the fact that neither pool chemicals nor pool water can evaporate through the dual heavy-weight vinyl layers of the solar sun rings. This way, one can save both water and chemicals that almost equals the percentage of pool surface covered. When the pool water gets adequately heated, you can turn over the rings to limit evaporation and conserve water. For all the Tampa residents enthusiastic about solar panels for their homes, the solar sun rings bring more good news. Here is a way they can go green and save money, without compromising on their lifestyle.
  3. With more than 130,000 workers currently employed in its renewable energy sector, Florida is currently undergoing a green-tech boom. While a number of cities are making their presence felt in the field of alternative energy, Tampa is leading the pack with the city currently boasting almost 9 Megawatts of customer-owned PVs. According to industry watchers, biofuel is the next big thing which is going to happen to the city’s green energy sector. Tampa Is Turning Its Trash into Cash Biomass is already a popular source of alternative energy in the US with this biomass-derived green fuel accounting for roughly half of all the renewable energy produced across the nation. In fact people in the US use more of it than any other country in the world. According to renewable energy thought leaders, as one of the most prolific sources of biomass in the United States, Tampa is poised to play a bigger role in this sector in the upcoming years. Apart from being a highly populated city, Tampa attracts millions of tourists every year, subsequently contributing to the establishment of hundreds of municipal waste facilities. With the city using these facilities to their full potential, this great volume of waste is creating huge financial opportunities for the city of sun and sand. New jobs are being created. Most importantly it is stirring up huge public interest in alternative fuels. More and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of switching from traditional fossil fuel based energy to alternative energy. All these are opening up new research opportunities and attracting investments, subsequently boosting the job market in and around the city. Ethanol-Based Biofuel Technologies Are Shaping Florida’s Energy Future Ethanol, which is a renewable fuel mainly produced from agricultural crops such as sugar cane and corn, can go a long way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut down the nation’s dependency on imported oil. In addition, green fuel generation will create jobs, subsequently stimulating the local economies. A number of research projects are being carried on in some of Tampa Bay area’s premier institutions that are focused on developing, assessing, and commercializing the technologies that may help produce sustainable Ethanol-based biofuels from inedible sources, such as biomass and algae. Green energy firm Algenol is a good case in point. This Fort Myers-based company is bringing an algae-based ethanol product to the market for the first time through a distributorship contract with a Boca Raton-based marketing company. In a news statement, the company CEO Paul Woods said that this ethanol-based product, christened as Algenol, is more efficient than its corn-based counterparts. While Algenol yields a whopping 8,000 gallons of fuel per acre per year, for corn-based ethanol the figure stands at an annual production of only 420 gallons per acre. Wood is hopeful that through its partnership with the Boca Raton firm, Algenol will be able to distribute 18 million gallons of algae-derived ethanol every year. The fuel can be used by the region’s retail fuel stations as well as fleet vehicle applications. MagneGas, Too, Holds Promise The brainchild of ex-Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Ruggero Santilli, MagneGas is another alternative energy product that is hugely helping the Sunshine State in its journey toward energy independence. Made from liquid waste, such as vegetable oil, MagneGas provides a cleaner alternative to natural gas and is ideal for powering bio-fuel vehicles, cooking and heating. The fact that over 100,000 cylinders were sold in just three years, the product seems to hold strong market potential. Companies with a stake in the green energy sector are pumping in millions of dollars to pave the way for cleaner and potentially more affordable fuel solutions. Thanks to these initiatives concerning alternative energy, Tampa has emerged as one of the commendable forces in the clean-tech space. A strong partnership between the corporate sector and the universities can help the state take bigger strides toward a greener future.
  4. Renewable energy – be it solar, wind, biomass or hydroelectric – provides a plethora of benefits to Tampa’s health, climate, people and economy. With its profuse sunshine throughout the year and other steady sources of alternative energy, the city can reap the maximum advantages in terms of improved public health resulting out of an eco-friendly way of lifeWhen it comes to renewable energy, Tampa can boast of having unique plus points. Enumerated below are some of the benefits: 1. Homeowners Enjoy Tax Credits Under the Florida Renewable Energy Technologies and Energy Efficiency Act 2006, homeowners having photovoltaic systems installed can benefit in terms of tax credits. Customers who purchase solar heating equipment are eligible for a generous rebate of 4 dollars per watt with a limit of 20,000 dollars for domestic solar systems and a 100,000 dollar cap for publicly owned, commercial and private non-profit ones. 2. Enhanced Public Health The water and air pollution created by fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas plants is associated with a number of health hazards including neurological damage, breathing problems, cancer, and heart ailments. Doing away with fossil fuels and using renewable energy can lessen early mortality and overall costs associated with healthcare. 3. Reducing Global Warming Emissions Shortsighted planning and careless human activities including usage of fossil fuels are damaging our environment through emission of toxic gases. Consequently, the trapped heat increases the atmospheric temperature, adding to global warming. As per Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a New York-based non-profit environmental action group, Florida’s leading solar power plants can prevent the release of approximately 3.5 million tons of harmful gases. Generation of electricity contributes to more than one-third of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the bulk is produced by coal-fired power plants. This results in the production of about 25 percent of the entire global warming emissions in the US. However, most sources of renewable energy in Tampa produce very little or no global warming hazards at all. Solar and wind energy doesn’t need water to operate, and therefore don’t contaminate water bodies. Neither do they damage supply by contending with clean drinking water systems and cultivation. Fossil fuels, on the contrary, can have an adverse impact on water resources. For instance, both natural gas drilling and coal mining can infect such sources. 4. Steady Energy Costs Alternative energy use has the potential to provide cheap electricity that can stabilize costs to a considerable extent. For example, most solar organizations of the country install panels in consumers’ houses under a 20-year lease. Some of the leading companies do not even demand any upfront payment from the customers. Some companies even sell the power to the consumer at a locked-in rate, which is usually lower than the amount a household had been disbursing to a local power generation facility. Solar plants in Florida can save consumers 178 million dollars per year. In fact, the costs pertaining to renewable energy technologies have dropped gradually, and are expected to decline more. The average cost of a solar panel has reduced about 60 percent since 2011. The cost of electricity generation from wind declined more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2012. 5. Employment Opportunities In contrast to fossil fuel technologies, which are primarily capital intensive and mechanized, the renewable energy sector in the bay area is more labor-intensive. This implies that employment opportunities from this industry are higher than from fossil fuels. In fact, the renewable energy sector supports several jobs in the US. For instance, in 2011, industries associated with wind energy directly recruited 75,000 full-time employees in various jobs such as construction and turbine installation, project development, manufacturing, legal, financial, transportation and logistics, and consulting services. It’s therefore no brainer that the time has come when we must shift our focus from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Tampa residents are already tapping it in a big way, thereby contributing towards a cleaner greener environment.
  5. As consumers across the US are becoming increasingly aware of the boons of using renewable energy solutions and even businesses are reducing their dependence on fossil fuels, the solar solutions industry is flourishing in several US states including the bustling and sunny city of Tampa that has emerged as a hub of renewable energy. Currently, hundreds of solar technology companies are catering to residential and commercial needs in the city, offering a variety of solutions, right from solar lighting to solar hot water systems, solar pool heating and more. A combination of Federal tax incentives, grants and easy loans for such projects and the diminishing cost of solar equipment is not only spurring solar energy projects across the city but also calling for more manpower to join the trade. The role of solar solutions is therefore not just restricted to a consumer’s personal financial gains, in terms of reduced power bills, or even restricted to environmental benefits in terms of less use of fossil fuels emitting toxic gases. The rapid adoption of solar technology is actually benefiting the entire city of Tampa and the nation’s economy at large by creating jobs and generating work opportunities, too. How Solar Solution Companies are Boosting Job Creation: The US solar market is the third largest in the world. The total contribution of the solar industry to the US economy has been estimated at a whopping 15 billion dollars. Earlier this year, a Bloomberg report revealed that US solar companies ramped up their hiring by 22 percent in the year 2014. According to the Solar Foundation, approximately 170,000 people are currently employed across various solar companies in the country. Given its labor-intensive nature, it is hardly surprising that by the end of this year, another 36,000 solar jobs are likely to be added to the sector. Tampa, too, is riding the wave with the city’s solar tech companies bringing hundreds of high paying jobs in the city over the past few years. The local administration is encouraging both home grown and multinational renewable energy companies to set up facilities in the city by assisting land acquisition, permits and related matters.Being labour-intensive, solar energy companies can create more jobs than the traditional power sector. Since the solar manufacturing facilities typically leverage the local workforce, the firms’ investments remain right with the local communities. This in turn is helping to boost the local economy. High-in-demand solar jobs include technicians in the manufacturing facilities, installers, experts in research and development sectors and people in sales and marketing. Why Solar Solutions are a Hit in Tampa: A typical residential 1kWp (kilowatt peak) PV panel can provide 2.5kWh (kilowatt hours) to 5kWh output per day. In other words, it can generate approximately 900kWh to 1800kWh electricity per year. The adoption of solar is helping reduce pressure on the city’s power grid. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s estimation, rooftop solar panel installations, on an average, can enable households to avoid enough CO2 emission, offsetting the polluting effects of two cars running for 28 years. As such they are doing a commendable job in reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The Way Ahead: As we can see, the proliferation of solar power is aiding in economic recovery in the U.S in ways more than one. Looks like, backed by the right policies, solar energy can even steer the nation toward complete energy independence. Keen to capitalize in the consumers’ growing interests in the alternative energy technologies as well as maintain a steady job creation process in this thriving sector, solar solution companies in Tampa are pressing for the development of industry standards and regulations for the renewable energy projects, enhancement in the city’s transmission capacities and expansion of tax benefits and other financial incentives.