Five Years From Now

What were you doing five years ago?

Sometimes when we look ahead, five years seems like such a long time to wait to receive a promotion, save up for a new car, take a vacation or reach some other long-desired goal. But when we look back just five years ago and think about our family, our home, our lives — we are faced with the reality that five years goes by so fast.

Five years from now, what will you be thinking about the choices you’re making today? It’s a question that challenges us.

At Solora Solar, we gain great satisfaction from the five-year mark in our relationships with customers because that’s the point at which their solar installation typically has earned enough in energy production and tax incentives to have repaid their investment in the system. We haven’t encountered a customer yet who reached that five-year mark and regretted their decision.

It’s a great feeling for us, but an even better feeling for them.

That’s why if you are considering going solar, we encourage you to think back to where your life was at just five years ago. If you go solar in 2017, the next five years is going to go pass just as quickly as the last five. And then you will be living in a home that is worth more and generating free energy from that point forward.

What will your life be like five years from now?

Photo credit: Michael Ruiz

Solora Solar Wins 2016 Best of Yakima Award

best-of-yakimaSolora Solar won the 2016 Best of Yakima Award honoring the best local businesses in the community, it was announced last week. The 2016 Yakima Award Program chose Solora Solar as one of a select number of companies who demonstrate “exceptional marketing success in their local community” and “service to their customers and our community.”

“These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business,” the Yakima Award Program said in a statement. “These exceptional companies help make the Yakima area a great place to live, work and play.”

The program analyzes information from both internal and third-party sources to determine annual winners in various categories, identifying Solora as a winner in the Local Business category for 2016.

“Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value,” the award statement said.

Solora has won a number of awards for excellence, also being recognized as a Top 10 solar contractor in Washington state by Solar Power World multiple times.

The 2016 Yakima Award Program officially announced Solora Solar as a winner of the 2016 Best of Yakima Award for Local Business on Dec. 8. Solora Solar is owned by Syed Mujtaba and serves the entire state of Washington from its Yakima and Issaquah locations.

We Love Staying In Touch With Our Customers

Solora Solar is fortunate to work with homeowners who like to build a long-term relationship with their solar contractor. We love this! It means we get to answer a lot of important customer questions after the installation of their solar system, and it also means we get to receive many enjoyable updates about how solar is powering homes and saving energy and utility costs.

One such customer, Raj from Richland, Wash., has dropped us a couple of notes over the first few months of his Solora Solar install, and we thought we might pass along a glimpse into the life of a solar-powered homeowner, as told by him.

When Raj first had his solar system installed, he checked in with this report:

“Solora was recommended by a couple of our friends with rather high professional standards. To satisfy our curiosity, we also got other bids. Solora’s professionalism (and their price) won. All round/consistent good job throughout the contract. Took just one day to install (6 weeks after contract). Even with roof panels facing South East (vs. true South) and the present “low April Sun”, it has already generated 800 kWh in 22 days and pushed 130 kWh back into the grid (DE). That’s ~$2000 in incentives just this “season” ending 6/30/2016.”

Things would only improve from there, as Raj noticed the impact on his power bill. He dropped us this note six months later:

“Following up on my above post from April…it has been almost 8 months now since system install. Our system has already generated 8.6 kWh in this time with 4 more months to go. I’m sure to break 10.5 kWh or more for the first 12 months. Zero electric bills since inception as well, with the excess (delivered) power being used to lower our (combined) water and trash bills also. Received more than double Solara’s original estimate of $1200 state incentive from date of install (March 23) to June 30. Very satisfied!”

Most of our customers will email or call with updates like these. Raj shared his as comments on a blog post titled, ironically enough, Attention Solar Customers: We’re In This Together.

If you are considering a solar install for your home or business, and you would like the benefit of a long-term partner in the project who you can turn to with questions or feedback, consider Solora Solar and contact us today!

Solora Solar Featured On Solar Washington Website


Solora Solar was featured this month on the website for Solar Washington, a widely respected solar advocacy organization in Washington state. The group highlighted Solora’s recent sizable commercial solar project at Green Acre Farms in Wapato, Wash.

solar-overviewThe non-profit solar advocacy organization hailed the Green Acre Farms installation as “a significantly important project for particular market segment: the farming community in central Washington.” Solar Washington devoted an entire article to the project, calling it “one of the largest commercial system[s] in Central Washington.”

Solar Washington noted that the 112 kW solar system, consisting of 437 Trina solar panels, is expected to save Green Acre Farms about a half million dollars in energy costs over the next 25 years as it powers the company’s hop-drying facility. The project is expected to pay for itself within 5-6 years. The article also pointed out that the system qualifies Green Acre Farms for a $5,000 annual cash incentive and a 30 percent federal tax incentive.

The piece also highlighted the positive impact a project of that size can have on the environment, as it is believed the 9,000-square-foot system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2,400 tons of CO2 over the next 25 years.

“While a majority of solar electricity is produced at large, utility-scale solar power plants,” the article said, “the greatest number of solar jobs are located with companies like Solora Solar doing the work to bring clean energy to the public.”

Solar Washington, which has been successful advocate for solar energy for more than 15 years, featured the article in its Solar In Action section of the website, which “highlights unique and noteworthy solar installations throughout Washington.”

Report: Solar Solar on Cutting Edge of Commercial Solar Increase

screencapture-yakimaherald-news-local-with-help-from-incentives-yakima-valley-small-businesses-look-to-article_536546fe-561e-11e6-882b-67e35894c28c-html-1475193780330Solora Solar was featured last month in the July 29 issue of the Yakima Herald as the newspaper called attention to the growing number of small businesses making the move to solar electricity in the Yakima Valley.

The report highlighted Solora Solar’s success with bringing solar to commercial businesses as well as Solora’s upcoming commercial project with Green Acre Farms in Wapato, Wash., which promises to be one of the largest solar projects of any kind in central Washington state. That project is projected to save the company up to a half a million dollars over the next 25 years.

The article highlighted the fact that commercial installations account for about 25 percent of Solora Solar’s business and that, nationally, commercial power accounts for about 15 percent of all solar power currently generated in the United States.

Quoting Solora Solar owner Syed Mujtaba, the report noted that the increase in commercial solar installations has been driven by the lower cost of solar panels, the increased efficiency of these panels and the numerous incentives and tax credits available to businesses who act now.

“All that adds up,” Mujtaba told the newspaper.

View the complete article here: With help from incentives, Yakima Valley small businesses look to solar 

Attention Solar Customers: We’re In This Together

A solar power system is a significant investment — one that makes a positive impact on your wallet and the environment. You should know that when you choose Solora, you have the assurance that we’re with you for the life of your system, and that’s a long time.

To start with, there are lots of forms to fill out in order to take advantage of all the tax incentives. We take care of those for you. All you have to do is add your signature. We also follow up each year when the incentive paperwork is due again to make sure that you aren’t missing out on those savings.

We want new solar power system owners to feel confident and capable. That’s why, at the time of installation, you will receive a binder with your owner’s manual and all the documentation. We walk you through everything you need to know to get the most out of your system.

Our goal is to see you more than satisfied with your solar system. If you ever experience an issue of any kind, we’re just a phone call away.

There’s a reason that 70 percent of our business comes from referrals of happy customers.

As a way of saying thank you, we offer a $500 bonus for any referral resulting in an installation.

Project Sunroof Offers Residents Solar Analysis

Google is making it easier for you to go solar.

With their new Project Sunroof, soon you’ll be able to use Google Earth & Maps technology to complete a shade analysis of your roof. Previously a task set aside for solar professionals, it’s one of the first steps in determining if solar power is the right choice for your household or business.

Currently only available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, Calif., and Boston, Google’s ad says that Project Sunroof will “soon… grow to include the entire country… and maybe even the whole world.”

How Does it Work?

Just enter your address and your solar analysis will be generated in seconds. It takes into account a 3-D model of your roof, the shadows that nearby trees and buildings cast, the angles of the sun over the course of a year, and historical weather patterns that might affect your solar production.

You will be given a recommendation on the size of your installation in square feet and a cost/savings estimate (including federal and state tax credits, utility rebates, etc.). After that, you’ll have the option to share your analysis with one or more local solar providers listed to begin discussing your next steps.

Ultimately, your solar provider will run a final solar production estimate before beginning installation. But isn’t it amazing what kind of detailed information we have at our fingertips?

Put in an address for one of the featured cities and take a look at what it will be like when it comes to our neck of the woods in Washington state.

New Type of Cell, A Game Changer

Two sets of scientists have reported promising results from a new recipe for solar cells, which could result in panels for solar power that are easier and cheaper to make.


Solar panels were recently placed on the roof of the building that supplies energy to the AirTrain at NewarkLibertyInternationalAirport in Newark, N.J. A scientific advance could help bring a new class of solar cells to market.


Efforts to bring a new class of solar cells to market may have received a significant boost from a new recipe for making the cells, developed independently by two teams of scientists.


The recipe involves solar cells that use the mineral perovskite as a key ingredient. Until now, researchers had been working with a semiconductor built around a blend of lead and perovskite. The new recipe blends tin with perovskite, an approach that uses cheaper materials than many of today’s generation of solar cells and carries far less environmental and regulatory baggage.


During the past few days, two independent groups have reported encouraging results from their initial experiments with this new tin-pervoskite solar cell.


On May 1, a team led by OxfordUniversity researcher Henry Snaith reported producing a tin-perovskite cell that converted more than 6 percent of the sunlight it receives into electricity. A formal description of the work appeared online, published by the journal Energy and Environmental Science.


Three days later, a team led by NorthwesternUniversity researchers Robert Chang and Mercouri Kanatzidis reported similar results at a slightly lower efficiency – 5.73 percent – in the journal Nature Photonics.


These figures are low compared with the top performing photovoltaic cells made today, which boast efficiencies of up to 35 percent. But these high-efficiency cells are expensive to produce and tend to be used for the most demanding applications, such as solar panels for satellites. Even lower-cost versions still require expensive, energy-hungry machines in clean-room environments to make them.


The perovskite blends require not much more than bench-top, wet-chemistry techniques that are well within the industry’s ability to use, researchers say.


Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have suggested that the maximum theoretical efficiency individual perovskite cells can achieve is around 31 percent, or higher if the cells are stacked together to form multi-junction cells.


So far, the lead-perovskite predecessors to these new solar cells have reached efficiencies of up to 15 percent.


But “I don’t think we have to go that far,” says Northwestern ‘s University’s Dr. Kanatzidis. As long as efficiencies top 10 percent, the tin-perovskite recipe “is quite viable” commercially. At around 6 percent, these new cells are within hailing distance of that goal.


Another potential contributor to the tin-perovskite solar cells’ lower cost is the ability of a single cell to operate effectively over a broader range of visible wavelengths than cells currently in use. To achieve the same effective “bandwidth,” today’s cells have to be stacked, with each layer sensitive to a particular portion of visible wavelengths.


The prospect of ever-cheaper solar panels to generate electricity makes electric utilities nervous. Beyond the benefits solar energy can provide in reducing the climate-warming greenhouse gases that burning coal and natural gas emit, wider adoption of photovoltaic technology for homes and businesses threatens to serve as the firecracker tucked into the utility industry’s business model. That model relies on large capital-intensive power plants to deliver enough electricity to meet peak demand, even as solar installations feed unused electricity into an interlinked grid.


Last year, the Edison Electric Institute published a report on so-called disruptive challenges to utilities and the way they structure their rates. The report singled out the spread of photovoltaic technologies as a key threat, one whose effect has been intensifying. One reason: The highest demand for electricity comes during the day, precisely when increasing numbers of distributed “solar power plants” nationwide would be getting the most sunlight.


To take advantage of that sunlight, the new cells take a layer-cake approach.


A top layer of electrically conducting glass receives the sunlight, followed by a thin layer of titanium dioxide, which serves as one of the cell’s two connecting points, or electrodes. Next comes the tin-perovskite semiconductor, which absorbs the sunlight. The teams then applied a chemical to the underside of the semiconductor. This facilitates the buildup of an electrical charge between the electrode near the top of the cell and the final layer, another electrode, at the bottom of the cell.


The process of adding the semiconductor to a cell and adding the so-called transport layer between the semiconductor and the final electrode must be conducted in a glove box filled with nitrogen gas. The oxygen in ambient air can destroy the semiconductor. But once the transport layer is added, the rest of the cell is ready for outside-the-box assembly.


Indeed, the whole effort to explore the use of perovskites represents some outside-the-box thinking, Northwestern’s Kanatzidis says. Within the photovoltaic research community, the mineral hadn’t been given much thought. But once its usefulness became apparent, labs all over the world began to work with it.


Its potential for solar cells was first uncovered in 2009 by researchers in Japan – its ability to absorb light was deemed too inefficient to merit further exploration, researchers say. By 2011, however, researchers began to see glimmers of perovskite’s potential. Since 2009, efficiency gains have been taking place at a far faster clip than those for conventional solar-cell semiconductors, which have been steadily improving over decades.


Even now, “we don’t understand everything about it,” says Kanatzidis of the new recipe. Still, with no theoretical limit to reaching an efficiency level comparable to today’s top-tier solar cells, researchers are focusing on ways to improve what several say is likely to represent a breakthrough in solar-cell technology.


Status of Solar Energy Storage Capacity in U.S.

While Germany Explores Energy Storage Technologies at Breakneck Speeds, the US Isn’t Far Behind


Germany could be using 60 percent renewables if the right storage tech were in place. Startling as this announcement seems, the US is not as far behind as people think.


The U.S. is surging ahead in terms of adopting battery storage. In 2013-2014, U.S. companies installed, or were in the process of installing more than 300 MW of energy storage capacity. The largest is Southern California Edison’s Tehachapi Energy Storage Project. It is a 8-MW system capable of supplying 32 megawatt-hours of electricity to the grid.


The aging U.S. infrastructure is a problem when it comes to grid stability. Many of the distribution feeders are nearing the end of their expected useful life. They are fairly weak and not equipped to handle a large influx of intermittent energy.


U.S. usually uses only about half of its electrical generation capacity. The peak times only amount to 2 or 3 percent of the year. Very expensive equipment is being purchased to meet that peak demand and it is not used very often.


Instead of simply replacing the old grid with a new one, U.S. utilities should ask questions like: Where will we get the most value for our investments? What value do we place on getting a more resilient, more reliable grid? How important is it to have a grid that utilizes more renewable resources?  Do we want to lengthen the life of existing resources?


All of these things can be done better. Not by spending another dollar on hardware equipment, but by spending another 10 cents on software and algorithms.


Like the US, Germany’s real contribution is software. Its battery plant focuses on 15-minute applications, the maximum allowed under “regulations/market design.”


Energy storage is by far one of the fastest resources, capable of handling the increase or decrease of the required frequency almost instantaneously.


Their weakness is duration. They become energy limited if forced to carry loads over an extended time. Utilities use a progression of plants for providing spinning reserve, primary and secondary reserves.



It is not economically feasible to insert more than 75 percent of renewable content into the grid, using battery packs. Germanys’ goal is 60 percent annually. This means some conventional plants will have to remain online until a new technology is developed.


Can the US Build a Green Grid?


Regardless of whether solution works in Germany, or not, it is not applicable to the U.S.


“We couldn’t do that right now because we are not generating enough renewable energy to store, even if we had the storage available,” said Allan Hoffman, a former senior executive with the U.S. Department of Energy.


Hoffman believes the U.S. will eventually use 80 percent renewable energy, and referred to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Renewable Electricity Futures Study:


Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.

NANOCRYSTALS: A New Type of Solar Cell

Scientists are focusing on nanometre-sized crystals for the next generation of solar cells. These nanocrystals have excellent optical properties. Compared with silicon in today’s solar cells, nanocrystals can be designed to absorb a larger fraction of the solar light spectrum. However, the development of nanocrystal-based solar cells is challenging. Until now, the physics of electron transport in this complex material system was not understood so it was impossible to systematically engineer better nanocrystal-composites.

The reason for the enthusiasm of many solar cell researchers for the tiny crystals is that at small dimensions effects of quantum physics come into play that are not observed in bulk semiconductors. One example is that the physical properties of the nanocrystals depend on their size. And because scientists can easily control nanocrystal size in the fabrication process, they are also able to influence the properties of nanocrystal semiconductors and optimize them for solar cells.

One such property that can be influenced by changing nanocrystal size is the amount of sun’s spectrum that can be absorbed by the nanocrystals and converted to electricity by the solar cell. Semiconductors do not absorb the entire sunlight spectrum, but rather only radiation below a certain wavelength, or — in other words — with an energy greater than the so-called band gap energy of the semiconductor. In most semiconductors, this threshold can only be changed by changing the material. However, for nanocrystal composites, the threshold can be changed simply by changing the size of the individual crystals. Thus scientists can select the size of nanocrystals in such a way that they absorb the maximum amount of light from a broad range of the sunlight spectrum.

An additional advantage of nanocrystal semiconductors is that they absorb much more sunlight than traditional semiconductors. For example, the absorption coefficient of lead sulfide nanocrystals is several orders of magnitude greater than that of silicon semiconductors, used traditionally as solar cells. Thus, a relatively small amount of material is sufficient for the production of nanocrystal solar cells, making it possible to make very thin, flexible solar cells.

Over the past five years, scientists have succeeded in greatly increasing the efficiency of nanocrystal solar cells, yet even in the best of these solar cells just 9 percent of the incident sunlight on the cell is converted into electrical energy.