NREL scientists are developing windows that can generate electricity and provide their own shade

Glass that darkens when exposed to sunlight is nothing new, but scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden have developed a product that not only darkens but can generate electricity.

Scientist Lance Wheeler was experimenting using gas molecules that move through an absorbent layer of glass that acts as a solar power cell when he placed the glass on a hot plate to dry after treating it with methylamine gas.

As the glass heated, it turned brown. When he removed it from the heat source, it became transparent.

“He was just making a solar cell, but he didn’t expect it to act the way it did. That was really a ‘What was that?’ moment,” said Robert Tenent, NREL senior scientist for window technology who worked with Wheeler. He played with it for a bit and came to us and said, 


How Corporations ‘Bypassed the Politics’ to Lead on Clean Energy in 2017

When President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord attention quickly turned to corporate America. Would business leaders forge ahead in the fight against climate change in the absence of federal backing?

In 2017, at least, the answer is yes. 

As of December 12, when heads of state joined to commemorate the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement, 327 major corporations, worth a cumulative $6.5 trillion, had committed to matching their emission reduction plans with the Paris goals through the Science Based Targets initiative. Another 864 companies have stated their intention to adopt a science-based target within two years. 


Social Security Administration announces small increase in 2018 wage base

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced Friday that the maximum amount of wages in 2018 subject to the 6.2% Social Security tax (old age, survivor, and disability insurance) will rise from $127,200 to $128,400, an increase of a little more than 1%. By comparison, the 2017 wage base increased more than 7% over the 2016 wage base.  

The maximum amount of Social Security tax a taxpayer could pay will therefore increase from $7,886.40 in 2017 to $7,960.80 in 2018, an increase of $74.40.

The SSA also announced that Social Security beneficiaries will get a 2% increase in benefits in 2018, after receiving a 0.3% increase in benefits in 2017 and no increase in 2016. The average retiree will receive an increase of $27 a month.



How Does Solar Energy Actually Work?

Solar panels house groups of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which turn the sun’s UV rays directly into electricity. Several panels together are called a solar array.

The electricity your solar panels generate is DC, not the AC electricity needed by all the energy-consumers at your nonprofit, like computers, printers, and heating or air conditioning.

So you’ll install an inverter to convert the DC electricity into usable AC electricity.

Your solar-generated electricity will flow to your electrical box and then straight into your office, building, warehouse, etc.

Powering your devices and everything else will work exactly the same — flip on a switch or plug something in and no one will ever never know the difference

Solar: Your Production Won’t Lose Value

People often approach us with the question, “I work during the day, and I’m at home at night. What happens to the energy my system produces if I’m not at home?” Here’s our answer: You’re never going to lose the value of the power your solar system produces. The entire solar industry hinges on the ability for the consumer to get full retail credit for their solar production. What makes solar viable in the state of California is the fact that utility companies are mandated to compensate you for that power you produce.

The truth is, your next door neighbor is probably the one using the power your system produced while you’re at work. ​Electricity occurs in real-time; it is consumed as it is produced. The only case in which this isn’t true is if you aren’t tied to the grid.

Spin Your Meter Backwards
Your electric meter is “bidirectional”. Your electric meter runs backward as it measures the energy you produce from your solar system, crediting you for production. But, it also will run forward each time you need to pull electricity from the grid. PG&E will take your “net” energy difference and it will be reflected on your monthly utility bill. You will be credited the same value per watt for energy produced as you’re being charged when you consume.
Build Up Credit
The great thing about this system is that in the sunshine months of the year that you aren’t using a whole lot of power (April, May, October), but are producing tons of energy – your meter is running backwards. You should see a credit each month on your PG&E statement, which carries over to the next month. So when the summer or winter months do hit, you are able to live more comfortably without breaking the bank, using up some of those accumulated credits from prior months.
What’s Changed with NEM
Net Energy Metering (NEM) has been an important component in the rise of solar system installations in the past decade, and for good reason. It allows owners of residential and commercial solar systems to facilitate and monitor their energy production. PG&E made some changes last year concerning their net metering program, and implemented NEM 2.0.
Most of the program’s changes are comprised of what are called “non-bypassable charges”. PG&E will now charge you 2 cents per watt whenever you pull from the grid. Homeowners with solar were exempt from this charge prior to 2016. However this should only amount to 200-600 kw from the grid, $8-12 per month. Compared to other states, California’s changes were pretty user-friendly and we’re optimistic about our state’s future policies when it comes to solar.


Wild Horse Wind Facility reached a NEW Energy Milestone!

On Monday, the Wild Horse Wind Facility reached an energy milestone, surpassing 7,000,000 megawatt hours of production. This includes production from Wild Horse Phase 1, which came online in November 2006, and Wild Horse Phase 2 (Whiskey Ridge) which came online in the fall of 2009. October has been a wild month for weather at Wild Horse, with thunderstorms, two days of snow, and a gust on Oct. 17 that reached 90 mph. (Photo by Andrea Nesbitt)


Fire  at the Meter — Tioga Road

On Friday, 10/20/17, an alert resident of Tioga Road noticed a fire occurring at the electric meter of a nearby home. The resident called 911 to request the fire department and then began to spray water on the fire. Hayward Firefighters in an effort to ensure the fire was fully extinguished made contact with an occupant of the home to check the home to ensure there were no fires in the walls or attic. Firefighters discovered the home was being used to grow a large amount of marijuana prompting for a police investigation. Patrol officers suspected this was an illegal grow and called in the Narcotics Unit. A search warrant resulted in the seizure of more than 400 mature plants weighing more than 300 pounds with a street value of more than $500,000.

The conversion of a home to an illegal marijuana grow can be a dangerous operation creating significant fire and ecological hazards to a neighborhood. Why? Electrical circuits can be overloaded causing a fire which if not noticed could cause catastrophic damage to life and property. Often these grows use large quantities of chemical fertilizers that can be a health hazard and the plants require a lot of water exceeding the normal household use.

This grow operation grossly exceeded the recently passed personal use and possession laws and created unreasonable and unnecessary dangers to the innocent neighbors.

Thank you to the neighbor who spotted this fire and prevented a serious catastrophe!