More Than a Bright Idea
Get A Consultation
Follow Us
Recent Activity
Testimonials

I learned about South Sound Solar from touring a “green” home. Their representatives provided me with an education in the benefits of solar, which have materialized as estimated, and they helped me explain my system to my utility and to my homeowners association. South Sound Solar helped me locate the system to maximize the energy it produced and installed it with a minimum of disruption to my life.

Projects

Learn about our latest and greatest projects

South Sound Solar has done a wide variety of projects throughout the Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater areas as well as in greater Thurston – Lewis – Mason area. Each project is custom designed by our team to fit the needs of our customer.

Normally we don’t recommend a battery back up system; it’s far cheaper to buy a good generator. However, there are situations where battery back up is worth the extra expense. Our new customer out in Little Rock, WA is in a place where the power goes out frequently and will stay out for quite some time. For her, a battery back up system is worth the expense.

Our customer, Laura, writes:

“Many years ago, I read about  the idea of solar power as an alternative energy source. Seemed so simple … capture free power from a source that is always available. As I researched more (how does a system work at night? what about when it’s cloudy?) I realized that solar was a clean, viable option that I would save me money as it powered my home.

“In late 2013, I was able to begin that dream. I called South Sound Solar for more information and decided to ask them out to evaluate my place and give me an estimate. Patrick spent an afternoon taking measurements and gathering information on my energy use and power needs.

“I wanted to stick with local manufacturers, but I also wanted the best that was available, for as we know, technology takes leaps and bounds every day. He spent time going through each page of every manufacturers’ hardware with me, making sure I had what I needed to make a good decision. I went with the California made solar panels and all other hardware was made in Washington.

“Patrick gave me a quote regarding my choices for price, tax incentives and quality of the solar equipment. He explained everything that was available and the pros and cons of every piece of equipment.

“Over the last week, the South Sound Solar crew has been installing my dream system! Any question I ask any member of the team is answered completely and explained in layman’s terms so I can understand! I really appreciate the incredible intelligence each of the team offers in their respective job. It is a pleasure to work with such a knowledgeable and friendly group as South Sound Solar!”

In case you are curious, Laura’s panels are from SunPower, the inverter is Outback and the charger is MidNight.

We’re working on another battery back up system! This one has SunPower panels. The rest of the hardware is made in Washington.

SunPowerThe SunPower panels were chosen by our customer because they are the most efficient solar panels on the market. For the solar fans out there, SunPower panels do 345 watts. The next best systems carry 250-270 watts.

Our first recommendation is always Made-in-Washington systems. However, SunPower is optimal when there is only a small amount of square footage available to mount a system. Where there is a small system — especially in this battery back up project — every single inch has to count. And our customer also wanted the best panels available. Who are we to deny that?

When a system combines out-of-state solar products with made-in-Washington products, as in this case, the system isn’t eligible for the highest level of incentives. A system that is completely made in Washington earns 54¢/kWh. This customer is combining made-in-California SunPower panels with an Outback inverter and a MidNite solar charger which are both made in Washington. This system will earn the customer 18¢/kWh.

By the by, SunPower is also the manufacturer of the system we have installed on our office roof. Kirk got it second hand through Craig’s List 5 years ago and it’s keeping our office building at net zero!

A few years ago, Kirk Haffner, president of South Sound Solar, helped source parts and consult on a solar powered snow melter for the Camp Muir climbers’ camp in Mt Rainer National Park.

P1000535Camp Muir is 10,188 feet above sea level. Until a couple years ago, the only water you’d find there was water you packed in yourself. With an elevation gain of 4,788 feet, packing water is a tough thing to do. The park rangers had a design contest amongst themselves to see if they could figure out how to make water for washing and cooking available at Camp Muir safely and cheaply.

Ranger Stefan Lofgren won the contest. He had just had South Sound Solar install a solar water heater on his home. Stefan found the efficiency of the closed loop system impressive and this got him thinking. He got on the phone to Kirk. Kirk and Stefan talked over several days and at the end they had a workable design. Stefan did the construction and Kirk designed the solar loop.

Stefan reports, “Our first solar snow melter has been in place for several seasons now and is working REALLY well at 10,000 feet at Camp Muir.  It not only melts water, but we’ve had the snow melting chamber as high as 170 degrees!

“We are now looking at setting up a similar system at Camp Schurman.”

If you have an unusual application for solar power and would like help with the design, call 360-352-7869 or email info@SouthSoundSolar.com to see what our design service can do for you.

This beautiful Silicon Energy pergola creates a covering for the deck, making it much more usable all year long. Oh, and it produces clean energy from panels made right here in Washington.

The homeowner was involved in every decision about the construction of the pre-designed and engineered pergola.

The homeowner was involved in every decision about the construction of the pre-designed and engineered pergola.

DSCF0094

IMG_0138

IMG_0151

Silicon Energy make amazing structures like pergolas, car ports, awnings, and more. The overlapping cascade of the panels means water and debris are easily shed.

Silicon Energy make amazing structures like pergolas, car ports, awnings, and more. The overlapping cascade of the panels means water and debris are easily shed.

 

Isn't Washington a beautiful place?

Isn’t Washington a beautiful place?

The Olympia branch of the Timberland Regional Library got a new addition in September. Thirty three solar panels were mounted on the library’s roof. The solar panels produce enough free energy from the sun to power the lighting in the library. The installation was part of a larger energy and water conservation effort by the City of Olympia, LOTT, Puget Sound Energy, Washington State Department of Enterprise Services and Ameresco. Soon the Olympia Library will have information about the system posted inside the building as well as a link to real-time energy production on their web page.

The completed solar installation on the roof of the Olympia Timberland Library.

The completed solar installation on the roof of the Olympia Timberland Library.

 

The solar project came about because over 4,000 City of Olympia residents signed up for Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power program. In return, PSE gave the city a grant to install panels on the Olympia Library.

 

The project remained as local-loyal as possible. South Sound Solar, an Olympia company, was chosen by Ameresco to work on the solar design and installation of the panels. MC², Inc. an Olympia engineering firm did the engineering reports on the library roof. Both the panels and the inverters were made in Washington.

 

The system uses two made-in-Washington inverters.

The system uses two made-in-Washington inverters.

“We were very excited to work on a project that affects our city and state so positively,” says Kirk Haffner of South Sound Solar. “The City of Olympia did a lot of work to figure out how they could benefit from State and Federal incentives for their municipal projects.”

 

Typically, solar projects on public sites have been done using private investors, through the community solar program. Private investors get the incentives and the public site — a school, office, building, or park — benefits from lower electricity bills. For the Olympia Library, the City of Olympia found a way to keep the incentives in the city’s economy, maximizing the benefits in a way that community solar never could.

 

As a municipality building, the City of Olympia qualifies for the state solar incentives, processed through the production and net meters. The Library's electric bills go down.

As a municipality building, the City of Olympia qualifies for the state solar incentives, processed through the production and net meters. The Library’s electric bills go down.

Like the funding process, installing the solar panels on the library’s roof was a collaborative effort. South Sound Solar spent time determining the best system options for the city’s goals and budget. “There’s a balance between function and affordability,” says Haffner. “The good thing about solar panels and solar hot water is that today’s technology enables us to give pretty accurate estimates on performance and return on investment. This makes the planning and budgeting process much less complicated.”

 

Ameresco and South Sound Solar worked with the city and the library to find the best design and installation options. They went for a 8250 watt system mounted with weighted ballasts to minimize penetrations in the roof. “Our numbers show the library will save over $800 a year in electricity costs,” says Haffner, “and the city will receive $4000 a year in incentives from the state.” The system is also designed to be expanded in the future.

The real trick for South Sound Solar was working around the library’s schedule to make sure there was minimum interference with the staff’s schedule. “We did have to turn power off one day. This is not normally something we have to do but it was an efficiency and safety issue. No one wants to mess with that,” says Dever Kuni, manager at South Sound Solar. “The next day we sent our crew in an hour earlier than their usual shift to make sure the library had their power back on. We wanted to make sure it didn’t interfere with the anyone’s visit to the library.”

“This is what solar is about,” says Haffner. “We want to see cities and municipalities investing in savings. The state Department of Commerce is offering grants for public projects like the library in 2014. We hope that every city can do something similar.”

Itek Energy is a Washington solar panel and inverter manufacturer.

Itek Energy is a Washington solar panel and inverter manufacturer.

 

batt_box2

That system coming through at the end of September was a real humdinger. Several homes in outlying areas lost power. And that’s when we started getting calls about battery back up systems.

When we’re asked about battery back-up, we usually give three examples of situations where we recommend seriously considering batteries.

During a large winter storm a few years back, a family vacation cabin in Mason County lost power. Because of the bad roads, the owner wasn’t able to get to the cabin for many days. The cabin’s pipes froze and burst and caused over $10,000 in damages. The odds of the cabin being damaged due to power loss again are high, and long distance meant the owners couldn’t start a generator, or even know if the power was out. Having a back up system is definitely worth the money and the peace of mind in a situation like that.

Another of our battery back-up customers owns a web-based business. Even though she lives in town where power is restored quickly, she cannot afford to have the power out for even five minutes. A generator could help, but they don’t produce “clean” power.  The electricity that solar produces perfectly matches the grid, is completely electronically controlled, and  the computer screens won’t even flash. The rough power from the generator could actually damage her computers. The price of a battery system is worth it for her livelihood.

Now, these first two are pretty specific: If you can’t realistically be prepared for an outage, or if you must have perfect power constantly, then battery back up is the power source to consider.

Then there are areas that lose power frequently, and for long periods of time. This is situation number three. Frankly, a generator is less expensive if all you require is to keep your freezer operating and your heat and stove going. But if you want a quiet energy source with no fuel or start up required, then battery back up is the way to go.

Battery back-up systems start at $15,000 and must be properly sized to your energy needs and solar array. How do we design a battery system? We start by asking you a few questions: How often do you lose power?  How long is it usually out? What do you NEED to power? And what would you like to power?

The really neat thing is, Made-in-Washington battery back-up systems are available, so you would receive the maximum incentives.

For most of us, there isn’t such an urgency. For most of us, a $5000 generator will run the whole house. Generators are noisy and use fuel, but they are far less expensive and easier to deal with.

Back-up Breakthrough!
Having said all that, there is a new inverter on the market. The SMA inverter allows you to have one circuit running when the power is out as long as there is enough sunlight.

This is perfect to keep a freezer going or a stove or a server going until power is restored.

These inverters can be installed for little more than a standard inverter, but they aren’t made in Washington. You still receive the 30% Federal Tax Credit and there is no sales tax, but the best incentive you can hope for is 36 cents a kWh.

Call or email our office to find out more about systems for when the power is out.