How is this New York in Winter?

It’s difficult to ignore the moderate days. The out of ordinary days. The days where you step outside and think, “How is this New York in the winter?” Although in the coming weeks it seems as if the weather will return to its normal, icy self, one cannot ignore the chilling “anomalies” of warm weather that are growing in relevancy and concern. The primary issue with brushing off the ubiquity of climate change is that more often than not, it leads to inaction.  

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Carbon Dioxide Levels BlocPower Recorded in a Bronx School Building in 2016

In November 2016, the Environmental Blog posted an article titled “How Our Environment Can Affect Our Health,” a piece that highlights how bettering the environment affects humans in a fundamental way, our health.

The author, John Tarantino, includes notes that frequently reminding people that soil quality and the well-being of animals are negatively impacted by pollution and climate change is not enough to drive change or cause citizens to speak up. Tarantino goes on to discuss the way human health is altered by environmental contamination, including air quality. This is a problem because the emissions of carbon and fossil fuels create prolonged air pollution that can turn short-term effects like asthma attacks into long-term issues like shortened human life spans and cancer. Only recently have agencies and organizations begun to look into this matter, which is encouraging because now a deeper, more profound conversation is happening about greenhouse gas emissions and air quality.

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Particulate Matter Levels BlocPower Recorded in a Bronx School Building in 2016

BlocPower actively works to combat climate change and improve human health. We are creating the Bronx Healthy Buildings Fund, a program that will enable building owners in the Bronx to install energy efficiency retrofit projects that also improve air quality. These retrofits will protect building occupants from health risks like the asthma attacks that currently plague the borough. BlocPower does this through our holistic evaluation of buildings. For example, rather than replacing an expensive boiler in a building, our engineers calculate how multiple building systems like heating and cooling interact with variables like light entering through windows of a building. Our models maximize energy savings while reducing the total cost of completing a building retrofit.

Working at BlocPower is fulfilling for this reason, I know departments from finance to business development are working tirelessly on models and techniques to fund energy retrofits and aid those living in overlooked social and environmental conditions. If you would like to read more about Tarantino’s article, here is a link from his environmental blog page, and once again here is my own blog which I mentioned in my recent post.

-Kayvon Gorji, Technology Intern, BlocPower


Are String Inverters the Future of Solar?

At the brink of innovation, digitalization is often waiting to be harnessed. Digitalization gives users greater control over processes and designs crucial to the success of energy efficiency measures. Solar power has emerged as a frontrunner in the race to reduce human dependance on depleting natural resources like coal and natural gas. The rise in solar power is of no surprise due to its reliability, affordability, and cleanliness. The future of solar lies in further control through digitalization, but is the string inverter the final answer?

Solar industries have experienced a stubborn shift from central inverters to a more distributed system comprised of string inverters. Greater performance control of a solar system comes at the expense of more sophisticated technology and higher costs.

A fair share of industry providers of inverters are hedging their bets in the development of string inverters while relying on the performance of central inverters. Huawei, a leader in information and communication technology, has taken a drastically different route: sole production of string inverters. With Huawei’s commitment to string inverters, we are forced to grapple with the future of solar.

A claim that the future of solar lies solely in string inverters is disingenuous given the technological potential of micro inverters. String inverters will most likely dominate the near future due to compromise. Micro inverters have the potential to invert at the panel level offering greater performance control but are expensive. Central inverters dominate the market with stabilized pricing.

Distributing the inversion points for solar systems has a couple main advantages, which is why string inverters are becoming more popular and why we think that micro inverters will become more popular after some technological advancement and price decreases.  Firstly, it makes the system more robust to panel level losses like shading and soiling.  Secondly, it makes it easier to identify where problems are occurring in the system and prevents one point of failure from causing system wide problems. Ease of installation is also a benefit, but it only really matters once.

The advancements in solar technology is important to the future of BlocPower. With one of our goals being to create a microgrid down the road, a keen eye on the trends in inverter technology are a must. So although string inverters may not be the final destination for solar technology in the future, they are definitely a step in the right direction.