Like many women, I'm watching the price of oil go up and wondering what I can do. What happens in 10 years when the cost of energy goes through the roof? The answer? Gather energy on the roof.
At Ecobuild today, I heard Steven Strong, the President of Solar Design Associates speak. He would panel the world if given the chance: A) Solar Panels produce clean energy and B) They aren't the panels your father put on the garage.
He also commented that in his experience, that women care more about creating a safe environment for their family than men do. I'm listening...
Steve spoke for 3 hours - mostly on commercial applications and how Europe has a 10 year head start on we innovative Americans. Here in the states, after 30 years of having solar energy available, only 30 states are supporting it.
1. Solar panel NEVER wear out. Can you imagine getting a car with a 25 year warranty? That's what solar comes with. There are no moving parts to fix. The only thing that happens is if a glass panel cracks or gets moisture between the layers.
2. There are three kinds:
a. Poly or single crystalline (the squares you are use to seeing) that capture 12-16% of the energy.
b. Thin film (new) that comes in 16 or 32 foot long sheets and a foot across, they capture 3-6% of the energy . (but you can use more of it on big areas)
c. Electric Glass - bigger sheets and more aesthetic. Not sure of the capture limit, but they look cool.
3. The Biggest mistake is allowing a shadow of any kind to go across the panel. All the panels are connected like a group of sled dogs. You wouldn't want a dachshund in your group. Allowing the shade of something as thin as a flagpole to cross the array will limit it's array's effectiveness.
4. Urban soiling slows it as well. The dirt in the air sticks to panels mounted flat vs. on an angle. Rain can naturally wash off a slanted panel.
5. Larger is better - less panels to wire up to one another.
6. Two kinds of storage:
a. Net metering where it goes back into the system Net metering does shut down, however, if it gets hit during a storm. The reason for that is to protect the life of the person fixing the broken lines. (Even generators feeding into a house can cause damage "up stream" to those working on the downed wires.)
b. Off grid, where you store all energy in your own batteries. Good for remote applications.
7. IKEA uses solar not because it will pay for itself, but for marketing. It makes them look cool and caring. Is that greenwash or erring on the side of trying? I prefer the latter.
8. Steve noted that putting solar directly on the house is the best application and yet I had to say I like the picture of parking lots being turned into power lots. Instead of planting trees in the lots, plant solar collectors. They can shade the cars during the day and put energy into the grid as well. If we end up having electric cars one day, they could also plug in and get recharged.
I was recharged after seeing the possibilities. Tomorrow I'm checking out the green roofs. If I could do a combo of both, that would be really cool.