[FoRK] Solar power hits suburbia (Christian Science Monitor)

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Feb 12 03:36:08 PST 2004


The US is used to unreflectedly assume it's having technological lead
everywhere. While this is (still) generally true, other places lead in
several areas, and it is the US that's trailing behind.

Renewable energies is one of such areas. In some places in the EU there are
specific state-wide programs for financial support (insulation, solarthermics
and photovoltaics). Local providers are required by law to buy renewable
power from small-scale producers at favorable rates. There are a lot of small
companies selling and installing solar heat and power. 

Somebody recently asked about ROI, questioning the 10 (or was it 15 year?)
figure. It of course vastly depends on context.

If you get a state subsidy for installing solar, and power companies are
buying your juice at favourable prices (while energy costs are high in
general), or you live off the grid, and it takes a five-figure to connect
you, renewables are already well beyond break-even.

So it's insular applications, and those with subsidies that make sense
financially first. Would polymer photovoltaics be sold by the roll at WalMart
for a few bucks/square meter you can assume it would be the cheapest source
of energy by far, but as we're not quite there yet one has to analyze each
case individually.

Planning pays: north-south alignment of panels must be considered in advance.
If panels are integral part of building structure you save costs
(installation, and renovation -- solar surface only needs periodic cleaning,
and is good >25 years (that's performance warranty by the manufacturer, for
what all I know it could last twice that in degraded mode)). Of course 
with current panel costs it pays to reduce power requirements first, so one 
has to purchase energy-efficient systems. Conversion from 12/24 V DC to 
110/220 50/60 Hz AC is lossy and expensive, so it's a controller issue, 
or using a low-voltage DC house-internal grid. 

There are also some synergies at play as well, which are not obvious 
to most uninformed people, and only manifest themselves later on, when 
several devices and technologies fall into place. This is especially 
evident in vehicular applications, though most of these synergies 
are only visible in highly experimental vehicles.

On Wed, Feb 11, 2004 at 07:16:55PM -0800, Joseph S. Barrera III wrote:
> <http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0212/p14s02-sten.html>
> 
> Solar power hits suburbia
> 
> By Mark Clayton | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
> 
> When the day came to throw the switch turning her suburban New Jersey 
> home into a mini power plant, Gail Stocks could hardly believe her eyes.


-- Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
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