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Why home solar works better than solar power plants
May27

Why home solar works better than solar power plants

If you’re thinking about making the switch to clean energy, but are waiting for a community solar farm to pop up in your area or a utility company to construct a massive project that harvests the sun, might want to think again.   But first, let’s talk about Blockbuster. Remember them? That blue and yellow chain of video rental stores that could be found in nearly every suburban neighborhood in the 90s?     Yeah, I barely do, either. And that’s because when the internet changed the way people consumed movies, the behemoth company stubbornly refused to shift its model of distribution.     With the conversion rates of people switching to solar becoming more common across the globe, we’ve begun to notice a similar flub on the part of large scale solar production plants.      While these grand undertakings are exponentially better for the environment than their carbon emitting alternatives, recent problems with such projects prove the energy source is much better suited to be captured by autonomous individuals than in concentrated areas on large tracts of land.   This past March a sector of Ivanpah, one of the world’s largest solar power plants, emphasized this point as it went up in flames.     With nearly 200,000 sets of focused mirrors superheating steam to generate electricity and tons of small moving parts, it was a difficult (and expensive) project to keep running smoothly. Add to this the sprawling 3,500 acres of land it takes to house the plant and you’ve racked up a bill costing nearly 20 cents per a kilowatt hour.   Photovoltaic home solar systems on the other hand are much more scalable, only require rooftops or backyards as necessary real estate and have the advantage of making electricity where it is used–reducing its kilowatt per hour cost down to 6 cents or less.   When it comes to solar, it’s not hard to imagine a future where the outdated energy production models of the 20th century have gone the way of Blockbuster, and the companies that come out on top are the ones that shift their thinking about how the public produces, access and consumes electricity....

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plastic solar cells = lower cost per watt

Organic solar cells are translucent, flexible, lightweight and cost less to manufacturer compared to silicon based solar cells because they are composed of a plastic material. Solar panels have not reached grid parity (a cost competitive to fossil fuel based energy) and that’s the primary reason people are excited about organic solar cells. According to Solarmer Energy, the leading developer of organic solar cells, they have independently verified their plastic solar cell was able to reach an efficiency of 6.31% and will be presenting their technology at organic photovoltaics 2009 a conference which focuses on plastic based solar cells. Plastic based solar cells can also improve building integrated photovoltaics a term that describes embedding solar cells into existing building materials. The picture above highlights how plastic based solar cells can be infused into an awning that has a dual purpose of providing shade yet collecting electricity simultaneously. Do you think organic solar cells expand the solar power horizon? Will the technology be able to reach efficiencies and cost reduction in which the cost per watt will be competitive to subsidized fossil fuel based...

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solar power window shutters

(Photo Credit: Chloe Kemp) Stratton Hatfield a college student from Bermuda decided undertake a sustainable design project for his senior year. The island of Bermuda is providing incentives for people who install solar panels, but Stratton wondered why the adoption rate of solar panels on homes was still very low even though there was financial support for people who produce their own clean energy from the sun. After talking to homeowners on the island and collecting feedback, Stratton found out that aesthetics was a big concern and a barrier for people to embrace solar panels into their lives. Orginally Stratton was considering designing a roof mounted solar electric array, but his design teacher pushed him to think outside the box. After analyzing many possible locations for homeowners to install solar panels Stratton, came up with an interesting proposal, solar panels that act as window shutters. Window shutters are common in Bermudian architecture therefore his final design was a top or side hung shutters with thin film solar cells which is angled at the optimal pitch to capture to most sunshine each day. The shutters not only produce energy during the day but act a shading device similar to traditional shutters which help keep the temperature inside the home comfortable. This story is a great example of building integrated solar which are products that can be integrated into a building directly, keeping the traditional look and feel of your home while getting dual use out of building material to reduce installation costs, improve aesthetics, and generate clean electricity at the same time. What do you think about Stratton solar power window shutter design? What are some other examples of building integrated...

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solar roof tiles that look cool

There are a few solar roof tiles on the market, but I got to say, Lumeta Solar makes a very slick looking roof tile that flushes right into your roof. The concept of integrating solar cells into an existing building materials is called building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Each of the Solar Tile eliminates 3 traditional tiles and have a peak power output of 28 watts.There are 12 monocrystalline silicon solar cells per solar roof tile, the electrical connections are contained in the bottom end of the tiles. The Lumeta Solar Tiles can be connected together via standard quick connectors. The key benefits of Lumeta Solar Tiles are they minimize roof penetrations and reduce balance of system costs because there is no mounting hardware to buy. People who want to generate clean electricity but do not want to give up the looks of their roof would find the Lumeta Solar Tiles interesting because it overcomes a problem some customers have with traditional solar panels, aesthetics. Lumeta makes flat concrete and clay tiles to fit the most common roofs. What do you think about Lumeta’s Solar Tile products? Do you prefer solar roofing tiles over traditional solar...

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PowerFlex Solar Strings by Global Solar Energy

Thin Film solar panels are becoming more popular as the cost continues to be driven down through using elements besides silicon to produce solar cells. The PowerFlex Solar Strings manufactured by Global Solar Energy, come pre-connected to the Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide (CIGS) which are flexible that make it easy and affordable for product designers who are looking to retrofit products with solar. The company is able to offer these solar cells to the market through a “roll-to-roll” manufacturing process which makes the solar cells flexible and affordable in nature. The PowerFlex Solar Strings are the only “drop-in” solar cells available and really help people who are looking specifically to create products with solar power embedded in the products. These cells can be integrated into Building Integrated Photovoltaic products such as roofing shingles, facades of buildings, windows or we could soon see our laptops and other electronics offerings these types of solar power cells implemented within the products. Global Solar Energy has a great reputation in manufacturing consumer portable solar thin film charging...

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