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A Case for Residential Solar Power
Transcript of A Case for Residential Solar Power
The History and Background of Solar Photovoltaics
The photoelectric effect was first noted by a French physicist, Alexandre Edmund Bequerel in 1839.
Why you should consider solar power for your home:
Home Solar Power can lower your power bill dramatically, and in some cases even generate income! While it requires substantial upfront investment, there are many public incentive programs to help pay for it. Moreover, as the cost of electricity rises, producing your own will become even more valuable.
Electricity produced from fossil fuels and nuclear plants requires extensive mining or drilling operations to obtain the fuel. Their byproducts pollute the air, water and other natural systems we rely on. Moreover, recent studies suggest that man made climate change is escalating at an alarming pace.
Solar power offers an environmentally friendly alternative way to produce power.
"The average age of power transformers in service is 40 years, which also happens to be the average lifespan of this equipment."
- Edwin D. Hill, President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFL-CIO.
The U.S. power grid is getting older, and less reliable. The ability to distribute the production of electricity among the population could greatly reduce the demands placed on the grid, and make it MUCH more robust by eliminating Single Points of Failure.
This idea is called the "Distributed Grid"
Bequerel found that certain materials would produce small amounts of electric current when exposed to light.
The First Solar Cell:
The first photovoltaic module was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. It was billed as a solar battery and was mostly just a curiosity as it was too expensive to gain widespread use.
The Space Race:
In the 1960s, the space industry began to make the first serious use of the technology to provide power aboard spacecraft. Through the space programs, the technology advanced, its reliability was established, and the cost began to decline.
During the energy crisis of the 1970's, interest was sparked in home and business solar cells to alleviate the dependence on foreign energy sources. However, the prices were still prohibitively high (almost 30 times what they are today) so large scale applications were never realized.
The technology behind photovoltaic systems has come a long way since then, as industry developments and research chip away at the costs while boosting efficiency in an ever increasing cycle of improvement that bodes well for the future of solar power.
Okay, but how does it work?
The Basics: How light is converted into Electricity
Photovoltaics is the direct conversion of light into electricity at the atomic level. Some materials exhibit a property known as the photoelectric effect that causes them to absorb photons of light and release electrons. When these free electrons are captured, an electric current results that can be used as electricity.
Solar Cells are made of semiconductor materials like silicon - the same materials used in microelectronics. A thin semiconductor wafer is treated to produce a positive field on one side and a negative field on the other. When light energy hits the cell, electrons are released from the semiconductor material.
Multiple solar cells can be wired together to form a "Module". Multiple modules can be wired together to create an "Array". The larger the array is, the more electricity it can produce.
AC/DC - Conversion and Usage:
Electrons flowing from an array can be captured in the form of electric current (electricity!). This electricity starts out as direct current(DC), but can be turned into the 240V alternating current (AC) that most appliances use by a device called an "inverter".
The Benefits are Clear
What we have presented here are just a few of the many benefits of adopting residential solar power.
How much is this going to cost me?
The national average price declined by 24.4%, from $4.45/W to $3.37/W.
Residential system prices fell 15.8% percent, from $5.86/W to $4.93/W. Quarter-over-quarter, installed prices declined by 1.9% percent.
An upfront payment by the government can reduce the price by nearly 30%
The Money of It All
Many residential homes are able to have PV panels
installed for as little as $3-$4.00/W. Although some
can cost upwards of $9/W depending on where you live.
At the high end of the scale $9/w, a 4.0kW system would cost $36,000. After federal tax credit and other benefits upfront the entire installation cost would come to $15,600 or $3.90/kW
Why Worry About Energy Security?
Electricity Production in the U.S.
Recent Examples: Sandy
"After Hurricane Sandy shoved water into Con Edison's 14th Street substation in October, causing electricity to arc between capacitors, about a quarter million customers were left in the dark."
- Kalee Thompson, Popular Science
"A single tree felled by a storm like Sandy can cut off power to thousands."
- Kalee Thompson, Popular Science
Single Points of Failure:
In most technological fields the concept of a single point of failure is seen as something to be avoided whenever possible.
For example, relying on one path for electricity, information or shipping makes the delivery extremely vulnerable to any interruption.
The Centralized Grid:
The majority of the US relies on what we call a "Centralized" grid. That is, commercial power plants generate large amounts of electricity at a central location and it is then sent out in all directions via high voltage power lines.
The Evolution of the Grid:
Thanks to newly affordable technologies like residential (and commercial) solar power, it is increasingly possible to distribute the task of electricity production, and even storage. This allows for new, more robust grid designs.
The Environmental and External Costs
As fossil fuel reserves are depleted and demand grows, the cost of energy is only going to increase. Therefor the value of an investment in self-sufficiency will increase at a corresponding rate.
The preponderance of evidence suggests that man-made Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are contributing to climate change. Every step we take to combat that is a win for the environment, and the future.
Security and Reliability Win!
We have the technology to make our national electrical system more robust than it has ever been. We have the technology to produce power cleanly and locally, to reduce the reliance on fossil fuel and nuclear plants. We just need adopt and implement it.
The Brilliant Conclusion: Solar Power's Future
What the Grid of the Future Might Look Like:
Source: Horizon Energy Group (http://www.horizonenergygroup.com)
Of the total energy consumed in America, 39% is used to generate electricity
40% of this energy produced is used residential and commercially
Emissions of burning fossil fuels leads to build up of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases
External costs such as global warming which is caused by this build up is substantial
burning __ annually costs:
coal- $62 billion
natural gas- $740 million
fossil fuel- $120 billion
Residential Solar Power: