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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Distributed Solar For The Masses

Solar Facts
Jonathan Cole

The simple fact is that our society cannot sustain the wasteful energy practices developed in the era of cheap oil. If we combine a dramatic refocusing on efficient, non-wasteful, energy use with renewable energy installations we can have our cake and eat it too. In the end, regardless of the mix of centralized and distributed generation, the large companies will end up being the suppliers in most cases, that is if they are smart. The dumb one's will join the buggy whip manufacturers in business history.

I can state unequivocally from personal experience of 25 years of using solar energy that we can live very comfortably and very affordably if we combine, efficient appliances, non-wasteful practice and distributed solar backed up by the grid.

I am amazed at the installations I see with 10kw and more of PV for a 4 person household. I live in a cloudy area and run 1200 peak PV watts to power my complete assortment of modern appliances. I use propane for cooking and instant hot water (soon to be pre-heated with solar) and otherwise everything is electric. Computers, scanner/printer/fax, large flat-screen TVs, DVD/VCR players, washer and dryer, refrigerator, lighting, cordless phones, stereo system, table saw and all power tools, microwave oven, and more. This is with occasional backup in prolonged dark cloudy weather. All the solar energy and balance-of-system equipment cost less that $12,000 including my $2600 backup generator. I average about 6 hours per month of generator use. which costs me about $30. I have no other electric bill. By the way I bought nearly all of this equipment on Ebay!

Efficiency, no-waste practices, energy use monitors and distributed solar add up to a winning combination. Of course this is not for city dwellers, but that leaves a lot of room for distributed PV.