What can somebody expect after the installation?
The answer depends on the size of the system and the size of your home. But on average, a 5-kilowatt system in our climate typically will produce half the energy a Florida home consumes. So a 10-kilowatt would make you a zero energy home. Most people put in a 5-kilowatt system.
Other than that, they won’t know anything about it. There’s no noise, no maintenance, it just sits on your roof.
If it’s mounted up off the roof a few inches, it will shade the roof, similar to how a tree would, and your air conditioning will be lower.
So if you have a shaded house already, are the panels not necessary?
Going into a low canopy, shaded street and retrofitting PV doesn’t make sense. In that case, we lean toward community solar, where the homeowners in a neighborhood can fund their project on a ground mount system. Community based solar is available in other states but we haven’t seen it in Florida yet. You have un undivided share of the solar, it’s jointly owners and you get a credit in dollars – you get paid for the generation. So if you’re shaded, you can still play!
In new developments, the developer plants the home so the trees are around the perimeter of the lots in a way that they don’t shade the homes because shading will be provided by the PV panels.
So there are a lot of interesting changes that we will see in the way subdivisions are planned in built to accommodate solar.
Beside the solar shingles and community funding efforts, how else do you see solar functioning in the future?
It has the capacity to supply all of our energy. One the most exciting things for those of us in the field is the electric car. We have seen cars that are not golf cars anymore – they are really cool cars. The certainty that we will have these electric cars as our prime mode of transportation means that we will reduce oil and fossil fuels. The vision is that fundamentally, we could supply all of our energy from the sun for transportation and for home and buildings.
What are the attributes that make solar ideal over other alternative energy sources?
Wind is wonderful, but it is a central station technology – you can’t put it on homes because of the noise issue. Never put off good engineering and science that we might develop a blade that doesn’t make noise.
If the choice is burning coal or using wind turbines out in the plains – let’s use the wind!
Wind is also intermittent. The sun is really not intermittent – we can predict cloud movement and we know every day when the sun sets and rises.
The number one advantage for solar is that it’s everywhere and it allows for generation to occur right at the consumption point. It’s distributed rather than centralized.
Also, almost every region of the United States has sufficient solar resource to generate all of their energy needs.
Germany has the highest solar generation in the world and they have half of the resources we have.