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Why Aren’t People Flocking to Solar Energy Generation?

May 14, 2010
GAINESVILLE, FL - APRIL 15:  Tom Doughty (L) a...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

by: Wayne Singleton

The world is awakening to the realization that electricity is going to become increasingly expensive as our utility companies move from fossil based fuels to sustainable sources of electricity generation.

There is a wide range of sustainable electricity generating methods – from nuclear to wind, to solar, to ocean or water motion, plus many others.

Did you know that very little of the worlds energy demands are being satisfied by solar technology. Globally electricity produced by solar energy accounts for less than 0.01% of total energy demand. And yet the demand for sustainable electricity generation is growing at almost 25% per annum over the last ten years.

Compare that to fossil fuel energy demand which is only growing at 0-2% per annum.

So why aren’t people flocking to solar energy generation?

We think they are. The biggest inhibitor to mounting those solar panels on your roof is in fact the cost to do so. Or more importantly – the payback period. If you can’t recover the cost of installing solar panels within the first 12 – 18 months or less then we think you should consider building your own solar panels. You will certainly save money and shorten the payback period.

The decision path is a simple five step process.

First Step: How much energy do you need????

Get out your recent electricity bills. We suggest you do this for the last 2 – 3 years to even out any variations in demand.

Set out a table of your electricity usage for each month by recording the kilowatt hours (kwh) usage in each month. If you have separate hot water metering record this as well.

How much electricity did you use each year? What was the maximum amount used in each year? What was the percentage increase each year?

If you decide to install solar energy the amount of electricity you need is the amount you used in the heaviest use month of the current year. Then increase this by the average increase over the last two years. This is the maximum you will need.

Second Step: Where / how is your electricity being consumed????

In order to work out your solar electricity requirements you need to understand where this energy is being consumed. Count how many appliances you have on constantly, how many watts they use when operating and add extra for using items you don’t use constantly.

Look at the labels on your appliances. This will help you understand where your usage is going and why? It will also identify areas or appliances where you can make savings by better use of the appliances.

On your appliance you will see the number of watts that each appliance uses. A washing machine creating its own hot water for example might 2000 watts. This is 2 kilowatts per hour.

To calculate the cost of electricity for this appliance multiply the number of kilowatts by the price of one kwh from your electricity bill.

It is also very useful if there are two modes of operation of an appliance to record both – ie a washing machine heating its own water and when cold water is used, or air conditioning set to heating mode and also to cooling.

Third Step: Think about where you can save electricity!

We suggest the sensible approach is to identify areas where energy savings might be made AND test your savings are realistic, practical and can be sustained over a period.

For example, your television. If you turn it off with the remote it is still using around 20 watts. Even though you’re not using it your TV is actually wasting energy.

And, your computer. The computer and monitor use around 180 watts when they are on. Computers are certified by Energy Saver, which means they require the same energy to be turned on as during their regular use. So, if you’re not using it your computer turn it off).

Fourth Step: Buying your solar panel technology!

We are strongly of the view that building your own solar panels is a very cost effective solution.

The starting point for either buying solar panels or making your own is how much electricity do you need and therefore, how many panels you will need.

If you have followed through this article, you will have a pretty good idea how many kwh you are likely to need.

Solar panels are rated from 1 watt to 300+ watts. Most solar panels up to 135 watts are 12 volts direct current (12vdc). Most solar panels over 135 watts are 21 to 40 vdc.

The watt rating is the amount of power (amps x volts) the panel will produce in full sunlight at 77 degrees F or 25 degrees C. This is the industry standard for all photovoltaic panel ratings. However, it is the “best case” scenario.

In most locations there are about 4 hours of peak sunlight per day when your solar panel will be operating at peak efficiency. But your panels will operate 24 hours per day using all forms of light including the stars, street lights, and heavy cloud conditions. As a year round average we reduce the performance of a solar panel by 10-15% of its maximum wattage rating.

The real number you are interested in is the watts per dollar you are paying. By building your own solar panels you can get the price per panel down to $200 – 300. You don’t need to be technically inclined and the information packages now available are brilliant.

You can build a 120 watt solar panel yourself for say $240.00. That’s $ 0.50 per watt of power.

Being practical you need to reduce the 120 watts by say 15% to 102 watts. That’s $0.42per watt.

If you buy a 120 watt solar panel from the Internet you will pay something like $1,100 for a ready to install unit. That’s $9.30 per watt when you reduce the efficiency by 15%.

If we use the house to the right as an example six solar panels producing 720 Watts of power per second (during peak sunlight times) would cost about $6600 and would be more than enough for their power supply.

There are about 4 hours of peak sunlight per day, but don’t let that fool you. Solar panels still continue working even at night soaking up minute amounts of energy from starlight (or if you’re in the city from the constant glow of street lights), even in the winter, whenever. (There is a lot of people out there who believe that solar panels cease working completely at night.)

Step Five : How much solar energy do I need?

The sun’s energy varies from place to place across the globe and is very dependent on weather conditions. We can expect to generate 1.2KW/m2 per hour or 4095 BTU of electricity in full midday sunlight. (1 kWh = 3412.3 BTU)

Let’s say your roof surface area sloping towards the south in the northern hemisphere and towards the north in the southern hemisphere, is 500 sq ft or 48m2. Typically the solar energy available over one year on one square meter of roof is 1500KWH.

So, using the figures above we could expect to generate 48 x 1500 = 72,000 kwh or 245,566,000 BTU. That’s 197kwh per day on average If, like us you use an average 30 kwh per day total electricity consumption you would need 75 sq ft or 7.5m2 of solar panel.

So there you have it.

We have done the homework on solar panels. Check out our free newsletter at http://www.ubuildsolarpanel.com

About The Author

If you are at all interested in harnessing solar energy and you have read this far so we think you are! Check out our site at http://www.ubuildsolarpanel.com and we will give you the opportunity to receive a series of newsletters FREE. These will help you understand how solar energy can be harnessed and assist you in deciding if making your own solar panel is for you.

We’ve done the hard work and analyzed the available market for DIY solar panel information.

So come on – give it a go – http://www.ubuildsolarpanel.com

The author invites you to visit:
http://www.ubuildsolarpanel.com
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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 13, 2010 2:10 pm

    A home inspector will earn a name, the preparation before the house you want him out to inspect checked. He will check with local authorities to obtain answers to some important questions.

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