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Old 03-21-07, 04:16 PM   #1
mlts22 
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Solar energy -- how is it coming along these days?

I used to keep track on photovoltac technology for solar these days, but have been out of the loop.

Has it matured any, or are photovoltac cells still only able to use like 3-5% of the photons that plop on it? Last time I was keeping track of it, solar (via direct photovoltac cells) was a cool experiment, but not economically viable because it cost far more to produce the doped silicon and deploy it compared to the watts it gave out. I also remember it taking almost a square acre of cells just to power a small 2 bed/2 bath house, and that wasn't including the watts needed for startup energy for various appliance motors (air conditioners, washers, etc.)
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Old 03-21-07, 04:22 PM   #2
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Our RV's solar electric system uses six Shell SP75 solar panels. These panels deliver a maximum of 25 amps of electricity during the summer months. The RV solar electric power from our solar panels is stored in six Exide 6 volt deep cycle batteries.
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Old 03-22-07, 10:33 PM   #3
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I believe commercially available systems are sitting right around 5-7% efficiency right now, but that's pretty much where they've been for the last 5-10 years. However, prices are coming down as production goes up. It's still only truly cost-effective in remote locations and some sunny areas.

To take a small, efficient house in a mild, sunny climate completely off-grid costs about $20,000.

However, with the net metering laws in most states requiring utilities to buy excess electricity back from you (although not at the same rates as they sell it to you...there's overhead involved), a lot of people have been supplementing their on-grid power with small solar setups that cost around $5000 (about 2kW worth from 4 square meters of panels) and pay for themselves in 10-20 years.
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Old 03-22-07, 11:03 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlts22
I used to keep track on photovoltac technology for solar these days, but have been out of the loop.

Has it matured any, or are photovoltac cells still only able to use like 3-5% of the photons that plop on it? Last time I was keeping track of it, solar (via direct photovoltac cells) was a cool experiment, but not economically viable because it cost far more to produce the doped silicon and deploy it compared to the watts it gave out. I also remember it taking almost a square acre of cells just to power a small 2 bed/2 bath house, and that wasn't including the watts needed for startup energy for various appliance motors (air conditioners, washers, etc.)
You can get panels with up to 12% capture, but for a decent price, you're still looking at about 5%. I want to get a whole array of panels. I have a bunch of deep cycle sealed batteries i could use as well. I also want to have a solar station for the ARRL Field Day contest.
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Old 03-22-07, 11:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamlucky13
I believe commercially available systems are sitting right around 5-7% efficiency right now, but that's pretty much where they've been for the last 5-10 years. However, prices are coming down as production goes up. It's still only truly cost-effective in remote locations and some sunny areas.

To take a small, efficient house in a mild, sunny climate completely off-grid costs about $20,000.

However, with the net metering laws in most states requiring utilities to buy excess electricity back from you (although not at the same rates as they sell it to you...there's overhead involved), a lot of people have been supplementing their on-grid power with small solar setups that cost around $5000 (about 2kW worth from 4 square meters of panels) and pay for themselves in 10-20 years.
You can go off the grid for less, but I really wouldn't recommend it. You get a big tax credit for the panels, a 2kWh system will supply most if not all your power for the day time and you'll need to have the grid tie for night time.
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Old 03-22-07, 11:17 PM   #6
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Best contact I know of from my days in solar energy work: http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/

If they can't get you up to speed, no one can easily....
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Old 03-22-07, 11:24 PM   #7
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heck I wouldn't be worryin bout dang sun power...ole Dubbya's gonna git us all that Eye-Rainy-yun all!
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Old 03-23-07, 04:02 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlts22
I used to keep track on photovoltac technology for solar these days, but have been out of the loop.

Has it matured any, or are photovoltac cells still only able to use like 3-5% of the photons that plop on it? Last time I was keeping track of it, solar (via direct photovoltac cells) was a cool experiment, but not economically viable because it cost far more to produce the doped silicon and deploy it compared to the watts it gave out. I also remember it taking almost a square acre of cells just to power a small 2 bed/2 bath house, and that wasn't including the watts needed for startup energy for various appliance motors (air conditioners, washers, etc.)
Well global warming should help solar energy ya know stronger rays from the sun should do it .
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Old 03-23-07, 04:19 PM   #9
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You get a tax credit for having solar panels? I did not know that, cool. I hope that by the time I am ready to buy a house, they will be easily available. Something I would love more would be a non fossil fuel burning car!
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Old 03-23-07, 04:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
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Well global warming should help solar energy ya know stronger rays from the sun should do it .
Ya rly. Because solar panels are just great for picking up IR radiation.
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Old 03-23-07, 09:42 PM   #11
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You also get the tax credit for solar water heaters. They are more cost-efficient currently; the estimate here in the PNW is 5 year pay-back. PCV (in the PNW) is about 20 yrs, the live of the system. I just had a solar water heater system installed for my house.
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Old 03-23-07, 11:49 PM   #12
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I just wonder if the square footage of solar panels on a roof can handle most of what a house needs. Last time I was "into" solar stuff, photovoltaic stuff helped make a dent, but you definitely couldn't go off-grid with just that... one needed a lot more square feet, or maybe a wind turbine or two.
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Old 03-24-07, 06:26 AM   #13
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let's ask my magic 8-ball...."oh magic 8-ball. what is the future of solar power???"



magic 8-ball: "it's future is cloudy."
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