Friday, May 23, 2008

Solar Panel System Design

Solar panels keep getting cheaper, and will eventually get to a threshold where it will not only be environmentally responsible to install them, but financially irresponsible not to. For those of us who are not chemically (the film on the cheap solar panels above is cadmium telluride... sounds intimidating) inclined but would like to aid in the expedition of this eventuality, what do we do? We develop a system or package that optimizes the use of the solar panels.

Relative to our homes, the sun moves in the same path every day. Sometimes it is blocked by clouds, but regardless, the angle will be the same. Why then are all of the residential solar panels I see fixed? The only reason I can think of is that the energy required to move the panel itself is larger than the gain resulting from an optimized angle. For a poorly designed system, I believe this to be true.

For a home with a prismatic (triangular) roof, the peak can be used as a fulcrum on which the solar panels can be placed. Stabilizer pistons can attach each end of the solar panel to the roof (by placing the pistons at the end of each panel, the moment about the fulcrum will be maximized, giving us the most bang for our back regarding force). The energy required to move the panel would be minimal as is the nature of a fulcrum.

There are obviously several details to flesh out, such as the orientation of the house, the aesthetic, weather, etc. But giving the cost of energy, having a simple optimized system installed could be big business. It's my guess that the installation of solar panels will eventually be the wheelhouse of your local HVAC specialist or carpenter, and the first company to create a cost effective way to install a simple and efficient system would surely prosper

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