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Solar panels "in the cloud"

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  • Independent
    Foxborough, MA
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    http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2015/03/06/startup-selling-solar-panels-cloud-not-your-roof/ZIlSLORzszmpm0nwYRoyFM/story.html

    Today's Boston Globe had a very interesting article about use of solar panels "in the cloud" for those who have no location in which to place them.
    Basically a startup is offering to sell solar panels which are not actually on your roof, but elsewhere, but you reap the benefit by being issued a check in proportion to your usage of energy, as in an apartment, but without the panels on the building itself. Interesting concept.

    This had me questioning - in the Northeast with all the snow on peoples' roofs, what happens if you depend on solar panels for your energy needs? It you have 3 feet of snow on the roof, obviously the solar panel is not absorbing sun, and thus not working for you. And should you venture to clear the roof with a rake or something, what if there is damage from that? Flat roofs are often used as solar panel locations, and here many flat roofs have collapsed. We are being urged to clear our roofs, even those with steeper gables who have never had issues with collapse. If solar panels are to be a valid source of energy, what happens when there is snow like this? For many, it will be months before the roofs are clear. And should we have sudden heavy rain, or excessive melts, the damage to roofs could be even worse.

    Any ideas? A concept of this type has merit, especially if you have either no roof location for a panel array, or you have the issues of snow and ice making your solar usage impossible during weather like this.....
  • Liberal
    Independent
    Durham, NH
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    It is an interesting idea. Wheather or not it will ever become realistic is another matter all together, especially when utility companies are now starting to realize that consumers may not be as dependent on them now as in the past and are really not interested in people being energy self sufficient.

    Solar panels should not be used on the flat, especially in a location where they could be covered with snow for months at a time. Fortunately, as you well know, most homes in New England do not have flat roofs although many older less efficient ones have ice dams from heat loss. If you drive around and look at the few residential solar panel installations you can see you will discover most are angled towards the optimal elevation for solar pain regardless of the roof pitch and, being solar collectors and dark, the snow tends to melt or slid off them very rapidly. There are a few large solar panel farms located right off route 128 (one is in Waltham if I recall) that are mounted on free standing structures designed to obtain maximum solar efficiency and they almost never are snow covered.

    I'm in the process right now of ordering solar panels to mount on the roof of my camper . They will lie flat, of course, which is not optimal by any means but only intended to provide back up power and to charge my batteries while camping in more hospitable locations than the Northeast in winter!
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Yes, this winter should make people think; my guess is that the efficiency in the Northern states is not that good for solar; so I wonder if it pays for itself. A better idea like they do in Europe is grid sharing, Example FPL ( Florida Power & Light) has huge solar and sun farms, which makes makes energy much cheaper; to pipe this "power" into other snow covered States would be a good idea; the more of these farms located in southern sunny area's and power sharing would reduce the power cost and polution all over the US.
  • Independent
    Foxborough, MA
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    This guy's idea is similar to what you suggest - the panels would be elsewhere and what energy they provided would be shared by those in the program, as a benefit on their bill. You would own the panel, I gather, and thus even when used for power to others, your ownership would entitle you to benefit.

    I get a lot of phone calls and other solicitation for solar panels, but I have a very steep gable roof and a lot of trees so in the end I doubt they would be much use to me. With an all electric house, superbly insulated, I shut off every room I am not in, and that is my best solution to saving money on my bills. Dark roof to absorb heat in winter, white siding to reflect heat away in summer. We built the house decades ago with energy as a huge consideration. Planning paid off.

    In our town there are solar arrays being "permitted" to be built. Hearings can be heated for no-one wants them near their homes. If it were functional for me I would use the back half acre of my property for solar, but I doubt it would work to my advantage. And I would have to cut all the trees which buffer me from the main AMTRAK line behind my property. Thus the options are minimal for my solar use. And my neighbors would not support my usage, I am sure.

    Actually, a lot of surrounding areas near me have begun using solar panels in small "farms". The issue seems to be that everyone talks about this as an option, but no-one really wants to SEE them in their neighborhood! Grid sharing makes a lot of sense as well as abandoned land even here in the Northeast. I cannot see why all these condemned properties (toxic, etc.) or trash disposal sites (dumps) now defunct cannot be reclaimed for solar farms. At least the farms would be more appealing to look at than the trash covered land, and there would be benefit as well. Would the toxicity be an issue for above ground farms?
  • Independent
    Massachusetts
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    "Collaborative alternitives" (my term) -- keep grid and "conventional fossil" for we'll need that level of power and its source perhaps forever for industry.
    Build solar, erect wind, develop more tidal turbines.
    Single-system neighborhoods or even buildings could collect at least part of their power needs for DC battery bank storage. The wind blows everywhere it blows. Multiple small-scale turbines (or alternative "squirrel-cage" configuration blades) would collectively collect what one monstrous turbine does.
    The more incentives to LED lighting the better. The less lighting the better. Do we really need to light a whole room evenly when we savor the lumen-ambience of a resaurant or bar with just focals and surrounding glows? Do we need daylight lumens so the used cars on the lots aren't ascared of the dark?
    One of the major "alternatives" with which we can collaborate and resolve energy and pollution problems is to use less
    Our standard of living, our mobility, our heating McMansions entire (including cathedral ceiling "great room" while occupying perhaps just den or kitchen or bedroom is squandry. We need an "alternative system" to "central heat". Especially an alternative to tank water heaters is called for. Can you imagine keeping a big pot of water hot on your stove all day so that once or twice you can have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate?

    As for snow on solar panels, so many people could be paid something for their services for their food stamps and such -- and with carefully designed shovels, clear the snow from the (almost all) ground-level "farms". Yes, superfund sites unless reeking and spewing carcinogens might be better left like "seeping dogs" to lie under the arrays of solar collectors. But building walls as well as roofs, pavement surfaces, many sources that the sun shines upon could be interfaced with "collection" of that solar energy.

    Reference: THE WAR EFFORT GOT US OUT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION . . . . NOW WE NEED A PEAC EFFORT , , , , , Many ideas for energy collaboratives and conversions including our lifestyles as energy wastrels are in that book.