Solar Is the Solution–We’ve Just Got to Get Inspired

On PBS tonight, the Nova episode about solar energy was both inspiring and frustrating. The inspiration is in the ideas, like Germany’s .50 price guarantee per kilowatt of electricity paid to anyone who puts up solar panels. That’s inspired an entire country of solar fanatics and even farmers who farm huge arrays of solar panels. Connected to inverters, one pig farmer siphons $550,000 worth of electricity back into the German grid, powering 1500 nearby homes. It’s frustrating that we can’t really get serious tax benefits and price guarantees here in the US.

We met a man from Somerville MA who lives with his small family in a house with solar panels…he’s cut his electric bill in half. Another man in New Hampshire had a modern solar house with a gigantic array…and pays on only 7 bucks a month for power. The system cost $45,000 but there are some tax give backs that help out.

The US military is building the world’s largest solar array at an air force base in California. Today there is a huge solar farm outside LA that focuses a beam of light from thousands of turned-to-the=sun mirrors. They heat the liquid in a tube that sends electricity to inverters.

Even today’s super solar arrays can only capture 15-20% of the sun’s potential power. That’s because different spectrums of light are sent down from the sun. A woman on the show has been experimenting with a five-array panel. Used on the Mars rover, it was thought to be able to last three months and has lasted three years. It’s using all five spectrums of light from the sun…and that’s why it costs millions of dollars for one such array.