Lighting Up Our Lives

Making Renewable Resources Easier to Use


Who wouldn’t want electricity they can make on their own, thereby never having to worry about power outages or brown-outs? Luckily, there are some pretty unbelievable advancements being made in the field of renewable and sustainable energy. Progress has been made in terms of solar cells being more easily  manufactured and less expensive to install, so it’s become a lot more affordable for us to be environmentally responsible and live more freely off the grid. Of course there’s still plenty of room for future improvement, but we like what we see here.  Check it out below!


Christian Hoepfner, the director of the [Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Boston], explains that much of the cost of installing photovoltaics is in the frame they are mounted on, and in the connections, the wiring of it all together. This needs about 26 hours of a qualified electrician and a lot of work by the roofer, and presently totals about $ 4.90 per watt installed.


They have redesigned the solar panel, mounting the photovoltaics on a light, flexible substrate, which has an adhesive back that essentially glues it to the roof. Because most building codes specify roof sheathing that is designed to allow for the weight of a second layer of shingles, these panels should be able to be installed without any engineering expenses or approvals because they weigh pretty much the same as shingles.


A simple connector attaches one panel to the next, which then feeds to a packaged inverter.  Then it gets really clever: an electrician can pull off the meter head (homeowners aren’t allowed to do this) and stick a special connector in between the base and the meter head. Then the standard universal car-charging plug is stuck right into the inlet. Nobody has to rewire their house or even go inside. Total installation time: about 10 hours, and a cost of about $1.50 per watt. And it’s all as easy as falling off a roof.


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