Solar Power Trends — depends on the State

Pshaw! California. It's just a state full of liberal treehuggers! - source: New York Times, 1/25/12

The graph is part of an article on solar trends in the U.S. talking mainly about California.  Pshaw! California. It’s just a state full of liberal treehuggers!

I recommend the entire web report.  On page 20, Appendix C, there is state by state data for ’09, ’10 and Cumulative Installed Capacity.  I want to do some comparison with political data — just for fun, of course, because I really loved my statistics class (fyi, that’s a joke).

Some questions for discussion:

  1. What state do you live in and what are your thoughts on your state and solar?
  2. What do you think I’ll find with my political comparison?  Shall we take bets (Do I hear $10,000 anyone?)? 

Sunflowers and Solar Energy

The beauty and science of Nature. Photo by Louise Docker

Why haven’t sunflowers been the efficiency model for solar research all along?  If you have ever noticed — really noticed and watched  — sunflowers, you know that their name, “sunflower” is not because they look like our solar orb, but because their growth is  largely driven by what they can gather in from the received radiation.  Sunflowers require very little water, can grow almost anywhere, prolifically reseed themselves for the next sunshine season, but the flowers!  The flowers turn and follow the sun as they absorb energy from sun up to sun down!  Don’t miss an opportunity to watch a large field or mass of sunflowers if you haven’t done so already; see how they are gathered together, watch as they worshipfully bow, lift and bow again as the lightgiver travels across the sky.  How can one not smile?

The beauty and efficiency of nature is an amazing thing and I have only surprise at the length of time that it took for the MIT researchers and their German collaborators at  RWTH Aachen University to realize the significance of the design.  At this point in solar power plant design, they require large spaces  (footprint) for all the collection mirrors.  The mirrors all  face  and reflect the received solar radiation onto a tower which then converts that radiation into thermal energy.  These researchers, as detailed in this article in Science Daily, have reduced the footprint by 20 percent while increasing the potential energy generation.  The pattern inspired by the sunflower not only allows for a more compact layout of the mirrors (heliostats), but it minimizes the shading and blocking effect of neighboring mirrors.

Now, it seems to me, the challenge should be to perhaps use that same sunflower pattern in solar panels used for localized, home or other structures.  Converting solar energy to thermal energy to electricity could probably be much more efficient if it bypassed the thermal step.  Is there anyone out there doing this?

H/T Scinerds

Solar energy: New sunflower-inspired pattern increases concentrated solar efficiency.

Want to be Self-Sufficient?

(click red for your listening pleasure. The Tullymore Polka-The Witch, from Waking Ned Soundtrack)

The infographic below looks pretty intimidating — even for me and I live on a quarter acre urban lot.

Positives: My house roof is ideally situated for solar panels and I have removed much of the original lawn and replaced with productive gardening space.

Negatives: I haven’t installed the solar panels yet; my garden includes only two fruit trees, both peaches which are vulnerable to late spring freezes; I have been thinking about adding chickens but have yet to do so.

The Plan (in this order):

  1. plant two apple trees
  2. widen garden space in order to produce more vegetables
  3. research solar panels — cost is a factor!
  4. get serious about the chickens!

This will not make me completely self-sufficient, but it will get me closer to that point.

Home Solar Power Discounts – One Block Off the Grid