Originally posted 11 Sept 2006:
Here's some web pages that you should bookmark!
They make durable, flexible, photovoltaic roofing products that make electricity from dawn to dusk, rain, clouds, or shine -- and they're making them now!
You folks in California should look into this ASAP, because you can actually buy these at the moment. The rest of us will have to wait (at least) a few months until they can make enough.
The person behind this is Stan Ovshinsky, who has also invented the material used in CD-RW's, nickel metal hydride rechargeable batteries, and a similar metal that acts as a *sponge* for hydrogen; storing it "inside" solid metal. There are several Scientific American Frontiers TV shows that include Mr. Ovshinsky's inventions.
Little did I know that there is a company right "next door" in Marlborough, MA called Evergreen Solar, that makes another innovative photovoltaic panel!
Their system uses liquid (molten) silicon and forms ribbons, that use about half as much silicon as the wafer-based systems. My brother, Nathan has had them to his house for a consultation, and his little ranch house could have a 3.9KW system fit on the roof. With a little bit of conservation, that could meet the needs of the house. I'm waiting to get more details...
Let me throw something out there: it would be a great use of these photovoltaic roofs to at least power the building's A/C system! Think of it! The sun that is warming the building, could also cool it. Cool, wicked cool!
[see my comments in an older post about reducing transmission losses]
My concerns with PV are that they do not last very long, apparently. The material simply gets used up, and they are fairly high tech, and require a fair bit of energy to make, and there may be chemical waste products that are not desirable.
Concentrated Solar does seem to be better on these two counts -- making parabolic mirrors and using oils to collect and store the heat is probably safer and easier than producing PV panels.