Jan 25, 2010

Solar power but Not on the Roof

When we work merchandise and Green shows and speak to those interested in solar photovoltaics(PV) and solar water(solar thermal), we find that both men and women feel the placement of solar panels on their roof will somehow be a cosmetic detriment to their home experience. We find this funny since who ever thought roof shingles are sexy-or even tile roofs for that matter. Guess it is all about convention and the way we have been taught that a well-groomed pitched roof is part of having a nice home.

So to combat this what we feel to be ludicrous obstacle to solar electric, a Georgia Tech(Atlanta,Ga)scientist has developed a new solar technology that would allow solar capture in previously remote(from sun rays) areas.

Here are some highlights on the system from Discovery News(11-9-09 by Eric Bland):

Instead of using traditional solar panels, the Georgia Tech scientists(Zhong Wang) will capture sunlight and turn it into electricity using fiber optics cables coated with zinc oxide, the same white compound lifeguards slather on their noses.

The fiber optic cables, each one two to three times the width of a human hair, would be installed on the roof of a house, car or any other structure.

Only the very tip of the cables would be exposed to the outside environment.

Light enters the tip of the fiber and travels to the end. The light is absorbed and turned into electrical energy along the way.

Once the light reaches the end of the fiber, it actually bounces back, giving the zinc oxide another chance to absorb any light missed during the first pass.

The fibers can be cut to any length depending on the needs of the user. A 10-centimeter (four-inch) fiber would conservatively generate about 0.5 volts.

Powering a 10-watt light bulb would require about 10,000 fibers, each about 10 centimeters (four inches) long. That might sound like a lot of fibers, but it's about the same size as a small handful of human hair.

Apparently the technology has yet to be rolled out to commercial production but it shows what hopefully will be possible in the next decade and why the government should continue to help fund projects such as these so John and Jane Doe can have a pretty roof but still use solar electric to power their lives.

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