What solar can do for you
Solar Energy encompasses many different areas. The common feature of the all is that they take advantage of the free energy that the sun radiates every day, even when it is cold and cloudy.
- PV (Photovoltaic) power uses panels to gather the energy and changes it into electricity.
- Solar hot air systems use a dark surface to warm air within a box that is directly pumped into the building.
- Solar Thermal systems have collector panels (flat panels or evacuated tubes) that use the sun’s energy to create hot water, even steam, that can be used as domestic hot water, space heat, pool heating, even air conditioning.
All of these are considered active systems. Passive systems have no mechanical parts. They rely on the warming rays of the sun. We all take advantage of simple passive solar when we open our curtains and let the sunshine warm and light a room. A true passive solar home is properly sited to gather the maximum radiation in winter, reduce the radiation in summer, often has tile or some other flooring to hold the heat, well insulated and tight, and many other design features. A passive solar home can cut your fuel needs by 70%. Often wind, geothermal, and air heat pumps are included in the “solar” category since they also rely on mother nature.
Unless the government figures out a way to tax sunshine, this energy is free. If you are frustrated by unstable fuel prices and want to help reduce pollution levels then solar is for you.
Solar power works wonderfully in Maine provided you use the right type of collectors. A solar thermal hot water system will work with your existing system. For the average family a rack of 40-60 evacuated tubes are generally placed in a sunny spot on the roof and will meet 70% of your annual hot water needs.
The 2 panels on the right are solar thermal, all the remaining panels are PV electric. This is a common ratio.
Photovoltaic (PV) panels create electricity. There are exciting changes taking place right now in the PV industry with new and improved products coming to market. We have to work hard to keep up. PV efficiency is improving each day and thin film technology is now available and holds great promise for new options and price decreases in the future.
While wind does not use the sun’s radiant energy, it does use another free energy source. Many of us are turning to solar for environmental reasons. In a good location wind provides the same emission free electrical energy as PV panels, normally at a lower cost. Geothermal and air heat pumps also fall into this “solar/not solar” category. They take advantage of the difference in temperatures to create power. A heat pump can pull from the air, while a geo-thermal system use ground temperature.
DsireUSA.org lists the many incentives that help with installation costs