Trade shows are candy store venues for wonks - and PV America, the solar industry's expo, does not disappoint! If you're in the Delaware Valley, you can attend for free today (Tuesday, 6/9) from 12:00-8:00. The show features row upon row of solar suppliers, manufacturers, marketers, financers, and installers - everything you wanted to know about solar.
Solar is finally going mainstream, due to stimulus money, state subsidies, improvements in technology, and dropping prices. According to Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industry Association, you could refinance your mortgage to pay for your system and when all the tax credits and state subsidies are factored in, you'll be saving more than you're paying for your system. Probably easier said than done, but solar is at last becoming competitive and easier to access.
Installation of solar is part of what drives up the cost - all those parts needing to be connected up on roofs. New manufacturing techniques have been developed to add more of those parts at the factory, bringing down installation costs considerably.
In fact, according to industry spokespeople, we're not far off from the day you'll buy solar power just like any other large appliance - at your big box home store. Not sure your average handyman will want to hang out on the roof, but once installation is simplified, even this will be possible. Home Depot already stocks a wide array of solar arrays!
My favorite solar vendor is Konarka, one of a number of manufacturers of plastic film impregnated with solar collectors. The material is light-weight, flexible, and even beautiful. (That's the pic here.)
Konarka Power Plastic is a photovoltaic material that captures both indoor and outdoor light and converts it into direct current (DC) electrical energy. This energy can be used immediately, stored for later use, or converted to other forms. Power Plastic can be applied to a limitless number of potential applications – from microelectronics to portable power, remote power and building-integrated applications.The possible applications are endless, a great potential for innovation. I imagine third world women microentrepreneurs creating panels made of it, on site - creating solar jobs, as well as helping to expand its availability. It is capable of absorbing energy even indoors, so imagine if it becomes cheap enough to be wall-covering. And of course it's perfect for camping, or just walking - here is a computer bag which charges its laptop:
And, last but not least, their material is organic. Way cool!