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TYPICAL SOLAR ELECTRIC SYSTEM
Creating electricity with either photovoltaic panels or wind turbines typically begins with production of direct current (DC) electricity. That current then passes through a transformer to become the typical alternating current (AC) used in almost all homes (aside from some RVs and boats). Most modern systems do not include battery storage, simply because battery technology has not matured enough to warrant the expense and environmental impacts. That may change in the next few years, but for now, the best bet is a grid-connected system that can later be reconfigured for advanced batteries.


TYPICAL SOLAR HOT WATER SYSTEM
Using the sun to heat your home’s hot water is a time-tested idea. Typically, the liquid circulating from these panels to your home’s hot water tank is not water, it’s something that won’t freeze or boil easily, such as glycol. The heat is transferred to your fresh water inside the tank—and that’s where some of the best new technology is found. The latest insulated hot water tanks don’t rust, and the best ones lose less than half a degree per hour. That heat you collect from the sun can be stored for days.


 


For example, Sanyo recently came out with double-sided solar panels that can simultaneously provide shade (in the form of an awning) and take in sunlight on both the top and bottom surface.


At the same time, the range of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) has exploded. That’s good news for homeowners. It means you can now have a solar generating system built right into your roof that looks like asphalt shingles or architectural metal or even clay tiles. You don’t need battery storage to get started. And, as we mentioned earlier, many states require utilities to buy any leftover electricity you generate. One of the key improvements in BIPV in recent years has been the way they connect to each other and your home’s power system. The early products were co-dependent. In other words, when the connection broke on a solar shingle, the whole roof stopped producing. Newer systems have built-in redundancy in their wiring, and most are more modular, making replacement of a single faulty tile or panel less of a hassle.


SOLAR HOT WATER SMART STORAGE
The availability of extremely durable hot water storage tanks—which in some cases also serve as water heaters—has made solar hot water collection even more viable. Many tanks now include a separate closed loop of a freeze -resistant liquid. That extra loop is specifically for solar hot water—so that when the sun is shining, the solar panels on the roof heat the clean water in the tank.


 


SOUTHWEST WINDPOWER SKYSTREAM 3.7
This innovative 2.4 kW wind turbine can provide up to 90% of a family’s electricity needs under optimal wind conditions. The unit starts generating at 8 mph and has a rated wind speed of 29 mph. It can survive in up to 140 mph winds. www.skystreamenergy.com


ENERGEN SOLAR PV ROOF SHINGLES (CERTAINTEED/ UNI-SOLAR)
This roof-ready BIPV system comes in a pre-engineered kit with all the parts needed for installation. It’s easy to install and low profile enough not to panic the NIMBYs in the neighborhood. www.certainteed.com


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GreenBuilder 11.2010

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