Friday, July 17, 2009

DIY Solar Panels?

A post in CNET’s Green Tech blog today wonders if do-it-yourself solar panels for homeowners are the next development for green energy market.

Start-up GreenRay Solar has raised money to finalize development of a solar panel that puts out household-grade alternating current, a technology that backers say will make solar power more accessible to homeowners. […]

GreenRay’s AC Solar Module will turn out electricity that meshes with household alternating current and voltage. Solar panels put out direct current, and then an inverter, typically placed in a home’s basement or outside the house, converts the direct current to alternating current.

In the post, GreenRay’s CEO says that “very handy” people could probably install the panels, but they are “electrical appliances so require typical safety precautions and inspection.”

Electrical appliances? Solar panels are actually closer to electrical power generators. While individual solar cells produce only a small amount of voltage, they must be connected in a series, positive to negative poles within a solar array, to produce a useful electric voltage that can actually meet a home’s electrical demand.

The most common solar energy unit configuration has a solar array connected in series with eight other solar modules. This results in a final operational electric voltage of about 320 volts – well above the typical 110 voltage of an electrical appliance.

Product innovation is essential to developing real energy solutions, but leading homeowners to believe that installing power-producing solar panels is the same as plugging in a toaster creates a real safety hazard.

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