Install a Solar Photovoltaic Roof to Generate Free Electricity

Terri Suess and Cheryl Long discuss how you can save money and reduce pollution when you install a solar photovoltaic roof.

| February/March 2002

Install a solar photovoltaic roof to save money and reduce pollution.

This story is about a choice that can make you, and the world, more secure. It's about how you can install a solar photovoltaic roof, which will generate your electricity from the free, unlimited supply of sunshine. With your very own solar-electric roof, you'll be protected from rising electricity prices. You'll also be taking a major step away from our national dependence on polluting, unsustainable fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear reactors.

"Solar PV is too expensive," you're probably thinking. Or maybe, "Our neighbors might think solar panels are ugly." Well, advances in solar PV technology are rapidly resolving both of those concerns.

A new kind of PV panel, called thin-film amorphous silicon, is dramatically bringing costs down. Government rebate programs are also cutting homeowners' costs by as much as 60 percent in some states. And in some cases your solar roof can generate excess power during peak daylight hours that you can sell back to your utility company (or use to recharge an electric car or bike). Regarding aesthetics, the thin-film PV panels are now being produced as shingles and standing-seam roofing panels that closely resemble regular roofing materials, so you don't even realize the home's roof is actually a solar-electric power plant!

These new solar-electric systems are called building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), because the photovoltaic panels become the roof itself. BIPV installations eliminate the need for expensive racks and trackers, as well as the additional labor costs associated with them.

Ready to sign up? To get started, all you need is a few hundred square feet of south-facing roof that receives full sun all day. You can start small if you want and add more panels later. A solar roof system is actually simple - the right number of panels to produce the number of watts you want, wired to an instrument called an inverter. The in verter changes the solar direct current (DC) into the alternating current (AC) used by most household appliances.

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