Saturday, June 18, 2011

Solar Power

Via Treehugger,  a new report states that half of New York City's Peak Power needs could be met with solar:

Solar power has been growing in New York City, but the installed capacity pales in comparison to the city's potential. That's at least according to a new study, illustrated by the map above, that found two-thirds of the city's million-plus rooftops are suitable for solar panels—and collectively could meet half the city's energy demand during peak hours, and 14 percent of the city's total annual use. (And that's accounting for typical weather conditions.)

The data for the map, a collaboration between the City University of New York, the city and the Department of Energy, shows 66.4 percent of the city's buildings have roof space that can accommodate solar panels. Even more impressive: that space could generate up to 5,847 megawatts of energy.

Right now, about 400 solar installations produce a mere 6.5 megawatts, and existing solar power installations nationwide produce little more, relatively speaking: 2,300 megawatts.

If it can be done in New York, it can probably be done anywhere. Of course, peak demand typically occurs during hot summer days due to the demands of air conditioning, meaning these is plenty of sunlight to harvest (although panels are actually more efficient at lower temperatures). Now really, we aren't we covering every square inch of rooftop in the country with solar panels? I get steamed when I see some new crazy idea like solar panels on handbags, integrated wind turbines in buildings or piezoelectric sidewalks. We need to go after the low hanging fruit - simple, proven technologies that can be mass produced right now and integrated into existing structures to provide power. If we can't even do that, all these newfangled fancy ideas are all for naught. We need to ge the basics right. Now if only we can make sure we don't run out of rare earth metals...

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