These panels cost me absolutely nothing, that is, free. I just hauled them away. How? Where? This is one of the reasons you bought this book, right? Have you seen flashing "arrow" signs on the highway near road construction? Many of these are solar powered. The alpha numeric signs that flash words and numbers are also solar powered. These bulbs used in the sign to make the flashing arrows used to be powered by diesel engines, such as the Lister diesel engine. Now these signs are powered by solar panels, large batteries, and LED based illumination. A simple "arrow board" trailer typically has two 55-watt Siemans panels on it with two or three "8D-sized" lead acid batteries. Each battery weighs about 200 pounds. Imagine this heavy trailer with six hundred pounds of batteries, several hundred pounds of metal, being hit by a drunk driver (BOOM). Well...it happens all the time. Drivers hit these things on a VERY regular
basis, especially during the wintertime. The panels end up getting "cracked." Actually, the glass laminate on top of the poly-crystalline solar cells gets cracked while the cells themselves are typically okay. Thousands of cracks will run around on the surface of one panel making the top of the solar panel "less clear." Thus, the glass absorbs some of the incoming solar light, which gets turned to heat rather than striking the solar cells. These panels that were 55 watts when new now put out 15 to 25+ watts for me in the Michigan summer sunshine. But, they were free. When NEW (2001), each 55-watt panel costs $230-$330. My cost for the fractured panel at half-output was $0. In October of 2002, I had over sixty panels like this. That's free energy. As you drive down the highway and see these arrow boards, take note of the names of the company on the arrow board. These are generally NOT owned by the state, and those are generally NOT state workers out there. The workers you see are a con tracted construction company and they RENT the arrow boards from a rental company. Approach the rental company and ask them to save the broken solar panels for you. They normally throw these in the trash. The insurance company for the construction company will pay the rental company for the damaged panels.
A friend of mine and I put ten panels on a frame made of 2x4's, and we wired the panels up. Three men and myself manhandled this up a ladder and onto my roof. We should have only put five panels on a frame rather than ten, as it was a little heavy. Nevertheless, after a few screws, a bunch of wire, and some wood, I now had free electricity on top of the house. The panels feed into a battery bank in the basement, which is connected to a simple 1750-watt modified sine wave inverter. I do the charge controlling manually. With these, I power the lights and the fans in my basement. I do this typically during the daytime when I am
down there working. Sometimes when it is hot, I just hook up the solar panels to the 12-volt blower in my homemade "air conditioning" system. If I add a good trace inverter/charge controller to the system, wire it into my house box, and put up some more of the solar panels, I'll have a nice system. I still have about forty more panels to put up. The wiring and the frame take time. Half my house is shaded from 1PM to 7PM by a big tree, but that keeps the house cooler in the summer. As you read this book, you will find that most of my solar work is in areas OTHER than photovoltaic (PV). The only reason I have these up is because the panels were free, plus I like to have panels up catching sun that I can use for charging batteries used other experiments I am doing.
I've frequently said that I think photovoltaic solar panels are the WORST thing that ever happened to the solar energy field. It seems people thought this was the "nirvana" and the "pinnacle" of solar energy that could be reached, but no one bothered to do the math. PV panels take ten to fifteen years to pay back their money. Also, consider the amount of electricity it took make the silicon. Regardless of the faulty articles some solar power magazines have put out, a 6th grader can calculate the Re-turn-On-Investment numbers. There are more inexpensive ways of making electricity with solar energy, and there are ways that are far more efficient. The inexpensive ways are typically less efficient, but are made of nothing but iron, steel, copper, aluminum and other mass manufactured components such as pipes and tubing and glass or plastic. The solar-based systems that are very efficient typically involve extremely high temperatures beyond the abilities of metals. For an in-depth discussion of this subject, see my other book, The Positive Promotion of Hydrogen Energy, A Model for Success in an Economically Driven Market. When it is available, it will be at Knowl-edgePublications.com.
Sunshine to Dollars is NOT going to be the typical solar energy book you read. This book is going to SHOW YOU HOW to do experiments around YOUR house with simple tools and inexpensive or FREE materials. This book will ENABLE you, not just tell you about things you can only dream about or are out of your reach. It is the authors' opinion that the largest value from this book is the FREE GLASS that can be easily obtained. Even free solar panels won't lower your electricity bill. There is still a charge associated with getting an inverter and with the life cycle of storage batteries. Making a solar heater and blowing hot air in even ONE room directly reduces fall/winter/ spring-heating bills. Batteries for solar electric systems must be replaced approximately every five years, and cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Glass, wood, and insulation in a solar air heater can last for twenty to fifty years and cost only a few dollars. Every major solar project in the world has failed due to poor economics and principle. Don't let your home experiment fail for the same economic reasons.
These are the highway construction "arrow boards" I am referring to. This one is folded over for transport, and the solar panels that normally point straight up can be seen. These are two 55-watt Seimens panels. These panels are okay and working fine. I'm waiting for a drunk driver to hit this so I can get them for free.
GET THE PANELS BEFORE I DO!!
This is my pickup truck loaded with about 25 solar panels. Some of the panels are bent, and all of the panels have a cracked laminate on top of the solar cells. All of the panels DO work and will output energy in the sunshine. One of the alpha numeric highway signs can be seen in the background. These larger signs have six 80-watt Seimens panels and about twelve Trojan six-volt "golf cart" batteries. I've not seen a drunk driver hit one of these yet. If one does, he'll get what he deserves, and I'll get a bunch of free solar panels and maybe some free batteries. The guys who run the sign rental company will be getting some hot corn bread and beer when I show up to get the panels. It is always good to show our appreciation to the people who are saving the panels for you. Something fresh and delicious goes a long ways and is always appreciated.
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