Monday, December 14, 2009

Grab a Spot in the Sun

By Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

Who says you can't grab your own spot in the sun. The Associated Press is reporting that Lowe's, the giant home improvement retail chain, is stocking do-it-yourself solar panels for homeowners. This is the first time that a customer can directly access solar power without going to a wholesale distributor.

To be sure this is not like buying a flat screen TV in time for the Super Bowl. Local utilities and building permits must be obtained; usually handled by a contractor. But it is no more difficult than adding an extra room to your home when you act as your own general contractor.

You need a separate electrical line and circuit breaker, just as you do with an electric washer and dryer. The rectangular 40-pound panels retail at $893 each; producing compatible AC power that runs in homes and plugs directly into a circuit breaker.

The panels are manufactured by Akeena Solar, based in Los Gatos, CA. A typical solar system installed by a professional usually has 20 panels. Each Akeena panel will generate about 175 watts of electricity, about enough to power a flat screen television. You can plug the panels into one another just like pop beads. Each Akeena panel is backed by a 25-year warranty

Lowe's is also selling computer software that allows the homeowner to monitor the performance of each panel through the Internet. Conceptually this means that an iPhone app probably will follow, meaning you can check on your system on the beach while on vacation.

Somewhere out there in innovative America there is a brilliant young teenager thinking about this. Who knows what solutions will arise when the people have access to technology. Just don’t buy a solar panel for your wife on your 20th anniversary. That’s a non-starter.

No comments: