A key issue for scaling up solar is where to put it: on every home or in huge arrays on the desert?
Some businesses, like Sungevity, are trying to get solar panels on every home by breaking down the up-front cost barrier. They partner with financial institutions to spread the cost of going solar into a zero-money down monthly lease. This would allow more homeowners to invest in solar panels for their own homes. In urban settings, this can be particularly useful because cities can start to take advantage of previously unused productive space and generate energy for the city.
On the other end of the scale, the folks at Solar Reserve are thinking 2.5-square miles bigger is the best way to store solar energy for large-scale distribution. They use thousands of mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central point to generate heat, which in turn is used to generate electricity. They can take advantage of places like Tonopah, Nevada, where it’s sunny 50% of the time, to build the largest solar tower project in the world.
Or, maybe it’s smarter to take a more regional approach. The George Washington University has teamed up with Skyline Innovations and installed three solar thermal systems on the roofs of GW’s residence halls. This energy system collects energy that students can use in their dorms for hot water.
What do you think? Personal, utility-scale or regional: does size matter?
Bonus: Do you know how solar panels work? Brush up on your solar knowledge with this Science Corner on how solar energy works: