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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Is the solar on my house killing birds?? Nope.

In the last 24 hours it seems like solar went from being seen as an angelic green technology to a bird torture device.  People are wondering, are my solar panels killing birds?  What is the difference between my solar panels and Ivanpah?

I'm here to add a little insight to the conversation based on years of explaining solar to energy executives...  a sort of Intro to Solar for the very uninitiated.


Let's start by making a very important distinction: Energy from the sun can be tapped using several different solar technologies.  


The solar on homes and businesses across the country and the world use, for the most part, Solar Photovoltaics.  The industry calls those PV for short, and you most likely know them as Solar Panels.  


Source: Watson Family Solar House Lexington, MA, USA 256.com/solar Creative Commons Licensing

Solar Panels take the light that hits the surface of the panel and convert it to energy.  They are bluish in color, and covered with an anti-glare glass layer.  They do get hot to the touch when they're in the sun...but so does the hood of your car or an asphalt road, about equally so.  


This same photovoltaic technology is used on thousands of power plants around the world, providing a clean renewable energy source for the community.


Ivanpah Solar Power Plant

Solar at the Ivanpah power plant uses a different way of capturing energy from the sun's rays.  This technology known as Concentrated Solar, or CSP for short, uses mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a giant receiver.  Not entirely unlike the scene in Toy Story where Woody uses concentrated light passing through Buzz Lightyear's helmet to light a match and launch the rocket.


Photo copyright of Disney/Pixar

The super-charged sunlight is then used to heat a massive tank of salt water, which is where the term Solar Thermal comes in.  

Concentrated Solar Thermal at the world's largest solar power plant, Ivanpah, is currently coming under criticism for its impact on migrating birds.  That is a discussion unto itself...

My point here is that owners of solar homes can continue to feel proud of their green energy production, without worry about the birds overhead!

Questions about solar energy?  Let's discuss!






25 comments:

  1. That's really wonderful that you're using solar panels. I've always wanted to learn more about it and this post was very informative.

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  2. I like your straight forward explanation of solar panels and the difference for the home user. I only wish it was feasible and cost effective for where we live now. Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings,
    Shari

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    1. It is. The question is not whether it is feasible (because it is) or cost effective (because it is) but about your patience while waiting for a return on your investment. That thereshold goes down every year. The panels pay for themselves within 20 years.

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    2. Very well informed, FamiGami! Exactly right :)

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  3. Solar farms have been popping up all over the place around here. I love to see it, too.

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  4. I would love to convert to solar. It's great to know they are not harmful to birds.

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  5. It's great to see more businesses going to solar energy now.

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  6. I have seen more and more homes turning to solar energy panels. I personally think it's a great idea and must REALLY help their electric bill. We don't have much of a bird problem here with or without them. I could do without the poop either way!

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  7. I will admit to being completely clueless about solar power (so thanks for the info) but hearing that birds would be in danger because of it would upset me. I am glad to hear that is not the case!

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  8. I had no idea that there was even a debate about solar panels and birds. There is this business not too far from me that has solar panels all around their building - it's very interesting to look at.

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    1. It is only about a certain kind of solar production, a large plant in California that hit the news last week. But otherwise, no debate whatsoever about solar and birds :)

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  9. I would love to have solar panels installed here, but the cost is too much for our budget. I never knew there was an issue with solar panels and birds. Something to think about for sure.

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    1. Depending on where you live, solar financing is often available. It basically takes the money that you would have paid to the electric company and redirects it to pay for the solar panels over 20 years. It starts to make a lot of sense when the electricity bill is $200 a month or more.

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  10. I have been in businesses with solar panels, but never a home. There was one for sale in our neighborhood not too long ago, and I really wanted to do a walk through just to see them from the inside. :)

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    1. :) The panels are only visible from the inside, but I love your curiosity! There is one part inside the home, that converts the energy from DC to AC current (aptly called the inverter). Some installers give a neat ipad-type device that lets you see just how much energy is being produced, when, and how that measures up to the current weather conditions. Pretty cool stuff!

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  11. Now that I am buying my home I would love to add solar panels! I just have to wait till the funds are there. Glad to know there is no harm to birds!

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  12. Thanks for explaining how solar power works, I didn't know about the salt water. It sounds so fascinating.

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  13. I want solar panels! I also love that it doesn't kill birds... I love birds!

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  14. I live in Phoenix- we are prime real estate for solar power here! I am glad they don't harm birds...

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  15. I've seen a lot of houses with these and always wondered what it was! Now I know! Very informative!

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  16. I've seen these before and had no idea what they were I've been wanting to get more information on them thank you!

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  17. I didn't realize there was concern over solar energy as of late. This is good to know!

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  18. Whew! The title scared me a little but I'm glad it's not the case! Thank you for this info!

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  19. I'd never heard of the technology used at Ivanpah before. I hope it is safe for birds because it sounds pretty cool and clean energy sources are desperately needed. Thanks

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  20. Solar Panels are a clean, efficient and sustainable way to power your home or business, and ensure a greener planet for your family.We should encourage more people using it in the life.

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Thanks for your kind comments!

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