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5248Re: Re: Air Conditioning, Cars, and livable places

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  • Ken Kifer
    Jun 9, 2002
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      Lorenzo L. Love wrote:
      It comes to about 10 to 12 watts per square foot under ideal conditions.
      My back of the envelope calculations show a US consumption of 34
      kilowatts per day per person. So if your 1000 square foot home housed a
      family of four, you would produce about one quarter of your electrical
      needs. It would also add over a ton to your roof just for the panels
      plus whatever the mounting hardware would weigh, probably requiring roof
      reinforcements. It would cost about $60,000 just for the panels, plus
      the cost of mounting hardware, roof reinforcements, power regulators,
      and storage batteries. Figure $120,000 to $150,000 total cost. Plus
      operating costs of replacing batteries about every 5 years and panels
      about 30 years. For 25% of your electrical needs.
      I'm all in favor of solar power, but we have to recognize that is is not
      a panacea and not without environmental costs of it's own. The real way
      to produce clean power is to reduce power useage.

      Ken Kifer replies:
      What a huge amount of power per person! At six cents per kilowatt, that's
      nearly $3,000 a year for a family of four! My parents, who lived in an
      air-conditioned ranch house in Alabama never once had a $250 electric bill or
      anything close to it. My own consumption is about 160 watts per day! Still,
      there's plenty of room for enough panels in the average suburban lot. The weight
      on the roof would not be a problem as we always build roofs excessively strong
      anyway. The cost sounds high, but I know that people now think nothing of
      purchasing houses for $150,000 and up. Some cars are much more expensive than
      that. Perhaps if people had to pay for the power at the same time they paid for
      their houses, they would be willing to put more money into insulation and better

      Still, I think we agree on the basics. Solar panels are probably cost-efficient
      for energy misers like myself, but they are a poor solution for those who want
      to have air-conditioned greenhouses. Even in Alabama or Arizona, it is possible
      to design a house that's comfortable on the hottest days without using much

      As I said, other, indirect sources of solar power are more economical. The cost
      advantage of solar panels is that they require no power lines (no power company
      either), so someone wanting to live in a remote spot can still use some
      electronic devices, such as this laptop.
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