Solar power is loved by many on both the left and right side of the political spectrum, and has been encouraged by a number of governments around the world. Most libertarians don’t support the idea of governments trying to force the market towards solar power, but many of them would like to see solar energy succeed.
This is a complicated issue, considering that the free market currently loves fossil fuels (especially coal, natural gas, and petroleum), and transitioning to alternative sources of energy is a hard sell from a financial standpoint.
How does one make solar panels more attractive to the free market? By making them more useful and economical so they can survive without government incentives.
Solar panels are among the most suitable power sources for a rooftop, driveway, or lawn, and also among the most suitable if you want to decentralize power production (this way, governments can’t, and won’t need to regulate them much if they are off the grid).
If you wanted to go off the grid with a gas or diesel-fueled generator, you’d have to put up with frequent maintenance requirements, noise, and having an exhaust emitting toxic gases right there on your property.
A number of solar panels (including the two that I’ve been experimenting with and testing the living daylights out of) are equipped with sturdy, solid aluminum frames that rival the strength of some fencing materials. They are normally faced with glass and backed with plastic. The need for walls (I’m not referring to border walls) is growing in a number of areas, as people want increased privacy and protection from burglars, as well as other security threats. A wall or fence can cost a spectacular amount of money. So much, that it could rival the cost of large solar systems that could power the entire premises (in some cases).
Now forgive me, as I present yet another one of my crazy ideas!
I see this as an opportunity to use 200 to 300 Watt solar panels to assemble easily replaceable walls which could provide security and save money. This concept would be tilted in towards the property a little to optimize the panels’ performance.
I’m aware of the fact that tilting the panels by just a small gradient would not be enough to generate as much power as their nameplate capacity, but nevertheless, they will still generate most of it. For off-grid solar systems, a packaged, mass produced energy storage unit could provide users with the ability to move it around more quickly and possibly install it more cheaply. I designed one of those and wrote about it here.
To bolster durability, a few steel bars could be attached to the back of the panels during the manufacturing process. Although this may not be necessary for most applications.
The tilt could be seen as a drawback (because it looks odd), or an advantage because a slippery, slanted glass wall isn’t the easiest thing for a burglar to climb over (try using a ladder to get over a wall which is slanted away from it).
Whether or not this idea turns out to be a viable one, every success and every failure can teach a valuable lesson and possibly lead to other inventions. When a project fails (especially if it is a major project), members of the scientific community may discuss the causes of failure, develop a solution, and put an even greater project in motion. For example: The electricity grid concept was initially direct current (DC), but DC wasn’t viable (at the time, which was a century ago) for long-distance power transmission. If the alternating current (AC) variant of the grid wasn’t invented, we might not be able to afford (or even have) a power grid today.
* Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in technology, especially if it has a major impact on the world. He often writes on his website Kompulsa about electrical engineering, and cutting-edge technologies. You can follow him on Twitter at @KompulsaNick.