Solar Communities?

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SciShort_4_7_16Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: by working together, the community can satisfy its own needs, reducing waste and making sure everyone is taken care of. Don’t get too excited, pinko. This isn’t an advertisement for Stalinism, it’s actually the result of a newly released study by OSU engineers into how to maximize efficiency of home solar energy generation.

The newly released data suggests optimizing the solar development in a “community-based” system can increase production by 5 to 10%. Nothing to sneeze at.

The simple reality is that homes aren’t all built the same, and seemingly insignificant things like shape and orientation can factor hugely in returns.

Mahmoud Shakouri is a doctoral candidate in the OSU College of Engineering who worked on the study.

“The conventional approach to residential solar energy is to look at each home as an individual package, building its own solar system whether or not that’s a good location. But by grouping 10 or 20 houses in a neighborhood, all of whose owners are interested in solar energy, we can optimize the use and placement of solar panels and let everyone share in the savings,” said Shakouri in a recent press release. “An approach such as this makes the most sense in a neighborhood where there’s a lot of variation in terms of sun and shadow, and the orientation of buildings.” It would no doubt also help if more people actually cared or considered where their energy comes from, he didn’t but probably should have added.

It’s not like this kind of concept hadn’t be envisioned previously, but the lack of popular interest in solar energy, coupled with the complications involved with the tax credits many seek when installing their home systems, have made most people go it alone.

At least by quantifying the advantages of this new/old strategy, Shakouri & Co. are helping to make it make more sense.

By Sidney Reilly

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