Solar pholtaic panels – it’s a sheesh and it’s a kebab

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 21.49.41Ten years ago a UK company called Solstice Energy installed a set of photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of a house in Harrow where me and my family lived. I wrote about the system in the INQUIRER.Net but that seems to have disappeared when VNU took over the Inkster.

Solstice Energy did the work in 2007. Almost ten years later, and just last week, the same company installed 11 panels on the roof of my house in Oxford. The technology has moved on in the last 10 years – there is some clever technology nowadays which leads me to believe that anyone dissing PV in the 21st century – and there are many political gainsayers, are just plain dickheads.

First of all, let’s talk about the company, Solstice Energy UK. Headed up by Richard Warren with the able assistance of Rob – who installed the Harrow PV system – and Jay – finished the Oxford system in two days. They performed a meticulous job, just like they did 10 years back. No mess, no trouble, just a working system, tidying up as they carried on.

PV Systems
Now I’m sure Solstice Energy realise I’m just aspirational about PV systems but the basic idea is sunlight hits the panels and generates electricity. To make this work, and I do apologise for this, you need an inverter, that converts the electricity picked up from Mr Sun and turns it into a useable system that delivers energy without the intervention of a nuclear power system, gas, wind turbine and the like. An inverter is basically a transformer and uses the ineluctable rules of electricity, as posited by Edison, but better by the discoverer of stuff, Nikola Tesla, who understood AC/DC like there is no tomorrow.

Since the first installation in Harrow 10 years ago, the inverters have become way more clever than they were using the Sanyo panels that are still churning out electricity in north west London.

The panels have become smarter too – with a company called Solar Edge having little units in the panels that optimise the sunlight that falls on the panels. Well that’s the case in this house in Oxford anyway. There is a way to go, that’s for sure – and efficiency isn’t at its best yet, but the lovely silicon engineers are on the case.

How does it work?
 I am not going to venture far into a technical area of which I know little, but basically when the sun lights up the little cells on your roof, it generates electricity. We still know little about electricity but what we know is that without it our washing machines, microwaves, central heating systems, LED lights, computers and the like don’t work.

In this house in Oxford I have a system of lighting based on Hue Lights – I’m kind of trying to get to the internet of fangs before anyone else. If the sun is shining, and you have a heavy load of washing in your washing machine, the solar panels will assist you. If you’re doing a bacon sandwich in your microwave, the PV panels will help too.

Even when the sun is not shining, when light shines on the PV panels you have energy. I am told by my super techie friends that capacitor technology is moving fast too, and so you won’t need batteries.

Solar Edge portal software
Now it might be hard for you to believe this, software is my speciality, and I have written gazillion lines of code too. Software code doesn’t always work but when you install the Solar Edge portal on your own “internet of fangs”, there are some things as an “end user” that aren’t very pleasing.

First of all, if you are the proud “end user” of the PV Solar Edge system, you should surely be able to tell your fiends on Facebook or Twitter by pressing a button on the web portal. No such system exists. Solar Edge is missing a marketing/sales opportunity here.

Secondly, Solar Edge seems to tie in people – I guess that is no surprise. The previous PV system in Harrow used a Frobenius inverter –  see screen shot below.

These partners and vendors might perhaps contemplate that just because we are not all Nikola Teslas, doesn’t mean we’re just dumb end users.

Conclusion
Solstice Energy gets 10 points out of ten.

Solar Edge gets 10 points of ten for technology but two points out of 10 for marketing/sales knowhow.

The sun gets 10 points out of 10 for being consistent. After all, from our viewpoint on the planet Earth, it does seem to rise every day, despite the weather. And let’s give the moon 10 points for guiding us when it’s reflecting the sun’s light.