DHS students talk solar power
Published 3:50 pm, Thursday, April 28, 2011
Darien High School will soon be sporting an array of solar panels and a group of students had the chance to find out why the changes are so important.
Timothy Smith of Power Point Energy visited DHS on Wednesday afternoon as part of the school's second annual energy symposium. Power Point Energy is the company responsible for installing the solar panels on the roof of the school and Smith gave students a crash course in solar energy.
"We're an energy solutions company," Smith said. "We not only design and engineer, we also implement."
Installing the solar panels isn't the first time Power Point Energy has done work for the school. A few years ago they did a complete overhaul of the school's lighting to make it more energy efficient.
"We reworked a lot of the lighting and kept the same look but the lights used about 35 percent less power," Smith said. "I bet most of you didn't even notice the lights had been changed."
As more people and communities turn their attention to greener practices, Smith said the important thing to keep in mind with any alternative energy source is that there isn't a magic bullet to fix every problem. The technology to harness sunlight and convert it to power has been around since 1954 but even with improved panels, there are still issues with efficiency, Smith said.
"When people first started looking at solar energy they realized that at its best, solar energy is only about 29 percent efficient," he said. "Most of the panels today are about 14 to 18 percent efficient."
The trick to getting the most out of solar energy is to maximize the power you can generate within a limited area. In a heavily developed area like Darien, many homes wouldn't have room for large arrays of solar panels, so more thought would have to go into where the panels could go, Smith said.
Temperatures also play a role in the effectiveness of solar panels and Connecticut is a good location for solar energy.
"Hot temperatures can cause the panels to be less efficient," Smith said. "Connecticut is a better area than Arizona for solar power for that reason."
Solar power is becoming more popular across the country but Smith said we have only begun to realize the full potential of solar power.
"Renewable energy only works when you have a plan that makes sense," he said. "The only way it will work is if younger generations drive the market."