Solar Energy Information
Solar Energy is not a very sustainable option in Pennsylvania as there are only an average of around 170 to 180 days of sunlight each year. Solar cells are made from solar grade silicon chips, many of the ones used today require direct sunlight for their photo cells to create electricity, so cloudy days and rainy days are going to hurt your power generation. While it is probably not viable alone, in conjunction with wind power systems the two should provide a pretty good all around alternative energy solution in Pennsylvania. Solar energy is most used in states like California where most days out of the year are full of the beating sunshine. Google has created a huge solar grid on the top of the Googleplex which uses solar power to run a great deal of the facility. It is great to see a big company setting up something that massive to help the environment. Since they are located in Mountain View, CA, Google gets plenty of sun for their solar grid and it is foreseen they will just keep adding more cells to it.
Solar Energy Prices
Solar energy will continue to become cheaper to implement as more people adopt it and use it regularly. The technology has been around for years, but it has always been pretty expensive to buy the solar panels you needed to create the energy. It will be interesting to see how the price fluctuates as solar energy equipment gets better and becomes more popular in the mainstream. They have made huge steps in creating solar cells that produce more energy for the amount of light they take in. There is currently a solar cell going through patent procedures that creates much more power for the solar cells by refracting the light and magnifying it before it hits the solar cell. It works similar to if you were to take a magnifying glass into the sun's light. Once these sort of solar cells are readily available on the market, many more people in Pennsylvania and other places around the world with less sunlight will be able to generate more solar power.
Home Solar Energy
Home solar energy is becoming more popular as prices on individual solar cells have been coming down in recent years. Home solar power for heating and hot water is quickly becoming the alternative to home heating oil and gas heat in many areas of the country. It is probably not the best idea for setting up as your only source of hot water in Pennsylvania in the winter, but it should be a great addition to your home heating system and save money on heating oil used to heat your hot water. Even houses in Pennsylvania where the sun is not out as much as say a state like California have been adding solar panels to their roofs. I know that stores like Fry's Electronics actually carry solar panels in the store. I have no yet found a place like that in Pennsylvania, and I think that you would have to order something online or from a catalog. A home solar energy system will need to be hooked up by a professional electrician. Never mess with electricity unless you know what you are doing. It can be fatal if you make a mistake.
Home Solar Panels
Home solar panels come in many shapes and sizes, which can range in wattage based on the quality of the solar cells. In most cases, solar panels for your home come in larger sized panels which can range from anywhere between 20 Watts to 216 Watts per panel. The prices on these might look high, but the amount of money you can save with solar panels should pay off after just a few years. After that, the extra money you would have paid in electric can be put into savings, or other energy saving products.
Portable Solar Energy
If you are on the go, or just like to have options for the placement of your solar panels, portable solar power may be your answer. Some portable solar panels are very small. I used to use one that plugged into my cigarette lighter and recharge my car battery. This was called a trickle charger. As for other portable systems, I have seen several systems and they are all pretty slick. Many of these portable solar energy systems are basically a solar power plant on wheels. Of course, you can build this all yourself with the right materials, but I believe there are some companies that sell you the whole system with batteries. Within the last year I have seen a local organic farm start using these portable solar power panels to power what I am guessing is their watering systems. I have not figured that out yet, but check out their website for more info on the environmentally sustainable farming practices they use on the Charlestown Farm.
Commercial Solar Energy
The most popular form of commerical solar energy production currently is the photovoltaic power station. The largest operational photovoltaic power station is the Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant in Canada at 97 MW. There are construction plans for several larger capacity photovoltaic power stations over 100 MW in the USA, Greece, Germany, Austrialia, France, and China. China currently has the largest proposed photovaltaic power station, the Ordos Solar Project, at 2,000 MW. In comparison, the largest solar farm being proposed in the USA is 550 MW. That may seem like a big difference and that China may be leading the pack, but the reality is that the USA has plans for over 3000 MW in just it's solar power plants over 100 MW, which will all be completed 5 years earlier according to project completion estimates. It's great to see China finally stepping up to create some alternative energy sources, but it may be too little too late. While they have one large project for solar energy production, there really doesn't seem to be much else on the horizon for solar energy production, and the project isn't supposed to be completed until 2019. Hopefully by then they have more facilities planned or already under construction.