Photovoltaic Solar Green Energy to Power the SEE

Solar Energy Exploratorium Heats Up

Today we added PV (photovoltaics) to the Solar Energy Exploratorium! Notice the two new PV panels located just above the solar hot water heater that Greg and Charlie are standing next to. As we mentioned last week in this blog, the thermal hot water heater pictured here is capable of pumping out 28,750 BTUs of solar energy and we are pleased to report it is now successfully heating the water for both our kitchens and guide shower.

The addition of the photovoltaic (PV) panels is to provide electricity for the SEE. This PV system is linked to a highly efficient electrolyte “gel” based battery. The set-up has the advantage of being fully portable and truly being “off the grid” from the moment it is plugged in. Unlike a “grid linked system” that depends on external power, this system has no need to be connected to PG&E; to provide electricity,

We will use the PV/battery system to power the SEE’s computer that will allow our students to do such things as: Estimate the carbon footprint of their home, school or community; Explore educational websites such as the National Alternative Energy Lab; Fire off emails supporting their favorite solar power legislative initiatives; etc!

Needless to say, the excitement has been building around here as the UPS driver delivers new solar toys for the SEE almost every day. Our “hybrid” solar oven is a particularly interesting addition because it combines direct thermal solar heat concentrated by reflective surfaces with electrically generated heat. We can now run the electrical portion of it with our PV / battery system and be entirely solared powered even on cloudy days.

Our solar race cars have also arrived and are quite a hit with the guides who are, after all, just kids at heart. The photovoltaic cell powered image projectors are quite mesmerizing and remind some of us of the Avalon Ballroom during its glory days. We have also been busy using our new planetarium to demonstrate the effects of the seasons, the longitude of ones location, and the degree to which your solar panel faces south to estimate solar energy yields. So far our calculations reveal that based upon our latitude and weather, Californians can replace an average of 73% of their hot water heating energy with thermal solar water heaters. We can also demonstrate that a seemingly very small area of concentrating solar arrays or PV panels located in Nevada would provide enough energy for all the electrical needs of the USA. This is fun stuff!

Today we had confirmation of another exciting development. Soon we will be using our new PV panels to recharge a full size, for real, solar car! This four passenger car is entirely electrically driven, has highway capability, and has the very appropriate California license plate “PLUGRIN”. We anticipate using the car to give our students rides on the property to demonstrate that powering a car with the sun really does work. I will make a special trip to Santa Barbara to pick up the car, which is generously being loaned by the famous solar energy enthusiast Dorothy Pierce. Thanks Nana!

Speaking of solar enthusiasts and heros, none of our solar projects would be possible without the expertise and generosity of Allen Carrozza, our solar guru who has loaned us all of the solar panels for educational purposes. Allen loves to share his vast knowledge of solar technology with others and is looking forward helping the River Center spread the word about solar power as part of the Sustainable Practices Institute. We also thank Daneille Fisher and the folks at Grange on Green for their support.

By the way, if you are a schoolteacher, keep in mind that students aren’t the only ones that will benefit from our programs. We plan to “teach the teachers” about solar power too. If you would like to “bring on home” the solar energy buzz to your own classroom, what better place to attend a seminar than here on the American River where you can combine your learning with whitewater rafting, camping and other forms of recreation such as petting Charlie the River Dog.

Warm Solar Greetings from the American River,

Scott, Allen, Greg, Daneille and Charlie the River Dog