Monday, December 14, 2009

Fixing the hail problem

At a recent holiday gathering, a group of us were having a conversation about the latest developments in solar power. One person said that with current technology it's possible to power a typical single family through solar energy. I was amazed. The rest of the story gets in to issues of public incentives and project financing, and we didn't have time to get into those details. If you're familiar with any of the public incentives available for installing solar panels on your home or business, please comment below.

So with all of the underutilized land in St. Louis, whether it's in the form of publicly owned properties or highway embankments, I started wondering about the possibility of building urban solar electric farms. If you can power a house with the electricity from solar panels on your own property, what if we developed acres of solar electric farms in St. Louis neighborhoods? We could turn underutilized land into a sustainable energy source.

Filled with optimism, I mentioned this idea to a person of liberal persuasion here in St. Louis. He liked the idea, but he threw up a major barrier: hail. He said that solar panels in our region are problematic due to our occasional hail storms. Hmmmph. I hadn't thought of that. And I like St. Louis weather. It never occurred to me that our whether might be an obstacle to building a more sustainable community.

Okay, so I'm no expert on this, obviously, but it seems to me the hail problem could be solved. Why not simply shield the solar panels from hail storms with some sort of transparent covering? If clear plastic or glass protection are not workable due to a loss of solar waves making it to the solar panel, what about fitting sturdy metal screens over the panels?

More research needed.

2 comments:

Edward said...

Many solar panels are hail resistant to a certain extent. One panel said 1 inch hail at 50 mph. I would think that if there was major damage due to a freak hailstorm (softball size) homeowner's insurance would cover.

However I would think St Louis would be problematic due to the large number of overcast days (the months of OCt through May come to mind.)

Daron said...

There is a group called, "One Block Off the Grid"
http://1bog.org/

They provide solar installations to collective groups. If you and everybody on your street agreed solar panels would be nice, then 1bog comes and organizes everything for you to make it all cheaper and easier.

Their organizational structure is pretty interesting. If enough people in St. Louis sign up, they'll come.