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Solar Electric Power Systems
Provide Electricity in Remote Locations
Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Today’s Solar Electric Home
By Aaron Kenedi - Article from Los Cabos Magazine - Issue #3 - 1995

A remote location, far from electric wires and power plants might leave some folks feeling powerless, but for those who are familiar with the capabilities of solar electric energy systems, it might just be paradise.

Recently, solar electric power has made significant strides toward appealing to independent and adventurous travelers as the power source of choice. By competing with conventional energy applications in convenience and capability, and even surpassing them in areas like reliability and low maintenance, solar power has in the last decade begun to achieve its promising potential.

“Solar power has undergone some radical changes in the last eight to ten years,” Gene Bertche, head of dealer development at Photocomm, Inc. said. “What used to be primarily a backwoods operation has blossomed into a formidable industry. Solar electricity offers its customers what no other power supply can: rapidly improved quality and steadily decreasing prices.”

That unique combination has been too good to ignore for an increasing number of people. More than 70,000 families in the U. S. have adopted solar power for their every day home power needs, and over the last 25 years, residential solar electric systems have been installed in every American climate and region--from the Florida Keys to the islands off Maine, and from the beaches of Baja California Sur to the high snowy peaks of the Rockies. People who need or choose to build their homes beyond the reach of conventional electric power, or who simply prefer to be free from the constraints of conventional energy systems, cite numerous reasons to consider this reliable, efficient, and abundant energy source.

Compared to gas driven generators, utility line extensions, or other renewable energy sources, solar electric power is clean, easy to install, mobile, affordable, dependable, noiseless, requires very low maintenance, and has proven to be a good investment.

A silent, dependable solar electric power system is the ideal way to supply electricity anywhere especially when you consider that bringing utility service to a remote location can be both costly and troublesome. First, the utility must “extend” its electric lines from the closest point of service to the remote location. This process either involves stringing above ground wires or laying electric lines underground. Utility line extensions typically cost between seven and ten dollars a foot (each mile more than $35,000), and the initial line extension fee is just for the right to pay a monthly bill. In addition, if you live at the end of the utility line, it is generally accepted that your level of service will be inferior to that of “in town” customers because of increased service travel time and decreased demand for service.

On the other hand, employing a solar powered residential system can cost significantly less than installing utility lines, both in dollars and effort. If you live a quarter of a mile or more (approximately $10,000 of line extension charges) from utility power, the solar electric powered home becomes an economically viable alternative. Since solar electric systems are modular in nature, meaning a homeowner can start with as small or large a system as he or she can afford and add equipment when it is needed or wanted, each system has the distinction of being custom made to fit the personal needs of the user. This means that the price for a residential solar electric system fluctuates because it is in direct correlation with the homeowner’s requirements. Consequently, this allows the owner flexibility in choosing what equipment to install and when. If air conditioning and shop tools aren’t initially vital, the means are readily available to add modular units that will increase the capacity of the system when and if they eventually are.

A system for a small vacation home, including entertainment and appliances, lighting, and other amenities could cost as little as $2,000. A system for a fully-equipped home could range anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000. Remember also that the initial cost need never be paid again. Moreover prices are constantly lowering as a result of detailed research while at the same time the technology becomes increasingly more powerful.

With a solar electric power system in place electric bills are nonexistent and minor inconveniences (that could eventually turn out to be major catastrophes in remote settings) such as fuel supply and storage, power outages, and maintenance are omitted without sacrificing a modicum of comfort or convenience.

As opposed to other forms of alternative energy, solar electricity is far more reliable since it is powered by a common, everyday occurrence, the sun. New technology has even made it possible for ultra efficient modules to absorb sunlight through shade and clouds.

Since its inception, as a result of research conducted during the space program of the 1950’s and 60’s, solar electric power systems are now regarded by experts as the most reliable source of electricity on earth. The solar electric panels (modules) have a 40-year lifetime and typically carry a warranty of 10 or more years. In comparison, oil reserves are finite, nuclear power has proven to be dangerous and expensive, hydro electricity is environmentally harmful, and wind power requires high maintenance and is unpredictable.

Solar electric systems have no moving parts, nor do they require fuel. The main component of a solar system is a solar cell comprised mostly of silicon. The cell is configured into groupings called modules that absorb sunlight and convert it directly to electricity. This direct current (DC) is filtered through a controller so that it can be stored in deep cycle batteries for usage at any time. This stored electricity can be used directly to run DC appliances such as light bulbs or radios. More commonly however, a DC to AC inverter is used in the system to change battery power to common household electricity. This available AC power can be used to run common household appliances in everyday homes.

Today’s solar home is a far cry from the do-it-yourself, backwoods solar cabins of the late 1970’s. The quality of professionalism and state of the art technology combine to offer even more benefits that homeowners in rural areas may never have contemplated. For example, utility free homes have an excellent resale value. A professionally installed working system is worth far more that the cost of equipment and installation. If you add the price of a solar electric system to that of a remote property, you’ll probably discover it is still cheaper than property connected to the utility. In fact, today’s solar electric systems offer all the conveniences of the most advanced utility powered homes. Many new remote home owners purchase the solar system first and use its power to run all the tools necessary for the home’s construction.

Solar systems are mobile as well. In essence your entire power source consists of panels weighing little more than twenty pounds each, storage batteries, and a few other items that can be dismounted and easily transported in the back of a truck.

For homeowners wanting to build in areas already supported by established power lines and serviced by power companies, conventional electricity is still cheaper than alternative energy systems (though the gap is narrowing). But for people who choose to build a home away from that environment, solar power offers many advantages worth exploring, and simply put, is the most promising and appropriate energy option for remote building available today.

By Aaron Kenedi - Article from Los Cabos Magazine - Issue #3 - 1995
Please note: Prices stated in this article may be out of date.

Solar Panels
Kyocera solar modules are a reliable, virtually maintenance-free power supply designed to convert sunlight into electricity at the highest possible efficiency. Kyocera began researching photovoltaics in 1975 and has installed thousands of systems throughout the world since 1978. These systems are ideal for charging storage batteries to power remote homes, recreational vehicles, boats, telecommunications systems and other consumer and commercial applications.

Kyocera's advanced cell-processing technology and automated production facilities produce highly efficient multi-crystal photovoltaic modules. To protect the cells from the most severe environmental conditions, they are encapsulated between a tempered glass cover and an EVA pottant with a PVF back sheet. The entire laminate is installed in an anodized aluminum frame for structural strength and ease of installation.

Information courtesy of Kyocera Solar

What Are Photovoltaics?
Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. When sunlight strikes a PV cell, electrons are dislodged, creating an electrical current.

Photovoltaic cells power many of the small calculators and wrist watches in use every day. More complex systems provide electricity to pump water, power communications equipment light homes, and run appliances. Beyond the utility power line, PV is often the lowest-cost means to provide electricity, and almost always simplest and cleanest to operate.

The cost of PV has fallen by 90 percent since the early 1970s. Photovoltaics are producing electricity for critical loads from the polar ice caps to the tropics to satellites in outer space. There is a strong market today in developing countries to provide rural electrification with solar panels, which replace kerosene lamps, batteries, and wood fires at a far lower cost than the central station power plants.

Photovoltaics are also making inroads as supplementary power for utility customers already served by the grid. Currently costly compared to most conventional choices for grid power, Photovoltaics is still a very small part of the energy make-up of any country. However, more and more individuals, companies, and communities choose PV for reasons other than cost: because of a desire to develop a clean, sustainable energy source, interest in a clean back-up power source, a need for placing power generation right at the source with no fuel, noise or moving parts; and an attraction to a power technology that can be built right into building roofs, facades, canopies and windows.

©2004 - All Rights Reserved. Solar Electric Power Association - 1616 H Street, N.W., 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20006, U.S.A. | Tel: +1.202.857.0898 | Fax: +1.202.857.0891 | eMail: info@solarelectricpower.org | http://www.solarelectricpower.org

Solar Electric Power Products and Advertisers

MexCan Solar - We specialize in Solar Power Systems, Generator sales and service, Swimming pool solar pumping and heating, Pescador y Barlovento, Col. Rosarito, San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, CP 23439 Mexico. Telephone: (624) 142-5000 or 01-800-60-SOLAR.

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