RJP asked in Social ScienceEconomics · 9 years ago

Seriously, are there really any practical applications for solar panel generated electricity?

We have known for years that solar cells have been useful for powering traffic control signs, wristwatches, cellphones, and even laptops. Are their really any useful, practical, applications for solar generated electrical power today?


I don't mean spending $25,000 to cover your roof with solar panels that don't even generate enough electricity to heat it or aircondition it or even run your 1500 watt flat screen TV for more than a few hours. I mean seriously! First you need more than 5 times the rated wattage of any small appliance in PV panel wattage just to be to be able to store the sun in batteries so you could run the appliance 24/7 (yep, your gonna forget to turn the lights off, or leave the refrigerator door open, or the front door open, etc). Then you need to provide twice the rated storage capacity of the selected batteries so they don't discharge more than 50%. Then you loose 20% of the energy as heat when converting the DC power to AC power. I mean seriously, what are some useful, practical applications for solar power today.

Update 2:

I'm not talking about changing the thermostat up or down 10 degrees in summer/winter which can save more electrical energy in one year than lining the east coast with solar panels from Maine to Florida for 100 years.

I'm looking for ideas/plans for things you can do with solar power today thats useful and practical.

8 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Best Answer

    Being such a practical person you are unlikely to go by ship when you could fly. Flying you are unlikely to survive a landing at sea. Although someone in a life raft in the middle of the ocean may curse the sun but with solar distillation devices now fairly standard they might survive longer than any batteries would land.

    You might use an 18 wheeler to kill flys but a flyswatter is probably a more efficient tool. Likewise solar thermal panels are far more efficient than solar electrical panels and far better suited to general heating, hot water heating and air conditioning. Concentrated solar thermal energy is being used in all the new largest solar electrical installations. These installations incorporate heat storage in thermal salts to allow for 24/7 operation.

    Solar air panels remain the cheapest way to capture solar energy for heating. It is the same principal that has been used in greenhouses, solar rooms, passive solar houses and from designing these environments we have a better understanding of thermal mass to store heat energy.

    Direct sunlight to electricity is the specialty of solar photovoltaic panels. It has a limited range where it is most useful. These tend to be were there is less infrastructure and lightness and simplicity are more highly valued. There are growing applications in Solar cars and electric aircraft as well as some survival and wilderness equipment. Solar panels for homeowners can be cost effective particularly in areas not supplied with grid electricity. Many boats are now charging their batteries with solar panels rather than running the engines for the same purpose.

  • Dave B
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    All you need to do is be a little creative. use the right tool for the right job. That is totally missing in your post because you are trying to run everything you run now. Do you know how much energy gets wasted when everyting is off just because you like remote controls? The charger for your laptop probably runs 90 watts at peak loading

    Solar can power window polarizing film to shut out uv in the daytime, for instance. Think teeny tiny uses of energy for maximum effect, not powering every energy waster in the house. You are on a rant, but solar is a total makeover, not just to run what you run now, even if it will reduce your costs by taking part of the load, as a helper system.

    If you expand the definition of solar panel, you can heat water direct from the panel and run it through your existing plumbing. Ever been in your attic, above the insulation? Was it hot up there? Paint a car radiator black and put it in a glass topped box sometime, leave it outside on something to hold it off the ground, and see how hot the water gets and how fast it gets there.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Of course. Collect the energy with solar panels and store it in 12 v. batteries. Use an inverter to change it to 110 and it will run anything that needs electricity. If you have a large power draw - use more solar panels and more storage batteries. Simple and, after the initial investment, incredibly cheap. Why will it never be put to good use? The sunlight is free. No one can make any money on it, for example, the oil and coal companies.

  • 3 years ago

    Solar Power Design Manual - http://Solar.eudko.com/?jIo

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 9 years ago

    are you kidding or serious? There are entire homes not only heated by solar, but also selling surplus power to the grid in sun belt regions.

  • SDD
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    If by "practical" you mean something that produces revenues in excess of the costs, no.

  • KMcG
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    Like everything in your house, duh???

    Additional: You don't need batteries if you live where they have net metering.

  • 9 years ago


Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.