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How About Uniform Standards for Solar Panels?

August 28, 2007

Solar panels are a low-tech but vital part of the green technology arsenal.

Yet as my longtime friend and colleague Dana Blankenhorn writes in his energy-oriented blog, the fact that there are no standards for solar panels can lead to problems when those panels are connected to energy grids.

Because there are no standards- or even a common descriptor- this whole issue is rife with confusion. Dana calls the situation "maddening."

The trouble comes in when you're talking about connecting panels to the grid, or trying to choose which panel to buy.

There, as Dana writes, the lack of standards is bound to be maddening.

"So far few people seem to have even thought about this. They're too busy looking at what to put in a solar panel, or what shapes might yield to the most efficiency," Dana writes. "When they talk about "setting new standards," they're talking about a maximum power output, not about standards in the way the PC industry talks about them. In the last story linked-to above, no one is thinking about how the panels might be replaced when they wear out, and with what.

Next, Dana, comes up with an analogy that when I read it (and you do as well), just might make you go "hmmm." And loudly.

"These are, in many ways, Heathkit days for the industry," he adds. "We're uncertain how important concentrating solar power onto panels with mirrors might be, as opposed to adding more panels. The result is that press releases about new panels sound as jargon-filled and unintelligible as a 1974 parts ad in Popular Mechanics:

A product of Evergreen’s cutting-edge String Ribbon™ manufacturing technology, the 195W panel has the best available power tolerance (-0 / +2.5%), guaranteeing 100% of rated power.

Yea, me too. Or as Dana writes:


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