Household Solar – Renewable

Household Solar – Renewable


– This is Gordon. See, about 30 years ago Gordon develops this abrupt and lifelong
fascination with solar energy. He ends up being the first guy in town to install solar on his roof, and like twelfth in the whole country which is of note because Gordon
is from Edmonton, Alberta, the gateway to Canada’s oil industry. 30 years later Gordon is the nucleus of a growing community looking
to take solar mainstream in a place that few people
associate with long, sunny days. We’re gonna talk to Gordon about his vision of a solar future on this episode of Renewable. (intro music) – My name is Gordon Howell
and I’ve been involved with solar energy since 1977. I didn’t know anything about
solar electricity at the time. Really, who was there to learn from? In June 1994 Edmonton Power
called me up out of the blue and they were wanting
understand this technology. They asked me if I knew anything about it I said sure, I’m
monitoring the performance of 14 systems across the country. And I said, well I’ve always wanted to put a solar electric
system on the roof of my house so that I could live and
work with the technology that I was consulting in. – [Host] So Gordon has funding for his first household solar array. And though it’s more
expensive and less advanced than the tech that you can get today it’s made up of
essentially the same parts. Which raises the question: what exactly is Gordon strapping on to his and other people’s roofs? – A household solar
electric system consists of a number of components: the array of solar modules,
the racking system, and the inverter. – [Host] The solar modules
that sit on your roof, the rack that they sit
on, and the inverter that turns what the solar modules
produce into usable power. But the things that’s really interesting about modern household solar, the kind that Gordon is evangelizing, isn’t just that you’re
powering your own home. It’s that you’re basically
becoming a little power plant providing
power to all your neighbors which is a very neighborly thing to do even though you’re technically
making money doing it. – When you have a solar
electric system on your house it’s really fascinating
because there’s this dance that happens between your house
and the grid all the time. So at night you’re using
electricity from the grid. In the daytime you’re generating your own and if it’s a bright sunny day, you’re sending excess to the grid. So there’s this dance that happens. There’s this back and fro all the time so your meter gives the
electricity company two numbers. One is used to give you
a credit on your bill and the other one is used to
give you a charge on your bill. There’s no controls. There’s no noise. You don’t have to turn switches. You don’t hear anything. The electricity just goes where it goes. – [Host] We then asked Gordon how a person without 30 plus years of experience and an engineering degree
could get household solar. – If somebody is looking to
get a solar electric system in their house, the really
important thing to do is to get connected to the industry. Get a year’s worth of
electricity bills together, add up all the kilowatt hours of energy that you use over the year and make sure you have that number when you go and talk to
somebody in the solar industry. ‘Cause that’s the first thing
that they’ll want to know. Then they’ll want to know your address so they can look up on the internet, see what your house is like, get an idea of your roof, give
you a quote for the system, get all the equipment together, design it, and put it on your roof or your wall or your backyard or trellis
or wherever you want it, on the ground, an architectural feature. Lots of places you can put it. Anywhere there’s exposure to the sun you can put a solar electric system. – [Host] Grab your power bill,
don’t forget your address, and just reach out to
someone in the community. We wrapped up with Gordon on the roof where they’re testing how
to make solar work better in the place that snows quite a bit. And we asked him, in the last 30 years how far has household solar come? And where does he think it’s going next? – When I put the solar
electric system on my own house in 1995 it cost about $40,000 to do. And now we can do the same
thing for about $9,000. It’s really fascinating what’s happening with solar these days. It’s growing tremendously. Since 2009 it’s been
growing at about 95% a year. It’s on its way to
becoming ubiquitous in life where it will be second nature for everybody to put a solar
electric system on their roof. We’ll see it on houses. We’ll see it on buildings. It’s becoming ubiquitous in life. For good reason because sunshine
is ubiquitous in life, too. Solar energy is not snake
oil and it’s not a panacea. It’s just a technology that
generates clean electricity. (outro music) – [Host] On this season of Renewable we’re gonna look at
engineers and entrepreneurs, tinkerers, hackers, and
really just everyday people who are imaging a clean
sustainable future. Right in the heart of
Canada’s fossil fuel industry. Follow us on Twitter @greenyeg to find out when new episodes are coming out and don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks for watching and
we hope to have you back for the next episode of Renewable.

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