Monday, February 11, 2013

See Saw Scene

Back in the days of yore many factories were built with sawtooth roofs like the the one seen to the right. The idea of the roof design was to let diffuse light into the building to minimize the need for expensive artificial lighting. What happened to all the sawtooth roofs? Well... Once artificial lighting got cheap enough it no longer made sense to spend the extra money building a sawtooth roof.

There are many historical examples of solar energy sources being supplanted by alternative fossil fuels. Here's a short list.
  • Natural gas displaced solar water heaters
  • Electric pumps eliminated wind driven pumps on farms
  • The Cheap Energy Revolution resulted in many buildings becoming less efficient (particulary noteworthy in the Pacific Northwest)
These days we're seeing a new twist on this old theme.
  • Photoelectrics are displacing solar water heating systems
  • Photoelectrics are displacing building efficiency measures
Germany is running straight into both of these issues at the moment and as far as I can tell they aren't doing a very good job addressing the new status quo. It's understandable, the BSW has their hands tied to some degree. As an organization composed of all sorts of solar companies (photoelectric and solar thermal) they can't very well start advocating for photoelectrics to take over the water heating market. Unfortunately, this is exactly what they should be doing. Water tanks are the most cost-effective device on the planet to store solar energy. Rather than focus on the low hanging fruit BSW is advocating for battery storage - an inappropriate option at this stage of development. Meh... Whaddaya gonna do? They'll figure it out.

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