Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sun 23rd Mar, 2008

Solar Power For Free

I have an idea which I think would revolutionise the power industry. Of course, it requires a lot of venture capital to set up, something which I am unable to provide nor have the knowledge to find. I offer this up on my blog in the hopes that someone might read it, form a business out of it, and change the world. If I get mentioned or gain something from it, then that'd be nice, but making solar power easy for everyone to get involved in is enough reward for me.

Let's call the company Solar Sails. They offer to install a set of solar panels and the necessary equipment to feed power back into the grid for free. When you sign up with them, you pay only for the difference between the power that you use and the power your solar cells generate. If that balance is zero or negative in the billing period - say a month - then you pay nothing for your power. That's the deal for the consumer. Solar Sails itself makes its money by selling the extra power you produce (over what you consume) back to the grid.

From what I recall, the pay-off time for solar panels - the time taken for your lower power bills to recoup the cost of installing the panels - is about ten to fifteen years, and that figure is probably going to get shorter as the technology ramps up. (As Dr. Karl pointed out in a recent lecture, the power pay-off time - the time taken for the solar panels to generate more power than they took in their production - is only about two years or less). There are plenty of businesses who look at investing money in processes with longer pay-off times. Admittedly, Solar Sails is only going to get a fraction of the money those solar panels earn (since the meat of it is going into paying for your power), but on the other hand they can negotiate better deals with the grid supply companies and with the solar cell and technology providers than we as individual consumers can.

And the important thing, I feel, to get solar panel technology widely adopted is to lower that 'hump' of initial outlay. The most sensible point for that is at zero, so it costs you nothing to join the scheme. Even the most power-wasteful person has no reason not to join the scheme if it'll start saving them money without any outlay at all. Once they realise that they can save themselves more money by turning off lights and being less wasteful, you've changed their bad behaviour. And even if they don't actually change their wasteful ways, the fact that their purchase will have contributed to helping lower the price for other people (through volume purchasing by Solar Sails). So it's a pretty good proposition not just for getting more power generated by solar power and making it easier for people to adopt but also to change people's habits and reduce power consumption overall.

As usual, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this idea.

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