North Coast Solar Stocks

October 15, 2009

Solar City: Austin Sees Huge Potential for Solar Power, Thanks to Satellites

Filed under: none — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 11:23 am

By Russell Gold
wsj.com

If you covered a city’s roofs with solar panels—or solar shingles–just how much solar power could a city provide?

While still a pie-in-the-sky question, the falling price of solar and growing interest in covering warehouses and other buildings with panels makes it an intriguing one.

The short answer: A sunbelt city could potentially generate enough juice to meet all of its peak, summer afternoon demand. That’s what Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy, said this morning at a conference.

Working under an Energy Department grant, the city-owned utility studied satellite pictures to determine how much rooftop space there was for solar installations. After eliminating roofs shaded by trees and roofs oriented away from the sun, it determined it could generate 2.3 gigawatts of power. Add in some ground-based solar installations and covering parking lots and you could get to 4 gigawatts.

This summer–when Austin had 68 days of 100-degree-plus weather–Austin’s peak demand was 2.6 gigawatts. “Theoretically we could be running this entire city off solar on a hot afternoon,” says Mr. Duncan. (Of course, there would still be a need to power the city at night and on rainy days. But that’s a discussion for another post.)

Mr. Duncan concedes that “the cost effectiveness isn’t there today.” And putting solar of roofs requires the homeowners to say yes. And that can be a problem. Austin has been having trouble convincing homeowners to pay a premium to subsidize the utility’s ambitious green-energy program.

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