September 2, 2009
- – Easier to install.
- – Airflow between shingles and saddle.
- – Radiant barrier
- – Saddle is intentionally large to shade as much roof as possible.
- – Digital display to influence neighbors
- – Artist design so it is less boring than standard solar cells.
In the category of clever ideas that are unlikely to be implemented on a wide scale, I like this one:
The idea of putting special solar panels on top of roads sounds appealing, but I can’t imagine the panels being sturdy enough. And I can’t imagine the costs being low enough. But evidently at least one engineer thinks those problems are solvable.
This got me thinking about doing something similar with houses. And by similar I mean impractical, costly, and unattractive. I call it a house saddle. The house saddle would be something you put over your roof like a saddle on a horse, and have embedded solar cells to produce electricity. The House saddle would have little feet on the shingle side, so it sits up a few inches. In effect, it shades your house. It could even have a radiant barrier built into its bottom side to further block the heat. Air would flow between the house and the saddle, but only from low to high. The side edges would be snug to the roof so the wind wouldn’t lift the house saddle like a kite. The saddle would be weighted appropriately for your house type. You want it heavy enough to stay put in the wind, but light enough so it doesn’t damage the roof.
If the solar electronics are embedded in the saddle, all you need to do is run an electric cable from the saddle to the point in your home where the power grid meets your home’s wiring. An electrician could wire it in an hour. The installation would be relatively inexpensive.
I can imagine the house saddle having a built-in LED display, visible from the street, showing how much power it is putting into the grid, or how much money the homeowner is saving. When you put numbers to things, it influences behavior. The neighbors would choke a little harder every time they paid a power bill, knowing they were, in effect, buying their overprice electricity from the guy next door. Soon they would want their own house saddle. And the LED display would clue you when to hose off the system to boost efficiency.
A big saddle on a roof would be ugly, obviously. You’d want artists to be involved in the design, to make it as inoffensive as possible. Remember that solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels on roofs are also ugly, and you see plenty of them, so ugliness wouldn’t entirely kill this idea. Perhaps we’d get used to these house saddles the same way we got used to wearing seat belts in cars. In time, a naked roof would look wrong.
Before you say, “We already have this. It’s called photovoltaic panels,” remember that I’m adding some elements to the mix: