Getting Serious on Rooftop Solar

In any town or city, there’s a massively under utilised resource – rooftops. At best this rooftop area usually just harvests rain water; with comparatively few businesses and home owners adding solar power and solar hot water systems. All our homes, industrial areas, schools and public buildings are potential emissions-free rooftop solar power plants.

What if governments, electricity companies and big business the world over started seriously investing in unused rooftop area with major fully funded grid connected solar array projects?

There’s enough rooftop area in Australia to meet all our electricity requirements in this country through the use of solar panels and it would decrease the need for land being set aside solely for solar farms, while providing income or free electricity for the rooftop owner.

An added benefit is given the location of all this rooftop area, the solar arrays can be easily connected to the nearest neighborhood circuit rather than requiring additional extensive and very expensive infrastructure to bring remote solar farms online. Having the power source closer to where it is needed also reduces line loss, which is energy waste resulting from the transmission of electrical energy across distances.

Major rooftop solar programs have already started happening in Germany where investment in tapping the rooftops of schools and public buildings is being encouraged. Australia has also implemented a federally funded solar schools program.

Recently in the United States, Southern California Edison (SCE) has engaged in an ambitious rooftop solar project to install 150 solar photovoltaic systems on local commercial buildings.

Southern California Edison states the project could eventually cover over 5 square kilometres of existing commercial rooftops with a quarter of a billion watts of peak generating capacity; the equivalent to several utility-scale solar power plants.

SCE recently announced the completion of an array of 33,700 thin film solar panels installed on a 55, 741 square meter warehouse rooftop, making it the largest single rooftop solar panel array in California. The array generates enough power during peak conditions to supply the electricity needs of around 1,300 homes.

SCE’s next major rooftop solar project will be a 42,500 square meter area on an industrial building in Chino, California and the company also hopes to undertake a number of mid-range one- to two-megawatt rooftop solar installations in the near future