While a solar panel installation is a viable alternative energy scheme, equally valuable is the awareness we gain from the panels' visible presence. If we want the public to embrace solar energy, they need to know the sun. I suggest we promote sun-related education and public outreach. Build the solar panel campaign in concert with the excitement of the 2017 solar eclipse.
Coincide With a Spectacle
Parties advocating for solar energy should capitalize on an upcoming celestial spectacle--the 2017 solar eclipse. A campaign should launch imminently, for the date is not negotiable: August 21, 2017. Midday on that Monday, the moon blocks out a significant portion of the solar disk. For northern Indiana, over 80% of the sun is eclipsed; for a 60-plus-mile swath across the US, from Oregon to South Carolina, 100% of the sun is eclipsed. The proposed campaign to install solar panels could culminate in tandem with what will likely be the most observed celestial phenomenon in US history. Ride the wave!
Dionysius the Areopagite Converting
the Pagan Philosophers
Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Know The Sun
To understand solar energy, become more aware of the sun and its energy.
On a globe, plot the sun at the same time each day for one year to mark out the analemma.
Altitude of the Noon Sun
With paper plates show the altitude of the noon sun for any month from any latitude.
Sunrise and Sunset
On a paper plate, mark the location at the horizon of the sunrise and sunset over the course of one year.
Make an inexpensive solargraph (a long exposure of the sun on photographic paper) over 6 months to image the path of the sun between the solstices. Google>Images>solargraph
Look at the Sun--Safely
Make a Sun Funnel for your telescope to permit a crowd to observe a magnified image of the sun safely.
Prep for 2017 Solar Eclipse
Buy "solar shades" well before the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse. Supplies will be limited. Plan where you will be to see totality.
Check the Spaceweather
Follow the sun and related space phenomena at Spaceweather.com.
Get a Daily Dose of Sunshine
Witness phenomena like flares and sunspots, as recorded continuously by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Monitor Solar Power
Track the solar savings from a church's solar panel installation.
-Build an artistic prototype of functional solar panels for landscape art. -Track the tip of the cross for year for analemma and solstice arcs, and mark into landscape. -Glue a washer on a south facing window and trace the analemma on floor. -Build a human sundial.
Act of love, light,
Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light
Solar Indiana Renewable Energy Network
St. Anthony Solar Panels
Monitor solar energy derived from panels at church.
What Slope For Solar Panels?
When told south-facing solar panels should be mounted with a slope of 20-40 degrees (my latitude=42 degrees), I wondered why the angle shouldn't be midway between the sun's noon altitude at winter solstice and at summer solstice. I think the reason is to maximize the concentration of sunlight (when the rays are nearest perpendicular to the panel) during the longer days of summer. Still, 20 degrees is not much slope.
As I understand it, the savings from generating more energy than you consume is counted over a year. You can bank a lot of credit over the summer months and use that credit in the winter months. In Indiana you get a 1:1 credit for what you generate in excess of your use and send to the grid.
So how high and low does the sun get at local noon? I didn't have two paper plates to determine the Altitude of the Noon Sun, so I illustrated the north celestial pole (N) as up, and Celestial Equator (CE) 90 degrees to the right. From the Celestial Equator I marked 23+ degrees north and 23+ degrees south to denote the tropics, which correspond to the sun's location at the solstices as a result of the earth's tilt (23.5 degrees).
To the left of my origin point I marked a line 42 degrees from north, which would be my horizon, for the altitude of the north star is equal to my latitude. From 180 degrees--my horizon illustrated to the left and to the right--I subtract 42 (my latitude) and 90 (N to CE) and 23 (south of the CE) to derive 25 degrees (the sun's approximate altitude at winter solstice). From that low, it moves up over 46 degrees (23+23) for a total solar altitude of about 72 degrees at the summer solstice.
As shown in the smaller diagram, perpendicular to 72 degrees (the summer solstice altitude) on the right is 18 degrees (the best slope for the solar panel then) on the left; perpendicular to 25 degrees (the winter solstice altitude) on the right is 65 degrees (the best slope for the solar panel then) on the left.
That is, the summer solstice slope is best at 18 degrees and the winter solstice slope peaks at 65 degrees. The recommended 20-40 degree slope therefore reflects the greater emphasis on trying to maximize energy captured from the summer sun. You concede the winter months, knowing that you'll get more bang for your buck by maximizing solar capture in the summer.