On June 9, 2014, Germany reached a green technology revolution: it produced more than half of its total energy demands that day using only electricity generated from solar power. Some media outlets took the figure and exaggerated it, claiming that Germany produces all of its power on any given day from solar power which isn’t true, as Germany on the whole does not have enough sunny days to reach that output consistently. Regardless, it’s an indicator of the potential of utilizing solar power.
To put things into perspective, the statistics show that the sunniest region of Germany, Zugspitze, averages about 76.9 sunny days per year, which is barely higher than the perpetually cloudy Seattle’s 71 sunny days a year. Compare both those numbers to the sunny days in American cities like Las Vegas, which receives 210 sunny days and 82 partly sunny days, and Phoenix’s 85 partly sunny days and 211 sunny days.
If a sun-starved geographic location like Germany can fulfill their immense power needs on the sunniest days, the United States could see a large portion of their energy needs filled by solar power and advances in photovoltaic technology have made it cheaper and more efficient. In fact, the idea of constructing driveways and roads out of photovoltaic materials to produce electricity has entered the conversation as entrepreneurs have raised millions to create such a product. The real question is, though, how much effect would having a solar paneled driveway have on your power bill? The answer may surprise you.
As the current technology stands, the most efficient solar panel that can be created has converts light to electricity at an efficiency rate of 29% and the best available to consumers is 21%. According to engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the average home uses 48 kWh of power every day and in order to produce that much electricity every day would take a panel of 409 square feet at 21% efficiency and a panel of 574 square feet at 15% in a sunny area on a sunny day. Coincidentally, the average size of a two car driveway in a residential home in the United States is 24 feet by 20 feet, or 480 square feet which would either completely offset or drastically reduce your power needs, depending on the efficiency rating of the solar panels you purchase. While the exact amount of power produced by the crowd-funded photovoltaic driveway has not been released to the public, one can see that in the right geographic location and depending on the placement of their house, a solar paneled driveway would easily pay for itself.
Tim Smith writes for Modernize.