Dishing up a dream of even better solar panels

by Garfield Marks

Are solar panels following the path of satellite dishes?

I remember those giant satellite dishes. What were they, eight feet in diameter? They looked like 10 and 12 feet in diameter and E.T. could call home. Driving regularly from Ottawa to Winchester and you would be excused if you thought they were multiplying like rabbits.

Then they became better and smaller, decreasing to the size of pizzas. You did not need a post cemented in the ground, you just mounted them on your roof. Many homes had several on their roof, one for every satellite.

At least one family replaced their old, unused gigantic satellite dish with solar panels.  The post was there, basically aimed in the right direction. So why not? Right after the ice storm in 1998 when the power was knocked out, solar panels were becoming almost affordable, so the two issues colluded.

Like satellite dishes, solar panels are becoming more efficient, negating those extreme sizes. Today you might get 750 watts from an eight-foot solar panel; tomorrow you might get 7,500 watts from a two-foot solar panel. Today 750 watts might cost $375; maybe tomorrow 7,500 watts might be available at a store like WalMart for $37.50. Like satellite dishes they became less expensive as they became smaller and more efficient.

Satellite dishes became smaller and efficient enough to become mobile and installed on RV s and buses; will solar panels continue to follow suit? If they do, and with the large roofs on buses, why not convert to electric transit with solar panels on the roofs to keep them charged up? A 40-foot bus that is over eight feet wide offers over 320 square feet, five times the size of an eight-foot square solar panel. You would probably still plug them in when not in use but they would need less charging.

Then as solar panels become even smaller and more efficient, we could install them on the roof of automobiles. Electric motors are becoming smaller and more efficient, batteries are becoming smaller and more efficient, and solar panels are becoming smaller and more efficient, so why not?
One can only dream. Will we?

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