GE Solar Panel Field Trip

First of all, the correct answer to the trivia question from the Green Living Series post is…the Microwave.  Microwaves tend to use a lot of energy when operating, but when cooking times are reduced, such as making a cup of tea, they use about two-thirds the energy of a conventional or gas oven.

By Ginger North: Citizen Science Coordinator

To kick off the Delaware Nature Society’s Green Living Series, I took 12 members to the GE Solar Manufacturing plant in Newark, DE.  It is one of only two GE solar panel manufacturing plants in the world.  The other is in China.  It is here because GE bought AstroPower, an independent solar energy company that was started with University of Delaware research technology.  The GE presenters ranged from Operations and Quality, to Sales and Product Line staff.  They all were extremely knowledgeable and able to convey technical aspects in a clear, easy to understand manner.  In fact, our attendees had so many questions that we stayed 1/2-hour longer than expected.  I eventually dragged them away so I could get home for dinner! 

GE has been involved in solar energy production for about 40 years, but interest in the US has just recently increased.  Most of the demand up until 8 years ago has been in Africa and certain third world countries where electricity is not often available and solar energy is the only option to pump water for villages and towns.  I also learned that residents do not actually use the solar power they produce.  It goes back into the grid and provides credit to their electric bill (your electric dial actually runs backwards!).

Delaware Nature Society Members Program field trip to the GE Solar Panel Facility, Newark, DE
Delaware Nature Society Members Program field trip to the GE Solar Panel Facility, Newark, DE

Bill Haldeman, a participant on the program, was looking to get some answers for his employer, who is considering adding solar panels to the property.  He said that they really dispelled some misconceptions for him.  “Shading one little spot on the panel disables it because the cells are all connected,” Bill said.  Bill also learned that the panel needs to be attached to your existing electrical system, since the power you generate goes directly back to the grid, not to directly power your home or stored in a battery.  Bill also said that, “During a power failure, you won’t be using the solar power your produced.  Your house will still be dark, since the solar panels simply feed the grid and don’t directly contribute power to the house”.  Bill also learned that you shouldn’t purchase one that is too big, because if you produce more energy than you use, you won’t get paid for the extra energy you feed into the system and won’t realize the return on your investment for the bigger solar array. 

Join us for the next Green Living Series program will be on February 9th from 6-8pm, entitled “Green Cleaning and Home Energy Audit Workshop”.  Register on-line at www.delawarenaturesociety.org.

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