Posted by J. E. Robinson on 11/27/2005
I bought this book in 2005, almost 20 years after the first publication of the book. I went through a couple of emotional phases while reading the book. First I thought this was a great book: it has so many practical details and insights. When I got to the part on system controls and routing the power, I realized that this part is probably fairly weak because of the passage of time. Then when I looked at a few other more recent publications such as The Renewable Energy Handbook for Homeowners, by Kemp published in 2003, I realized that the present book is still a solid investment for someone interested in solar-electric. A lot of the basic information is still valid and it is more a case of prices changing and some of the technology being a bit easier to use. I like the fact that the book just concentrates on solar. There are no diversions or philosophical discussions on wind power or similar to confuse the situation. However, if you are a homeowner and want to look at all the alternatives, I suggest the newer book by Kemp, but that book is a bit thin on solar-electric so the present book is still needed. Kemp has many good ideas on insulation and conservation. In any case, the present book is down to earth practical stuff on solar: how it works and how you install. So to make a long story short I recommend the book as a buy.
The book is written by Steven J. Strong an MA from Harvard and someone who has worked as a solar energy consultant before writing the book. He describes a number of his projects and they are scattered thoughout the book.
The book has 10 chapters and it starts with how photovoltaic (PV) cells were developed and how they are manufactured. He explains how the atmosphere itself absorbs some light energy. He explains the eficiency of the PV cells, and how to position the cells to maximize power. Then he goes on to explain the manufacturing processes in detail.
Chapter 2 covers the design of the system of cells, controls, and storage of the energy. Storage itself can be a simple idea such as pumping water into a holding tank from a well during the sunny hours, but usually it is more complicated and uses a battery system or returns the power to the grid for credit, if the house can be connected to the conventional supply system. He explains a lot of these details with references to geographic location, be it in Arizona, or New england, or on a mountain in Colorado.
Chapeter 3 is a lesson on how to wire the modules and arrays together so you can get the right voltage and power combination.
Chapter 4 covers batteries and power regulation. He has many pictures and tables showing availbale products. These of course must be updated with current products but it gives a starting point for the reader.
Chapter 5 is very short and covers power inverters and attachment to the grid. An inverter converts DC voltage from the PV cells into AC for the appliances as in a conventional home. Also it is needed for connection to the grid to get power credits. Finally, he presents some options for power back up generation.
Chapter 6 explains how to conserve energy and then how to match your requirements with the size of the solar system, i.e.: how to determine how much power you need.
Chapter 7 and 8 describe how to design a system connected to the grid, or to design a system completely standing on its own. He gives examples with photographs of existing installations and this includes seasonal variations in power generation.
The last two chapter 9 and 10 are on the actual installion of the components along with maintenance tips.
The book contains many photographs, charts, lists of suppliers for parts, and it has many example calculations on how the power is produced, stored, and what it costs. A lot of this information can be updated by the reader using the web.
This book is now a bit dated and the reader will have to update the information when buying parts, but overall it is still surprisingly good. 5 stars.
Undoubtedly The Most Complete Book on the Subject
Posted by Keith Kimmel on 8/28/2005
The Solar Electric House is undoubtedly the most complete book on the very expansive and complicated subject of photovoltaic (PV). Unlike many trades, finding good information on PV use and installation with the right amount of technical detail and handholding in book format is not easy. Few comprehensive guides on the subject exist to begin with and to make matters worse, alot of misinformation has been spread around by those with a stake in the game, leaving the consumer and property owner wondering what to do.
The Solar Electric House appears to be designed to rescue one from such a quagmire. What makes The Solar Electric House such a unique title and moreover a valuable addition to the energy independent homeowner's library is the fact that it speaks to all audiences of all levels very well. Novices will enjoy the detailed step by step information and through background on the history of PV, while experienced PV technicians are provided with enough technical information to satisfy even the most demanding of the bunch.
The Solar Electric House does not just tell you to do this and don't do that, rather it explains the underlying processes at play while pointing our pros and cons and permits the reader to draw his own conclusions as to what should or should not be done. The Solar Electric House goes far beyond history lessons and does a great deal of discussion on practical concerns the average user is likely to deal with at some point. It is this down to earth approach that makes this book such an enjoyable and informative read.
It doesn't matter if you are currently living in a home with a PV system, planning to buy a home with one, installing or just looking to expand your horizons and consider a new approach to solving the age-old problem of how to power a home, farm, ranch or business responsibly, reliably and economically, The Solar Electric House should not be absent from your bookshelf.