Over the holidays my wife and I spent two weeks in Germany. We stayed with my family in a small suburban town east of Berlin. Roughly once every year I get a chance to go back ‘home’. Usually not too many things change from year to year. But this year I got amazed of how mainstream solar energy is getting these days even for ordinary people.
Basically every new home construction is installing at least Solar thermal collectors. These collectors basically use the Sun to heat up water. This can be used to generate a good portion of your home’s warm water needs. You can furthermore use it for powering your floor heating system (This is really nice). But you also see quite a few homes (new and old) being equipped with photovoltaic panels which are used to convert solar energy to electricity. All this is in addition to all those countless wind mills you see everywhere while driving across the countryside.
Well, I live in Atlanta, GA and I cannot remember having ever seen solar panels here that are used for residential purposes (Please let me know if you know of some). I know that there are some promising developments going on in California (e.g. Google), Oregon and Washington. Furthermore we have some promising environmental groups here in Atlanta such as the Southface Energy Institute. However notwithstanding, I feel that the country as a whole is falling behind compared to many European countries when talking about renewable energy. We must do better, much better.
Especially, here in the southeastern United States solar energy should be a no-brainer. Take Atlanta - It is on the same latitudes as North Africa and we get plenty of sunshine here.