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Tomorrow Today

Solar roofs get trendy in California

the roof
Photovoltaic cells housed in roof tiles produce electricity

VIDEO
CNN's Jim Hill looks at the latest solar power technology
Windows Media 28K 80K
Steve Coonen of Atlantis Energy Systems explains the power output of solar roof tiles
Real 28K 80K
Windows Media 28K 80K

  

July 15, 1999
Web posted at: 9:07 a.m. EDT (1307 GMT)

COMPTON, California (CNN) -- When Evelyn Ramsey comes home from work, she walks into a house that's also been hard at work -- generating electricity.

"When I get my utility bill, it will be a small fee and I'll be a happy person," she says with a laugh.

The secret to her home's efficiency lies in its roof, where photovoltaic cells are incorporated into strong, weather-resistant roof tiles.

Wired together, they channel current to inverter boxes in the garage and out to the home's electric meter.

The result is a curious phenomenon at her meter: the counter spins backward.

"You spin your meter backward when you're making energy while you're at work," explains Steve Coonen of Atlantis Energy Systems, which manufactures the roof. "When you come home and turn your appliances on, the meter runs forward, taking off the credits you built up all day long."

The technology is a marriage of modern roofing materials and highly efficient solar cells.

kilowattmeter
The kilowattmeter actually turns backwards when power produced by the roof tiles is greater than the power consumed by the home   

A single photovoltaic cell can generate two watts, enough to power a small flashlight.

Put 250 of the them on a sun-exposed roof all day, and they can generate enough power to cut utility bills by up to one-half for an average-sized home.

At $15,000 per installation, the system can pay for itself in 10 to 15 years.

And in California, the state will subsidize one-third of the cost, because the tiles produce non-polluting energy.

In Ramsey's subdivision, 13 new homes with solar tiles easily out-sold those without them.

And under President Clinton's Solar Roofs Initiative, it's hoped 1 million homes can be equipped with the clean-energy tiles by the year 2010.

Correspondent Jim Hill contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Developing countries encouraged to curb greenhouse gases
June 18, 1999
Public favors renewable energy funding
June 4, 1999
Energy Star houses save owners big bucks
April 13, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Atlantis Energy, Inc., company profile
ATLANTIS ENERGY INC. - USA
DRSO: Million Solar Roofs Initiative
A Million Solar Roofs
EPA Global Warming Site
Welcome to the American Solar Energy Society web site.
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