Utilities working to bring down cost of solar power
Panels on homes, schools, even in botanical gardenApril 6, 1997
Web posted at: 9:31 p.m. EDT (0131 GMT)
From Correspondent Jim Hill
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Solar power has long been considered an ideal new energy source, particularly in sunny states such as California. But the problem has always been that generating electricity with the sun costs more than using oil or natural gas.
Experts say that the more solar power is used, the less it will cost, turning it from a theoretical option to a true alternative. So some utility companies in California are experimenting with creative ways to make solar power less expensive by making its use more widespread.
In Sacramento, 250 homeowners have been recruited by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to allow installation of panels of photo-voltaic cells -- called PV cells for short -- on the roofs of their homes.
The panels make the houses mini power plants which actually put electricity back into the power grid.
"This program has been very successful," says utility district spokesman Donald Osborn. "We have seen not only tremendous levels of participation by the customers -- it's one of the most popular programs we have -- but also we've seen the cost of PV systems dramatically fall."
PV cells use chemical reaction to make power
PV cells use a chemical reaction to generate power in much the same way a plant uses the sun's energy to make food through photosynthesis. Generating power this way is clean and, except for a slight hum, quiet.
In San Marino, a quiet neighborhood south of Pasadena, the fruits of solar experimentation have been visible in a concrete way.
Southern California Edison had planned to tear up streets and put in bigger electric transmission lines. Instead, it made a deal with nearby Huntington Library to put PV panels in its renowned botanical garden and send the non-polluting power back into the neighborhood.
"Trying out solar power just makes sense, from looking at the future and being a botanical garden," says Catherine Babcock of the Huntington Library.
The utility has also placed PV panels on the roof of a school in South Pasadena.
"The key is to get the costs down to where you can be environmentally conscious and do all those things that you want to do and still be competitive financially," says Stephen McKenery of Southern California Edison. "And that's what we're trying to do with programs like this."
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.