Air conditioning comprises a huge portion of American energy costs. According to the federal government, American consumers spend $29 billion dollars per year regulating the temperature of their homes, pumping 117 million metric tons of atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide into the air in the process. Solar powered air conditioners may be an alternative to the expensive, fossil fuel-intensive conventional air conditioners. But are they a good option for your home? Let’s explore the pros and cons of solar powered air conditioners.
Pro: You may decrease your utility costs
The greatest thing about solar power is that it utilizes one of the most abundant natural resources we have. When you’re getting energy from the sun, it means you don’t have to pay for energy coming from some other source. You simply don’t need a power company to point some panels toward a giant ball of gas. According to Lennox, one solar powered AC could save you as much as 50 percent on your monthly energy bill.
Con: Some units may not work at night
One of the unfortunate things about solar power is that it utilizes one of the most abundant natural resources we have . . . for approximately half of the day every day. Battery-run units and models with energy storing capabilities can overcome the basic problem of utilizing energy from the sun overnight, but solar power’s nighttime challenges are stubborn. The basic fact is that most people like to have a cool home while they sleep.
Pro: Solar powered air conditioners may not be connected to the grid
If the energy storage function of your solar powered air conditioner works properly, it can do wonders for your energy lifestyle. As Green Builder Media points out, solar powered appliances are not necessarily connected to the grid. Thus, when storms knock down power lines, your solar powered air conditioner may not be affected.
Con: Not every state is solar friendly
Energy companies are threatened by solar power. The idea that people can independently store their own energy is an affront to utility companies’ core business model. As a result, several states, including Florida, have been slow on the uptake of solar. If your state has not passed legislation that makes it cost effective to install solar panels, it may be difficult to consider a solar powered air conditioner.
Southwest Florida doesn’t have the reputation of its eastern counterpart. Of course, it is hard for any area of the country to compete with the beautiful beaches and vibrant culture of Miami in Dade County, but one development company is hoping to help Southwest Florida become a premiere destination. A real estate development firm called Kitson & Partners wants to build the kind of city that has never been built before. They want it to run on solar power alone, and they want to call it Babcock Ranch.
The city of tomorrow, tomorrow
The Babcock Ranch plans are incredibly ambitious. They want to build a city fueled entirely by the sun that is larger than the island of Manhattan. Babcock Ranch will have 18,000 homes, six million square feet of commerce, and ample space for trails, parks, and lakes—and K&P wants to build it over the course of just 25 years. Syd Kitson, chairman of the development group, said he wants to make Babcock Ranch the country’s most hikeable, bikeable, walkable city. Indeed, environmental friendliness is paramount for Babcock Ranch. Kitson said in this promotional video, “We take our stewardship responsibilities very seriously and have taken steps to ensure that the city of Babcock Ranch will exist in complete harmony with its surroundings.” The development of Babcock Ranch will be a fascinating challenge.
How will they do this?
Babcock Ranch will be the first city in America to be built on the sun. Of course, this doesn’t mean astronauts will attempt to set foot on a ball of gas that burns at 9900 degrees fahrenheit. It means that the cornerstone of Babcock Ranch will be the solar industry. Kitson has donated a plot of land that will host the FPL (Florida Power and Light Company) Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center. That 440-acre plant, the cornerstone of the town, will provide 74.5 megawatts of solar capacity to the people of Babcock Ranch.
As a Babcock Ranch fact sheet says, it makes sense to build a community around solar in Southwest Florida. “With its Southwest Florida location,” the sheet reads, “which has the state’s most intense sunlight, the solar plant will generate three to five percent more solar production.” Of course, for Babcock Ranch to work, government officials will have to be friendly to solar development, businesses and homeowners will have to buy in, and the solar plant will have to keep humming. But if Babcock Ranch can stay on track, Southwest Florida of 2040 could be the Southeast Florida of 2017.
Santiago, Chile, will soon roll out the world’s first public transportation system run primarily on solar powered energy. PR Newswire reports that electricity generated by a new solar power plant will fill up to 60 percent of Metro of Santiago’s energy demand starting sometime in 2017.
Who’s Making the Switch
Metro of Santiago, an underground railway network, serves Chile’s capital city. The system was once described by SantiagoTourist.com as “very clean, efficient and packed like sardines during rush hours.” The system currently carries 2.2 million passengers per day in a city with a population of more than five million.
The Power Behind the Project
The Metro will receive power generated from the El Pelicano Solar project, a 100-megawatt solar power plant going up near the cities of La Higuera and Vallenar. An agreement between Total and SunPower Corp. says the latter will purchase 300 gigawatt hours per year for “the supply of clean, solar energy” to Metro of Santiago. Oil and gas company, Total, is the world’s second ranked solar energy operator with SunPower.
Why It Matters
Eduardo Medina is SunPower’s executive vice president of global power plants. He says, “Solar is an ideal energy source for Chile because of the country’s high solar resource and transparent energy policies.”
Bernard Clément, Total’s senior vice president, Business & Operations of the New Energies division, agrees. “We are proud to partner with Metro in developing a new way of powering public transportation systems through competitive, reliable and clean energy.”
Fast Tracking Solar Powered Transportation
If all goes according to plan, construction of the solar power plant to fuel the metro system will begin later this year and should be up and running by late next year. That puts Metro of Santiago on track to run on mostly solar energy by late 2017.