Solar Beatles: Ringo was right…

Not many people are aware that the Beatles’ last live performance, the famous 1969 “Concert on the Roof,” was solar powered. In this never-before-seen photoshopped™ photograph of the event, the panels themselves are clearly visible in the foreground.

The Beatles perform "Here Comes the Sun," an early paean to solar power. The famous concert on the roof was powered by four SavileRow 250s, assembled by Ringo Starr.

The Beatles perform "Here Comes the Sun," an early paean to solar power. The famous concert on the roof was powered by four SavileRow 250s, assembled by Ringo Starr. In theory.

Ringo Starr faced the usual difficulties of an early-adopter. What size system was required for the performance? Would there be adequate sunlight on a cloudy winter’s day, especially in London, at 51° N. Lat.? How many bolts were necessary to ensure that John and Paul couldn’t pry the panels loose and bash each other over the head with them?

One of Ringo’s most famous songs was about his experience designing and setting up the small solar array. That song, of course, is the 1971 hit,  “It Don’t Come Easy.”

So frustrated was Ringo, that he abandoned renewable energy altogether, a decision referenced by the lyrics: “And this trouble vine keeps growing all the time/And you know it just ain’t easy.” (The trouble vine, a clear reference to green power.)

I can relate to Ringo’s discontent.

Of course, modern solar technology is far more developed, but that only leads to more problems for the technologically challenged. Today, one can choose between thin-film, monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon panels — and that’s just the beginning of the decisions.

Homeowners must weigh different types of financing available (if any!), choose between leasing and buying outright, make sure the system is large enough to meet their goals (yes, you need goals in order to decide on a system) but not so large that they shell out more bucks upfront than they truly need to.

Add to these factors, figuring out the various subsidies available and their tax implications. (Tax implications?!) Don’t forget to compare warranties, service charges, and the odds that the company you buy from will still be around to honor that warranty in five or ten or twenty years.

Head exploding yet?

Good. It should be.

The reality of going solar is different from the one depicted in most ads and even in publications devoted to green consumer technology. Does that mean going solar isn’t worth doing?

No way. It just means that Ringo was right: it don’t come easy.

I’ve talked with several people in and out of the industry about how to make going solar as simple as possible, but still making sure that you get the right system, at the right price from the right company.

That’s up next. First I need to psych myself up, listening to a loop of the two most relevant songs: Here Comes the Sun and It Don’t Come Easy.

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