East Berkeley, May 1954
The modern age of solar power began in East Berkeley in May, 1954 (my birth month and year) with the development of the silicon solar cell. By East Berkeley, I am, of course, referring to Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, then home of the legendary Bell Labs, where so many technological inventions of that era were born. (For the first five years of my life, I lived eight miles up the road in Morristown. It must be fate.)
Today, it’s the San Francisco Bay area that has become a true solar city. The pictures below were taken in San Francisco and represent a faction of the rooftop PV systems that individuals, businesses and the city government have installed.
Please, sir, I want some more…
What’s that? You want to see more of San Francisco’s solar panels? That’s exactly what city officials hoped your reaction would be. That’s why they put together (or mashed up) the San Francisco Solar Map. It combines satellite/map images of the city with color-coded markings indicating solar arrays belonging to private residences, businesses and government buildings.
The best part is the detailed information you get by clicking on each icon — showing the electrical capacity of the unit and the company that installed it. The map inset below (upper-right corner) shows how it works.
Part of the map’s value is that it makes visible what is generally hidden. Solar arrays are all around us, but almost always on rooftops where only the owners of the property can see them. And because we can’t see them, we don’t realize how common they are becoming. There’s still a long way to go before solar energy becomes central to our electrical grid. But, as the SF Solar Map shows, the use of PV power has spread dramatically. And as the price of PVs continues to drop and the efficiency continues to rise — and, most importantly, as the environmental costs of other energy sources are included in the price of their electrons, solar power arrays will become ever more popular.
Solar SF Index
- PV systems installed: 871
- Total capacity: 5.9MW
- Annual energy produced: 9,625 MWh
- Annual savings: $1,585,631
- Annual CO2 savings: 7,180,287 pounds
Source: SF Solar Map
Check out the San Francisco solar map, here. You’ll find lots more than the map, with links to more information about solar power in the Bay area, and to videos, like the one below, that tell stories about what’s happening up there on the rooftops. (Video courtesy of GRID Alternatives)