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Why write another book on Solar Energy? Why was it important for me to get a book published in this genre when there are already hundreds of books already available on the topic? The answer is actually quite simple. It is the reason why many of us write non-fiction books – either to get information out that doesn’t already exist in a comprehensive form, to present information in a unique way of understanding to the reader, or to provide a unique approach to a topic. This book does all three.

When I first approached Elsevier Publishing, the title I introduced to the senior acquisition editor was “Solar – Is It For You?”; a bit kitschy for Elsevier. It was a title that really didn’t address the wide audience for which it was written. As you can see, the title has since been modified to include not only a general engineering readership, but also to include a diverse readership of project planners, system installers/dealers, builders, business/economic facility managers, educators, property owners, and a wide variety of professions as a practical resource.

So why is this book so different? What information does it provide that other books don’t?

Many books in the solar energy marketplace follow the “Do-It-Yourself” genre and are applicable mostly to concept and installation. The marketplace appears to be saturated with them, adding chaos to confusion. In my research, I found no books that discussed an in-depth evaluation of payback and investment advantages when using photovoltaic (PV) or solar domestic hot water (DHW) systems versus conventional systems. Therefore, this is a completely different type of renewable energy book in that it elaborates upon investment and cost perspectives, serving as a prerequisite to the basic alternative residential energy system guidelines currently available.

From a technical perspective, this book provides a fundamental understanding of heat and energy conversions. It discusses solar domestic hot water system types and photovoltaic/inverter array system combinations with associated components. It provides the reader with the ability to determine and understand the proper siting requirements, the amount of energy needed (based upon usage), the amount of solar energy available, the methods of comparing manufacturer’s collectors for both hot water and photovoltaic situations, and the number of collectors necessary for either hot water or electricity.

From an economic perspective, this book clarifies the investment and cost saving advantages of using solar energy and provides the reader with a unique compilation of information and explanations not available in other publications or on the internet. It includes comprehensive financial explanations with examples, using basic engineering management analysis methods. Examples of present and future worth of money are discussed relative to break-even costs and cash flow analysis, providing additional financial insight. Examples of actual quoted systems and worksheets for typical electrical solar PV and DHW demand scenarios are also included, allowing the reader to calculate their own cost estimates and to evaluate their own particular situation relative to investment payback.

By understanding both the basic technical and economic aspects of these systems, the reader can then make an informed decision about whether to install a solar PV or DHW system. The economic practicality of these “Green Energy” sources can be determined for residential or commercial use based upon location, energy demands, associated conventional fuel costs, solar energy system costs, and tax incentives. We need to understand the energy conundrum and economic consequences we all face. This includes a discussion regarding the application of solar energy alternatives to help our environment and the many issues regarding 'cap and trade'. While alternative energy technologies continue to evolve, the financial relationships will remain the same. Only the cost of fuels, inflation rates, and loan interest rates are likely to rise. It’s time to evaluate the practical aspects of solar DHW and photovoltaic systems and their application as a long-term investment.

Photo courtesy of NASA © 2014 by Applied Technologies, Inc.

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