Clarian Technologies, the Seattle-based clean energy startup led by Chad Maglaque, aims to bring affordable solar and wind energy to homes across America based on a simple yet revolutionary design principle.
Clarian’s solar panels and wind generators don’t require inverters,those pricey units needed to convert direct current (DC) to the ACcurrent that feeds into your electrical service panel, whether it is 100 or 200 amp.
Inverters are sized to match the delivery source, so the prices canvary considerably. A 32-watt photovoltaic (PV) panel comes with a1,700-watt inverter, and sells for about US$1,300.
Of course, 32 watts will only run a laptop, or something similarlysized in terms of electricity needs, so those thinking of installingenough solar (or wind) to cover even a fourth of their monthly usage(estimated by the EIA at 980 kilowatt-hours, or kWh) will need something considerably more expensive.
Let’s say you want a solar panel big enough to provide 245 kWh amonth, or 8 kWh per day. In fairly high solar insolation areas (centralCalifornia, Perth, Australia, etc.) this is about a 1.5-kW (1,500-watt) array. Since inverters are often priced per watt, and the prevailingrate is US$4.17 per watt, this means you will pay about $6,000 for a comparatively-sized inverter.
Clarian, a leader in GE’s Ecomagination Challenge and a runner-up in the June Seattle Cleantech Open, instead offers a1-kW Sunfish brand panel, which weighs 200 pounds and delivers 150kilowatt-hours per month, for between $3,000 and $4,000 a month.
This is half the cost of a professionally installed system (at $8 per watt). Clarian also has a 200-watt solar system, weighing a slimmed-down 40pounds, which will sell for under US$800 (though how far under no oneknows, since Clarian is still in the design/build phase).
The Sunfish, which uses all UL-certified (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.) components, is also equipped with a circuit breaker in the event of an area-wide power failure, so that linemen repairingthe system won’t get an unexpected jolt. By the same token, the absenceof an inverter means the Sunfish reduces normal distribution (electricline) losses (estimated by the EIA at 6.5 percent in 2007).
If you’re more into wind, or your climate is better suited for windthan solar, you might be interested in the Jellyfish, a 400-watt windturbine standing 3 feet high and 4 feet wide that weighs only 30 pounds, so even a chicken coop roof would support installation.
Outputting 40 kilowatt-hours a month, or about enough to keep thelights on, and installed in less than two hours with a few simple tools, the unit can also go on a wall, though its height above ground willdetermine performance.
The best part of these Clarian non-aquatic twins? They plug into anyoutlet in your home – right through the kitchen screen, if need be,though outside outlets are recommended – and they qualify for U.S.federal (ARRA), state (DSIRE) and utility rebates, tax credits andincentive programs.