Solar Panels Make the Journey Back to the Future

Bell Labs 1955 219x300 Solar Panels Make the Journey Back to the Future

A common misconception about solar panels is that they are a newtechnologies. But scientists at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jerseyknow the truth.

Over 50 years ago, a group of Bell Labs scientists released the first solar panels in order to provide phone service for rural farmers wholived off the grid. The reason? It was good business.

At the time (1954) Bell Labs was owned by AT&T. The company wasthe only phone service provider in the area and needed to find a way tosatisfy its rural customers. When the electric grid expanded to ruralareas, the panels were no longer needed.

Today Bell Labs is owned by Alcatel-Lucent, a voice, data and videocommunication service provider. The calendar has changed many timesover, and so has the various applications for photovoltaic (PV) solarpanels — from enabling AT&T expand its service coverage to helpingproperty owners cut their electric bills and produce clean energy.

Now solar PV panels are returning home, as Alcatel-Lucent announced it would soon install a 1.2-megawatt (MW) ground-mounted PV solarenergy system at Bell Lab’s New Jersey campus. The solar energy systemwill be capable of powering the equivalent of about 200 homes annually — and it falls in line with Alcatel-Lucent’s plan to cut its annualgreenhouse gas emissions in half by 2020.

Here’s Bell Labs president Jeong Kim:
“Alcatel-Lucent has made a serious commitment to environmentalsustainability, and this is one step we are taking to honor thatcommitment. We are working on ways to help our customers operate theirown networks with more sustainable technology, which is the focus of agreat deal of research at Bell Labs.”

Solar panels made by California-based SunPower Corporation will beused in the installation. Bell Labs’ system is expected to be completedby next spring. For the next fifteen years after that, Bell will save an estimated total of $2.5 billion in energy costs.

Thanks to a contract with ConEdison Development, Bell Labs will nothave to spend a single penny upfront for installation costs. As thedeveloper of the project, ConEdison is leasing the six-acre plot wherethe system will be installed, and then selling the energy back to BellLabs at a fixed rate. ConEdison will also own the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) associated with the system’s output.

Solar Panels Make the Journey Back to the Future