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Solar Electric Systems

Solar Electric panels, also known as photovoltaic or PV panels, convert the energy of the sun into electricity. PV systems can be sized to power your entire home or just a portion. BREW offers a variety of solar electric systems:

Stand-alone or off-grid systems are the best choice when it is either impossible or impractical to connect to the utility power grid. Stand-alone systems also work well in applications that have low power requirements such as well pumping or ventilation. These systems almost always involve the use of batteries for energy storage. One popular exception is the direct drive water fountain!

The more common grid-tied photovoltaic systems are connected to the utility grid and allow residences and businesses are becoming more common as tax credits and incentive programs make them economically feasible.
Check out our Solar Electric Photo Album

Photovoltaic History

1904 Wilhelm Hallwachs (German) discovered that a combination of copper and cuprous oxide was sensitive to light.
1905 Albert Einstein published a paper on the photoelectric effect. He would win 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for these theories.
1916 Robert Millikan provided experimental proof of Einstein’s theory on photoelectric effect
1950s Inventors at Bell Labs (Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson) developed a more efficient PV cell (6%) made from silicon. This was the first solar cell capable of generating enough power from the sun to run everyday electrical equipment.
1954 The New York Times forecasts that solar cells will eventually lead to a source of “limitless energy of the sun”.
1955 Western Electric began to sell commercial licenses for silicon photovoltaic technologies. Early successful products included PV-powered dollar bill changers and devices that decoded computer punch cards and tape.
1958 Federal support for photovoltaic technology was initially tied to the space program to provide power for the Vanguard satellite.
1963 Sharp Corporation produces a viable PV module made of silicon solar cells. Japan installs a 242W PV array on a lighthouse, at that time the world’s largest PV array.
1966 NASA launches Orbiting Astronomical Observatory with a 1kW PV array.
1973 Spurred by the oil embargo, interest in space applications of photovoltaics grew.
1970s By the late 1970s, a program for the development of distributed photovoltaics was established by the U.S. Government at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focusing on design and demonstration issues for the buildings sector.
1978 The Energy Tax Act of 1978 established a 10-percent investment tax credit for photovoltaic applications.
The Solar Photovoltaic Energy, Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 1978committed $1.2 billion, over 10 years, to improve photovoltaic production levels, reduce costs, and stimulate private sector purchases.
Photovoltaic energy commercialization program accelerated the procurement and installation of photovoltaic systems in Federal facilities.
1980 The Carlisle house (Massachusetts) was completed with participation from MIT, DOE, and Solar Design Associates. It featured the first building-integrated photovoltaic system, passive solar heating and cooling, superinsulation, internal thermal mass, earth-sheltering, daylighting, a roof-integrated solar thermal system, and a 7.5-peak-watt photovoltaic array of polycrystalline modules from Solarex.
The Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax Act of 1980 was enacted, raising the residential tax credit to 40% of the first $10,000 for photovoltaic applications, and the business tax credit to 15%. The Act also extended the credit to the end of 1981.
Boeing and Kodak fabricated the first thin-film photovoltaic cells with efficiencies greater than 10%.
1985 The 6-megawatt Carissa Plains plant was added to Southern California Edison’s system. The project was later dismantled.
1989 The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Technology Competitiveness Act of 1989 sought to improve the operational reliability of photovoltaic modules, increase module efficiencies, decrease direct manufacturing costs, and improve electric power production costs.

PV for Utility Scale Applications (PVUSA), a national public-private partnership program, was created to assess and demonstrate the viability of utility-scale photovoltaic electric generating systems. PVUSA participants include the DOE and other agencies, the Electric Power Research Institute, the California Energy Commission, and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and eight other utilities.

1990 Siemens A.G. of Munich, West Germany, acquired California-based ARCO Solar, the world’s largest photovoltaic company.

The PV Manufacturing Technology (PVMaT) project began. A government-industry research and development partnership between DOE and members of the U.S. photovoltaic industry was designed to improve manufacturing processes, accelerate manufacturing cost reductions for photovoltaic modules, improve commercial product performance, and lay the groundwork for a substantial scale-up of manufacturing capacity.

Germany launches $500MM “100,000 Solar Roofs” program. The Cathedral of Magdeburg installs solar on the roof, marking the first installation on a church in East Germany.

1991 President Bush directs the US Department of Energy to establish the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Sandia, NM.
1992 The University of South Florida fabricated a 15.89% efficient thin-film cell, breaking the 15% barrier for the first time.
1993 Pacific Gas and Electric completed the installation of the first grid-supported photovoltaic system in Kerman, California. The 500-kilowatt system was the first effort aimed at “distributed power,” whereby a relatively small amount of power is carefully matched to a specific load and is produced near the point of consumption.

New world-record efficiencies in polycrystalline thin film and in single-crystal devices, approaching 16% and 30%, respectively, were achieved in 1993.

1994 The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed a solar cell made of gallium indium phosphide and gallium arsenide; it was the first one of its kind to exceed 30% conversion efficiency.
Japan launches “70,000 Solar Roofs” PV subsidy program.
1995 An Amoco-Enron joint venture announced its intention to use amorphous silicon modules for utility-scale photovoltaic applications.
1998 Subhendu Guha, a scientist noted for his pioneer work in amorphous silicon, led the invention of flexible solar shingles, a roofing material and state-of-the-art technology for converting sunlight into electricity on buildings.
1999 Construction was completed on Four Times Square in New York, New York. The office building had more energy-efficient features than any other commercial skyscraper and included building-integrated photovoltaic panels on the 37th to 43rd floors, on the south- and west-facing facades, to produce part of electricity needed for the building.

Spectrolab, Inc., and the NREL develop a 32.3% efficient solar cell. The high efficiency resulted from combining three layers of photovoltaic materials into a single cell.

Researchers at the NREL developed a record-breaking prototype solar cell that measured 18.8% efficiency, topping the previous record for thin-film cells by more than 1%. Worldwide, installed photovoltaic capacity reached 1,000 megawatts.

2000 First Solar began production at the Perrysburg, Ohio, photovoltaic manufacturing plant. Each year, it could produce enough solar panels to generate 100 megawatts of power.

Astronauts began installing solar panels at the International Space Station, on the largest solar power array deployed in space. Each “wing” of the array consisted of 32,800 solar cells.

2001 BP and BP Solar announced the first BP Connect gasoline retail and convenience store in the United States. The Indianapolis, Indiana, service station features a solar-electric canopy. The canopy contains translucent photovoltaic modules made of thin-film silicon integrated into glass.
2007 Boeing Spectrolab and the NREL created the High-Efficiency Metamorphic Multijunction Concentrator Solar Cell, or HEMM solar cell, which achieved the highest efficiency level of any photovoltaic device to date. The HEMM solar cell broke the 40% conversion efficiency barrier, making it twice as efficient as a typical silicon cell.

March, Blue Ridge Energy Works, LLC forms to provide and install photovoltaic systems to North Carolina Residents!


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