Dear Umbra,

My husband and I have decided to install a solar electric system. We live in the high desert and enjoy sun 360 or more days a year. We have been surfing to find information and are increasingly befuddled. Nanosys will have new technology out, but I don’t know when. Should we wait a year or two for new, less expensive technology or go with existing solar panels?

Kathy
Joshua Tree, Calif.

Dearest Kathy,

How exciting.

One obvious source of information is the internet, which is particularly helpful for understanding the big picture or getting the gist of a new issue. In your case, basic information on solar panels, sizing a system for your home, and choosing an array are available on the web.

Don’t wait, install now!

Photo: National Renewable Energy
Laboratory.

But it sounds as though you are at the point of needing an expert on solar installation. There’s a solid company in California, Real Goods, that will offer advice over the phone, sell you equipment, and perhaps give you local installation suggestions. I called the company with your question (1.800.919.2400), and the nice fellow on the technical help line seconded my opinion: Install your system now. You’re ready, and there’s no time like the present.

Technical Help Fellow pointed out that solar panels are not like computers, where new generations come in so fast that old systems rapidly seem clunky and inefficient. Solar panels installed in the ’70s are still going strong, while my brother’s TRS-80 plays no role in his current calculations of micron-level vibration in outer-space antennae.

In short, there’s no guarantee that the new technology will come out soon, nor that it will be better than the existing technology. There is a warranty on your panels, though: 25 years of hard work harvesting the sun so that you can run the blender.

Sunnily,
Umbra