“Solar panels do not work that well….and few know it,”
Ray Burgess, president and CEO of Solar Power Technologies
You'd expect such words from elements in the Conservative media hell-bent on destroying clean tech, and I've even predicted that they will accelerate as renewable energy puts increasing competitive pressure on fossil fuels and the dinosaur economy. But to hear these statements from a "solar expert" and industry insider, now that's something else. But, as Osha Gray Davidson points out over at Grist on why Solar's Nasty Little Secret is Neither Nasty Nor Secret, Ray Burgess has some sound business reasons for suggesting solar efficiency is not all is could be—he makes devices that monitor the performance of solar panels. But the trouble is, says Davidson, he uses some pretty deceptive data to make his case:
One of his listed threats, dust, is a real concern. But here Burgess establishes a leitmotif for his solar indictment, blowing problems far out of proportion. "In 2009," Burgess writes in one anecdote, "Google found that after it cleaned its panels, energy doubled."
Here's what the Red, White, and Blue Whistle-blower left out.
"We have two different sets of solar panels on our [Mountain View, Calif.] campus," Google explained in its official blog,"completely flat ones installed on carports, and rooftop ones that are tilted." Washing doubled the output of the flat-mounted panels. But, the blog continued, "The rooftop solar panels are a different story. Our data indicates that rain does a sufficient job of cleaning the tilted solar panels ... So for now, we'll let Mother Nature take care of cleaning our rooftop panels."
Another fact Burgess fails to mention is that nearly all solar installations are tilted, primarily to capture the most sunlight. Owners of solar panels do need to maintain them for peak performance, but that's hardly a nasty little secret.