HOUGHTON – Support for solar energy is vast. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans want the US to put more emphasis on developing solar power. Most of the same people, unfortunately, can’t afford to install solar energy systems in their homes. Even after federal tax credits, installing solar panels to cover all of a family’s electricity needs can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For others, a home solar system isn’t a consideration because they rent, or move frequently.
But Michigan Technological University’s Joshua Pearce says he knows the solution: plug and play solar.
“Plug and play systems are affordable, easy to install, and portable,” said Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of electrical and computer engineering. “The average American consumer can buy and install them with no training.”
In a study funded by the Conway Fellowship and published in Renewable Energy, Pearce and researchers Aishwarya Mundada and Emily Prehoda estimate that plug and play solar could provide 57 gigawatts of renewable energy – enough to power the cities of New York and Detroit – with potentially $14.3 to $71.7 billion in sales for retailers and $13 billion a year in cost savings for energy users.
Sounds great, right? Well, there’s one problem: in many parts of the United States, electrical regulations don’t allow consumers to plug and play.
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