William, the 30- to 100-foot cleared zones requirement comes from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and is quite effective in slowing down a wildfire in residential areas and preventing damage to homes. This was proved a few years ago in three local fires (and by "local" I mean only a few miles from where I live), the Martin Fire and Summit Fire in 2008, and the Lockheed fire in 2009. The zone is essentially a firebreak, a practice also used in national and state parks. Here's a video explaining defensible space: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPRJeUQByRk&feature=player_embedded
Thanks for the links, Ann. Yes, we seem to have this covered! It's like researchers are throwing everything they can at the wall to see what sticks. I think some of the new materials research is the most interesting, personally. It would be good if organic materials could be used more instead of synthetics. But I guess we'll just have to see how it evolves!
I see that the concept of early obsolescence as a valid reason for accepting short product life is here also. Don't people understand that just because their PV power system is not quite current, it can still be very valuable? And the concept that in six years failure is OK because it will be obsolete is just plain poor thinking. For starters, we have no serious assurance that the cost of systems that recover more power will be low enough to provide any improvement in the cost/ benefits ratio. Another thing is that if the subsidies go away for any reason then the actual cost will rise a lot, no matter how much better performance might possibly be. And it is entirely possible that the subsidies will go away as part of a national budget crunch. One other thing is that the installation cost for the replacement system will certainly be greater because of all of the additional regulations. The magnitude of those is unknown, but I would guess that installation costs will rise by at least 30% just due to more rules and regulations, except in California, where the increase will be at least 50%.
So why should somebody want to replace a system that is functioning correctly with a new system getting 10% more when the present system is installed and paid for, and probably more reliable, as well. It seems that quality does indeed suffer when "cheapest price" is the sole design targt.
Ann, the concept of a hundred foot wide zone being adequate to stop anything more than a slow lawn-fire is the reason so many homes are burned by brushfires in that state. If the grass were a mowed lawn that could work, but for taller grass with any wind it is inadequate. Wishing something were ture very seldom will make it true. That applies everywhere except in some cartoons.
Elizabeth, I know what you mean. I've also covered the subject of cheaper solar cells, usually from the materials or process standpoint: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=254364 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=248975 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=245980 Between your stories and mine, one would hope that one or more of these technologies will prove a winner.
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