KMUD Interview with Patty Clary and Roger about CATs' Solar Roof; 10/31/02

Listen to the KMUD radio interview here (7 minutes - 6.45 mb)

Estelle at KMUD: "This Wednesday, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics' new home on P street in Eureka was a hub of activity and it was also a historic day both for CATs and for the state. KMUD news caught up with Patty Clary and Roger, the electrician who has been helping out with the changes and they explained what's going on."

Patty: "This is the first roof of its kind in California, and only the third one in the United States, Estelle, and is being put on top of the century old building that CATs bought in Eureka for our office so it's the first of its kind for Eureka and in California, and for CATs it's really a pretty exciting thing."

Roger: "There's a program where the California Energy Commission tried to encourage manufacturers to come up with a solar photovoltaic material that actually was also the roofing material itself. So they matched funds with the company to do research and they were supposed to develop this and do it somewhere in California and we chose this building here since we found out about the program."

Estelle: "So tell us a little about what its like, I mean now we're used to seeing, or some people are used to seeing solar panels on top of a roof, but this is actually a case where the roof is solar."

Roger: "It's flat to the roof, it's rolled, we roll it out. There has been some on metal roofs we have done some, and some people may have seen this but it's a material that's just a thin material, and in this case because it's not even a metal roof, it's going on the plywood, it just matches the profile of the roof, there's no racks standing up, there's no hardware visible, it's just literally attaching to the roof, I mean the plywood, as if it was roofing material."

Patty: "So we've just re-roofed our whole new office building here at CATs with shingles except for this one big south facing section, and when Roger heard we were re-roofing, he immediately set about putting this whole project together for us and CATs is having a whole solar south facing roof installed with all the equipment to basically run our electrical meter backwards and feed power into the grid, without any cost to our organization. It's all been donated by Roger, by Unisolar, the company that built these new panels and by the state of California. It's a very exciting thing and something we hope people will come by our office to check out, come and see what it looks like and what it's doing here."

Estelle: "If this it the only thing that's sitting on the plywood, how is the wiring done Roger?"

Roger: "The way the wiring is done is that these particular rolls, in this case they're about 16 feet long, at the top of the roll there is a junction box where the wires have already been embedded in the material, and then coming out of that box, its already set up, there's two lead wires one for the positive and one for the negative. And then in this case the easiest application is to work off the top as you put a ridge cap that stands up enough to allow space for the wiring underneath there, so then the wiring is fairly similar to the glass panel, the crystalline style that people are used to seeing it's just wired from panel to panel underneath a metal ridge and then you tuck it under, either through an attic or down a more obscure side of the building to bring it back to your regular meter box."

Patty: "And from the ground, you don't see any of this, all you see is a roof."

Estelle: "And what kind of electricity does it generate, or is it capable of generating, on a good sunny day?"

Roger: "Well, how you measure that, its just like with panels, how many you put up. In this case they're 85 watts, so each roll is 85 watts so if you have ten of them its 850 and if you have 20 you're up to 1700 and in real life the companies get to rate them in a more theoretical manner so you might get 80 percent or 70 percent. So again just like other panels, it still depends on how many you put up and this case there are 22 of them going up so this is about a 2000 watt system. So on a good day it can produce up to probably 1800 watts by the time it goes through the outdoor conditions and then goes through the inverter and then ends up in the utility."

Estelle: "Well it's really interesting that you're getting to this stage where the actual roofing is just going to be solar panel because that could make it even more attractive to people who live in the city."

Roger: "Yeah, definitely, and everywhere because once enough people do it, to me it's like, if someone had to buy the third refrigerator in their country, maybe it would cost twelve thousand dollars, but when everyone has one, and the same with solar roofing, if everyone has a roof on their building, if it becomes standard, the prices will go way down and then also when roofing prices go down like that, for solar then you can put it on roofs that aren't even facing ideally, but since you need a roof if the cost is low enough you start spreading that much further."

Patty: "And in a situation like the one were facing here Estelle, with our building being a century old, and in old town, and in an area where there's a lot of redevelopment and a lot of interest in the historical value of the buildings, we had a design review committee that was looking at this and they were very happy that it was integrated into the whole look of the building rather that being separate panels that were on top of the roofing material and there's a lot of interest in it because you can take a historical building such as this one and not change its look and not create a visually jarring look by putting separate panels on top of it."

Estelle: "And that was Patty Clary of the Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, now their building is at 315 Pst in Eureka, about a block north of the library, and if you want to drop by you can take a look at that roofing, also Patty will have a sample of those panels on hand for people who are interested and more information about this up and coming technology, again the CATs building, the first in California to have this solar roof and the third building in the United States."


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