March 2007 Issue
In these seemingly endless weeks of winter, sunlight is something of a luxury amid gloomy skies. For Al Compaan, however, it's a necessity.
The chairman of The University of Toledo's Physics and Astronomy Department relies on solar energy to power his home in Lucas County's Spencer Township. Although such an endeavor conjures up images of heating a primitive cabin, Compaan's 2,800-square-foot home, built in 2004, exudes the most modern conveniences, right down to the flat-screen LCD TV.
But if the idea of relying on solar technology in northwest Ohio seems downright ludicrous, well, that's actually the whole idea.
"I wanted to illustrate how [solar technology] can operate in a climate like Toledo's," says Compaan, "[a place] which people don't immediately think of as the best area for solar electricity."
But perhaps they should: Since Compaan affixed 96 solar panels - manufactured by Perrysburg-based First Solar - to his home two years ago, he has spent approximately $200 on electricity. The solar panels also provide enough energy to charge his "vintage" 1982 GMC S-15 truck, which he retrofitted with an electric motor back in 1997.
Yet while the tangible implementation of Compaan's research may appear limited to his own personal use, he is working to make the technology more affordable for the masses.
"The goal is to lower the cost of solar electricity to make it more competitive with electric power from conventional sources," he says.