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Q: You've got to be kidding me. Are you serious?
A: Absolutely. Solar PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) have been a major driver of solar adoption over the last few years - it's only recently that event-driven use of storage has been part of the equation. Look at any pie-chart of generation methods of electricity and you'll only find recent news of Solar PV listed as a source - usually it's still some sub-slice of a small slice called "Other". But solar PV has a lot of virtues which are now being tapped on a massive scale. We think the most value is not going to lie in any one technology, however, but rather the usage patterns of a large group of individuals.
Q: Hold on: how do you transport power over the internet?
A: You don't. You consume all the electricity generated at and stored by the SolarNode - it's just the cost that gets shared over the internet.
Q: Why don't you just feed back into the grid?
A: Well, yes that is currently the cheaper and technically efficient way. However while the two products (solar PV generated electricity and coal-fired electricity) are about as useful as eachother, they are not equivalent. With a battery-storage system comes inefficiencies but also autonomy and ownership, and timed release of energy. With the possibility of a technological breakthrough in terms of energy density, efficiency and cost, battery storage is a compelling alternative and we may see something soon from the EV industries. While probably lower, the transmission losses and maintenance costs of grid-tied systems aren't non-existent either. Plus, have you been part of a blackout? In the U.S. estimates are that $80B is lost a year in productivity and electricity sales because transmissions lines (sometimes) can't cut it. Backup storage is unquestionably a good thing.

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Q: Why do you need to locate the solarNodes globally?
A: The theory is that you first want to pick the best locations with the best combinations of sunny weather, large electricity usage, and sustainably-minded customers. Distributing the panels globally hopes to achieve this, while streamlining cashflow. But optimizing placement non-globally is certainly possible, within that requirement.In fact, a cluster of solarnodes in a neighborhood can offer serious value to grid operators.
Q: What happens if it's rainy and cloudy?
A: solarNodes in cloudy locations won't generate much electricity that day. But the average of the network will hopefully still carry them through. Plus, as far as they're concerned, their grid power will most likely be operational.

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Q: What do you do when the batteries are empty?
A: You let them charge up again. Meanwhile there's still grid power available.

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Q: What about wind power?
A: We think that while very powerful and more affordable, wind-based micro-generation still takes a bit more maintenance than most people would be ready for. Solar PV has fewer moving parts and increases in its efficiency are imminent. However, the software could easily expand to accomodate the kinds of charge controllers that wind-turrbines use, and would be a perfect balance for nodes that are placed in windier rather than sunnier locations.Quiet, affordable residential vertical wind turbines are still a possibility - if you have one with a serial port let us know!.

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Q: When will the software be ready for testing?
A: Its available and ready to use now! We have happy users in the USA, Australia and NZ. Download and build the source code from this link here, or you can buy a pre installed, ready to go SolarNode here

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Q: What's the software written in?
A: All solutions employed will be constructed from open-source platforms. For this project, that currently means Java - take a look at our development guides here

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Q: What about solar hot water or space heating? Aren't those the bigger issue in terms of environmental impact?
A: A similar scheme for hot water heating (also mentioned in the patent) might actually be the most cost-effective way to create such a distributed business, since the payback time would currently be much faster. Quantifying the power generation, plus the fact that significant system integration needs to be done per household, makes a hot water scheme a bit more ambitious. But it could be that the biggest dollars and most significant energy/CO2 savings lie in space and hot water heating. I consider this project is more of a layup, rather than the half-court 3, but you have to start somewhere.

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Q: Why did you open source this idea?
A: We think it's the best way forward for the idea. The building blocks of technology to deploy this system already exist - but it needs a group of dedicated technologists to assemble and push forward, so everyone can participate and the best ideas can thrive. Evidence to support this is the active user base and awesome software platform that has been constructed. Open Source is not for everyone, but it is certainly a very valid path today for a software project to adopt.

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Q: What if other people do it first?
A: Good luck to them! There is a lot of demand for energy on this planet. If this service was already available now, we might sign up as customers too! But I think it'll be fun to build anyway, and we can design it as we like, with limitations on how elegant, fast, logical, robust and cost effective. This system is going to rock.

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Q: I really like your logo - who designed it?
A: Damian McCleod, one of the brilliant SolarNetwork team members with a lot of talent and charm. You can see more of his work here: www.dynamic75.com .

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