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Pole Dance

Sometimes the realist gets all unrealistic.  This is one instance.

I would really like to see all those roadside poles go away and all the wires buried under the ground.  I know it’s not feasible because of the cost.  But really, if we are looking for a stimulus package, this would be one.  Lots of employment for many people, a beautified America and improved safety (no falling poles or downed wires during a storm, less items for cars to run into etc.)

The stupid things dominate the local landscape.

So we run into a conflict of interest on the current project by PSE&G to install some 40MW of solar panels.  The project consists of individual panels, mounted high on the utility pole, with an attached electronics package, that feeds directly into the grid.  The electronics include the inverter, smart meter and communications/control functions.  The poles are chosen for the right orientation and absence of shadow.  All in all this is a smart idea.  The only quibble is that it adds another protuberance to the pole, and will guarantee that they grace our landscape for ever.

Credit: Mark Lovretin/PSEG

In their FAQ page PSE&G does address the issue of appearance – even if indirectly.  To the question “Will PSE&G move a solar unit if residents don’t like where it is installed?“, the answer is very polite, and refers to the benefits of clean solar power, but is essentially; No, we’ll put the panels where we feel like.

OK – I guess if we have to have the pole, let’s put a panel on it.  Ideally, let’s get rid of the pole!

Typical street - this one in MA

The same street, the same spot, just looking in the other direction. Nicer without the poles? And it seems that this little town can afford it!

Here, to remind me every morning, my own friendly pole. Soon with solar panel?

...soon the wires crossing the road will form a solid canopy and give the appearance of a medieval arcade...

Correction/Update: At a German Photovoltaic Conference in Lyndhurst, NJ yesterday (May 18, 2010) representatives from PSE&G and Petra Solar, the manufacturers of the panels, gave more information on the project.  The article above has been edited to correct details re the inverter/smart meter.

I did not get the opportunity to ask a question re the aesthetics of the project – and it would have been out of place anyway.

More detail is on Petra Solar’s web site.  An article in Green Tech Media quotes: ” Petra sells a kitted system consisting of a solar module, an integrated microinverter, mounting hardware, and wireless monitoring equipment. It sells this system directly to utilities for mounting on the distribution pole or streetlight pole.  It’s meant to be installed by a utility crew in less than 30 minutes and to deliver AC power directly to the grid.  By dealing with utilities and mounting directly on the utility-owned pole, the hassles of permitting and Nimbyism are pretty much avoided.”

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