Why I wrote the Solar Electricity Handbook
Written by Michael Boxwell
Why I wrote the Solar Electricity Handbook. When I first started investigating and using solar power, I looked for a book to help get me started - a solar power book that would teach me the fundaments of the technology: to explain how it worked and help me avoid the mistakes that others had made.
To my surprise, no such book existed. Books were often ten or fifteen years out of date, or simply explained how to fit the various system components together without explaining the reasons behind the configuration.
I read what books were available and I gained experience by using photovoltaics on a number of different projects. I made mistakes along the way and learnt from other professionals. As I became more experienced, I designed some unique photovoltaic installations that had been rejected by others as impossible and learnt how to get the very best out of solar photovoltaics - even in difficult environments with high levels of shade.
I reached the stage where I could design and implement solar photovoltaic systems more reliably and more effectively than many other professionals. I found that my design methods ensured I could predict the power generation of a system before it was built with a greater level of accuracy than most other people and guaranteed the project would be successful.
I was being asked more and more to explain how solar power systems worked and to pass on my knowledge to other people. I looked again to see what books and other resources were available to help other people, and I was shocked to find that many of the books and resources that were out of date seven years ago are the same books and resources available today.
Solar power is a fast moving technology. Reading a book written ten or twenty years ago on the subject may be extremely good at explaining twenty year old technology - and to be fair at a very superficial level, much of the technology is similar, but has huge limitations when planning a new system today.
Many of the newer books still adhered to the "monkey see, monkey do" principle for designing simple solar photovoltaic systems -but without explaining the fundaments of the technology that allows someone to understand what they are doing. Learning how to screw together a PV panel, a controller and a battery may be a useful instruction manual for fitting a simple solar photovoltaic system together, but achieves nothing in terms of teaching you how to properly design a system: considering why you should do things in a certain way, teaching you how to fine tune and improve your system, or allowing you to use your new-found knowledge to build better and more ambitious solar photovoltaic systems in the future.
So many solar photovoltaic systems fail because the project was not properly analysed or because the photovoltaic system was badly designed and set up. Simply following a fixed set of instructions does not provide the necessary level of expertise required to make a success of a photovoltaic project.
So when I decided to write The Solar Electricity Handbook, I decided to set the record straight. I started by explaining the fundaments of the technology - the how and why of solar photovoltaic systems. Guiding the reader through the fundaments, I then go on to specific examples of solar power systems, explaining how they are designed and what makes the chosen design successful.
I explain how to identify whether your project is suitable for a solar photovoltaic system, and suggest alternatives for when photovoltaics is not the answer.
I explain the seven steps from setting the project scope, through the analysis and design stages and through to implementation that every successful solar photovoltaic installation must go through. Finally I explain how to fine tune a solar photovoltaic system and how to identify and resolve common photovoltaic faults.
Because solar photovoltaics is such a fast moving industry, I update the Solar Electricity Handbook every year - making sure the information is always up-to-date and fit for purpose: providing information that is two or three years out of date is simply not an option in such a fast moving industry. People who buy the current edition will be able to download updates to the book free of charge from www.SolarElectricityHandbook.com as and when they become available.
I have tried to write a book that was suitable for both enthusiastic DIYers wanting to use solar for their own projects and for professional architects and builders who, more and more, are being asked to advise on renewable energy. I also wanted to write a book that was suitable for someone considering their first steps on the ladder on a career in solar photovoltaics.
Whilst these may seem three very different target audiences, the information that is important when considering solar photovoltaic systems is relevant to all three groups. I spent a lot of time, and had a huge amount of assistance from my editorial team, ensuring that the book is easy to read, presenting the facts in a clear and concise manner.
To go with the book, my publishers have commissioned a web site that provides completely up-to-date information and useful online solar calculators to help people with their analysis and design phases of their solar photovoltaic system. The web site also includes a questions and answers facility to enable people to easily get in touch with me and ask questions about their solar requirements. Today, the web site -www.SolarElectricityHandbook.com - provides some of the best solar analysis tools available on the web and is being constantly updated and improved.
My aim with The Solar Electricity Handbook is to encourage people to investigate how solar photovoltaic systems can help them and to help people to design and implement better solar power systems that work reliably throughout the year. If I succeed in doing that, I will have achieved my goals.