Having trained more than 12,000 installers and inspectors in his 25+ years in solar, Bill Brooks of Brooks Engineering can be called the godfather of solar engineering. But he’d rather call himself an ambassador for solar technology. Read some of his comments below, and listen to the full interview to learn more about Bill’s journey from the early days of solar in the 70s, to his work with the codes and standards that continue to drive the industry today.
What codes or standards development has to happen next for the industry to move forward?
One thing we’re working on right now is power control systems. It involves a home or business having an energy management system that would control how much power is delivered to and from the utility, how much goes into storage, what loads could be run etc. This is a pretty key part of taking solar to the next level. As PV penetration increases, the utility system and the solar system on someone’s home have to become more intelligent. Some of the standards being worked on right now are control schemes that would become a certified product that would manage the use of an EV or different loads in a home, as well as preventing customers from having to upgrade their utility service just because they want to have something like an EV.
Right now, if you were to have a smaller electrical service on your house (100 A), the utility would require you to install a larger (200 A) service to have an electric vehicle charger—unless, there was something that could make sure that service was never overdrawn. So people could be saving as much as $10,000 to $15,000 to increase their service size, just to install an EV charger. If you can put that same money into battery storage and smart controls, you’re saving money, you’re going to be able to use your EV and other loads more while also not being limited on the size of your PV system.
Your teaching focuses on higher-level training, rather than entry-level solar education. Is a higher-level understanding of engineering something the industry needs more of?
I think that’s a good point. One of the frustrations is that the vast majority of folks that work in the field, as far as installing the equipment, have a fairly shallow level of understanding solar. Therefore, when they get themselves into a predicament, they don’t have the tools to help them out of the situation. A lot of times I get called into situations where the solution is simpler than maybe needed my attention. There’s always a need to improve and learn more. Part of that is education through articles. That’s why I do a lot of writing; you see people getting things wrong or misunderstanding things and you then can, in a fairly short and poignant way, get something on paper or on the internet. Then it’s something people can find when they run into trouble to hopefully help them out of it.
Check back monthly for a new episode of Ask a Solar Vet, in which editor Kathie Zipp brings you the unique perspectives and insights of those who have spent more than a decade in solar.
Watch a video we did with Bill at SPI 2015.