We swim in sunlight and solar power every day and every minute of daylight. We just don't recognize it as btu's, lumens, or watts. We don't count the calories in our solar diet and include no accounting in our energy budget for all the sunlight we already use.
Part and parcel of this invisibility is our inability to see actual working solar when it is right in front of our eyes. Probably the most common solar electric device around your town is the portable electric sign powered by PV panels. It's that orange thing behind the tree.
Can you see the PV panels on this health center in Brookline, MA? Would you recognize it as solar, glancing up from the street or your car window as you passed by?
This is the Porter Square Shopping Center in Cambridge, MA. The story I heard, is that the owners, one of whom was John O'Connor, author of Who Owns the Sun? and an environmental activist, wanted people to see the PV panels so they raised them up on steel girders, an investment more costly than the panels themselves. I always thought they should have included some legend on the steel like "Solar Energy at Work" or "Solar Energy Works!" I think that might be a good idea on other public solar installations too.
This is one of those poles with PV panels you can see by the side of many highways. My guess is they power some monitoring, emergency, or communications equipment but I don't know exactly what. They are all over the place.
This trash container is a solar powered trash compactor. They were invented in Jamaica Plain and Boston is testing out 50 around the city. This one is in Davis Square in Somerville. The first one I saw was on Spectacle Island last summer.
Boston is also trying out solar powered parking meters. As a bicyclist, I think there are still some design issues to be worked out.
Keep your eyes open. At least when the sun is shining.