As more information related to the use of fossil fuels as a primary source of energy becomes available, and concerns continue to grow as to the damage the do to the environment, people are becoming mindful of their personal consumption and the alternatives on the market. One such example is that of solar power, or power from the sun, which (unlike fossil fuels) represents a clean alternative being that it is an inexhaustible resource with zero air or water pollution, no threat to pollution that leads to global warming, and it isn’t a threat to public health. Although it’s common knowledge that solar energy exists and is available at a fairly steep cost, most don’t fully understand how the technology works.
HOW IT WORKS
- Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are a complex, but remarkably simple technology that coverts sunlight into (DC) electricity. Based-upon an individual’s or business’ energy needs, is the determining factor of how many panels are necessary.
- An inverter kit captures the electricity and coverts it from DC to alternating current (AC) for use in the home or business to which the solar system is attached.
- A bi-directional meter, which measures current flowing in two directions, displays the net power usage. When a system is to generate more than it consumes, the meter will spin backwards, lowering the electricity bill. When it generates less, the meter will spin forward.
PROS & CONS
There are a vast number of pros associated with the transition to solar power. The biggest advantage is that solar energy is renewable, as opposed to fossil fuels, coal, and nuclear energy; all of which are not. According to NASA, access to solar energy will remain so long as the sun never goes dark, and that is not expected to happen for another 6.5 billion years. In fact, each day, the surface of the earth receives 120,000 terawatts of sunlight – 20,000 times more power than what it needed to supply the entire world. This means that there is an abundance to this resource, and it’s also sustainable because it doesn’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Moreover, the use of solar assists with reducing electricity costs – as much as $100 or more per month in many states. Additionally, federal and state rebates are available to help reduce costs of installation, on occasion as much as 50%.
In contrast, there are a fair number of cons associated with the transition to solar power. Among the biggest hurdles when considering to convert is that is so expensive. In 2017, most homeowners whom are using solar energy are paying between $2.87 and $3.85 per watt, and the average cost of panels prior to receiving a tax credit is $16,800, and after all tax credits, the cost ranges from $10,045 to $13,475. It often goes understated, but the materials used in particular solar cells such as cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) are rare in nature and expensive unto themselves. Furthermore, energy storage such as batteries help smooth-out the demand and load, making the power more stable, but this technology is also fairly expensive. And, finally, access to sunlight is limited in the early-morning and during hours of darkness, and predicting overcast days can be somewhat difficult.
Based-on the up-front costs and expenses to implement the technology, a home solar energy system is should be viewed as a long-term personal investment for the homeowner; because, it ultimately increases the value of the home. Many businesses, however, have already installed, or are beginning to install, the technology to bolster their environmental initiatives and to offset costs; such as car dealerships, retail stores, shopping malls, distribution centers, data centers, and manufacturing plants.