Fast Facts About Solar Energy

Last Modified on November 6, 2017 by Staff Writer

The sun is a source of light and heat and Vitamin D. It’s also a major renewable energy source for lighting, heating, and electric power for residential and commercial use. Solar power is a clean and easy-to-use energy source that doesn’t pollute or require much maintenance. Its main limitations are the amount of available sunlight and weather conditions.

Aside from understanding what solar energy is and how it works, there are a lot of misperceptions about solar. Read on for a few fast facts about solar energy that show the true value solar energy brings beyond a sunny day at the beach.

How Long Has Solar Power Been Around?

The French physicist Alexandre-Edmund Becquerel first discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839. He studied the solar spectrum and electricity, and figured out how to create an electrical current in a conductor with the sun’s rays. At age 19, he created the first photovoltaic cell.

The first commercial photovoltaic cell wasn’t invented until another hundred years, by Bell Laboratories in 1954, and the first solar technology available to the public in 1955 was very expensive.

Price of Solar in the U.S. Fell 5-12% in 2015

Energy from the sun is available and free. You can go outside when the sun is shining and get your Vitamin D for your body’s physical energy and wellbeing at absolutely no charge. But harnessing the sun’s free energy to use to power up your laptop or refrigerator or to light your home or business is another story. Residential solar panels and equipment, solar cells, and solar panel kits cost money to purchase, lease, and install. Those costs have been prohibitive in the past.

The good news is that solar energy pricing has gone down significantly over the last few years, due to energy policy and market forces. Proof of this was found in two studies by the Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Lab studies show this decrease will most likely continue in coming years and make solar cost competitive with conventional electricity sources. That means that solar power is becoming more and more affordable, and more attractive across the board, from residential, to commercial, to national systems.

Berkeley Lab’s study of installed pricing trends Tracking the Sun IX found total installed prices for residential systems dropped by five percent and their study Utility-Scale Solar 2015 found prices for larger solar farms fell by 12 percent in 2015.

Berkeley Lab’s research of the costs of solar energy was done with funding by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, a national effort to drive solar energy innovations to drop the cost of solar electricity to$0.06 per kilowatt-hour by 2020. It’s managed by the Solar Energy Technologies Office. With SunShot funding, the cost of solar has dropped by 50 percent since 2011.

Newest Solar Energy has a Quick Payback

Researchers estimate the energy payback for near-future frameless photovoltaics to be about two years. Thin-film photovoltaics are estimated to have an even faster energy payback of one to two years, possibly even less than a year. That means that a home outfitted with solar equipment to provide half or more of its total energy can be providing clean, efficient energy almost from the beginning of utilization.

Solar energy is a clean, sustainable, renewable energy source. It doesn’t produce noise, air, or water pollution, and significantly reduces carbon dioxide pollutants. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that the average U.S. household using solar energy reduces tons of carbon dioxide, half a ton of sulfur dioxide, and one-third of a ton of nitrogen oxides over its useful lifetime.

One of the main benefits of solar power is that it is a renewable resource. Converting it to usable energy doesn’t deplete the amount of total sunlight. While the sun isn’t always available, such as when it’s cloudy or at night, energy from the sun can be stored for use when it can’t be collected.

Solar is Tax Exempt and Portable in Many Places

The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that an average solar installation adds just over $20,000 dollars to the sales price of a home, and with the average price to install around the same cost, homeowners can recover almost all of the expense of adding solar. That’s almost a third more added value than a kitchen remodel adds.

Not only do solar panels increase the value of a home, but they are also exempt from property taxes in many places. An added bonus is that you can take solar equipment when you move.

States That Generate the Most Solar Power

According to a Solar Energy Industries Association study, California is the state that generates the most soar power in the U.S. North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, and Utah are top producers after California. Las Vegas, Nevada operates on 100 percent renewable resources, and Burlington, Vermont was the first U.S. city to achieve 100 percent sustainable energy production for residents.

The states that generate the most solar power also have the most jobs in solar. California has more than 100,000 solar jobs. The other top solar producing states have between 4,000 and 8,000 solar jobs.

It’s cheaper and easier now than it’s ever been to afford solar power. It will be even more so in the near future. If you want clean, renewable, and sustainable energy for your home or business that improves the environment now and for the future, you need solar power.

  • HTML Pro

    HTML Pro is passionate about promoting renewable energy and tackling climate change. He developed these interests while studying at beautiful Middlebury College, Vermont, which has a strong focus on sustainability. He has previously worked in the humanitarian sector — for Doctors Without Borders — and in communications and journalism.

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