The use of solar power is no longer just a fad. During the past decade, it has become a viable, cost-saving means of generating energy.
One major advantage of solar energy is that once the initial investment is recovered, the energy is mostly free. There is no charge for the sun. If a solar system generates more energy than is needed, the electric company can buy the surplus and credit your account. Solar energy is not dependent on fluctuating fuel supply.
Besides being cost-efficient, solar energy is clean and sustainable. It helps protect our environment by not releasing pollutants into the air, and it does not damage the o-zone. Solar energy systems will last a long time with minimum maintenance. Solar panels can be added to any system as needed.
There are drawbacks to solar energy which have prevented some people from utilizing solar as an energy source. While these disadvantages should be considered, it is important to think of solar energy as a long-term solution. In the long run, the drawbacks diminish and eventually will disappear altogether.
The initial start-up cost for installing a solar system can be high, between $15,000 and $20,000. Solar panels can add up to $75,000. Incentives and tax rebates will lower these expenses. Also, solar panels require a large surface to achieve efficient output of energy. Energy production is not consistent and is dependent on the weather and the time of day.
The initial purchase of solar panels is a substantial expense. They do, however, generate energy immediately, resulting in immediate savings on electrical costs. More importantly, after a few years, the initial investment will be paid off, leaving nothing but the pure profit of continued solar power. For the average house, it will take between ten to fifteen years to reach this break-even point.
In the long run, this translates into considerable savings. Also, there are a number of tax incentives to offset the initial expense of purchasing solar equipment. The Federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit on solar panels. Some states offer a 25 percent rebate and a property tax exemption. Those are savings that can add up
To see the immediate savings, consider the following: The average home uses 866 kilowatt hours every month. A 1 kilowatt solar panel generates approximately 5 kilowatt of energy a day. On a monthly basis, this adds up to 150 kilowatt hours, or one-sixth of the home’s energy needs. Much, of course, depends of the amount of sunlight and where the solar panels are facing.
One of the newest developments in solar power are grid-connected power systems. Having a grid can be like having your own power station. They work on a simple principle. The solar panel generates direct current electricity. The direct current goes through a grid-connect converter which converts the current into voltage.
Excess electricity converts back to the grid. This leaves surplus energy for cloudy days or nights. A battery backup will even allow the system to generate electricity during a blackout. At this time, the cost of a grid-connect system is high, somewhere between 35,000 to $56.000. Available rebates could bring that price down considerably.
Solar energy is generated by using sunlight to convert photovoltaic cells into energy. Photovoltaic cells come in different sizes. Smaller ones are used to power homes and appliances. Larger ones can power an entire town. Baramati, India and Mullumbimby, Australia are two towns powered by solar energy. For photovoltaic technology to work optimally, sunlight is needed to allow the cells to absorb sun rays and convert them into power.
The use of solar power extends beyond the home. Jacob’s Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, will go “green” by adding solar panels to generate a portion of the ballpark’s electrical needs. These panels will generate 8,400 watts at 600 volts of direct current. This will provide enough power to run the 400 television sets inside the park during a single game. This project will not noticeably lower the Park’s energy bill at this time, but as a long-term project, it can advance other creative concepts.
Solar power will become a mainstream energy source within a few years. Investors have embraced solar energy amidst worries about the cost and availability of oil and natural gas. Emerging technology will dramatically reduce set-up costs in the near future. In places with abundant sunshine, electricity generated from solar panels is already on par with electricity from the main power grid. As the price of solar panels drop, places with average sunshine will turn to solar power as a mainstream energy source.
The use of solar power is expanding. It may turn out to be the planet’s most reliable source of energy, since the sun will always be there.