S o l a r P o w e r
Solar power is our greatest natural, clean and inexhaustible energy source. The conversion of sunlight into energy has the greatest potential to help save the future of mankind. The sun and our ability to harness this resource is essential to continued life on our planet.
Mankind’s use of solar energy is not new in history. Since the beginning of time, the sun has kept us warm, dried our clothes, grown our food, and guided travel. The use of wood to create fire was our primary source of heat until the mid-1850’s and was not replenished causing forest devastation. The manipulation of energy sources continues to evolve but many of our current resources like petroleum and natural gas are limited resources and cause irreparable damage to the environment while solar power will never run out and the technology used to capture it causes very little environmental impact.
The U.S Energy Information Administration's 2009 Annual Energy Review summarizes America's energy consumption history. Wood was the primary energy source through the 1800s, followed by the use of coal. Then in the 20th century, the use of hydroelectric, natural gas and petroleum skyrocketed with a mass consumer reliance on petroleum.
Alternative energy sources started being considered and developed, the consumption of solar energy started to be presented in Energy Information Administration's charts. Consumption of solar energy was reported as, starting in 1990 with 59 trillion Btu whereas the highest consumption type, petroleum, 33.6 quadrillion Btu was about 569 times greater.
The Decreasing Cost of Solar Energy
The emerging solar technology was high in price and not widely used. But as solar technology improves, the number of businesses and homeowners that use solar energy increases the price decreases.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office announced the SunShot Initiative in February 2011. The SunShot Initiative drives research, manufacturing, and market solutions to make the abundant solar energy resources in the United States more affordable and accessible for Americans. The Initiative funded approximately 350 projects in areas of Photovoltaics (PV) cells which convert the sun light into electricity, concentrating solar power, balance of systems costs and systems integration. The Initiative's goal is to achieve sustainable energy independence that lowers costs for consumers.
The Sunshot initiative published in November 2012 reports that “Installed prices of U.S. residential and commercial PV systems declined 5% – 7% per year, on average, during 1998–2011, and preliminary data suggest that even steeper price reductions, as witnessed during 2009–2011, will continue”. The network group, Cost of Solar, provides the map below to show the approximate total costs by each state in the U.S. (Cost of Solar).
Solar power saves money in a few principal ways. After recovering the initial investment of installing solar panels, the energy from the sun will be free. The recovery process depends on how much electricity is used by the household. In this map provided by a nationwide network of highly experienced licensed solar energy professionals, Cost of Solar shows the approximate time course of recovery for each state in the U.S. (Cost of Solar).
Tax reduction is another money-saving option. The U.S. government offers a tax credit of up to “$2,000” (U.S. Government). If the system produces more energy than you can use, you can sell this energy back to the power company. Solar energy does not need other energy sources like fuel and oil. For that reason, recent gasoline price increases will not affect your utility bill.
And lastly, solar energy can be produced when it is necessary. All these options help us to save money.
Solar energy systems are designed for easy expansion. If more energy is needed in the future, new panels can be added easily. You do not need to change the whole system. This lessens the cost of expanding your energy needs. Using solar power, you do not need to trench a lot of cables from street to street for the power connections. Solar energy panels can be installed on top of many roofs and this eliminates the need to find the required space problem common to other technologies.
Solar energy systems do not require a lot of maintenance. They are durable because they do not have any moving parts.
In a United States Agency for International Development's publication, it is stated that “Solar systems require little maintenance as compared to other electric systems such as diesel generators.” (USAID).