Benefits of Solar
Why Go Solar?
- Solar PV or solar hot water systems reduce, or can completely eliminate, the amount of electricity you have to purchase from your utility or electric service provider to power your home. Using solar power helps reduce our energy reliance on fossil fuels.
- The electricity generated by your solar power system is clean, renewable and reliable. It will help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases – a major contributor to global climate change.
- Solar PV or solar hot water systems save you money on your electricity or natural gas bill and act as a hedge against future price increases. Solar power systems can provide owners with fixed energy costs.
- A growing solar industry provides local jobs and economic development opportunities for states and regions.
- Using solar PV power helps your community by reducing electricity demand and providing additional electricity for the grid when you generate more than you use during the day, when the demand is highest.
Why Is Solar Energy Important?
Solar energy systems have very little impact on the environment, making them one of the cleanest power-generating technologies available today. While they are converting the sun’s rays into electricity or hot fluids, they produce no air pollution, hazardous waste, or noise. The more electricity and heat that we convert from the sun’s rays decreases our reliance and dependence on fossil fuels and on imported sources of energy. Finally, solar energy can be an effective economic development driver. The U.S. PV market increased by 57 % in 2007, to 220 MW (Solarbuzz). In 2006, the cumulative installed PV power in the U.S. was 624 MW (IEA Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme). The Energy Information Administration forecasts the long-term growth of PV in the U.S. to reach nearly 3,000 MW by 2030, not including off-grid installations. The PV industry generated over $17 billion in global revenues in 2007 and worldwide PV installations increased to 2,826 MW in 2007, up from 1,744 MW installed during 2006 (Solarbuzz). Global cumulative PV capacity in 2006 reached 6,634 MW (EPIA).
In 2006, President George W. Bush proposed the Solar America Initiative to accelerate widespread commercialization of solar energy technologies. It is estimated that by 2015 the Initiative will result in deploying 5-10 GW of PV (enough to power 1-2 million homes), avoiding 10 million metric tons of annual CO2 emissions, and employing 30,000 new workers in the PV industry.
Why are States Investing in Solar?
Many states have come to recognize that clean energy technologies can provide cleaner air, economic development and high tech jobs, fuel diversity, energy independence, improve power reliability, increase price stability, and reduce the need to build more expensive and more polluting electric power generation plants. Solar technologies are able to provide these benefits, but they currently cost more in terms of $ per kWh than conventional power from utilities. The biggest barrier to consumers interested in adopting PV or solar technologies is the initial cost of a PV or solar hot water system. As a way to help defray those upfront costs, states are providing incentives to residential, industrial and commercial customers of PV through tax credits, grants, loans, rebates, exemption from local property taxes, and other industry support mechanisms, such as installer training and certification programs.
Individual state programs are highlighted in the “State Solar Activities” section of this web site. For more information on incentives for solar technologies, please see the “Financial Incentives” page of this web site. Links to state solar programs can be found on this web site’s Links page.
What Can Solar Do for You?
Photovoltaic (PV) power systems convert sunlight directly into electricity. A residential PV power system enables a homeowner to generate some or all of their daily electrical energy demand on their own roof, exchanging daytime excess power for future energy needs (i.e. night time usage). The house remains connected to the electric utility at all times, so any power needed above what the solar system can produce is simply drawn from the electric utility. Solar energy technologies can plan an important role in providing an alternative source of electricity, energy, and back-up power for homes, offices, commercial and industrial buildings. It can relieve demand pressures for electricity off from the grid during peak usage, which usually correlates to peak daylight, especially in the warmer months when demand for air conditioning can sky rocket.
Solar energy can also play an important role in lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by replacing coal-powered energy sources with clean, renewable solar PV technologies. These GHG emissions reductions will in turn improve air quality and lessen the harmful impacts that contribute to climate change.
Those who are putting solar on their homes, businesses or other buildings are making a difference. A study commissioned by the Energy Foundation and conducted by Navigant Consulting in 2004 concludes that with proper leadership, it is possible that PV could generate 75% of the country’s total residential electricity demand by 2010, and 80% by 2020. For every million dollars invested in solar electricity, between 5 and 15 jobs are created. For every million dollars invested in oil and gas exploration, only 1.5 jobs are created (VoteSolar).
NREL has produced an excellent consumer guide called Get Your Power from the Sun which addresses many of the basic questions about how to invest in and select a quality solar PV system. DOE EERE has published A Homebuilders Guide to Going Solar (December 2008) that offers information to help homeowners and home builders to assess the benefits of installing solar equipment or making houses solar-ready.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website has an excellent website on Why PV’s Important that further details the benefits of PV to the Economy, to Energy Assurance, to the Environment and to You!
The Solar Tribune as a webpage to help guide homeowners with information on solar panels, see http://solartribune.com/your-home/.