In a world rapidly running low on fossil fuels, the solar energy alternative is consistently gaining ground in the field of electricity generation. In essence, solar energy is like upcycling sunlight. The benefits of solar power are numerous, and the drawbacks are comparatively tiny. In fact, homeowners and businesses who utilize solar power often qualify for tax rebates and deductions, even though they may be unaware of these benefits. Solar energy gathering apparatuses have never been more numerous, more efficient, or less expensive. But how does solar energy work, and why aren’t more people making the switch?
How Solar Energy Works
Solar energy is gathered by solar panels. Panels can run either on a photovoltaic (PV) system or a Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) system. Without being too technical, these systems use slightly different technology to achieve the same result:
- Solar energy is captured by the panel,
- Converted into electrical current and then
- Stored as electricity in a battery bank or run directly into the house’s wiring system
These banks can vary widely in size, with the smallest being suitable for emergency backup power and the largest being able to power entire homes or office buildings. Homes without battery banks allow the power to flow into the home, and any excess power is sold back to the local power company (who is required to buy it by law).
Panels can either be placed on the roof of a home, or in a bank of panels somewhere on the property. These panels are wired into the home or battery bank and provide power for as long as the sun is shining.
Naturally, solar panels work best in areas with a lot of sunlight, places like Arizona and New Mexico make great use of solar power, both for private homes and as a municipal power supply. That said, there are ways to make the benefits of solar energy available just about anywhere!
The Benefits of Solar Energy
The biggest reason solar power has become so popular is that it’s great for the environment. By harnessing an abundant source of energy that would otherwise be wasted, solar power users are able to drastically reduce their dependency on oil or coal power from municipal power plants. If enough solar panels are in place, the use can reduce or even eliminate their electric bill. In fact, solar panels users can actually get a check from the power company is they generate an excess of electricity. In effect, the bills pay you for your panels!
Another benefit of solar power is the battery banks. These banks (depending on size) can hold enough power to run home appliances for up to 48 hours. That would be crucial in a storm or power outage, especially if the damage to power lines was severe. This is especially true for homes that have elderly residents, or residents who depends on things like medical machinery which run on electricity.
The other major benefit of a solar power system is the substantial tax advantages offered by both federal and state governments to those who use solar power. These advantages are designed to mitigate the considerable expense that comes with installing a solar energy system.
The Drawbacks of Solar Energy
While it is an excellent alternative to traditional power supplies, solar power does have it’s drawbacks. For one, solar panel installation requires the panels to be wired into the home’s electrical system through a specialized process. Homeowners installing a home solar system can expect to pay between $25,000-$35,000 for their system. While there are tax benefits, and many companies offer rebate programs, that’s still a considerable chunk of change.
Another issue with solar power is that it depends on the sun to generate power. This may seem obvious, but these panels create no power during the night or during heavily clouded periods. This means that many homeowners rely on the power company as backup, which reduces the positive impact of renewable energy from solar panels.
Additionally, solar power still relies on relative fragile panel technology. While they’ve become much more durable over the past few years, they’re still very susceptible to damage from hail, wind, and falling tree limbs.
Is Solar Power Worth It?
With this information in mind, you may be wondering if solar power actually is the amazing alternative it’s made out to be. The short answer is a resounding yes. Solar power isn’t perfect, and it has it’s drawbacks. But those drawbacks are extremely limited when you consider the environmental impact that comes from using renewable energy. The savings are also considerable, especially after the solar panel system is paid off. The tax benefits are high, meaning that you’re saving money on taxes even while paying off the system. All in all, the solar alternative is one that is well worth looking into.