One thing is for certain—renewable energy sources like solar power are making waves across America as more home and business owners become aware of alternatives to endlessly paying utility companies for something they would essentially produce themselves. But because we are yet in the early days of the Green Solar Revolution, many are still confused about just what solar power is exactly and how it all works. So allow me to melt away (excuse the pun!) some of the confusion and explain what this going green thing is all about. After all, solar technology is the way of the future and it will serve us all to understand and harness it.
HOW DOES SOLAR POWER WORK?
The Sun itself is the greatest energy source in the solar system. The total radiant flux (power output) of the Sun is about 3.8x1026 joules per second. Earth’s energy usage on average is about 3.9x1020 joules. So the Sun’s energy output in a second is almost exactly 1,000,000 times greater than all of Earth’s energy consumption in an entire year. The way solar power works is through photovoltaic (PV) conductors that are usually placed on the roof of the house facing the Sun. These conductors, also known as solar panels, soak up photons from the Sun as direct current (DC) energy. These photons are then converted to AC (alternating current) energy, which is used to power all the electrical appliances and devices in your home or business. If your solar power generation system (SPGS) produces more solar energy than you actually use, it feeds back into the electricity grid for use at a later time, so nothing is wasted. Many utility companies also pay back for overproduction in the form of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), so not only can you become energy independent and save a fortune over time, but you can also get paid for the work of the Sun through your solar panels.
HOW IS A SYSTEM PRICED?
A common misconception customers have is the method applied for designing the appropriate system for your home or business. System sizes are based upon your 12 month kW consumption, not square feet of the property. The only way we can obtain this info is by collecting a copy of your electricity bill (which a Solar Consultant will go over with you) and reviewing your annual kW history. From there, we simply measure out a system that would produce the energy you have been using the previous year so that there is no inconvenient change in your lifestyle going solar. The only other criteria to consider in preparing your system size is if you anticipate any drastic changes in your energy usage going forward, in which case we would size your system up or down accordingly. And then there’s financing. Some pay cash, others get a credit line, and still other may opt for both. Depending on your credit score and resources, you may or may not be approved for a system that would cover all of your Daily Energy Demand (DED). If you aren’t approved for a full system, other payment alternatives are available or you can simply begin with a smaller partial system. Whether you start with a partial system and work your way up, or outright get a system that would cover all of your anticipated energy supply needs, any steps toward taking the power to produce energy out of the hands of utility companies and back to the consumer is always a good thing. To find out what system size would be best for your home or business, have your power bill handy and Get a Quote from us.
WHAT IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF SOLAR ENERGY?
Generating electricity with solar power instead of fossil fuels can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). Greenhouse gases are produced when fossil fuels are burned, leading to ozone pollution and other negative environmental impacts. By going solar, you can reduce demand for fossil fuels, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and shrink your carbon footprint. One home installing a SPGS can have a measurable effect on the environment. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average home with solar panels in Connecticut uses 8,756 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year. Switching from fossil fuels to solar power in the state has the same emissions reduction effect as planting 155 trees every year. In New York, the average home uses 7,092 kWh of electricity annually. Choosing a clean source of energy like solar panels can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning 5,253 pounds of coal each year. So essentially every home and business that goes solar positively contribute to improving the environment around them.
HOW ABOUT THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF GOING SOLAR?
A few unknown benefits of going solar is how it contributes to better overall health for all living things. The integration of solar power as an everyday means of energy production results in very few air pollutants. An analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that widespread solar integration would significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions, all of which can cause health problems. NREL found that, among other health benefits, solar power results in fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, respiratory, and cardiovascular problems, and subsequently lost workdays related to health issues. So as we can see, the benefits of solar energy go far and wide. Not only can you save money on your electricity bills over the short-term and pay practically nothing over the long-term—you can also reduce your carbon footprint, live longer, and improve the health of those around you. What’s not the love about all of that?
See “SOLAR POWER 101: PART 2” next week!
Writer: Geddy Friedman