The growing environmental conversation—stemming from concern about climate change, sustainability, gas prices, and pollution—has led many individuals and governments to pursue alternative power sources to the use of fossil fuels. Solar power has been at the forefront of the push, with the amount of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed in the United States growing 485 percent between 2010 and 2013.
Even with solar power currently generating over 13,400 megawatts (MW) of clean energy, many are still have concerns about the reliability and viability of solar power. Here is what consumers need to know about solar energy:
Renewable Energy—Clean, Efficient and Reliable
According to a study conducted by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College, renewable energy could by 2030 reliably power a large electrical grid at costs matching today’s electricity prices. While this study wasn’t exclusively focused on solar energy—with solar accounting for only 17 gigawatts (GW) of a total 72 GW system—the findings confirmed that a combination of renewable energy sources could generate enough power while reducing emissions 80 to 90 percent.
Already countries like Germany have been eager to embrace renewable energy—both to reduce costs and emissions. In 2011 the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) reported that, for the first time, renewable sources accounted for over 20 percent of the country’s electricity generation.
Falling Prices for Solar Power
Solar power prices are increasingly dropping on both a commercial and consumer level. While installation of panels and retrofitting older grids may carry significant up front costs, prices for rooftop PV systems have fallen dramatically, nearly 29 percent from 2010 to 2013.
Consumer solar energy is growing increasingly affordable due to financing plans becoming available, no-cost installation leasing plans, and government rebates like the Solar Investment Tax Credit. And solar panels do save consumers money on electricity—nearly $1,800 a year according to data from EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar-energy consumers.
Solar panels—How Long do They Last?
Modern solar panels are typically warranteed for 25 years or longer. They are robust and designed to stand up to the elements—including zero-moving-part components and lacking sub-components that could be prone to failure.
Indeed, data from the EU Energy Institute have found that 90 percent of solar panels last for
30 years or longer and that even the few “failing” modules could still generate electricity, albeit with lowered output. Andy Black, a leading solar financial analysis expert, reported that panels manufactured 40 years ago still generate power at roughly 80 percent of their original expectancy. His data showed that most solar panels lose only about a half percent in efficiency a year.
One of the main hurdles for solar energy is the fact that energy can only be generated in sunny areas while the sun is shining. Solar energy generation drops significantly at night due to lack of sunlight. In areas like the U.K. where the sun may only shine for 34 percent of a typical day, solar energy lacks the ability to generate enough electricity to make it a viable energy alternative.
Another issue is storage: currently, there are few viable ways to store the energy generated by solar for later usage. To compensate, most solar providers set up systems to “sell-back” surplus generated energy to local grinds for discounts on monthly electricity usage.
However, this is rapidly changing. Companies like Tesla are developing and rolling out new battery technology that will allow consumers to store excess energy—banking electricity generated while they’re gone during the day and use when they get home in the evening.
As a clean, renewable alternative to fossil fuels, solar power has proven not just viable, but reliable. Long-lasting and increasingly inexpensive, innovations relating to storage and efficiency will only lead to more and more homes adopting solar power as the main source of power for their daily electrical needs.
If you’d like to find out how installing solar panels on your roof can help you drive your electric bill down to zero, contact us today for a free quote.