More than 2,700 years ago, people started using solar energy to heat their homes, cook their food, and perform a variety of other important tasks that today help our lives run more smoothly. It should come as no surprise that humanity has relied so heavily on the sun as a source of energy; after all, if the sun’s rays are powerful enough to warm our bodies even when we’re just going about our daily business outside, there must be other applications for its energy.
However, the field of solar energy technology did not truly come into its own until 1954, when Bell Laboratories developed the first solar cell that was suitable for commercial use. Since that time, solar energy has catapulted to the forefront, becoming the sector of the energy economy with the highest rate of growth and creating jobs at a rate that is six times faster than the overall job market. Utilizing solar energy in any way that is feasible comes with a plethora of benefits that cannot be overstated.
One of the most environmentally friendly ways to achieve energy independence is by installing solar panels and capturing the sun’s rays. Solar Everyday conducted research to compile eight facts about solar power so that you can gain a better understanding of the industry as a whole and the many advantages of using solar energy.
- Solar power is becoming an option for customers of utilities.
If you want to go solar yourself, installing a system on your roof might be the best option for you. However, there are an increasing number of locations where it is possible to get all of your electricity from solar energy, even if you do not own a home that is suitable for the installation of solar panels. Community solar projects are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, particularly in states such as Massachusetts and Minnesota. These projects make it possible for regular consumers to serve as the power purchase agreement customers for solar power plants. In addition, utilities all over the United States are now providing customers with the option to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind or solar for an additional cost.
The solar industry is flourishing all over the world, and there are no indications that this upward trend will reverse any time soon. Investors across the energy spectrum should take notice.
- Solar energy accounted for 39% of all newly installed capacity for producing electricity in 2016.
Solar energy is not only economically viable, but it also makes up a significant portion of our new power plant mix. This percentage of new additions is likely going to increase as costs continue to drop and as more utilities look for solar assets to purchase.
- Solar is the most rapidly deployable alternative energy source.
Solar power is the only source of electricity that can be built or repaired at the same rapid rate in the aftermath of a natural disaster, as the situation in Puerto Rico after the hurricanes that occurred this year demonstrated. Within a few short weeks, Tesla and others were able to construct on the island a number of small solar power plants that were also equipped with energy storage capabilities. It would not have been possible to construct a power plant using fossil fuels or any other type of renewable energy facility in such a short amount of time.
- You are probably not too far from a solar panel.
Distributed solar power may get more attention than large solar power plants built in uninhabited deserts, but it’s the latter that’s really shaking up the way we think about energy. These projects can be found all over the grid, from residential rooftops to the solar panels installed on your neighborhood big-box retailer.
- Solar energy is the most readily available form of energy on our planet.
Every hour, the sun showers the Earth with an amount of energy that is sufficient to satisfy all of humanity’s power requirements for an entire year.
If we could only store the solar energy equivalent of one hour’s worth each year, we could avoid extracting every ounce of oil, every lump of coal, and every cubic foot of natural gas instead of using it. That’s the scale of the opportunity.
To put this into a different perspective, if we were to cover the entire Mojave Desert with solar arrays, it would generate more than twice as much electricity as the United States needs in a single year.
- Since 1977, the price of solar panels has decreased by 99.9%.
In 1977, the price of a straightforward solar cell was $77 per watt. The cost of a solar cell has dropped to $0.21 per watt, as stated in the Solar Market Insight Report for Q3 2017 that was compiled by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. It costs $0.39 more per watt for a completely assembled module.
- Solar energy is more cost-effective than the use of fossil fuels.
According to the Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis—Version 11.0 conducted by Lazard, the cost of solar energy can be as low as 4.3 cents per kWh on an unsubsidized basis. This makes solar energy more cost-effective than almost every other option for the construction of new fossil-fuel power plants. Natural gas has the distinction of being the most affordable fossil fuel option, with prices ranging from 4.2 to 7.8 cents per kWh.
Depending on the region of the United States in which you are interested in producing solar energy, you may already find that it is less expensive than producing energy from coal, diesel, nuclear power, and, in most cases, natural gas. This is especially true in the southern part of the country. If the historical trend of falling prices is any indication, it won’t be long before solar energy completely displaces the cost of every other type of fossil fuel.
- Solar power plants have a lifespan of at least 40 years.
When a solar power plant is constructed, it is typically supported by a power purchase agreement with a customer (either a utility, a business, or a homeowner) that is in place for a period of twenty-five to twenty-five and one half years. However, this does not necessarily mean that such plants will be worthless 20 years from now.
- Solar Panels Have long Lifespan
In addition to having a lifespan of up to 50 years, solar panels also add significant value to the supporting infrastructure of a solar power plant. Solar panels could be replaced with newer, more efficient modules at a relatively low cost, thus improving performance; however, once a site is established and the infrastructure is built, a solar power plant has a very long effective lifespan once it has reached full capacity.
The solar energy industry is finally ready to stand on its own after decades of research and development as well as political debate about the subject. Solar power projects all over the world are undercutting the prices of fossil fuels without receiving any government subsidies, and every time they do, the outlook for the future improves.