Enough solar energy falls on the earth’s surface everyday to supply the entire planet’s energy consumption for a year ! Besides being free, there is no danger of smog , toxic waste, nuclear meltdowns, deforestation and oil spills. What’s more encouraging is that it will last for a billion more years !
The only catch is that we haven’t figured out the best way to harness this energy. Although we have made significant progress, it is nothing close to what we should be achieving.
Solar energy is nothing new to us, but just how many homes have invested in using solar power ? One in five Australian homes use solar power (approximately 20%), while less than 5% of US homes use solar power as of 2013. But according to the website Union of Concerned Scientists , this number is going to increase by more than 1000% should prices of solar panels or solar energy related products fall sharply and by 2020, approximately 4 million homes in the US will be powered by Solar energy.
To put things straight, we have to understand the term solar power. People have long misunderstood solar power as having many big arrays of Solar panels. There are essentially 2 strategies for harnessing Solar power. The first method uses photovoltaic cells to convert light energy to electricity. The amount of energy generated depends on the area of photovoltaic cells used, which can mean powering a small pocket calculator to powering an entire city. The second method involves converting sunlight into heat energy. This method is simple and easily understood. It is relatively cheap to reproduce and very DIY friendly. By using any of these 2 forms of harnessing Solar power, you have just found an exclusive way of saving real money immediately.
Most homes tap solar energy by exploring thermal projects like water heaters, electric appliances and lights. If you explore further into more complex projects, you realise that you can help put together anything form battery-charging stations to a large, full-house solar system. Let’s take a look at some real solar power examples.
The are essentially two solar systems for the home, a grid-connected system and an off-grid system. The Grid connected system makes use of solar panels (photovoltaic cells) for electricity and falls back on standard electric supply from the grid as back up.
The off-grid system is one that is totally self-sufficient and relies on a standard power generator as back up. Each has its pros an cons but most who live near the city would prefer the grid connected system for its convenience and reliability. If you really want to take your home off the grid , do consult an expert or off-grid homeowners to understand their experiences which are invaluable when you want to achieve energy independence.
The economics of going solar:
1) The environmental benefits of solar power is obvious and irrefutable. There is no need for burning, toxic reactions, deforestation and nuclear reactions.
2) Financial benefits. Taking your home solar will save you around 20% to even 75% of your electric bills. This is a life time, one off savings that you will benefit and will definitely offset the amount paid for your installation costs.
Keep in mind that once your are grid independent, you need not worry about rising utility rates which will definitely rise progressively during the course of your lifetime.
3) Going solar also ensures you benefit from receiving sizable rebates through state, local, or utility-sponsored programs, in addition to federal tax credits. All these incentives can add up to 50% or more of your installation costs. To check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, you can log on to www.dsireuse.org.
Solar electric power is fascinating, exciting, and as anyone who’s browsed through the catalogues and websites can attest-kind of intriguing. Solar panel wired to a fan or light makes sense as light is directly converted into power, much like the way sunlight is converted into heat. But as the solar panels get larger, you need fuses, circuit breakers, inverters, monitors, and other intricate components that turn into exciting homework assignments.
Being off the grid means no electric bills, no concerns over rate hikes, and no utility-based power outages.
This house is over a hundred years old, but the solar panels complement the architecture perfectly.
Installing solar panels over an arbor, or other overhead structures, provides shade while generating electricity for the house.
Mounting a solar panel on the ground offers great flexibility when rooftop installation is impractical.
Portable solar panels are small enough to fit in a backpack or pocket, but have enough power to keep any tech gadget charged up.
An example of an off-grid solar panel installation.
Two elements of energy-efficient homes: The photovoltaic panels providing most of the electricity while the white roof top repels heat to keep the house cool during summer.
PV panels used as architectural elements shown in this building façade.
Remote installation in a clearing to supply power and communication for a off-grid home.
Solar powered heaters blending into the landscape.
Solar technology is advancing rapidly, and one day all homes will have solar panels to power just about anything. We can safely say that the smart home is not far from our reach.