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solar energy

Facts About Solar Energy That You Didn’t Know Before

The U.S. solar industry has witnessed remarkable growth in the past decade while the cost of solar has declined by nearly 70 percent. Prices reached an all-time low in Q4 of 2020 across all segments of the industry, meaning solar energy has never been more affordable and accessible. Now that solar has entered the mainstream, everyday homeowners are starting to wonder how much solar could save them and how simple making the switch really could be. If you’re starting to think about installing solar panels, it’s helpful to understand the big picture for solar power. In this article, we’ll break down ten solar energy facts that shed some light on key parts of the industry.

An Intro To The Solar Energy Industry: Ten Facts

Solar energy is rapidly expanding in popularity. Using photovoltaic panels, we can convert the sun’s energy into usable electricity and power our homes, businesses, and more. As the solar industry reaches a higher and higher percentage of the population, information on the science, logistics, installation processes, and best providers is sought after like never before. Read on to learn about some solar energy facts that may surprise you.

1. The solar industry recorded record-breaking growth in 2020 despite the global pandemic

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted many industries, but not the solar industry. According to SEIA, solar panel installations shot up 43% (19.2 gigawatts of output) over 2019, and in the fourth quarter alone, the US added 8 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy to the grid – a world record! To put this in perspective, one GW is enough to power roughly 190,000 homes. 

2. Solar is the cheapest and most abundant energy source in the world

In December 2016, the cost of building and installing new solar electricity generation dropped to $1.65 per watt, narrowly beating out its renewable counterpart wind ($1.66/Watt) and its fossil fuel competitors.

A major turning point in terms of the economics of solar vs. fossil fuels occurred in 2016 when a commercial solar provider in Dubai offered solar electricity for sale at $0.029 cents per kilowatt-hour, setting a world record for solar as well as all energy sources. Today, there are 89 Petawatts (PW) of potential solar energy production available on earth, making solar the world’s most abundant available source of power. To learn more about how to compare solar and fossil fuels apples to apples, check out our full explanation.

3. Over 2 million solar systems have been installed in the U.S. alone

In early 2019, the U.S. surpassed 2 million solar system installations. This milestone comes just three years after the industry completed its 1 millionth installation, a feat that took 40 years to accomplish. Most notably, the industry is projected to hit 4 million installations in 2023, illustrating solar’s rapid pace as the fastest-growing energy resource in the world. By 2030, the solar energy industry is expected to quadruple from its current size. 

4. Multiple manufacturers offer a solar panel today above 20 percent efficiency

Solar panel efficiency levels have been increasing as quickly as solar costs are declining, thanks to the scientific community’s focus on the need for innovation in solar technology. To help offer perspective, just five years ago the most efficient solar panel that money could buy was between 17 and 18 percent. In 2020, homeowners can get affordable quotes for solar panels in the 20 to 23 percent efficiency range anywhere in the U.S. In terms of solar cell efficiency, the two leading brands are SunPower and Panasonic. To learn more about how solar panel efficiency has changed over time, checkout our entire writeup.

5. Homeowners in the U.S. have achieved breakeven point with solar in as short as 3 years

The cost of solar has plummeted while the cost of grid electricity has continued to gradually rise, and the concept of the solar “break-even point” with solar has become more and more attractive. In 2021, most homeowners are seeing payback periods around eight years and 20-year savings estimates of more than $20,000. Some homeowners are seeing break-even points as low as three to four years in states where utility prices are high like Massachusetts and New York. Read our article highlighting the advantages of solar energy to learn more about how solar can benefit you.

6. The cost of a solar installation is now at or below $3 per watt in certain U.S. states

Not even a decade ago the cost of an installed solar system was upwards of $8 a watt, and many theorized about the day when solar could break the $4/watt threshold. Now in 2021, we’re seeing the $3.00/Watt mark take effect – quotes with pricing below $3.00 are coming in on the EnergySage Marketplace every day. The average cost per watt in 2020 is $2.81 per watt on EnergySage, meaning that a small to medium-sized system (6,000 watts) will cost $12,476 after the federal solar tax credit subsidy.

7. Airplanes can fly around the world while running entirely on solar energy

Though many may be aware that solar energy can power trains, cars, and even space stations, many were skeptical when Bertrand Piccard decided to fly a solar-powered plane around the world with no additional power source other than the sun. In early 2016, the Swiss pilot and professional explorer departed from Abu Dhabi in the famous aircraft known as Solar Impulse II, making his much anticipated worldwide return in July. The global flight offered numerous photo opportunities and made a statement around the world about the boundless potential of solar energy.

8. Homeowners don’t have to install their own solar panels to go solar

Community solar is now offered by many large utilities that have an incentive to source a certain percentage of their supplied power from renewable sources. In 2021, the concept of shared solar or community solar – the idea of installing a massive solar farm from which hundreds or even thousands of people can source their electricity – is taking off. Currently, it is most popular in these 5 states: California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Massachusetts. However, with the many pragmatic and affordable aspects of community solar, the concept is quickly gaining popularity across the country.

9. Solar energy can provide power 24/7

One of the common concerns voiced by homeowners when considering going solar is, “What would I do at night?” This is the resource’s most evident barrier towards reaching mainstream status, and solar energy storage providers are answering the call. A number of well-regarded brands have entered the solar storage space (including Tesla, LG, and Mercedes) and new competition and innovation are causing the cost of solar storage to plummet. Nowadays, homeowners can purchase solar-plus-storage systems and be completely energy independent. To learn more about storage, check out the best solar batteries available.

Overall, these eight facts offer multiple angles on solar’s growth in the recent decade and the way it has become a legitimate competitor of fossil fuel resources. If you’re considering a solar panel system in the near future, check out some tips for how solar shoppers can guarantee they’ll get the lowest price and best equipment with their installation.

10. The largest solar thermal energy production plant is a CSP power-tower

The largest solar thermal energy production plant in the world lives in the Mojave Desert in California. The 392 MegaWatt plant, Ivanpah, uses concentrating solar power technology (CSP) to drive a steam turbine, which creates electricity. Software-powered mirrors reflect the sun into three boilers, which create steam. CSP power-tower plants like Ivanpah have a particularly beneficial solar harnessing method because it allows energy to be stored even after the sun sets in the form of molten salts. In 2014, the CSP plant came online and almost doubled the US’s solar thermal energy production from past years, and according to energy.gov, 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be prevented yearly. 

Article by: Luke Richardson

Via: https://news.energysage.com/solar-energy-facts/

solar panels

Learn How To Prep Your Solar Panels For Ice And Snow

Installing solar panels on your home can be an excellent way to save on your electricity costs and reduce your carbon footprint. But as you enter the winter months, you might wonder whether you’ll still see the benefit of your solar panels.

The good news is that while it might be colder outside and there are fewer daylight hours, your solar panels can still capture sunlight and turn it into energy for your home. However, your solar panels will require some special care during this time. Keep reading to learn how to prep your solar panels for winter and how to maintain them during the winter months.

Adjust the angle of your panels

The angle of the sun during the winter is different than during the summer. As a result, you’ll have to adjust the angle of your solar panels to make the most of them during the winter. 

Because the sun is lower during the winter than in the summer, you’ll want your panels at a steep angle during those months. As an added perk, not only will a steeper angle help to capture more sunlight, but it will also help the snow to more easily fall from your panels. Talk to your solar panel provider about your options before you make any adjustments. 

Reduce your energy usage (or prepare to pay more for electricity)

Solar panels can still capture sunlight and create energy for your home during the winter. But because there are fewer daylight hours, you can also expect your solar panels to produce less energy than they might during the summer. As a result, you may either need to reduce your energy usage or prepare to pay a higher electricity bill. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to reduce your energy usage, including:

  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. They last longer and perform better. In general, a 60-watt traditional lightbulb can be replaced with a 15-watt energy-efficient bulb.
  • Turn off lights and appliances you aren’t using. While most of us know we’re wasting energy when we leave these things on, we forget that it actually impacts our wallets.
  • Unplug small appliances you aren’t using. Even when they aren’t in use, they can use a small amount of electricity, which adds to your energy bill.
  • Turn down your thermostat. You can save money by turning the temperature in your home down a few degrees. Wear layered clothing to make yourself more comfortable.
  • Check your home’s insulation. If your home has poor insulation, more heat will escape, which will cost you money. 

Properly insulate your batteries

You’ll want to take special care of your solar batteries during the winter to ensure they continue to perform. It’s important to keep your batteries at an appropriate temperature. Batteries aren’t meant to work in the very low temperatures that some regions experience. As a result, you should either store your batteries indoors or ensure they are well-insulated. 

If you keep your batteries outdoors, monitor the temperature to ensure it’s in the optimal range. 

Watch your battery discharge

It’s also important to watch your battery discharge levels. It’s not recommended that you completely discharge your solar batteries. In fact, while some batteries may be suited for discharge levels of 70% to 80%, the recommended discharge level is actually 50%. On high usage days, as you may be likely to have in the winter, keep an eye on your battery discharge and consider investing in a backup generator.

Remove heavy snow from your panels

If you live in an area that gets snow, it’s natural that some will land on your solar panels. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Light snowfall is likely to melt fairly quickly. And there may actually be some benefit to snow on your solar panels since it can clean your panels as it falls off.

While some snow on your solar panels is fine, watch out for excess snow. Solar panels that are covered in snow simply won’t capture sunlight in the same way. Additionally, heavy snow can result in too much weight on your solar panels, putting stress on the mounting points.

If you are going to clean snow off your solar panels, be sure to use the right tool. A rough brush or rake can damage your solar panels. Instead, use a soft snow brush that will clean the snow off without scratching the surface of your panels.

The bottom line

The good news is that your solar panels can still capture sunlight and create energy for your home during the winter months. They may simply require a bit more care and maintenance leading up to and during winter.

Article by: Erin Gobler

Via: https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/learn-how-to-prep-your-solar-panels-for-ice-and-snow/

eco friendly house

How to Get Started Building the Eco-Friendly House of Your Dreams

For many people, green living is about making every aspect of their lives as eco-friendly as possible. Minimizing your environmental footprint can be a difficult task, especially if you’re a homeowner. Between choosing green energy solutions and eco-friendly building practices, it’s often most sustainable to convert an existing house to an eco-friendly one. Starting from scratch is a different story, however — so here are a few tips for how to build an eco-friendly house.

What constitutes an eco-friendly house?

Eco-friendly homes provide a number of economic and health benefits to homeowners, as well as reducing one’s environmental impact. These benefits become apparent when one considers what criteria constitute an eco-friendly house. According to Elemental Green, an eco-friendly home should meet a few specific guidelines. First and foremost, the house should be made with recycled or eco-friendly building materials, such as reclaimed wood, bamboo, or concrete.

The home should be smaller relative to other conventional houses. Smaller houses take less energy to heat, cool, and power. They will also take fewer resources to build. An eco-friendly home should take advantage of the many renewable energy sources that are available to homeowners. Solar power, for instance, has become much more affordable and energy-efficient than it used to be. Energy-efficient appliances and plumbing systems built to conserve water should also be used whenever possible.

eco friendly house

Start with eco-friendly building materials.

Despite the dangers posed by deforestation, wood is still at the top of the list of common renewable building materials for private homes. Logging may seem like a destructive process, but according to the National Alliance of Forest Owners, most private forest owners replant 43 percent more wood than they remove.

Those who harvest trees understand the ramifications of deforestation for both the environment and their continued livelihood. Reclaimed, upcycled, and repurposed wood can also be used to build a home, as can wood that’s been pulped and pressed into recycled pressboard and other products.

If traditionally-cultivated timber isn’t your style, you could also opt for bamboo, which is one of the most eco-friendly building materials around. It’s sturdy, plentiful, and grows faster than almost any other wood-like material around. The only real danger with bamboo is that its popularity is turning it into a monoculture in some places.

eco friendly house

Invest in renewable energy.

If you plan on using renewable energy for your home, there are a few facts you should consider upfront. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you’ll first need to assess whether or not your home can have solar panels installed at all. Some municipalities have limitations on which homes can use solar and this is even true of new homes. The shape, size, and orientation of your home can also impose limitations on your solar potential.

You’ll also want to have an expert come in and investigate how energy efficient your home currently is and estimate your overall electricity needs. You might be using more energy than you think and this could mean more panels, higher quality equipment, or any number of other hurdles.

Finally, you will want to get quotes from a few local solar companies. These companies might be a dime-a-dozen these days, but all of them have their own way of calculating service needs and costs. Just don’t be afraid to shop around, and be sure to read all service contracts so that you understand exactly what you’re getting for your money.

eco friendly house

Well-insulated houses stay at the right temperature.

If you don’t want all that heat and energy to go to waste, for goodness’ sake, make sure your house is well insulated. According to Breaking Energy, installing quality doors and windows and sealing them properly is the key to maximizing your energy efficiency. Leaky doors and windows mean drafts, which let cold air in during the winter and hot air in during the summer while letting your heated or cooled airflow outside. This burns more fossil fuel and uses more electricity.

To avoid this from the start, invest in Energy Star-certified windows. Though more expensive from the onset, higher-quality doors and windows could also save you money down the line, because they won’t need to be replaced or repaired often. Your heating and cooling ductwork should be properly sealed as well and should be cleaned often to maintain energy efficiency.

eco friendly house

Energy-efficient appliances make a huge difference.

Whether it’s your refrigerator, your hot water heater, or your air conditioning system, it’s always best to invest in energy-efficient appliances right from the get-go. According to Energy Sage, appliances with the Energy Star label use 10 to 50 percent less energy each year than non-energy efficient ones. They are also built to last between 10 and 20 years, which adds up to a lot of savings over time. Many Energy Star dishwashers and washing machines use water as well.

Article by: Andrew Krosofsky

Via: https://www.greenmatters.com/p/tips-to-build-an-eco-friendly-house