Solar power is taking on a more prominent share of the nation’s energy portfolio every day, and for good reason. There are a variety of benefits it provides well outside the scope of the simple energy generation. From macro impacts like job creation across the country, to the personal benefits of reliable renewable energy independence. Solar energy has earned its growing role in the industry and is only continuing to expand.
A Booming Industry
Our increasing adoption of solar has driven a once fledgling industry into becoming a true powerhouse in the world of energy generation. After all, solar is a practical power source for almost everyone- with geography being a lesser factor in production or construction than wind, hydro, or nuclear power. In just the last five years, jobs in the solar energy industry have more than doubled to 209,000, and are beginning to absorb other industry workers with the expectation to reach 420,000 by 2020. In fact, several programs have developed over the years, offering training for job seekers from veterans to displaced fossil fuel employees!
The ability to generate your own power and reduce your dependence on the local utility is a huge benefit for most customers for a couple distinct reasons. First and foremost, every watt of energy you generate from your array is going to be far less expensive in the long run than what you purchase from the utilities. Furthermore, during the summer months you will get to avoid paying a premium for energy during peak hours when the whole neighborhood is running their air conditioners! Your savings have the potential to extend even further if you pair your array with an energy storage solution like a home battery. Besides spending even less time on the grid, you’ll be protected if the power goes out with a reliable backup energy source that won’t have you scurrying back and forth from the gas station to keep your generator running!
The Sun is as Reliable as it Gets!
Energy sources don’t get much more reliable than the burning ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of our solar system. Rain or shine, even in the most inclement weather, clean panels that are clear of debris, can produce energy. To put the power of the sun in perspective, in just one hour enough light hits the planet to power the entire world’s economy for a whole year! We’re just beginning to truly tap into this power with new tracking technologies, more innovative mounts, and even deployment of panels over bodies of water!
The benefits of clean energy and the effects of climate change are a hot button topic for many people. While there are groups who question the impact humans have had on the current warming trend, erring on the side of caution can only be good for future generations. Furthermore, in major cities across the planet- specifically in China and India the pollution has gotten so profound it’s become a major health issue, with much of population wearing masks to filter their city’s air. This is supported by the World Health Organization that ranks air pollution as more deadly than smoking, poor diet, and high-blood pressure. It’s no surprise that California, a state whose cities were notorious for a smog-stained skyline is the leading the country in solar installations!
A Variety of Entry Points!
The price of solar panels has plummeted by 80% since 2010 and is expected to drop even further over the coming years as numerous factors come together in a maturing industry. On a small scale, technological improvements to the components continue to produce more cost effective panels every day. On the macro level, manufacturing capacity and efficiency are consistently improving as our demand grows.
The cost of owning your own solar array is becoming more realistic every day. At its core, solar is an investment in unlimited, less expensive energy. More and more financial institutions have come to recognize that the falling cost of solar, coupled with favorable incentive programs make for an attractive and trustworthy investment.
Ownership options abound, buying your system outright is no longer the only option. Power purchase agreements (PPA’s) have become commonplace industry arrangements where entities will lease their roof space to a third party who will pay to install and own the array and sell the power to the building owners at a rate far below their current costs. Even off-site community solar farms have made strides in accessibility, offering discounted power to members in their region who choose to buy into the program.
More Efficient Grid
A vastly overlooked component to the impact solar power is having on how we consume energy is how it is transforming the way we distribute energy across the country. Before renewables penetrated the market, the energy for any given area was obtained from a very limited number of sources. This meant that any obstruction in production or transmission could have negative consequences for thousands of people. Now, with an increasingly large number of solar installations sending energy back into the grid, the sourcing of our energy has become decentralized. The result is a far more resilient, flexible and efficient system. More sources feeding into the grid means it’s far less likely something knocks out the bulk of our generation in one catastrophic event, plus when energy is consumed closer to its source there is less transmission loss.