Solar Energy Facts
What are solar panels and how does solar energy work?
Solar panels are rectangular plates of what looks like dark glass. They are constructed from many smaller solar “cells” that are wired together and assembled into a single panel. The solar cells are what actually generate electricity in the solar panel. Although there are many different types of solar cells, most work in the same way. A positive layer and a negative layer of silicon are pressed together in the cell and when they are exposed to sunlight, these layers convert photons in the sun’s rays to electricity.
How much electricity does a solar system generate?
The average residential solar system produces between 3-7 Kilowatts of electricity at peak capacity (when the sun is shining). For most homeowners this is enough electricity to completely power the home during the day. If the solar system generates excess electricity, it can even be sold back to the local electrical utility in some areas. During the night though, when the solar panels are not generating electricity, your home will still need to draw power from the electrical grid.
How popular is solar energy in the US?
Although solar energy currently only accounts for a small fraction of the total electricity generated in the US, it is experiencing tremendous growth. As the benefits of home solar have become more widely recognized, federal, state and local governments have begun to offer financial incentives to encourage the installation of solar panels on homes. Thousands of homeowners have already taken advantage of these solar incentives and the number continues to grow. In California alone, over 20,000 homes and small businesses are expected to install solar panels in 2010.
How much can I offset my energy bill?
Many homeowners are able to save between 70-100% of their electricity bill with a home solar power system. The exact amount that you will be able to reduce your bill depends on several factors:
- The rate your utility charges for electricity: some areas of the U.S. (such as the Northeast) charge more for electricity, allowing you to save more on your electricity bill with solar.
- The amount of sunlight your home receives: consumers living in sunnier areas and who have less shade over the solar panels can generate more solar electricity
- The size of solar panel installation you want: larger installations can generate more electricity and offset more of your electricity bill.
How can solar energy benefit me?
There are a number of benefits in investing in solar power for your home. The following are just a few of the benefits:
First, it can reduce or even eliminate your monthly electricity bill – imagine paying 70-100% less every month on electricity or even having the utility write you a check. With aggressive federal and tax rebates and solar incentives as well as unique solar financing mechanisms, homeowners can enjoy lower energy bills with solar without having to pay a large up front cost. In addition, solar power can also make you more independent from macro events – power outages and price spikes due to market demand are less likely to affect you if you have your own solar system.
Second, solar can increase the value of your home, sometimes even more than the cost of the system to you. This is true, in large part, due to federal tax incentives and states that offer robust solar rebates. An increase in home value can occur because electricity bills often factor into the affordability of a house and a buyer can afford to pay more for a home that has lower utility bills. As a result, solar can be a safe and stable financial investment.
Third, the benefits of solar are not simply financial but also environmental. Solar power reduces the amount of pollution released into our air and water, improving our quality of life as well as the environment.
What are the top five things to know about solar power?
Solar panels are more common than you think. Hundreds of thousands of Americans already get their energy from and the numbers are expected to grow to millions by 2016. Don’t be the last homeowner paying for electric bills. Here are the five most important things to know about solar power homes:
Fact #1: Solar energy is generated when solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. When the sun strikes your solar panels, photons excite free electrons floating between two differently charged layers of silicon creating an electrical current. This process is clean and only requires the suns rays shining on solar panels.
Fact #2: Solar panels can be installed on almost any home in the United States. While it is true that solar panels operate at peak efficiency when they are exposed to large amounts of sunlight, you do not have to live in a desert to install solar panels. Nearly the entire U.S. is suitable for generating solar energy.
Fact #3: Solar energy is a good financial investment. Solar can reduce your electricity bill, smooths out fluctuations in utility rates due to price spikes or high demand, and can increase the value of your home because your home is capable of producing its own electricity. The federal government offers a 30% tax credit on the cost of your solar system and many states offer substantial cash incentives to help offset the initial cost of installing a solar power system.
Fact #4: Solar energy can help reduce pollution and clean the environment. Traditional electricity sources, such as coal and oil, require invasive and damaging techniques extract them from the Earth result in a scarred landscape as well as potential contamination from the extraction methods. In addition, burning these fossil fuels also release toxic chemicals and pollution into the air. Solar energy, on the other hand, is clean, continually renewable and emissions free.
Fact #5: Solar energy is reliable and safe. The average solar panel system has a lifetime of over 25 years and requires only minimal maintenance. Virtually all solar panels come with long manufacturer solar warranty periods and many solar energy installers will even maintain the panels for you. The solar technology has proven to be as safe as any household appliance.
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