HERE COMES THE SOLAR
By Jon Bunyataran
Every passing year, the need for renewable energies becomes more apparent. The burning of fossil fuels is pumping carbon into the atmosphere at an alarming rate, and the global community can no longer ignore the catastrophic effects of this practice. What was once a whisper of danger -- that unknown species were going extinct in a remote part of the world, that sea level rise is encroaching on poor island nations - is now a dull roar. The majority of scientists and an international panel of international climate scientists sounding the alarm bells.
The good news is that there is a virtually inexhaustible fuel source projecting energy towards the Earth every single day. Every second photons traveling from the sun, at the speed of light, strike our planet and produce an estimated 174 quadrillion watts of energy, put another way, every single hour, the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in a year. Harnessing a fraction of that energy would put us well on our way to energy independence from fossil fuels. In order to protect the future of our species on this planet we must shift our focus to the most abundant clean energy source available to us - the sun.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewable energies made up over 17% of the power generated in the U.S. last year. Over the last decade we have seen an incredible surge in production of renewable energies, up from just 11% in 2009. Wind and solar capacity alone quadrupled in that time period. This technology is also growing fast. In some US communities, for example, The County of Maui in Hawaii, the renewablee energy production is approaching 50%. This is in part true beacuse large industrial scale solar plants are coming on line in growing numbers as corporations like Google, Apple, and Ikea, as well as electrical utilities, are taking advantage of clean energy in rapidly increasing numbers. Initially consumers led the way as early growth was achieved by large numbers of home rooftop photovoltaic systems. Then owners of these systems, in large numbers, went to work and convinced business owners and managers that commercial systems made both enconmical and environmental sense. Ikea in particular is an exemplar of this mindful and eco-friendly business model. They have installed 750,000 solar panels on their buildings across the globe, in addition to investing over 1 billion dollars in renewable energy development. Their goal is to produce as much energy through renewable resources as they consume by 2020. Click here to find out more about Ikea's sustainable practices.
In all regions of the U.S. towns, cities, and states have begun to implement the infrastructure necessary to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels. In 2018 Babcock Ranch, Florida became the first town in America to produce enough power from solar to offset its energy consumption. An extensive list of all cities and states committed to adopting 100% renewable energy paints a clear picture that this movement is gaining serious momentum. There is more renewable energy coming on line every day. The question is - will it be soon enough?
WHAT WE CAN DO
As direct consumers, we have a many ways to adopt solar technology. The first, and most impactful on one's financial bottom line, is to invest in a photovoltaic (PV) system. In 2019, we can qualify for a tax credit that reimburses approximately 30% of the cost of a new system. That number dips to 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021, and from 2022 on is only available for commercial systems owners at 10%. If we want to take advantage of this tax credit, the best time to act is now!
We should be mindful of the fact that incorporating solar power into our lives is not perfect for all of us and every place. We should remember that amount of electricity our PV system produces will vary as the sunshine varies. This may mean that a homeowner in Sasketchewan will neeed more panels than a homeowner in Hawaii will need. Another concern in converting to solar is the need for a reliable way to store energy when the sun has set, or a storm rolls through. The good news here is that storage batteries, which store power produced during the day to be utilized at night, are under constant development, improvement and are coming down in pric. Batteries, however, are still costly and may mean a longer time period for paying off on the initial investment. Click here for a more indepth explanation of solar banks, and consult a local installer for battery solutions in your area.
A $15,00 to $30,000 investment in a PV system can be cost-prohibitive for a lot of us, so another avenue to get a home off the dirty grid" is to lease. The tax credit would not be available for leasees, but it would be for our landlord who might pass some of that saving along to her or his tenant. Typical leases range from $50-$250/month, with some options to purchase the system outright down the line. We must remember that retrofitting a house to produce green energy is the ultimate goal.
A solar calculator is is an outstanding tool that can estimate costs and savings over time. It is possible that this tool can find solar installers in our area! Energy providers, mostly electric utilities, are also getting on board and offering customers the option to buy exclusively clean energy from them. This eco-friendly option typically has a slightly increased rate vs. fossil fuel energy, but the extra revenue goes toward building more green energy capacity. To learn more about this and other options click here.
We all now have options available to us to get on the green energy bandwagon. The movement for green energy is underway and progress is increasing daily. It is time to get on the bandwagon and become one of the individuals all over the world in one of the most positive environmental choices to deal with climate change we can make.
Energy conservation at home is the best, and easiest, way to get started on an effective energy conservation program. Click here for 10 ways to conserve energy.
Click here for information, insights and case studies on how IKEA, a major international company goes solar and green.
A Solar calculator can crunch all the data and tell us how to size a solar photovoltaic system for homes and industrial buildings.
How to buy Green Power -- from renewable sources, from our local energy utility companies and cooperatives.="
Solar tax credits help make going solar affordable. For the latest information on the progress of these important financial tools check out what the Energy Sage has to report.
For an in-depth look at the future of solar energycheck out this report from MIT, one of America premier universities.