Solar energy has become very popular among homeowners. As you drive through neighborhoods, you’ll see more houses with sleek solar panels on their roofs. Maybe you don’t have enough information about solar panels, or you think you can’t afford them. Many people are uninformed about solar energy and just how beneficial it can be your wallet. Here are 8 solar energy facts you didn’t know about:
- An Abundant Source of Energy: Actually, solar power is the most abundant source of energy. There’s enough solar energy hitting the earth in one hour to meet all of humanity’s needs for an entire year. To put it in perspective, if we covered the entire Mojave Desert with solar panels, it would generate more than twice as much electricity as the U.S. uses annually.
- Solar panels are Inexpensive: Solar panel costs have fallen 99% since 1977. It used to cost $77 per watt for a simple solar cell. Now a solar cell costs $0.21 per watt and $0.029 kilowatt per hour. Combine this with the cost of installation and it’s about $1.65 per watt. This beats out its renewable counterpart wind and fossil fuel competitors. Coal averages out $0.06 cents per kilowatt-hour and fossil fuel steam averages around $0.05 cents/kWh
- Two Million Solar Systems in the U.S. Alone: Over 2 million solar systems have been installed in the United States. In early 2019 the U.S surpassed 2 million installations, just three years after the industry completed its 1 millionth installation which took 40 years to accomplish. By 2023 the industry is projected to hit 4 million installations. This would make solar energy the fastest-growing energy resource in the world.
- Homeowners Breakeven in 3 Years: In the United States, homeowners have been able to achieve break-even points with solar in as short as 3 years. The cost of solar panels has dropped as grid electric prices have gradually risen. Because of this, the solar “break-even point” has become more and more attractive. In 2019, most homeowners are seeing paycheck periods between seven and eight years and 20-year savings that estimate upwards of $20,000. Some homeowners are seeing break-even points as low as three to four years in states where utility prices are high such as Massachusetts and New York.
- China Leads the World in Solar Energy: Although solar energy is becoming extremely popular in the U.S., we’re nothing compared to China. In 2017, Green Tech Media Research had estimated that the U.S. would install 12.6 GW of new solar power systems. China actually installed 24.4 GW in the first half of 2017 alone and easily passed 50 GW the full year of 2017. To put that into perspective, that 50 GW of solar would power 8.2 million U.S. homes.
- Airplanes Can Fly Entirely on Solar: We know you can power cars and trains with solar energy, but it only took one Swiss pilot to add to that. Bertrand Piccard decided to fly a solar-powered plane around the world with no other additional power source. In early 2016 he departed from Abu Dhabi in the famous aircraft, Solar Impulse II and traveled around the globe returning in July. This made a huge statement throughout the world about the boundless potential of solar energy.
- Solar Power Plants Last Long: Solar power plants can last as long as 40 years or more. Solar power plants are usually backed by a power purchase agreement with the customer that lasts 20-25 years. However, there’s more to take into account. Not only do solar panels last 40-50 years but the infrastructure around solar power plants has a lot of value. Solar panels are easy to replace. Replacing them with new, more efficient modules is relatively low in cost and improves performance. Once a solar power plant, or facility that can convert sunlight into energy, is built it can last extremely long.
- Solar Energy can Last 24/7: A common concern among homeowners is what happens at night? Solar energy storage providers have the answer. As of 2019, if the homeowner wishes to be completely independent from the grid, they can purchase a solar-plus-storage system. However, if not, any extra energy they produce can be stored in the grid and energy they contribute will be deducted from their energy bill.