Our sun has been shining brightly now for over four billion years, but people have only really known about its solar power since the 1830s. It was Alexandre Edmond Becquerel who discovered the photovoltaic effect. In this article, we’ll cover a few interesting solar facts that you may not know.
Solar Power Basics
- Solar power is the process of harnessing the energy of the sun in order to produce electricity. Special cells capture certain kinds of wavelengths of the radiation from the sun and then converts them into electricity for our use in a variety of things.
- The photovoltaic cells will cause a reaction between electrons and photons on an atomic scale. When the light rays or photons collide with electrons, the electrons get broken loose. After that, the electrons are captured and then channeled into what we know as usable electricity.
- Light from the sun takes just a little over eight minutes to reach us on the earth and then just a few seconds longer for it to make contact with solar panels.
- All panels in the United States must all face south in order to capture the most sunlight.
- Like all electricity, power from the sun is measured in watts such as kilowatts, gigawatts, megawatts, and terawatts. Most panels will have 200 or 250-watt capacities.
- Most panels can produce eight to ten kilowatts of energy per square foot. Since most homes will consume almost 11,000-kilowatt hours of energy every year,, so to power a home off the grid a person would need at least 30 250 watt panels to power the home every day.
- When the sun doesn’t shine, one can use a special battery as a backup for the solar panel system. But, most modern units will use net metering which is a system that’s hooked up to your city’s power grid. This measures the difference between the energy you’ve given back to the grid and the energy you’ve used from the grid.
- Panels don’t need direct sun to create electricity, but, direct sun will produce more energy.
- To power the entire earth with renewable energy, panels would have to be installed on over 191,000 square miles, but since there are over 57 million square miles of free land on earth, there is plenty of room to do so.
Solar Power and Health
- Power from the sun is one of the cleanest, most renewable, and most sustainable resources that we have in the world.
- The only pollution created by using solar power is when the panels are being made, otherwise, it produces no pollution at all.
- A typical household rooftop solar panel system can reduce pollution by 100 tons of CO2 in its lifetime and this includes energy it took to manufacture the panels.
Cost and Affordability
- Since 2008, the cost of panels has dropped by 80% and they are expected to keep falling in price as the demand continues to increase in the future.
- The average cost of energy from the sun, as of 2016, is about $0.12 per kilowatt, this is fairly cheap when compared to other types of energy sources.
- The initial cost of installing this type of system can cost a little over $16,000 but after applying for tax credits, it could drop to anywhere from $10,000 to a little over $13,000. However, it will pay for itself in just a few years.
- Power from the sun itself is a free source of energy and once you have installed the panels on your home the maintenance is very minimal and the returns are very high.
- If you can’t afford to pay for the panels outright often you can rent them or get the installation financed. This makes it easier for everyone to reap the benefits of this type of energy.
- Most solar panels come with a 25-year warranty, also, if you lease or rent them many companies will provide free maintenance.
- There are many states will let you sell any excess energy you produce. This means you can not only earn back the cost of your panels but also make a little profit off your energy.
- For the average homeowner, it can take six to fifteen years to pay off their system, for those who live in very sunny climates it can take as little as two years.
- In many states, your panels are exempt from property taxes and can also increase the value of the home.
Availability and Growth
- Until the sun stops shining, the power of the sun will continue to be a very reliable source of energy and our ability to harvest its power will depend on our technology, cost, location, and legislation.
- The states that produce the most solar power in America right now are California, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, and Utah.
- Las Vegas is the largest city in the country that operates on 100% renewable resources and Burlington, Vermont, was the first city in the country to achieve 100% sustainable energy production for its people.
- By 2016, there was one new solar panel installation every 84 seconds.
- NASA is currently working on a solar-powered aircraft.
The power of the sun is a very exciting, eco-friendly, and ever-expanding industry and if you are interested about learning more about it as well as finding out if it’s right for your home, please contact us now and we’d be more than happy to answer all of your questions.