What is solar power?
Solar power is produced by photovoltaic, or “PV”, solar panels and other devices that capture the energy in sunlight and convert it to electricity. This electricity can then be fed directly to a consumer, an electric power grid, or a storage device. Typically, solar panels are installed on the roof of a home or business, and use the power generated to meet the owner’s energy needs and provide surplus electricity to the grid. Other applications include heating water and providing power in areas where electricity connections are not available, such as on road signs, cellular phone towers, and satellites.
What are the benefits of solar power?
- Competitive Costs: Over the past 20 years, the price of solar power has fallen dramatically and is expected to continue to fall to levels competitive with other sources of electricity. Current systems provide power at approximately $.20 per kilowatt hour and are expected to fall to approximately $.10 per kWh by 2010. These rates are very competitive with average 2005 national retail electricity price of $.08 per kWh and well below many average 2005 regional retail electricity prices such as New England ($.1179 per kWh), the Mid-Atlantic ($.1083 per kWh) and California ($.1131 per kWh). Average residential and commercial electricity rates are even higher, making installing PV systems even more competitive at homes and businesses where solar power would replace electricity purchased from the grid. Additionally, solar power provides consistent, low maintenance electricity and insulates owners from price spikes, blackouts, and market manipulation. Furthermore, excess solar power from a home or business can be sold into local electricity grids, further reducing a building’s electricity costs. The sum of these savings over time will pay often surpass a solar power system’s installation and maintenance costs – in essence earning money for it’s owners.
- Abundant Supply: Solar power could meet today’s total U.S. electricity demand by PV systems covering only 0.4% of the nation in a high-sunlight area such as the Southwest — an area about 100 square miles. These panels, in reality, will be installed across the United States on roofs and other structures close where it is consumed. And technologies such as PV roof shingles, windows, and flexible fabrics that are easily and cheaply integrated into new and existing buildings are emerging.
- Secure and Stable Supply: Because solar power is generated domestically, often at the site where it will be consumed, prices and supplies are immune to blackouts, international uncertainty and do not rely on long-distance supply networks.
- Cleaner Air: Solar power does not pollute the air or water. It replaces electricity generated from facilities powered by coal, natural gas and other non-renewable fuels, eliminating threats to public health such as carbon monoxide, particulate, and toxic chemical emissions from those facilities. Additionally, when a solar power replaces electricity from a coal-fired power plant it also eliminates a potential source of sulfur emissions – a major component of acid rain.
- Reducing Global Warming: Solar power does not produce CO2 or any other greenhouse gases, thus helping to reduce the risk of climate change.
Can I install solar panels on my home or business?
Most likely, yes. And, you will likely benefit from government rebates and/or tax incentives that will significantly reduce the installation costs of a solar system. Solar panels are easily integrated into the existing wiring of a home and will work in concert with the electricity grid to power your home or business.
Is solar power reliable?
Solar panels do not have any moving parts and require very little maintenance. They can be installed to augment a building’s existing connection to the local electricity grid or, with proper sizing and the addition of batteries or other power storage device, to allow a building to be independent of the grid. In both cases, if demand surpasses the output of the solar panels, for instance overnight or during an unlikely malfunction, they will still provide a reliable supply of electricity.
Solar and the 25x’25 Alliance
25x’25 is a unique Alliance of interests, established initially in the agricultural and forestry sectors and now includes partners from the national security, business, labor, environmental, and religious communities. Solar technologies will be an important part of achieving the campaign’s goal by bringing power to areas where grid access would be cost prohibitive or impossible, reducing the energy bills of many homes and businesses in both rural and urban areas, and powering communications equipment, water pumps and remote sensors on America’s working lands.