Seems like everyone’s going green these days… and with good reason! If you’ve noticed more homes sporting those shiny solar panels on the roof, you’re not alone: solar energy is growing in popularity year over year, with installations increasing exponentially over the past decade. Along with rising popularity comes falling prices for consumers. Since 2010, the cost of solar panels has decreased more than 60 percent, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Given solar’s popularity among homeowners, you may think you already know all there is to know about this increasingly prevalent renewable energy source. Here are six facts you might not realize about solar energy for your home.
1. Solar Energy is the Earth’s Most Abundant Energy Source
At any given time, about 173,000 terawatts of solar energy are striking the planet’s surface. That’s enough energy to power the entire world 10,000 times over, all striking the Earth continuously! Put another way, enough solar energy shines on the Earth in 40 minutes to meet the entire world’s power needs for a year. (One full day of solar energy would power every city on the planet for almost 30 years!)
To put it in perspective, Hoover Dam generates about two gigawatts of hydro-electric power, enough to provide energy to more than 350,000 homes. New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, also a two gigawatt plant, generates enough power for 1.4 million homes. In contrast, one single terawatt consists of 1,000 megawatts…. that’s a lot of energy.
2. Solar Energy Cells Date Back More than Half a Century
Though most of us tend to think of solar power as a relatively new technology, the first solar cell was actually invented in 1954. Built by Bell Laboratories, the first solar cell was made of silicon and was hailed as the harbinger of a new era in energy. The space industry was among the first to take advantage of solar cell technology, using the sun to generate energy aboard spacecraft. The oldest satellite still in orbit, launched in 1958, uses solar cell technology and has logged more than six billion miles during its long trek around our planet. Vanguard I remains a testament to the long-lasting, renewable power of solar.
3. California is Home to the World’s Largest Solar Power Plant
The biggest solar thermal energy plant on Earth is found in California’s Mojave Desert. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Facility employs more than 173,000 mirrored panels to generate 377 megawatts of power. Each year, Ivanpah generates electricity for 140,000 California homes, reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 tons.
4. Demand for Solar Power is Strong… and Growing
According to the Department of Energy, the demand for solar power in homes has never been stronger… and it continues to increase. In 2008, about 1.2 gigawatts of power used in American homes came from solar energy. At the end of 2015, that amount had ballooned to 27 gigawatts, a.k.a. a 23-fold increase. That means about 5.4 million homes across the country are powered by solar, making the United States the third-largest solar power market in the world.
5. Solar Prices Continue to Drop
Demand for solar powered homes may be growing, but prices are dropping. The Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA) reports that cost for residential solar installation has dropped more than 60 percent over the past decade, including a 29 percent drop from 2015 to 2016 alone. In large part, price drops are due to the availability of less expensive hardware. As residential solar power continues to experience high demand, many predict that prices will continue to fall.
6. Solar is Growing More Affordable
California leads the way when it comes to solar power. According to the SEIA, the Golden State has, by far, the largest capacity for solar power access in the country. Programs such as incentives and tax rebates make solar more affordable, while financing and lease options can make solar more accessible. The energy savings from solar generally pay for themselves within just a few years. Further, solar panels may increase the resale value of homes.
7. Homeowners Enjoy More Solar Options than Ever
You may be surprised to learn how many appliances and other home products have gone solar. From the grill in your backyard to the burbling fountain on your patio, solar powered devices offer a sustainable option. New sun-powered products include stepping stones to light your outdoor paths, security lights, attic fans to further cut down on A/C bills, pool heaters for summer fun, water heaters and even outdoor speakers.
Innovative ways to collect and store solar energy are on the market, as well. If you’re not keen on the idea of solar panels on your roof, consider using flexible film modules. These thin sheets offer easy peel-and-stick installation and weigh significantly less than traditional panels. For shingled roofs, solar shingles offer an attractive, high-tech solution.
As a renewable, sustainable energy source, solar is a win-win for homeowners. To learn more about how solar can work for you, contact the experts at Glasshouse.