This is intended to inspire and lend perspective to the idea of solar power playing a major role in both our shared energy economy and our individual, daily lives. People tend to recall things that they can “relate to” better than say, academic or applied theories, and we believe that this helps serve as a reminder that when choosing solar power for your energy future you are not alone. Many have already gone before us, thousands more are doing so right now, and the future of clean, affordable power is already here…
- “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide.
…I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
– Thomas A. Edison, in conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone (1931)
- European farmers during the middle ages knew how to harness the power of the sun. They oriented their fields and used innovative thermal mass practices to increase the amount of solar power that warmed their planting areas.
- There are now more than 2,000,000 residential solar electric systems installed across the United States. In fact, the country surpassed the two million milestone just three years after eclipsing one million solar panel installations, which took 40 years to accomplish. Solar has proven so efficient and reliable that the number of installations continues to grow by the thousands each year, with great potential for reducing a significant portion of our nation’s overall energy use. With over 88 GW (that’s gigawatts) of total installed solar electric capacity (2019) we now make enough sun power for over 16.4 million average American households.
- Solar Energy Is a True Economic Engine
As the solar industry has grown, so has its impact on our economy. In 2018, there were over 242,000 solar workers in the U.S., a 78% increase over the sector employment total in 2015. These workers are employed at approx. 5,600 mainly small businesses in every state. The increasing value of solar installations has injected strength into the U.S. economy as well.
- Electric Utility Bill Savings
A solar electric (PV) system installed on a home is located “behind-the-meter,” meaning the on-site generation is fed directly into the house for its use. Therefore, the electricity produced by the PV system reduces the amount that needs to be purchased from the local utility.
- Bell Laboratories introduced the first practical photovoltaic cell back in the mid-1950’s, in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Few however know that the successful first trial of their solar panel, which was made up of razor blade-sized strips of silicon, was done on Oct. 4, 1955 — at a telephone carrier, here in Georgia. Bell Labs continued its pioneering efforts and went on to provide solar electric power for NASA’s first permanently orbiting Earth satellite, Vanguard I, in 1958.
- Generating Our Own Energy Independence Is Vital The U.S. must still obtain oil and gas from other nations, no matter how much “new” oil and gas the petro-chemical industry giants manage to pump up from beneath our own soil and sea. And we remain beholden (in one form or another) to those countries. How much longer must we find it necessary to compromise our national safety, security or principles in order to maintain trade with these “suppliers”? Communities and nations that broadly adopt solar energy systems can eliminate or significantly reduce their dependence on foreign fuel sources.
- In less than 2 hours the solar energy that lands on the earth is enough to power the entire planet for a year. Operating at today’s average efficiency rates of just 16% (how effectively they can convert the sun’s rays to power), a solar electric panel array of just 10,000 square miles could power the entire United States. That is about the size of the states of Rhode Island and New Hampshire combined.
- “Hydrofracking” for natural gas & oil is like playing Russian roulette. Lower-cost energy obtained by means of hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”) of the earth by the oil and gas industry could come at a very high cost indeed. The gas they seek is held in large deposits of shale and other rock, caught in millions of tiny pores. To extract it requires millions of gallons of fresh, drinkable water being forced through a pipe drilled into this rock. A toxic variety of chemicals are also added to the water to keep the fractures in the shale open and aid the gas flowing to the surface. Federally-exempted from disclosing the chemicals in their special hydraulic “fracturing fluids” (considering them trade secrets), individual states are left to decide if it is safe.
- When a well is “fracked”, between 20-40% of the millions of gallons of now-contaminated water is returned to the surface…with 60-80% of it staying in the ground. This returned “frack water” gets pumped into holding ponds where it is hazardous in the short term: Plastic liners can tear or be punctured, impoundment walls can give way, heavy rains can cause the whole mess to overflow into soils and nearby water bodies, and the volatile chemicals evaporate with adverse effects on air quality and human health. We’ve seen this in many, many types of mining operations: So-called “containment facilities” decay and/or are left behind when whatever subcontractor to the major producer leaves, or goes bankrupt. Recall the “Deepwater Horizon”, Gulf of Mexico oil well disaster: Who did British Petroleum (BP) staunchly claim was responsible for everything? It sure wasn’t them…
Shell Oil predicts that 50% or more of the world’s energy will come from renewable energy resources (including solar) by the year 2040.