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What Are the Top 5 Advantages of Solar Energy?

The solar industry has been seeing a slow but very steady rise in the past decade. Today, it remains one of the most clean, green, and advantageous forms of tapping into renewable sources for producing electric energy. And yet, people are still hesitant to invest in a solar installation on their properties.

  • Isn’t it expensive? What about initial costs?
  • What are the short term and long term advantages of solar energy?
  • My state does not have sunlight all year. Can I still tap into the pros of solar energy?
  • How long will it last, and how much money will I save?
  • Do I need to stay connected to the grid?

These are just some of the questions boggling people with an intention to explore solar. This primer covers the science between solar technology, and lists out 5 guaranteed benefits of picking the correct solar route at this time.

A Primer to Introduce the Top 5 Advantages of Solar Energy

PART 1: How does solar technology convert sunlight to electricity for daily use?

A lot of the trepidation behind investing in solar energy comes from the lack of knowledge. When we understand the clear science behind it, the advantages of solar energy become more obvious.

Generally, a solar installation on any part of your property consists of the following components:

  1. Photovoltaic cell—This kind of cell is capable of harnessing solar energy from direct sunlight, which is why it’s name is what it is. The amount of solar energy captured by the cell is typically measured in terms of watts of power. For instance, a small-sized 1,000 square feet home will typically need at least 10 kilowatts of power.
  2. Solar panel—This is comprised of clusters of connected photovoltaic cells based on the power you wish to generate. Again, a typical American home of 1,000 sq. ft. may need up to 40 panels to produce the required power. Larger homes can have as many as 72-96 clustered photovoltaic cells within their panel.
  3. Photons and electrons—This is actually sandwiched in each photovoltaic cell of the panel, as follows:
    • Top semiconductor layer that acts as a carrier of the electricity produced.
    • Phosphorous-based layer to produce positive vibrations from photons.
    • Boron-based layer to produce negative vibrations from electrons.
    • Bottom semiconductor layer that acts as a carrier of the electricity produced.

      With this:

    • Photovoltaic cells capture direct sunlight as solar energy in photons. This incidentally triggers the electrons in the lower layer.
    • The friction between the photons and electrons produces electric energy from the harnessed solar energy.
    • The semiconductor layers then become carriers of this electric energy, and send it to an electric sandbox within the panel for later use.
  4. Inverter—the electric energy produced by a solar panel is in the form of direct current (also called DC), more commonly used in generators and UPS systems. So, we need a mechanism to convert this to alternating current (AC) used within homes and commercial buildings. The inverter takes care of this job.
  5. Battery—The solar installation (like solar panels) is most effective in producing electric energy during the day, when there is direct access to sunlight. However, you may also want to store some of this energy for use during the night. This is where a battery comes in. If your solar installation is “off the grid”—meaning that it is your only source of electric energy, you will need a larger battery to store sufficient energy to power both days and nights. There is also the option of staying “on the grid”, where you are able to access electric current from conventional utility companies.
  6. Net meter—Despite installing solar panels, if you find no or low impact on their utility bills, do not panic. You may be missing net meter—a critical component that allows you to choose the source of energy during day and night. Ideally, you would like to use electricity from the grid during the day, when the rates tend to be lower. You would also like to switch to your own harnessed solar energy during the night, when utility companies charge higher rates. A net meter enables you to switch on and off the grid.On top of this, if you have a large solar panel with a big battery, chances are you produce more electric energy than you use. This is a great opportunity to make money of your solar installation, as the net meter can also feed excess/unused energy back into the grid. The system tracks this energy, allowing you to bill your utility company on a regular basis, for the energy you have sold, rather than the other way around!
On-Grid Residential Solar Energy System Installed on Rooftop

PART 2: The premier advantage–versatile adaptability enables instant access to everybody!

Now that you understand the science in brief, you may feel more confident of its capability. Here, the premier advantage of using solar technology remains the tremendous ease of widespread adaptability. While there are other sustainable sources of harnessing energy—such as wind power, hydro energy, biomass, etc., not all of them are suitable for individual adaptability. In fact, the hassle-free installation of solar energy allows it to be easily adapted both in residences and commercial spaces.

Here, you will be pleasantly surprised to know that there are at least 5 unique ways for you to harness solar power, re-iterating both the ingenuity and multi-dimensional nature of this wondrous system. And best of all, some of them are as simple as changing a light bulb, without any further installation. Read on to know more.

  1. Installation of solar panels on your propertyThis involves an actual solar installation based on the science described in part 1 of this primer. However, there are 2 unique ways in which solar panels can be installed on your property.
    • Install solar panels on your roof—This is the most commonly used mechanism, where the panels are directly mounted on your rooftop. But of course, this requires you to have an existing roof. But new constructions can skip the conventional roof to tap into solar shingles or solar tiles, thus reducing providing you savings on the combined cost.Pros: Most cost-effective option, stability in the market, and because of this they come with longer guarantees and more availability of contractors for installation, makes use of existing construction and they also take up less space on your property.
      Cons: Angle of panel or shingle is dependent on roof design and cannot be changed post-installation. Also, any repair will require a contractor to go up on the roof.
    • Install solar panels directly on the ground—This helps you enjoy more solar energy advantages, simply because the angle of the panel can be easily changed, depending on the direction of the sun across seasons. With this, your panel is able to harness more solar energy, also leading to increased long-term savings. Also, maintenance and repairs are simple as it needs no roof-level access. However, they tend to take more space on your property and are therefore suitable to larger residences and commercial complexes.
  2. Multiple choice of panel technologyHere, you may be shocked to discover the existence of a large array of technology options. This includes:
    • Monocrystalline panels, consisting of solar cells produced from a single silicon crystal. These are the typical black or dark blue cells that were a part of the original design. They come with round corners due to the way in which they are made. They are also the priciest since they deliver the highest rate of efficiency in harnessing solar energy (upwards of 18% rate of efficiency). The higher the rate of efficiency, the more electric energy is produced by your solar installation on a regular basis.
    • Polycrystalline panels—As the name indicates, these are built from multiple silicon crystals (typically taken from the construction of monocrystalline panels), and based on this they can be formed in symmetric rectangular shapes (also blue in color). However, this leads to a slight dip in rate of efficiency (15% to 17%), which is reflected in the price.
    • Thin-film—These are perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing compared to the chunkier crystalline panels. They are the most cost-effective option, owing to the lower rate of efficiency (11% to 15%).
  3. Sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) to use solar energy from public or commercial solar facilitiesIf you think that you necessarily have to “buy” your solar installation in order to access the green, clean electric energy producible from the sun, think again! The solar industry has been growing and thriving over the past decade. Accordingly, there are several large-scale solar farms that produce sufficient solar energy to power an entire state.

    Fortunately, you can enjoy the benefits of this setup through a PPA—Power Purchase Agreement—which enables you to buy electric energy produced from a solar setup, much like you buy electric energy from your local utility company. In fact, don’t be surprised to find that your present utility provider also provides solar energy given the various benefits of investing in this industry!

    • Pros: There is no need to invest a single penny in installing a solar panel in your residence. You also are freed from the responsibility of their maintenance. Instead, just buy green electric energy produced by a solar farm that seamlessly flows into your property. Also, PPAs can last anywhere between 5 to 25 years, depending on your region. You can expect steady rates for electricity during this period.
    • Cons: You don’t own the structure, so you can only garner any savings passed on to you by the energy provider. Also, you need to remain on the grid to access this king a system. Finally, not all US states have access to certified solar-energy producers with the authority to sign PPAs with local residents.
  4. Direct use of solar productsThe sun’s energy is available in plenty all year round. In addition, tropical states enjoy more amounts of direct sunshine than some other US states. Imagine this, what if there was a way to harness clean electricity from the sun, depending on your location, without installation of additional structures like solar panels? This is indeed possible through the wide assortment of solar products available in the market. This includes:
    • Solar-powered lights—These are best for outdoor spaces that get regular doses of sunlight during the day. Correlating with this, they are ideal for residential gardens and backyard, outdoor sheds, parking lots of commercial buildings like hospitals, restaurants, streetlights, fencing, outdoor sheds, and even indoor spaces that attract a reasonable amount of sunlight. Unlike conventional lights, these do not need electricity, since solar lights comes with an inbuilt battery that stores the energy produced by the sun. They are also preferred over kerosene lamps as they have no safety hazards.
    • Flexible solar panels—With the rise of solar technology, a more recent innovation of the industry includes flexible solar panels. These are made from ultra-thin, bendable layers of crystalline cells. Based on this, they can be easily ported, unlike conventional solar panels. For this reason, they are immensely popular to power boats and other camping-vehicles. Also, you can buy a quality flexible solar panel for use on the go, for as little as $60. This is an infinitely cheaper way of promoting green energy in your life, if you are presently unable to invest more in a larger scale solar energy project such as powering your home.
    • Solar chargers—This is a fascinating way for you to enjoy the advantages of solar energy, instantly, and on the go. They work much like normal chargers (for phones, laptops, and other electronic equipment), except that they produce green energy harnessed from the sun. (This means that you would also need to use them where direct sunlight is available). Some of them come with the inclusion of a battery for storage, so they also double up as solar power banks.
  5. Be a pioneer by investing in cutting-edge solar technologyIf this is not your first rodeo with solar, and you are already familiar with the many advantages of solar energy—including its potential to make a positive change to environmental landscape of our planet—you will want to boldly invest in the newer products eagerly waiting on the horizon. This includes:
    • Bifacial solar panels—as the name indicates, these are ingenious solar panels capable of producing solar energy from both its sides. This leads to increased electricity production, and thus, increased savings. Also, these types of panels need to be UV-resistant on both sides (as compared to the one-sided UV resistance of conventional panels). This automatically makes them more durable than conventional panels. They can also be installed on roofs, or directly on the ground, in a way that produces the maximum amount of electricity based on your location.
    • Solar windows—This latest innovation from the industry is still going through some tweaks. However, it has already been installed, effectively, to generate electricity from the sun while doubling up as a transparent window! In fact, the most recently released product is able to switch from being transparent to opaque, based on the availability of the sun, in order to produce the maximum amount of electricity.
    • Solar blinds—The smart solar blinds by SolarGaps aims to produce 100 watts of power per hour, giving you a whopping savings in your electricity bills by up to 30%. Those are impressive numbers by any standard!

      Are you ready to be a pioneer and support this industry with its cutting-edge technology?

Use of Portable Solar Panels on a Beach Camping Trip

PART 3: Additional advantages of solar energy

With part 2, you are sure to have discovered the growing list of ways to access clean, green, electricity produced through solar energy. This can be done within the comfort of your property, rented through a larger solar energy producer (through a PPA), or bought off the shelf through an ingenious solar product. Regardless of the way in which you choose to endorse this form of sustainable energy, here are 5 guaranteed advantages of solar energy that you consistently enjoy.

Contributed to increased production of green energy, thus achieve the planet’s goal to generate 50% or energy needs through renewable sources by 2050

While this is not yet a mandate in many US states, top solar-powered states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, etc. have strong RPS goal mandates that encourage both residents and utility companies to lucratively embrace solar energy.

Competitive pricing when compared to conventional energy

It is a myth that solar energy is expensive. Heck, a flexible solar panel that can be used on a camping trip and the frequent, weekend boating trip costs as little as $60! But if you are interested in a larger investment like solar panels on a property, there are several measures to support subsidizing initial installation costs. This includes the federal tax credit, allowing to claim up to 26% of initial cost during the first year itself. Additional subsidies can come in the form of state-sponsored rebates and credits, rebates offered directly by utility companies in order to meet the state’s RPS goals, using net metering to charge your electricity company rather than pay for electricity, etc.

Today, there are several states that empower their residents to cover the entire installation costs in under 6 years, and continue to make money of their solar installations for decades after!

The Competitive Pricing of Solar Energy Accelerating the Energy Transition Process

Retain access to sustainable electricity even during extreme conditions

The United States, with its varied terrains, is a country that frequently experiences natural extremities such as earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, rainstorms, etc. The last thing a resident needs during “modern” times is to be stuck without power due to the limitations of conventional electricity.

Solar energy setups are more resilient, which means they’re consistent and reliable in generating electricity throughout the year. In fact, an increasing number of people are waking up to this truth and choosing to live off the grid, sustained completely by solar energy!

User-friendly financing

If initial investment is an issue for you, there are several flexible opportunities to rent/lease a solar installation through solar companies in your state. You can also sign a PPA with a local utility company to buy solar-produced clean, green, environment-friendly electricity within your state. This way, you continue to enjoy the advantages of solar energy without a heavy upfront investment.

Save and make money long-term of environment-friendly energy

Perhaps the icing on the cake comes in the form of the long-term warranties offered by solar companies. A high-quality solar panel can easily last you 30 years. If you live in a solar-friendly state, you may be empowered to cover installation costs within the first 6–8 years. This still leaves you with over 2 decades of savings in utility bills—an endeavor you simply cannot imagine with conventional electricity! Now add to this the extra profitability that comes from being connected to the grid while using net metering to sell excess solar energy, and you have a life-time investment that helps you seamlessly make money!

Given its long tenure, solar products are also built to necessitate only the most basic of maintenance. This is fortunately not a money pit draining your savings, but a money-making opportunity that can help you contribute to a better planet during your lifetime enabling you to celebrate your decision making along the way!

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