The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy
By Lisa Bell
What are the benefits of solar power and how does solar energy work?
The simple answer is that the energy from the sun and light gets transformed by the solar panel into electrical energy.
The way people and businesses use solar energy to their advantages is growing by leaps and bounds.
Solar Energy for Businesses:
Large solar projects-Businesses have discovered that they have an untapped resource. Their roof tops and the sides of the buildings that they occupy have become a potential income source. Solar energy panels are showing up on business rooftops and the sides of buildings now. The economy of recent years has caused many businesses to rethink their expenses and assets. Solar technology has been able to help businesses reduce their energy costs.
Additional source of income- A business that produces more energy than it needs simply sells the energy back to the power company for an extra income stream. Businesses or maybe I should say power plants, are springing up where there were none before. Think about this; if you have a large roof or field and you install some solar panels you now have a small business or an electric company depending on the size of your solar array.
Jobs Creation: New companies that maintain the solar panels create new jobs.
Taxes credits- Recent year’s tax incentives have really helped push renewable energies like solar to the front of business owner’s minds. Solar panels efficiency has greatly improved from the ‘70s panels which were around 7%. Most solar photovoltaic panels are around 20%. The price of the panels has come down in recent years as well. Given these recent developments most roof tops are wasted space and what business can afford waste?
Marketing boost-Companies have increased their market share when they label their products as being made with an alternative energy like wind and solar energy. Many people purchase products that use renewable energy over those that don’t.
Using solar energy makes sense for companies when it comes to lighting solutions as well. Using green solar energy on things like street lights in the parking lots and to light up their signs makes sense.
Signs and parking lots get plenty of sun
The Benefits of Solar Power for Homeowners and Consumers:
Renewable power is turning homes everywhere into power sources. I have seen many homes that use solar thermal energy for their hot water, solar electric to reduce or wipe out their electric bill and solar and wind energy combined.
Here are some of the opportunities that homeowners and consumers have.
Solar Electric-New programs such as solar gardens and other projects that companies are working to put together now make it possible for people who live in a forest or an apartment to take advantage of community solar sharing projects. So if you live on a tree farm you can use solar energy and have your trees. If you cannot afford solar energy panels or live in an apartment, you can use solar energy for your home by joining a
community solar garden which creates an opportunity for people of every income level to use solar energy, no matter where they live .
Additional source of income: Families of all ages and incomes have the opportunity to lower their electric bills and to gain some income. If you have a roof or a sunny spot on your property you now have a way to have the small business that you have wanted to have. Which bring us to …..
Solar Tax credits- There are tax credits available for many areas. Here in the United States it varies from state to state, then sometimes counties and towns have incentives as well. The best place to check is the DSIREusa.org website.
Energy independence- If you have energy bills that are eating too much of your paycheck the idea of producing your own green solar energy should appeal to you. The efficiency of the panels is constantly improving and the cost has come down in recent years. If you need energy independence because you or a family member has a medical device such as an oxygen tank, wheel chair or some other piece of medical equipment that requires power, having a solar array to provide power to your home is a reliable answer to an unreliable energy grid.
Solar Hot Water- People spend 20 percent or more of their energy bills on hot water. The sun’s energy creates hot water naturally most of the time. Using solar thermal energy to heat the water you know you are going to need is common sense.
Small Solar Products-
Home owners and gardeners use free solar energy to light the gardens, yards and driveways. Alternative energy comes in the small things like Led Torches or Flashlights, lanterns and more. Then there are the cool electronic gadgets like our phones that are powered by solar battery chargers. Solar outdoor lights are everywhere in almost every shape and size. They make it easy for everyone to decorate their yards quickly for parties, weddings and family gatherings, and can be used for safety and convenience by lighting walkways and paths at night.
Solar energy has made it easy for us to light places that were not easy to light before. I just placed a solar powered motion sensor light in my backyard. It used to look like a black hole at night. Now when the motion sensor senses motion it turns on the LED light bulbs and the black hole is no more. Leaving the porch light on is less expensive when you use a solar powered light and you can see where you are going. Signs and driveways are easy to locate with solar spotlights; your friends will thank you for helping them get to you without getting lost.
On the go lifestyles- Home businesses have blossomed in the internet electronic age. Writers, photographers and other professions simply use a computer, camera or even a cell phone to do their work wherever they like. No more are we tied to offices or desks. If we need a battery recharge a portable solar battery charger can fix the problem while you work on your project and maybe your tan too.
Emergency Solar Equipment-The weather has a mind of its own a we all love the sunny days bright breezy days. The hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and snowstorms test us and we have to pass. Emergencies can happen at any time. Here in the US we think of power outages as temporary. This isn’t always the case, in one ice storm some areas in Maine and New Hampshire were without power for weeks in December. People stood in line to charge cell phones in restaurants. Solar generators, battery chargers, flashlights and radios are important to have in an emergency. Solar emergency equipment is eco-friendly. Having rechargeable batteries keeps them out of landfills and saves you money by not having to buy batteries as often.
Farmers have struggled financially for years but the solar industry is bringing a new opportunity to their fields. Solar energy panels are creating solar farms. The farmers have less work to do and they still make money.
Plants like Chives, Cilantro/Coriander, Garlic ,Lovage, Lemon Balm, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Sweet woodruff, Thyme, Beets, Turnips, Spinach, Carrots, kale, Mint, Arugula, Garlic, Mustard greens, Bok Choy and Potatoes require only partial sunlight so they can be grown under a solar panel. Chocolate and coffee may also work under the right circumstances.
New solar technologies have panels being made of bio-degradable materials made of cotton and castor beans. While this research is still new it shows promise that farmers will have other crops to grow and make money from.
Large solar panel arrays- The additional income the farms get from solar energy allows the farmer and his family to keep their farms instead of having to sell them because they can’t afford them.
Tax Credits- Farmers can receive tax credits just as other homes and businesses do.
Small solar-Fences on large farms and ranches can stretch for miles. Digging trenches or stringing wires to remote parts of the farm takes a lot of money and resources. Alternative energies like wind and solar power are captured in these remote locations and can be used there. Solar powered electric fences can help manage livestock. The panel can be placed on a post in the field.
Schools have an amazing opportunity with the solar industry.
Large solar- Schools have huge rooftops, large playing fields, curious students and budgets that have been challenging.
Educational opportunities- Having solar panels on the school grounds is an amazing opportunity for students to learn about energy from the sun. When they can see the panels and the wires and the meters working they learn how solar energy works. Children are a great source of ideas they think out of the box so when they see solar energy at work they will come up with solutions and improvements.
Income opportunities- Companies are renting space on rooftops with school budgets being so tight the income is much needed. Taxpayers and people paying college tuition will be grateful for the financial break.
Street & Ball field lights- Schools and colleges that have events at night, and most of them do, have to have lights on or not hold the event. Solar powered street lights can light ball fields and parking lots, keeping students and their families safe while the school saves some money.
Nonprofits- Groups such as churches and community centers have tight budgets but often have roofs or land that can be used to place solar panels on. They can also participate in solar gardens to lessen the initial costs of the solar system while helping out the surrounding communities.
Churches and other nonprofit groups may also get some much needed income if a solar energy company rents space on their property. The extra income will allow them to do more in the communities.
Less Industrialized Countries:
Industrialized countries have good electric systems compared to countries in Africa and South America. While we may consider items like solar lanterns “gadgets” to people in other countries they are necessary. Solar energy devices like a light that goes into a suitcasegets used when a doctor operates or delivers a baby is important. We take so much for granted in the United States but there are countries where kerosene lanterns are used to deliver babies and operate on people. These lights require fuel that can be difficult to get. The lights are not very bright and sometime go out during operations.
Children in villages have had to go outside to sit under a street light so that they could do their homework. Solar lanterns are making it easy for them to stay at home and do their homework.
When the schools use the sun’s energy they are able to have power and maybe even the internet so that their students will have access to a world of information.
Solar energy and its technologies are changing rapidly. Buying solar office gadgets like solar keyboards and calculators that may seem like gadgets to some will really help others where electrical power has been a dream. Home gadgets like solar powered flashlights may seem frivolous until you get a storm that knocks power out for weeks for miles around you.
Give solar energy and solar products some thought they are not novelties anymore, the benefits of solar power are a huge component in future energy.