SOLAR SERDAR - FAQs
Solar energy is the cleanest, most abundant, renewable energy source available. And the U.S. has some of the richest solar resources shining across the nation. Today's technology allows us to capture this power in several ways giving the public and commercial entities flexible ways to employ both the heat and light of the sun.
The greatest challenge the U.S. solar market faces is scaling up production and distribution of solar energy technology to drive the price down to be on par with traditional fossil fuel sources.
Solar energy can be produced on a distributed basis, called distributed generation, with equipment located on rooftops or on ground-mounted fixtures close to where the energy is used. Large-scale concentrating solar power systems can also produce energy at a central power plant.
There are four ways we harness solar energy: photovoltaics (converting light to electricity), heating and cooling systems (solar thermal), concentrating solar power (utility scale), and lighting. Active solar energy systems employ devices that convert the sun's heat or light to another form of energy we use. Passive solar refers to special siting, design or building materials that take advantage of the sun's position and availability to provide direct heating or lighting. Passive solar also considers the need for shading devices to protect buildings from excessive heat from the sun.
Solar is an Emerging Economic Engine
A robust solar industry in the U.S. is an economic engine that will help relieve a struggling American economy. With aggressive and effective national policy, solar power will create tens of thousands of jobs across the country and will spur billions of dollars in economic growth and tax revenue. Consider the growth of solar in 2007:
New solar installations nationwide increased by more than 40 percent from 2006 to 2007.
Expansions of solar energy companies resulted in 6,000 new jobs, 265 megawatts of energy and more than $2 billion of investment in the U.S. economy by Wall Street firms such as JP Morgan, Chase and Goldman Sachs.
The first utility-scale solar power plant in the U.S. in 18 years went online.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that an additional thirty gigawatts of solar energy will be deployed as a result of the recent eight year extension of the solar investme. This is enough energy to power more than five million homes! NREL also estimates that the solar market would continue to drive increased deployment even after the tax credits expire.
An expanding solar market creates thousands of new jobs - jobs like electricians, construction workers, plumbers, line workers, roofers, engineers and high-paying manufacturing positions - for a struggling economy.
Solar Leads the Way in Stabilizing America's Energy Security
Energy security is increasingly finding its way into the national consciousness. Whether in terms of national security or our ability to respond to domestic challenges such as natural disasters, energy is one of the most critical issues facing the U.S. Solar provides crucial energy supplies vital to the function of homes, businesses and the entire economy.
The hurricanes in the fall of 2005 were a stark reminder of the vulnerability of our domestic supplies of oil and natural gas to severe weather and environmental factors. Not only does solar energy provide reliable access to energy where it is used, but it can supplement energy needs in blackouts and disaster recovery for electricity, water pumping and hot water.
With the cost of oil rising to more than $130 per barrel, a gallon of gasoline to more than $4 at the pump and skyrocketing electric bills, Americans are feeling the squeeze. Complicating matters, most of America's energy supply arrives from politically volatile regions of the world. Rapidly growing economies, such as China and India, are staking larger and larger claims to dwindling global energy resources. According to the Energy Information Agency, two-thirds of the petroleum and 20 percent of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. is imported from other countries, and U.S. production of both is dropping while consumption continues to rise.
A fully-developed U.S. solar market will decrease our overdependence on foreign sources of oil and natural gas and meet long term demands for domestically produced clean energy. The U.S. must make a long term investment in a diverse, clean, and renewable energy portfolio - with solar in the lead - if it is to have a secure energy future. More info at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harnessing the Power of the Sun to Confront Global Climate Change
As global climate change impacts the way the U.S. addresses environmental policy, conducts business and harnesses energy, the solar energy industry is leading the way with a renewable energy source that creates economic growth and reduces carbon emissions. Solar is an pollution-free source of electricity and hot water that can be immediately deployed to reduce the nation's growing carbon footprint.
As the federal government considers climate change legislation, Congress should create carbon output-based market rules that encourage carbon-free technologies and allow energy sources such as solar to be rewarded for producing
Myths and Facts
MYTH #1: Solar devices require more energy to manufacture than they produce in their lifetime.
This study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conclusively demonstrates that energy payback for photovoltaic (PV) power is, in the worst case, less than 4 years. Given that PV module lifetimes are generally in excess of 20 years, a PV system will produce far more energy than it consumes over its lifetime.
Technological progress in the four years since the issuance of this report has tended to bring down the energy consumption of PV manufacturing yet further, as silicon growth processes in particular become more efficient.
Energy output and input ratios for concentrating solar power (CSP) and solar thermal devices are even more favorable, given their simple manufacture. As best we can determine, this myth has its origins in the early history of PV power, when devices were essentially custom-fabricated for military, space and research markets.
MYTH #2: Solar manufacturing results in more pollution than is saved by solar usage.
As shown in the NREL study above, a PV system meeting half of the electrical needs of a typical household would eliminate approximately half a ton of sulfur dioxide pollution from the air, and about 600 lbs. of nitrogen oxides. In contrast, the pollutants produced in the manufacturing process are minimal and largely recycled.
CSP plant equipment and solar thermal devices are essentially specialized formations of glass, steel, aluminum and plastics; their manufacture is comparable to that involved in making household windows, water heaters or mirrors.
PV devices are essentially "electric glass." Their typical silicon substrate is a close relative of window glass. The processes used to render it electrically reactive are the same as are used in the microchip manufacturing industry, acknowledged by states and municipalities as a clean manufacturing process.
MYTH #3: Solar is too expensive for widespread usage.
Solar PV technologies have declined in price every year since they were introduced onto the market, driven by improved research and development, and most of all by steady increases in sales volume. (In 1954, approximately one watt of PV generating devices was manufactured. In 2004, approximately one billion watts will be manufactured worldwide.)
Every solar panel purchased makes the next one cheaper, in stark contrast to nonrenewable sources, which become scarcer and more expensive with every ton that is burned.
PV has recently exploded into a number of industrial markets, where it is quite simply the lowest -cost source of power available. These include highway warning signs, rural irrigation applications and remote electrical and communications devices. Similarly, for any application more than about half a mile away from the electrical grid, a solar system will likely prove less expensive than will power line construction.
The most rapidly-growing segment of the solar industry is for "grid connected" systems - rooftop solar panels on homes or businesses that remain connected to the conventional electrical grid. In some cases, as where electricity is more expensive during the middle of the day, or when solar is used to support power-critical applications (e.g. banking, microchip manufacturing), the economics are very compelling without further incentives. In other places, comparatively modest state or federal incentives (listed comprehensively at http://www.dsireusa.org can make solar a great investment for home or business owners that betters with every year. Utilities and large consumers are becoming more conscious of the value of solar and other generation sources with the publication of works like "Small is Profitable" - available at http://www.smallisprofitable.org.
MYTH #4: Solar won't work where I live.
Solar thermal and PV devices are dependent on light, not heat - and this light does not need to be direct. Put another way, if you can find your way around outside, a solar panel could be working. The map below shows solar resources throughout the U.S. While the Southwest enjoys particularly good resources, the entire U.S. has adequate solar resources.
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More important than place-to-place variations in solar intensity is the price of daytime electricity where you live and the existence of state incentives for clean energy. A solar contractor in your area can give you a good idea of whether solar is right for you.