24 Solar Energy Facts – Reduce Emissions and Save Money
Everyone is talking about renewable energy and alternative power sources. There have been discussions on using wind power, water power, even nuclear power. However, one of the most promising sources is Solar Energy. Surely you’ve heard about singer Akon’s project to power Africa using sun power. Yup, the same idea is being presented right here. Now, most people know the basics of what solar energy is, but there are more facts out there that most people are probably not privy about. Well, search no more. Here they are.
What is Solar Power
Solar energy is very simple and self-explanatory. It is energy gathered from the sun. If you want to get technical, Solar power is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. It is also the cleanest and most abundant sources of renewable energy we have. Currently, with our modern technology, this energy can be used for powering many different things. They include generating electricity, providing light, and even heating water domestically, commercially or industrially.
Solar energy is extremely flexible. Generators can be made for personal or industrial use. Many people have solar panels installed on their houses. There are also solar power plants used by companies in an attempt to be greener when it comes to their energy use. There is a lot of research going on right now into solar energy. Better ways to harness it, ways to boost production of solar panels and reduce manufacturing costs. More and more people are starting to go solar and it is a great step towards going green and reducing our carbon emissions.
How Solar Works
Ok, now for the science stuff. The solar energy panel facts. How do those solar panels even work? Solar cells are made using Silicon. Silicon is a semiconductor, which means it has properties of metals and electric insulators. When the photons, the particles in sunlight, hit the silicon atoms of the solar panel they transfer their energy to loose electrons, shaking them off the atoms. Think of the white ball in pool. When it hits the other balls, the energy is passed to the ball it strikes.
Freeing the electrons is only part of the work. The solar cell then turns the electrons into electrical current. This is done by creating an imbalance within the cell. To do this, small quantities of other elements are squeezed into the silicon atoms creating two types of silicon, n-type and p-type. N-type has spare electrons while p-type is missing electrons.
These two materials end up side by side in the solar cell. The spare electrons from the n-type silicon jump ship to the empty spaces of the p-type silicon. That n-type silicon become positively charged while the p-type are negatively charged, creating an electric field across the cell. The silicon maintains this imbalance because it can act as an insulator. The field drives the photons as they smash electrons off the silicon atoms, in an orderly fashion. This provides the electric current to power just about everything.
Interesting Facts About Solar Energy
Fact 1- There are several ways to harness solar energy. Photovoltaics, solar heating, and cooling, concentrating solar power, and passive solar.
Fact 2- The United States has some of the richest solar resources in the world.
Fact 3- Nearly 260,000 Americans work in solar. By 2021, that number is expected to increase to more than 360,000.
Fact 4- The cost to install solar panels has dropped by more than 60% over the last 10 years.
Fact 5- There are now 1.3 million solar installations in the United States.
Fact 6- With the number of solar installations in corporations and businesses in the United States, it is enough to lower emissions of carbon dioxide by 1.1 million metric tons each year.
Fact 7- Photovoltaic energy, or solar cells, was actually discovered back in 1839 by French scientist Edmond Becquerel.
Fact 8- In 1956, the first solar cells were commercially available.
Fact 9- In an urban residential area, estimated savings for using rooftop solar panels over a 20-year lease are $8,000. Roughly $35 per month.
Fact 10- You can use solar power for air conditioners, water heaters, basically, everything that gas, electric and oil currently runs. But it is cheaper and much greener.
Fact 11- You can’t use solar power at night, right? Wrong. There are special batteries that store excess solar energy and are used as a backup for your solar unit.
Fact 12- You do not need direct sunlight for the solar panels. Though direct sunlight will give you the most energy.
Fact 13- Solar panels do not create any noise pollution. They run completely silent.
Fact 14- Las Vegas, Nevada is the largest city in the country to use 100% renewable energy.
Fact 15- NASA is currently attempting to create solar power aircrafts.
Fact 16- China is #1 in the world for the most solar power wattage – 78,100 gigawatts. The United States is #4.
Fact 17- Every square meter of Earth gets about 1,366 watts of direct solar radiation.
Fact 18- Exxon Mobile was actually one of the first companies to research ways to lower solar cell cost. This was because they used solar panels to run warning lights on their oil rigs.
Fact 19- Neighborhoods can use community solar gardens that provide solar energy without having solar panels on their own roofs. Basically a private solar power plant.
Fact 20- Solar panels can be installed to give power where it is needed. Compared to running electricity between big power plants to remote areas.
Fact 21- Solar panels require very little maintenance.
Fact 22- Government and states offer rebates for homeowners for the use of solar panels.
Fact 23- 191,000. That is how many square miles we would need to install solar panels to power the entire Earth. Fun fact, there are 57 million square miles of land on Earth.
Fact 24- According to the Energy Information Administration Electric Power Monthly, roughly 10% of all electricity in the United States was generated by solar and wind power.
Impacts of Solar Energy
Some important information about solar energy is how it will reduce climate change. Obviously, using solar energy will limit our dependency on using fossil fuels which in itself reduces pollution. But how much of an impact does solar power make on the environment? Actually, there is a huge impact.
Most of the electricity produced in the United States comes from fossil fuels like coal and gas. Burning fossil fuels is extremely harmful to the Earth’s atmosphere. It is the leading cause of pollution in the world. In addition, the extracting of these fuels is very costly. According to the National Research Council, there is an annual cost of $120 billion on the public every year. To install a 5,000-watt solar system, it would cost about $11,060 after tax for a business or a home. It depends on your energy usage.
Solar Power Effect On Greenhouse Emissions
The fact of the matter is, is we captured all of the sun’s energy that shines on earth for just one hour, we could power the whole world for one year. Now, of course, it is impossible to collect absolutely all of the energy from the sun but it puts in perspective just how abundant solar power really is. And, it is clean energy. Little to no carbon emissions. Our carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 90% since 1970. Fossil fuel burning contributes to about 78% of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase between 1970 and 2011. Solar power gives us the opportunity to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, limit greenhouse gas emissions and shrink our carbon footprint.
Let’s compare. According to data collected by the International Panel on Climate Change, natural gas produces between 0.6 and 2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (CO2E/kWh). Coal puts out between 1.4 and 3.6 pounds of CO2E/kWh. Whereas solar power only produces 0.07 to 0.2. Other renewable energy sources have even fewer emissions. Wind puts out 0.02 to 0.04 pounds, geothermal gives 0.1 to 0.2, and hydroelectric is about 0.1 to 0.5. It is simple to see that the life-cycle global warming emissions for renewable energies are extremely low. In addition, by the of 2016, the United States generated enough clean energy by solar power to power 8 million homes. This helps greatly to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 45 million metric tons. Think of it as removing 10 million cars from the roads.
Solar Energy Economical Benefits
While oil, gas, and coal mining jobs have been steadily declining since 2012, solar jobs have sky rocketted. In 2015, the solar industry created 35,000 jobs. That is up 20% from the previous year, according to The Solar Foundation. Right now, the solar industry workforce is larger than the oil and gas industries and almost triple the size of the coal mining workforce, which Trump wants to revive. The oil and gas companies laid off almost 17,000 extraction jobs in 2015. Oil prices have dropped 70% in 2016 and are currently at $44.35 per barrel. In 2016, the oil barrel price was just over $30 which was a 12 year low.
In terms of solar workers, installers are making on average $22 per hour, which is up about 5% from two years ago. When looking at yearly salaries, installers usually start making between $40,000 and $50,000. In addition to installers, who are in charge of basically installing the solar panels on houses or at businesses, there are a variety of different jobs associated with solar power. Site assessors determine exactly how much energy can be harvested at a certain location. Solar electricians install and maintain all of the electrical and power systems in a house or a business. Solar plumbers install solar water heating. And of course, solar roofers install and maintain the roof solar panels.
Another interesting solar power fact, as mentioned before, is there are a lot of savings that can be taken advantage of with solar power. There are many savings calculators out there that you can use, but here is an example of savings. Assuming your monthly electric bill is $100 with an annual electricity rate increase of 3%. There is also a 30% tax credit for the net installation cost of solar panels. By not going solar, you would expect to be paying about $25,000 for your electricity over the next 20 years.
A 4kW solar system will give you about 5,694 kWh per month. The average resident in the United States will use 10,908-kilowatt hours per year. This means that homeowners will be able to cut their electric bills in half. Roughly a savings of about $675 per year and about $13,500 of savings over 20 years. That number can get even higher as many states will offer incentives like tax credits, utility rebates, solar power performance payments, net metering, low-cost loans, grants and more. Taking everything into consideration, you could be looking at around $19,000 back to you. Which is actually more than the initial installation of the solar system, about $10,000.
The Power of the Sun
The facts of solar energy are out there. People all over the globe are turning to solar power to generate energy for their homes, businesses, neighborhoods, and corporations. Not only is solar energy cheaper and economically beneficial, it is also extremely good for the environment. The simple fact about solar energy is that it is 100% clean, very abundant and more or less infinitely renewable. Solar has the opportunity to continue providing many jobs to the American people and all over the world. Of course, it can help save a lot of money in the process. In the words of Allen F. Morgensen and many lazy people trying to find easier ways to do something, “Work smarter, not harder.”