Solar energy is immensely popular right now and it’s only gaining traction as time passes. Let’s take a look at how and why solar energy is so good for us and what its main advantages are. In article, we’re going to take a look at six benefits of solar energy, and what they mean for not only individuals, but for the world at large.
1 – Do it for the Environment, Dummy!
Solar energy is all the rage these days, or at least it is getting there. With global warming on the rise and heatwaves and forest fires becoming more and more prevalent in “sunburnt” countries, it is vital for us to consider making the best of a bad situation, and hopefully in doing so, we can reverse this bad situation. One of the best ways we can reduce the impact of our activities on the earth is by changing our behaviour and consumption habits. Targeting industries and sectors that are a major source of pollution is a good start. One way we can do this is by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels to ensure that we don’t waste the earth’s resources and squander its environment for our own short-lived comforts. We can achieve this, or at least go a long way to achieving it, through solar energy. Unlike wind energy, solar doesn’t need dedicated spaces or large, complicated moving parts that can prove hazardous to birds and animals or insects. And unlike nuclear energy, there’s no danger of a solar panel melting down and causing the deaths of millions from radioactive fallout. Nor do you have to worry about radioactive waste and how to store it safely for extended periods of time. Solar panels can be recycled and the process of recycling will be refined over time.
Contrary to other sources of renewable energy, solar energy represents the safest and most cost-effective solution to our energy needs. We can reduce our carbon footprint by harnessing the unlimited power of the sun itself. We need not worry about environmental costs associated either with usage or production. Solar panels are made of silicon in large part, and that is literally cheap as sand. Solar panels are produced from widely available materials which do not require invasive drilling into the earth’s crust. Relax, Voldemort, you can rest assured that the solar panels you have installed on your roof don’t have blood from the last unicorn as an essential ingredient. No, they’re good, sustainable and renewable technology that can put your mind at ease about it. One thing to concern yourself with is disposal. The solar boom is only just starting off now, so we can’t know for sure how disposal will work half a century for now. But knowing humans, we’ll probably do what we do with most of our problems, i.e., dig a hole in the ground and bury everything in it. That would defeat the purpose of solar energy to begin with. Solar panels contain a metal called lead. It is abundantly available, yet it turns toxic with time. We’re seeing this as something of a trend when using solar panels. Expired panels tend to turn into toxic waste (still not as bad as nuclear!) and if we pile them into landfills, they’re going to present a huge problem in very short order, as more and more people begin using solar energy. “Wait then just a minute!” I hear you say. Doesn’t that just make solar energy as harmful as any other source of energy? Well, yes and no. Here’s the thing, solar panels can be recycled. Sure, the process is tricky and still not as cost efficient as it can be, but it can be done and is being done. One way to fix this problem is the European route. The EU has laws in place that make recycling solar panels mandatory. Plain and simple. In countries like China, India, Japan and Australia, legislation and procedures are in the works to ensure that solar panels aren’t just dumped into landfills. All these countries (with the exception of China) are democratic, and they have decent track-records of giving a dime about their citizens’ safety, so we can be optimistic that they’ll come up with a decent solution (read: more mandatory recycling!). As for China, if their dealing of the COVID-19 pandemic is any indication, they’ll be all over the problem before you can say “solar waste is destroying the environment!” That leaves out good old uncle Sam, freedom loving America! As with all things America, it’s the wild, wild west out there. The American government has left it up to state governments to decide on how to deal with the problem. Mandatory recycling may still be some ways off for each American state, but voluntary recycling sure is a thing.
One way you can be sure of the success of solar recycling (yes, we’re calling it that) is by making it a part of the cost f owning a solar panel system. You can bet your favourite Ninja Turtle that the market will come up with cost-effective and creative ways to get the job done. As the solar industry booms and competition becomes cut-throat, manufacturers are going to try and stay above the competition by maybe offering recycle-friendly panels, or maybe even help with the process. Also, we will see specialist companies pop up to deal with this specific issue. This has already happened in the USA and elsewhere. Ah, Capitalism! But seriously, though, if companies can make a buck off it, expect them to try. Solar recycling could be another million-dollar industry a few decades from now.
2- Low Maintenance
In case you didn’t already know, solar energy systems are very low maintenance. They don’t need constant cleaning or supervision. Aside from the occasional cleaning and regular health inspection from a licensed solar contractor, you probably won’t have to worry much about the health of your solar energy system. Therein lies one of the biggest advantages of solar panels; you don’t have to keep on worrying about them. You plug them in and watch them work. Modern panels also come with state-of-the-art monitoring software that can help track the performance of your panels and notify you if something is wrong or if performance is not optimal. It is best to keep in mind that low maintenance does not mean no maintenance. Sure, modern panels are extremely sturdy and resilient, but they will need to be cleaned now and again. This is especially true for areas with higher levels of environmental stresses, like rain, hail or snow. Snow build-ups on solar panels can cause mechanical stresses on the panels and cause microfractures in the silicon wafers. These cracks can break the wafers over time in the long run and reduce their efficiency in the short run. All in all, environmental stresses will reduce the longevity of your panels if you aren’t careful with regular maintenance. This involves preventing snow and sleet from building up on the panels and caking the frames. Also, sand, dirt and dust can reduce the life expectancy of your solar panels in the long and short run if not addressed. Sand should be cleaned off and dirt and dust should not be allowed to build up on the panels. Allowing them to build up will reduce the performance of the panels drastically. However, here is some good news. Modern shingle designs in solar panels ensure that the risk of microfractures is reduced over time drastically. Also, solar panels come covered in protective casings made of glass and plastic, which protect the wafers themselves from abrasion and effects of the weather. The bottom line is that modern solar panels are sturdy enough to resist the wear and tear of the environment for long periods of time, with minimal maintenance. And this is a huge win. Imagine if you had to climb onto the roof every day with a bucket and mop to clean your solar panels. You might decide to dump the whole system out of sheer inconvenience! Well, you’d probably decide not to invest in it in the first place, but you get the idea. Part of why solar panels are so attractive is that they free you up, both from excessive energy bills and also from having to worry about maintenance and care.
3 – Stop Breaking your Bank!
Solar panels can save you money. Energy bills can be a pain, let’s admit it. We all would rather spend money anywhere else than on bills. But modern life would just come to a screeching halt without energy. Try going one day without electricity and you’ll realise why people are eager to pay hefty amounts to utility companies for energy bills. Well, solar energy brings you the best of both worlds. Enjoy the fruits of modern life, electricity and all, without having to fork over heaps of hard-earned money to utility companies. Solar power can reduce your bills drastically, or just shave it off the edges, depending on how much you invest in the system and how much you can make it work for you. How much solar energy systems will save you will vary from place to place and system to system. Areas with sunnier days and higher kWh outputs will essentially have a much higher outputs than smaller systems and systems in areas with cloud cover. Those are just limitations of solar energy systems. Nonetheless, you can rest assured that even an average sized solar energy system will help noticeably reduce your energy bills, unless you’re on the Arctic. More sunny areas will see a significant reduction with a system of similar specs, but on an average, you will notice the reduction. Solar energy systems work, and there are just no two ways about it.
Another way to save money is through something called a feed-in tariff. A feed in tariff is a system through which an anergy consumer who has a solar PV system can channel excess energy back into the national grid. So, if you’re making more energy than you can use, or if you use more energy when the sun is down, you can keep producing energy and sending it to the national grid. This will allow you to earn money that can go towards paying your energy bills. This works best for people or couples who are away at work most of the day and back home in the evening. That sounds like most of us, right? And unless on partner has taken up housekeeping, the house might as well be empty all day and your fancy solar panels won’t be of any use! A feed-in tariff can alleviate this problem. Sending energy to the national grid not only makes it more robust and protects it from failure, a number of citizens feeding energy to the grid will inevitably mean that reliance on fossil fuel-based energy will decline. And if you want to use every iota of energy you make for yourself, best consider investing in a storage pack.
One thing to keep in mind is that battery storage will increase the cost of your solar energy system significantly, but it will also allow you to use the sun at night. How’s that for a mind bender? Either way, this is a win-win situation. Also, while installing battery storage will make your system more expensive, it will also result in you using less and less grid electricity, particularly on sunny days, as the usage will extend into the night. This should help you recuperate your investment as well. Now, we can’t promise that you will recuperate your investment faster with a battery package, but they serve a purpose. If full energy independence is what you have in mind, then a storage system is something you absolutely have to consider. Either way, it’s best to see what your local authorities have on offer. Do they offer good feed-in tariffs? Does your municipal authority encourage the use of solar energy through positive reinforcement? If yes, then you might want to consider just using feed-in tariffs instead of purchasing a battery system. If not, then a battery system may be the way to go, as you can extend your independence through the hours of night.
4 – Gain Control Over your Energy
We established in the previous article that solar energy systems are becoming more and more affordable, and that as technology develops, they are also becoming ubiquitous. One of the biggest benefits of having your own solar energy system is that you gain control over your own energy supply and flow. We wrote at length about how this can be done through feed-in tariffs and changing your habits to best match your solar output. We also mentioned that solar storage options like battery packs can help you harvest solar energy for later use. All these options give you one very important advantage in your life; control. You control your own energy. Control can mean a number of things. As stated earlier, it can mean giving back to the grid. It can mean storing for later use and it can also mean using solar energy when energy prices are higher and using grid electricity when the grid rates are lower during the day. But what we mean here by control is controlling your own finances and ensuring that your residence or place of work is protected against rising energy prices. Make no mistake, energy prices are rising. In Australia, for example, they rose 15% in the last ten years. Energy bills are a significant chunk of household costs and represent a large portion of operations costs for commercial enterprises. Make no mistake, solar energy gives you a much higher degree of control over your financial situation by helping reduce your energy bills. On average, you will pay far less for power with solar energy than without it. In the short term, yes solar energy is going to be expensive, but in the medium to long term, it just makes a lot of financial sense. Consider the fact that the system you install now will be around in twenty-five years and maybe thirty if you are taking care of it. That’s a significant portion of anyone’s life. If you get a solar panel system at age 25, you’ll need a replacement by the time you’re 50 or even 55. By that time, you’ll have gone through a car or two, gotten married and had kids, and they’ll be getting ready for, or at least thinking about college. That’s how long it takes for a decent solar panel system to finally die. And if expense is still an issue, if you think you can’t afford a solar PV system, consider buying a smaller one and adding additional arrays to it with time. As time goes on, your system can grow and improve. Older and cheaper parts can be replaced by newer and more expensive ones as finances permit, and more panels can be added to the existing setup to improve output as you are comfortable. This is a way to win back control of your finances from the utility companies. Now, we don’t mean to make energy companies sound like the Sith from Star Wars or anything, but let’s face facts. In today’s economy, we can all find better ways to spend our money. And with the uncertainty surrounding the future of the global market in the wake of the Coronavirus nowhere close to abating, it is more essential now than ever to take control over as much of your finances as possible. And honestly, there is no better place to start than power. Our modern life is completely dependent on energy and power. Without electricity, most of us would be completely lost. Most of our jobs require access to computer and cell phones. The internet and artificial lighting. We need fans and air conditioners in the summer and heating in the winter. We can cut back on a lot of things, like downgrading our residence, curbing hobbies, even cutting back on food. But what we can’t live without is a steady supply of power. At least not without a radical lifestyle overhaul that most people will go to great lengths to avoid. Now again, apologies if this sounds all doom and gloom. It certainly isn’t Mad Max out there, nor is it likely to be. But the fact of the matter is that the more control you have over your energy, the easier your life will be. At best, it will protect you against failures of the national grid. At worst, it will reduce your energy bills, freeing up money for you to spend elsewhere. There is no way to lose in this equation.
5 – Increase the Value of Your Property
Google up “homes with solar panels”. You’ll notice that they have one thing in common: they look lovely. Solar panels give your house a decidedly futuristic and modern look. Especially if you’re using modern panels with shingled designs. Not only are they more effective, they also look a lot better. And if you don’t like the way they look, you can always wipe away your tears with the money you’ll be saving because of them. Yes, not only do they look good, they also perform an essential function, adding to the value of any property. Imagine buying a house that comes with a preinstalled solar PV system. You’ll have to pay more, but then, you know exactly where that extra money is being spent, and you know that you can earn it back in time. If the house or commercial property has a solar storage system, all the better. On average, in the United States, solar panels will increase the value of a house by as much as%. This means that a home valued at $500,000 may get a price bump of $20,500. So, if you’re planning on installing a solar energy system, remember that should you ever decide to sell out the property, the system will only increase its value and not act as an impediment. On the other hand, if you’re planning to buy a house that has a PV system installed, keep in mind that the solar energy system will help you recuperate much of the cost over time. Not only will it pay for itself in a few years, in time it will help you pay for the house! Sure, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it is a good way to think of a solar PV system as a means to saving and earning money instead of just as an expense.
Now, how much the value of your home will increase with a PV system will vary from zip code to zip code and location to location, and from installation to installation. On average, in the United States, resale value increases between $4,020 and $5,911 for each kilowatt of solar panels installed. That’s a lot. Generally speaking, the price of a solar panel installation will be recouped in the home’s prices. Until such a time, the owners of the house can enjoy the tax breaks and incentives that come with the solar panels, as well as the reduced energy bills. These alone will cover the cost of the solar panels many times over, before you even consider selling your property. Also, houses with solar panels tend to stay on the market for shorter periods than houses that do not have solar panels. On average, if your home is solar powered, expect to sell it 20% faster than one that does not.
Numbers don’t lie. And the numbers are clear. There is no ambiguity about it. Having solar panels installed on your house will significantly increase its value, unless, of course, your house is haunted or has a dark and spooky history. In that case, an exorcist might be in order, and not a solar panel.
6 – Help Create Jobs
And finally, before we get to job creation, one of the biggest benefits of solar energy that deserves an honourable mention is that the government will love you for it, and probably reward you for it quite a bit too. Again, this depends on your zip code and it varies from country to country. Nonetheless, going solar is likely to make you eligible for some juicy tax breaks and rebates. We’ve mentioned them in passing a few times before, but they’re just too varied to cover comprehensively in one article. Mostly because they vary from country to country. For instance, Australia won’t have the same tax schemes as America and China. Nonetheless, it is well worth considering tax exemptions or rebates when installing a solar energy system. To find your best rebates, you had better get in touch with your local authority and see what’s on the menu.
Now to the business of helping the economy along, like a good citizen. There are, broadly speaking, two ways this can happen. One is, as you’ve probably already guessed, returning excess energy to the grid (selling it too if you’re in Australia) and helping prop the grid against potential shortfalls or power failures. Another, and more direct way, is by helping the solar industry grow and thrive. None of the sustainable energy goals by any of the world’s many governments would have been possible if the average citizen, that’s you and I, had taken the time out to decide to spend hard earned money on solar energy systems. This collective transition towards solar energy has powered the sustainable energy market and is directly responsible for its boom across North America, Oceania, Europe and Asia. There are plans in Africa as well, to begin installing solar panels on the fringes of the Sahara Desert. Though these are mostly still under consideration and no concrete action has yet been taken (nor will be taken in the near future) the plans are solid. We could see solar energy become one of Africa’s major exports, as Europe goes polar bear friendly. There just isn’t enough sunshine and space in Europe to keep the continent powered through solar power. Importing cheap solar power from Africa would not only empower the African continent’s economies, but also provide Europe with much needed solar energy. Energy could become a major export of developing nations and this could result in much needed capital and expertise flowing into these nations, causing economic uplift in the process.
But long-term predictions aside, buying solar panels can help improve the renewable energy sector in your own country, whether you’re in America, Australia, India, China, Japan, Spain, Italy or literally any other country. Renewable energy jobs are fast growing and they need skilled labour. They tend to pay higher than other jobs too. For instance, E2 found in a recent Clean Jobs America report that Americans working in renewable energy sectors outnumber those working in fossil-fuel energy by as much as 3:1. An estimated 335,000 people work in renewable energy as compared to 211,000 in fossil fuel extraction. In 2018, clean energy employment was up 3.6% and 6% in 2019. According to the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics, America’s largest jobs in 2026 will be Solar installer (105% growth) and wind technician (96% growth). Now, the numbers may vary from nation to nation, but you can rest assured that as solar energy sees wider and wider adoption, you can expect to see the market’s demand for employees increase. More jobs mean more circulation of wealth and happier country overall.
Let’s close on a sobering note. China and India have not had the smoothest of relationships in recent years. Neither have China and Australia. Or China and Vietnam. Or China and Japan. Or China and America. Ok, so there’s a bit of tension going round and lots of blame to share. But one thing all these countries have done is increase their business shares, both with each other and with China. China is one of the largest solar panel producers in the world, and Australia and India are among its biggest customers. Maybe if we focused more on the things that unite us and less on those that divide us, we won’t have to be so scared of each other. Maybe the more we depend on each other, the more we will realise how dependable we are. Solar energy has the power to do that. Not just to power our homes and businesses, but to power us towards an interconnected future, one where we can all celebrate our differences and rejoice in our similarities. So, choose a better world. Choose solar energy.