California is embarrassing the rest of the country with the amount of solar energy it’s producing
California is the poster child for solar energy: in 2016, 13% of the state’s power came from solar sources. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, California is in the lead for the cumulative amount of solar electric capacity installed in 2016.
In fact, the California is generating so much solar energy that it is resorting to paying other states to take the excess electricity in order to prevent overloading power lines. According to the Los Angeles Times, Arizona residents have already saved millions in 2017 thanks to California’s contribution.
The state, which produced little to no solar energy just 15 years ago, has made strides — it single-handedly has nearly half of the country’s solar electricity generating capacity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California reached a milestone: for a few hours, more than half the state’s power needs were sourced from solar energy. This put wholesale energy prices in the negative.
When there’s too much solar energy, there is a risk of the electricity grid overloading. This can result in blackouts. In times like this, California offers other states a financial incentive to take their power.
But it’s not as environmentally friendly as one would think. Take Arizona, for example. The state opts to put a pin in its own solar energy sources instead of fossil fuel power, which means greenhouse gas emissions aren’t getting any better due to California’s overproduction.
California’s state goal is to get 50% of all its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
There are many reasons why homeowners go solar, but improving the environment and cutting energy costs are the most common. Many people are aware that solar is a great home efficiency upgrade and are eager to reduce their carbon footprint while also improving property value.
Whether your motivations for going solar are economic, environmental, or personal, this sizable list of solar power beenfits will have something for everyone. Here are the top ten reasons why solar energy is good for your home and more popular than ever in the United States.
#1 Drastically reduce or even eliminate your electric bills
Whether you’re a homeowner, business, or nonprofit, electricity costs can make up a large portion of your monthly expenses. With a solar panel system, you’ll generate free power for your system’s entire 25+ year lifecycle. Even if you don’t produce 100 percent of the energy you consume, solar will reduce your utility bills and you’ll still save a lot of money.
#2 Earn a great return on your investment
Solar panels aren’t an expense – they’re one of the best ways to invest, with returns rivaling those of more traditional investments like stocks and bonds. Thanks to substantial electricity bill savings, the average American homeowner pays off their solar panel system in seven to eight years and sees an ROI of 20 percent or more.
#3 Protect against rising energy costs
One of the most clear cut benefits of solar panels is the ability to hedge utility prices. In the past ten years, residential electricity prices have gone up by an average of three percent annually. By investing in a solar energy system now, you can fix your electricity rate and protect against unpredictable increases in electricity costs. If you’re a business or homeowner with fluctuating cash flow, going solar also helps you better forecast and manage your expenses.
#4 Increase your property value
Multiple studies have found that homes equipped with solar energy systems have higher property values and sell more quickly than non-solar homes. Appraisers are increasingly taking solar installations into consideration as they value homes at the time of a sale, and as homebuyers become more educated about solar, demand for properties equipped with solar panel systems will continue to grow.
#5 Boost U.S. energy independence
The sun is a near-infinite source of energy and a key component of achieving energy independence in the United States. By increasing our capacity to generate electricity from the sun, we can also insulate our country from price fluctuations in global energy markets.
#6 Create jobs and help your local economy
According to The Solar Foundation, the solar industry added jobs at a rate nearly 12 times faster than the overall U.S. economy in 2015, representing 1.2 percent of all jobs in the country. This growth is expected to continue. Because solar-related jobs tend to be higher paying and cannot be outsourced, they are a significant contributor to the U.S. economy.
#7 Protect the environment
Solar is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Buildings are responsible for 38 percent of all carbon emissions in the U.S., and going solar can significantly decrease that number. A typical residential solar panel system will eliminate three to four tons of carbon emissions each year—the equivalent of planting over 100 trees annually.
#8 Demonstrate your commitment to sustainability
Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are important components of an organization’s culture and values. They also produce bottom line results. Increasingly, consumers and communities are recognizing and rewarding businesses that choose to operate responsibly. Businesses are finding that “green” credentials are a powerful driver of consumer purchasing decisions, creating goodwill and improving business results.
#9 Increase employee morale
Just like consumers, employees have a demonstrated appreciation for their employers’ commitment to operating responsibility. Employees share in the success and contributions of their organizations. Companies that care about their community and environment tend to have lower turnover rates, more engaged employees, and higher levels of morale.
#10 Stay competitive
Companies quickly are realizing the social and economic benefits of adopting solar power. As early adopters pull ahead of the competition, many companies are exploring solar power as a way to keep up.
FAQ: Is solar a good option for the northern United States?
Yes, solar power is a good option for northern states. While the intensity of the sun is less than it is in the South or Southwest, it is sufficient to produce significant amounts of electricity — enough to power an entire home, depending on the size of the PV system.
“According to the “Fair Use” clause of International Copyright Law, the authors declare that the use of the photos, videos and information in this academic research are analyzed for purposes of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research” according to Section 107 of Title 17 of the US Code.”
Bill Nye-backed startup is using particle accelerator tech to make solar power accessible
After hitting more than $7 million in reservations as part of a Reg A+ equity crowdfunding campaign and getting a stamp of approval from celebrity scientist Bill Nye, Santa Monica-based solar company Rayton Solar has some big plans for the future.
Its goal? Using particle accelerator technology to bring down the cost of solar panel manufacturing and hasten a transition of world energy usage to more of a reliance on solar installations.
It’s a tall order, to be sure. But founder Andrew Yakub has felt like the clock has been ticking for a while now, and he’s been thinking about this since Rayton’s founding in 2012 back when he was a design engineer at the UCLA Particle Beam Physics Laboratory.
In addition to that, he also had a solar installation company that depended on a federal grant program which was set to soon expire. Yakub saw there needed to be a better and lower cost way of installing solar.
What Rayton does, in short, is use float-zone silicon — the highest grade available, and also used by NASA. The company’s method involves use of a particular accelerator to produce extremely small silicon wafers, a process that Rayton says cuts the cost to manufacture solar panels by more than 60 percent. And it also creates panels that are 25 percent more efficient, the company says.
Why is Yakub passionate about this work? Easy. “Solar,” he says, “is the future.” According to one estimate, the solar panel market is set to grow from $24.2 billion in 2014 to more than $180 billion by 2021.
“And the accelerator is the core technology that makes all of this work,” Yakub says. “We can make 100 times as many solar panels for the same amount of silicon that’s used to make just one panel today. We can also use the higher quality, electronics grade silicon, and when you use that kind you get a 25 percent increase in sunlight conversion efficiency. So that means 25 percent less panels on your roof or in a solar farm. Twenty-five percent less land usage, and it also lowers the cost of the installation and racking systems.”
Rayton is a 7-person company right now, with a research facility in Santa Monica. Yakub estimates growing to 10 employees by the time its pilot production line is built in Los Angeles.
The company has an accelerator on the way that it’s purchased that’ll be arriving about nine months from now. Once that’s up and running, Rayton estimates another 12 to 18 months to be commercially producing solar modules.
The company got itself on Nye’s radar, because, well, it reached out to him. He came out, Yakub said, and “vetted the technology. It had to be something for him to really appreciate and get behind, to want to help us.” And help them he did, in part by making a video for them:
Meanwhile, Rayton’s team includes scientists, engineers, professors and entrepreneurs. The company’s plan is to sell to retailers, contractors and wholesalers who will then supply consumers.
Longer term, the plan is to build out the pilot manufacturing line — to get that up and running — and once Rayton is at that point, it can either scale up the technology and produce more or license the technology out to a larger manufacturer.
As context for the imperative behind its technology, Rayton cites an estimate from the International Energy Agency that expects renewable energy to be “the largest single source of electricity growth over the next five years.”
What’s more, according to the company, the global energy market is projected to grow to over $10.4 trillion by 2020. Twenty years after that, renewables are expected to command 60 percent of new capacity and two-thirds of power investment around the world.
With renewables on the way to becoming the primary method of generating power, Rayton wants to be a leader in the sector.
“I believe that by the year 2050, we’re going to have over 50 percent of the world’s energy coming from solar installations,” Yakub said. “And this technology will help get us there faster. We need companies to figure out how to mass produce this, at an increased level of quality and a decreased level of cost.”