If you’re still using traditional electricity but are interested in switching to a cheaper, more efficient energy source, now is the time to act. Learn more about the recent changes and innovations that have turned solar power into a more affordable, efficient, and accessible option for every American homeowner.
Energy Tipping Point
Solar energy is a free and renewable energy source, and demand for solar products and technologies is on the rise, especially in the United States. In fact, The Refrigeration School reports that solar energy usage more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2014 among American consumers, thanks to both financial and environmental factors. With this demand comes an increase in products, jobs, and research into more efficient technologies, which means you have more options than ever before.
Solar power systems operate differently from traditional electric power grids, so they require a new set of skills and infrastructure. In order to meet the demand for solar installation and maintenance, the Solar Jobs Census states that solar-related employment has increased by a staggering 86 percent in the past five years. In fact, the continuing growth rate of solar-related jobs is 20 times higher than the overall national economy.
This spring, President Obama announced a program that will add even more skilled solar experts to the American job force. The U.S. Department of Defense reported that the “Solar Ready Vets” program would train at least 75,000 military veterans to assume highly skilled solar jobs by 2020. This kind of support indicates that solar energy is here to stay. Solar has become a source of jobs and is only getting more widespread, more efficient and more affordable.
As solar energy becomes more popular, researchers are finding new ways to make solar panels and solar-powered systems even more efficient. Science writer Cheryl Katz explored some of these new solar technologies in Yale Environment 360, explaining that new materials are driving the most promising innovations. These include:
- Multi-junction cells that harvest light from separate areas of the light spectrum
- Perovskite, an inexpensive mineral used in more efficient solar cells
- Gallium-arsenide, a thin but highly absorbent alternative to silicon
Solar energy is more sustainable than electricity, but some solar panels are even more energy efficient than others. According to Katz, many solar panels on the market only convert about 16 percent of the sunlight they receive into actual, usable energy. However, by combining more efficient materials and technologies with older solar panel designs, some solar panels can convert as much as 50 percent of local sunlight into energy.
Solar energy is obviously more sustainable than electricity, but if you’re a homeowner on a budget, energy costs may be your main priority. The savings you will experience from more efficient energy will very likely outweigh the initial cost of installing solar panels. Furthermore, if your electricity bills are getting higher, don’t expect them to drop any time soon. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential electricity prices have increased by 2.5 percent since 2014, and higher temperatures may lead to a 5.9 percent increase by the end of this summer.
As your energy costs and needs continue to increase, you may want to consider an energy source that’s getting cheaper instead of more expensive. The Union of Concerned Scientists reported a 60 percent decline in solar panel costs since 2011, and if you have access to government tax incentives and initiatives, the cost of your installation will drop even lower. You can contact a local solar panel installation company for rates and details.