Many people are under the misconception that solar energy is only useful when it is sunny outside. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Solar power is actually quite effective even when it’s dark and cloudy outside. Thanks to advances in technology, the cost of solar equipment has come down significantly, making it more affordable.
So, what makes solar energy different from other sources of power? Simply put, it is not affected by the weather. While other forms of energy are either directly or indirectly dependent on the elements (i.e., wind, sun, water, etc.), solar energy is independent. This means that no matter what the weather is like, there is always the possibility of generating power using solar energy.
Types Of Solar Energy
There are several different types of solar energy. The two most common ones are photovoltaic (PV) and thermal solar energy. Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy is created when light particles (i.e., photons) are converted into electric energy. The most common and popular form of photovoltaic solar energy is solar cells. These are the little squares that you often see in electronics stores.
Thermal solar energy is created when sunlight is absorbed by any kind of surface (e.g., house roof, water, or sand) and then converted into heat energy. You can use this heat for a wide variety of purposes, including electricity generation. Thermal solar energy is widely used in space heaters (also called space blankets), water heaters, and desert coolers.
One of the biggest advantages of solar energy is how cost effective it is. While the cost to produce electricity from a traditional power plant can be anywhere from $0.06 to $0.16 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), the cost to purchase and install a quality solar system ranges from $0.02 to $0.05 per kWh. Because it is such a competitive cost, more people are discovering the advantages of solar energy. Below we’ll discuss some of the major cost-saving benefits of solar energy.
No Fuel Consumption
One of the biggest cost-saving benefits of solar energy is its zero fuel consumption. In order to generate power using thermally driven generators or the steam engine, you will need to purchase and install fuel tanks, which can cost anywhere from $0.01 to $0.03 per kWh. In addition to fuel costs, you’ll also need to purchase and install an igniting device (e.g., spark plug), which can cost anywhere from $0.02 to $0.04 per kWh. On top of that, you’ll need to purchase and maintain a crew of people to operate the generator or steam engine (i.e., meter readers, technicians, etc.). All of this adds up to a minimum cost of $0.07 to $0.12 per kWh, sometimes even more!
While fuel consumption is always a major issue with traditional power sources, it is even more so with thermal generators and steam engines because these devices consume fuel even when they are not producing energy (i.e., when the electricity grid is not connected). The zero fuel cost of a quality solar system makes it a more appealing option for those interested in cost-saving.
To put it bluntly, solar energy doesn’t make any noise. This stands in stark contrast to traditional power plants, which are usually associated with constant noise pollution. When you install a quality solar system, you will not only be saving money but you’ll also be enhancing your home’s value. People living nearby will value your home more because of the noise it’s not making (e.g., noisy neighbors don’t value your home as much).
Noise pollution is far more prevalent in traditional power plants because they operate on such a large scale. It is not uncommon for large power plants to generate a significant amount of noise pollution (e.g., loud noises, constant humming, etc.). However, with quality solar panels and a sound-absorbing roof, you can ensure that your home is providing a quiet and comfortable living environment for yourself and your family.
One of the primary reasons why people purchase a quality solar system over a traditional power plant is because they want the ability to generate their own energy whenever they need it. With a traditional power plant, this usually means generating power during certain hours of the day, which is dictated by the cycles of the Sun. This is usually why power plants are considered “peaks season” power sources; they work best when the demand for electricity is at its highest (e.g., in the morning before everyone gets up and starts using electricity, or in the late afternoon after everyone has returned from work and started using electricity).
With a quality solar system, this is a lot easier to achieve since you can control the electricity generation whenever you want with the flip of a switch. Some people like to leave their unit running all night long so they can have electricity when they need it. This is usually done so the unit can charge up during the day and provide electricity when the Sun is shining. The benefits of solar energy are endless.
Reduces Energy Consumption
Every year, the United States government issues reports detailing the amount of energy consumption across the country. One particular report released in February 2019 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that American households are responsible for approximately 40% of the country’s total energy consumption. This amounts to approximately 27 billion kWh per year (or 2.7 trillion kWh in ten years).
If households reduced their energy consumption by just 10% – which is a huge if, considering that 40% of consumption is coming from non-residential sources such as small appliances, lighting, and water heating – then the country could save 7.5 billion kWh per year (or 695 billion kWh in ten years). This is a significant amount of kWh, considering that nearly every person in the country would have to cut their electricity use by a similar amount for it to make a noticeable impact on national energy consumption!
This brings us to our next point. Since solar energy is not affected by the weather, it can reduce electricity costs for residents and businesses across the country. Consider the amount of energy that utility companies pay to generate electricity during peak periods (e.g., in the morning between 6 am and 10 am, or in the evening between 4 pm and 7 pm). During these hours, the demand for electricity is usually the highest, and the cost is typically much higher than other times of the day or night. This is because during these hours, utilities have to pay large amounts of money to power generation plants that are not running at capacity – they are usually only producing at around 20% of their maximum capacity.
During non-peak hours (e.g., in the afternoon between 12 pm and 4 pm, or in the evening between 7 pm and 11 pm), utilities often have to pay significant amounts of money to power generating plants that are nearing capacity, or at capacity already. These plants are then forced to shut down and wait for demand to decrease before they can generate power at a cheaper rate.
With a quality solar system, you can reduce this cost by providing the power companies with some of your own electricity during non-peak hours. If you generate power during these hours, you will get paid at a higher rate – typically around 15 cents to 20 cents per kWh. This may not sound like much, but if you are running a business or are a homeowner with a large consumption, this amount can add up quickly (e.g., over $100 per month for a home with two people using 2,000 kWh per month). Furthermore, because your system will not only save you money but it will also provide the power companies with some extra electricity during non-peak hours, they might even take you off of their electricity rate altogether! If this happens, you will no longer have to pay for electricity during these hours, which can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Protects Against Climate Change
Even if you don’t directly generate electricity using a solar panel, you can still reduce your impact on climate change. When you use energy, you are adding more pollutants into the air. A good portion of those pollutants come from the fission – the splitting of Uranium (one of the byproducts of nuclear power) and the eventual decay of products such as Plutonium (another byproduct). Not only does fission generate large amounts of pollutants, but when a nuclear power plant is decommissioned and discarded, it often ends up in a landfill, where it contaminates the soil and underground water table. This, in turn, can lead to contamination of the food supply and, eventually, humans consume themselves out of housebrick!