The earth receives more energy from the sun in one hour than the power requirement of the world for the whole year. Solar energy is free, renewable, clean and sustainable. We know how to harness it and we know where to use it best. Below are the different uses of solar energy.
Grid-Tied Residential Homes
Solar energy can be used hand in hand with your current electricity provider. This is ideal to those who live in places where sunlight does not shine year round, to those who live in areas where electricity is cheap and to those who just want to use solar energy as a backup to their existing source of power. The idea is that if you have 2 sources of power, you can get uninterrupted power supply all the time.
One of the benefits of having a grid-tied solar energy system at home is that you can turn your electric meter backwards. This happens when you produce more energy than you use. The excess power that your system generates is sent out to the grid, which will be used by other households. As a result, your electric meter turns backwards and your electric provider will pay you for the amount of energy your system has produced.
Homeowners can use solar energy in producing electricity to power security lights around the houses perimeter. Since these types of lights consume as much as 5 times more power than the households daily energy requirement, opting for solar energy system is very reasonable.
Solar power system may not be used to answer the entire power requirement of the household. Sometimes it is used to power particular equipment such as lighting, water pumping, cooking and water heating or other equipments that consume the most amount of energy.
To save on electric bills, many companies and building owners install PV cells on their atria. On large industrial buildings, PV cells can be installed on rooftops. While the initial cash out is expensive, the amount of savings the system produces over the years will pay for itself.
If you have a cabin house or a farm house located far from the power grids, a solar power system can be your best source of electricity. Also, it is ideal if you need to power stand-alone sensing equipment and remote telemetry. Holiday homes that receive a substantial amount of sunlight can also benefit on this system.
Community halls, schools, clinics and other buildings that are not connected to any grid lines can use PV cells to generate power from the sun.
Signs and Street lights
Lights to brighten our street and street signs consume large amount of energy. This energy is drawn from electric providers that use conventional fossil fuels. To reduce the demand for this type of energy source, signs and street light can be installed with solar power systems that store power during the day and use it to light the streets at night. Many cities have solar panels attached to their street lights to save money and reduce fossil fuel burning.
Other Recreational Application
RVs and marine vehicles require small amount of power which are drawn from its engine. This consumes fuel and emits greenhouse gases. To reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gases emission, owners prefer charging their batteries with solar panels.
Solar energy is free but the tools that will enable you to harness this free energy are not.
If you are planning to install a solar energy system right at your home and would like to know how much it would cost, there are 3 things you need to consider:
First, the cost depends on how much energy your household requires. More energy you require means more solar panels and higher cost of installation. The good thing is, the technology to harness the power of the sun is relatively cheaper than it was several years ago.
Second, the government is offering a rebate to those who will switch to alternative form of energy. That means, the government will shoulder a portion of the total cost of the system.
Third, you can get tax credits when you switch to solar energy system. The amount of tax rebate depends from state to state but the range can go from $1000 to $2000.
All these affect the overall cost of your installation.
A photovoltaic system can cost roughly at $8000 to $10000 per 1kW system. This equates to $8 to $10 per Watt. An average American household with 3 bedrooms requires at least 1.5kW to as much as 3kW. Thus, installation can cost from $14000 to $30000, before rebates and tax credits.
Government rebate varies from state to state. As a reference, an average California household that requires 1.5kW system can get as much as $4200 rebate (1.5kW= 1500 watts x $2.80 per watt = $4200).
A household that requires 3kW system can get as much as $8400 (3kW= 3000 watts x $2.80 per watt = $8400).
Before, tax credit goes as much as 30% but it is lowered to 7.5% of system cost after rebate.
So an average household with 1.5kW system can get $735 ($14000 – $4200 x 7.5% = $735) worth of tax credit while the 3kW system can get $1620 ($30000 – $8400 x 7.5% = $1620) worth of tax credit.
Example A: 1.5kW system
Cost of solar electric system: $14000
Less rebate: $4200
Less tax credit: $735
Cost of the system after rebate and tax credit: $9065
Example B: 3kW system
Cost of solar electric system: $30000
Less rebate: $8400
Less tax credit: $1620
Cost of the system after rebate and tax credit: $19980
Again, these are rough estimates just to give you an idea of the cost of installing solar energy system. They do not represent real figures.
Energy independent home has higher resale value and is more preferred by home buyers. So, if you are planning to sell your home in several years, installing solar energy system does not only provide substantial saving on electric bill, it also is a good home improvement option.
If you want to finance the cost of your solar energy installation, include it in your mortgage.
If you want to reduce your electricity load, switch to energy efficient appliances. Buy electric appliances with ENERGY STAR seal.
Low energy requirement means lower installation cost.
Residents of areas with higher electricity rate can benefit most on solar energy system.
If you cant afford the photovoltaic system, you can install solar hot water system that costs roughly from $2000 to $4000.
Solar energy is best for houses that are located far from the existing power lines.