The future is looking bright with solar energy! Solar power projects are growing and becoming more and more attractive to consumers for a variety of reasons. One is that solar energy is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. But that is most likely how far your knowledge goes. We have outlined here some interesting facts you probably didn’t know about solar!
10 Interesting Facts You Didn't Know About Solar!
1. Solar power is the most abundant energy source on Earth
Solar power starts with solar energy being produced through the conversion of sunlight into electrical energy. This is done through photovoltaic (PV) panels for example. Solar energy is the most unlimited energy source amongst other renewables. The Earth is hit by 173,000 terawatts of solar energy continuously. That is equivalent to more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use. Solar energy is completely renewable and has 5 billion more years to be utilized. The US Department of Energy found that the power acquired in one and a half hours of sunlight is more energy than the entire world consumes in one year. The total amount of energy used by humans every year is 410 quintillion Joules. In comparison, 430 quintillion Joules of energy are produced every hour and a half the sun strikes the Earth. This data tells us that we essentially have a source of unlimited clean energy.
2. Solar energy is cost-effective, and its soft costs are continually decreasing
Although solar energy requires soft costs such as permitting and installation, the consumer will receive a return on their investment due to low operating costs. In 2019, homeowners observed break-even points as low as three to four years. Some homeowners also generated huge savings, which ranged between USD 10,000 and USD 30,000 over 20 years. The unstoppable rise in technologies and scientific research has significantly pushed back solar costs and increased efficiency. For instance, in 1977, the price of a simple solar cell was $77 per watt and fell considerably to $0.74 per watt in 2013. The average price to install solar has also decreased by more than 70% between the years 2010 and 2017. Costs are continuing to decline as companies are increasingly taking economic advantage of using solar energy.
3. Renewable energy such as solar will be cheaper than 96% of existing coal power by 2030
Currently, about 42% of global coal power plants are unprofitable because of high fuel costs. Studies predict that this number can go up to 72% by 2040 with pollution policies driving up expenses. The United States could save USD 78 billion by closing plants in line with the Paris Agreement. It is more expensive to run 35% of coal power plants than to set up renewable infrastructure. Adopting renewable energy practices such as solar is necessary for moving forward and pursuing economic gain.
4. Solar is one of the fasted growing industries in the Energy Job market
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the fastest-growing occupations in the US is solar PV installer, with a projected growth rate o 51% from 2019-2029. This rate is much faster than any other average in other occupations. As of February 2020, there are more than 250,000 solar workers in the United States. Projections show that this figure is to increase to 270,000 by the end of the year. Since 2010, solar jobs in the United States have increased by almost 160%. This figure is 9 times the national average job growth rate in the last 5 years.
5. A solar-powered home can significantly reduce harmful gases and emissions
Projections show that a solar-powered household can reduce 100 tons of carbon dioxide, 0.5 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 0.75 tons of nitrogen oxides within 28 years! A United States household uses on average 830 kWh of electricity every month. Producing 1,000 kWh of solar-powered electricity cuts down on emissions by almost 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide, 8 pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 5 pounds of nitrogen oxides. Solar energy is a sustainable energy investment that provides vast environmental benefits for the collective good.
6. Solar energy can generate power with indirect sunlight
A common concern for households or businesses considering going solar is “what happens on a cloudy or rainy day?” Photovoltaic panels can use either direct or indirect sunlight to produce power. When clouds are blocking the light, these panels still function accordingly. Solar production is less, but it is not at zero. Rain is neither a concern because it helps the systems operations by washing away dirt from the panels.
7. Solar systems work great in lower temperatures
Solar panels continue to work effectively during the winter times. Impressively, the cold temperatures and snow can help solar panel output. This is because the snow helps reflect light, which in turns improves PV performance. Find out more about solar system productivity in winter here.
8. Solar energy can provide electricity 24/7
Solar energy is used at night thanks to two solutions: net metering and solar-plus-storage technology. These solutions allow consumers to have access to overnight electricity when there is no sunlight to produce energy. When you produce excess power through your solar panels, net metering allows you to feed the energy back to the grid. You will then receive a reward with credits that are added to your electric bill by the utility. The grid connection to your home ensures you will still have power regardless of the solar panel production levels.
9. Solar panels are very reliable, durable, and can be recycled
Solar panels have a long lifetime that lasts about 25–30 years. They are reliable and durable mainly because they do not have moving parts, which makes the likelihood of damage or breakage very minimal. In fact, because of their design, the infrastructure of the solar panels after their lifetime still provides economic value as they can be replaced at low costs. Solar panels can be recycled using specific industrial processes. Research has shown that solar panel recycling processes have up to 96% efficiency. Find out more on solar panelling recycling here.
10. Airplanes can fly around the world while running entirely on solar energy
Solar energy use is not only used for household and business electricity purposes. Solar energy is used for transportation as well. In the 1960s, the space industry started powering spacecraft with solar technology. The aviation industry has also started adopting solar technology. In 2016, two pilots completed the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe without using any fuel. The famous solar aircraft, Solar Impulse II, flew a total of 40,000km in the pursuit of promoting renewable energy use and energy efficiency. The Round-The-World flight team effectively overcame technical and operational challenges, which provided an inspiring example behind the boundless potential of renewables. This was the beginning of a new era that demonstrated the reliability and strong potential of shifting to renewable sources of energy.