The topic of global warming and green energy is a highly controversial one these days, with opinion divided as to whether either has any merit. However with gas prices slowly on the rise, and with increasing dependency on foreign oil, there is something to be said about the idea of alternative sources of energy. In this, solar energy has become a very popular contender and has already been in use for over half a century.
Of course, as a fairly new technology, especially in the public sphere, there is a level of uncertainty regarding solar energy as an alternative to traditional fuel sources such as gas or coal. With the uncertainty comes numerous claims and assertions regarding it, some based in fact and others less so.
So where exactly does the truth lie? What are the common myths of solar energy?
1 “Solar Energy Is Expensive!”
Technically this is not untrue – if your primary source of income is stacking shelves in Walmart, then perhaps a set of solar panels is not within your budget right now. A couple of decades ago, even unusually high-income families may have been hard pressed to acquire a set for their household.
However by and large, installing solar panels today is no more expensive than buying a car, or investing in a vacation. Ultimately the final price of installation depends on things such as positioning, the manufacturer you buy them from and just how extensively you wish to integrate solar energy into your household. The overall cost of solar panels has also decreased massively over the past ten years, making them far more affordable than ever before, and they are getting even cheaper.
What’s more, as many as 48 states also offer incentives to home owners looking to invest in solar panel, with as much as 85% of system costs covered. This is on top of a 30% federal tax credit! This means that you can pay as little as $8 per watt.
2 “They’re no good if you don’t have much sunlight!”
If you live in a particularly cloudy state, like Oregon or Maine, you may be tempted to believe that you just don’t have the right climate to invest in solar panels. That is surely for sunnier places, like Arizona or Florida, right? Well, that is not actually true.
While solar panels do work best when in direct sunlight, they continue to produce energy even when the sky is overcast. This is because they do not work off direct sunlight, per se, but rather the UV rays found within sunlight. They even work more efficiently during cold weather.
Still not convinced? Then reflect on the fact that Germany, one of the least sunny countries on record, is currently one of the leading producers of solar energy.
3 “Solar panels are fragile, and cannot survive heavy weather!”
The University of Vermont, a state that receives a fair amount of heavy snowfall each year, has a set of solar panels that are famously effective and very low cost in maintenance, even during the winter. This is because the panels are black in colour and south-facing, which helps snow melt more quickly.
4 “Solar panels are just plain ugly!”
Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder, so this is not so much a myth as a matter of taste. Some may dislike the way they disrupt the appearance of the roof, but others still find a futuristic beauty in the way the light gleams off neat, black rows of panels. Even in the latter case, solar panels have come a long way. It is now possible to purchase panels that blend more seamlessly with roofing materials, whether it is slate, metal or asphalt.
5 “They just aren’t as effective or efficient as other energy sources!”
Again, this is a myth that may have held weight a few years ago, but times move on. Since 1970, the efficiency of solar energy has more than quadrupled, and that technology is only improving with age. While it may still not beat more traditional fuel sources, solar energy right now sits at around 15%-17%, or about the same as the gas in your car. However, unlike gas or coal, solar power is a developing industry and will continue to grow as time goes on. Eventually, it will equal and then surpass gas and coal in both cost and efficiency.
So there’s never been a greater time than now to invest in solar energy!
The writer, Christian Mills, is a student of environmental sciences at Florida State University, and supplements his education expenses with freelance writing on the side. An Orlando native, he recommends those in the area seeking a solar installation visit bobheinmillersolar.com.