60 Facts About Solar Energy for Your Home
What Solar Energy is Used For?
1. Solar energy is power from the sun that can be harnessed and converted into thermal (heat) energy or electrical energy.
2. When solar energy is captured through photovoltaic (PV) panels and converted into electricity, it can be used to power homes and businesses.
3. Solar-powered hot water systems use solar thermal technology to heat water. Over a third of the hot water used in the average home can be made with solar power.
4. Solar energy can also be used for solar chimneys, which are passive cooling, heating, and ventilation systems. They are typically inexpensive and highly efficient.
5. Solar lighting has become a common landscaping feature for many homes. The small lanterns are staked into the ground lining driveways or walkways, and they collect solar energy during the day to light themselves during the night.
6. Solar energy has been used for portable devices such as radios, phone-chargers, and calculators. Calculators operating on solar energy have been popular since the 1970s.
7. Solar camping gear such as cookers, flashlights, and lanterns have been growing in popularity among outdoorsmen.
8. Solar backpacks can charge mobile devices while hiking. Many solar packs are available for less than 100$.
9. Fairy lights or holiday lights can also be solar-powered and can eliminate the tripping hazard of extension cords.
10. Solar-powered bike locks will self-charge while the bike is left out. Some may need as little as an hour of sunbathing to be operable for an entire week and can even connect to your smartphone.
11. Solar-powered fountains and birdbaths can be another great way to eliminate extension cord tripping hazards while still enjoying your lawn decorations.
12. Solar energy has contributed to the process of removing salt from seawater, and has even been used to create saline water.
What’s Good About Solar Energy?
13. Going solar will free you from a lifetime of dependency on an electric utility company because once your system is paid off, it can provide you free electricity. Instead of paying for the utility company to power your home or heat your pool, you can allow the sunlight to provide that power and save yourself substantial amounts of money.
14. Utility companies may experience many power losses during long-distance transmissions of electrical power. Domestic solar panel systems with smart inverters and battery backups systems are localized and can reduce or eliminate the risk of energy loss during utility power outages.
15. Solar panels are versatile. They can be installed on the ground or any type of building, home, or even a patio or pool house.
16. Solar energy is a clean, renewable source of energy. There’s no pollution from using a solar energy system, and thus there are no adverse health effects due to any kind of pollution.
17. Solar energy is the most abundant energy source. The power needs of the entire human race could be met with the solar energy that hits the Earth in just one hour. The sun may be 90 million miles from the Earth, but the photons emitted from the sun’s surface has an ETA of less than ten minutes. It’s generally estimated that light from the sun takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach our planet.
18. Solar panels are virtually maintenance-free. Many come with a warranty for 25 years, but the panels have been known to last 30 to 40 years without any upkeep, aside from washing them clean of dirt and dust with a garden hose a few times a year.
19. Solar panels are completely free of noise pollution. The systems have no moving parts, and thus there is no constant mechanic sound disrupting your day.
20. Solar energy combats deforestation as forests are frequently destroyed in search of fossil fuels.
21. Solar energy can prevent the loss of billions of dollars worldwide. The effects of pollution from fossil fuels often compromise agricultural pursuits and result in major production losses.
22. Batteries can be used in off-grid solar panel systems to ensure that excess power is stored throughout the day so that there is plenty of power available at night and on cloudy days.
23. Solar power comes at a lower cost than utility company electricity. On average, residential electric utility rates come at around 12 cents per kilowatt-hour in the United States (over 28 cents/kWh in San Diego County). If the average household uses about 911 kWh per month, the bill that month would be $114 before any taxes or extra fees. On the contrary, the average solar module can produce electricity as low as 6 cents per kWh. That’s a 50% savings, which makes for a quick return on investment.
24. Direct sunlight will produce the most energy for your system, but it’s not a must. Solar panels do not require direct sunlight to generate energy, though they do operate best in direct sunlight.
25. Clouds still release a fair amount of sunlight so that an overcast day won’t mean a drastic loss in energy for your system. Shade from trees, chimneys, or higher panels (depending on the sun’s angle) that block the sun’s light, however, can result in efficiency losses for your system.
26. Many countries have powered their space missions using solar power.
27. You don’t have to purchase your solar panels outright. You have the option to lease solar panels or finance them. See our Complete Guide to a Solar lease, PPA, and Purchase.
28. In many states, solar panels are exempt from property taxes despite the value they drive up on a residence.
29. The government offers credits and rebate programs to help offset the cost of installing solar panels. After the installation of your system, you can apply for the federal solar tax credit and deduct as much as 26% of your installation cost in 2020.
30. It takes 8 years on average to pay off a solar panel installation, but in sunnier climates and areas with more incentive programs from the government, it can take as little as 2.
31. Solar energy has created jobs. Over 240,000 Americans are employed with the solar power industry.
32. In the event of natural disasters, solar energy sources are the power sources authorities can repair and deploy the quickest.
33. You can always take your solar panels with you when you move (if you own them), but if you leave them on your home when you sell it, a solar system can drive up the value of your home.
34. Solar energy systems can monetize themselves in the form of “Solar Renewable Energy Certificates,” or SERCs. Many states require that a certain amount of energy from utility companies comes from renewable resources. To meet these quotas, utility companies will buy SERCs from homeowners and claim they are responsible for the energy produced. Every SERC is worth 1000 kWhs.
35. The SERC market fluctuates and varies by region, but in some states, a SERC could be worth 200-300$.
36. Solar power can help make use of land that is underutilized. Land that is far off from cities and towns and has not found much use could be put to use with solar farms, multiple panels used to generate power in large amounts.
37. Solar energy has been used to support developing countries with things like solar vaccine refrigerators and solar laptops that promote education.
Other Interesting Facts About Solar Energy
38. There are 57 million square miles of land on Earth, and we would only need 191,000 of them to power the entire planet with renewable solar energy.
39. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic cells that cause a reaction between photons and electrons. Photons, the light rays, crash into the electrons and send them flying loose. The runaway electrons are collected and then channeled into electricity.
40. Photovoltaic cells are most commonly made from different kinds of silicon, but the U.S. Department of Energy has funded research in developing cells made from bio-based materials instead of the pricey silicon materials, which could bring the price of solar installation down even further.
41. Research for the battery stores in solar systems has also been well funded by the U.S. Department of Energy in hopes of improving the capacity of the batteries so that more energy could be stored in surplus.
42. Solar power harnesses the sun’s energy by having solar cells that capture solar radiation within certain wavelengths and convert them into electricity. The first to discover the potential for generating energy in this way was Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in 1839. His great discovery was “the photovoltaic effect,” or which is how a conductor hit by the sun’s rays can create an electrical current.
43. Fossil fuels are a limited resource, and nothing brings the fragility of it to light as well as the oil crisis of 1970. Fossil fuels are estimated to be completely depleted by 2060. Forty years isn’t that far off, and the prices of solar power installation could very well rise on the day our fossil fuels burn out.
44. The right kind of solar inverter—the part of your system that will convert direct current (D.C.) into alternating current (A.C.)—can benefit your system by minimizing the loss from shaded panels. Power optimizers are the best kind of solar inverters for offsetting the loss of a shaded panel, but there are two other types of inverters as well: string inverters and micro-inverters.
45. String inverter systems are the most basic. With this system, all the panels are connected to the same inverter, and thus the entire system is only as strong as the weakest panel. If one of your panels in a string inverter system is shaded, the entire system will only function as well as that one shaded panel.
46. Micro-inverters have an inverter installed for each individual panel. This means that even if one panel is shaded, the others will still operate at their best.
47. Power optimizer systems can be a bit more expensive, but they can result in bigger savings with higher energy output. On this system, power optimizers at each panel condition the D.C. electricity and send it to a single string inverter. This optimizes the power of each panel and offsets the loss of a shaded one.
48. There are two different kinds of solar panels. Photovoltaic capture sunlight, while solar thermal technology captures the sun’s heat instead.
49. California is the top state in solar panel installation, and nearly 15% of all the electrical energy generated in California comes from solar energy. See this solar state-by-state guide for your state’s solar statistics.
50. For optimal sunlight in the United States, it’s generally recommended that your panels face south. Some scientists, however, are arguing that it is better for the panels to face west so that there is more exposure in the afternoon, the peak time for electrical needs.
51. Leonardo da Vinci was the first to predict that sunlight could be harnessed as an energy source in the 15th century.
52. The first-ever solar cell was developed by American inventor Charles Fritts (1850-1903) in the year 1883. It was made of selenium, and it operated at around 1% solar efficiency.
53. The first silicon solar cell was developed in 1954 by Bell Laboratories, and it has widely been considered the predecessor of all modern solar devices.
54. America is currently the third-ranking solar market in the entire world, and we quite possibly could climb to the second. The demand for solar energy in the United States is higher than it’s ever been, and it is constantly growing.
55. The Mojave Desert in California houses the world’s largest operating solar thermal energy plant: Ivanpah Solar Power Facility. The plant has been live since 2014 and has a maximum capacity of 392 megawatts.
56. Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard demonstrated the potential of solar-powered aircrafts by flying a solar-powered plane around the world with no additional fuel or power source. He started early in the year of 2016 from Abu Dhabi in a plane named Solar Impulse II and made his safe return in July.
57. Many large utility companies have community solar options in which members of the community can source their energy through large solar farms instead of installing a domestic system.
58. Universities and research groups have been developing “solar paint” or photovoltaic paint, which contains the same semiconductor crystals that are already used in solar panels. The efficiency currently runs at less than 10%, but in the future solar paint may become an option for homeowners.
59. China boasts the largest solar farm in the world, the Tengger Desert Solar Park covering 1,200 square kilometers with a capacity of 1500 MW.
60. Solar power is among the most reliable forms of energy. One day, the sun will run out of hydrogen to use for nuclear fusion and will switch to helium. This will make no difference to solar panels, and solar energy will continue to be an efficient and abundant energy source.
Check out our free solar calculator to see how many solar panels your home needs and what the estimated costs and payments would be.