In 2019, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems accounted for 1.7% of all generated electricity in the US. That represents 69 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy from solar PV alone. Although small, that still shows a slight increase from the previous year’s share of only 1.5%.
Experts project this upward trend to continue as more new installations get completed. In 2020 alone, the US saw an additional 19 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity. In total, the US now has 89.9 GW of solar capacity.
All these figures prove that more and more folks are going green with solar.
What exactly makes solar power a green source of energy, though? How does it benefit not only consumers but the environment, too? What do you even need to consider if you decide to install solar panels?
This guide will answer all those questions, so be sure to read on!
Solar Energy Has Among the Lowest Carbon Footprints
A “carbon dioxide equivalent” is a metric used to measure greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also referred to as “CO2 equivalent” and usually shortened to “CO2-eq.”
In electricity-generated CO2 emissions, the formula used is gCO2e/kWh. It stands for “grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour” of electricity.
According to scientists, solar energy has among the lowest emissions per kWh. They found solar to have a carbon footprint of only 4gCO2e/kWh. By contrast, coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) has a footprint of 109gCO2e/kWh.
That makes solar energy’s carbon footprint more than 18 times lower than coal CCS. So, aside from being one of the best renewable energy sources, it’s also one of the cleanest.
Going Solar Reduces Your Fossil Fuel Reliance
Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources, as they take millions of years to form. These fuels include coal, gas, and oil, all of which are primary energy sources in the US.
Being non-renewable, fossil fuels are nearing depletion; for oil, it can be as early as 2052. Experts also say that gas will run out by 2060, while coal will be gone by 2090.
One thing that can happen if all the fossil fuels get burned is that almost all the ice in Antarctica may melt. Scientists say that if this happens, sea levels can rise by 200 feet. They further note that this is enough to submerge most of the world’s major cities.
That should be enough reason to switch to solar, one of the most renewable energy sources. So long as the sun exists, people can harness solar power and convert it into usable energy.
Solar Lets You Live a Sustainable Life
Living sustainably means reducing one’s carbon footprint and environmental impact. For reference, the average carbon footprint of each person in the US is 16 tons. Compared to the worldwide average, that’s four times as much.
High electricity usage is one of the top reasons for this massive carbon footprint. The same goes for motor vehicle reliance.
In fact, three-quarters of carbon emissions in the US come from the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel-based power plants and transportation account for the bulk of these emissions. The latter includes facilities that supply homes with electricity.
Burning fossil fuels emit massive amounts of carbon, as they have a high carbon content. Moreover, the combustion process creates new chemicals, such as nitrous oxides (NOX). NOX is also a noxious gas as it can cause eye and respiratory problems and even teeth corrosion.
Since solar energy is renewable and cleaner than fossil fuels, it has less impact on nature. That should be enough incentive to go solar so that you can live a more sustainable life.
Solar Power Technology Has Become More Cost-Effective
Within the last 40 years, solar module prices have shrunk by at least 99%. Improved hardware manufacturing and technology gave rise to this cost reduction. This means you don’t have to worry about the lower price being due to subpar materials.
Still, you want to make sure that your panels come with at least a 20-year warranty when you do go solar. Some solar providers even back their products and services with a 25-year warranty.
The 26% Federal Solar Tax Credit Is Still Available
Here’s another incentive to go solar: the extension of the 26% Investment Tax Credit. Before the legislation, the ITC was to drop by 22% this 2021. It was also set to expire by 2022 for residential installations.
However, the new rule extended the 26% ITC for home and commercial projects until 2022.
The ITC allows you to claim a dollar-for-dollar deduction on your federal income taxes. This means you can deduct $1 from your owed taxes for every $1 tax credit you receive.
Let’s say you spent $17,500 on your solar panels, and that full amount is eligible for the ITC. In this case, the total tax credits you can receive is $4,550 ($17,500 x 26%). You can then deduct $4,550 from your federal income taxes.
If you owe less than $4,550, you can rollover your credits to the following year.
The Best Installation Location for Solar Panels
Solar panels can still generate power even if it’s cloudy, as they can collect indirect light. They’re also great at harnessing the sun’s power from reflected light. For maximum efficiency and output, though, your panels need to collect direct light.
This is why the roof is usually the preferred installation location for solar PV panels.
However, for this to be true, your roof needs to be at the right angle, or it should face south. There should be little to no sky obstruction, such as a chimney. If your roof meets these conditions, it can be an excellent location for your solar PV panels.
Your Roof’s Condition
Each 60-cell solar module can weigh an average of 40 pounds. So, if you plan to install 25 panels on the roof, that would mean placing an extra 1,000 pounds on your roof. That doesn’t even include the weight of mounting hardware.
For this reason, you first need to confirm how stable and secure your roof is. It should be in a good, sturdy enough condition to bear all that extra weight.
Fortunately, the best solar providers account for roof conditions during site surveys. Their engineers can determine if your roof can handle a solar installation. If not, they’ll suggest roof repairs or ground-mounted solar panels.
Ground-Mounted Panels Are Great Too
One of the advantages of ground-mounted solar panels is that they’re easier to set up at an ideal angle. Angling enables their positioning to achieve maximum renewable energy production. Plus, they’re easier to maintain and clean since you can access them anytime.
Another great reason to go with ground-mounted PV panels is to avoid early roof wear and damage. That’s because most roof solar panel installations rely on a “racking” system. These racks secure the panels in place while the racks themselves anchor to the roof.
So, for the racks to stay immobile, you need to have them nailed to the roof. This is why drilling holes on the roof is often crucial to install roof-mounted solar panels. However, incorrect placement and sealing can lead to roof leaks and water damage to your home.
With that said, consider ground installation if you rather not risk your roof. You can expect this to cost you more than a roof-mounted system, though.
You Can Store Surplus Solar Power
During perfect days, your solar PV system can generate more power than your home needs. You can keep the excess in solar batteries, which can then serve as a backup during less sunny days. You can also use the battery to run a solar generator if you experience a power outage.
It’s a Breeze to Maintain Solar Panels
Breeze and wind can, in fact, help clean and clear dust and debris from your solar panels. What’s more, most modern solar panels have passive self-cleaning features. For instance, the module’s tilted position allows rain to slide down easily.
Many PV panels also have hydrophobic surface coatings that make them repel water. When rain falls on the panels, the water droplets collect and carry pollutants with them.
Do note that pollutants like dust, sand, ash, and soil can lead to a 6.5% to 40% decrease in panel energy production, though. The thicker the “soiling” is, the less energy your panels can absorb and generate. So, if you live in such environments, be sure to spray your panels with water at least once every month or two.
Going Green With Solar Can Help You Save More Green
Solar energy is here to stay, unlike deleterious and depletable fossil fuels. It has an amazingly low carbon footprint, too, so it’s definitely cleaner than coal, gas, or oil.
Besides, going green with solar can help you cut or even eliminate your energy bills. In this way, you can also save another type of “green”: those Benjamins you pay for your electricity bills.
Looking for more home or business improvement guides like this? Then be sure to check out our other educational blog posts and news articles!