Published on October 29th, 2013 | by Glenn Meyers1
Guest Post: Solar Panels and You – Do They Really Make a Difference?
If you ever want to jump into an argument so heated it could turn into a bar fight, start talking about solar energy. If you want to skip the brawl however, just go to the Internet and be amazed at the diversity of opinion between seeming equally intelligent sources.
Is it only about money?
Not surprisingly, most of the arguments begin by talking about money. The opponents focus on immediate costs while proponents focus on the long-term savings and benefits.
Solar energy does have some significant up-front cost for the average homeowner. The cost of solar panels and other necessary equipment does pose some upfront cost issues. However, in contrast to the development of hydroelectric energy, coal, and nuclear power, each homeowner is essentially creating his or her own power infrastructure rather than relying on large-scale facilities that carry drastic environmental change (hydroelectric), risk (nuclear), and damage (fossil fuels).
Strange that so many conservatives who champion independence would be opposed to government support of solar power.
Opponents to solar power also claim that the savings over the long term never balance out; making solar power’s cost not only prohibitive up front but well into the future. But solar power opponents never tell the whole story.
The rest of the story
Solar power opponents smugly claim that without government subsidies, solar power would die a sudden death. Yet, fossil fuels after 100+ years still depend on government subsidies to stay competitive. If however, solar power were to receive commensurate subsidies as other energy sources, solar energy would be a financial no-brainer.
The costs associated with solar power, like any new technology, continue to plummet as new processes and materials are developed. MIT Technology Review recently reported on a silicone alternative. According to the article by Kevin Bullis, “perovskites have been known for over a century, but no one thought to try them in solar cells until relatively recently.” He claims that the material is more efficient than silicone and significantly less expensive to manufacture into solar panels.
Another method that helps homeowners avoid the upfront costs is to lease the equipment and then pay the owner of the equipment for the electricity generated. Electricity costs are usually 10% less for the homeowner and upfront costs can be as low as $200.00.
Why the debate?
Do we really need to ask this question? Unlike nuclear power plants, coal-fired plants, and power generated by large dams, the sun belongs to everyone. Besides air, it is the only necessity not taxed by government.
Who is really against solar power? The owners of our current infrastructure won’t go down without a fight. Not pointing fingers here, but the amount of scientifically and economically based misinformation against solar power is astounding to say the least.
Surprisingly, home-based solar panels offer the best option for solar power in the future, since the amount of real estate necessary for large commercial solar energy cuts into the feasibility of making solar power the dominant energy source for large-scale power companies.
One man’s story opposing solar panels
On August 14, USA Today reported on one man’s experiment with home-based solar power and concluded that solar panels were not cost-effective. Jeffrey Punton, however, admits that his experiment was biased from the beginning since he was trying to prove that solar panels were a big waste of money for consumers and the government.
Without going into all the details of his incredibly shallow data, no study would ever be considered valid with that much admitted prejudice at the onset, yet USA Today reported on it and then posted their conclusion in the headline. Strange.
One man’s story in support of Solar Panels
In contrast, Kevin C. Tofel described in detail his upfront costs and savings for his solar-panel array on his house. In all fairness, he may have been equally biased since he is an avid recycler, composter, and uses CFL or LED bulbs in his entire home. His energy consciousness was in place long before his transition to solar panels, which he saw as a logical progression toward living a greener life and leaving a smaller environmental footprint.
Kevin’s unobtrusive array in southeastern Pennsylvania produced, in a 12-month period, 13.8 megawatt hours of electricity while using only 7.59 megawatt hours. At the end of the year, the electric company wrote him a check for the difference. He admitted that his upfront costs weren’t insignificant but is happy with the decision since it conforms with his lifestyle. Additionally, costs on his system have and will continue to drop in the near future. His prediction for home-based solar power is, “Mostly Sunny.”
Author: This article was written by Kurt Dowdle at Hayden Homes, a northwest home builder.