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Solar energy benefits homeowners, the job market, and the planet. | Photo courtesy of Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Lab
My townhome doesn't allow solar panels. To the homeowners association (HOA), they are ugly and disrupt the cohesive (cough, cookie-cutter) look of the neighborhood. To me this was a blow. Not only do I think solar panels look cool, I work at the National Renewable Energy Lab. I talk about energy-efficiency on Energy Saver social media, and I used to constantly nag my roommate to turn off her lights. (At one point I secretly switched all her light bulbs to LEDs without her noticing.) So needless to say, I wanted to install solar panels.
But while I don't have the option for solar panels (at least until the HOA wakes up and changes its policy), many of you out there do! This month we've talked all about how to use solar energy, but we haven't talked about why. Well, you're in luck. Today, you get to hear all about what solar can do for you.
Everyone wants to save money, right? A solar electric, or photovoltaic (PV) system may be the answer. The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 (PURPA) requires power providers to purchase excess power from grid-connected small renewable energy systems at a rate equal to what it costs the power provider to produce the power itself. This means that any excess energy your PV system produces can actually put money into your pocket. The greatest benefit for homeowners is through net metering. With this arrangement, a bi-directional meter is used to record the electricity your home pulls from the grid, as well as the excess energy your PV system produces. At the end of the month, if you are in the black energy-wise, the utility will pay you retail price for that extra electricity.
Protect the Planet
At least for the next 5 billion years or so while the sun still shines, solar energy is a renewable resource. This means that you can use as much of the sun's energy as you like and it won't deplete it as a resource. Processing solar energy does not release carbon emissions, unlike coal, which many utilities use to produce electricity. According to the EPA, the average American household produces 6.8 metric tons of greenhouse gas emission from electricity each year. By using solar energy to power your home, greenhouse gas emissions from electricity could decrease considerably.
Side note: If you can't produce solar energy at home, why not buy clean energy from your local utility?
Increase Property Value
Investing in solar energy will not only save you month-to-month on your electric bill, but it could also increase the property value of your home. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in California, PV systems added a $20,194 premium to the sales price of homes. Though solar can be expensive to install, the return on investment is approximately 97%, not including the savings associated with reduced energy bills.
The solar industry is growing rapidly. More homes are using solar energy and as such, new jobs are being created to meet this need. According to the non-profit Solar Foundation 2013 Solar Jobs Census, the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013. This is an almost 20% growth in employment since September 2012!
Even though you may be sad to see #EnergySaverSolar month go, you can still look back fondly and read up on solar energy basics, installing solar energy at home, financial incentives for solar energy, and passive solar homes. Also continue following the Energy Saver Facebook; you never know what amazing tips may pop up each week.
Solar energy is now more affordable and accessible than ever before, and using renewable energy makes a positive impact on the environment. It’s like they say: what does a solar spill look like? A beautiful day.