What is a Solar Panel and Why Should I Care?

You’ve probably heard a lot about solar lately and you may be wondering – is solar all hype or is this something that I should seriously consider? The short answer is the solar is the real deal and something all home and business owners should really look into.

Solar panels are devices that essentially capture radiant light from the sun and convert it into an electrical current that can then be used to power lights, appliances, and electrical devices in homes and businesses. While solar technology has been around for a very long time – decades in fact – recent advances in solar panels have made them more efficient and cost-effective than ever. This means that not only are solar panels highly effective at converting sunlight into electricity, but the cost to produce electricity from solar panels is becoming cost competitive with traditional sources of energy, like coal; in some places, it’s already on par.

So, the next question becomes, why should care? If solar is only on par with other forms of energy, why make the switch?

The most obvious and cited reason for going solar is that it’s good for the environment. Traditional sources of fuel for electricity, like coal, can have huge impacts on the environment and public health. Most notably, coal burning power plants are the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (that causes climate change) and other airborne pollutants that contribute to asthma and other respiratory illnesses. These impacts come at a cost to Americans who end up paying for damage from extreme weather events and large medical bills from induced health effects. Producing electricity from solar is one easy way to go green and stop contributing to the problem and start being a part of the climate change and air pollution solution.

But if going green isn’t your thing, solar actually makes economic sense these days. In other words, solar can actually be a net gain for consumers. In the past, even just a few years ago, many home and business owners were deterred from investing in solar, because of the high upfront costs. It’s true that solar arrays can cost a pretty penny, ranging from a few thousand dollars to into the tens of thousands for many home and business owners – the cost ultimately depends on the size of the solar system you need. However, the costs have come down for solar arrays in the last few years and they continue to do as the market takes off.

Meanwhile, many states and utilities actually offer various incentives to bring down upfront costs, like rebates for purchasing solar panels or financing to help cover the costs over time. In some places, financing options are incredibly attractive whereby customers can payback a loan at zero interest through monthly installments that are equal to or less than the savings they see on their energy bill from the solar power production.

But beyond all of these rebates and incentives, there is another economic lure to sweeten the deal. The payback on solar panels is good and getting better. This means that solar panel purchases can start to see a return on their investment from the savings they see on their energy bill, in just a few years for some. This is particularly true in areas where states have enacted net metering policies, in which utility companies actually pay customers for the excess electricity they produce that goes back on the grid. In essence, consumers can sell the power their solar panels produce to their utility company.

All in all, investing in solar panels just makes sense. And it is no longer a far off technology of the future. Home and business owners are investing in solar today and reaping the economic benefits while feeling good about their positive contribution to the environment.

26th Sep 2014 Mr Solar

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