More Solar Myths

Don Pettit

Peace Energy Co-op’s solar workshop in Hudson’s Hope this past Saturday was amazing: wonderful turn out (the place was packed!), huge interest in roof-top solar, and a very knowledgeable group of great folks. A special thanks to everyone who attended!

Buying your own solar power system is a big decision, and there is a lot to learn and understand before going ahead. So today I am updating and re-publishing a Watt’s Happening from a year ago that busts a few of the top solar myths.

DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know that enough solar energy strikes the Earth every hour to power our whole worldwide civilization for a year?

Did you know that the amount of solar power installed around the world has increased almost 50 times over the last decade? In fact, breaking all records, in 2015 some 500,000 solar panels were installed around the world EVERY DAY!

And did you know that the cost of solar power has dropped by 90 percent (probably more) since the late 70’s?

Yep, solar power has become the fastest growing and cheapest energy source the world has ever seen.

Why? Because it just makes sense now. And cents. We are simply harvesting a vast new natural resource called sunlight. It’s unlimited. It’s simple. It’s time.

But myths abound. Understandable, I suppose, considering how quickly solar technology has evolved over the last 30 years or so. Lets have a look at a few of these myths, and then put them aside for good.

MYTH #1: THERE’S NOT ENOUGH SOLAR

It’s hard for folks to let go of the idea that energy has to be stored in a solid or liquid fuel that must be burned to release its energy. We’ve been thinking that way ever since we started cooking our meat over an open fire.

Renewable energies like solar or wind don’t have to be mined, refined, pumped or burned, just harvested. “Renewable energy happens” as we say. And the good news is that renewables will keep happening forever. It is definitely “worth” building renewable energy infrastructure! Because forever is a very long time.

Each year, some 9 million kilowatt-hours of solar energy fall on each acre of generally sunny earth. That’s a lot.

The figure commonly used to estimate the solar energy potential of a given area is 1000 watts per square meter. Modern solar panels can convert about 20 percent of that directly into electricity.

That means that the sunlight falling on the roof of your home is enough to provide all or most of your family’s electrical needs.

There is lots of solar power and everybody has some, ripe for the harvesting. Forever.

MYTH #2: SOLAR ENERGY IS TOO EXPENSIVE

This one is really out of date, and harkens back to a pre-solar era a decade or so ago when solar WAS very expensive. Not any more.

The average cost of solar panels fell some 75 percent between 2009 and 2014.

In many parts of the world, solar is already competitive with most other forms of energy. Within ten years or so, it will be price competitive with ALL other forms of energy.

That’s because solar power has all the advantages of an ideal energy technology: very long-lived with very low maintenance, easy to mass-produce and install on any scale anywhere. It can be easily scaled up for huge solar farms, or scaled down to power your home or your iPhone.

We are quickly heading for a world powered in large part by sunlight, and it will be the cheapest (and least polluting!) power ever made.

MYTH #3: SOLAR PANELS ARE UNRELIABLE

I keep hearing this, and have no idea where it comes from. Exactly the opposite is true. Solar panels are utterly reliable!

Most panels will produce power for at least 30 years, probably much longer. I have one on my rooftop solar array at home near Dawson Creek, for instance, that has been helping to power my home for 35 years, and most of my array is at least 20 years old. All working just fine, thanks, and I haven’t touched them since I installed them. No moving parts. No problems.

Rest assured that solar power is practical, abundant and affordable. And it’s changing the world!