How Many Advantages of Solar Energy Apply to You?

The following is a partial list of the advantages of solar energy you might experience as a property owner. Keep in mind this analysis only considers the advantages generated from the production of electricity – there are even more advantages if you also consider incorporating solar thermal installations, passive solar, solar lighting, or from using a host of other solar products:

1. You Can Make Money

One of the best advantages of solar energy, and the one that is primarily responsible for the rapid growth of solar installations in Europe over the past several years is that you can make money from the sun.

As a result of Feed In Tariff policies in place in much of Europe, you can build sell the electricity, and that income can last for 20 years or more.

For each dollar you can reduce your electrical bill, your house can increase in value by up to $20.

Even if you don't build the solar yourself – in some markets solar companies might be willing to lease your roof or land to install their solar installation. In some cases a joint venture arrangement is also a possibility.

2. You Can Save Money

If you use the electricity yourself, instead of buying it from the grid, you can save money, which is just as good as making money. This advantage alone is propelling the rapid adoption of solar energy in the USA and many other markets around the world.

3. Solar Energy Is Abundant

The sun will be around a lot longer than oil, coal or gas will be.

Some of the materials used to make solar cells to convert the solar energy into electricity, such as the more exotic composite materials may run out over time, but the basic elements used to make solar cells (e.g., silicon and aluminum) are all abundant and recyclable.

4. As Long As There is Light – It Works

The amount of sunshine can vary depending on where you are or what the weather is like, but as long as there is light (even a small amount) PV cells can still produce electricity.

5. Sunshine Is Free

Solar energy is free. Sure, there is an initial capital cost to install a system that will convert the electromagnetic energy and photons sent out by the sun into electricity, but once you have made the investment and the sun keeps shining you will be producing electricity. No one will be sending you a bill for sunshine.

6. Environmentally Friendly

Solar energy powers the environment and life on the planet so there's no energy source more earth-friendly. Compared to the burning of fossil fuels, which release greenhouses gases, carcinogens and carbon dioxide, solar cells don't release anything harmful into the air as they convert the sun's energy into electricity. If you want clean air – one of the important advantages of solar energy is that it will help get us there.

7. Solar Energy Is Cost Effective

While a solar photovoltaic panel is still relatively expensive, it will pay for itself over time from the sale of electricity or from saving you money by reducing the amount of electricity you'll have to buy. The time it takes you to recover your net investment (investment less incentives) is known as the payback period. Generally, the payback period for solar installations is getting shorter and shorter.

Note: Solar hot water panels have been greatly improved in recent years and, with lower cost, payback times for domestic systems can no be as short as five years.

In some geographical areas producing electricity from the sun already costs less per kilowatt hour of electricity produced than producing it from fossil fuels.

As coal, gas, oil and nuclear energy fuel prices continue to rise solar energy will become even more cost effective. There is a start up cost, but then it starts paying for itself. Once you break even, everything after that is profit. Compare this to paying a monthly bill and getting no return on investment.

8. Solar Energy Is Clean

Solar energy is a clean alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power It’s silent. Solar power can be captured anywhere without creating noise pollution that might otherwise up set neighbors and wildlife. Thus, no danger of damaging our already damaged environment further and you can be part of the Green initiative, lower your carbon footprint, and save our planet from harmful greenhouse gases.

9. Greatly Reduced Contribution to Global Warming

One of the greatest advantages of solar energy, of course, is that there are no carbon dioxide, methane or other emissions that warm the atmosphere. However, manufacturing, transporting and installation of solar panels are necessarily accompanied by some of those emissions.

10. Falling Costs

The financial costs of producing solar cells and solar hot water panels are falling as technology develops and economies of scale in the manufacturing, distribution and installation of solar energy projects expands. Unfortunately, incentives to adopt solar energy are falling a bit faster – which provides an economic incentive to adopt sooner rather than later.

This is happening at a time when costs for nuclear plants, coal and gas plants and the fuels they require are increasing in cost.

11. Low running costs

After installation solar energy is free. You should probably insure your site, probably hire a cleaning service to make sure your panels are running at peak production plus have a maintenance contract to cover any breakdowns (e.g., corroded wires, replacing the inverters (since they generally won't last as long as the solar panels) but these costs are usually less than 5% of the annual income – much lower than fossil fuel, wind, geo-thermal, waste to fuel, or hydro-electric systems.

12. Fosters Independence

You're not required to connect to the power grid. You can be completely self-sufficient and live off-the-grid. If you enjoy hiking, backpacking, boating or like to use an RV there are even solar panels you can roll up and take with you.

Imagine never paying another monthly bill or hook-up charge.

Local application and independence from a centrally controlled power grid and energy transport infrastructure is insurance from upheaval through political and economic turmoil, and gives you flexibility where you locate your vacation home, or set up your remote office.

13. Reliability

Solar panels are extremely reliable. There are no moving parts so you don't have to worry about replacing anything. In fact, while most crystalline solar panels come with performance guarantees for 25 years – some of the early installations built in the 1970's are still producing electricity today – which means you can probably count on 1,000s of hours with little or no maintenance.

14. It Works Everywhere

One of the most basic advantages of solar energy is that It works wherever the sun shines. It doesn’t matter how remote, solar can generate energy where no other form of power can be obtained. That's why it's used on space vehicles, boats, and in areas where there is no access to other forms of electricity.

15. Solar Energy is Secure

We live in uncertain times and we are increasingly relying on our fossil fuel supplies coming from areas abroad over which we have little or no control. With some or all of your electricity coming from the sun – you don't have to worry so much about world events disrupting your availability of electricity.

16. A Variety Of Types, Sizes and Costs

There is a huge variety of solar panel systems and solar appliances available – from small solar calculators, solar lights, solar thermal systems, to giant multi-hectare commercial scale installation. Everybody can benefit from solar energy.

17. Benefits The Poor

Forms of highly localized solar energy reduce dependency on power monopolies and tend to benefit poor people. The associated advantages of solar energy, those of health and safety benefits, may reduce much suffering.

18. Local application

Solar energy is suitable for remote areas that are not connected to energy grids. In some countries solar panels for domestic use in remote areas are becoming sources for local employment in manufacture and installation.

Fossil-fuel poor countries can kick their dependency on this energy and spend their funds on other things through application of solar energy.

19. Health and safety benefits

In some poorer countries where people use kerosene and candles for domestic heating and lighting, respiratory diseases and impaired eyesight have resulted. Many people have been burned through accidents involving kerosene heating.

Fumes from kerosene lamps in poorly ventilated houses are a serious health problem in much of the world where electric light is unavailable. The World Bank estimates that 780 million women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale the equivalent of smoke from 2 packs of cigarettes a day.

One important advantage of solar energy from a global perspective, is that when it is combined with a battery storage system for night-time use, it helps overcomes these problems.

20. Improves Fire-Reduction

Kerosene lamps are a serious fire hazard in the developing world, killing and maiming tens of thousands of people each year. Kerosene, diesel fuel and gasoline stored for lamps and small generators are also a safety threat, whereas solar electric light is entirely safe.

21. Saves Time

Kerosene lamps and diesel generators must be filled several times per day. In rural areas, purchasing and transporting of kerosene or diesel fuel is often both difficult and expensive. Diesel generators require periodic maintenance and have a short lifespan. Car batteries, used to power TVs must often be transported miles for recharging. Solar panels, however, require no fuel, and will last for 20 years with minimal servicing.

22. Extends the Workday

Electric lighting allows families to extend their workday into the evening hours. Many villages where SELF has installed solar lights now boast home craft industries.

23. Reduces Urban Migration

Improving the quality of life through electrification at the rural household and village level helps stem migration to mega-cities. Also, studies have shown a direct correlation between the availability of electric light and lower birth rates.

24. Improves Literacy

Electric light improves literacy, because people can read after dark more easily than they can by candle or lamplight. Schoolwork improves and eyesight is safeguarded when children study by electric light. With the advent of television and radio, people previously cut off from electronic information, education, and entertainment can become part of the modern world without leaving home.

25. Conserves Foreign Exchange

As much as 90% of the export earnings of some developing countries are used to pay for imported oil, most of it for power generation. Capital saved by not building additional large power plants can be used for investment in health, education, economic development, and industry. Expanding solar rural electrification creates jobs and business opportunities based on an appropriate technology in a decentralized marketplace.

26. Conserves Energy

Using solar electricity in rural areas of the Third World reduces the need for costly infrastructure investments and conserves costly conventional power for urban areas, town market centers, and industrial and commercial uses, leaving decentralized PV-generated power to provide the lighting and basic electrical needs of the majority of the developing world's rural populations.

27. Quiet

Solar cells make no noise while collecting energy. There are no other renewable energy sources that are completely silent.

28. Constantly Improving

Solar technology is constantly improving. Patents issued for new solar technologies ranks second only to new patents issued for fuel cell research. For more information on this check out our section on Solar Energy.

29. It Makes You Feel Good

Using solar energy well, actually transforms us. Our creative efforts to use natural cycles and energy makes us more aware of our place in the world. Your increased awareness and mine leads us to be more responsible to one another and towards our environments.

In this way, using renewable energy involves you and me developing greater abilities to respond to each other kindly. This is perhaps among the greatest of advantages of solar energy.

30. It Can Save Lives

Half the world still cooks with firewood. Tending wooden fires are believed to contribute to the deaths of upwards of 2 million women and children per year. Cooking with solar energy is inexpensive, easy and safer and could save countless women and children.

Solar cooking can be done by everybody - not just people in developing countries. To learn more read our article entitled solar cooking.

31. It Can Save You in an Emergency

Whether you live in an area where electrical outages occur from time to time due to weather or other related issues … or whether or not you agree with the concerns expressed by NASA Scientists over a possible wide spread electrical outages that could occur from coronal mass ejections in or around 2012, then having some form of solar energy, whether it is on your roof or a portable solar generator might save you a lot of grief and difficulty.

Maybe if the Japanese had solar generators they could have restored electricity to their nuclear cooling systems and avoiding some of the well publicized problems.

In any case - hundreds of solar generators were sent to Japan to provide electricity for areas that were without grid electricity. Why wait for a disaster to strike you. Be prepared.

Still Not Convinced?

Here are three more advantages of solar energy:

32. Jobs

The solar industry in Germany alone has created several hundred thousand new jobs, and in these difficult economic times, it's one of the true growth industries – which also helps to explain why politicians are in favor of continuing / expanding incentives for solar energy buyers.

More than just producing jobs – the solar revolution is creating new career paths across a wide spectrum of possibilities (public policy, university research, education, business, banking, manufacturing, installation, mining, transportation, insurance, marketing, public relations, publishing, etc., etc.). It's a fast growing industry – with lots of opportunities.

33. Friends

Let's face it – most people who go solar are nice people. They care about the environment. They are usually well-educated, well-informed, but yet are careful

In short – they are people worth knowing and networking with.

34. Status

People buy cars for more than transportation. People buy houses for more than shelter, People buy clothes for more than to just provide warmth and covering. And people get involved in solar – for more than economic reasons.

Let's face it – having a solar installation on your house says something about you – just as much as the car you drive, the clothes you wear, or the neigborhood where you live. It makes you feel good. Admit it.

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