Solar energy is widely accepted as an excellent source of energy, but it more than that. Solar energy offers a range of benefits—multidimensional, undeniable, and paradigm-shifting. Here are some of the biggest advantages of solar power, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
While many perceive the initial cost of solar equipment as its major drawback, it is actually fast becoming a more and more viable financial outlay. The growing global demand for solar power has spurred manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies, resulting in price declines comparable to consumer electronics like cell phones, laptop computers and high-definition televisions. Solar power’s accelerated price decline, particularly over the last five years, will soon make concerns about costs moot. In fact, experts predict the cost of solar power will drop below retail electricity rates in many parts of the country between 2013 and 2018.
Solar energy is considered sustainable because the sun is a natural energy source that does not require the burning of fossil fuels and the associated green house gases. The first and foremost advantage of solar energy is that energy produced from the sun is renewable—it will never run out.
Solar energy requires essentially no water to operate. One of the key benefits of solar is that it does not pollute water resources or strain supply by competing with agriculture, drinking water systems or other important water needs. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, can have a significant impact on water resources.
According to an article in Bloomberg Business, the U.S. government considers solar power, because of how widely distributed it is, as a huge potential national security asset. Solar power is less prone to large-scale failure because a disruption in one location will not cut off power to an entire region. Inherently resilient, solar provides the most secure electricity when combined with microgrids.
Jobs & Economy
Solar power truly shines in creating jobs and stimulating the economy. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists website, “in 2011, the solar industry employed approximately 100,000 people on a part-time or full-time basis, including jobs in solar installation, manufacturing, and sales; the hydroelectric power industry employed approximately 250,000 people in 2009; and in 2010 the geothermal industry employed 5,200 people.”
Different cycles of the day demand different amounts of energy. In order for the grid to not go down, demand and supply must match. To that end, a variety of energy sources are used to create electricity for the grid. Solar panels are a great resource to draw upon in order for utilities to avoid brownouts and blackouts. As demand peaks, utilities can use the panels to generate extra energy, helping to solve the peak demand problems that plague the country.
In 2012, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that together, renewable energy sources have the technical potential to supply 482,247 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually—118 times the amount of electricity the nation currently consumes. While still hypothetical, it just goes to show that a future U.S. electricity system largely powered by renewable sources is possible. The central conclusion NREL’s “Renewable Electricity Futures Study” is that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the United States.”