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The Solar Energy Industry is Getting Brighter

 
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Solar panels are a pretty common sight and while they are growing in popularity and many properties and homes have them, not everyone knows much about how they work and the benefits they can provide. People want sustainability and renewable energy is the future of energy. Due to significant developments being made solar photovoltaic, or solar PV, is growing in popularity and affordability. Incentives are available all over for homes and businesses to invest in this sustainable practice. Solar energy provides many benefits and considering implementing the use of solar panels is a step into the future of sustainability for properties.

How does solar PV work?

Solar energy works through solar panels, solar panels are many connected photovoltaic cells which are made of silicon or another semiconductive material in order to convert sunlight into energy. An electric field is created between the layers of silicon when phosphorus and boron are added respectively to the two layers one loses electrons and one gains electrons. Sunlight then allows electrons to be released and electrons are converted to direct current electricity, the main grid uses alternating current electricity so a solar inverter is used to convert the DC electricity to AC.[1] Most solar panel systems are grid connected and through net metering and therefore energy is always available and energy created when energy is not being used does not go to waste. The energy needed to power a home or a business is used when created but excess energy is sent to the main grid, when there is no light available for the solar PV system to create energy the home or business can be powered by energy sent back from the main grid. The home or business owner only pays the utility if a more energy is used from the grid then the amount sent by their solar PV system.

Many people feel that solar energy is not an option because of how expensive solar panels are and in the past they were a very expensive option however in the past ten years the price of solar panels has dropped over 50% and will only continue to get lower.[2] After the initial installation there are very few operations and maintenance costs associated with solar PV systems. Incentives and rebates exist for the use of solar energy in a home or a business. In the U.S. there is currently a 30% federal tax credit that drops yearly with no value cap for homes and businesses that use solar energy.[3] Many states and utilities also offer rebates or other incentives for adopting solar energy, in fact there is even a database to find incentives for renewable energy in the U.S. by state.

Developments in Solar PV

Several developments have been made and are continuing in the world of solar energy, not only do many developments make this option for renewable energy more affordable but they make it a more convenient, efficient, independent energy source.

Micro-inverters are now an alternative option to the traditional central inverter. While central inverters invert the DC electricity to AC electricity for the entire system of solar panels, micro-inverters invert the electricity of each individual panel; these inverters allow for the optimization of the energy available from each panel, more energy is utilized therefore they allow for a much more efficient system then central inverters.

Battery storage is another developing option that could allow for solar PV users to minimize dependence on the main grid. In the past lithium battery prices were very high, meaning that the only feasible way for obtaining energy at night or when it was cloudy was connection to the grid. With the growth of the electric vehicle market however demand for cheaper batteries has increased and batteries have been developed to be available at  lower prices. With the availability of less expensive batteries that have higher capacities and power providing abilities battery storage is now an option for more homeowners and commercial properties that use solar energy. Tesla and other electric vehicle manufacturers are getting involved in manufacturing stand alone batteries that can be used for energy storage in homes because of the increasing demand for these.[4] While there is still some time before grid independent renewable energy systems are commonplace battery storage could allow for that option in the future.

The solar industry is growing rapidly and it’s no mystery why that is the case. People want sustainability and many factors are leading the industry to be more accessible, affordable, and easier to participate in. While there was a time where the future of solar is uncertain due to the unknown effects of tariffs etc it is now fairly clear that solar is going to remain on the rise and that prices will continue to decrease. Solar energy is an option in all 50 states, California leads the industry and other states such as North Carolina, Florida, and New Jersey have relatively significant adoption of solar energy. Renewable energy makes up approximately 11% of the overall energy market, of this 9% is made up of solar[5], solar panel installation in the U.S had its best first quarter ever in 2019.[6]

With the sustainability provided by solar panels they are a great option for homeowners and businesses looking to start using renewable energy. Now is a great time to consider investing in solar panels, prices are lower than ever but the federal tax credit for them is going to be cut annually. The developments being made in battery storage and efficiency of the panels through micro-inverters are making solar and even better option than ever. Renewable energy is the future of energy use and with solar on the ride many homes and businesses could benefit from adopting this sustainable practice.


[1] “How Do Solar Panels Work?” LiveScience, Purch, 12 Dec. 2017, www.livescience.com/41995-how-do-solar-panels-work.html.

[2] Matasci, Sara. “How Solar Panel Cost & Efficiency Change Over Time: EnergySage.” Solar News, EnergySage, 18 July 2019, news.energysage.com/solar-panel-efficiency-cost-over-time/.

[3] Matasci, Sara. “Why the Solar Tax Credit Extension Is a Big Deal in 2019: EnergySage.” Solar News, EnergySage, 14 Feb. 2019, news.energysage.com/congress-extends-the-solar-tax-credit/.

[4] “How to Choose the Best Battery for a Solar Energy System.” EnergySage, 8 Mar. 2019, www.energysage.com/solar/solar-energy-storage/what-are-the-best-batteries-for-solar-panels/.

[5] “U.S. Renewable Energy Factsheet.” Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan, css.umich.edu/factsheets/us-renewable-energy-factsheet.

[6] “Solar Industry Research Data.” SEIA, www.seia.org/solar-industry-research-data.