It must seem as though there’s a new solar photovoltaic (PV) installation going up on someone’s roof every week. You might also have seen plenty of special offers from local solar installers in your inbox and mailbox.
Is it all just hype? Can solar panels really deliver on their promise of lower electricity bills and a smaller carbon footprint?
This article helps separate fact from fiction.
Are Solar Panels Really Worth It?
PV panels generate electricity using a process known as the “photoelectric effect.” When sunshine hits the silicon material within a standard panel, it excites electrons — helping create an electric current that you can then use to power residential and commercial appliances.
Early solar panels weren’t terribly efficient. So, it only made sense to deploy them for space launches, where the panels could receive direct sunlight unfiltered by the Earth’s atmosphere. However, thanks to innovation and economies of scale, modern PV modules hover around 20% efficiency.
This might not seem like a lot, but solar is a modular technology that works even if you have just a few PV cells. In fact, many wristwatches and handheld calculators generate all their power from tiny solar cells.
If you want more power, you simply need to string more PV cells together into a panel. If you want more power still, those panels can be connected to solar arrays that you often see on rooftops and in backyards. This scalability even applies in colder climates such as Chicago, with area homeowners eager to install Illinois solar panels on their properties to save money and reduce their impact on the environment.
Is Solar Right for You?
Assuming your home has sufficient space to accommodate a PV installation, you should have plenty of solar electricity to cover your daytime needs. This means you shouldn’t have to buy as much grid electricity from your utility provider. Some homeowners produce so much daytime solar electricity that they’re able to sell this power back to their utility provider in exchange for credits (under state-wide net energy metering programs) or cash (under regional feed-in tariff incentives).
It’s worth noting that the photoelectric effect happens at the molecular level. At the macro level, there are virtually no moving parts in a standard PV installation. This explains why modern solar panels can confidently ship with 20 to 25 years of warranty protection. As a result, you benefit from decades of lower utility bills and a smaller carbon footprint.
Consider Your Options
Going solar is a personal choice. You should never move forward unless you feel 100% comfortable with your decision. However, there is a reason your neighbors continue investing in the technology … And if that’s not enough motivation, it’s worth considering that organizations with some of the deepest pockets in the world — from Amazon to Google to Walmart — are also heavily investing in clean, solar power.
Whether to save money or benefit the planet, PV technology clearly works. If you’d like to start claiming these benefits, it may be worth taking a closer look at the next solar offer that comes your way.