solar panels

Solar is soaring

Clean, renewable solar power is booming. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2014:

  • Solar energy generated enough electricity to effectively power 3.5 million American homes.
  • Nearly 600,000 U.S. homes and businesses have gone solar.
  • Solar energy made up 36% of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S.
  • The U.S. solar industry now reduces annual carbon emissions by nearly 20 million metric tons. That’s the equivalent of taking 4.3 million cars off the road, or not burning more than 20 billion pounds of coal.
solar panel
Image courtesy of Tony Buser.

In addition, the prices of solar panels continue to drop dramatically, while their efficiency – the rate at which sunlight converts to electricity – continues to improve.

2015 will be another record breaking year, with global demand for solar growing up to 25%, according to IHS Research.

For nerds like me, that’s exciting. But for many people, the subject of solar power is still clouded by lack of information, outdated ideas, or confusion.

One homeowner’s solar story…

So if you’ve wondered what installing solar power at your home might be like, here’s the experience of a homeowner who recently did it. Holly Copeland works for the Nature Conservancy in Wyoming. After much thought, her family installed solar panels on the roof of their house.

Copeland explains, “When completed, our investment will result in nearly free electricity and the satisfaction of knowing that our electricity comes from clean sources.” According to Copeland’s calculations,” it [will] take 5 years to pay off the loan and 13 years to break even. After that, all electricity we generated would be “free.”

pv panels
Image courtesy of Edmund Tse.

But there’s more than dollars and cents involved here. Installing solar power came with surprising side benefits like:

  •  Family bonding. Installing solar panels turned into a real family project, with her kids asking questions and getting excited about understanding where energy comes from and why solar is a better choice.
  • Greater energy awareness. When you see solar panels on your house every day, the whole idea of energy consumption becomes much more concrete. An electric meter tucked discreetly around the side of your house can’t compare. As Holly says, “We are closer to it—so we think about it.”
  • Paying attention because it’s fun.  Because the family can go online 24/7 and see how the panels are doing in real time, the topic of energy consumption becomes “fascinating and fun.” Receiving a bill in the mail once a month doesn’t quite compare.
  • Increased motivation to achieve net zero. Copeland says, “Ultimately, we would like to get our home to net zero—meaning that we generate as much electricity as we use–by switching to LED bulbs and cutting other unnecessary uses.” So the experience of installing the solar panels has prompted this family to move even further down the  path to full energy independence.

Solar power with a side of fun

Solar power is here, now. It’s available from companies like SolarCity and Vivint Solar. (Not an endorsement of either.)

Early adopters like Ms. Copeland reveal not only how doable and cost-effective solar power is, but also some of the “pros” you’d never think of if you look only at a financial calculation.

So if you’d like more fun, motivation, and family bonding in your life – think about solar power. You may be surprised at what happens!

Feature image courtesy of Mike Linksvayer

By Alison Lueders

Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal of Great Green Content - a green business certified by both Green America and the Green Business Bureau. She offers copywriting and content marketing services to businesses that are “going green.” Convinced that business can play a powerful and positive role in building a greener, more sustainable economy, she launched Great Green Content in 2011.