Consider: Calculating Energy Output, Photovoltaic Panel Options, and Solar Panel Mounting.
As energy costs increase, say that 5 percent of homeowners in America would willingly pay more for a home with solar panels for reasons of cost savings and environmental stewardship. There are about 100 million homes in America. Five percent of that is five million homes. But right now there are only 50,000 solar homes in America. That means there is a very small ‘club’ of American solar homeowners. 1 percent of American homes would yield 1 Million solar residences, 1/10 of 1% would yield 100,000 homes. So, with less than 1/10 of 1 % we have a long way to go. By comparison In 2002 alone, Japan installed 25,000 solar rooftops, and their population is less than half of ours. By the simple laws of supply and demand, if we increase the demand…the price will come down. So, now that the new TAX Credits are in place, get out there and get a quote on a solar panel system for your home. From ancient Greek homes built to face the warm winter sun to advanced thin-film photovoltaics, which generate electricity from the sun, humans have used the sun’s rays to meet their energy needs. This makes sense, given that the sun showers the earth every hour with enough energy to meet world demand for a year. And the best part: this energy is pollution-free, inexhaustible and accessible to many.
A Brief History of Solar Energy
Ancient Greeks and Romans saw great benefit in what we now refer to as passive solar design—the use of architecture to make use of the sun’s capacity to light and heat indoor spaces. The Greek philosopher Socrates wrote, “In houses that look toward the south, the sun penetrates the portico in winter.” Romans advanced the art by covering south facing building openings with glass or mica to hold in the heat of the winter sun. Through calculated use of the sun’s energy, Greeks and Romans offset the need to burn wood that was often in short supply.
Auguste Mouchout, inventor of the first active solar motor, questioned the widespread belief that the fossil fuels powering the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century would never run out. “Eventually industry will no longer find in Europe the resources to satisfy its prodigious expansion. Coal will undoubtedly be used up. What will industry do then?” Mouchout asked prophetically. In 1861, Mouchout developed a steam engine powered entirely by the sun. But its high costs coupled with the falling price of English coal doomed his invention to become a footnote in energy history.
Nevertheless, solar energy continued to intrigue and attract European scientists through the 19th century. Scientists developed large cone-shaped collectors that could boil ammonia to perform work like locomotion and refrigeration. France and England briefly hoped that solar energy could power their growing operations in the sunny colonies of Africa and East Asia.
In the United States, Swedish-born John Ericsson led efforts to harness solar power. He designed the “parabolic trough collector,” a technology which functions more than a hundred years later on the same basic design. Ericsson is best known for having conceived the USS Monitor, the armored ship integral to the U.S. Civil War. Solar power could boast few major gains through the first half of the 20th century, though interest in a solar-powered civilization never completely disappeared. In fact, Albert Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics for his research on the photoelectric effect—a phenomenon central to the generation of electricity through solar cells.
Some 50 years prior, William Grylls Adams had discovered that when light was shined upon selenium, the material shed electrons, thereby creating electricity. In 1953, Bell Laboratories (now AT&T labs) scientists Gerald Pearson, Daryl Chapin and Calvin Fuller developed the first silicon solar cell capable of generating a measurable electric current. The New York Times reported the discovery as “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of harnessing the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.” In 1956, solar photovoltaic (PV) cells were far from economically practical. Electricity from solar cells ran about $300 per watt. (For comparison, current market rates for a watt of solar PV hover around $5.) The “Space Race” of the 1950s and 60s gave modest opportunity for progress in solar, as satellites and crafts used solar paneling for electricity.
It was not until October 17, 1973 that solar leapt to prominence in energy research. The Arab Oil Embargo demonstrated the degree to which the Western economy depended upon a cheap and reliable flow of oil. As oil prices nearly doubled over night, leaders became desperate to find a means of reducing this dependence. In addition to increasing automobile fuel economy standards and diversifying energy sources, the U.S. government invested heavily in the solar electric cell that Bell Laboratories had produced with such promise in 1953. The hope in the 1970s was that through massive investment in subsidies and research, solar photovoltaic costs could drop precipitously and eventually become competitive with fossil fuels.
By the 1990s, the reality was that costs of solar energy had dropped as predicted, but costs of fossil fuels had also dropped—solar was competing with a falling baseline.
The 21st Century - Huge PV market growth in Japan and Germany from the 1990s to the present has reenergized the solar industry. In 2002 Japan installed 25,000 solar rooftops. Such large PV orders are creating economies of scale, thus steadily lowering costs. The PV market is currently growing at a blistering 30 percent per year, with the promise of continually decreasing costs. Meanwhile, solar thermal water heating is an increasingly cost-effective means of lowering gas and electricity demand.
As you’ve seen, technologies have changed and improved for decades. Still, the basics of solar thermal and photovoltaics have remained the same.
The right home improvement products, techniques, and services:
Contractors, home improvement stores, and specialty shops in your area may not yet have a complete familiarity with the ‘green’ opportunities, products, system integration, and overall savings potential. So, you may get some resistance, since people in general are typically more comfortable recommending something that they are already familiar with rather than something new. To help break the inertia, use the information across this website like our Return on Investment Master ROI Table. Also feel free to post a question in our forum on the message board about a particular need for your home relative to your area. Our team has spent multiple years aggregating research from public and private sector performance reports and from manufacturers and homeowners across the country in order to provide you with the perspective you may need to see the initial payback and long term advantages. Environmental enthusiasts and leading institutions like the American Institute of Architects and the National Association of Realtors, see the value and link into our resources to support their members.
The Green Home:
For your overall home improvement, you can save money, improve your family’s health, and save the planet. Find out for free how much it will cost to do different types of home improvement in your home from a qualified and member approved contractor in your area. Get a FREE Quote . Plus, regardless of the size and scope of your home improvement project, save money and keep your home clean with the top rated chemical free and concentrated Green Home Cleaning Products.
Home Improvement Basics:
When it comes to home improvement basics, look for interior home improvements like creating a clean, safe, and healthy home through sustainable ‘green’ furniture, home décor, zero VOC and Interior Paint, plus ENERGY STAR Appliances and Electronics. For energy and utility savings you can focus on insulation and air sealing, windows, doors, lighting and skylights, water saving plumbing opportunities, and high efficiency heating and air conditioning systems. On the outside of your house, look for exterior home improvement opportunities through landscape design and gardening plus solar energy, wind and other power sources. If you are undertaking a major home renovation, an additions, or building a new home, then take the lead to ‘go green’ in as many ways as possible to save money and the environment.