Thursday, February 17, 2011

Home Solar Beginners Will Benefit From The Gains of the Last 4 Decades

Four decades have passed since the government was jolted by an event that set them into  serious thinking about renewable power particularly solar energy. 

 What really fast -tracked the solar power movement? Looking back, we knew that the Arab oil embargo of 1973 nearly brought economic dislocation and financial havoc to the country. All of a sudden we realized how vulnerable we were to foreign fossil fuel supply.

Before 1973, the private sector was already into basic solar energy research. Photovoltaic in the country was born with the production by Bell Laboratory of the first silica cell capable of generating measurable electric current. This was followed by technological advances so that the cost of solar electricity started to go down.

 From $ 300/watt at the earliest stage, the price was brought down to $ 100 and later to $ 20 with the less expensive solar cell design of Dr. Elliot Berman. The search for low-priced solar panels continues to this day

The challenge to have alternative sources of power became real and the government led the movement to go solar. They invested heavily on solar electric cell produced by Bell Laboratory. 

The Department of Energy launched the Solar Energy Institute, a federal facility dedicated to harnessing power from the sun. It focused on accelerating the advancement of the technology  to make solar electricity cost competitive with conventional forms of electricity. The private sector was with the movement all the way. This was 4 decades ago.

What have we to show as a result of the step-up effort initiated in the 70’s? Were there significant gains by the government and the solar industry? Did the gains answer some searching questions of solar beginners?

 Advances made by the government and the solar industry:
    1.    More than 10,000 homes are now electrically independent producing their own electricity.
            2.    More than 200,000 homes use some type of photovoltaic solar technology.
            3. There are aggressive solar energy programs to promote solar power adoption:
     a.    Solar America City to encourage adoption at local level.
     b.    Solar Decathlon to bring to the attention of people the biggest challenge of an ever increasing need for energy.
     c.    Grand Solar Plan, a bold program to wean the country from dangerous, polluting, unstable and expensive fossil fuel by 2050. 
4.  A growing awareness of the people where 77% of Americans feel the federal       government should make solar power development a national priority including financial support       
5. Solar demand has grown at about 30% per year over the past 15 years attesting to its increasing acceptability.
 6.    US attained 8% share of the total world photovoltaic market in 2009.

 Specific gains which benefited home solar energy users:
1.          1. Solar energy prices have declined on average 4% over the past 15 years. Now the cost of solar electricity ranges from $ 5 to $10/watt without incentives.
2.           2. Government solar incentives consisting of federal tax credit and state rebate are available and can lower installation cost by up to 50%.
3.            3. Utility companies also extend solar incentives in the form of net metering and green pricing. 
         4.   DIY Solar Energy Kits and Ready to Install Home Solar Energy Systems are now available.
5.            5. Financing assistance from the government and private sector is now in place.

Whether the gains are substantial or not are often the subject of disagreements and discussions. Despite this minor conflict, we know that we are in the right direction to move on to more research and technology information dissemination. 

Homeowners are finding out that the roof is not only to protect them from rain but a preferred location for a mini electric plant to supply household electricity.

Author’s Box
Did you find the article useful? There are more in our Informative Solar Article page. Jacinto Demonteverde, Jr., the owner, is a strong advocate of solar power adoption. URL: He writes practical articles to keep established and prospective solar users well informed. You are welcome to republish or reprint this article free of charge provided the content remains unchanged including the Author’s


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