Time to (re)look at Solar Power

After decades of research and development by scientists and innovators all over the world, photo voltaic panels, or solar panels, are finally coming into their own. This renewable – or green – energy system that uses the sun as its source rather than fossil fuels, has long been too expensive or not effective for places other than those that seem to be sunny all year long.
A 2015 report from MIT tracked the science, economics and infrastructure improvements in the US for solar panels. It states that from 2008-2015 prices for PVs fell from $4/ watt to $.50/ watt – a whopping 84% drop. Not only the panels, but the power inverters used to connect the panels to the grid also fell in price. Solar panel systems dropped between 50 – 70% in the same time frame.
In addition, according to the same report, solar panel installers are popping up all over the United States, both in the commercial and residential sectors, but especially the later.

Another indication that solar panel systems have arrived is the latest announcement from Google. Just days ago the tech giant announced their new solar map, Project Sunroof. By combining Google Maps, Google Earth, 3D modeling and machine learning, Google has created an easy-to-use online source for anyone who’s even curious about whether or not putting solar panels on their roof is viable. Through their analysis, Google has concluded that 79% of all roof tops in the US are technically viable for solar panels. Sunny states like Arizona and New Mexico are 90% viable, but other states that we assume will not support solar – like Pennsylvania and Minnesota – actually show a 60% viability for solar panels.

Solar roof

(Image credit: google.com/get/projectsunroof)

But what about the solar panels themselves? Many of us have an image of large, unsightly black panels stuck to roofs or super reflective panels that make up a large solar array in the desert. Solar panels systems are being redesigned as new technological breakthroughs happen. Tesla in partnership with Solar City, for example, has designed solar roof tiles that mimic the look of traditional roofing materials like clay tile, slate and shingles. Instead of large, black panels, these smaller glass tiles look good from the street but provide energy to the home.  Though they are marketed as affordable, actual sales of this product are projected to start in April of this year, so the cost is yet to be confirmed.

styles-terra_cotta (Image credit: tesla.com)

These are just three examples of the big advancements solar power has made. This is good news as our planet continues to show signs of stress due to climate change. Take the time to look at these resources and products and decide for yourself how viable solar power can be.

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