For several years now, solar energy has been advertised as an alternative source of power. Today, solar energy has started being viewed as a viable alternative that is cost effective when compared to electricity.
When solar energy first entered the scene in the 1980s, nobody made a case for it to be an economically viable option including America’s utility electric fleet. The argument in favour of solar energy has always been that it is good for the environment. Photovoltaic (PV) panels that use solar energy generate electricity without emitting carbon particles and without using fuel. Since 1998, the cost of solar panels has been steadily falling every year by 8%. It has now reached the stage that is known as ‘grid parity’ which means that the electricity that is produced by PV has become cost effective when compared to electricity produced using natural gas or coal, on a kilowatt basis. At this point of grid parity, those who want to advocate the use of solar energy can now make arguments for it from environmental as well as cost-effective points of view.
Recently, the EPA released a Clean Power Plan which is going to be the highlight of the environmental legacy left behind by Barack Obama’s administration. This plan is urging citizens to cut carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2030. While initially the main motivation behind this plan was the environmental benefit, it now also includes the affordability of renewable energy technology such as this.
While the electricity industry in the US has always followed a vertical model which means one company produces and delivers the product to customers, solar energy is changing this model. While not every citizen can have a coal plant in or near their house, it is relatively easy for each to produce their own power using photovoltaic energy. This entire decentralisation of the vertical model is known as democratization of power. Several homeowners have started realising just how much of an investment it is to produce their own electricity and how many thousands of dollars they can save.
It has also been seen that it is not only individual homeowners who are taking the advantage of saving money by having solar panels on their rooftops. Utility companies have also started seeing this advantage and have begun investing in large-scale solar systems. This has been observed from the number of solar power farms that have popped up throughout the United States especially in areas that are capable of producing large amounts of solar energy such as the Mojave Desert. The largest of these farms have a production capacity that is beyond 500 megawatts.
Americans today have become more aware of the necessity for a clean energy future and the economic benefits of generating electricity at home. Solar energy is slowly making a name and place itself as a part of the economic and environmental choice of the future.