- Issue: Winter 2014
Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar, but it won’t stay that way for long. Demand for solar is skyrocketing; in fact, the majority of electricity installed during the first quarter of 2014 was solar. And it’s estimated that by 2016 a solar panel will be installed every 90 seconds. Isn’t it time to sign on?
Solar energy is more affordable and accessible than ever. There’s been an 80% drop in price since 2008 and it won’t stop there. According to a phenomenon known as Swanson’s Law, the price of solar will continue to drop 20% with each doubling of cumulative shipped volume, and it’s likely to drop by half every 18 months. Add in free installation, secure leasing contracts and no upfront costs, and the average homeowner may be able to save $600 a year on their electricity bill by leasing solar panels—up to $1,217 a year if they buy.
Solar panels typically generate more energy than needed when the sun is shining. Legislation in 43 US states and Washington, D.C. allows homeowners and businesses to sell their unused surplus back to utility companies. This concept of “net metering” not only reduces monthly utility bills, but allows homeowners to reroute excess energy back to the grid where it can be used or stored for times of need. Net metering benefits vary between states, but will help California’s public agencies and schools save $2.5 billion over the next 30 years.
Walking on Sunshine
Solar panels don’t require as much direct sun exposure as most Americans assume. Every hour, enough sunshine strikes Earth’s surface to satisfy global energy consumption needs for an entire year. The craziest part about that fact? Only 1,000 square miles of Earth’s surface would need to be covered with panels to capture it all.
Installing solar panels is among the best ways Americans can protect the environment. The EPA estimates that if 1 million US homes went solar, it would be the same as taking 850,000 cars off the road. But unlike people, most species can’t plan for climate change—and they’re already feeling dramatic impacts. If we don’t act now, iconic species like snow leopards, sea turtles and orangutans will continue to experience increasing climate-driven stresses like changing habitats, rising water scarcity and even a lack of food and other valuable nutrients.
Powering a Clean Economy
Solar is the fastest-growing job market in the entire US; it is growing at nearly six times the rate as the rest of the US economy. From construction workers to electricians, solar is putting Americans to work. In fact, the industry now employs nearly 143,000 workers in the United States, a growth of more than 50% since 2010.