What Is The Future Of Solar Power?

Solar power is an exceptional source of electrical energy generation in a time of soaring need and ecological level of sensitivity.

Thanks to government aids and advances in innovation, the number and size of solar farms continues to skyrocket. We have utilized the power of the sun for several years to warm our homes, provide light and most recently generate power. Still, solar energy is but a little fraction of the United States energy mix.

Eco-friendly fuels account for about 7% of energy products; of this, just 1% (or 0.07% of overall energy supply) is solar. However, solar is getting a boost, thanks to tax credits, new innovations and a desire to decrease our dependence on imported and domestic nonrenewable fuel sources.

Still Solar Power is Expensive

Consider the newest solar plant to come on board in Arcadia, FL, a small neighborhood north of Fort Myers on Florida’s southwest coast. The solar farm, boasting 90,000 photovoltaic panels, sits on 180 acres of land in DeSoto County. The farm is rated at supplying power (about 25 megawatts/ MW) to about 3,000 homes and services.

With a rate tag of $152 million, this equates into a cost of around $50,000 per home/business. Nevertheless, once built, aside from maintenance and upgrades, the facility will keep producing about 25MW each year.

Therefore, in 2 years, the expense per home/business is down to $25,000. In 10 years it is down to $5,000 per home/business, which could easily go beyond total energy use per customer for the ten-year period. And the farm keeps producing thereafter.

Although preliminary start-up costs are high, the benefits are huge.

First, engineers, architects, construction crews and others need to plan and construct the center. Once constructed, at least a small group of people should operate it. So, it does help to produce jobs.

Any energy it produces helps to offset the use of fossil fuels, an advantage for the environment, our abroad balance of payments and possibly even generating some political capital. When compared to wind power, however, solar is costly and produces far less return on financial investment.

However, as solar sites grow in size (and each year begets larger farms), the cost per kilowatt produced will undoubtedly reduce. Solar energy can be harnessed across nearly the whole U.S., big parts of southern and main Europe, Australia as well as southern Canada.

As of this writing, the two biggest operating solar farms overseas are in bright Spain – Jumilla (20 MW with 120,000 photovoltaic panels) and Beneizama (20 MW with polycrystalline solar modules). Other big websites in operation consist of two in Germany (10 and 12 MW) and one in Portugal (11 MW). And a California business is preparing to install a massive solar setup near Sarnia, Ontario (across the river from Port Huron, Michigan) that assures to be the largest photovoltaic solar installation in North America.

However, on the drawing board and/or under building are even larger ventures – a 1 GW farm in China, a comparable one for Australia and a 550MW farm in San Luis Obispo, CA. The push for solar (as well as wind) is being owned by nationwide and/or state requirements that a specific percentage of the energy used comes directly from sustainable sources by around 2020.

While it is the larger solar tasks that make the news (often each newspaper article declaring the “largest solar farm integrated in a certain area), many house owners are installing solar warm water heaters, solar attic fans, and solar swimming pool heaters. Some cities are even installing solar parking meters, while the San Diego Zoo sports a solar-powered garbage compactor.

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