More energy falls from the sun in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year.
The fundamentals of conservation and sustainability have become more than a modern trend of “going green” but are intrinsically tied to our quality of life. The philosophy of consumption and sustainability will be forever connected to global policies, domestic strategies and consumer markets. These concepts and practices are now mainstream and central to everyday household life. The demands for alternative energy systems, particularly geothermal and solar, have seen a tremendous impact as results to the volatility in electric and fossil fuel markets.
How Solar Works – Generating Power
Solar panels that capture and convert light into voltage or electric current are known as photovoltaics (PV); the process of converting light (photon) to electricity (voltage). As the sun shines, solar cells generate a direct electric current that travels from the panels, through wires, and into a piece of equipment called an inverter. The inverter converts the form of electricity generated from the panels, Direct Current (DC), to a form utilized by the home’s electric system, Alternating Current (AC). AC power travels from the inverter to the electric panel or breaker box where it is now ready to use in you home.
Solar Potential – How much power can your home produce?
To answer this question there are four primary points to consider:
- The amount of electric generation potential depends directly on the number of solar panels but also how efficiently those panels can generate power. There are three important factors when considering locations:
- Orientation – Locations facing east/west offer more potential
- Shading – regions that receive direct exposure are best
- Structure – open, flat roofs accommodate panel better than complex, angled rooflines.
FEDERAL AND STATE INCENTIVES FOR SOLAR POWER
Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit
A taxpayer may claim a credit of 30% of qualified expenditures for a system that serves a dwelling unit located in the United States and used as a residence by the taxpayer.
Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission – Solar Alternative Energy Credits
Varies based on market condition, as of April 2010 $400M/Wh ($.40/KWh)
Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar Rebate Program
$0.75/W for systems of 1-10 kilowatts (kW). Systems larger than 10 kW are eligible, but incentives are limited to first 10 kW.
Solar Thermal – Hot Water
Compared to all other alternative energy options, solar hot water is the most economical choice for your home’s renewable energy needs.
The principles are simple. The sun’s energy is being used to heat a solar (panel) collector full of liquid (water or other fluid depending on system design) which then transfers that energy into your home’s hot water system.
Solar hot water systems can also be used to heat your pool in a more economical and environmentally friendly manner and extend the swimming season. Although such systems do not qualify for Federal/Local incentives, the energy savings derived from such a system can offset your energy bills significantly, thus paying for itself in only a few years.