It recently struck me as odd as to why we don't have solar panels on all of our cars and homes. Is anyone else stunned by this? Afterall, solar-powered calculators were invented years ago, specifically 1978. This prompted me to do some research on the history of solar panels.
In fact, the first solar powered water heater was invented and patented in 1891 by Clarence Kemp. Throughout the early 20th Century more research was done by scientist, including Albert Einstein. In the 1940s, passive solar buildings actually became popular in the United States. The book, Your Solar House, was even published and featured 49 of the nation's finest solar architects. But it was in 1954 when the photovoltaic technology was invented by Bell Labs. This PV technology was the first solar cell capable of running everyday electrical equipment, including the calculator!
Today's solar panels use this same PV technology that has been around for centuries. The solar panels silently convert light into electricity. There are no moving parts. They require little maintenance and are designed to last for many years. Solar panels can supply a substantial proportion of the electricity needs of a typical household.
How do Solar Panels Work?
They are often mounted on the roof or on the ground and connected to the local electric utility, either supplying all the power directly to the home or pumping the excess back to the utility. Apart from reducing your utility electricity bill homeowners can often sell any surplus electricity directly back to the utility at an attractive rate.
Solar panels are also used for commercial applications ranging from large-scale power plants to small family-run businesses. The applications are almost endless, but each has the same idea in mind: harnessing the power of the sun to make clean, affordable electricity.
Are Solar Panels Available Near You?
I then did a search on the availability of solar panels. There are many companies that manufacture solar panels. Finding someone to install them however may be more challenging. I did a local search to see if I could find someone in my area. (Nashville isn't exactly the green capital, although it is doing much better.) By googling "Solar Panel Installation Nashville" I found at least one reputable company that could install solar panels on my house.
So, again, why don't we all have solar panels on our roofs?
Cost. Based on the website estimate calculator of the TN contractor, it would cost approximately $85,000 to install enough solar panels to cover all my electricity needs (based on a 2000sf house). That's a far cry from the free solar-powered calculator. There is however an attractive 30% federal tax credit for the total solar cost. So, that would really be $59,500. Taking my electricity bill of approximately $200/month into account, it would pay for itself in 25 years. However, if it were financed over 30 years along with the house, then it wouldn't seem as daunting.
Hope for the Future!
Many new homes, particularly in areas such as New Orleans that are rebuilding with green design in mind, are in fact building the homes with solar panels. As demand grows, so will competition. And with increased competition, the prices will inevitably go down. Already demand has increased over the last few years as more people are either seeking to be off the grid or wanting to be less reliant on utility companies. In fact, even Home Depot now sells and installs solar panels! Go to Home Depot for more information.
Ultimately we are all tuning into the fact that there is an unlimited energy source beaming down at us on a daily basis. Why not harness that energy AND without harm to the environment?