The Problem With Fossil Fuels
Most people out there are very aware of the price of gasoline, and therefore oil. You don’t need to be a commodities trader to know the price of oil, as it affects gas prices, which in turn can affect the price of just about everything from shipping to food costs. Fossil fuels power the world’s economy. There are several problems with fossil fuels. Environmentalists point to the increased production of carbon dioxide when burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are also a limited resource that will one day run out. We import a lot of oil from the middle east, which is in constant turmoil. Small conflicts interrupt the shipment of oil from the Persian Gulf, causing shortages (and price increases). Natural disasters have damaged refineries in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.
Because of these problems with fossil fuels, there has been a lot of activity in the alternative energy sector in the last 50 years. Hydroelectric and nuclear power are predominant power sources that are alternative to fossil fuels. Solar power, wind power, and biofuels are up and coming alternative energy sources that could potentially supply the world’s economy in the future with renewable energy.
Solar power is a unique energy source because it features an unlimited source – the sun. As long as the sun keeps burning, there will be a free opportunity to harvest its energy that is only limited by technology and the amount of solar panels you can set up. It could virtually power every building on the planet. If that is the case, why doesn’t every home have a solar power system?
I just got my monthly electric and gas bills in the mail. September and October are usually pretty mild months of the year in my home state, so the amount due didn’t cause me to dry heave. But in a few months, I will be paying close to $250 a month to heat my house. During the hot summer months, I easily top that on my electricity bill. Would it be worth it to install a solar energy system to supplement my power supply during those months? Let’s first go over the advantages of solar power and look at the argument for installing a system onto your home.
Advantages Of Solar Energy
What are some advantages of solar energy? I have done a little research and have come up with the following:
- lower utility costs over time
- environmentally friendly
- creating energy locally, rather than shipping that energy from long distances
- self reliance if emergency power outages occur
- tax credits
Lower Utility Costs
Installing a solar energy system in your house will over time lower your utility costs. By combining this with windmills, your goals could be reached a lot faster. Many power companies will even pay you for your excess power production that is put back into the grid system. Dropping your bills by a significant percentage could increase your cash flow, making your monthly budgeting less tight.
Solar power doesn’t produce any emissions. It is a truly emission free energy source. So if you are inclined to think about the environment, this is another advantage of installing a solar system onto your home.
Creating Local Energy
Costs of shipping energy from power plants hundreds of miles away is mainly why energy costs are so high. This point ties in with the first; solar energy would lower the cost of energy.
Self Reliance During Outages
What would happen if the power grid went down because of a natural or man-made disaster? In a disaster scenario, power will most likely be non-existent. Many of us would be OK as long as the power returned after a day or two, but what if the outage lasted longer? While I am prepared to survive without electricity (based on my preparations), it would sure be nice to have some electricity in a survival situation. A previously installed solar energy system would afford you that luxury.
There are still federal and state solar tax credits available, ranging from 10% up to 50%, depending on the system and how much you pay (some have a yearly cap). These credits are being phased out, so check with the IRS or with your state tax agency.
Now that we have gone over the advantages to having your own power plant on your roof (in the form of solar panels and a battery array), is it ultimately worth it to install?
The Down Side Of Solar Power
The cost of this technology is still quite prohibitive, especially during these tough economic times. These energy systems are very, very expensive. I estimate that installation on my house would cost well over $20,000 to achieve a positive electricity gain. If I installed the system myself, I could save some money, but I would want to get a more energy efficient electric water heater and furnace, which adds to the cost. To make that money back, I would be looking at somewhere between 8 and 9 years (if my utility costs are $200/month). Is that a good investment? It depends.
I am not sure I will stay in my home that long. If I was, then I think I would make the plunge. The problem is that solar power systems, especially the do-it-yourself variety, don’t add significantly to the value of your home. Not right now anyway, and that might change in the future as technology improves and home solar systems become more widespread. If I were to move 4 or 5 years down the road, I would basically be losing half of what I spend on the system.
If you are thinking about installing a system on your home, think about how long you will be staying in your home before you make your decision. The longer, the better.
The Bottom Line
Do the advantages of wind and solar energy outweigh the cons? For me, they do – except for the cost. That is why I have started small. Portable solar power systems can be had for $200, and can produce enough power to charge cell phones, laptop batteries, and trickle charge a car battery. Eventually, I would like to have solar panels on my roof paying for my utility bills. The nice thing is that as technology improves, the cost of solar panels and the needed accessories are dropping. As they continue to drop, installing a solar power system on your home will make more and more sense.
Hopefully this article will help you get started with your solar power plans. Good luck! Click the image below to get an idea of what solar panels cost right now.
Do you have a home solar power system? How much did it cost you? By how much is it reducing your utility bills? Any tips? Please feel free to comment below. Thanks!