​Solar Energy


​Consumer interest in solar energy is heating up. Across the country, there is growing interest in using rooftop solar panels and other small-scale, on-site power sources known as distributed generation (D​​G).
 
Solar energy technologies produce electricity from the energy of the sun. Small solar energy systems can provide electricity for homes, businesses, and remote power needs. Larger solar energy systems provide more electricity for contribution to the electric power system.

Pros

  • Clean energy. No combustion. No greenhouse gas emission from use.
  • Inexhaustible and abundant “fuel” supply
  • Available nearly everywhere
  • Well suited for distribution generation​
  • Technology exists today and is rapidly improving
  • Generates electricity directly from sunlight
  • No moving parts required
  • Power generation is silent. No noise or pollution.
  • Little or no transmission required
  • Matches up well with air-conditioning need
  • Require minimal maintenance
  • Grants and incentives are sometimes available
  • Excess heat can be used for co-generation

Cons

  • Intermittent source. Not available at night or under clouds.
  • Relatively high cost, especially with storage
  • Requires inverter to produce AC current
  • Requires storage or grid connection for continuous round-the-clock use
  • Less available for heating demand (time of day and season)
  • Exotic materials required in many thin-film systems
  • Requires a relatively large amount of open space
  • Relatively low efficiency (around 17-40 percent)
  • Relatively low energy intensity ( ~8-12 m2/ kW)
  • Fragile materials
  • Possible aesthetic issues
  • Technology risk: a much better system might come out next year


​Considering powering your home with solar energy? Get the facts by reading Solar Power for Your Home: A Consumer’s Guide​.