Is Solar Financially Smart? What You Need To Know About Your Rising Energy Bill And How Solar Mitigates Your Costs

With energy costs on the rise and the fear of global warming, it’s no surprise that people are beginning to turn more towards renewable energy solutions. 

We’ve all heard about the power of the sun and the benefits of solar on the roof of our homes. However, it also seems like no one has explained why solar could be the future proof solution to our energy.

This is what you need to know about solar costs and your energy bill.

Why Energy Rates Matter When Considering Solar 

Before going solar, you’ll want to consider the costs associated with solar energy against how much you pay for energy from your utility company. Project Sunroof’s solar calculator can help you get started. 

Solar makes absolute financial sense if energy costs continue to increase.

As anyone who pays an energy bill knows, your rates fluctuate from year to year and even from month to month.

So, is it actually worth it to go renewable if energy rates are fluctuating so rampantly and the financial benefits of solar rely on that price point? 

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), residential electricity costs have steadily increased in the last decade. These rates have increased in the U.S. by about 15% in the last ten years. 

And that’s on average. In some states, like Oregon, electricity rates climbed by 40% over the last decade. 

The following graph from the EIA demonstrates this incline since 2009. Yes, there are ups and downs, but energy rates show an overall upward trend.

average retail electricity prices

Though the trend doesn’t immediately look “bank-breaking,” these numbers add up over time. By the time a decade passes, you pay a lot more than you would have if prices stayed the same.

How Electricity Costs Fluctuate By Location Over Time

How big these fluctuations can be depend entirely on your location. 

The graph below demonstrates different parts of the U.S. and how electricity costs vary by region.

regional retail price of electricity over time

In some areas, such as the East North Central region of the U.S., electricity costs increased at a steady rate. However, other regions, such as the West South Central region of the U.S., stayed quite high, decreased slowly, and then stayed about the same for the rest of the decade. 

residential state electricity prices change

As shown in the graph above, there are some states that have had more dramatic cost increases than others. But this data demonstrates a mostly-upward-trend, and, more often than not, a large increase in costs.

We can gather that while the financial solar benefits will be more dramatic in some states, solar energy will likely insulate you from the fluctuations and the increasingly expensive growth of energy costs.

The Bottom Line Of Energy Costs

PC: Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy

So, we know that energy costs get more expensive over time – but how do we know that electricity will continue this trend?

There are various reasons why it’s highly unlikely for electricity rates to fall rather than rise.

The EIA (Energy Information Administration) predicts, based on their years of data and research, that electricity costs are only going to continue to increase both in the short and long-term.

Climate change and extreme temperatures will also drive up the demand for energy. People who don’t make the switch to renewable energy options may be stuck paying exorbitant amounts for fossil fuels. 

As for natural gas – though natural gas prices have been falling the last few  years, many experts believe that it’s only a matter of time before the prices trend upwards. Why? Mainly because as export terminals (basically terminals to export and import liquified natural gas) are completed and exposed to international markets, companies can charge more. Right now Japan and Europe pay quite a bit more for natural gas than the U.S. does. We can expect the same pattern to follow in the U.S.

The takeaway is that solar can be very beneficial to a large majority of the U.S., and you can count on that for longevity – based on patterns of increasing energy costs. 

Find Out If You Qualify For Solar Funding!


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They will need to verify your information over the phone before they will know if you are a good candidate for solar.

Frequently Asked Questions about Solar:

Q: What is the ITC?

A: The Federal Government in the year 2019 will pay for 30% of your solar cost. That's like the Federal Government paying 30% of your electric bill for the next 30 years.

Q: Is there a solar program that is 100% free?

A: No. There are programs without any enrollment, install, or maintenance costs. However, you still have to pay the lower power bill that comes accompanied with your electricity use.

Q: What energy efficient program offers the most savings?

A: Solar offers massive savings to the homeowner. Especially as electric rates tend to rise year after year, and homeowners are using more power as they are adding in home automation, tvs, speakers, etc.

Scale of Solar Prices Over Time

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Solar Costs Decline And Electricity Rates Rise; But Is Solar Still A Good Financial Investment?

If solar energy is becoming more affordable, and energy rates are becoming increasingly less affordable, going solar makes total sense financially. 

A report from the investment firm, Lazard, quotes that the levelized cost per unit of electricity from new onshore photovoltaic power plants dropped 90%. Which means that the cost of generating electricity from renewable energy (especially wind and solar) is declining and becoming just as feasible on a utility scale as conventional energy generation.

Some studies suggest even though renewable energy is becoming more affordable, recent mandates that require the use of renewables actually drives up the cost of electricity

While this may just seem like an expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this process may be just the right way the energy industry can transform from using fossil-fuels to renewables. 

Keep in mind: these costs are on a bigger scale than residential use. It’s important to know for future use as the energy economy changes. But your personal energy bill will go down (even zero out) with your own residential solar system.

Renewable Energy Is Influencing Energy Cost On A Large Scale

PC: Vishnu Varma

Renewable energy brings down the wholesale price of electricity for generators. So why do they contribute to rising energy costs?

  • Economists of Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago wrote a paper questioning cost-effectiveness of renewable mandates. The paper questions effects of RPS programs, how they’ve raised retail energy prices, and how they aren’t doing enough to lower greenhouse gasses.
  • Wholesale prices for energy are paid to generators; retail prices are paid by customers. So the benefits aren’t evenly spread.
  • Generation of renewables account for about 44% of their total cost. Other parts of the cost are transmission, distribution, maintenance, depreciation, and taxes.
  • Renewable energy systems cost also depends on the cost of electricity that it is replacing. This is also affected by the location of the energy system. These flexible power plants are usually expensive to operate which can raise total system costs.
  • Renewables on a large scale take up a lot of land in order to effectively utilize their resources. This means they’re further away from population hubs and require much more transmission to meet the populations demand. This also drives up system costs.
  • If a state allows wholesale or retail competition it could drive up costs of energy.
  • Some observed RPS effects on retail may be because of older and more expensive technologies when programs first started. Updating them could even things out more. 
  • The National Renewable Energy Lab released a report that says a large grid system with 30% variable renewable energy (VRE) operates will without much disruption. Beyond that, it gets more problematic. The Lawrence Berkely National Lab (LBNL) also reported an annual wholesale energy price decline on average as VRE increased. But this also increased the price volatility. 
  • Improvements around capacity, cost of grid-scale, as well as economic and institutional fixes (like regional transmission organization) could bring generation costs down though may have higher transmission costs. 
  • The more we move into renewables, the more likely the whole business model for energy and it’s cost will need to change. The emphasis would be on customer pays for quality rather than quantity in order to keep renewable energy enticing and affordable. 

Renewable Energy Prices Have Dropped, And That’s A Good Thing

PC: Ciel & Terre

Research and funding have improved the development, product design, and energy distribution of the different renewable energy options. We now have products with increased capacity and utilization possibilities. 

Efficiency in the manufacturing process has lowered the cost of producing solar panels, which in turn makes them more affordable. As solar grows, the installation has expanded beyond single rooftops to solar farms that are hundreds of acres each. 

Once upon a time, renewable energy used to be too expensive and required subsidies and mandates to even maintain them or encourage the adoption of them.

However, at this point, renewable energy, like solar, has been made more available and affordable through tax credits, feed-in tariffs, and RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standards). This makes renewables very competitive against traditional sources of power.

So even though renewable energy isn’t necessarily bringing energy costs down everywhere it’s implemented, these are necessary growing pains as the energy economy transitions to renewable energy.

Overall, the changes are good and residential solar (solar panels on your home) will bring your energy bill down and even zero it out since you have your own system.

Key Points

  • Residential energy costs are proven to trend upwards, getting more expensive over time. The average increase in the last ten years was about 15% but has trended as high as 40% in some states.
  • Based on the data, the upward trend of energy costs is not likely to change as natural gas prices are marked to rise and climate change creates more drastic temperature/energy needs. Energy experts, like the EIA, have projected a continued cost increase based on years of data and research. 
  • Depending on the state/area of the U.S. you live in, your solar savings could be dramatic, moderate, or minimal. This factor is influenced by your grid utility costs. Some states will see huge savings and others will have smaller savings simply because they have lower pre-existing energy costs. 
  • A solar energy system can protect you from energy cost fluctuations and the increasing cost of electricity from fossil fuels. 
  • Purchasing a solar energy system with cash or a solar loan is the best way to reduce your energy bills immediately. In fact, most homeowners never have to pay an energy bill again. Considering the payoff time being between 5-12 years, and a solar panel system’s lifetime of 25-30 years, you can expect to be saving a lot of money over the life of your panels.
  • Solar lease and PPA financing options will still almost certainly save you money over the long-term despite fluctuating energy costs and can save you money in the short-term depending on the energy costs in your area. 
  • Before you go solar, make sure you know everything you need to know. Budget out your energy costs over the lifetime of your solar panels. Because solar is renewable, clean energy, even if you end up saving less than you thought simply making a change to renewable energy helps reduce climate change, pollution-based diseases, and deaths caused by fossil fuel emissions. 
  • Gather several solar quotes before going with a company; choose the financing option that’s going to save you the most in the long run. 

The Solar Takeaway: How This Information Helps You

We have seen how non-renewable energy costs have increased and why they will continue to increase. These costs will bounce around and fluctuate every year. 

Solar gives you control over your energy as it reduces your power bills. The electricity generated by your solar energy system is yours. You may not be able to control how much it’s saving you month-to-month. But based on the data, it’s almost certain you’re going to be saving money – especially over the long-term.

There are a couple of financing options for going solar. And each option will influence your energy cost and savings once you’ve gone solar. 

  • Purchase Financing Option: Purchasing your solar energy system outright with a loan or cash is the number one way to save the most money with solar. It’s basically going to eliminate your energy bill as soon as it’s set up.
    You’ll pay off your solar system in about 5-12 years on average. So you can consider your old energy bill going into paying for your solar energy for the first while. Once it’s paid off, you’re getting your “free” solar energy for the rest of its life (about 25-30 years).
    Fluctuations in energy costs in your area won’t really affect you or your payoff time frame. 
  • Power Purchase Agreement Option (PPA): The PPA or a solar lease will most likely have you saving immediately.
    These programs usually come with a contracted flat rate that you pay to use that solar system for the agreed upon time (about 20 years). A flat rate would be ideal for consistency and to keep you under your utility energy costs.
    Some contracts are set with an adjustment pay rate so that it may increase by a small percentage every year.
    Because of this, you may have small periods of time that you’re actually paying more for solar than you would for fossil fuel energy. The reason for this would be if the energy costs in your area went through a “drop” period in its timeline.
    So considering this, you may want to only go solar if the quoted price from the solar company is quite a bit lower than your current energy rate.
    However, even if you do have small periods that you’re paying more for solar, you may still expect to save plenty of money since costs trend upwards.
    This option may work best in areas with high energy costs. 

To illustrate this cost/benefit relationship with a solar lease and solar PPA, the example graph below shows how your solar rates could be lower than your current energy rates over 20 years. 

This graph illustrates the total amount you would pay for electricity over 20 years under the different examples in the preceding graph.

Graph credit: energysage

Middle-Class Families Are Set To Receive Solar Panels With No Upfront Costs In The U.S.


The US is the best country in the world if you want to go solar – but only if you’re rich enough. Due to the steep upfront costs of around $32,000 in cash, only those upper-income families can afford to install solar arrays. Green Energy Tribune is, however, looking to change that. This new project hopes to help middle class communities see the sun in a different light.

Using money raised by U.S. government incentives and private investors to help fight global warming, the Green Energy Tribune goal is to get solar panels on the roofs of those who cannot afford them right out. According to recent news, the plan is to use the rebates set aside for solar and the money raised by companies who want to lower the per ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

The upfront cost for the installation to the families: nothing. The homeowner gets solar panels on their roof and a new reduced electric bill from the power produced by the solar panels. Green Energy Tribune predicts that it could save individual families up to $2,400 a year, which they hope could then be spent on other essential bills.

Green Energy Tribune is excited to be promoting one of the first dedicated solar repayment systems for middle class families allowing them to get a low solar bill and an even lower electric bill. The goal is to install solar arrays to over 32,000 homes by the end of next year. One of the benefits to this reduced electric bill program is the homeowner isn’t responsible for the maintenance as there is now a 25 year warranty on the panels. 

The United States government has talked about how they can contribute through raising money to be able to provide more rebates. In the attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and move toward installing solar arrays. In total, the solar program has totted up to an impressive movement.

By ploughing at least 30% of the money from government incentives and using private investors to back the upfront costs of the solar installation, the project aims to kill two birds with one stone – saving Middle-Class families money, while also making big fossil fuel polluting companies help to cut energy emissions in the country even further.

Anyone who is currently living in a neighborhood in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Utah and is classed as middle-class is qualified to apply to get the arrays installed. More states are being added monthly so apply to see if your state has joined the program. The sun sets on the initiative as the year ends in 2019, so if you’re living in one of these states, you might want to jump on board soon.

Green Energy Tribune invites everyone to find out if they qualify by signing up for a free visit. To increase the ease of finding out if you’re in the middle-class and qualified they specifically created a new website They hope that the funding put towards this new site will be well spent, if they can get interested homeowners reaching out to them, they estimate that they’ll be able hit their goal of 320,000 homes by the end of the year 2019.

Find Out If You Qualify For Solar Funding!


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Thank you, we have sent your information to our most trusted company in your area. They will be reaching out to you shortly from a number you don’t recognize, please answer the phone when they call.

They will need to verify your information over the phone before they will know if you are a good candidate for solar.

Frequently Asked Questions about Solar:

Q: What is the ITC?

A: The Federal Government in the year 2019 will pay for 30% of your solar cost. That's like the Federal Government paying 30% of your electric bill for the next 30 years.

Q: Is there a solar program that is 100% free?

A: No. There are programs without any enrollment, install, or maintenance costs. However, you still have to pay the lower power bill that comes accompanied with your electricity use.

Q: What energy efficient program offers the most savings?

A: Solar offers massive savings to the homeowner. Especially as electric rates tend to rise year after year, and homeowners are using more power as they are adding in home automation, tvs, speakers, etc.

Scale of Solar Prices Over Time

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In Germany, solar panels are transforming home life and offering energy independence


In Germany, something of an energy transition is taking place. In 2016, renewables made up 29 percent of gross electricity generation, with wind power, biomass and solar photovoltaics leading the way.

Now, a number of German households are looking to harness the power of the sun and gain energy independence by combining solar photovoltaic (PV) panels with ‘smart’ battery storage.

According to its makers the sonnenBatterie, combined with a PV system, could help users meet around 75 percent of their annual energy needs with self-produced, clean energy.

Markus Grillinger is one such user. His home has solar panels on its roof and a sonnenBatterie system inside. “It takes the electric power right from our roof – we get it over the panels – and then it is saved within the sonnenBatterie,” he said.

Having a storage system enables flexibility. “We… can use the electric power during the whole day, and save it here and use it also by night,” Grillinger added.

SonnenBatterie’s offering is just one of many domestic storage systems being developed. Much like the sonnenBatterie, Tesla’s Powerwall, for example, enables users to store solar in the day and then use it during the night, when the sun has gone down.

Back in Germany, sonnenBatterie’s Philipp Schroder sought to highlight the potential energy transformation that could take place over the coming years, in which homeowners become ‘mini utilities’.

“In Germany we have 1.7 million solar systems, they are all owned by citizens,” he said. “So what we see is that consumers become producers,” he added.

“If you become a producer, why should you pay for your electricity? You’re your own producer… all we do is we link them together to become a sustainable and effective utility.”

The New Colors Of Solar Energy


The technology of solar energy has progressed dramatically in the last few decades, as it operates with increasing efficiency and at lower costs.

But the matter of how solar panels look remains an obstacle. Most photovoltaic panels are blue or black and cover large portions of buildings with a monotone hue. That might not jibe with your personal taste – or that of your homeowners’ association. It’s a limitation that has hindered the integration of solar energy into some commercial applications. In fact, architects and designers have long requested a wider choice of colors for solar cells to allow them to seamlessly blend into a building’s façade or an electronic system.

Up to now, however, expanding the palette of colors that solar energy engineers can work with has proven notoriously difficult. That could be changing, though, with work from the lab of Andre Taylor, associate professor of chemical & environmental engineering. Researchers there have developed a solar cell that widens the choice of colors without decreasing its power conversion efficiency. Their findings are published in Nano Energy.

Researchers have previously tried a few methods to vary the colors of solar panels. One approach involved adjusting a layer of the solar cell so that it would reflect different colors – this has proved to be costly and with limited results, however. Another method introduced what’s known as a “dye molecule” to allow for more colors. This approach, however, diminishes the efficiency at which the system converts sunlight to energy.

The research team in Taylor’s Transformative Materials and Devices Lab also used a dye molecule, but this one doesn’t diminish the power conversion efficiency. Jaemin Kong, a post-doctoral associate and lead author of the paper, explains that this is because the molecule – a squaraine known as ASSQ – acts not only as a color agent, but as an energy transfer donor. It works in conjunction with two polymers – one that serves as an electron donor and the other as a non-fullerene electron acceptor. By changing the ratios of those three elements, the researchers were able to make adjustments that allowed for a gradual color variation from blue-green to purple-red.

“I think that’s a pretty impressive part of this paper – there was no major sacrifice of the power conversion efficiency,” Taylor said. “And the nice thing about this is that the dye can be used at low concentrations, so it doesn’t necessarily affect the overall mechanism.”

Solar Power Has Finally Proven That It’s The Energy Source of the Future



As with most energy and cost efficient power alternatives, there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding solar energy — even when we’re faced with hard facts outlining their benefits. Consider the fact that it took nearly 30 years for fluorescent light bulb (also known as CFL) sales and dependency to rise, as Americans were unwilling to switch over from incandescent bulbs until 2010.

Tried and true sustainable products often sit on the market for a while before they become “trendy enough” to be purchased. But now, thanks to some promising developments from Tesla,(including some slicker-than-expected solar panel roofs) the value and importance of solar power is finally getting the momentum it so critically needs.

These moves are important because, not only is solar power cost effective, it reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, which is an imperative issue we need to tackle. Humanity’s current net emission is

Humanity’s current net emission is 37 gigatonnes of CO₂, meaning we’ll need a reduction of at least 700 gigatonnes to keep global warming within safe limits. By switching over to solar power, we reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by over 37 million metric tons. And while it might be hard to see past your own finances, switching to solar power saves the United States over $400 billion in healthcare and environmental cleanup costs. But back to your wallet: solar panels pay for themselves in six to 15 years and increase the resale value of a house by about $15,000.

But solar power technology is nothing new. In fact, a similar standard of today’s models has been around since the 1960s. And since that time, panels have only become more efficient, more dynamic, and more attractive. So, what’s taken us so long to consider the switch?


It’s the myths that deter people from trusting in the technology. Most commonly, potential consumers worry that solar panels will not work in cold or cloudy climates. The truth is, they’re highly functional in cold climates, as conductivity is increased at colder temperatures. And, Germany, a country that receives half as much Sun as the sunniest city in the United States, has the most successful solar power system in the world.

Now that Tesla has shown us how chic the solar panel roof of the future will look, skeptical homeowners will be more likely to make that change.

If you’re curious about the potential to save money and the planet, check out a solar power advocate like Understand Solar and get a proper estimate for your home. When faced with the facts, it’s hard to see it any other way: solar power roofs are essential investments for your home and the future. Fill out a cost estimate form and get access to exclusive deals in your area, and a fast and easy estimate to get things started.

Find Out If You Qualify For Solar Funding!


(Scroll down to see how you can win a $500 gift card to Home Depot)

Thank you, we have sent your information to our most trusted company in your area. They will be reaching out to you shortly from a number you don’t recognize, please answer the phone when they call.

They will need to verify your information over the phone before they will know if you are a good candidate for solar.

Frequently Asked Questions about Solar:

Q: What is the ITC?

A: The Federal Government in the year 2019 will pay for 30% of your solar cost. That's like the Federal Government paying 30% of your electric bill for the next 30 years.

Q: Is there a solar program that is 100% free?

A: No. There are programs without any enrollment, install, or maintenance costs. However, you still have to pay the lower power bill that comes accompanied with your electricity use.

Q: What energy efficient program offers the most savings?

A: Solar offers massive savings to the homeowner. Especially as electric rates tend to rise year after year, and homeowners are using more power as they are adding in home automation, tvs, speakers, etc.

Scale of Solar Prices Over Time

Featured Promotion:

We protect your information.

Syria Opens Its First Solar-Powered Hospital


After months of testing, a hospital in Syria will have uninterrupted power last week, charged by solar power in a project designers hope will save lives and can be repeated across the country.

Syria’s electrical grid has taken a big hit after six years of a volatile civil war with most the electrical infrastructure bombed, dismantled or destroyed, leaving hospitals relying on diesel generators but at the mercy of fuel shortages.

So the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an international coalition of international medical organizations and NGOs, said it hoped creating the country’s first solar-power hospital would save lives.

“To have those active (hospitals) resilient and operational, it’s a matter of life (or death) for many, many people in the country,” said Tarek Makdissi, project director of UOSSM told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

The France-based UOSSM launched the initiative, “Syria Solar,” with the aim of getting hospitals less dependent on diesel which the organization says is expensive and not reliable. The first solar hospital—the name and location of which the UOSSM would not release for safety reasons—runs on mixture of a diesel generator and 480 solar panels built near the hospital that link to an energy storage system.

If there is a complete fuel outage, the solar system can fully power the intensive care unit, operating rooms and emergency departments for up to 24 hours without diesel, which is 20 to 30 percent of the hospital’s energy cost.

Makdissi said the goal is to get five other medical facilities in Syria running like this by the end of spring 2018 with funding from places like institutions, foundations, government agencies and philanthropists.

Solar energy is really our only answer for long-term sustainable energy


Humans consume 221 tonnes of coal, 1,066 barrels of oil, and 93,000 metric cubes of natural gas per second. The Conversation

These materials were wonderful for the industrial revolution that started in Britain in the 18th century and made use of “new energy” sources such as coal and petroleum. At the start of the 21st century, however, it’s time to reassess the notion of “new energy”. Fossil fuels have no place in any long-term sustainable energy solution for the planet. It needs to be replaced with renewable energy sources. But which ones?

Sooner or later humanity needs to get its head around the fact that the only long-term sustainable energy solution is solar energy. This is simply borne out by the immense amount of energy potential that the sun can provide versus any other renewable resource such as wind, nuclear, biomass or geothermal. To place that in perspective: the theoretical potential of solar power is 89 terawatts (TW), which represents more energy striking the Earth’s surface in 90 minutes (480 Exajoules, EJ) than the worldwide energy consumption for the entire year 2001 (430 EJ) from all other resources combined.

Off-grid solar should be Africa’s energy future. Off-grid simply means a system where people don’t rely on the support of remote infrastructure, like connectivity to a centralised electricity transmission line, but instead use a stand-alone independent power supply. Such systems are perfect for people living in rural areas. Access to energy should be a basic human right for the 620 million people across Africa deprived from it. To achieve this, one should look beyond the grid for future power solutions.

In my years of teaching an advanced level sustainable energy course, it’s clear that the ‘sustainable energy’ solution requires a multidisciplinary approach and needs expertise from the fields of chemistry, biophysics, biology and materials engineering.

For example, photosynthesis is nature’s solution to sustain life and its complete understanding touches many disciplines. Can science learn from it to provide a sustainable energy solution? Yes, through a process called artificial photosynthesis. Large-scale photovoltaic (PV) panels dot the landscape in solar farms. Can we imagine transparent solar cells with the look of glass that can be brought to the city? The answer is yes.

Say yes to the sun

Energy is the most important resource for humanity and solar energy is the ultimate energy source. The sun as a solar energy source has a number of advantages: it is abundant, it is essentially inexhaustible, and it doesn’t discriminate but provides equal access to all users.

Earth presently consumes energy at a rate of about 17.7 trillion watts (17 terawatt, TW), that would reach 30 TW by 2050 assuming a similar population growth rate. The solar energy irradiating the surface of the Earth is almost four orders of magnitude larger than the rate our civilisation can consume it. This is obviously more than sufficient if harnessed properly.

The energy potential of the sun is 120,000 TW at earth surface. More practically, assuming that only 10% efficiency and covering less than 2% of earth surface would get us 50 TW;

Wind is at 2-4 TW at 10 meters;
nuclear 8 TW, build one plant every 1.5 days forever – due to decommissioning;
biomass 5-7 TW, all cultivatable land not used for food;
geothermal 12 TW.
The solution should thus be clear: focus on the sun, nothing else gets the required numbers. The solar and wind duo has been considered a viable option at least for Africa’s future. The challenge is that solar energy only becomes useful once it’s converted into usable energy forms like heat, electricity, and fuels.

Below are two state-of-the-art new technologies that convert solar energy into electricity or fuels.

New technologies

Black solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are the most familiar to generate electricity. A game changer will be a new technology where such PV panels are transparent. This could then replace regular glass, wherever one finds glass. For example, on large buildings, the vertical “glass panels” can literally become the source that powers the building.

The solar company Onyx Solar has already demonstrated proof-of-concept by applying PV glass for buildings in 70 projects and in 25 different countries. Its only current competitor, Ubiquitous Energy focuses more on mobile devices. On a mobile phone, the glass screen will become the power source, potentially making batteries redundant.

In simplest terms, photosynthesis is a process where green plants use the energy in sunlight to carry out chemical reactions. One such reaction is to break water molecules into its constituent parts of oxygen and hydrogen.

Artificial photosynthesis is a process that mimics parts of natural photosynthesis to suit our needs, like forming hydrogen. And because hydrogen is considered the fuel of the future, a large research focus is to capture and convert sunlight into energy with storage of hydrogen.

In South Africa, the nuclear energy landscape has been tainted by political greed, rather than scientific reasoning. Fortunately, in April 2017 all further developments for a nuclear future were halted by a high court.Say no to nuclear energy

Let us not repeat the deadly sins of considering nuclear power as an option, but remind ourselves of two consequences.

It takes 10 years and billions of rand to commission a nuclear power station, let alone eight. Once commissioned, such stations don’t last forever, but after 50 years has to be decommissioned again, costing the same amount in time and fiscal.
Suppose South Africa is a country with stockpiles of enriched uranium and nuclear plants, such utilities become primary targets for terrorists and are expensive to safeguard. Why even take the risk?
It’s now 31 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It devastated Ukraine and the 2,600 square kilometres of surrounding land is still considered unsuitable for humans.

A colossal radiation shield is now concealing the stain on that landscape. Is such a risk worth it for South Africa when the sun has so much potential?

Papillion farmer installing solar panels says renewable energy is future of farming


It gives people a peek into the past and a look into the future of farming – with its rustic old barn located next to shiny new solar panels.

Tom Lundahl got a grant to buy used solar panels for his farm. The panels heat a 700-gallon water tank that powers a propagating bench for the farm’s hottest crop.

The aronia berry plants are a more potent and tart version of a blueberry and the demand for them has recently skyrocketed. Lunahl can’t fill all his orders for the berry plants.

The new solar hookup will allow the farm to grow more plants soon. Lundahl said that when the propagating bench is up and running, the farm will be able to grow 12,000 plants at a time on the bench.

“It tastes like a dry red wine. That’s what the astringency is, and it’s part of the antioxidants,” said Shami Lucena Morse.

Lundahl and Morse go to farmers markets to sell berries, smoothies – and succulent plants.

This solar project is new for Lundahl, but it’s not the first time he’s harnessed the sun.

“Thirty-five years ago, I built my first greenhouse on the front of an old farmhouse,” said Lundahl.

Lundahl said a lot of larger-scale operations are using renewable energy for things like powering irrigation pivots. He said up-front costs can be high, but they’re dropping as technology advances.

“It just makes economic sense. Any way you look at it, it comes down to dollars and cents,” said Lundahl.

He also said renewable energy makes sense for the future of the planet.

“This is something that will be the future. We just have to find a way to get there that makes the most sense,” said Lundahl.

Switching to solar energy provides economic benefits, saves lives


In a new study published in Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, a team from Michigan Technological University calculated the cost of combusting coal in terms of human lives along with the potential benefits of switching to solar.

Health Impacts

Tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely each year from air pollution-related diseases associated with burning coal. By transitioning to solar photovoltaics (PV) in the US, up to 51,999 American lives would be saved at $1.1 million invested per life.

“Unlike other public health investments, you get more than lives saved,” says Joshua Pearce, a professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. “In addition to saving lives, solar is producing electricity, which has economic value.”

Using a sensitivity analysis on the value of electricity, which examines the different costs of electricity that varies by region throughout the country, saving a life by using solar power also showed potential to make money — sometimes as much as several million dollars per life, says Pearce.

“Everybody wants to avoid wasting money. Just based off the pure value of electricity of the sensitivities we looked at, it’s profitable to save American lives by eliminating coal with solar,” he explains.

Pearce worked with energy policy doctoral student Emily Prehoda on the study, and their main goal was to better inform health policy. They gathered data from peer-reviewed journals and the Environmental Protection Agency to calculate US deaths per kilowatt hour per year for both coal and solar. Then they used current costs of solar installations from the Department of Energy and calculated the potential return on investment.

Pearce and Prehoda also analyzed the geographic impact of coal-related deaths. “Here, we have solid numbers on how many people die from air pollution and what fraction of that is due to coal-powered plants in each state.”

Power of Solar

To fully replace all the coal production in the US with solar PV, it would take 755 gigawatts — a significant increase compared to the 22.7 gigawatts of solar installed in the US currently. The total cost of installing that much solar power totals $1.5 trillion, but that investment is figured into Pearce and Prehoda’s calculations, and is a profitable investment.

As Pearce sums it up: “Solar has come down radically in cost, it’s technically viable, and coupled with natural gas plants, other renewables and storage, we have ways to produce all the electricity we need without coal, period.”

He says resisting the rise of solar energy is akin to if computer manufacturers kept using vacuum tube switches instead of upgrading to semiconductor transistors.

“My overall take away from this study,” Pearce says, “is that if we’re rational and we care about American lives — or even just money — then it’s time to end coal in the US.”

Next Steps

The World Health Organization reports that millions die each year from unhealthy environment, air pollution notably the largest contributor to non-communicable diseases like stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Future work can expand this study globally.

“There’s roughly seven million people who die globally from air pollution every year, so getting rid of coal could take a big chunk out of that number as well,” Pearce says, adding that another goal of future research is to dig deeper into the life cycles of coal production as this study only looked at air pollution related deaths. Doing so will continue to illuminate the multiple positive impacts of solar power and its potential to do more than keep the lights on.

Solar energy empowers villagers and saves wildlife in Nepal


This fall, rangers protecting rhinos, tigers and other endangered wildlife in Nepal’s famous Chitwan National Park will get a solar system that will light and power an isolated ranger outpost deep in the jungle. At the same time, local women will get the training and tools they need to sell low-cost clean energy technologies to people living in the buffer zone that surrounds the park. This is all part of continued collaboration in Nepal by Empowered by Light, which helps remote communities throughout the world develop renewable energy projects, and Empower Generation, which empowers women to become clean-energy entrepreneurs.

This project will continue the organizations’ efforts in Nepal, which are detailed in a fascinating 20-minute video, Bufferzone, that explores the unique challenges of living in a place where the wild animals that make the region unique—from tigers to sloth bears to elephants—can attract tourists, and can also attack villages and people.

“Remote communities around the world are embracing renewable energy because the benefits are real, immediate and life-changing,” said Moira Hanes, Empowered by Light’s co-founder and board chair. “In Nepal, renewable energy is providing these communities with steady, reliable access to electricity, in many cases for the first time, all while helping to support their critical efforts to protect endangered wildlife and create economic and job opportunities that weren’t there before.”

To help rural communities thrive without draining the park’s natural resources, this fall’s effort will train 10 local women, whose economic opportunities have traditionally been limited, to sell a range of clean energy technologies such as solar home systems and improved cookstoves.

Inside the park, rangers working to prevent poaching rely on solar power to stay in touch with park authorities and power spotlights that help protect them at night. On a previous visit, Empowered by Light also helped install solar power at tourist towers that allow visitors to stay in the park overnight, generating income for conservation projects and for people-protection efforts designed to minimize conflicts between villagers and wildlife.

Empowered by Light and Empower Generation are seeking to raise $50,000 to help support the new project, which will assist hard-working people in Nepal in their efforts to:

Protect Chitwan National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage Site
Protect single-horned Asiatic rhinos and Bengal tigers from poachers
Train Nepali women, who have a particularly difficult time securing formal employment, to sell clean energy and start their own businesses
Reduce dependence on dirty and dangerous sources of energy, including diesel generators and kerosene burners that put the community’s health and safety at risk
Kick-start eco-tourism in a place where economic development options are limited