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Researchers project solar power may become cheaper than fossil fuels sooner than we think

Researchers project that solar power will become cheaper than conventional, fossil fueled electric generating sources by 2020. #solarpower  #solar  #energy  #greenenergy  #green

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Solar Energy in the Home and at Work

Solar energy actually has a lot of different uses and applications to your home and your work place, and it also offers a lot of different advantages. Since solar energy is now becoming more and more affordable, as compared before, it is now more sustainable to have it in your home and at your work place. Here are just some of the possible advantages of using solar energy.

Solar Hot Water Heater

One of the more common uses of solar energy is for solar hot water heaters. Most homes in America actually have a hot water heater, which is probably why it accounts for about a quarter of the total energy consumption of a typical American home. Unfortunately, the U.S. government actually spends a lot of money on paying off the energy consumed by these hot water heaters, about $13 billion every year, possibly making it the single biggest energy consumer in your home or work place.

Solar energy systems used on hot water heaters can actually help you save a considerable percentage on your utility bills, over 85% of the total electric water heating cost of your home. This is probably why a majority of the people who decided to invest in the solar hot water heating systems think that this is a wise decision indeed.

Solar Energy Power

Solar energy or electricity is actually derived from certain solar energy technology and photovoltaic solar technology that allows you to convert solar heat into reusable energy, allowing you to get power and electricity in your home and work place. At this day and age, there are actually over 200,000 homes that use solar energy technology, 10,000 of which are powered solely by solar energy. And with the introduction of different photovoltaic integrated products, and incorporating them into the construction of your home, or your work place, you can actually save a lot just from the initial cost of construction as compared to building a conventional custom house.

Solar Pool Heater

If your home, or work place, has a pool, then a solar pool heater is needed to keep that pool heated at a certain temperature. Solar energy is actually being used by over 300,000 pools in the U.S., and could dramatically lower your utility bill by a considerable amount.

Solar Energy Net Metering

Net metering is actually a means for people who use solar energy to power up their homes or work place to be able to sell back to the utility company whatever excess electricity that their home or work place is able to produce using solar energy technology, but is not able to use up. This means that you will be able to lower down the cost of your power and energy consumption, especially since you have another alternative source for getting your electricity.

Also, people will soon be able to choose where they want to get their electricity from. They could either get it from their conventional utility, or get their clean power from a source that is non-polluting, but is just a bit more expensive than your conventional utility.

Are we on the brink of a Solar Revolution?

Are we on the brink of a solar revolution? Over the past couple of years, there have been some significant breakthroughs in solar energy, specifically in reducing production costs of solar. During this time, the cost of photovoltaic panels has dropped by around 25-30% each year and this price drop shows no sign of slowing down.

In fact, if anything it is speeding up. A few companies have been working on more advanced amorphous panels that have much lower production costs. These have been in production for the past few months, with a cost point of around $0.60 per watt (about 40% cheaper than what we see today). Once production has ramped up, these manufacturers are saying they will be able to sell these panels for around one sixth of that cost.

So what does this mean for solar power? Quite simply, it will become the cheapest means of generating electricity available. At a wholesale cost of $100 per kilowatt (as opposed to around $1,000 today) we could see solar being incorporated into almost anything. Self-charging mobile phones, MP3 players, netbooks and laptops would be standard and the cost of fitting solar power to homes would be so cheap it would offer a payback in only a few months, no matter where in the world you lived. Warehouses and factories would all have photovoltaic roof panels, generating most – if not all – the power they need to operate by themselves. Electric cars would all have photovoltaic roof panels, providing up to 3,000km (1,800 miles) of self-generating power every year. Power companies could set up new regional power stations in just a few weeks instead of the several years it takes now.

The ability to generate electricity at an affordable price would be limited only by the amount of space you have. Got a big enough roof? You need never want for electricity again.

Solar

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Of course we still need some way of storing the energy produced so we can release it when we need it rather than just when the sun is shining, but nevertheless, this is an exciting opportunity. Incidentally, in terms of energy storage, I still have high hopes for ultra-capacitors, but as yet we have seen a lot of speculation and hype and very little in the way of practical usable products. Let’s just wait and see.

In effect, solar has the potential to do two things in the next decade: decarbonise much of our electricity generation and make electricity so cheap that it is effectively free to use.

This changes the whole dynamics of how we view and use power. If electricity is so cheap that it is effectively free, everything starts to change. How are you going to heat your home? Expensive gas or free electricity? Are you going to have a car with an internal combustion engine using expensive fuel, or an electric car with free fuel? If solar power becomes the cheapest way of generating electricity, businesses and individuals won’t choose solar “because it’s green” but “because it is so cheap, you’d be daft not to”.

Michael Boxwell is a technical architect and designer. He is the author of a number of books including the Solar Electricity Handbook and The Electric Car Guide series of books