Solar power projects around the world are beating fossil fuels on price without subsidies, and each time they do, the future looks a little brighter.
But there’s still a lot most people don’t know about solar energy. Here are 6 things that may surprise you as outlined below:
1. Solar power is the most abundant energy source on Earth
There’s enough solar energy hitting the Earth every hour to meet all of humanity’s power needs for an entire year. Every ounce of oil, every lump of coal, and every cubic foot of natural gas could be left in the ground if only we could capture one hour’s worth of solar energy each year. That’s the scale of the opportunity.
2. Solar panel costs have fallen 99% since 1977
In 1977, it cost $77 per watt for a simple solar cell. According to Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research’s Q3 2017 Solar Market Insight Report, the cost of a solar cell now is $0.21 per watt. An entire assembled module is $0.39 per watt.
3. Solar Energy is cheaper than fossil fuels
According to Lazard’s Levelized Cost Of Energy Analysis–Version 11.0, solar energy costs as little as 4.3 cents per kWh on an unsubsidized basis, cheaper than nearly every option for new fossil-fuel power plants. The cheapest fossil fuel option is natural gas, which costs between 4.2 and 7.8 cents per kWh. Depending on where you’re looking at producing solar energy, it’s probably already cheaper than coal, diesel, nuclear, and in most cases, natural gas. If the pattern of cost reductions is any indication, it won’t be long before solar blows away every form of fossil fuel on a cost basis.
4. Solar power plants can last 40 years or more
When a solar power plant is built, it’s usually backed by a power purchase agreement with a customer (utility, business, or homeowner) that lasts 20 to 25 years. But that doesn’t mean such plants will be worthless two decades later. Not only will solar panels last 40 or 50 years, the infrastructure around a solar power plant has a lot of value. Solar panels could be replaced with new, more efficient modules at relatively low cost, thus improving performance, but once a site is established and the infrastructure is built, a solar power plant has a very long effective lifespan.
5. Solar is the fastest energy source to deploy
When disaster strikes, no electricity source can be built or repaired as quickly as solar. No fossil-fuel power plant, nor any other renewable energy facility, could have been brought only so quickly.
6. Utilities are giving people solar options
If you personally want to go solar, a rooftop system may be the choice for you. But even if you don’t own a home that’s suitable for installing solar panels, you can get 100% of your electricity from solar energy in a growing number of places. And utilities across the country are giving customers option to source their electricity from wind or solar for an extra fee.