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Published on April 1st, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan

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Solar Power Advantages vs Insanity

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April 1st, 2014 by Zachary Shahan
 

Originally published on Cost of Solar*.

–> Take a few seconds, run a free solar report on your property, and find out how much solar will save you!

The second definition of “insanity” in Google is, “Extreme foolishness or irrationality.” Unfortunately, that definition actually applies to more of what we do and don’t do than we probably want to admit. With extreme insanity, a key thing those of us observing the insanity from the outside tend to notice is that the insane action is done repeatedly. The same insane thing is done over and over and over again, and sometimes the insane person even expects to somehow get a different result despite plenty of experience showing that he or she won’t. It can be quite difficult to watch, and its certainly not a recommended way of life.

You may now be wondering, “What the hell is this guy talking about? Isn’t this site about solar power? Is he insane?” So, let’s get to the solar power part of this.

globe Advantages of Solar Power vs InsanityEarth as we know it… sort of. (Photo Credit: spdorsey | CC BY-NC-ND)

Want A Livable Planet?

Meh…

We are actually engaging in very extreme foolishness and irrationality as a society, as we are destroying the climate that makes this world livable for our species (and many others). There aren’t many planets out there that have a climate in which life can exist… actually, we’re yet to find a single one. But we are altering ours in such a way that this highly comfortable climate could disintegrate, so to speak, and become unlivable.

The good news is that we already have the solutions we need to solve this problem. One critical thing we need to do in order to solve this problem is cut the global warming pollution created from producing electricity. And that’s one of the key advantages of solar power. Creating electricity using solar panels doesn’t create any global warming pollution.

earth Advantages of Solar Power vs InsanityWant to keep this? Think about it. (Photo Credit: IronRodArt – Royce Bair (“Star Shooter”)CC BY-NC-ND)

One wonderful thing about this solution is that so many of us can participate in this one. Have a roof? Go solar! It would be insane not to.

We have been burning and burning coal and natural gas. We have identified that this is warming our world. And we have identified that this warming could wreak havoc on our civilization, and could even destroy the livability of this planet. And yet, we keep burning and burning coal and natural gas. Insane. It’s time to go solar, and anyone who can do so should really be involved in solving this crisis.

money Advantages of Solar Power vs InsanityMoney! (Photo Credit: Cayusa | CC BY-NC)

Want More Money?

YES

Unfortunately, the whole “save the planet that we need in order to survive as a species” thing doesn’t seem to have enough power behind it for many of us. Perhaps it’s just too abstract and hard to grasp while the climate is still in fairly good shape. Perhaps it’s just not our priority while we wrestle with other issues. We will just have to face more extreme hurricanes, more extreme droughts and wildfires, more extreme floods, quickly rising food prices, and so on… no big deal.

However, there is one thing that never seems to fail to get our attention — money. And that’s one of the other big advantages of solar power. Right now, almost all electricity is delivered to us from utilities that are nearly monopolies. We don’t have a lot of control over the massive amount of money we send to them. It’s “good” that we send it on a monthly basis, at least — can you imagine if you had to pay it all at the end of the year like with taxes?

But here’s the thing. We get into the habit of sending our money to the electric companies month after month and slowly begin to just stop paying attention to that action. We get into the habit and consider it a normal part of life that we all have to go through. However, all of us don’t have to go through it. Some of us generate our own electricity through solar panels. And many others cut into that bill so much through solar power systems that it frees up tens of thousands of dollars. (Seriously, over $20,000 is the average in the US!)

solar power savings Advantages of Solar Power vs InsanityAverage 20-year savings from going solar in US = over $20,000. Over $30,000 in several states, and over $60,000 in Hawaii. (Image Credit: Cost of Solar)

This is one of the big advantages of solar power, and one of the advantages that seems tomost influence people to finally break their insane habit of sending money to electric companies (to pollute our world).

And why wouldn’t it? Who would pass up saving tens of thousands of dollars and cutting about 1/3 of their global warming emissions?

Join the US solar power rooftop revolution!

Advantages of Solar Power vs Insanity

In the end, many of us have a fairly simple choice:

Get solar power on our home and/or business, help the planet, and benefit financially.

or

Continue sending our money to electric companies to make a handsome profit on our insanity while polluting the planet.

Sanity vs insanity. Your choice.

our precious earth Advantages of Solar Power vs InsanityChoose wisely. (Photo Credit: . Entrer dans le rêve | CC BY-NC-SA)

*Full Disclosure: CleanTechnica and Cost of Solar have a financial relationship. That said, CleanTechnica doesn’t get anything in return (no additional revenue) from republishing this article.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • vdiv

    And here is the counter-argument, clean, cough! coal, cough-cough!
    http://www.wired.com/2014/03/clean-coal/

    • Bob_Wallace

      Paid off coal plants are going out of business. New coal is too expensive to consider. Coal with carbon capture would be even more expensive.

      • Kyle Field

        Saw a few documentaries on the “amazing” work going on around clean coal in China. It looks impressive but feels like more of a stopgap than anything. Given China’s rapid growth (both in industry and in population), it’s likely they “need” stopgap tech more than developed nations with more stabilized population/industrial growth curves. Having said that, this also means that there’s just that much more of an opportunity for renewables to move in and take a foothold – especially with the localized supply of PV panels, modules – most of which are produced in China. I could go on…but you know all of this already :)

        • Bob_Wallace

          I think China totally realizes that it has to quit using coal. But it’s caught between that fact and the fact that they need energy right now in order to keep their economy going.

          China has said that it will cap coal use starting next year and the cap will be set at 2011 use levels, which will mean an overall cut in coal use.

          In the meantime China is charging ahead with renewables. We need to remember that wind and solar became affordable alternatives only recently. Coal has had 100 years for people to learn how to best use it.

          Take a look at how electricity production with wind is zooming in China. And how solar installations are accelerating.

        • just_jim

          Population growth could better be described as “amazingly low”. Projections are that population will peak around 2030 at around 3.8% higher than the 2010 census and then continually decline until at least 2100.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Yeah, some people really should keep in mind how much China really does not like importing coal or natural gas from Australia. Where ever it saves them a buck they are going to be installing wind and solar capacity. And opportunities for buck saving are spreading like a plague across the Middle Kingdom. Maybe I should write something about the Chinese solar plague. Might need to come up with a better term for it, however.

      • A Real Libertarian

        Go for it.

  • http://powersmithgroup.com robertemery

    Insanity is believing solar alone will stop climate change which is only a part of the environment. Looking back, Green House Gases begin increasing with industrialization and the combustion of fossil fuels. About the 1950s, GHG began to have an effect of global climate. But what underlies Industrialization is Population Growth. The world population is currently 7 billion individuals with the last billion boarding between 1999 and 2011. By 2023, the world population will have increased 33% over 1999. The average individual carbon footprint is 4 tons/yr (20 tons/yr US) and an additional 78,000,000 more individuals join us a year. By contrast Ivanpah Solar 400 Mwe will offset 400,000 tons/yr of GHG, But the increase in GHG by population growth alone is 312,000,000 ton/yr or constructing 730 Ivanpahs/yr. Unfortunately we need Leaders, not Politicians with lip service.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Human caused GHG emissions go back further than that. We can measure changes starting a couple thousand years ago with the advent of rice farming.

      Population growth make the job harder, but not impossible. There’s no reason those new people on the planet have to get their energy from fossil fuels, we now have viable alternatives. And clean energy is becoming cheaper than fossil fuel energy.

      If you want more help from the government then work to get Republicans out of Congress.

      • http://powersmithgroup.com robertemery

        We need Leaders not Politicians

        • Bob_Wallace

          Leaders are always going to be politicians. Unless they are dictators with strong enough, loyal enough armies to keep them in power.

          And even then they will have to be good politicians with their armies. Gotta keep your power base happy or they’ll replace you.

    • Duncan Frame

      Birth rates have stabilised. Average birthrate is 2.5 per family. We have two billion children in the world and that is projected not to increase over the next 30 years or so. The population growth we are experiencing now is caused solely by increasing longevity and is expected to stabilise at 11 billion.

      There is nothing wrong, and everything right about investing in sustainable clean energy sources now, whether it be transitioning power to solar, wind, wave, hydro, tidal or whether it is switching to public transport or an electric, or low emissions car.

      Transition to clean energy is something we can control. Population growth is something we can’t but its also something that has already stabilised.

      • Bob_Wallace

        World fertility rate is running about 2.4 births per woman. It needs to be about 2.0 for population growth from additional births to stop.

        We can lower fertility rates with better education for women, better employment opportunities, and better access to birth control materials. We’d be well served by working to get fertility rates down in the countries where they are the highest. Many of those countries are also ones that are going to be hit the hardest by climate change.

        • Duncan Frame

          Actually 2.5 is a stable level at current infant mortality but it is decreasing. Below that we are talking about population decrease when longevity increases have stabilised.

          Increasing longevity and extending productivity of the people until later in life are more prescient questions. Birth rates on a global rate have already been solved (except insofar as the distribution goes). Its not the big issue.

          China’s explosion of population was caused directly by increasing longevity (life expectancy was as low as 35 in 1949 and was up to 69 by 1981).

          Of course increased longevity tends to be a Western panacea of progress, at least on an individual level, but no one really addresses the wider impact of that. We tend to focus on birth control which is the wrong focus.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You’re getting your information from some source I haven’t discovered, Duncan.

            Can you link some articles?

    • Kyle Field

      Aside from what’s already been shared…these are two related issues – not the same issue. Doing nothing while the population increases digs us further in the hole while investing in renewables (in their many forms) can keep us from digging further into the hole and perhaps even begin to work our way out of it.

      • http://powersmithgroup.com robertemery

        I respectfully disagree that these are related but not the same. If one is looking at solar as a business to make money it is not related. But if one is looking at solar from an environmental stand point of mitigating or preventing climate change they are both the same. Both reduce GHG. However my intent is NOT to advocate population control, But to point out we are not doing enough. Using facts about population growth and individual carbon footprint are irrefutable facts and simple enough math for just about everyone to understand we need to do more

  • JamesWimberley

    “Creating electricity using solar panels doesn’t create *any* global warming pollution.” That’s a slight but pardonable exaggeration. *Some* carbon emissions are involved in refining silicon, making aluminium mountings, and transporting panels. These are probably less than those involved in constructing alternative generators per effective watt, and – the crucial point – orders of magnitude less than those involved in running fossil-fuel generation. Some solar panel manufacturers are making an effort to reduce their carbon footprints, and the electricity they all use will get greener over time.

    In appealing to the “rational man” home-owner, you need to address the argument: why not wait till solar is even cheaper?
    Two answers to this.
    (1) Facing expected technical progress, waiting for ever, or until prices stabilise in the distant future, is not rational – next year’s iPhone will be better than this year’s, so you would never actually enjoy one. You need a criterion for jumping in today regardless.
    (2) Solar prices will fall, but so will incentives. If you can get a long-term deal of any sort (lease, net metering guarantee, FIT) today, consider the certainty that it won’t be there for ever. Well-designed FITs (as Germany’s used to be) have degressions that make the decision more or less neutral between periods, so householders might as well go today.

    • Steve Grinwis

      Presently, there may be some emissions, but I’m willing to bet that almost all of them could be mitigated through the use of a non-carbon economy.

      If the solar panel factories were powered entirely by solar panels, and the transportation infrastructure were electric and solar, and the refining plant was electric and solar, would there necessarily be carbon emissions?

      • Bob_Wallace

        The lifetime carbon footprint for PV solar is quite low. And we already have more electricity produced per year by solar panels than is used in manufacturing them. That means that their carbon footprint is shrinking even smaller.

        • Matthew

          This should be a cleantechnica story all by itself, projected into the future.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Let me add, a lot of the refining stuff is already electric. Aluminum smelters run on electricity, as do glass furnaces. I would guess that only electricity is used in processing silicon and growing wafers.

        A little bit of fossil fuel goes into creating minor parts of the panel. The plastic junction boxes, for example. But that carbon doesn’t need to enter the carbon cycle. Reuse it or re-sequester it.

    • Dan Hue

      James, this is a very good argument in favor of incentives, i.e., making “buy now or buy later” a neutral decision. Thinking in those terms also help determine the boundaries of such incentives, such as how big they should be, and how fast they should recede.

      +1

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    There is no Planet B. #NoPlanetB

    The irony of renewable energy is that if you can gather enough for your needs, you don’t have to conserve. And air conditioning and hot tubs are guilt-free. :-)

    • Kyle Field

      Yes and no…the panels, installation materials, shipping, etc still have a fairly sizeable environmental impact. I do think it’s awesome that we can install panels and run our AC off of the sun’s own energy (take that!) or better yet – drive off of the power of the sun! :D :D :D, offsetting direct usage of fossil fuels.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I’d bet the carbon payback time for panel transport is a few weeks at most. Installation is mostly electric.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Right, and the subsequent generations of panels (and turbines, etc.) will be built with renewable energy from the earlier systems. So, once we springboard from fossil fuels to renewables, we are then carbon free. Trains and trucks can be electric.

  • Will E

    agree
    Solar Power profit 500% per year. on the bank 2%.
    Solar Power installation plus heatpump zero energy bill, no burning money.
    installation cost 12000 euros. makes me a year 3000 euro.
    because I paid every month 250 euros to the utility and now zero.
    payback time 20 years is 600 euro a year
    Solar Power profit is 3000 euro a year
    I make 500 percent profit on Solar Power investment every year.
    500%

    go Solar, make money.

    • Kyle Field

      well…500% return on investment over the 20 year life of the investment, yes. Not quite 500% profit per year…but I see what you’re getting at :)

      • Mahdi

        My math says that is is in real 8.3% p.a. For sure. Which pension fund will give that.

  • Kyle Field

    My family is currently using the same or less than our current 12 panels are using. I’m committing to adding 5 panels per year until it doesnt make sense to do so – both to offset future electrical needs (car, hot tub?) and to generate more with the resources (land, roof space) that I have.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The price of panels has fallen so much that I’m considering adding some more. I’ve got more than I need for sunny days but more panels should reduce generator use on cloudy day (evenings).

      • Kyle Field

        Just finished up a phone call with a gentleman at Earthwise Energy Products (disclaimer – I am NOT associated with this business or any other solar company for that matter) and was quoted $.88/panel ($220/250watt panels) panel for Canadian Solar brand panels (which, for the record, are not made in Canada…but China). This meets my goal of good brand, low $/watt. Note that this is for 5 panels, without shipping, tax or inverters. :)

        • Kyle Field

          just over $2000USD for 5 x 250w panels. After a 30% federal tax credit, that’s $1400 plus the trunk cable, rails and installation – which totalled $360 for my last 7 panels…for 5 new panels. I’m game…just need to work out an extra couple hundred $$ with my wife.

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