Four Things You Didn't Know About Solar Power

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Clean energy is the “in” thing.  You’re cool, literally and figuratively, if you can help save the earth by being a little more efficient in your energy use.  You’re even “cooler” when you’re able to harness natural, renewable resources for your daily energy needs. Solar power is one such energy resource that meets these criteria, as it is both 100 percent natural and infinitely renewable.
Most of the energy on earth comes from the sun one way or another, including wind, oil, gas, coal, biomass, and biofuels.  However, many of these indirect byproducts of solar energy, especially the fossil fuels, are non-renewable. Once used, they cannot be replaced. More important, energy sources like oil, gas, and coal also release huge amounts of heat and carbon into the atmosphere.  If you can harness the power of the sun through more direct means, then you minimize this pollution without depleting precious resources.
Solar Energy on the Rise Globally
For many, solar power still seems like an alien concept.  The idea of receiving boundless energy from the sun somehow doesn’t jibe with our understanding of how “free lunches” are often in short supply.  However, in countries such as Canada, solar power production is becoming increasingly popular among governments, businesses, and homeowners. Ontario’s aggressive Green Energy Act has helped make sustainability and solar power central to the province’s economic recovery program.  While solar energy is still an unfamiliar concept for some, it is gaining traction as people around the world begin paying greater attention to green technologies and sustainable growth.
Here are four things about solar energy that you probably didn’t know, and that may prompt you to become more involved. Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!
1. You Don’t Need a Massive Farm to Become a Solar Power Producer
You’ve probably imagined that you’ll need acres and acres of solar panels in order to power your home.  While it’s true that some facilities called solar parks have thousands of solar panels, these are meant for large scale applications, like producing enough solar energy to power entire communities.  At the micro-level, however, you can install enough solar panels on your roof to partially, if not completely, power your home with free, natural, and clean energy.
2. You Can Sell Solar Power Back Power to the Grid
Depending on where you live, you can sell excess power back to the electricity grid and make a profit.  For example, Ontario, Canada’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) program allows residential and commercial solar power producers to feed surplus electricity back into the grid at guaranteed prices.  Those who generate fewer than 10 Kilowatts of power can participate in the province’s microFIT program.
3. Solar Power Equipment Is not As Expensive As You Think
People often assume that photovoltaic (solar) cells are incredibly expensive.  Just a few years ago, such people were usually correct.  However, solar panel prices have come down substantially thanks to rising competition and advancing technology.  What’s more, many governments offer special incentives to help finance the initial installation.  And of course, let’s not forget about the feed-in-tariffs.  Once installed, you can actually make money off of your investment.  When was the last time your gas furnace or wood stove put money in your pocket?
4. You Can Receive Training and Certification in Solar Panel Installation
Installing solar panels isn’t rocket science.  You don’t need to have a PhD in physics or  degree in electrical engineering.  Schools provide solar panel installation training and certification in as little as five days.  You can then use this knowledge to maintain your own solar system at home or provide professional installations for clients.  Canada needs qualified solar installers badly, so if you’re on the job hunt, what better way to round out your resume and launch an exciting new career in a fast-growing industry?
Although “green” is becoming increasingly en vogue, many still have questions about how to get involved, what to do, and where to begin.  If only they realized how simple the process was — whether they want to solarize your own home or launch a career helping others to make the transition.  Solar energy is clean, affordable, and safe; it’s just a matter of getting the word out.
photo: theregeneration

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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

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