Not Sold on the Residential Solar Trend?

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Blame it on the brain. The mind tends to assess issues within a limited set of parameters. Like a juggler, if too many balls get tossed around at the same time, chaos and confusion set in.

In fact, research indicates that the forgetfulness we experience at times is actually a vital brain function, keeping our minds from becoming overwhelmed by insignificant details. We simply aren’t built with a propensity to look for the “big picture.”

Perhaps this explains why we are drawn to bottom-line thinking, to sound bites, talking points, and takeaways. We are tempted to skim ahead to the conclusion of an article, flip to the back page of a book, and shake the present under the Christmas tree. Few of us relish a complicated issue. Simplicity seems not only more comfortable, but eminently more sensible.

Yet the world is becoming an increasingly complicated place. Solutions to complex issues require thoughtful assessment and analysis. They require us to determine what actions are best to take now, and what consequences those actions will have in the future.

The feasibility of solar power to become part of the solution to the world’s energy challenges is one of those issues that require close examination. Stating, “It’s just impractical,” is too simplistic a stance to take when the stakes are so high. Like a snapshot taken in childhood, it doesn’t reflect the growth that has occurred in the solar industry.

Installation costs for solar power have dropped significantly. Solar technology has become more efficient. Solar financing, such as solar leasing options, have all but eliminated upfront costs. A number of incentive programs significantly offset the overall cost. Indeed, many homeowners with solar power systems produce more power than they consume, selling excess power back into the grid.

At the same time, conventional energy continues to become more costly and more scarce, a trend that shows no sign of slowing, much less reversing. This, while the world’s demand for energy continues to rise, and while man-made and natural disasters reveal the limits and dangers of existing energy systems.

Admittedly, the mind prefers a “perfect” solution, one that has no downside, one that does not require us to change our way of life — or even our way of thinking. While we wait for an ideal solution, time does not, and with each passing day, the issue of energy becomes more challenging, not less.

Solar energy needs no absolute commitment. Solar panels are a modular technology. Consumers needn’t power their whole home or business with solar — although, there are incentives enough to do so. Homeowners can start with a small solar panel system to offset high energy costs, or to provide insurance against rising costs or system failures of traditional energy, then add panels to the system as they see fit.

The more you look at the “big picture” of solar power, the clearer the picture becomes. As part of the solution to the world’s energy challenges, solar power ensures a brighter (read: inhabitable) tomorrow.

Hailing from Oakland, CA, Brittany Mauriss is editor for CalFinder, a free service that connects you with residential solar installers and remodeling contractors. She also blogs over at, the entrepreneur’s source for green start-up ideas and industry interviews. Her passions are music, sustainable building, and helping people make beautiful homes.

Photo via Edmund Tse

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