Monday, April 22, 2013

Solar Energy - Why not do more?

Solar power systems are not what they used to be.  Solar systems are more widely seen from panels on street lights, on backpacks and on cars; harnessing the sun's energy is no longer limited to the satellites of the 1960s and roof top panels of the 1970s. 

According to National Geographic and, there are many benefits people are finding in using solar powered energy.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions are not generated with solar electricity.  
  • Homes with solar panels are not as dependent on the "electricity grid" for power
  • Panels are getting cheaper and are easier to install
  • Panels are silent, no moving parts, and require less maintenance than turbines
One of the major drawbacks to solar power is that it requires sufficient daylight to meet your power needs.  According to Mississippi Power, this state is in the lower end of the scale in the amount of sunshine per hour due to the high humidity and cloud cover.  However, that doesn't deter the state of New Jersey that has less daylight then the southern states.  In the April addition of the Huntington Post,  it is noted that New Jersey is number two in the nation, next to California, for solar power production.  The state has a carbon off-set program and an energy mandate for power companies to get 20% of their power from renewable resources by 2020.  This is a high goal, causing some controversy, but the goals has spawned a growth in the solar industry in New Jersey.

Germany is the leading nation in the world for solar power.  They have a capacity to generate 30 gigawatts of energy compared to the US's 6.4 gigawatt capacity.   Sunlight is not the issue.  In fact, the amount of sunlight in Germany is equivalent to Alaska.   How do they do it?  The German government has set up a "feed in tariff" where people can sell back the excess energy harnessed by home units back to the power companies. This is reducing the costs of power to the entire country.  Also the government has provided subsidies to companies in the area of renewable energy which has driven the cost of equipment down.  According to the March edition of the Valley News, Germany is now delaying plans to build a new nuclear plant and has closed some small plants due to the increase of energy coming from homes. 

Why not do more here in Mississippi?  According to the Mississippi power website, the lack of sunlight and cost of equipment make the idea of solar power unaffordable.  They estimate a full home system would cost about $100,000 and that it would take 18 years for a homeowner to get a return on investment.  Lack of state subsidies and incentives keep the costs high.

But you do not have to get a full home system to benefit from solar power.  Small devices can be purchased like solar powered yard lights, flood lights, pool heaters and cell phone chargers.  You can find solar yard lights at Walmart!

As people vote for more subsidies and tax incentives, Mississippi can join the ranks of California, New Jersey, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.  There can be less pollution from large power plants in the air, rivers and deltas when the state requires power companies to have a percentage of their power from renewable sources.  It's working across the country and around the world.  

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