Solar Panels – The Advantages and Disadvantages for Homeowners

Solar panels are seeing a huge surge in uptake, with around a million roofs of UK homes now being adorned with them. One of the main reasons for this surge is the interest in renewable energy and climate change. Before you decide to go solar, take time to check out the main advantages and disadvantages as discussed below.

energy efficient technologies

The Advantages of Solar Panels

There is no doubt that one of the biggest advantages of solar panels is the potential to save money on your energy bills, something that is highly attractive when consider alongside the increased cost of living. According to the Energy Saving Trust, Most solar panel owners can make savings of between £250 to £600 a year, location-dependent, and will be able to sell any unused energy back to the grid for other users.

Another potential advantage is the ability to sell any unused energy back to the grid via the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). The SEG allows suppliers to buy any unused energy direct from solar panel owners in return for a cash payment. This not only helps your finances but also supports the demand for renewable energy and lower carbon footprints.

Finally, the other main benefit of installing solar panels is that it is a no-fuss solution that will not need excessive maintenance, nor will it make any noise when they are in use. Plus, most installers offer a 25-year guarantee on all the panels in case of any issues.

The Disadvantages of Solar Panels

Despite offering so many benefits, there are disadvantages that you will need to consider before forging ahead with solar panel installation. The first one is the initial cost of the system that you will need to invest in to get your solar panels up and running. Most homes can expect to pay over £6500 for solar panels even with the ongoing drop in prices as they become more popular.

Next, you will need to be realistic about the amount of energy your solar panels will create with the British weather. Solar panels are always going to work better on bright sunny days, meaning that your production will slow on cloudy days and through the winter and produce less energy for you to send back to the grid.

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Finally, solar panels are not suitable for every home, and you may find that your roof does not face the right way or have the right angle to accommodate the panels. Even if you do have the right roof, your solar panels will take up lots of space, so you will need to work out if your roof is big enough to offer the supply that you need.

Solar Panels – a Summary

Getting to grips with all the pros and cons can be daunting, so we have summarised them below for quick reference:

Pros Cons
Offers a genuine saving on energy bills Takes a long time to make any money back
Reduce your carbon footprint Can be expensive to install
Simple to maintain Hard to move once installed
Range of financial support options Weather can reduce performance
Several types of panels to choose between Can look unattractive
Make cash from the energy you do not use Needs lots of space
Noiseless once installed Not suitable for all roofs

If you are keen to proceed with solar panel installation, then take the time to search for the best deals and check out all the financial support packages that may be open to you as this will help you get the best return on your investment for years to come.

How Solar Roofs Can Minimize The Urban Heat Island Effect?

As cities grow, open spaces, trees and other greenery, and other naturally occurring surfaces diminish, replaced by concrete and asphalt surfaces. When this happens, the heat absorbed by these surfaces has nowhere to go, and so is radiated and reflected into the immediate surrounding areas. This creates an urban heat island.

This leads to an increase in heat in the immediately surrounding areas, making temperatures a few degrees hotter than the actual weather. This causes discomfort to residents of the area and can also incur damage in the form of heat-damaged structures.

There is also a human cost associated with urban heat islands. Heat-related medical emergencies such as heat stroke become more prevalent in such areas as the heat can go up to dangerous levels. The EPA has taken stock of this phenomenon and is now advising cities to take steps to mitigate it. One such way is the use of solar roofs as a means of making cities cooler and more comfortable to live in.

How does solar minimize this effect?

Cool Roof Strategy

A cool roof strategy is a one that seeks to use heat absorbing and/or dissipating roofing materials and technologies. Typical roofs use materials that either reflect or absorb and radiate back heat thus significantly reducing the urban heat island effect. Conversely, cool roofs, like solar, can help absorb sun rays and convert them into beneficial energy.

Solar excels at this because of the way the cells are designed and organized to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight. Solar roofs are also designed to trap this heat rather than radiate it back into the environment, something that can help reduce the amount of secondary heat being released into the environment.

Reduced Construction

When solar roofs are implemented, there is usually a reduced need to construct structures that support the traditional electric grid. Such a scenario can play out in several ways. If a new estate is being built with nothing but solar power, there is a possibility that some open spaces can be retained as fallow ground in places where utility implements would have been installed.

While the gains at this level would be marginal, implementation of this strategy across several thousand estates can help move the needle in reducing the urban heat island effect.

Combination Approach

This approach offers the greatest promise of reducing heat in urban settings. By combining the cool roof strategy with other strategies like green roofing, planting more trees and vegetation, cool paving and general smart city growth, a lot of ground can be covered.

Planting more trees and vegetation will go a long way in reducing heat in urban settings.

All these strategies have one thing in common in that they all absorb and dissipate heat in an efficient and sustainable manner. The EPA recommends these measures, among others, to cities grappling with the urban heat island effect or anticipating it as open spaces and greenery levels go down.

Many cities have a high incentive to deal with this issue because of its effect on residents and visitors to the area. If street-level temperatures are unbearable, it is possible that tourists and potential new residents may shy away from the area in favor of other cooler cities.

7 Tips To Improve Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panels don’t function equally under all conditions. It’s because some factors, like the installation spot and angle, can have an impact on your solar panel’s output. In addition, the efficiency of solar panels may vary, depending on the type or model.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve your solar panel efficiency. A few simple tips and tricks can ensure you’re getting the best return from your investment in solar panels. Whether you use solar panels in your residential property or commercial building, here are some of the things you can do to maximize their efficiency:

How To Improve Solar Panel Efficiency

1. Purchase The Right Solar Panels

There are countless types of solar panels. However, every solar panel may vary in terms of efficiency, regardless of its size.

Usually, the most efficient solar panels are monocrystalline panels, which are known for their circular edges and even color. Unfortunately, they tend to be bulky and expensive, so installing them can be a bit tedious.

On the other hand, the efficiency and output of crystalline silicon panels depend on the purity of the silicon cells. If you prefer something budget-friendly, polycrystalline panels are an excellent choice, especially if you have enough space for installation.

It would help if you also determine which can offer you the best value to reduce your electricity usage, other than considering the types of solar panels in Victoria. You may do this by determining their power capacity, inspecting their energy-conversion features and checking out other solar panel models.

2. Clean Your Solar Panels Regularly

A solar panel doesn’t have moving parts. It means it only requires little to no maintenance. However, you should provide it with proper care.

If you want to enhance your solar panel’s efficiency, you need to clean it regularly as dirt particles may accumulate on its surface, making it inefficient. How frequently you should clean your solar panels may depend on factors like how much it costs to clean them and how often it rains in your region.

Throughout the year, dirt and dust may cause a decline in your solar panel’s output. If your solar panels are dirty, and you live in a region with less rainfall, the output decline may increase. So, clean your solar panels, at least, once a year to avoid solar panel degradation.

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3. The Angle Matters

If you want your solar panels to absorb the most sunshine throughout the day, install them in a south-facing location with the proper angle. Paying attention to your solar panel angle is crucial as the slope may help keep them neat.

Dust, leaves and weather elements may impact your solar panel’s efficiency. The right angle will help you minimise the impact of such power impediments.

4. Lessen The Number Of Devices

Another trick to maximise solar panel efficiency is to lessen the number of devices you’re using. If possible, try to use one device at a time.

Depending on your solar panel’s output and the amount of energy your devices use, try to limit the use of various devices simultaneously. For instance, never run the dishwasher while you’re using a washing machine.

In addition, if your room is bright, don’t use the lights. All of these can help reduce your home’s low voltage problems and improve solar panel efficiency.

5. Eliminate Shade

A solar panel is made to function well in direct sunlight. If your tree or another structure blocks the sun, your solar panel’s output may be reduced.

This is especially true if your panel uses a string kind of inverter that limits the array’s output to the weakest panel’s intensity. Even though only a small part of your solar panel is shaded, its output will still be affected.

To eliminate shade, remove or trim the trees around your solar panels. If you can’t remove the trees or parts of the building, you can consider using a power optimiser inverter. This may help increase the output of your solar panel’s unshaded parts.

6. Install Solar Power Concentrators

A solar power concentrator enables you to maximise your solar panel’s power by focusing solar light. Such concentrators use lenses or mirrors to focus a huge amount of sunlight onto the receiver. With the use of the solar power concentrator’s tracking system, more concentrated light will be captured, maximising your panel’s efficiency.

7. Hire Professionals For Solar Panel Installation

Solar panels can absorb the highest possible amount of solar energy when installed properly. This way, your solar panels will be able to produce more electricity. For this reason, hire professionals to install solar panels.

energy efficient technologies

The best solar panel installers are highly experienced and skilled in doing appropriate installation processes. Plus, they understand the procedure, ensuring your solar panels will function at their full potential.

Conclusion

Solar panels are no doubt great investments. Whether you want to cut your monthly electric bills or enjoy the benefits of using a renewable source of energy, you can never go wrong with installing solar panels. However, to make the most out of your solar panels and boost their efficiency, follow the tips above and always consult professionals if you encounter issues to avoid any inconvenience.

What Are Advantages And Downsides Of Solar Photovoltaic Energy

Solar “photovoltaic cells” can prove to be confusing verbiage relating to solar technology. Many people are unsure if this has anything to do with solar panels or solar energy.

It, in fact, does. Each is a component of a “solar PV system,” with a slight difference in the phrasing. Check this link to learn how solar panels work.

The solar panel converts the sun’s rays into a separate energy form like electricity or heat. The panels can transfer the sun’s rays into electricity using the assistance of photovoltaic cells.

pros and cons of solar PV

All these cells in only one panel have the capacity to generate adequate electricity for powering an entire household.

What Are Advantages And Disadvantages Of Solar PV Energy?

The sun has the capability to radiate sufficient energy to suffice a year of human consumption. That makes the green energy of solar PV panels a wise investment, with homeowners able to see that return with utility costs.

There are, however, not only advantages, as you’ll see with any product or service, there will be downsides as well. Let’s review each so you can make an educated decision regarding your energy resource.

Pros

1.  An environmentally sound green resource

The primary advantage of solar PV cells is their status as an environmentally sound green resource and clean energy. The panels won’t generate harsh “greenhouse gasses,” including carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

More people worldwide are taking advantage of solar energy because this resource is among the most environmentally friendly and sustainable sources for going off-grid.

The savings in energy costs alone allow a great return on the initial investment, although upfront costs can be high depending on a few variables. Go here for details on solar power systems.

2.  The sun is a free commodity

Fortunately, there is an abundance of raw materials required to generate energy using solar PV panels, and the materials are free. The suggestion is on days when there is inclement weather or during the nighttime, there need to be concessions, plus you need to invest in a battery.

Still, once you adjust, conserving becomes second nature. It’s wise to do a walk-through in the home when deciding to incorporate the panels to see where you can begin to cut back on energy, your carbon footprint.

There is much waste that people are unaware of, like small appliances that are not in use should be unplugged, charging cords for mobiles shouldn’t be left plugged in when not being used, and on.

3.  Reduction in price point

The initial cost of the energy systems was significant. Still, the expense is beginning to come down with the system’s popularity and demand, making them more affordable and accessible to more people. The investment boasts a wise one with the savings in energy costs.

The renewable energy resource is a government subsidy promoted with financial incentives, further making the investment attractive for homeowners looking to switch their home’s energy to a more environmentally-friendly alternative.

4.  Minimal care and upkeep

Once the solar PV panels are installed, there is minimal care and upkeep for the homeowners. Occasionally, the panels are cleaned with a gentle hose to ensure optimum energy generation. Still, the suggestion is if you’re in an area with sufficient rain, that shouldn’t even be a requirement.

Plus, it’s recommended to have the experts handle the cleaning, particularly if the panels are located on your home’s roof, to avoid potential damages to the panels and possible hazards for you.

The operating costs are minimal compared to other renewable energy resources making them among the most sought choices.

The way the PV panels operate, there is no noise making them an attractive choice for any neighborhood or community, not to mention the homeowner, who doesn’t have to worry about a lot of sound being produced when in use.

factors while buying a solar battery

Cons

1.  Intermittent power

Because of the availability of energy, the downside to this resource is that the power is intermittent depending on the conditions outside. When it’s dark or cloudy, it’s challenging to generate electricity; meaning PV cells can’t fully meet the demands of an electric system, making them a less reliable power resource.

A solution for the intermittency is investing in storage batteries. Many people choose to do so to allow power when the conditions are not sufficient for regular operation using the sun’s rays.

2. Fragile

Homeowners won’t need to worry about care or upkeep of the solar PV panels, and the operating costs are minimal, but the fear is how easy these are to become damaged due to their fragility. The recommendation is to add insurance coverage in an effort to have sufficient protection for the investment.

Final Thought

Solar PV panels provide an environmentally friendly green resource for household energy needs. More people are investing in the option as a renewable energy resource system.

Still, it takes considerable time, effort, and patience to learn how to be conservative, plus incorporate the storage batteries to avoid interruptions with the alternative.

After making the initial investment and making the necessary adjustments, the return can be worth it in the savings you achieve with utility costs. As with anything, there are positives and negatives; it’s merely a matter of adjusting to what equates to a new type of lifestyle.

How Do You Get a Solar Rebate?

The U.S. government understands the importance of reducing our reliance on non-renewable energy sources so the IRS began offering federal tax incentives for citizens and business owners who install solar electric equipment at their home or business.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Rebates

Below you’ll find some of the most common questions about getting a solar rebate and how using solar energy can be beneficial in multiple ways:

How do tax credits work?

A tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction in the total amount of income tax you owe. That means if you claim a 500$ federal tax credit, then your taxes will be reduced by 500$.

How do I get a federal solar tax credit?

You may be eligible for a solar tax credit in the following instances:

  • Your solar PV system was installed between January 1, 2006, and December 21, 2021
  • The solar PV system is located at your primary, or secondary residence, or apart of a community solar project
  • You own the solar PV system and it does not have a lease
  • The solar PV system is new or being used by you for the first time

Check brooklynsolarworks.com for more information about solar incentives, and using solar energy in your home.

What is the current federal solar tax credit?

The solar PV cell needs to have been installed by December 31, 2019, to receive a 30% credit. PV systems installed in 2020 will see a decrease in the credit to 26%.

When will the solar tax credit change?

The future of solar energy is influx over the next few years.  For those systems installed in 2021, the credit will be decreased to 22% and the current solar tax rebate expires in 2022 unless the government decides to renew it.

What expenses does the solar tax credit cover?

The solar tax credit covers the following expenses:

  • Solar PV panels and cells used to provide power for an attic fan, but not the fan
  • Contractor fees for system installation including the preparation, assembly, permits, inspections, and developer costs
  • System accessories including the wiring, inverters, and mounting equipment
  • Sales taxes on eligible solar equipment and accessories
  • Energy storage devices charged exclusively by the solar PV panels

Can you claim a solar tax credit more than once?

The solar tax credit only applies to new equipment being installed. If the equipment has been claimed before, then it cannot be claimed again.

Are federal solar tax credits refunds?

The solar income tax credit does not issue a refund check when you file taxes online or by mail and instead is applied as a credit against the amount of taxes that you owe.

Do federal solar tax credits rollover?

Normally you’ll receive your federal tax credit in the following year after installation of your system, however, if you are unable to use the entire tax credit, then the rebate can be rolled over for up to five years.

How do I file the solar tax rebate?

You must complete IRS Form 5695 and attach it to your federal tax return to take advantage of the solar tax rebate and it will be applied the following year.

Do I have to be a homeowner to claim the solar rebate?

You don’t have to be a homeowner to apply for the tax credit. Tenants that contribute to the costs of an eligible solar system could apply for the tax credit. The tenant must be the owner or part-owner of the solar PV system.

Comparing Solar Battery Prices? Here’s Everything to Keep in Mind

A solar battery is a device that stores electricity for later consumption and is connected to the solar power system. It can help you keep your appliances running during nighttime, power cuts, or whenever the need arises. However, to pick a solar battery that serves your requirements, you should understand what makes a good solar battery. And apart from the solar battery price, there are many other factors you must consider.

In this article, we will look at the things you need to focus on when buying a solar battery, so let’s get started!

factors while buying a solar battery

Things to Keep in Mind When Comparing Solar Battery Prices

Energy storage systems like solar batteries provide several benefits, from emergency power backup to cost savings; however, due to their complex terminology, people usually find solar batteries hard to understand.

So, to make it accessible, here are the key things you need to keep in mind when buying a solar battery:

1. Power Rating

The power rating of a solar battery refers to the kilowatt of power that it can provide at one time. In other words, the power rating shows both: the number of appliances the battery can handle at once and which are those appliances.

Different appliances use a different amount of power. For example, a lightbulb uses 12 watts of power, a 3-ton AC consumes about 4.8 kW, and so on. Power rating is an important factor to consider apart from the solar battery price.

2. Battery Storage Capacity

The storage capacity of a solar battery is the amount of electricity that it can store and supply to your house. The battery storage capacity simply tells you how long the solar battery can power your house. Therefore, make sure to check the battery capacity as it represents the amount of electricity stored that you can access during emergencies.

3. Efficiency

Efficiency is a metric that measures how well the solar battery system converts and stores electricity. There are always losses with an electrical process, which means that you will lose some electricity while converting it from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC). The efficiency of a solar battery tells how many units of electricity you can get out of every unit of electricity you put into it.

4. Battery Life and Warranty

The battery life is another important factor to consider other than the solar battery price. Make sure that the battery you buy provides a long warranty. The warranty period of a solar battery is usually specified in terms of the number of charging and draining cycles it can endure, or the years it will function.

5. Depth of Discharge

Depth of discharge is the measure of the battery capacity that can be used. Manufacturers specify this metric because the battery needs to retain some charge at all times to provide efficient and optimal performance. This is a vital factor you should consider other than the solar battery price.

6. Safety

A solar battery must meet certain safety requirements. The safety of a solar battery is determined by its performance at high temperatures. The best solar battery performs well at all temperatures. Apart from the solar battery price, safety is one of the most significant factors that must not be overlooked.

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7. Chemistry

The chemistry of the solar battery is the primary compound that is used to store electricity. It may be the most important characteristic to consider other than the solar battery price. The solar batteries with different chemistries come at significantly different price points, so make sure to choose a battery with a composition that fulfils your power requirements.

8. Brand

The lifespan and warranty of the solar battery depend on the brand. Make sure to buy the battery from a reputed brand to get a battery that provides sufficient capacity and optimal power backup in times of need.

Make sure to keep the above factors in mind when comparing solar battery prices, as investing in high-grade solar batteries can continue to benefit you for many years to come.

How To Choose Solar Landscape Lighting?

When you take a good look around your garden, you may find that there’s so much you can do to make it look better. Among all others, you could consider landscaping your garden. This is a project that’ll make your garden instantly look lovelier. And then, going even further beyond that is landscape lighting. That way, even at night, the beauty of your landscape will still be visible. It’s a great way to make your garden look elegant and homey.

However, as much as this is nice to have, maintaining and switching on solar lights the whole night could be costly. Apart from sprucing up your home, you’ll also want your household to be eco-friendly. Thankfully, solar lights now exist to make this endeavor of yours achievable.

But with the wide range of options out in the market today, how do you choose the right solar landscape lighting for your garden? This article has you covered.

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1. Match The Light With Its Purpose

First of all, your chosen solar landscape lights should serve the purpose that you intend for it to do. You can choose from three of the most common categories of solar lights, according to use, in the garden. They are:

a. Decorative Accent Lights

These lights are meant to highlight certain features of your garden that you want to illuminate at night. These are usually made of multi-crystalline solar cells that enable them to charge even on a cloudy day. These are also great for sections in your garden with shaded areas such as trees, as these kinds of lights can stay lit for long.

b. Spot Lights

This kind of light has more of a safety feature beyond the decorative vibe it gives. More than anything, the best outdoor solar spot lights are used to mark landscape hazards, including steps on your garden or any rock formation that could potentially be a hazard.

c. Path Lights

These are used for lighting up driveways, walkways, and pathways.

2. Consider The Look You’re After

Another factor to consider when you’re thinking about some of the most popular options is the look you want for your garden or landscape. If you aspire to create a unique landscape that’s not seen often, you will probably want to select some of the more elaborate options available. Technology has also brought forth new designs of these solar lights, so you only need to take your pick according to your preference.

3. Inspect The Manner Of Mounting

Another thing to think about when it comes to some of these popular choices is how they can be mounted. For example, some lights can be mounted right onto your plants, while others require you to mount them directly onto the ground.

If you’re thinking about landscape lights that can be installed directly onto the ground, you’ll need to consider the plants or trees that they will illuminate. Take a good look around your garden to see if you have the appropriate plants around for specific light mounts.

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Some plants also prefer being on the ground rather than hung on the air, so they may require a completely different type of lighting design than you originally intended. Try to find options that would fit this exterior plan of your home.

4. Read Through Reviews Online

Before you even head out to shop, it’s better if you’ve already done prior research online. You might be confused about many options if you don’t know what you want. When window-shopping online, you’ll immediately acquire valuable information like the following:

  • Pictures of how these lights are used in actual gardens
  • Price range
  • Customer reviews
  • Quality

It’s a great idea to shop around and get as much information as possible on the lights you’re considering. If you do your homework, you’ll be able to choose the best solar lights for your backyard.

5. Check Basic Feature Must-haves

Regardless of the type of solar landscape lighting you’ll purchase and the purpose it serves in your garden, there are certain features you should also take extra care to notice among all your options. These features should be present for you to know that you’re bringing home a good quality item:

  • It comes with high-grade glass panels, so they won’t crack and turn cloudy;
  • It has advanced circuitry, so it can store light and charge even when the sky is dark;
  • It uses top-of-the-line batteries or ‘next-generation batteries’ to ensure that it has more charges than ordinary solar landscape lights.

Conclusion

With the vast number of options available today for solar landscape lighting, choosing the best one might prove challenging. But remember that one of the most important aspects of having a beautiful landscape garden is the light system you choose to install. So, you’ll want to make sure that you choose wisely. These are just some of the tips you can take with you when searching for a system that’ll work for your landscape.

Pros and Cons of Buying and Doing a DIY Solar Panel Installation

There’s a number of reasons why people invest in solar energy through solar panel installations on either their homes or other buildings. For some, they want their energy consumption to reduce their carbon footprint and make sure they live environmentally friendly. For others, they may want a power source they can use just in case the power were to shut off for a long period, or may want to earn tax incentives for going green.

But whichever reason you have, you have a choice between buying from a professional solar panel installation company, and going the DIY route. There are a few pros and cons to doing a DIY solar panel installation.

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Pro: You Can Determine Where And How You Want Your Solar Energy

If you have the time to design and build your own solar energy system, you can decide how you want it built and where you want it placed. One of the keys is buying solar panels for either on-grid or off-grid use, because that determines a lot in the scope of your installation.

But if you’re willing to take on the rigors of the installation, you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing solar power going to the areas of your property where you want.

Pro: There Is Some Savings You Can Get

Yes, getting DIY solar panels can save you some money, though it may not be as much as you want. The main area of savings is in the design and labor costs since you’re handling these yourself, but there can still be other costs you incur while taking the project on. For example, you may need storage or battery backups in some cases that may be a hidden cost. Still, you can usually save about a minimum of 10%-20% in overall costs by going DIY.

According to the experts at Unbound Solar, “Even if you extend your payback period by taking out a loan to finance your project, you still enjoy reduced electricity costs from the moment you flip the switch on your PV system.”

Con: Not All DIY Solar Panels Can Be Used On The Grid

While there are a few cases where you can install your own solar panels and remain connected to your utility provider, not all solar systems are designed for that. And some local governments have laws about what kind of solar panels and installations can be done that remain grid-tied. You’ll want to do research on whether you can do this before getting started.

Con: DIY Installation Can Be Quite Complex

While getting your own solar panel kit and building it yourself sounds easy enough, the process can be very intense and require a lot more know-how from the consumer than they might realize. Plus, there are tasks that need to be completed and signed off on by a certified electrician if your solar panels are going to be grid-tied, so you need to be aware of that. It’s usually going to require heavy duty tools and take some man power to get the system installed perfectly.

At the end of the day, installing your own solar panels can allow you to save a lot of money on energy, or get power to areas that it would be difficult to with a utility provider. But if you’re new to installing a solar panel system, you need to carefully consider the cost in both time and money to do it.

Will Solar Roadways Ever Be Possible?

In the United States, the primary mode of transport is cars — and when you have many people driving, you need a lot of road. In total, there are around four million miles of paved road in the United States. According to one estimate, that’s more than 13,000 square miles of paved land.

These roads have a big impact on their local environment before, during and after construction. First, there’s a carbon cost to laying asphalt. After construction, when it rains, the impervious surface of the road can carry polluted rainwater directly to storm drains — where the water will run off into the environment.

There’s also evidence that expanding roads encourages people to drive more often, increasing emissions over time.

Without a major shift in the U.S., these roads are likely to stick around well into the future. As a result, environmentalists and engineers want to find ways to take advantage of all that open space and offset some of the environmental cost of roads.

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Solar roadways — roads outfitted with special solar panels — have arisen as one possible solution to reduce the environmental impact of roads. If you outfit all these roads with solar energy, you can use that paved land to generate energy. At first glance, it looks like a good idea — but would it work in practice?

Why People Are Interested in Solar Roadways

While solar roadway technology has been theoretically possible for a while, interest in the idea has grown significantly over the past decade. This new interest is likely due in part to the growing availability of new solar technology like home solar systems and batteries.

Changes in road materials may have also made the idea seem more practical. In recent years, rising asphalt prices have many cities turning to concrete for their roads. Concrete is somewhat tougher and more durable than asphalt, meaning concrete roads may be a better candidate for projects like solar roadways, where damage to the road could loosen or destroy embedded solar panels.

Growing knowledge about the environmental impact of travel by car may have also inspired recent interest in solar road projects. After all, if we can find a way to make roads eco-friendly, we won’t need to worry as much about their potential long-term effects on the climate and the environment.

The Challenges to Overcome

No one has attempted a large-scale solar roadway yet — but the first few experimental applications of the technology have not yielded encouraging results.

The Wattway solar road project, built in the Normandy region of France in 2016, lined a full kilometer (0.62 miles) of road with 2,800 photovoltaic solar panels. The project engineers designed panels coated with a special resin containing silicone. The company behind Wattway said the resin was strong enough to protect the panels from the weight of an eighteen-wheeler.

While sound in theory, the project was a disaster in practice. The resin was able to mostly protect the panels from traffic at first, but the sound created by cars passing over the panels was so loud that the village had to limit local speed limits to just over 40 miles per hour.

Three years after installation, there are solar panels peeling off the road and the protective resin is splintered and shattered in many places.

In terms of energy production, the project was also a bust. While solar panels are decent energy sources in well-lit regions of the world, Normandy only sees around 44 days of full sunlight every year. The region’s strong weather, in addition to potentially damaging the panels, further limited the power the panels could collect.

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On one hand, the Wattway project may seem like a failure of planning. The choice of region, road and materials were all suboptimal. The combination of these mistakes could easily have been enough to sink the project.

However, the Wattway project also shows the serious challenges that engineers will overcome to make solar roadways and other “solar surfaces” workable. To start with, designers will need to use panel materials that are strong, resilient to traffic without generating too much noise and easy to maintain. Project planners will also have to select the right region for the roadway and find a road with the right angle towards the sun for maximum energy production.

What Will Future Solar Technology Look Like?

Growing demand for clean sources of energy will prompt engineers and designers to continue searching for new applications for solar panels. Solar roadways, however, seem likely to remain theoretical in the near future. The challenges of road-ready solar panels and the limited amount of suitable area will probably mean that solar engineers will look elsewhere before turning to projects like a solar panel highway.

Factors to Consider Before Subscribing to Community Solar

So you’ve heard of community solar and are now thinking of subscribing to one. Naturally, you want to know if you are qualified for a solar farm subscription. In this article, we will discuss factors that you need to consider before you sign up for a community solar program.

What is Community Solar?

Community solar or shared solar is one of the biggest renewable energy trends to have emerged in the past decade. Compared to residential solar which is mostly individualistic, a community solar project allows several neighboring households to tap into a single solar farm installation.

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Instead of installing panels on residential roofs or backyards, solar farm owners set them up at a central location like an open field or even an open body of water. Since it is subscription-based, you will simply receive a portion of the solar energy generated by these farms. Usually, this power will be coursed through your existing power lines, which means you don’t have to get any new gear just to enjoy your subscription. Sounds promising, right?

Am I Qualified for a Subscription?

Just like traditional solar panels, though, community solar programs are not for everyone. Here are some factors that make you a great candidate for community solar:

1. Your utility provider has a solar project

A lot of local energy providers own or manage their own solar farms. This way, you can buy in and ‘fund’ the community project in exchange for rebates in your monthly energy bill. Supporting these utility-sponsored projects will allow you to reduce your own electricity costs while helping your provider reach their goals in terms of building a more balanced energy portfolio.

Check with your utility provider if they have such a project. If they do, then chances are you are automatically qualified to subscribe to it.

2. You live near a solar farm

Utility providers are not the only entities that can own and manage solar farms. Private companies, non-profit organizations, and even local government units can run shared solar projects that you can easily subscribe to.

Sometimes, members of the actual community come together to pitch in the capital for the solar farm, making it purely community-owned and for the benefit of the general public.

In any case, it is required that you live close enough to a solar farm for a viable subscription.

3. You can’t put up solar panels at home

One of the most important considerations when choosing your solar-generating system of choice is feasibility. PV panels will require you to have ample space at home, not to mention the authority to make such installations on the roof (or even on the ground surrounding your house.)

More often than not, you will not be allowed to make modifications to a rented house, even if it’s for something as beneficial as a solar panel system. In this case, subscribing to a community solar program would be your best bet.

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Even if you live in your own house, though, solar panels may not always be suitable. Not all roofs can accommodate those installations. If your area gets more shade than sunlight, sourcing your solar energy from a shared solar garden might still be the most cost-efficient solution.

4. You move a lot

Flexibility is a prime benefit of having a community solar subscription, as opposed to investing in your own solar system at home. If the nature of your job or lifestyle is that it requires you to move a lot, it just won’t be practical to invest in your own panels because of the sheer effort it would take you to uninstall, transport, and install them all over again with every move.

Going for a solar farm subscription will give you more flexibility when moving since it’s typically easy to suspend or cancel your subscription to one and just subscribe to a different project that’s nearer the place where you’re moving. It’s also a great way to maintain environmental sustainability with every move.

If any or all four of these factors are attendant in your case, then you already know that you possess the golden opportunity to try out a community solar program and see how it works out for you.