Climate News

10 myths about solar energy

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( As many of you know, solar power has become “all the rage” among environmentalists and other lovers of nature who think modern society burns far too many fossil fuels. But solar power is also very popular among people who are interested in living as far off “the grid” as they possibly can in a bid to become as self-sufficient as possible. Others are attracted to solar power by the cost savings, noting that in many cases systems can pay for themselves in five-to-ten years.

But there are a lot of myths about solar power as well. It may not be the panacea it is often made out to be for some; for others, it is exactly the right fit.

Solar power for homesteaders and others who seek a less-connected life does make good sense, however, so with an eye towards clearing up some common misconceptions about this form of energy, here are 10 “myths” many people hold about it:

  1. Not so disconnected: No, solar power does not get you completely “off the grid,” so to speak. Nearly every modern solar system is “grid tied” – that is, they are connected to conventional energy grids. So you don’t simply store the excess power generated during the daytime in a battery system. Excess power is sent back into the grid via “net metering;” when that happens, your meter goes backward but the power company credits you with extra power generation. You’ll use grid power during the evening or on cloudy days, but because you’ve generated excess power on other days, you won’t be charged. You can get a battery system, but they are expensive, must be stored properly and replaced every five years or so.
  1. No need to wait: Some have said they want to wait until solar panel technology matures, but in reality not much has changed with it since the 1960s. So solar makes sense already, and here’s a bonus: There is a federal 30 percent solar tax credit for installing a system, and your state may also have some incentives.
  1. Too cloudy here: Many people think that solar power doesn’t work in places where it is often cloudy and overcast, but that isn’t true. Panels can produce a significant amount of energy on cloudy, foggy, cool days. Granted, the panels will produce less power, but they will still produce it.
  1. They’ll hurt my roof: In actuality, solar panels help protect and preserve the portion of roofs they cover. And if your roof every does need to be repaired for some reason, panels are easily removed because they are installed on a rail system.
  1. Maintenance: Solar panels don’t require any maintenance, though solar panel installers do recommend that buyers hose them off at least once a year (though most don’t – they rely on the rain to do it). Now, if debris from high winds or a fallen tree contact the panels, that could cause them damage. Also, today’s sensor technology allows each panel to be monitored for any loss of efficiency.
  1. When others don’t have power, I will: Not true. When the grid goes down for some reason, so do grid-tied solar systems. That’s a safety feature; you can’t be pushing electricity out to the grid while linemen are working to repair them. Use your generator for a while and don’t worry; your power really doesn’t go out that often.
  1. It will never pay out: Like hybrid cars, solar panel systems are prohibitively expensive and will never pay themselves off – right? Wrong. Today many companies offer low-to-no upfront costs to install systems, and if you live in a place with good sun, your payoff could be in as little as four years. You may also find that your solar system payment is much lower than your monthly electric bills.
  1. I’ll have to have a sun tracker: While these increase the efficiency of solar panel arrays by following the sun as the day progresses, they are certainly not required or even vital to the overall function of your system.
  1. Ugly, these systems: That’s a matter of opinion, of course, but many people find that solar panels add a “technology attraction” to homes. In fact, some homeowners associations in the cities and suburbs have even changed their policies and are allowing homeowners to install solar arrays.
  1. Panels will raise my property taxes: Not necessarily, as in many states they are property tax-exempt. But installing solar panels certainly could increase the value of your home without costing you a dime.

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