Solar energy is the next best building-energy solution after energy conservation. Wind and photovoltaic electricity are competitive with coal-fired electricity and less expensive than nuclear electricity. However solar energy isn’t as powerful, or reliable, as electricity or natural gas. Therefore we should reduce our energy use as much as possible before implementing solar energy.
Benefits of Solar Energy
Solar energy provides a smaller return on investment than energy conservation. However solar energy systems increase the value of buildings and pay a greater ROI compared to similar safe investments.
Not only are you reducing the energy demand of your home by instituting energy conservation measures, but you’re also using a renewable resource that further reduces the use of fossil fuels.
Best Uses of Solar Power
Solar photovoltaic — Solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity from solar radiation. The photovoltaic industry has been growing by 20 percent or more for the past five years, bolstered by utility rebates and government tax credits. Massive implementation in sunny climates should be a national priority. Annual return: 1 to 5 percent, depending on subsidies.
Solar water heating — Solar water heating is a mature technology that was used extensively in California and elsewhere between 1920 and 1940. Cheap fuel killed the industry and fuel-price fluctuations have developed the industry in fits and starts. Solar domestic water heating is very cost-effective in warm climates where freeze protection isn’t a necessity. Massive implementation in warm climates should be a national priority. Annual return: 1 to 5 percent, depending on subsidies.
Solar space heating — Passive solar heating uses only windows to collect solar heat. Passive solar space heating is very cost effective and costs little extra when building new. Active solar space heating is rarely economical because of the difficulty and cost of storing heat. Annual return: 1 to 10 percent, depending on subsidies.
Find out more about saving energy in your home with The Homeowners Handbook to Energy Efficiency.