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CLIMATE CHANGE & SOLAR
On March 1st, 2007, in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized his concerns about global warming, stating that the largest industrialized countries and the biggest polluters should take the lead in addressing climate change. He urged the administration to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. After a decade-long hiatus, the world is finally aligning to clean and green energy. Many countries have installed significant solar power capacity into their electrical grids to supplement, or to provide alternatives to conventional energy sources.
Worldwide growth of solar energy shows an exponential rise which varies country by country with China and Japan being the top two based on total Photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity. The sun could be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems generating up to 16% of the world’s electricity overtaking fossil fuels, wind, hydro, and nuclear energy in a little more than three decades.
DEPLETING FUELS FANNING THE FIRE
Fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal are all finite resources of energy. Based on calculations of historical and present production data, we are nearing the end of the fossil fuel era. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world population is expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100, and unless we find an alternative source of energy, the fossil fuel reserves will inevitably dwindle within the next 80 to 90 years.
An alternative source of affordable clean energy is ‘solar energy’. The sun delivers more energy to earth in one hour than humanity consumes over the course of a year, making solar the only resource that can keep up with global demands.
ELECTRICITY IN TEXAS
Texas is growing! The latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area saw the most significant population growth over the last year – an increase of about 146,000 people.
With the decreasing supply of fossil fuels and an ever-increasing demand for electricity, utility rates are expected to rise every year. Furthermore, energy costs tend to add up quickly in states that require a lot of air-conditioning. Texas, with large spikes for air conditioning demands during the summer months, has one of the highest monthly power bills, in the country. On the upside, Texas is considered as a prime location for the solar industry because of its abundance of land and sunshine.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), an organization that manages the flow of electric power to more than 25 million Texas customers and represents about 90 percent of the state’s power grid, expects the solar power capacity to reach about 2,000 megawatts by the end of 2018, up from 1,100 megawatts last year.
BENEFITS TO HOMEOWNERS
Depending on the electricity usage of a home, installing a solar electric system can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $40,000. Fortunately, there are solar financing options available in the market that make solar installations affordable to homeowners. Solar loans give buyers a manageable payment plan over a fixed term of about 10 to 20 years and allow customers to avoid steep upfront payments. This fixed monthly loan payment does not impact the monthly budget of a household and protects the homeowner against the rising utility costs. This way the electricity costs are predictable and fixed and beneficial for homeowners living on a fixed income, or for those needing steady and stable cash flow.
Going solar eliminates the electric bill by 90-95% and increases the property value by at least $20,000. Most solar panel systems generate electricity for approximately 25 years. Thus, savings are locked in for a very long time and amounts to around $60,000 to $100,000 for an average household over a period of 25 years.
UTILITY COMPANIES SUPPORTING SOLAR
For grid-tied systems, any over-production from solar panels during the day is fed to the electrical grid. The grid still sends power to your home at night when the solar panels are not producing. The cost of any power you use during the night is offset by the solar energy provided to the grid during the day. This is called “Net Metering.” Net metering allows for the flow of electricity both to and from the customer – typically through a single, bi-directional meter.
Some utility companies have a buy-back plan to reimburse the customer for the over-production from panels, which means that the customer can make money from their utility company. In addition to the buy-back plan, utility companies are also offering energy efficiency incentives to help homeowners and business owners to generate electricity from a renewable energy source, such as solar power.
With the support solar is garnering from the government, investors, environmentalists, utility companies and customers, solar energy is here to stay for an indefinite amount of time.