The Arab oil embargo of 1973 catalyzed the development of today’s modern solar cell (PV) technology. In 1974 American Congress passed five energy bills, two of which supported solar as a potentially valuable solution to the decade’s energy emergency. But despite government-wide initiatives launched by President Carter throughout his term in office, America’s “solar coaster” ride dipped in the 80s, 90s, and well into the contemporary era of climate change concerns — that is until very recently, when solar tech once again began to assert itself as the answer to our increasingly complicated energy crisis.
According to a new report, “The Next Wave of U.S. Utility Solar: Procurement Beyond the RPS“ by GTM Research, 2016 will see more than half of its new utility-scale solar built outside of obligations to meet state-mandated renewable energy requirements. The economic competitiveness of solar — for utilities, corporations, and homeowners alike — is finally evolving to change the way everyone in America views energy.
Solar Energy Hits Home
No matter where you look the world is aflame with disputes over vital resources. The real issue driving much of today’s turmoil is our continued reliance on fossil fuels, which pollute and intensify the effects of already-observable global climate change. Most people know that solar energy can protect the environment by replacing combustible fuels, but they are unaware of how to get involved or if the initial investment will turn out to be worthwhile in the long run.
The increasingly cost-competitive nature of solar power has encouraged more businesses to make the technology and installation process easier for homeowners to understand than ever before. Google’s Project Sunroof, for example, puts Google’s expansive map data to use to help anyone calculate a “personalized roof analysis” that will aid in planning the perfect solar plan.
In another effort to bring solar electricity to homeowners, pay-TV service DirecTV has recently partnered with solar lease providers SolarCity to establish a new program that gives customers the option to “go solar” when a cable TV technician visits their home. SolarCity is also the first solar provider to integrate energy services through a “smart home” technology provider, following their recent partnership with Nest. By establishing relationships like these, it becomes easier for the average consumer to incorporate the benefits of solar into their daily life.
By installing solar panels, individuals and families take ultimate control away from energy monopolies and “decentralize” the grid. In this model, utilities no longer own the generation, and homeowners can use the solar-harnessed electricity for their homes or sell it back to local power providers. For those who profit from the burning of fossil fuels — investor-owned utilities and Koch-brothers-funded interest groups like American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — the rapid growth of small-scale solar now poses a considerable threat. In sunny states like Nevada, Arizona, and particularly in Florida, the skies have darkened for clean energy as a result of fiercely obstructive legislative policies. But there is no question that today, solar won’t go down without a fight.
Solar Energy is the Ethical Choice
By choosing to obtain energy from the sun rather than fossil fuels, customers are given the opportunity to improve air and water quality standards while simultaneously fighting the power of “Big Oil.” Burning fewer fossil fuels for power means fewer cases of asthma and lung disease, less contamination of local water supply systems, and improved public health overall. According to a new study from Harvard University researchers, solar and other renewable energy projects deliver health benefits to the tune of over hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Solar power is also the key to sustainable growth. Current economic and environmental predictions prove the reality of anthropogenic climate change, but the use of solar systems in developing parts of the world (such as sub-Saharan Africa) allows for the growth of flexible, eco-friendly energy infrastructure and improved economic prospects. With low-cost solar options, the people in these nations can avoid dirty sources of energy like diesel fuel and coal to industrialize their economies.
The future of Earth and humanity will be built upon the foundation of strong renewable energy technology. The government may not be able to decide how to solve the world’s fossil fuel problems, but many innovative individuals have already begun to design and implement solutions. It is time for us to listen to clean-energy innovators who have our country, and our world’s, ethical interests at heart.
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