from July 2013 News from the Solar System: Summer is Sweeter
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” — Arthur C. Clark
That’s what I love about solar: that these simple panels can silently–with no moving parts–convert sunlight directly into electricity, like magic! Invented over 50 years ago, solar electricity is one of the fastest growing sources of electric generation. Yet it is still not well understood by many people. Here are some common myths and the real facts:
Myth: “I have to change my lifestyle to have solar.”
Fact: You don’t need to change anything about your appliances, lights, etc. The solar system makes the same kind of electricity as grid power, but supplements or replaces grid power when the sun is shining. It operates invisibly and automatically behind the scenes, in conjunction with your existing electrical system.
Myth: “Solar is unreliable, and requires maintenance.”
Fact: Grid-tied systems have only a few elements, none of which require maintenance, except for occasionally rinsing off the panels if they get dusty or dirty. Solar panels have a long track record and will produce power for decades, and are typically warranted for 25 years. (Just make sure to avoid low-cost panels, especially those made in China, and stick to well-known brands.)
Myth: “Solar can’t work on the foggy Coast.”
Fact: There are solar installations up and down the Coast with owners well satisfied with the performance for years. The fact is that, although there are a number of foggy days, over the course of a year there are many beautiful bright days. More importantly, solar panels actually work better in cool weather. In hot inland climates, production suffers when it gets too hot, so coastal systems can “catch up” in comparison.
Myth: “I can’t afford to go solar.”
Fact: Prices have come down dramatically in the last few years. Although an installation will typically need to be financed, the utility bill savings is a revenue stream that will pay for the system well before its useful life is over. Escalating electric bills get replaced by lower, fixed payments. When the payments are through, electricity will be essentially free for many additional years. Another option that has become popular is solar leasing. With as little as zero down, homeowners can make monthly payments and save from day one. This can eliminate any risk as well, as the leasing company will be responsible for power output and any repairs for the typical 20 year life of the lease. Better yet, leases are qualified only by FICO score with no regard to home equity or income.
Myth: “All those holes in my roof might leak!”
Fact: Attachments to your roof will be made with industry standard flashing products, just like what is used for the plumbing vents, stovepipes, etc, that are already in your roof. Also, some systems are ground-mounted where the roof is too small or shaded, and there is enough space on the ground.
Myth: “But solar panels take more energy to build than they produce.”
Fact: The energy used to make a panel is equivalent to only about two years of its power output, giving it potentially 30 or more years to send clean, renewable, locally-sourced power to the grid. Solar has become a reliable, mature technology, that allows almost anyone to have a home-sized “power plant” that will cleanly take the abundant sunshine that falls on our rooftops, and make electricity that can be shared with the neighbors, and reduce the amount of utility power that has to be imported into our County. Homeowners can now convert their concerns about pollution, climate change, and resource depletion into action, and save money in the bargain!