Is Solar Energy Renewable? An Explanation of Solar Power and the Environment

by Jeremy

The temperature across the Earth is heating up. On average, the Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.14° F each decade for more than a century.

That might not seem like much, but temperature rises like this have devasting effects on our glaciers, oceans, and environment the world over.

And it’s all due to rapid industrial expansion and unchecked consumption of resources, leading to higher levels of greenhouse gases. That’s why renewable energy sources are so important.

Is solar energy renewable? When discussing renewables, solar power is usually the first thing that comes to mind.

Keep reading below to learn more about solar energy and why it’s important in 2022 and beyond.

Solar panels

Solar panels

What are Renewable Energy Sources?

In 2022, most of our energy will come from nonrenewable resources. This includes the mining and burning of coal to generate electricity. And it also provides for the drilling process for oil and natural gas.

In theory, oil and natural gas are renewable. But it takes millions of years to produce more. Therefore, they are considered a limited resource. Once we use it all up, it’ll be gone for good.

Renewable energy sources are any that replenish themselves. They have an unlimited supply and will return each day.

We can use as much as we want today, because tomorrow, it will be back again.

Aside from solar power, familiar renewable energy sources include wind power, hydroelectric power, biogas, and geothermal energy (heat from within the Earth).

Some of these are better than others. Hydroelectric power, for example, is controversial because it requires the damming of large rivers, which affects the environment and wildlife that depend on those rivers.

Out of all of these sources, solar power is the most important. Enough sunlight hits the surface of the Earth every single day to power the entire Earth for a year.

We can’t use all of that energy. But we can get closer than we are today.

How Solar Energy Works

Is solar energy a renewable resource? First, we need to discuss how solar power works.

Most people understand that solar energy comes from the sun (solar means sun). But they don’t understand solar energy and how it produces electricity.

The sun emits constant light. This light is also called solar radiation or electromagnetic radiation. In other words, light equals energy.

Just look at nature. Sunlight is necessary to sustain life. Without sunlight, plants can’t grow, animals can’t eat, and none of us can stay warm.

Sunlight is energy. But that energy is wasted when it comes to industry and modern society. Until the advent of solar panels, of course.

Solar panels contain advanced technology that receives solar radiation and converts it into electricity, thus creating a valuable energy source.

In photovoltaic panels (PV), the radiation is absorbed by special cells, generating an electrical charge that flows through the cells and into a battery or directly to your home.

PV panels are standard for residential applications.

The other primary type of solar panel is concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) panels. These use mirrors to reflect and focus the sunlight into receptors, which generate heat.

This heat generates electricity, which can be stored or used on the spot. CSP panels are used more frequently in larger applications, such as power plants.

Is Solar Energy Renewable?

So solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it into usable electricity. So is solar renewable energy? Absolutely.

Remember, renewable energy is any resource that won’t run out in the future.

Why is solar energy renewable? Solar energy is renewable because it will be available all day, every day, for as long as humans exist.

The Earth revolves around the sun. The sun will consistently provide thermal radiation. If it ever stops, life on Earth will cease to exist so solar power won’t be needed anymore.

When it comes to solar panels, they are created once. After manufacturing and installation, they can convert radiation into electricity for decades, so long as they aren’t damaged.

Most have an estimated useful life of at least 30 years. Over time, they don’t stop working; they work less effectively.

For example, after about 30 years, panels might be producing 90% of the electricity they originally had. In another ten years, they might make 80% or 85% of their original rate.

Environmental Cost of Solar Energy

Solar energy is one of the most important developments in recent decades. And it’s importance will continue to grow over the next few years as societies transition away from fossil fuels into renewable energy sources.

However, there is a cost to producing solar panels. Manufacturing solar panels require resources such as metal, which must be mined from the Earth (or recycled from existing products).

Materials must be transported to manufacturing plants, which use fossil fuels. Electricity is required to power the manufacturing process.

And so, the production of solar panels has a carbon footprint, just like anything else. So some critics argue that building solar panels is just as bad as every other activity.

But think about cars. When you manufacture cars, there is a carbon footprint left behind, as it has used tons of resources to produce.

Then, every day you use a car, you create more carbon footprint, as it requires gasoline to power. So a vehicle pollutes the Earth during manufacturing, and it spoils it every moment it’s used on the roads.

A solar panel leaves behind a carbon footprint when manufactured, sure. But every single day after installation, it never pollutes the Earth again. It does the opposite.

It limits the fossil fuels required to power a home or a business. And so, the amount of good done by solar panels far outweighs the carbon footprint during manufacturing.

Getting Started With Solar Energy

Solar energy is the most critical energy source we have today. To limit the effects of global warming and save our planet from destruction, we need more and more homeowners and businesses to switch to solar power.

And luckily, in 2022, it’s more affordable than ever before. Here’s how you can get started with solar power today.

Take Advantage of Incentives

Over the past decade, we have seen numerous federal and local government incentives to encourage more people to install solar panels.

Today there are still some fantastic opportunities to save on your solar installation.

Federal Solar Tax Credit

The federal solar tax credit is the most significant benefit of installing solar panels today. Tax credits reduce your tax burden, putting more money in your pocket during tax time.

In 2022, you can get a tax credit worth 26% of your total installation cost. For most homes, that translates to several thousands of dollars in savings.

If you wait until 2023 to install your solar panels, the tax credit drops to 22%. Currently, the program is set to cease in 2024.

The credit includes all costs associated with materials and labor.

Net Metering

Another benefit of installing solar panels is net metering programs offered in most areas. This is when your solar installer hooks your boards up to your power grid.

When your panels generate more electricity than your home can use at any given moment, the excess isn’t wasted (nor is it stored for later use unless you purchase a battery).

Instead, it’s sold to your power company in exchange for credits. Then, when your panels aren’t generating any power (such as at nighttime), you draw power from your utility provider.

But instead of paying for it, you use those credits you’ve been piling up. So you’re still getting “free power,” thanks to your panels.

In many places, if you don’t use up all your credits by the end of the year, your power company will send you a check for unused credits.

Local Incentives

Some states and cities will also offer additional credits for solar panel installation. This could be local tax credits, rebates, and so forth. Check with your state and city to see what benefits are offered.

Home Value

Most people install solar panels on homes they plan to stay in indefinitely. However, things happen, and people need to move.

The good news is that many buyers are willing to pay extra for a home outfitted with a solar power system. So this can increase the resale value of your home, providing yet another benefit.

Know Your Market

You can use solar panels anywhere. However, some places will be more effective than others.

It pays to know what type of market you are in and how it compares to other areas regarding the number of sunny days you’ll get in a year.

In Florida and across the Southwest, the average number of sunny days is high, making these markets the ideal place to install solar as soon as possible.

Still, there are many other places to consider. High elevation cities in Colorado, for example, get ample sunshine, even amid cold winters and summer storms.

Northern California, particularly Redding, is one of the sunniest areas in the country. Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, and many others you might not expect are high on the list of annual sunny days.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t install solar panels in other parts of the country. It just means you’ll generate less electricity, and thus your ROI will take longer.

You will still contribute to a healthier planet and save money in the long run.

Know Your Property

Along with knowing your city and region, it helps to understand your property. Solar panels will always work best on a south-facing roof. In the northern hemisphere, the sun is always to the south of us, providing most of the sunshine here.

If you don’t have a south-facing slope on your roof, a west or east-facing top may work. However, installing on a north-facing roof isn’t a good idea.

Some homeowners install freestanding panels in their yard than can angle in any direction. Speak with solar experts in your area to determine the best option for your property.

Know Your Budget

Solar installations are available for nearly any budget. However, your price will determine how much electricity your panels generate and how much you will save on your utility bills.

You can choose to purchase more expensive, more efficient panels that will produce more electricity over cheaper panels. You can also choose to buy enough panels to power your home entirely or just a few meetings to help offset the cost of your power bills.

Everyone should consider solar panels, regardless of how much they have available. The good news is that most solar installers offer to finance. So you can spread your payment out over a few years, using the savings on your power bills to help make your monthly payment.

Hire a Professional

It’s possible to buy solar panels directly. But if you’re trying to power your home with solar panels, it’s best to work with a certified installer.

This will ensure your panels will function optimally every single day. That means more power generated and more money saved for you.

There are also warranties provided. They’d likely cover it if something were to go wrong (which is rare with solar panels).

Plus, solar panels involved getting up onto the roof. For those who aren’t trained, roofs are very dangerous. Many people are hurt and killed by going onto their roofs to clean or make repairs without the proper training and safety equipment.

Go Green, Go Solar

So is solar energy renewable? Yes, it’s completely renewable and is one of the cleanest energy sources on the planet.

How is solar energy renewable? The light coming from the sun is a source of energy that can be converted into electricity. Sunlight will hit the Earth every day, so we can use it as much as we want without any negative consequences, unlike oil or natural gas.

Are you looking for more information like this? Head over to our blog now to keep reading.

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