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How Much Do You Know About Solar Power? – 101 Facts About Solar Power

We bet you think you know everything there is to know about Solar Power, but guess what? There’s a ton we just know you don’t! We know finding facts and figures about Solar Power can be time-consuming and frustrating, so we put together this list of the top 101 facts, notes, and statistics so you can easily reference them and refer back to them any time in the future.  This space is constantly changing, so if you see a fact that is not up-to-date, feel free to let us know. And if you know a stat that we should add, let us know that too!

1. Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination.

Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and solar tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.

2. Solar power is the most abundant energy source on Earth.

There’s enough solar energy hitting the Earth every hour to meet all of humanity’s power needs for an entire year. Every ounce of oil, every lump of coal, and every cubic foot of natural gas could be left in the ground if only we could capture one hour’s worth of solar energy each year. That’s the scale of the opportunity.

3. Solar panel costs have fallen 99% since 1977.

In 1977, it cost $77 per watt for a simple solar cell. According to Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research’s Q3 2017 Solar Market Insight Report, the cost of a solar cell now is $0.21 per watt. An entire assembled module is $0.39 per watt. 

4. Solar Energy is cheaper than fossil fuels.

According to Lazard’s Levelized Cost Of Energy Analysis–Version 11.0, solar energy costs as little as 4.3 cents per kWh on an unsubsidized basis, cheaper than nearly every option for new fossil-fuel power plants. The cheapest fossil fuel option is natural gas, which costs between 4.2 and 7.8 cents per kWh. 

5. Solar power plants can last 40 years or more.

Not only will solar panels last 40 or 50 years, the infrastructure around a solar power plant has a lot of value. Solar panels could be replaced with new, more efficient modules at relatively low cost, thus improving performance, but once a site is established and the infrastructure is built, a solar power plant has a very long effective lifespan. 

6. China is the world leader in solar energy by a lot.

Solar energy is starting to get a lot of attention in the U.S., but the U.S. is a small fish compared to China. In 2017, GTM Research estimates that the U.S. will install 12.4 GW of new solar power systems. China installed 24.4 GW in the first half alone, and will likely pass 50 GW for the full year. 

7. California is the U.S. star in Solar.

No state in the U.S. has driven the solar industry forward more than California. Not only is it No. 1 in solar installations by a wide margin with 19.7 GW installed at the end of 2016, it gets 14% of its electricity from solar – a greater percentage than any other state, according to SEIA. 

8. 39% of new electricity production capacity installed in 2016 was solar.

Not only is solar cost effective, it’s a big part of our new power plant mix. In 2016, 39% of all new electric capacity was from solar energy, up from just 4% in 2010. As costs come down and more utilities look for solar assets, this percentage of new additions will likely go up.

9. Solar is the fastest energy source to deploy.

When disaster strikes, no electricity source can be built or repaired as quickly as solar — as the situation in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes demonstrated. Tesla  and others were able to build small solar power plants with energy storage capabilities on the island in a matter of weeks. No fossil-fuel power plant, nor any other renewable energy facility, could have been brought only so quickly. 

10. 174,000 terawatts of energy consistently strike the earth as solar radiation at any moment, even on the cloudiest of days.

11. One hour of sunlight is equivalent to one year’s worth of energy for the planet.

12. Solar energy produces no pollution when generating electricity.

13. Sunlight travels 90 million miles to Earth in 10 minutes.

14. California’s Mojave Desert is home to Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, the world’s largest operating solar thermal energy plant.

It uses concentrating solar power (CSP) technology to focus 173,500 heliostats, each containing two mirrors, onto boilers located in three power towers. The plant, which came online in 2014, has a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). 

15. The United States is the third-largest solar energy market and generator in the world.

16. Alexandre Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839.

He is also known for his work in luminescence and phosphorescence. He was the son of Antoine César Becquerel and the father of Henri Becquerel, one of the discoverers of radioactivity.

17. Russell Ohl created the first photovoltaic cell in 1941.

Russell Shoemaker Ohl (January 30, 1898 – March 20, 1987) was an American engineer who is generally recognized for patenting the modern solar cell (US Patent 2402662, “Light sensitive device”).

18. Bell Laboratories developed the first modern solar cell in 1954.

On the first page of its April 26, 1954 issue, The New York Times proclaimed the milestone, “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams — the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

19. Over 2 million solar panel systems have been installed in the U. S. alone.

20. Homeowners experience “break-even” on their solar panel installation in under a decade.

21. Solar panels produce 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity per square foot.

22. In 30 years, the average rooftop solar panel system can reduce pollution by 100 tons of carbon dioxide.

23. The most efficient solar panels are made from monocrystalline silicon.

24. The city government of Las Vegas, Nevada operates on 100% renewable energy from solar panels.

25. The space industry was an early adopter of solar technology. 

In the 1950s, the space industry began to use solar technology to provide power aboard spacecraft. The Vanguard 1 — the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells — remains the oldest manmade satellite in orbit — logging more than 6 billion miles.

26. Today, demand for solar in the United States is at an all-time high.

The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years — from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 GW at the end of 2015. That’s enough energy to power the equivalent of 5.4 million average American homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

27. Solar technology can be distinguished into active and passive.

Photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors which harness solar energy are examples of active solar technology. Passive technology includes constructing rooms to improve air circulation, orienting space to use sunlight favorably.

28. The water cycle is an important result of solar insulation. 

The earth, oceans and atmosphere absorb solar radiation and their temperature rises. Warm air rises from the oceans, causing convection. When this air rises to high altitudes, clouds are created by condensation of water vapor. These clouds cause rains that bring water back to the earth’s surface, which completes the water cycle.

29. By means of photosynthesis, solar energy is converted into chemical energy by green plants, which creates the biomass that makes up fossil fuels.

30. Horticulture and agriculture seek to make the maximum use of solar energy. 

These include techniques like the timing of planting cycles and the mixing of plant varieties. Greenhouses are also used to convert light into heat to promote year-round cultivation of special crops.

31. Solar powered hot water systems utilize solar energy to heat water.

In certain areas, 60 to 70% of the water used domestically for temperatures as high as 60 degrees Celsius can be made available by solar heating.

32. Solar chimneys are passive solar ventilation systems.

Shafts connect the interior and exterior of the building. The functioning can be improved by glazing and using thermal mass materials.

33. Solar energy can also be used for making potable, brackish or saline water. 

Without using electricity or chemicals, wastewater can be treated. Creating salt from seawater is also one of the oldest uses of solar energy.

34. Thermal storage systems can store solar energy in the form of heat by using common materials with high specific heat such as stone, earth and water. 

Solar energy can also be stored in molten salts.

35. The oil crisis of 1970 revealed the delicate nature of fossil fuels as a source of energy for the world.

As such, research in the alternative, renewable energy technology like that of solar and wind energy gained momentum.

36. Solar panels are virtually maintenance-free since the batteries require no water or other regular service and will last for years. 

Once solar panels are installed, there are no recurring costs.

37. Solar power is free of noise pollution. 

It has no moving parts and does not require any additional fuel, other than sunlight, to produce power.

38. A home solar panel system consists of several solar panels, an inverter, a battery, a charge regulator, wiring, and support materials.

Sunlight is absorbed by the solar panels and is converted to electricity by the installed system. The battery stores electricity that can be used at a later time, like cloudy days or during the evening.

39. By relying on battery backup, solar energy can even provide electricity 24×7, even on cloudy days and at night.

40. Solar Energy is measured in kilowatt-hour. 1 kilowatt = 1000 watts.

41. Solar Panels can produce power without direct sunlight.

Solar panels can capture different parts of the sun’s light spectrum. So, if the sun’s not directly beaming on the panels – or it happens to be a cloudy day – it doesn’t mean the hues reflected from the sky aren’t being captured and utilized by the solar panel cells to produce power.

42. Solar power can fuel airplanes.

In early 2016, the Swiss pilot and professional explorer departed from Abu Dhabi in the famous aircraft known as Solar Impulse II, making his much anticipated worldwide return in July. The global flight offered numerous photo opportunities and made a statement around the world about the boundless potential of solar energy.

43. The first solar photovoltaic cells were used to power early satellites and consumer electronics, not houses and buildings.

44. Solar technology has been applied to paint and woven into the fabric.

45. Around 55-60% of solar energy from the sun is lost as it enters the earth’s atmosphere due to absorption and reflection of light.

46. The sun generates solar energy through nuclear fusion, where hydrogen atoms fuse together to create helium.

47. Around 80% of the sunlight that hits the ice is reflected into space, whereas the ocean absorbs around 90%.

48. Juno is the furthest space probe to be powered by solar. 

The solar panels have an equivalent capacity of 12 to 14 kilowatt if it were powered on earth.

49. “Space-based solar power” (SBSP) is a concept of harnessing solar energy in space, where there is no night time or atmosphere. 

Energy is converted into microwaves, so it can be captured on Earth’s surface.

50. There are 3 main types of solar cells: amorphous, polycrystalline and monocrystalline.

51. Solar calculators use liquid crystal displays as they are power efficient and capable of operating in the low voltage range of 1.5–2 V. Some models also use a light pipe to converge light onto the solar cells.

52. World record solar efficiency was set in December of 2014 at around 45% efficiency.

53. If you don’t use the solar you generate, it is fed back into the grid unless you have a battery system. 

Most states pay a “feed-in” tariff to households that put electricity back to the grid.

54. Australia has the highest average solar radiation than any other continent in the world.

55. Government rebates and incentives encourage more adoption of solar.

Incentives in Australia include high feed-in-tariff for households with solar technology certificates to subsidise the cost of buying solar panels and grants for building solar farms.

56. Germany leads the world in PV capacity per person, with around 473 watts per person, followed by Italy, Belgium, Japan then Australia (176 watts per person).

57. The record for the cheapest electricity on the planet was set by a Mexican solar plant at 1.77 US cents per kilowatt hour.

58. As of June of 2017, the biggest solar farm on the planet is the Tengger Desert Solar Park located in China aka. “The Great Wall of Solar”. 

It covers 1,200 square kilometre of land (3.2% of the whole Tengger Desert) and has a capacity of 1500 MW.

59. The energy storage market is projected to double six times (32 times bigger) from 2016 to 2030, with projected investments at 103 billion USD by 2030.

60. The cost of a solar installation is now at or below $3 per watt in certain U.S. states.

In 2021, we’re seeing the $3.00/Watt mark take effect – quotes with pricing below $3.00 are coming in on the EnergySage Marketplace every day. The average cost per watt in 2020 is $2.81 per watt on EnergySage, meaning that a small to medium-sized system (6,000 watts) will cost $12,476 after the federal solar tax credit subsidy.

61. Homeowners don’t have to install their own solar panels to go solar.

 In 2021, the concept of shared solar or community solar – the idea of installing a massive solar farm from which hundreds or even thousands of people can source their electricity – is really taking off.

62. Homeowners in the U.S. have achieved breakeven point with solar in as short as 3 years.

The cost of solar has plummeted while the cost of grid electricity has continued to gradually rise, and the concept of the solar “break-even point” with solar has become more and more attractive. In 2021, most homeowners are seeing payback periods around eight years and 20-year savings estimates of more than $20,000. Some homeowners are seeing break-even points as low as three to four years in states where utility prices are high like Massachusetts and New York.

63. There are over 57 million square miles of land on Earth. In order to power the entire planet, we would need to install solar panels on just over 191,000 square miles.

64. 1 megawatt (MW) of solar energy can power over 200 homes.

65. The International Space Station is entirely solar powered.

66. In the United States, southern facing solar panels perform best.

67. China built a 250-acre solar farm in the shape of a panda.

68. Burlington, Vermont was the first city in America to achieve 100% clean energy generation for its residents.

69. Solar panels actually perform more efficiently in cooler temperatures.

70. Monocrystalline solar panels are darker in color and more efficient than polycrystalline panels, which are generally more blue in appearance.

71. Sheep are being used for vegetation maintenance on solar farms to reduce operations costs.

72. Solar panels are exempt from property taxes in many states including Massachusetts and increase the value of a home more than a complete kitchen remodel.

73. Homes with solar panels sell for approximately 4.1% more than homes without.

74. Walmart is one of the largest commercial adopters of solar power.

The company, which is known for its highly-efficient business practices, see solar as a way to lock-down variable operating costs and remove rising / unpredictable electricity costs from its books. 

75. Even oil and gas companies like Exxon Mobile use solar panels on oil rigs.

76. Breweries are utilizing solar to cut operation costs. Heineken powers its brewing in the Netherlands with over 16,000 solar panels.

77. SunPower currently holds the record for the world’s most efficient solar panel.

According to independent tests and reported in Greentech Media, the SunPower panel achieved a 24.1% efficiency rating, besting a SolarCity panel that came in second at 22.04% efficiency.

78. According to leading scientific estimates, our sun will continue to shine reliably for another 5 billion years or so.

 In other words, we literally have the answer to all our energy woes hanging right over our heads.

79. Modern science’s exploration of solar energy dates back to the 15th century and Leonardo da Vinci, who experimented with rudimentary design techniques for harnessing the sun’s abundant energy.

300 years later in the mid-1700s, Swiss physicist and alpine explorer, Horace de Saussure, invented the first working solar oven.

80. The weight of solar panels is minuscule.

While solar panels do add a few extra pounds to your roof, the system is designed to be lightweight and durable. All of the equipment, including the PV modules, mounting rack and additional balance of system, only weigh between two and four pound per square foot.

81. The sun was also the main source of non-renewable fossil fuels (coal, gas and petroleum) which began life as plants and animals millions of years ago.

82. If only 4% of the world’s deserts were covered in photovoltaic cells, they could supply all of the world’s electricity.

83. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the percentage of installed solar energy grew 418% from 2010-2014, more than quadrupling capacity in only 4 years. 

In 2010, U.S. total capacity was 2,326MW, and in February of this year, it increased capacity to 12,057MW. 

84. Nellis Air Force base in Nevada saves $83,000 a month thanks to their 14MW solar array.

Officially online in December of 2007, and taking up over 140 acres of space, the system has 70,000 panels and supports more than 12,000 military personnel and civilians. Just this summer it was announced that there will be another solar plant built at Nellis, with installation to be underway during 2015.

85. Ancient Greeks built their homes to get the most sunlight during the coldest months of the year. 

In the history of our world, Socrates was the most influential member of society who lobbied for solar architecture. His passion and belief of building with the sun as the most important factor was so strong, that he taught classes on the subject. Throughout Greece, there is definite proof that people respected Socrates’ advice. The city of Olynthus in the Northern part of Greece was the first ancient Greek solar city. Every street was designed so that every home faced South. Other cities followed suit, even as far away as Bulgaria.

86. More than 260,000 people worked in the solar energy industry in 2016.

87. Solar energy users save up to 35 tons of carbon dioxide and 75 million barrels of oil each year.

88. Silicon, the major component of a solar cell, is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust (about 28% by mass) after oxygen.

89. Many states allow you to sell the excess solar energy you produce, meaning you can not only earn back the cost of your panels but also make a profit on energy in the long run.

90. The average monthly electricity bill in America is about $110, as of 2013.

Annually, people spend over $1,300 per household just on electricity. Depending on how much energy your solar panels produce (and how much you consume), your system could pay for itself—and your electricity bill—in a matter of years.

91. Arizona and California are the sunniest states in America.

No wonder they’re also leading producers and consumers of solar energy.

92. Every square meter of our planet receives around 1,366 watts of direct solar radiation.

93. The first solar cells were available for purchase to the public in 1956, but at $300 per one-watt solar cell, few could afford them.

94. In the United States, almost 80% of American rooftops are viable for solar panels.

The number of residential solar and commercial solar panels that could be installed is unbelievable. We have an untapped potential to harness more efficient, cleaner energy. 

95. Puerto Rico beats all 50 U.S. states in percentage of solar jobs held by women at 45.1%.

96. The State of California alone accounts for 38.9% of U.S. solar capacity and 31.7% of solar jobs.

97. 58% of people who have installed solar panels list the fact that “solar panels are clean and do not contribute to climate change” as a motivation for doing so.

98. 43 states in the U.S. have at least one community solar project online, allowing households to access the benefits of solar power without installing panels on their roof.

99. Based on average solar production across the U.S., it would take about 21,250 square miles of solar panels to meet the country’s electric needs. 

That’s about 0.5% of American land, and about half of the 40,223 square miles leased by oil and gas.

100. Researchers estimate that floating solar farms installed on 24,000 man-made reservoirs (and occupying just about a quarter of the space of each reservoir) could supply about 10% of the country’s electricity.

101. Solar Star, America’s largest solar farm, produces 579MW alone, and is 4 times the size of Central Park.

What are your procedures for ensuring a contactless installation process?

Solar is installed on the roof or on the ground, and we already observed social distancing procedures. Our crews wear safety equipment including Personal Protection Equipment to prevent the spread of COVID 19 not only to our clients, but also within our crews.

How is the sales process if we cannot meet in person?

With just a few pieces of information about your solar project, we can design an online solar proposal for your review. We then set a time to review the proposal by phone or Zoom to answer any questions you have. The financing process is paperless and contactless, any hard copies are sent by Priority Mail/FedEx. All of the contracts and disclosures are contactless using e-signatures.

How is the permit process contactless?

Many jurisdictions are starting to allow online permit applications and communication is facilitated by email. Final inspections are still completed in person, but social distancing and PPE is used to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

How do we ensure our installation crews are COVID-19 free?

Any of our installers that show up to work with an elevated temperature, coughing, fever or other sickness, they are sent home until the symptoms have subsided.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19 and the Solar Industry?

Please check with the SEIA (Solar Energy Industry Association) on all of the latest developments and safety protocols in the solar industry.

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Most of our clients are looking for a company they can trust to help them go solar. Based on our decade in business, online reviews, and Diamond Certification, Solar Harmonics is the best choice to trust to complete your solar project on time, on budget, and with the expected results. It is our mission to design the best value solar panel system that produces reliably over the next 30 – 40 years, and saves the most money for our clients. If the financial goals of our clients intersects with the global and environmental goals of our founder, it is a win for everyone except the utility companies.  Contact us today for your free quote!

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