Everyone is going green these days as growing concerns over climate change bring awareness to the detrimental effects of our continued use of fossil fuels. People are actively looking for ways that they can reduce their carbon footprint, from buying electric cars to recycling to planting trees. Even governments have enacted policies and passed laws that are designed to promote a move to greener living and better use of sustainable energy sources.
One alternative energy source that is of especial interest to both governments and individuals is solar power. More than eight million quads of solar energy hit the earth every year, but the total amount of energy used by the earth’s entire population is by comparison a miniscule four hundred quads. With the sun providing twenty million times more energy than we consume, this is an ideal sustainable energy source we should take advantage of.
The United States is making more and more use of solar power as the cost becomes more affordable. Solar power installations provided around 30 GW in 2016, or enough to provide power to nearly six million homes. The cost of solar panels has dropped, as have the costs of building solar energy production facilities which makes solar power far more accessible than it has been.
California provides a great example for the rest of the country in terms of solar power production. More than ten percent if the state’s electricity comes from solar energy. That’s just the power provided by state and does not include the power provided by Fresno solar companies which install panels on individual homes.
Solar energy in California falls into one of two categories – solar thermal an photovoltaic. Thermal uses the sun to heat a liquid into steam which then turns a turbine and generator to produce electricity. Solar thermal systems are also used for hot water in homes. Photovoltaic directly converts sunlight to electricity.
The desert areas of the Mojave provide a highly concentrated area for photovoltaic energy production. Numbers of solar power production facilities are in the works that could potentially increase production tenfold. Photovoltaic energy production surpassed thermal in California in 2008 and continues to grow in leaps and bounds.
As markets for this sustainable energy source increase, solar energy becomes ever more affordable. The market is in fact growing so quickly that jobs in solar power have increased more than 120% in the past 6 years. More than 200,000 people work in the solar power industry in the United States, and with solar energy being so easily and cleanly produced and so highly in demand, the likelihood is that this job market will continue to grow in the years to come as the country moves towards energy independence.
The potential of solar energy is nearly limitless. Photovoltaic panels covering just 0.6% of the land in the U.S. could provide all of the country’s energy needs, but using even this small percentage of land is not necessary, as Fresno solar companies install more and more panels on buildings, causing no impact to the land. California and the rest of the southwestern United States alone could provide four times more power than the entire U.S.’s current demands. Continuing improvement of the technology and better affordability could lead to real energy independence.