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Debunking the myths about solar energy

Many people believe that solar energy can only work in certain situations, but a growing body of evidence shows that the sustainable energy source can be a strong and reliable power provider in the United States.

We've heard them all before. "It's too expensive," your friend might say, or "it only works where it's sunny all the time." These are just some of the common myths that people bring up when considering a solar energy system. While these myths may have been true years ago, technology has advanced and solar is fast becoming not just a reliable source of energy production, but an inexpensive one. So let's see if we can't shed some light on some of the common myths that people still believe about solar energy.

"Solar energy only works in the sunniest parts of the world"
It is true that solar panels need the sun to produce energy, but that does not mean it needs to be sunny all the time. According to a new study by NPD Solarbuzz, the United States is capable of 10 gigawatts of solar electric power at peak operational capacity, with an additional 7 gigawatts of installations expected by the end of 2014.

These installations are not all concentrated in sunny Florida either. In fact, New Jersey is second in the country in terms of solar capacity with nearly 980 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) installations with states like Massachusetts and New York also rounding out the top ten states with the most solar capacity. If we were to look at this on a world scale, and even more astounding fact would arise.

Germany is the world leader in solar generation with about 30 gigawatts of solar capacity at the end of 2012. Not only is Germany considerably smaller than the United States, but it gets roughly the same amount of direct solar energy as Alaska, which is the state with by and far the least amount of direct solar energy. So while yes, solar energy needs sunlight to function, it need not thrive only in the sunniest parts of the world.

"Solar energy can't support large amounts of people"
There are many skeptics when it comes to solar energy's ability to provide energy for mass amounts of people, especially in a country that is as large as the United States. However, these notions seem to be whims rather than facts.

Solar PV is among the fastest growing energy producers in the United States over the past six years, seeing a compound annual growth rate of over 50 percent since 2007 with 83 percent of the country's 10 gigawatts coming from solar installations in the last three and a half years. As these installations continue to expand, it would not be tough to envision even greater solar capacity past the 2014 predictions of the Solarbuzz report.

When comparing this rapid expansion to Germany, it is realistic to imagine a large portion of the population being able to run on solar energy. Despite Germany's poor environment for solar energy, its installations are still capable of supporting 10 percent of the country's electricity.

"Solar energy is too expensive"
Years ago it may have been true that solar energy was costly as the technology was still in its early stages, however, prices for solar have gone down considerably. The upfront purchase price has decreased roughly 30 percent over the last two years, and today there are programs offered where a homeowner can even go solar for free. Homeowners in certain parts of the country can add solar technology to their property for absolutely no up-front cost, allowing them to reap the benefits of savings on their energy bill.

On top of this, state and federal government incentives are reducing installation prices. Leasing incentives, installation rebates, and tax discounts are all being offered in states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware, New York and Connecticut, where the amount of direct solar energy is considerably greater than in Germany. Additionally, many installation companies offer competitive solar financing options for residents looking for home installations.

With rising global temperatures and increasing energy costs, getting the facts about these solar energy myths could lead to many residents and small business owners saving money on their power bills while helping reduce the damage done by climate change.

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