Is Renewable Energy Ready for Today’s Market?

There are so many new emerging solar technologies that are still unproven. However, they are getting a lot of media attention. This I feel is confusing the mass public to believe that very soon we will have extremely cheaper grid-tied solar electric systems. What would you say to this? –Chris H., Northern California

It’s a very good question, Chris, because you’re absolutely correct that much of the great research being conducted today on renewable energy technologies is still in the laboratory and in the very early stages of product development. They do indeed offer significant potential for less expensive energy in the future, but some of the most exciting ones we hear about are still years down the road.

I agree with you that a lot of the hype of what might be possible in the coming years is indeed confusing the public, making proven renewable energy technologies like solar thermal, wind energy and photovoltaics seem almost dull and commonplace by comparison to what researchers hope will be here sometime in the future.

It’s probably the same thing that is happening to the auto industry, where we now have hybrid vehicles on our roads that get 30 to 50 miles per gallon—certainly a big improvement over what most conventional vehicles get but we’re tantalized by the prospects of 100-mile-per-gallon cars and hydrogen- and fuel-cell-powered vehicles that might offer so much more.

It’s important that the public doesn’t lose sight of the reliable, cost-effective renewable energy technologies that are available today at prices that are affordable, made of materials that will perform to expectations, and that are being installed by knowledgeable, trained industry members.

It’d be a real shame if the prospects of potential technology breakthroughs stand in the way of people using today’s technologies. Thanks to the current federal tax credits, the many state financial incentives, utility rebates, energy-efficient mortgages and other forms of financial assistance, today’s renewable energy technologies are more affordable than ever before. And unlike the dramatic news stories of potential new technologies, today’s renewable energy systems are ready now to provide for your energy needs.

I don’t want to take away any of the excitement of what the future holds in terms of new renewable energy systems. I’ve seen the laboratory research on fuel cells and hydrogen energy systems, for example, and I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time until we are able to take advantage of them to provide power for our homes and vehicles. But in the meantime, I think “extremely cheaper grid-tied solar electric systems” and other technologies are actually here today and ready for immediate use.

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