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The solar power industry has been enjoying its time in the sun due to increased growth over the past few years. Thanks to many strong government incentives and falling manufacturing costs, accessibility to solar power has grown exponentially.
This accessibility has led to the rise of personal solar power use and not just for enthusiastic off-the-grid lifestyles either. Many people are taking advantage of these government subsidies to power their entire residential homes using only the sun’s energy.
Cost of Personal Solar Power
The sun is literally everywhere, so it’s no surprise that it is fast becoming the favored form of clean energy. Fueled by increased public support for green energy, which has led to tax incentives and grants to encourage investments in solar power, it’s affordability is surpassing that of oil, gas, hydro and wind, and is even expected to become cheaper than coal.
If the current trend continues, the solar industry is expected to be able to gradually lower its dependence on government assistance over the next few years.
"There is strong evidence that, regardless of governmental subsidies, the renewable energy industry has passed the point of needing to be subsidized and is ready to stand on its own," says Bill Finch, the president of Alternative Energy, Inc. "The last several years of records in manufacturing has confirmed that."
With the declining cost of manufacturing, many consumers are choosing to purchase their solar panels outright rather than leasing them.
According to The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World, “a typical solar panel generates about 400 kWh of electricity per year which, at $0.25/kWh (the average electric rate in California), amounts to $100 of electricity. With 20 solar panels on the roof consumers can reduce their annual electric bill by $2,000. Since each panel costs around $500 to install (including equipment and labor), the payback is only five years.”
Clean Energy Incentives Resources
Rise of Personal Solar Power Creates Job Growth Opportunities
Despite competition from overseas, clean energy product production and services are strong and growing momentum in the U.S.
According to recent research from IRENA, “the renewable energy sector in the U.S. provides nearly 770,000 jobs, with the solar industry alone now surpassing the number of jobs in the oil and natural gas extraction industries in the U.S.”
With streamlined, modular solutions and minimal components, installation of solar power for personal and commercial use is also becoming easier and thus more affordable than ever. The ease of installation and dropping costs associated with getting started opens more doors for Americans to grow a career in this sector of the clean energy industry.
How to Make Use of Personal Solar Power
Because the sun is so freely available and accessible, the opportunities for harnessing its energy are nearly endless. In the past solar energy had been limited to either commercial or residential installation.
This idea of residential solar energy may trigger a vision of a rooftop covered with gleaming panels, which is still one of the most common form of personal solar power, but now there are many more ways to benefit, with even more options on the horizon.
Propelled by falling manufacturing costs and the rise of new innovative solutions, solar panels are rapidly becoming smaller, more reliable and efficient with multiple installation options for a variety of locations and devices.
Personal solar power can be found in carports and storage areas, RVs and camping or transportation trailers, a plethora of personal solar powered chargers and backpacks and now even autonomous sunshades.
Solar panels can also be installed at an off-site location to produce energy far from where the user is located. Using virtual net metering (also called “shared renewables”) allows consumers to monitor and benefit from personal solar power without being anywhere near a panel.
How to Maximize Personal Solar Power with Solar Trackers
With the rise of personal solar power, solar trackers have also increased in popularity. Solar trackers are motion controlled, mechanical stations that enable the mounted panels to follow the direction of the sun during the day and can be adjusted for the varying seasons. There is a wide range of sizes, styles and varying effectiveness, which provides many options for installation. They can be bought pre-made or easily assembled by the consumer with proper technical knowledge.
The main reason to use a solar tracker in conjunction with solar panels is to optimize energy storage. As the sun moves during the day and throughout the seasons, a stationary panel cannot efficiently absorb nearly as much power while the sun is in certain positions as it could if it were to continuously be directed in the most optimal position. Additionally, there are several apps available to help calculate the most optimal position and tracking angles.
Not all situations and locations are ideal for solar tracker installation. Consumers should weigh the advantages and disadvantages prior to determining which personal solar power solution is best for them.
Advantages of Using Solar Trackers
- Generate more power in equivalent space compared to stationary panels
- Several different sizes and types for flexible installation options
Disadvantages of Using Solar Trackers
- Require more energy to power
- Require more installation and technical ability
- Require more maintenance
- Not suitable for all locations
- Can cause shading of other solar panels in close proximity if not installed correctly
Although solar trackers require more time and technical knowledge for installation, use slightly more power and requires more maintenance than a stationary panel, the benefit of the increased energy production often outweighs the small inconvenience.
Sun Tracking Resources
The rising trend of personal solar power use is expected to continue. With products and services becoming more affordable and easier to work with, it’s far easier for consumers to power their homes, devices and soon, even their vehicles all through solar energy. The added use of solar trackers and apps, enhancing efficiency, will only continue to strengthen this increasingly popular form of clean energy.