50 Facts About Solar Power
March 15, 2018
Harnessing the sun’s energy with solar panels is one of the cleanest ways to gain energy independence. Freedom Solar looked into 50 facts about solar power for you to learn more about its benefits and the industry as a whole.
1. Solar Power Is the Earth’s Most Abundant Energy Source
2. Solar Energy Is a Free Energy Source
Solar energy is completely free, accessible, and found in abundance. It takes less than 10 minutes for light to travel an astounding 90 million miles from the sun to earth, and it happens nonstop every day.
3. You Can Use Solar Power to Run Your Entire Home
Solar power is one of the safest and greenest solutions to run lighting, air conditioners, hot water heaters, thermal heating, ventilation fans, electric appliances, and more.
[Related: Tips to Save on Energy Costs]
4. Solar Energy is Comprised of Radiant Heat and Light
Solar energy is any type of energy that’s generated by the sun. It’s created in the sun through nuclear fusion, which is when the protons in hydrogen atoms collide in the sun’s core and fuse together to create a helium atom. This process generates radiant heat and light.
5. Solar Energy Was First Used in 7th Century B.C.
In theory, solar energy was first used as early as 7th century B.C. by humans using sunlight to start fires with magnifying glasses. Then the 3rd century B.C. Greeks and Romans began harnessing solar power with mirrors to light their torches for religious gatherings. Chinese civilization documented the use of mirrors to light their torches later on in 20 A.D.
6. Solar Power Was Officially Discovered in 1839
Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered “the photovoltaic effect” in 1839, a year after the first coal-fired power plant was built. The photovoltaic effect is when an electrical current is created in a conductor after being hit with the sun’s rays.
7. Silicon Solar Cells Were Created in 1954
Bell Labs is responsible for the creation of modern silicon photovoltaic cells in 1954. Since then, the efficiency of these cells has increased more than four times, while the price has decreased significantly.
8. Solar Is the World’s Most Popular Form of New Electricity Generation
Solar power has quickly become the preferred form of new electricity due to the decreased cost and increased efficiency of solar panels. Solar power will account for almost half of the U.S.’ new electricity generation in 2022.
9. Solar Power Produces No Pollution
Apart from the pollution produced during the manufacturing process, solar power is one of the cleanest, most sustainable energy resources in the world.
However, not all panels are created equal. SunPower solar panels are the only panels to achieve a Cradle to Cradle certification, meaning they’re manufactured in the most sustainable and ethical way possible.
10. Solar Power Improves World Health
Burning fossil fuels creates toxic pollution and has a detrimental impact on global health. Pollution affects as many people as HIV or malaria, and has dangerous consequences for children, older adults, and all living plants and animals.
Solar power drastically reduces the amount of fossil fuels used for power generation, meaning less pollution is going into the air (and our lungs).
11. Solar Panels Can Increase Your Home Value
A handful of studies have shown that solar panel installations increase your home’s resale value by up to $6,000 per kilowatt (KW) of solar panels installed (or around 4.1% of your home’s value).
12. Solar Can Help Lower Electric Bills
Depending on where you live, you may be able to take advantage of net metering and sell back any excess energy that you produce. Even if you decide to finance, there is a possibility your monthly loan payment will be less than your average electric bill.
13. Solar Systems Come With a Warranty
Most solar systems come with a warranty that typically ranges between 25 and 30 years — essentially the lifespan of solar panels.
Freedom Solar offers three 25-year warranty plans for SunPower solar panels. They include a product warranty guaranteeing the quality of the system, a workmanship warranty to repair or replace defective panels, and a performance warranty that ensures its highest power production.
[Related: What to Know Before Installing Solar Panels]
14. You Don’t Have to Buy Solar Panels Outright
You don’t have to pay cash outright to obtain a solar panel system. There are many other ways to afford solar and reap its benefits.
Low-interest loans are available for solar system owners, as well as other financing options. There are also federal incentives such as the solar tax credit, as well as state and local rebates and incentives to help lower the cost of going solar.
15. The Earth Gets 174 Petawatts (PW) of Solar Radiation
The Earth receives about 174 PW of solar radiation every day. One PW equals one quadrillion watts. Around 30% of the solar radiation that hits the Earth remains in its upper atmosphere and is then reflected back into space. The rest is absorbed by clouds, oceans, and land.
16. Solar Insulation Plays a Role in the Water Cycle
Since solar radiation is absorbed by the Earth’s clouds, oceans, and land, their temperatures rise as a result and fuels the water cycle.
Warm air rises from the oceans, which causes convection. This air then rises to high altitudes and clouds are formed by the condensation of water vapor. These clouds cause rain and bring water back to the Earth’s surface, which completes the water cycle.
17. Solar Energy Indirectly Creates Biomass
Solar energy is converted into chemical energy by means of photosynthesis, thanks to plants. This chemical energy eventually creates biomass — also referred to as biofuel — which is plant or animal material used as fuel to eventually produce heat or electricity.
Wood, energy crops, waste from yards, farms, and forests are all examples of biomass. These eventually become fossil fuels after long periods of time.
18. Horticulture and Agriculture Make Maximum Use of Solar Energy
Using solar energy to its maximum potential includes mastering techniques such as the timing of planting cycles and properly mixing plant varieties that need similar levels of sunlight.
Those in the horticulture and agriculture industries commonly use greenhouses because they convert solar radiation (light) into heat and promote year-round cultivation of certain crops.
19. Solar Energy Can Heat Water Through Solar-Powered Hot Water Systems
Some solar-powered hot water systems can heat water to temperatures as high as 140 degrees celsius. In certain areas, this accounts for 60% to 70% of domestically used water.
20. Solar Chimneys Are Passive Solar Ventilation Systems
Solar chimneys are a way to achieve energy-efficient building design by providing natural ventilation and temperature regulation.
Solar chimneys are similar to traditional chimneys in that they have shafts to connect the interior and exterior of a building. Their function can be improved by glazing or using thermal mass materials such as bricks, woods, rocks, concrete, steel, and earth soil.
21. Solar Energy Can Help Make Saline Water
Creating salt from seawater is one of the oldest uses of solar energy. Without using any chemicals or electricity, solar energy can make potable, brackish, or saline water to treat wastewater.
22. Solar Energy Is the Original Method of Drying Clothes
It’s well known that sunlight makes you feel warmer and dryer. But hanging clothes on lines, cloth racks, and more with full exposure to the sun is the original form of drying clothes.
23. Solar Energy Can Pasteurize Water
Pasteurization is the process of disinfecting water without boiling, but rather using heat or radiation. Water pasteurization produces the same results as boiling, but takes a longer amount of time.
The process usually involves putting water in a dark or blackened container and then into a solar cooker. Solar cookers reflect sunlight into the container. Solar cookers are usually an insulated box made of plastic, wood, cardboard, or tightly woven straw with reflective panels on its sides to concentrate sunlight onto the water container.
Solar pasteurization requires six minutes of exposure at 149 to 167 degrees Fahrenheit.
24. Thermal Storage Systems Can Store Solar Energy
Solar energy in the form of heat can be stored in thermal storage systems by using material with high specific heat. These materials include stone, earth, water, and even molten salts.
25. The 1970 Oil Crisis Indirectly Sparked Research Into Solar Technology
The oil crisis of 1970 revealed how delicate fossil fuels are as a source of energy. This resulted in research into alternative energy solutions, such as solar renewable energy technologies. Solar and wind energy began to gain momentum around the world at this time.
26. Solar Energy Is Recognized as the Future of Alternative Energy
Solar energy is nonpolluting, unlike fossil fuels, and helps combat climate change and the greenhouse gas effect. It’s now recognized as the future of alternative, renewable energy sourcing.
27. Space Missions Rely on Solar Energy
Many are surprised to hear that the space industry adopted solar technology in the early 1950’s to provide power for spacecraft. The Vanguard 1, for example, was the first satellite to generate power through solar cells. It remains the oldest manmade satellite that’s currently still in orbit, logging in more than six billion miles to date.
And still today, various countries also use solar energy to power their spaceships when they’re sent off for certain space missions.
28. Solar Energy Is Becoming More Affordable
Thanks to new advancements in scientific research and technology, solar energy is on route to become more affordable in the future. Cost patterns are decreasing while efficiency levels continue to rise.
29. Solar Power Is the Third Most Used Renewable Energy Source
Wind is currently the most prevalent source of renewable electricity in the U.S., but electricity from hydropower is a close second. Solar energy is the third most prevalent source of renewable energy for electricity.
30. Airplanes Can Fly While Running Entirely on Solar Energy
Many are aware that solar energy can power electric vehicles (EVs), trains, and even space stations and spacecraft. But fewer know about solar-powered planes that can fly around the world with no additional power source other than solar energy.
A Swiss pilot and explorer, Bertrand Piccard, once departed from Abu Dhabi in 2016 on his solar-powered aircraft known as the Solar Impulse II. He was able to complete a global flight entirely fueled off of solar power and return the following July.
31. The Largest Solar Power Plant in the World Is in China
China has the world’s largest solar energy fleet installation, which generates 205 Gigawatts (GW) of power. This project reflects their stance as the world’s largest market for solar energy, as well as the country’s goal to neutralize its total carbon emissions by 2060.
32. Solar Power Is the Top Energy Source for Temporary Use
Solar energy is the preferred temporary energy source thanks to the abundance of sunlight and the easy installation process for solar systems. Mining sites, traveling fairs, and even the Olympic games transport and install solar panels at their various temporary locations.
33. Solar Energy Can Power Calculators
Solar energy has a range of uses, but it’s less widely known that it can power calculators. Solar-powered calculators use PV cells to capture the sun’s rays, then convert them into an electrical current. This electric current simultaneously charges the calculator’s battery.
Solar-powered calculators won’t work as quickly if it’s overcast or if they’re exposed to minimal light indoors. But they’ll still collect solar energy regardless if they’re sitting directly under the sun. And they only take an hour or so to go from 0% to 100% charge.
34. Solar Panels Are Virtually Maintenance-Free
Solar panels require minimal to no maintenance and will last for decades. There are also no recurring costs once they’re installed, and they will remain intact as long as there aren’t any especially severe natural disasters.
[Related: Can Solar Panels Withstand a Hurricane?]
35. Solar Power Is Free of Noise Pollution
Solar panel systems have no moving parts and don’t require fuel (other than sunlight) to produce power, making them absolutely free of noise pollution.
36. Solar Panel Systems Have Five Components
A residential solar panel system consists of a varying number of solar panels, an inverter, battery, charge regulator, as well as wiring and other support materials. The solar panels absorb sunlight, which is converted into electricity by the inverter and then stored in the battery.
The charge regulator keeps the battery from overcharging, which could cause its lifecycle to burn out faster. Wiring and other support materials protect and connect the entire system.
[Related: What to Know Before Installing Solar Panels]
37. Solar Batteries Can Provide Solar Power 24/7
Attaching a battery to your solar panel system allows ongoing access to electricity. Many residences and businesses buy batteries to attach to their system so they can use solar power throughout the entire day, including at night or when it’s cloudy or overcast.
38. Solar Energy Is Measured in Watts (W), Kilowatts (KW), and Kilowatt-Hours (kWh)
W, KW, and kWh are the most commonly used units for electricity. One KW equals 1000 W. However, kWh doesn’t refer to the number of KW you’re using per hour.
One kWh is the amount of energy you would use if you kept a 1,000 W tool or appliance running for an hour.
39. Solar PV Energy Generates 26 Terawatt-Hours (tWh) in the U.S.
The highest increase in energy use throughout the U.S. was through renewable energy sources. Electricity generation using solar PV makes up a large portion, contributing 26 tWh of the total 98 tWh of renewable electricity generation in the U.S.
40. Solar PV Electricity Generation Increased 145 tWh Globally
Between 2020 and 2021, renewable electricity generation through solar PV increased 145 tWh on a global scale.
41. Solar Energy Is Used to Fuel Public Transit
Buses in particular are seeing an increased reliance on solar power. Solar panels aren’t installed on the buses themselves, but rather set up on the tops of bus stations to absorb solar energy and generate electrical power for later use.
During off times in transit schedules, buses can plug into charging stations and charge their batteries. Traditional consumer EVs are adapting to solar-powered forms of charging as well. Many people are connecting their solar panels systems to their Level 1 chargers at their residences.
[Related: How Many Solar Panels Do You Need for EVs?]
42. California Generates the Most Solar Power in the U.S.
As of 2022, California still remains in first place for state ranking in electricity generation using solar power. California’s solar PV energy generation accounts for 32% of the country’s total electricity production through solar.
43. Solar Energy Users Save Up to 35 Tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Annually
There is a growing collective effort to rely on clean energy sources, one being through solar power. Solar energy users save about 35 tons of CO2 emissions and 75 million barrels of oil every year.
44. Las Vegas, NV operates on 100% Solar Power
The city government in Las Vegas depends entirely on renewable energy through solar power production.
45. Pollution Prevents Sun Rays From Reaching Earth’s Surface
There’s a significant amount of smog and air pollution in urban areas, which has an adverse impact on solar power production. The sulfates in polluted air reflect radiation, preventing it from reaching Earth and thus solar panels.
For example, Delhi, India sees around 12% less sun than they would if they had cleaner air, making it a less than ideal location for ample solar production.
46. Homeowners Break Even on Their Solar Panel Systems in Under 10 Years
There are many financial plans to help people offset the cost of going solar. Most homeowners are able to break even on their system investment in under 10 years.
Since solar panels last for several decades, the majority of the time you own a solar panel system will be virtually free of any payments.
47. A Solar Panel Array in the Mojave Desert Could Generate a Year’s Worth of U.S. Energy Needs in a Single Day
The Mojave Desert receives so much direct sunlight that if it were lined with arrays of solar panels, it would generate more energy in a single day than the U.S. needs for an entire year.
In fact, the amount of potential solar energy generation in the Mojave Desert is twice the annual electricity usage in the U.S.
48. The Cost of Solar Panels Has Reduced 99% Since 1977
Solar panels are quintessential for the purpose of harvesting solar energy. The cost of a solar cell is now $0.21 per watt as compared to $77 per watt in 1977. An entire assembled module costs just $0.39 per watt in recent years.
49. Solar Energy Can Cost as Little as .06 cents Per kWh
Solar energy prices continue to decrease, costing $0.06 per kWh on unsubsidized terms. This makes solar power one of the cheapest alternatives to fossil fuels, which cost anywhere between $0.05 to $0.18 per kWh.
50. The Average Solar Panel System Has a 20% Efficiency Rate
Solar panel efficiency ratings vary depending on the manufacturer and model that you have, but the average solar panel system has a rating of around 20% efficiency. This means that your panels will convert 20% of the sunlight that hits them into electricity.
Standard-efficiency solar panels function between 15% to 20% efficiency, and high-efficiency panels function between 18% to 22%. Some SunPower solar panels are rated as high as 24% efficiency.
Contact Freedom Solar to Harness Solar Energy
If you’d like to learn more about solar energy or if you’re ready to acquire SunPower solar panels for your home or business, contact Freedom Solar today. Call +1 (800) 504-2337 or complete our consultation form and one of our solar specialists will be in touch!