Ever wonder why solar is a great alternative to standard grid electricity? Let's look at 13 great reasons to use solar power and solar lighting systems over traditional electricity.
1. Green – Solar is green. Green is the new black. Enough said. Green energy is totally the new rage, but it is also a way to look out for the future of our planet and reduce our impact.
2. Renewable – Solar is a renewable energy source. The sun is always present and even on the cloudiest days, there is a bit of insolation available for the solar panels to soak up.
3. Available Anywhere – Solar can be installed anywhere, even when what it is powering is in the shade. No matter what the circumstance, if there is a sunny spot nearby the solar can be installed to power something remotely installed. There is even technology today turning roofing or windows into photovoltaic sources.
4. Durable – A silicon wafer is not durable itself, but stick it behind some glass and you have the making for something that can withstand a lot more of the elements. Best of all, as technology increases, the durability of the glass increases; check out SolarWorld's Indestructible Panels. Other protection, such as protective panel backs, can be used to increase the durability of free-standing solar power systems.
5. Eco-Friendly – No harmful gases come from a solar panel.
6. Cost Savings – Solar provides cost savings by not having to pay for electricity, especially since electric costs continue to rise where the cost of solar continues to fall. Cost savings also can be calculated by eliminating the need to trench in grid power, disturbing surrounding landscapes and hardscapes, repairing areas, etc.
7. Easy Installation – Solar panels are easy to install, typically only needing a few bolts to hold them secure and some basic wiring. Solar lighting systems provide the solar power system at the top of the pole for most installation configurations, leaving all important electrical material at the top of the pole. Solar power systems can require a bit more for a simple installation; however, the low voltage DC power is much safer to work with than standard electric.
8. Low Voltage – Solar utilizes lower voltage, typically 12 or 24 Volts DC, which means safer usage and installation.
9. Energy Savings – Solar utilizes lower powered items such as LED / CFL lamps, lower powered electronics, etc. that do not use as much power as standard electric systems. Also, LEDs are powered from 12 VDC initially and require AC adapters to power with standard electricity. By using DC power for LEDs, they are able to operate more efficiently by providing more light and less heat.
10. No Trenching – Got a parking lot that needs lighting but the cement has already been poured? Need to put in a camera that is across the road from power lines? That’s fine with solar since each system stands alone and can be mounted anywhere (see No. 3). Oh, and did we mention the cost savings since you don't have to tear up that existing hardscape and then repair it (see No. 6)?
11. Battery Backup – Most solar systems today utilize a battery backup that allows for three-plus days storage of the power needed to keep the system running (the best systems offer a minimum of five nights autonomy). That way, if the sun goes out, you will still have power for a couple of days. Let’s just hope the sun comes back on soon, but then again, see No. 2.
12. Dark Sky and Wildlife Friendly Compliant Fixtures – Since solar lights utilize lower Lumens per Watt they comply with dark sky lighting laws when used with full cutoff fixtures. Turtle-friendly lights can also be powered by solar power systems since LEDs are available in a spectrum of color that does not affect the surrounding wildlife such as sea turtles.
13. Tax Credits / Grants – Who would’ve guessed, but the government wants you to be green. They are providing tax credits and grants to help with the purchase of solar, and renewable energy for that matter. So if Uncle Sam wants you to use solar it’s a good idea. Just be aware, the Federal Tax Credit does expire and is currently set to expire at the end of this year, so you need to hurry to take advantage of it.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2011 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.