Solar power as a renewable energy source is a rapidly advancing field in terms of usage and cost-effectiveness. As technology advances, the cost to install and use it is going down. Many commercial buildings and businesses are making the shift, and some are even becoming net-zero energy consumers as they switch to renewable energy sources. It’s taken a couple of centuries to get to this point, though.
A little history
It’s no secret that most reports on climate change are filled with dire warnings for our future. The consensus is that the earth is getting progressively warmer, and our energy-consumption habits have had a direct impact on that.
Coal and fossil fuels as energy sources increased our ability to produce, but there have been some serious unintended consequences. Even without the damage to our climate, the air and water pollution caused by emissions have done a number on the earth over the past couple of centuries.
The push for renewable energy is intended to change that. Scientists knew as far back as the late 1800s that coal and fossil fuels were not sustainable. Solar power was discovered back in 1839 by the French physicist Edmond Becquerellar, and in 1883, inventor Charles Fritts put the first solar panels on a roof in New York.
That was one year after Thomas Edison opened the world’s first commercial coal plant, according to the Institute for Energy Research.
While the energy sources emerged side-by-side, solar took a back seat until the 1990s. The technology to make solar power available to the masses progressed slowly and it was not cost-effective. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the public was made more aware of the benefits of the alternative energy source, and technology emerged to make it cheaper. The U.S. government also passed a number of bills that pushed its use.
What’s happening now?
In 2019, solar technology is rapidly advancing. Availability of solar energy has never been a problem, but figuring out how to economically harvest it has been. Over the last decade, though, the cost associated with installing a solar system dropped 70 percent, and the use of solar power has ranked as No. 1 or No. 2 in new electric additions over the past six years.
Right now, solar energy accounts for 2 percent of total U.S. electricity. As solar power becomes cheaper — and storable, thanks to energy storage systems that can store the energy produced and connect to the existing electrical infrastructure — many architects for commercial buildings are incorporating solar power.
Solar power usage across the nation increased 10.9 percent between May 2018 and May 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Installation has increased so much that businesses and corporations have offset 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year since 2017. Software is even available that monitors the efficiency of solar power by automating usage.
There are different ways commercial building owners can use solar power. The first is by installing photovoltaic panels on a roof, field or carport. But another way is to purchase solar energy that’s installed somewhere else. That eliminates the need to install a whole new system.
A solar hot water, cooling or ventilation system is another option if you’re not ready to make the investment in a full solar panel system.
A smart time to invest
Significant tax credits are available to commercial and residential building owners who install a solar power energy system over the next few years. People who qualify can receive a credit up to 30 percent in 2019. That will drop down to 26 percent in 2020 and then to 22 percent in 2021. This is part of a five-year program offered through the Energy Star Program, spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Credit is only available for improvements made to your own residence.
Qualifying equipment includes solar-powered units that generate electricity or heat water, according to the Department of Energy.
As a business owner, shifting to solar energy is a decision that makes financial sense. It’s more cost effective than ever, has tax benefits and will save you money on your power bill over time. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, many large corporations nationwide have made the shift, including Walmart, IKEA, Target, Apple, Costco and FedEx.
It helps their bottom line and prepares them for the future.
About the Author: Crystal Huskey is a content writer at PTACUnits.com, an online retailer of new and reconditioned PTACs, along with a full range of parts and accessories since 1984.