What is Wind Energy

What Is Wind Energy

Wind energy refers to power from the wind, often collected by turbines and sails. Humans have used wind energy for thousands of years. We were using sails to navigate the Nile River as early as 5,000 BC. China was powering water pumps, and in Persia windmills with woven reed blades were grinding grain by 200 BC (eia.gov). Merchants and Crusaders brought the technology back to Europe, and by the 11th century, everyone had it.

Until the oil shortages of the 1970’s, wind energy technology stalled. Since then, wind energy has transformed the energy outlook for the world. Previously just a way for rural residents to power their water pumps, wind energy is now the fastest growing type of green energy.

How Does Wind Energy Work

Thanks to Geronimo Energy for the photo.

The face of wind energy that we see and experience is turbines and the resulting electricity they generate. The way it happens is not mysterious.

Wind is caused by the uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. The daily wind cycle is caused when daytime temperatures above land heat up faster than above water. As the warm air over land expands and rises because it is hot, heavier, cooler air rushes in, creating wind. This cycle reverses by night because air over land cools quicker than air over water.

An even bigger wind cycle happens planet-wide when atmospheric winds circle the Earth because the land at the equator is hotter than the land at either pole. Wind energy taps into this Earthly perpetual motion by capturing the wind’s endless energy in turbines and sails.

Turbines come in two main types, horizontal and vertical. Almost all turbines in use now are horizontal. Other types of turbines are in development. Turbines are a simple technology that uses blades to collect energy when the wind flows over the blades creating lift that spins the blades. Then a drive shaft connected to the blades turns electric generator that makes electricity.

Darrieus vertical-axis wind turbine in Martigny, Switzerland. Modern turbines come in many shapes.

Building wind farms isn’t as simple as erecting some turbines on a windy knoll on afternoon. The amount and speed of wind is everything in wind farming. Luckily, wind speed is known to increase with altitude and over open areas. Mountain gaps that funnel wind are good prospects for wind farming, as are the smooth tops of rounded hills, flat open plains, and water. Click here for a fascinating interactive map detailing wind currents in the US.

Wind speed typically increases with altitude and increases over open areas without windbreaks. Good sites for wind turbines include the tops of smooth, rounded hills; open plains and water; and mountain gaps that funnel and intensify wind.

Facts About Wind Energy

  • Wind Power is Old as Dirt

Humans have been using the power of the wind practically since the second wind blew. Literally windmills and sails date back at least to 7,000 years ago.

  • Wind Turbines are Getting Bigger and Better

According to energy.gov, the size of wind turbines has increased 127% from their size in 1999. Today’s turbine typically has 8,000 components, 170’ blades and stands as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

  • Taller Turbines Make More Energy Available

It’s even windier higher up in our atmosphere, so the increasing size of wind turbines will enable us to expand the area that can be wind farmed.

  • Wind is Getting Cheap as Dirt.

Wind is the largest renewable generation capacity in the US at 82 gigawatts (GW), or the amount of electricity needed to power 20 million homes. Recently in the Wind Technologies Market Report, it was reported that leveled prices (the price the utility pays to buy the energy from the producer) as low as .02 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh) were a reality today.


Uses of Wind Energy

The eia.gov divides energy use into sectors: the industrial sector, including manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction; the transportation sector, including vehicles that transport people and things; the residential sector, which includes all types of domiciles; the commercial sector which includes offices, schools, malls, and other public places; and the electric power sector, which refers to utilities that consume primary energy to generate electricity for the other sectors.

Since wind energy is converted to electricity, it can be said to be used in all energy sectors.

Actual use of wind energy in its raw form is not common anymore. A few rural areas still use windmills to operate water pumps. Today we use most of our wind energy in the form of electricity generated by wind turbines.

Due to our increasing energy needs and the cleaner impact of wind energy, the US could potentially create over half a million new jobs, save consumer’s 149 billion dollars and 260 billion gallons of water by continuing to use and develop wind energy. In fact, these happy projections are estimated to last until at least 2050’s.


5 Good Jobs in Wind Energy

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard the good news about jobs in renewable energy. The eia.gov website estimates that the wind industry in the US now employs over 101,000 people who manufacture most of the components for turbines at nearly 500 factories in 41 states.

Click here to go to energy.gov’s interactive career map where there is a long list of jobs in the wind industry. The website notes that in addition to the jobs they list, there are many other occupations involved in supporting the wind industry such as communications, safety, and administration.

Here are a few selections from the list of wind industry occupations.

  • Entry level jobs are available transporting the component parts of wind turbines from the factory to the construction site. Such jobs may include heavy-load freight drivers, logisticians, and rail or water freight movers.
  • Another entry level job in wind energy is meteorological technician. These workers are hired “to install, maintain, relocate and decommission meteorological towers and equipment used to capture information about the potential wind resource at identified locations.” Successful meteorological technicians may become wind technicians with certification and field experience.
  • At the mid-level the wind industry employs buyers. These workers purchase raw materials and parts for wind turbine components and other related construction. They also evaluate, bid, and negotiate contracts with suppliers. Buyers may become sales engineers with a bachelor’s degree and relevant experience.
  • Training and development managers are at the advanced level of employment in the wind industry. This employee coordinates, oversees, and assists in the development and implementation of educational programs aimed at enhancing the knowledge and skillset of all employees.

Many opportunities exist in wind energy today, with increasing opportunities forecast for the future.


Best Wind Energy Projects

Wind energy is dominating the conversation on sustainable energy this year. Perhaps it is the cantankerousness of the North Sea splashing around, or it could be the huge scale of the turbines. But for certain wind energy makes a visual impact.

Watching the blades of the turbine spin, or listening if you are close enough, draws your attention and reminds you how much human endeavor can do when we have resolved to get something accomplished.

The breathtaking image below represents just one of Vattenfall’s giant turbines, allegedly capable of powering a British household with just one revolution.

Wind Vision

The energy.gov sponsored the Wind Vision Project to create a roadmap to realizing our country’s enormous potential for wind energy. Wind Vision is all about how to conceptualize a new vision for wind energy through 2050 and what that vision should include. The Wind Vision report ends with “a roadmap of technical, economic, and institutional activities to optimize wind’s potential contribution to a cleaner, more reliable, domestic energy generation.”

All the news about wind energy is good news. From the environmental payoffs to the actual price per kilowatt, the news is all good.

The Takeaway

  • Wind is a viable source of energy for every state in the United States and should be available in every state by 2050.
  • Wind energy is affordable. Wind energy is expected to save consumers $280 billion by 2050.
  • Wind energy reduces air pollution emissions. By 2050, wind energy is projected to prevent the emission of about 12.3 gigatons of greenhouse gases.
  • Using wind energy conserves water. We can save enough water to fill 400,000 Olympic-size swimming pools (260 billion gallons).
  • Wind energy benefits the community. Revenue from lease payments and property taxes from wind energy will reach $3.2 billion annually by 2050.


Vattenfall off Scottish Coast

As part of a larger project, Swedish energy giant, Vattenfall, has installed an 8.8 MW capacity offshore wind turbine from Vestas at the European Offshore Wind Deployment Center (EOWDC) located off the coast of Scotland.

This turbine is the most powerful turbine ever built, exceeding the previous size of 8.4 MWs on MHI Vestas’ flagship platform. It is only the first of 11 turbines planned for the project.

This turbine is so large and powerful that, according to Project Director Adam Ezzamel, “just one rotation of the blades can power the average U.K. home for a day” (Merchant). Turbines keep getting larger. The Vestas 8.8 has a tip height of 191 meters with 80-meter-long blades. By 2024, Vestas turbines’ capacity will average nearly 12 MW.

Upon completion, the facility will have a capacity of 93.2 MW and will produce 312 gigawatt-hours (GWhs) per year, amounting to power for nearly 80,000 homes and 23 percent of Aberdeen’s electricity use. The turbines will displace an estimated 134,128 metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.

Vineyard Wind: Off Martha’s Vineyard

Offshore wind in the US will grow at a rate of 50 percent this year, and nowhere more so than off the Atlantic coast. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have just awarded contracts with a combined 1,200 megawatts of capacity for what will likely become the US’ biggest offshore wind complex.

Back in 2016, Massachusetts lawmakers set out to build 1.6 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2027. The project, Vineyard Wind, will contribute 800 megawatts and expects to be operational and selling power by 2021.

Rhode Island will award its 400-megawatt offshore wind project, Revolution Wind,  to Deepwater Wind. Deepwater is the developer of the 30-megawatt demonstration-scale Block Island project off Rhode Island’s coast, which is the only offshore wind power installation in the US to date.

Noting that the Revolution Wind project is 10 times the size of Block Island, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said, “Rhode Island made history when we built the first offshore wind farm in the United States. Today, we are doing it again” (St. John).

Gansu, the Jiuquan Wind Power Base

Called either the Gansu Wind Farm Project or Jiuquan Wind Power Base, China’s largest wind energy installation is in the Gansu province on the edge of the Gobi Desert. Gansu has more than 7,000 turbines and is one of the world’s largest wind farms as well as one of the first massive wind installations. Estimates say this farm alone could generate enough electricity to power a smallish country.

China has over 92,000 wind turbines with a generating capacity of 145 gigawatts (GW) which is nearly twice that of the US. Presently worldwide, one out of three wind turbines are in China. China continues to install turbines at a rate of more than one per hour (Hernandez).


Wind energy refers to power from the wind, often collected by turbines and sails. Wind is caused by the uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. The daily wind cycle starts when daytime temperatures above land heat up faster than temperatures above water. As the warm air over land expands and rises because it is hot, heavier, cooler air rushes in, creating wind. This cycle reverses by night because air over land cools quicker. Turbines capture the wind and convert it into electricity. Currently in the US, wind turbine electric generation accounts for “nearly 6.3% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation” (eia.gov).

The present is rosy for the wind industry. The eia.gov website estimates that the wind industry in the US now employs over 101,000 people who manufacture most of the components for turbines at nearly 500 factories in 41 states.

The future is bright and busy for the wind energy industry. Due to our increasing energy needs and the cleaner impact of wind energy, the US could potentially create over half a million new jobs, save consumers’ 149 billion dollars and 260 billion gallons of water by continuing to use and develop wind energy. These happy projections are estimated to last until at least 2050’s. Imagine that even now, China is building and installing an estimated one wind turbine per hour, and you get an idea of what is to come. estimated

Works Cited

Hamilton, James. “https://www.bls.gov/green/wind_energy/.” n.d. https://www.bls.gov. Webpage. 4 August 2018.

Hartman, Liz. https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/articles/top-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-wind-power. 17 August 2017. Webpage. 4 August 2018.

Hernandez, Javier. “https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/15/world/asia/china-gansu-wind-farm.html.” 15 January 2017. https://www.nytimes.com. Webpage. 13 August 2018.

“https://alcse.org/what-is-sustainable-energy/.” n.d. https://alcse.org. Webpage. 28 July 2018.

“https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=wind_history.” 25 May 2017. https://www.eia.gov. Webpage. 2 August 2018.

“https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=wind_home.” 5 December 2017. https://www.eia.gov. Webpage. 28 July 2018.

“https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/articles/top-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-wind-power.” 8 August 2018. https://www.energy.gov/. Webpage. 24 August 2018.

“https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/how-do-wind-turbines-work.” n.d. https://www.energy.gov. Webpage. 28 July 2018.

“https://www.google.com/search?q=gansu+wind+farm&rlz=1C1NHXL_enUS706US706&oq=gansu+wind+&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j69i57j69i60l2j0l2.8482j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8.” 13 August 2018. https://www.google.com. Search Engine. 13 August 2018.

“https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Gansu_Wind_Farm.” n.d. https://www.wikiwand.com. Webpage. 10 August 2018.

Merchant, Emma Foehringer. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/vattenfall-installs-worlds-most-powerful-wind-turbine#gs.qNAty4M.” 10 April 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 14 August 2018.

St. John, Jeff and Pyper, Julia. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/massachusetts-and-rhode-island-contract-for-1200-megawatts-of-offshore-wind#gs.lqQdfOA.” 23 May 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 15 August 2018.


Thanks to Wind Power Monthly for the featured image.

Solar Energy Projects, Big, Bold, and Beautiful

What are Solar Energy Projects

Solar energy projects are not only exciting because they speak to us of the future, but also because the rows and rows of perfectly spaced panels of glittering sunshine are cool to look at. Something about the stillness and simplicity of a solar array inspires quiet awe. And all this is just about what they look like. What they actually do is even more captivating.

Types of Solar Energy Projects 

Solar energy projects include all projects using solar energy to collect heat from solar rays and draw electricity from it. There are two main types of solar projects. Concentrating solar power (CSP) refers to solar energy systems that “generate solar power by using mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight, or solar thermal energy, onto a small area” (Wikipedia).

CSP technology

Photovoltaic (PV) is the other type of solar energy system. A PV system converts sunlight directly into electricity using PV cells made of semiconductor materials. When you see a house with solar panels on the roof, you are looking at a PV solar installation.

New Solar Energy Capacity Estimates

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) new solar energy projects totaling 49 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) are currently in the construction or development stages.

Overall SEIA estimates that there are 6,000 major solar installations in operation in the US with 70 GW of capacity.

Click here to access an interactive solar projects map from energy.gov. This map shows all the ongoing solar projects in the US along with a description of the projects. Another resource for solar projects information is the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) which publishes the 2018 SETO Portfolio Book that provides even more detailed information about solar projects. Lastly, SEIA also has a similar map.


Incidentally, SETO is responsible for the Sunshot Initiative which helps start community solar programs and facilitates the development and dissemination of solar energy technology to reduce the cost of solar energy.

Our last word on the proliferation of new solar energy? Even Kansas has a solar farm. Read on to learn where it is.

Notable, India v Australia

There is a good story about the biggest solar installation on Earth. The story is that bigger isn’t always better, and it isn’t always obvious which project is the bigger installation. Should we judge by generation capacity only? Should the number of solar panels matter? And how should we measure the importance of storage batteries? What if wind energy is occasionally added to the mix? Here are some current project highlights. We’ll let you decide.

In 2016, the solar facility in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu became the largest in the world. Its capacity of 648 MW with solar panels covering 10 square kilometers was big enough to unseat the former biggest solar installation in a single location, which had been the Topaz Solar Farm in California, which has a capacity of 550 MW (“India”).

In 2017, Tesla built the world’s largest virtual power plant in Australia, so large it can “provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant” (“Tesla). The Australian government and Tesla are both “calling the project the world’s largest virtual power plant, and — if fully built out — it will provide 250 megawatts of dispatchable electricity from the distributed home solar panels, and energy storage units” (“Tesla”).

Biggest Solar Installation Worldwide, India v China

The largest solar installations used to be in the US, but as of 2017, the biggest installations are in India and China (Hoium). These countries are trading the title of biggest solar farm back and forth between them.

This is what 1,000 MW’s (1 GW) of solar energy looks like, Longyangxia Dam Solar Farm (Thanks to NASA for the image).

In 2016, the 648 MW Tamil Nadu installation unseated the Topaz Solar Farm for the top spot. In February of 2017, China’s 850 MW Longyangxia Dam Solar Park unseated India’s 648 MW’s.

On April 28, 2018, India’s 1,000 MW (1 GW) Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park reclaimed India’s primacy in solar farms. India plans to install another 1,000 MW this year.

Biggest Battery Project

The biggest solar gridscale battery in existence is the Hornsdale Power Reserve battery located in South Australia. The battery was first charged in November of 2017 and charged to 31 MW in 2 minutes.

Thanks to Hornsdale Power for the photo.

Elon Musk famously bet he could deliver 100 megawatts of storage in 100 days or it would be free (Spector). The 100 MW mark sets Tesla ahead of its nearest competitor AES, which has installed the next largest system with the 30 MW, 120 megawatt-hour system it installed for San Diego Gas and Electric.

Boldest Solar Project

Cicero said that fortune favors the bold. We chose a boldest project because solar energy has defined itself by taking bold chances, finding a new way, and surprising everyone. We suspect that the benefits and lessons of South Australia’s project will far exceed expectations and will lead to many more similarly empowering projects.

The boldest new solar project is Tesla’s latest deal with South Australia, known as the world’s largest virtual power plant. At the outset of this project, Tesla will install its solar systems, including solar panels and Powerwall 2 batteries, on 1,100 public housing units in South Australia. If this pilot phase is successful, then Tesla will install solar on another 24,000 public housing units as well as some private homes, reaching a total of 50,000 home solar energy systems.

Thanks to Tesla for this photo of its Powerwall 2.

The project is expected to be completed by 2022. It will provide 250 MW of dispatchable electricity from the collection of up to 50,000 home solar energy systems. In addition to providing electricity for the homes, the excess electricity can be sent out onto the grid. The excess electricity and storage capacity would then be monitored with software and used depending on the grid’s needs. Customers could also use the power in their storage systems in the event of a blackout (Fehrenbacher).

A capacity of 250 MW equates to about 20 percent of the daily average energy requirements of the region. The South Australian government estimates the new systems will lower participants bills by 30%. Participants living in the public housing units will receive the technology free of charge, so everyone involved in the project stands to gain something, a real win-win.

Solar Energy Projects in the United States

First Solar’s New Manufacturing Plant

First Solar announced in April that it plans to open a 1.2 GW factory to manufacture Series 6 thin-film PV modules, which are exempt from the recent tariff imposed on other solar panel suppliers. First Solar will open the new plant in Township, Ohio and should employ at least 500 people. Ohio. Construction will begin this year and the factory is expected to be completed and operating by late 2019, contingent on incentive packages under negotiation (Pyper).

This expansion will bring First Solar’s US manufacturing capacity for thin-film PV solar modules to 1.8 GW. By way of comparison, Tesla’s solar Gigafactory is estimated to have 1 GW of yearly capacity by late 2019, with plans for 2 GW in the future.

The Series 6 is exempt from the recent tariffs that are crippling its competitors because the tariffs only apply to crystalline-silicon photovoltaics (CSPV). Some years ago, First Solar separated from the pack and began using cadmium-telluride solar technologies that are now exempt from solar tariffs (Pyper).

Isn’t It Cold There: Solar Energy in Kansas

We can report firsthand that Kansas is cold in winter, cold enough to freeze people and even hardy, fur-covered livestock, to death. Dead. Frozen. Kansas, you may recall is flat, has in fact been scientifically certified flatter even than a pancake. So nothing stops the north wind from blowing all the way across the long and short of Kansas. It’s cold there in winter. If we needed a real-life example and assertion of the strength and efficiency of solar energy, Mid-States’ new solar farm is it.

Thanks to PV Magazine for the photo of a Kansas wheat field.

According to its website, “Lightsource BP has signed a 25-year power purchase and asset acquisition agreement with Mid-Kansas Electric Company (Mid-Kansas) Inc. . .Mid-Kansas is a cooperatively operated wholesale generation and transmission utility serving members across the state of Kansas.”

The 20 MW solar project will be built in Stanton County starting in early 2019. Lightsource will own and operate the facility while Mid-Kansas will purchase the solar energy output. Upon completion, it will be the largest solar facility in Kansas.

Steve Epperson, Mid-Kansas Chairman of the Board, explained that “The decreasing cost of photovoltaic technology, along with other industry dynamics, makes it the right time to bring solar energy into our generation mix.” Because of this deal, Mid-Kansas will get “cost-effective on-peak energy and capacity” and “reduce loading on a transmission line that is nearing full capacity, thus deferring or eliminating a costly upgrade requirement for the Mid-Kansas transmission system” (“Lightsource BP”).

California’s New Roofs

California has legislated a new set of energy standards regulating new home construction to take effect in 2020. The solar roof mandate is just one part of the new code. Together these standards “enable some pretty groundbreaking developments in the advancement of clean energy” according to Julia Pyper with Green Technology Media (GTM).

For the first time in the US anywhere, the new standards call for solar panels atop all new buildings under three stories. A boat of other standards incentivizes energy storage and promotes efficiency upgrades comprehensive enough to reduce energy consumption in new buildings by as much as 50%.

The new solar PV requirement is calculated based on the climate of the location and the floor area of the building or dwelling. New PV systems must be large enough to produce as many KW’s as the buildings are likely to use.

Solar energy systems ranging from 2.7-5.7 KW’s are expected to be installed on new homes. This number compares to the average size of 6.8 KW’s for a solar retrofit on an existing home in California today.

Georgia’s New Solar Installation

In November First Solar will begin construction on a 200 MW solar farm in Twiggs County, Georgia. The project, still unnamed, was first awarded as part of a 525 MW request for proposals.

First Solar will develop the project under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Georgia Power. When completed, the project will be the largest stand-alone solar PV farm in the southeastern United States (Hill).

Also located in Georgia, Hanwha Q Cells Korea Corporation will build a solar PV module manufacturing plant in Whitfield County, Georgia. This project will also begin in 2018 and be completed by 2019.

Hanwha Q did not disclose the exact capacity of the new plant but said capacity would exceed 1.6 GW yearly. The company will manufacture Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) solar modules at the factory. All production will be made available to Hanwha Q Cells Co. Ltd. to supply its rooftop and ground-mount market segments.

Although the new tariffs on solar cells and modules no doubt influenced the company’s decision, Hanwha Q Cells added that the new plant will allow Hanwha to maintain a healthy market position here. Since the US was the second-largest solar market in 2017, and since products manufactured in the US are not subject to the new tariffs, building its own plant in Georgia, Hanwha believes, opens the door to even greater future profits.

Solar Energy Projects for Students

We were delighted to find an excellent annotated list of solar energy projects for students compiled by www.builditsolar.com. The list also contains links to the various projects listed. We must mention we love the solar energy coloring book, but the projects listed range in age appropriateness.

Here is a link to a list of solar energy projects for students. Here is a link to a solar science curriculum provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Here is another link to solar energy project for students, but letsgosolar.com charges a fee for its learning kits.

Solar Science Projects for Everyone

Here is a link to a Google search for solar science projects for engineering students.

Works Cited

Fehrenbacher, Katie. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-virtual-power-plant-south-australia#gs.V65Nel4.” 6 February 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 27 April 2018.

Hill, Joshua S. “https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/22/first-solar-to-build-200-mw-solar-project-in-georgia-largest-in-southeast-us/.” 22 February 2018. https://cleantechnica.com. Webpage. 28 May 2018.

Hoium, Travis. “https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/08/07/the-5-largest-solar-projects-in-the-world-and-none.aspx.” 7 August 2017. https://www.fool.com. Webpage. 28 May 2018.

“https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/india-unveils-world-largest-solar-power-plant-161129101022044.html.” 30 November 2016. https://www.aljazeera.com. Webpage. 28 May 2018.

“https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-projects-map.” 2018. https://www.energy.gov. Webpage. 26 May 2018.

https://www.lightsourcebp.com/us/2018/03/lightsource-bp-build-solar-farm-kansas-mid-kansas-electric-company/. 1 March 2018. Webpage. 30 May 2018.

“https://www.seia.org/research-resources/major-solar-projects-list.” 2018. https://www.seia.org. Webpage. 28 May 2018.

Piper, Julia. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/first-solar-to-open-new-us-manufacturing-plant#gs.poMIG5U.” 26 April 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 1 May 2018.

Pyper, Julia. https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/everything-you-need-to-know-about-californias-new-solar-roof-mandate?utm_source=Storage&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GTMStorage#gs.V_F9W6c. 21 May 2018. Webpage. 31 May 2018.

Spector, Julian. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-fulfills-australia-battery-bet-whats-that-mean-industry#gs.LZxitL8.” 17 November 2017. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 28 May 2018.

As always, it has been a pleasure writing for you.

The Many Uses of Solar Energy Today

Solar energy refers to energy from the sun’s rays. As you might guess, there are countless uses for solar energy. The entire Earth biosphere runs on solar energy.  Humans have been using solar energy since before anyone was writing things down or even painting cave walls. The sun powers the entire planet. Without it there is no life of any kind.

According to Energy.gov, “Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth — 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously. . . more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use” (6 Things).

Uses of Solar Energy

There are countless industrial and commercial uses of the sun’s rays and heat. The most notable and largest of these uses is concentrating solar power (CSP), which, just as it sounds, involves concentrating sunlight. The concentrated energy is then converted and used as electricity or converted to heat to power turbines that then produce electricity.

In the US in 2017, solar installations produced twice as much electricity as was produced in 2015, bringing the total solar energy produced to 2% of total electrical output. From 2015 to 2017, solar energy production doubled (Weaver). This year, another increase is estimated.

Some Uses of Solar Energy

To generate electricity with solar cells or heat engines.

To take the salt away from sea water.

To use sun rays for drying clothes and towels.

It is used by plants for the process of photosynthesis.

Energysage.com has identified the top 5 uses of solar energy: solar transportation, solar technology, solar lighting, solar heating and rooftop solar (“5 Top”).

Solar Transportation

Solar transportation refers to solar powered railroads, subways, buses, planes, cars and roads. Solar transportation is becoming ever more popular choice in renewable energy.  Recently, a solar powered-aircraft, the Solar Impulse 2, flew around the world. China is using solar buses to reduce carbon and maintain mass transit for densely populated areas. In Australia, thanks to the SolarSpirit, solar cars are getting more recognition (“5 Top”).

Solar Technology

Solar Technology, for the purposes of this list will be defined as wearable solar technology. But let us be clear: anything that is powered with electricity could be solar-powered. How the electricity is generated determines if it is solar electricity, not which items it electrifies.

These items are directly solar-powered because you may simply wear them or place them in the sun to charge them.

  • Wearables
  • Music speakers
  • Solar air conditioning
  • Tablets
  • Thermostats
  • Solar dryers
  • Solar visor radios
  • Freezers/mini-fridges
  • Rechargeable flashlights
  • Solar Heating

Solar Heating: Using PV for Thermal Energy

An alternate way to reduce your electricity bill with solar energy is to buy a solar water heater or solar space heater. These do not require a complete solar installation to function because the solar space heaters collect “sunlight and convert it into thermal energy using a liquid or air as a medium, while solar water heaters use water as a method for thermal transfer” (Top 5”).

Solar water heaters and solar space heaters can be passive or active. Passive systems use natural circulation while active systems use pumps to circulate water and make heat.

Of course, a complete solar energy system for your home is more desirable than these small appliances, but it does cost more.

Another stand-alone use for solar energy is pool heating. Simply put, your solar pool heater “uses a solar collector that harnesses sunlight and converts it into heat. Water is then drawn through the collector as a means of heating the pool” (“Top 5”).

Solar Lighting

Solar lighting may be the most popular use of solar energy. Solar lights were among the first solar technologies to gain popularity. Solar street lights are just one example of the uses of solar lighting.

Most important to homeowners is that installing solar lights instantly improves your home’s energy efficiency. What you will love about solar lighting installations, is that there is no lengthy setup because the lights are wireless. Solar lights collect sun during the day and use it to light up at night. Cheap, almost foolproof, and energy efficient, solar lights are quickly becoming as popular as solar panels.

Additionally, houses with outdoor solar lighting are worth more because the lights are attractive and useful. Some installations “can improve the exterior design of a property, [and] are often as cheap as $20 per light” (“Top 5”). s so common to see solar powered street lights – keep your eye out for those like the one pictured above.  Rooftop Solar: A Homeowner’s Best Friend

Rooftop Solar

With all these amazing new gadgets and applications, it is easy to forget about the good ole rooftop solar panel energy system. Nothing has to move or fly in the home solar panel system. But the energy savings your rooftop solar panels can provide is too large to ignore.

Uses of Solar Energy at Home

The home uses of solar energy are also almost endless. As we have seen, solar energy is primarily used to cook and heat water and buildings. However, anything and everything in the home that is currently powered with electricity could be powered with solar-generated electricity because electricity works the same regardless where it comes from.

You home solar energy system has a converter/inverter which, as the word indicates, converts the DC electricity your system produces to AC so that it can be used easily and even fed back into your electric grid.

Probably the first place may solar items were invented for is the outdoors, either the big outdoors or your little outdoors in your yard. Nowadays, the only limit on the use of solar energy is in the products available. The sky is literally the limit when it comes to using solar energy. Click here for an astoundingly long list of things you can power with solar energy. There are at least as many uses for solar energy as there are products on this extensive Wikipedia list.

Solar Energy Technologies for Home

  • Photovoltaic Systems for Heating
  • Solar Hot Water Heater
  • Passive Solar Heating and Daylighting
  • Solar Lighting
  • Solar Process Space Heating and Cooling
  • Car Charging

When you have a solar energy system installed in your home, your home can then make its own electricity. Once your home is making its own electricity, you will receive much lower electricity bills and even possibly get some money back from your utility company. There are numerous websites that feature cost estimators which can tell you about how much solar electricity your home may produce.

The estimated cost to purchase and install a home solar energy system today in the US is between $10 and $15 thousand dollars. According to Sunrun, “in 2013 the monthly average electricity bill was $110.21. Hawaii had the highest average monthly electric bill at $190.36 and New Mexico the lowest at $76.56” (Solar”). Additionally, electric costs may be increased by your utility.

Even if your electric bill is for the average amount, you are spending $1,322.52 per year. Energysage.com suggests that if you first determine how much electricity you are using, you can install enough panels to generate that much electricity, effectively reducing your electric bill to zero. Individual locations rates vary due to differences in the amount utilities pay you for the electricity you feed back into the grid from your home system.

Works Cited

“https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar-powered_products.” 2014 December 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org. Webpage. 23 May 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/articles/top-6-things-you-didnt-know-about-solar-energy. n.d. Webpage. 28 March 2018.

“https://www.sunrun.com/solar-savings/average-electric-bil.” 2018. https://www.sunrun.com/. Webpage. 25 May 2018.

Richardson, Luke. “https://news.energysage.com/most-common-solar-energy-uses/.” 2 January 2017. https://news.energysage.com. Webpage. 23 May 2018.

Weaver, John. “https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2018/02/28/solar-rises-to-nearly-2-of-u-s-generation-in-2017/.” 28 February 2018. https://pv-magazine-usa.com. Webpage. 23 May 2018.









Thanks to Tesla for the featured image.

Understanding Your Solar Energy System

A solar energy system is made up of a collector component such as a solar panel, a converter component to collect the solar energy and convert it to electricity, and a storage component such as a battery.

As the graphic demonstrates, after the energy passes through the inverter, it enters the main fuse box and from there passes through your utility meter where it is counted. Then, the extra solar energy you have generated is fed into the electric grid.

A solar energy system is made up of a collector component such as a solar panel, a converter component to collect the solar energy and convert it to electricity, and a storage component such as a battery.Solar energy systems may be as small as a flashlight or phone charger or as large as the world’s largest solar farm in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, which has a capacity of 648 MW and covers 10 square kilometers.

A solar energy system does not have to connect to the grid, nor be very complicated. It does have to create usable heat or electricity from sunlight. Some systems, such as a sun tea making system which consists only of a jar with water and sunlight, don’t even have panels or a converter and still work just fine. So, the idea of a solar energy system is that it collects sunlight and makes it useful to us. Our modern solar energy systems are more efficient versions of the same thing.

Solar Energy System for Home

Home solar energy systems, like the one pictured above, are so good that the question of installing one is now a “when” not an “if” for most homeowners. Even Energy.gov writes that “A solar electric system provides an opportunity for anyone who is looking to reduce monthly utility bills and make a long-term, low-risk investment.”

Home solar energy systems provide several benefits such as energy cost savings, increased home value, and environmental improvement. One recent study indicates that “on average, solar increased the value of a home by about $15,000” (“Benefits”). Our environment improves with every solar installation: “Each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar that is generated will substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions like CO2, as well as other dangerous pollutants such as sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.”

What are you waiting for?

To get your home solar energy system started, Energy.gov suggests you follow these steps.

Investigate Your Energy Efficiency

What is your home’s current level of energy efficiency? Have a home energy audit to discover where you can save energy.

Check the efficiency and age of your appliances. If you have inefficient appliances, consider upgrading. If you are using those appliances during peak usage periods when many providers increase the cost per kilowatt, could you change to a thriftier usage schedule? Check with your own provider, but peak periods are usually afternoon and evening and are easily avoidable.

Switch to LED light bulbs. Wait until dark, turn off the lights, and look around for those little red and green lights that signal something is plugged in and using energy. You may think you have found all these little lights, but you will be surprised how many you will notice when the lights are all out. Small things, such as the speakers on your computer, can add up to big bills over the long haul. Unplug it or turn it off if you aren’t using it.

No matter much heating and cooling is required where you live, weatherizing your home will make it more efficient to heat or cool. Walls and ceilings should be insulated. Windows and doors are often sources of energy waste. These can be replaced or just insulated with foam. Here is a digital thermometer you can point and measure the temperature anywhere in your home. Lastly, the area under your home should be vented but closed to drafts.

Your solar investment will go farther in a weatherized, energy efficiency maximized home.

Evaluate Your Solar Potential

Evaluate your home’s solar potential and limitations. What condition is your roof in? What work may need to be done on it to make it ready for solar panels? Does any part of your roof face south? How large is your roof? How much sunlight hits it in a day? Are there shade trees obstructing the sunlight?

Do you have a neighborhood or home owners agreement that has rules against solar installations? It is unlikely you do, but it is better to be sure.

After you get a rough answer to these questions, it is helpful to consult a mapping service. You can click here for a list. These services are usually free and easy to use. They provide a more precise estimate of the solar energy your home solar energy system can produce. You need the information from a mapping service, so you can make a good decision about the size of system you want to purchase.

Click to read more about,

advantages of solar energy

solar energy definition

solar energy facts

solar energy companies

solar energy system

uses of solar energy

solar energy projects

renewable energy

wind energy

sustainable energy

georthermal energy

wind power

Choose How You Want to Use Solar

Homeowners (and renters, too) have an array of choices about how to use solar energy. You may purchase a solar energy system, and have it installed in your home. You may use a community solar plan from a provider. You may enter into a solar lease agreement, PPA, or solarize program. In today’s market, any option you choose will reward you with cleaner, cheaper electricity for your home. Read on to determine which option is right for your home.

Purchasing Your Own

Purchasing your own home solar energy system is the most obvious and easy choice for homeowners. If you own your home and receive enough sunlight, all you need is the money to buy and install a solar energy system.

Home equity loans are available for homeowners with equity. Using a home equity loan to purchase your system will probably pay the most dividends overall. Equity loans are sometimes available to homeowners at lower interest rates. Homeowners with a lot of equity in a higher-end home might qualify for both equity and solar loans. It is always worthwhile to compare rates of interest when choosing a loan.

The solar loan is the other financing option for the purchase of a home solar energy system, unless your aunt Gladys left you about $15,000.00, about the cost of the average system. If you must use a solar loan, try not to borrow the full amount. Keep in mind that to maximize your return on your solar energy system, you must find the plan that offers you the least cost and lowest interest over the shortest time possible.

Some installation companies will assist you in finding funding to purchase your solar energy home system. Below is a list of solar loan providers.

Community and Shared Solar Plans

Community solar plans are probably the easiest option for going solar. Community solar plans are offered when your utility owns, operates, or partners with a solar farm. A solar farm is a usually large space featuring a solar panel array. A community solar user purchases solar electricity generated by the solar farm. The solar electricity comes to your house just as your old electricity did.

Shared solar works about the same way. Shared solar plans are established by a group of people who want to use solar energy but are unable to generate it themselves. They pool their money to collectively purchase solar at the level that fits the collective’s needs and resources. The solar energy they use may be generated on- or off-site and could be owned by utilities, solar developers, non-profits, or even collective members.

For the estimated 50% of US households that either don’t have enough rooftop or can’t install because they rent, community and shared solar it is a good option (“Planning”). Also, if you just don’t want to be responsible for the repair and upkeep of the system, community solar may be for you. You don’t have to purchase any equipment nor own a roof.

The drawback to community and shared solar is that the participants do not receive the tax and other benefits afforded solar energy system owners. As with the rest of this process, learn all the facts before you decide.

Solar Lease Agreement

If ownership of your solar energy system isn’t possible or desirable for you, then a solar lease agreement may work for you. In a solar agreement, you do not own your home solar energy system but only lease it. The solar company installs the system in your home. You then pay the lease fee and your regular electricity bill. According to energy.gov and us.sunpower.com, “For many customers, their lease and remaining utility bill [combined] are lower than their previous electric bill” (“Home Solar”).

If you sell your home, the buyers, upon credit approval, can enter into another such agreement with the same system owners. The homeowner never owns the leased solar energy system.

A lease agreement may be right for you if you want a solar energy system in your home, but you do not want to purchase one nor be responsible for its upkeep. Or, perhaps you don’t qualify for any of the state and federal tax investment credits, but you would still like to save money on your own electric bill while having the opportunity to sell your unused solar energy back to the utility through a net-metering agreement.

Whatever your situation, keep looking until you find what is right for you. There are plenty of options out there for everyone.

Power Purchase Agreements

PPA’s have been essential to the development of the solar energy market. Simply, the PPA is a financial agreement between you and the solar power developer. You agree to purchase power from the developer for a set amount per kWh for a set duration from the system located at your home and owned by the developer. The solar developer designs, finances, permits, and installs a solar energy system on your property.

The benefit to you is the lower per kWh rate you will be paying for your electricity.

The PPA offers all the benefits and drawbacks of the solar lease, such as cheaper, cleaner electricity, no upkeep of equipment, no tax credits, and no ownership. The PPA is a good choice if you want to minimize upfront costs.

Solarize Programs

Solarize programs are a good fit for people who have access to them through their communities. The Sunshot Initiative is a government program that supports community programs that make solar better, cheaper, and easier to install. Since 2009, the Sunshot Initiative has sponsored Solarize programs. Speaking to the popularity of the program, there are now more than 230 Solarize campaigns in 25 states.

Solarize programs “are locally organized community outreach efforts aimed at getting a critical mass of area homes and businesses together to “go solar” in an established period of time (usually a few months)” (“Planning”). These campaigns leverage the power of group-purchasing, buying solar energy system components and even installation in bulk for a discounted price. Because of the healthy, steady market created by the group purchases, installers can charge less. Everyone wins.

Estimate You Electricity Needs

Estimate your solar electricity needs. The best way to do this is to use an online tool provided by most electric companies. It allows you to login and view your electric usage graphically. Login to your online account and check for this tool.

You may also gather your bills and estimate your usage based on the past two or three years of electricity usage. You are looking for the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) you are using each month. The national average is around 1,000 kWh per month, but don’t rely on an estimate. Your home may be different.

Don’t forget to consider changes you may be making in the future. Are you planning for a pool in the backyard next summer? Will you be buying an electric car? Plan for the extra electricity you may need for expected and unexpected changes in your energy needs.

Obtain Bids and Site Assessments

Get at least three bids and site assessments from contractors, making sure the estimates are all based on the same metrics and characteristics. It is essential to make sure your estimates are all for approximately the same solar energy system.

When reviewing your bids, be sure to compare these areas carefully.

  • Do the systems generate the same kWh’s?
  • Are the systems comparable in number and type of components?
  • Are the warranties for similar lengths of time, usually 20 years for panels and 10 years for inverters?

To find a contractor you can work with, you need to do a little easy research. You may want to talk with people who have installed a solar energy system. You may search for a solar installation company online. Choose only contractors certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) as this board sets the industry standard. Be sure you know about any extra licensing requirements your state or city may have. Asking the following questions may be helpful.

  • Does the contractor have references you can talk with?
  • Does the contractor know about local permitting and interconnection processes?
  • About how many similar installations has the contractor completed?
  • Can you agree on an installation schedule?
  • Is the contractor aware of the requirements for installers in your area?

Be assured that you are entering the solar energy market at a good time. There are many qualified installers right now. Solar technology has never been more advanced than it is now, and more innovations in solar technology are introduced nearly daily.

Moreover, since you already pay an electric bill, and that bill is guaranteed to go down upon installation of your solar energy system, there really is minimal financial risk in the prospect. Luckily, there is no such thing as a solar panel that doesn’t work!

Understand Your Financing and Incentives

Several available financing and incentives options at both the state and federal level are currently available to homeowners. Through 2019, all small solar energy system installations qualify for a 30% tax credit. The credit decreases to 26% in 2020, then to 22% in 2021, and expires December 31, 2021 and is for homeowners who purchase solar energy systems, so those who lease or have PPA’s are not included (“Planning”).

The options for solar financing are solar leasing, power purchase agreements (PPA’s) and solar loans.

Solar Leasing

Leasing may be for you if you just don’t want to, or can’t, own your own system. Leases don’t get tax credits or lead to owning your system.

Solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s)

Clever and useful, the PPA may be your best fit if you own your home but don’t want to own your own solar energy system.

Solar Energy Loans

What we love about solar loans is that even after the loan payment is made and the electric bill is paid, you generally still have more money left over than you did before you installed your solar energy system.  As a bonus, when you finish your payments, your electricity will be free, or better, free and you receive a payment from your utility or the extra energy you sold back to the grid through a net-metering agreement.


Be sure to click here to access the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). DSIRE will direct you to a list of any incentives your state may offer. You will make the best plan by knowing all of your options before making decisions.

Here are some private solar loan offerings from cesa.org:

Admirals Bank: www.admiralsbank.com/renewable-energy-lending/loan-programs/solar-step-down

GEOSmart: www.egia.org/Marketing/emails/geosmart/CL/geosmartProgramUpdate-201310.html

SolarCity: www.solarcity.com/residential/mypower-solar-loan

Sungage Financial: www.sungagefinancial.com/why-own-and-finance-solar

SunPower: us.sunpower.com/home-solar/save-with-solar-panels/

Work with Your Installer

You will be working with the installer you chose along with your local utility to install your system, connect it to the grid and set up agreements.

At this stage, the crucial issue is your connection to the grid. In some areas the connection fee is still steep, but that is changing quickly. Your utility company can tell you when and how you can expect to be paid for the energy you feed back into the grid.

For many lucky readers, when install your system tomorrow, your utility company will already know the solar connection routine as well as it now knows the old connection routine. Don’t worry because in a very short while, all utilities will be hip and innovative regarding customers who produce energy at home.

There are two reasons why this will happen. First, when individuals install solar or wind energy technologies which they then feed back into the electric grid, called distributed generation, our grids become stronger and more resilient, which is good for everyone.

Second, anyone who looks can see that collecting solar energy, which is free and delivered to your door, is smarter and easier than burning fossil fuel, which is costly in dollars and environmental damage, but also must first be mined from inside the earth before it can be hauled to the location of the utility using it. Even at the utility, more dirty and costly processing is necessary to convert the fossil fuel to electricity. Solar is so superior to other sources of electricity that it simply cannot long be ignored.

Don’t Be Hidebound

People are hidebound. We all know it, but we don’t like to admit it. Most of the people who ever lived here could remain hidebound and survive nicely because there was virtually no technological development at all in an average life span. In the past, people may have been faced with adjusting to a new shape of flint tool, but never would have faced today’s dazzling array of daily invention and innovation. Hidebound worked for most people for a long time, but this is 2018 in the midst of the computer age, the most  technologically advanced state ever achieved by human beings. All this behooves us to keep up a bit.

Spend even 5 minutes today educating yourself about solar energy, and you, too, will see.


For help with your home solar energy system, click here to access “Planning a Home Solar Electricity System” by Energy.gov. This helpful overview suggests questions to ask as you navigate the purchase, installation, and use of your new solar energy system.

Many solar energy systems are available now, and a smart variety of solar products have become available with many more coming soon. Fueled by solar energy’s presence almost everywhere almost any day, new handy gadgets to collect and convert solar energy to electricity appear almost daily.

Solar Panel

Wikipedia explains that a solar panel or solar cell is “an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect.”

Solar Battery

Calling the batteries that come with your home solar energy system is not strictly correct. Ditto this battery featured below. Since this battery will accept a charge from a solar panel, we call it a solar battery, but in most other ways it is just a battery.



A converter, also known as an inverter or PV inverter, is the component in your solar energy system that converts the “variable direct current (DC) output of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel into a utility frequency alternating current (AC) that can be fed into a commercial electrical grid or used by a local, off-grid electrical network” according to Wikipedia.


Solar Lights

Solar lights are the first solar appliance to become commonplace.


Solar Water Heater


Suggested Resources

Visit the NREL, EIA, SEIA, and Solar Energy Technologies Office websites for more solar energy resources. All the sources cited below are useful and will lead you to other sources of information about home solar energy systems. A wealth of good information is available online.

Works Cited

“https://us.sunpower.com/home-solar/save-with-solar-panels/.” 2018. https://us.sunpower.com. Webpage. 18 May 2018.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/india-unveils-world-largest-solar-power-plant-161129101022044.html. 20 November 2016. Webpage. 14 May 2018.

“https://www.cesa.org/assets/2015-Files/Homeowners-Guide-to-Solar-Financing.pdf.” May 2015. https://www.cesa.org. Webpage. 17 May 2018.

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=solar_home. n.d. Webpage. 4 March 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/benefits-residential-solar-electricity. 2018. Webpage. 14 May 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/buying-and-making-electricity/using-solar-electricity-home. 2018. Webpage. 14 May 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/home-heating-systems/active-solar-heating. 2018. Webpage. 14 May 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/planning-home-solar-electric-system. 2018. Webpage. 14 May 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/savings/residential-renewable-energy-tax-credit. 2018. Webpage. 14 May 2018.

As always, it is a pleasure writing for you!

The Solar Energy Companies You Need to Know About

Solar energy companies are businesses that manufacture, install, or design solar collection and conversion equipment used to make electricity from sunshine. Solar power companies range from large to small.

Following is a list of the top 15 largest and best solar companies in the US, compiled by Green Technology Media. Short annotations of each company are included, compiled by zunisun.com.

According to The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) “The solar market is humming on its way to unprecedented growth” and SEIA expects “the total market size for solar in the United States to more than double within the next five years.”

In the US, the largest three solar companies “helped to deploy nearly a quarter of the commercial solar market in 2017,” (Davis).

Solar energy companies on Green Technology Media’s (GTM’s) recently published “who’s who” of commercial solar list are divided by how they function in the solar energy supply chain. Companies are then ranked by the company’s commercial solar capacity in megawatts (MW).

Thanks to Green Technology Media for the image.

Sunpower, the top-ranking US solar company develops and manufactures solar equipment, while Tesla owns and develops of solar energy technology. Other solar companies may own assets, develop technologies, arrange financing, or produce solar energy. Energy producers are called electricity production companies (EPCs).

Since the commercial solar industry is fragmented—some companies install, others manufacture, still others provide electricity, and some do both—it is difficult to say exactly how many companies there are in the US. But, Wikipedia has other more enlightening numbers:

As of the end of 2017, the United States had over 50 gigawatts (GW)                   of installed photovoltaic capacity. [1] In the twelve months through                   February 2018, utility scale and distributed solar power generated                       55.6 terawatt-hours (TWh), 1.37% of total U.S. electricity. During                       the same time period total solar generation, including estimated                         distributed solar photovoltaic generation, was 80.6 TWh, 1.98% of                     total U.S. electricity.

GTM notes that for companies like Telsa, which owns about 90% of its commercial projects, “having more control over multiple steps in the value chain appears to be a winning strategy.” Tesla sold 24% more solar installations in 2017 despite constrictions in the market caused by tariffs.

Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York has finally begun installations of its solar roof for non-employees.

Tesla, which has recently bought Solarcity, is probably the most recognized name in solar technology, and is expected to have “1 gigawatt of annual capacity by the end of 2019, and 2 gigawatts at some point in the future” (Pyper).

According to Fred Lambert writing for electrek, Tesla also has plans to open an electric semi-truck factory that will eventually produce 10,000 trucks per year. Rumors place the manufacture of the trucks at Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, US. If Tesla succeeds in producing 10,000 trucks per year, it will be out-producing all other manufacturers.

Tesla has 500 advanced orders for the new semi, including an order for 100 trucks for Pepsico and another 125 for UPS.

Click to read more about

Solar energy advantages

Solar energy definition

Solar energy facts

Solar energy companies

Solar energy system

Uses of solar energy

Solar energy projects

Renewable energy

Wind energy

Sustainable energy

Geothermal energy

Wind power

Sunpower, clearly the top-ranking solar company on GTM’s who’s who list, is a developer and module manufacturer. Because Sunpower both directly installs commercial solar energy systems and has channel partners, it was able to make gains last year even while the market constricted.

Sunpower focuses on solar installation projects larger than 1 MW while its channel partners target medium and small projects (less than 1 MW). Sunpower may not have the joie de vivre of an Elon Musk at its helm, but it’s still doing just fine.

NRG, third on the list, is an asset owner and developer. NRG Inc. is an energy company that, according to its website, brings “years of experience and a data-driven mindset to help you get the most out of your energy.”

NRG is committed to sustainable energy sources and specializes in new technology applications and “diverse generation sources” (www.nrg.com).  NRG hopes to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and a 90% reduction by 2050.

NRG is the leading integrated power company in the US, serving 3 million customers.

NextEra Energy is also a solar energy owner and developer. According to its website, NextEra energy, “is a Fortune 200 energy company with about 45,900 megawatts of generating capacity, revenues of over $17 billion, and about 14,000 employees throughout the United States and Canada.” And lucky those employees are since NextEra Energy made one of Forbes’ America’s Best Employers for the third year in a row (prnewswire.com).

Geronimo Energy ranks fifth on the list and is a solar energy developer with headquarters in Minneapolis and numerous projects in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, New York and Michigan. Geronimo, “provides custom renewable energy solutions for utilities and corporations looking to harness renewable energy for business growth” and estimates that it has 1800 MW of renewable energy projects both operational and in construction and “a multi-gigawatt development pipeline of wind and solar projects in various stages of development throughout the United States.”

Geronimo prides itself on being farmer-friendly. Its mission statement: “We seek to leave the world a better place than it was before we touched it: environmentally, through the deployment of clean and renewable energy; in our communities, through economic development; for our employees, through personal improvement and pride in what we do; for our shareholders, through profitable operations” (Geronimo).

The rest of the story is here below the chart.

Rank Company Value Chain Participation MW Capacity
6 Borrego Developer and EPC 68.4
7 WGL Asset Owner 45.4
8 Wunder Capital Financier 37.3
9 Greenskies Asset Owner and Developer 34.7
10 REC Solar Developer and EPC 34.3
11 Nexamp Developer and Asset Owner 33.7
12 Coldwell Solar EPC 32.8
13 SoCore Energy Asset Owner and Developer 32.5
14 EnterSolar Developer and EPC 29.7
15 Ameresco Asset Owner and Developer 27.1

Click here to download the complete list.

Borrego, in business since 1980, is a utility scale solar energy developer and Energy Production Company (EPC). Borrego offers a “complete suite of services to commercial solar and energy storage customers including: development; Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC); Operations and Maintenance (O&M); and, commercial solar financing” (Borrego).

Borrego has built a portfolio of more than 1,100 projects totaling more than 400 MW of solar capacity. The company likes to work on projects with educational facilities, government agencies, corporations, water districts, real estate developers, independent power producers (IPPs) and investor-owned utilities (IOUs). Borrego prides itself on being able to engineer solutions across an array of energy problems.

WGL is an asset owner that does environmentally friendly residential, commercial, industrial, and government installations. WGL has been busy.

According to its website, WGL plans to create a national legacy of renewable energy solutions. To this end, WGL has invested over 100 million a year for the past 4 years and now has over 700 million in clean energy projects in 28 states.

WGL uses “a distributed generation model that involves large multiple-solution projects that employ natural gas, solar, remotely generated wind and other solutions,” which could include onsite generation systems (WGL). It is currently creating such an energy model for the US General Services.

Thanks to WGL for the graphic.Another example of WGL’s work is the IND Solar Farm, a solar farm developed for Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) on 183 acres located on the Indianapolis International Airport (IND).

The project is the largest solar farm on an airport in the world. WGL operates Phase IIA of the project which is currently generating 19.7 million kilowatt hours annually, equivalent to powering 1,586 homes for one year. The farm has 87,488 solar panels supplying power to the grid that serves the airport and the community. When completed, the farm is expected to generate more than 36.1 million kilowatt hours of solar energy annually, enough to power 3,650 homes. WGL emphasizes that the project is good for the whole community, both economically and environmentally: “The IND Solar Farm also provided jobs for over 100 local laborers and is generating clean, emissions-free energy that helps improve air quality in the skies over the airport and in the region” (WGL).

Next is Wunder Capital, founded in 2013 and based out of Boulder, Colorado. Wunder is the only company in the top 10 listed as only a financier of solar energy. Don’t let that fool you, though. Wunder Capital accurately claims to “make investing in solar dead simple” and will let you start your clean energy portfolio for only a $1,000.00 minimum investment.

You invest your dollars, and Wunder Capital finds the best clean energy projects to invest your money in. At a 6-7% estimated return on your investment, it is dead simple. Wunder also boasts having the, “best online investment portal,” and we must say, it is a simple, streamlined portal, user friendly and easy to navigate.

According to Wunder Capital’s website, “Wunder actively manages everything, from the sourcing of commercial solar opportunities, to the underwriting, contracting, and construction of each project. Once a system is live, Wunder manages the ongoing operation and maintenance of the array, bills the energy customer, and distributes proceeds to investors.”

Greenskies belongs to the Clean Focus Group, which includes Greenskies, Clean Focus Yield, and Clean Focus China. The group “originates, develops, finances, constructs, owns, and operates renewable energy projects in the United States, Taiwan, and China.”

Thanks to Greenskies for the graphic.Like the other companies on the list, Greenskies is determined to make clean energy opportunities available and affordable. Unlike the others on the list, Greenskies is the only “end-to-end solar provider that owns the entire value chain.” It literally owns every step in the process of creating energy from sunlight.

Greenskies believes it can provide solar energy more affordably and efficiently because of its vertical integration. It also likes long term partnerships with investors and other clients, and to this end, Greenskies customers can “Work with a single person for your entire project, from origination to operations – all under one roof” (Greenskies.com).

REC Solar is listed as a developer and energy production company. It was founded in 1997. REC is a subsidiary of Duke Energy.

Nexamp is a solar energy developer and asset owner with “more than 200 solar systems completed totaling over 100 megawatts of solar generating capacity.” Nexamp “develops, designs, builds, owns, finances, and operates commercial-scale solar systems.” It is also a mission-oriented company that provides community solar projects, which offer individuals the opportunity to go solar without equipment.

If you click here, you can “solarize” your electric bill. Here is how it works. Nexamp builds a community solar farm. Customers like you purchase a share in the solar farm and are then entitled to a share of solar energy which is received from the existing utility grid. Once a month, Nexamp pays customers their share directly onto their electric bill. Nexamp has two new community solar projects on its website, on in Massachusetts and one in New York state, with many more still in the pipe.

Thanks to Nexamp for the graphic.

Coldwell Solar, an energy production company, proudly proclaims itself, “California’s leading solar company.” Ranking twelfth on the list, this mission-driven company is family owned. Coldwell was founded in 1986. Its owners have a combined 100 years of solar energy experience.

The company’s focus is on commercial, industrial, and government solar projects. Coldwell offers consulting, financing, design, engineering, and construction help as well as solar check-ups and performance monitoring.

Right now, according to Coldwell’s website, “the commercial solar market is expected to triple by 2020. Commercial, government and nonprofit building owners with large rooftops and parking lots, and farms and agricultural businesses with plenty of open space are monetizing these assets with solar energy. . . providing an immediate boost to the bottom line.”

SoCore Energy is a developer and asset owner serving large companies, electric cooperatives, municipalities, and other power suppliers. SoCore also provides community solar opportunities for some customers.

EnterSolar is a developer and asset owner that started out in New York state and has since become a national solar energy player. EnterSolar is a mission-driven company that works at “creating a trusted, single source for corporations looking to advance towards clean energy.” EnterSolar credits its success to its commitment to sustainability and clean energy.

Thanks to Entersolar for the photo.

Ameresco is an asset owner and developer which has been in business since 2000. Ameresco helps customers complete Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) projects. ESPC’s are designed to allow federal agencies to make energy efficiency upgrades and facility improvements without special appropriations from Congress. An ESPC might also be between an energy company and a public or private organization. The company’s website explains that by “Leveraging budget neutral solutions, including energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) and power purchase agreements (PPAs), we eliminate the financial barriers that traditionally hamper energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.”

First Solar, America’s leading manufacturer of solar panels, along with Tesla vis a vis SolarCity, were the two companies not impacted by the new tariffs. First Solar does manufacture some of its panels offshore, but the technology used is different and exempt from the tariffs (Deagan). Investment experts are raving about First Solar’s future, noting that it outperformed consensus estimates in the first quarter of 2018.

First Solar also recently announced that it will open a new solar manufacturing plant near its existing facility in Perrysburg, Ohio. According to Pyper, “The 1.2-gigawatt factory will produce the company’s Series 6 thin-film PV modules, with construction slated to begin in mid-2018 and full production mode expected in late 2019.”

In conclusion, it is blatantly obvious that now is a great time to be in solar energy or to get into solar energy. Top to bottom level jobs are going unfilled. More jobs are coming. Businesses, municipalities, and homeowners can install solar energy systems with any of a long list of qualified providers and see almost immediate returns on investment (ROI’s) in the form of lower electricity bills. More solar system installations enable more distribution of the grid, meaning more locations producing solar energy onsite. Just about everybody agrees making our grids stronger also makes our communities, and by extension our nations, more self-reliant.

We aren’t even going to start on how much money the average family can save with solar panels. Here is a short list of residential solar installers, JFYI. Here is a link to a longer list. Enough said.


Sunrun is one of the largest solar companies in the US, installing solar panel systems in 22 states. Sunrun has been in business since 2007. Sunrun has recently gotten into the energy storage market. Sunrun offers leases, power purchase agreements (PPA’s), and offers loans to help you pay for your solar energy system.


Vivint Solar started out doing business as Vivint Home Security, but in 2011 it became Vivint Solar. Serving over 100,000 customers in 21 states, Vivint originally installed solar panels free, often with a PPA-like program. Like Sunrun, Vivint now offers $0 down plans, PPAs, full ownership models, and has a solar loan program.


Sunova has its headquarters in Houston, but also does business in 21 states and U.S. territories. Sunnova doesn’t have in-house installation or maintenance workers. Rather Sunova partners with local installers. Fortunately, Sunnova’s solar energy packages are on $0 down terms and include options to either own the system or lease it.


SunPower produces some of the most recommended solar panels. They also only partner with local installers, giving them authorization to sell and install SunPower products. SunPower plans to expand into community solar soon.


Although SolarCity has recently decreased its residential installation and maintenance, it is still one of the larger US solar companies. Founded by Elon Musk’s famous cousins (Tesla) in 2006, SolarCity currently serves 27 states and was just acquired by Tesla in 2016. What’s hot and interesting right now about SolarCity is that it is producing its recently upgraded solar roof in a huge factory in Buffalo, New York, called Gigafactory 2.

SolarCity, Sunrun, and Vivint supplied 56% of residential solar in 2017, primarily leasing solar arrays to customers. However, this year the number is likely to decrease to 50% because smaller companies like Sunworks and Petersen Dean are offering loans to finance purchasing solar systems outright (Sweet).


Suggested Resources

Visit the NREL, EIA, SEIA, and Solar Technologies Office websites for more solar energy resources.

Works Cited

Davis, Michelle. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/here-are-the-top-players-in-us-commercial-solar?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GTMDaily#gs.ZxqmBHE.” 22 March 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 1 May 2018.

Deagan, Brian. “https://www.investors.com/research/ibd-industry-themes/first-solar-tesla-among-winners-in-solar-tariff-decision-hitting-china/.” 23 January 2018. https://www.investors.com. Webpage. 10 May 2018.

“https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_the_United_States.” 25 April 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org. Webpage. 1 May 2018.

“https://www.nrg.com/about/our-story.html.” 2018. https://www.nrg.com. Webpage. 10 May 2018.

“https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nextera-energy-named-one-of-americas-best-employers-for-third-consecutive-year-300643513.html.” 7 May 2018. https://www.prnewswire.com. Webpage. 9 May 2018.

“https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2017-top-500-solar-contractors/.” 2017. https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com. Webpage. 1 May 2018.

Lacey, Stephen. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-will-officially-launch-the-gigafactory-in-july-faraday-plans-a-second#gs.MvmdMXU.” 31 May 2016. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 8 May 2018.

Lambert, Fred. “https://electrek.co/2018/02/08/tesla-semi-electric-semi-truck-production/.” 8 February 2018. https://electrek.co. Webpage. 9 May 2018.

Piper, Julia. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/first-solar-to-open-new-us-manufacturing-plant#gs.poMIG5U.” 26 April 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 1 May 2018.

Solar Energy Industries Association. “U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2017 Year-In-Review.”. March 2018. ebook. 11 May 2018.

Sweet, Cassandra. “https://www.wsj.com/articles/solar-panel-leasing-decreases-as-more-customers-look-to-buy-1464642673.” 30 May 2016. https://www.wsj.com. Webpage. 8 May 2018.

Thanks to GTM for the featured image.

10 Intriguing Facts About Solar Energy for 2018 and Beyond

Top Ten Most Intriguing Solar Energy Facts

The top ten most interesting solar facts might surprise you. Solar energy research and development is at all-time high. We define a solar energy fact as an event, technology, or product related to solar energy or solar power and worthy of note.

  1. A Crazy Amount of Sunshine

Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth — 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously according to energy.gov. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use.

  1. How Much is 1GWh?

Today, demand for solar in the United States is at an all-time high. The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years — from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 GW at the end of 2015. That’s enough energy to power the equivalent of 5.4 million average American homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The U.S. is currently the third-largest solar market in the world and is positioned to become the second.

  1. Surpassed Nuclear?

According to the Factbook, “Sustainable energy deployment soared to record levels in 2017, cementing its role as a key contributor to U.S. energy.” Further, says Rachel Luo, lead author of the report, “At 18% of the power mix, renewable energy resources including hydropower are making nearly as large a contribution to U.S. electricity generation as the country’s nuclear fleet.”

The Bloomberg 2017 New Energy Outlook predicts that “$10.2 trillion will be spent on new power generation worldwide through 2040, and a massive 72 percent of this will be invested in new wind and solar plants.”

Everyone agrees, solar is just getting better.

  1. Greatest Number of Photovoltaic Installations Ever!

The solar industry continues to break records. By now it is old news that Tesla installed the largest array of solar panels and batteries ever, heralded as “the world’s largest virtual power plant” in 50,000 South Australian homes (Fehrenbacher).

But, did you also know that. . ..

Globally, experts at GTM estimate, 104 gigawatts of solar power will be installed for the first time. This number represents a 6% increase in solar installations this year over last. Further, this size of increase each year is projected to remain constant until 2022 (Munsell).

To make this amount of solar energy real, recall that 1 gigawatt powers about 725,000 homes, assuming each home uses about 1,000kw’s of electricity per month as the US Energy Administration estimates indicate (Ellery). So, each year, theoretically, enough power to run roughly 7 million homes is, and will be, added to our power grid each year.

GTM also estimates by the end of 2018, thirteen countries will install more than 1 gigawatt per year.

Thanks to Green Technology Media for the graphic.
  1. Europeans Invest 5 Billion in Solar

French company EDF announced plans to add an additional 10 gigawatts of energy storage in addition to its existing 5 gigawatts. The company will spend about 8 billion Euros or 10 billion dollars between 2018 and 2035.

EDF is already a leader in energy storage, specializing in solar and hydroelectric storage. They aspire “to help ensure the smooth running of a balanced electricity system, for residential customers, businesses and countries” (“EDF”). EDF primarily serves customers in France and Europe with an additional 15,000 solar storage installations on the Ivory Coast with plans for projects in Ghana.

Along with EDF, other European energy bigwigs, including Enel, E.ON and Total, are also investing in solar storage. For EDF, “higher levels of solar penetration and a rapid decline in energy storage costs have made batteries an attractive way to shift peak load and reduce stress on the electric grid,” according to GTM.

  1. Online Training for Solar Installation
Thanks to NASA on Unsplash for the photo.

It has never been easier to become a solar installer, and some would argue that there has also never been a better time to do so. With constant improvements in solar technology driving rapid and sustained growth in the solar industry even in the current climate of handicapping tariffs and diminishing government subsidies.

Things are so good in solar right now that we are adding over a gigawatt a year just in solar installations, and the costs associated with installing solar energy systems has dropped a full 90% over the last decade! Now, that’s what we call progress and a full-fledged, lasting boom.

And we have every reason to feel sure that this energy boom won’t bust any too soon. Remember that, according to the Bloomberg 2017 New Energy Outlook, “$10.2 trillion will be spent on new power generation worldwide through 2040, and a massive 72 percent of this will be invested in new wind and solar plants.” That sounds like 22 years of steady work for solar installers and manufacturers.

Click here if you would like to know what the salary ranges are.

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is the main certifying body for solar energy professionals. The NABCEP is a non-profit organization offering certifications for both PV Installation Professional and PV Technical Sales and Solar Heating.

The programs below are schools that prepare students for the NABCEP certificate. Solar Energy International offers both the NABCEP program of study and the Solar Professionals Certificate Program (SPCP). Read more about the schools offering the certificates.

Here is the link to our search in case you would like to do your own footwork.



The everbluetraining.com website says, “If you’re interested in an entry level solar certification, we invite you to take our NABCEP PV Associate training course. This solar energy training course is designed to help individuals understand the fastest growing form of power generation in the world – solar power.”  Everblue offers an exam prep boot camp to prepare students to pass the certification test, and offers corporate training options.



Heatsping offers a 58-Hour NABCEP Advanced Solar PV Training Series, taught by Dr, Shaun White, which satisfies the requirement for advanced training needed to sit for the certificate. This training can fulfill the 58 hours of advanced training you need to sit for the NABCEP PV. The program consists of 12 learning modules and two courses, Solar PV Installer Boot Camp and NABCEP PV Associate Exam Prep and then after passing the NABCEP exam, students complete the second course, 40-Hour Advanced Solar PV Installer Training.

Eco Tech Training


Eco Tech offers both hands-on and online training leading to the NABCEP PV. Classes are student-driven and additional programs of study are available. Eco Tech offers all classes both live with an instructor and online.

Solar Energy International


Possibly the best of the schools we reviewed, Solar Energy International’s program tracks include the Residential and Commercial Photovoltaic Systems Certificate, Battery-Based Photovoltaic Systems Certificate, Solar Business and Technical Sales Certificate, International and Developing World Applications Certificate, Renewable Energy Applications Certificate, and Solar Professionals Trainer Certificate.

Except for the trainer certificate, tuition ranges from around $3,500-$6,000. Tuition price varies depending on whether students choose online or classroom versions of classes. Courses range from a free 6-week course called Introduction to Renewable Energy to master’s level courses.

  1. Solar Panel That Uses Rain to Make Electricity

Previously, the one solid, incontrovertible disadvantage of using solar energy has been the unfortunate truth that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine because it is raining or overcast. Solar panels need sunlight, right? Au contraire. According to The Guardian, an invention by Baoquan Sun, at Soochow University in China, “places two transparent polymer layers on top of a solar photovoltaic (PV) cell [and]. . . When raindrops fall on to the layers and then roll off, the friction generates a static electricity charge” (“rain or shine”).

This device will even collect energy in the dark. At this moment, there is only an experimental version of the device in operation, but Sun says we can expect the product to make it to the market in 3-5 years.

Other researchers have invented similar devices, but Sun’s new device is incorporated directly into the solar panel, making it more lightweight and usable.

  1. Mobile Rolling Solar Panels Create Mobile Electricity Station

This slick mobile electricity generating station uses roll-out solar panels connected to inverters and batteries onboard the trailer that houses it and can be pulled by any 4×4 vehicle (www.renovagen.com). And that’s not all.

This solar set-up, called the Roll-Array, can be installed by two people in about two minutes. According to the website, simply “drive the car forward and allow the spool to pull the Roll-Array out like a carpet. And voila, your solar panels are dropped in a matter of two minutes.”

Normally, installing a solar array takes about 22 hours. An additional benefit of this system is that no additional workers are needed because everything you need to generate solar energy is pre-wired and pre-connected.

Another benefit is that this array can provide as much as 100kWp, a full ten times more than other mobile solar installations, and it doesn’t even require a diesel generator.


Something similar for those of us who don’t buy entire power stations.


  1. Blockchain is a Crazy-Good Idea

According to Google, blockchain is “a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.” Blockchain transactions leave a reliable and permanent record.”

To understand blockchain, Ameer Rosic, writing on https://blockgeeks.com, advises us to “Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Then imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of the blockchain.”

We suggest you picture a big wallet floating over the USA. A man in Arizona made extra solar energy today while another man in Michigan needed extra energy today. Mr. Michigan prefers to use clean energy, so today he deposits into that big wallet in the sky. In response, Mr. Arizona sells Mr. Michigan solar energy through the blockchain. Tomorrow, Ms. Florida and Ms. Massachusetts may do the same thing.

  1. Average American Families Can Afford Solar

The average US home uses around 9000kwh of electricity per month. Several solar installation companies sell solar kits that will produce 9000kwhs per month for around $13,000.00. Some even have financing available.

According to The Guardian, “Solar power installation is soaring globally thanks to costs plunging 90% in the past decade, making it the cheapest electricity in many parts of the world.”

The biggest hurdle for affordable solar energy is “the soft costs — like permitting, zoning and hooking a solar system up to the power gird. On average, local permitting and inspection processes add more than $2,500 to the total cost of a solar energy system and can take up to six months to complete” (The SunShot Initiative).

The following companies install solar energy systems and have informative websites. According to Jacob Marsh’s recent article in energysage.com, these companies are the top players in residential solar installation. We include links to the companies’ websites for your convenience.


Sunrun is one of the largest solar companies in the US, installing solar panel systems in 22 states. Sunrun has been in business since 2007. Sunrun has recently gotten into the energy storage market. Sunrun offers leases, power purchase agreements (PPA’s), and offers loans to help you pay for your solar energy system.


Vivint Solar started out doing business as Vivint Home Security, but in 2011 it became Vivint Solar. Serving over 100,000 customers in 21 states, Vivint originally installed solar panels free, often with a PPA-like program. Like Sunrun, Vivint now offers $0 down plans, PPAs, full ownership models, and has a solar loan program.


Sunova has its headquarters in Houston, but also does business in 21 states and U.S. territories. Sunnova doesn’t have in-house installation or maintenance workers. Rather Sunova partners with local installers. Fortunately, Sunnova’s solar energy packages are on $0 down terms and include options to either own the system or lease it.


SunPower produces some of the most recommended solar panels. They also only partner with local installers, giving them authorization to sell and install SunPower products. SunPower plans to expand into community solar soon.


Although SolarCity has recently decreased its residential installation and maintenance, it is still one of the larger US solar companies. Founded by Elon Musk’s famous cousins (Tesla) in 2006, SolarCity currently serves 27 states and was just acquired by Tesla in 2016. What’s hot and interesting right now about SolarCity is that it is producing its recently upgraded solar roof in a huge factory in Buffalo, New York, called Gigafactory 2.

You can click here to search for an installer on the energysage.com website free of charge. They claim to have a list of 450 qualified and pre-screened installation companies and a searchable database. We think they are cool, but as we always caution, caveat emptor.

We thought you’d like to know about power purchase agreements (PPA’s) since you might soon enter into one.

According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) a PPA “is a financial agreement where a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property at little to no cost. The developer sells the power generated to the host customer at a fixed rate that is typically lower than the local utility’s retail rate.” So, literally, a PPA is a type of payment agreement.

Thanks to SEIA for the image.

Suggested Resources

Visit the NREL, EIA, SEIA, and Solar Technologies Office websites for more solar energy resources.


Works Cited

Bloomberg Energy Finance. “2018 Sustainable Energy Factbook.” Factbook. 2018. Internet.

Davies, Ellery. “https://www.quora.com/How-many-homes-can-one-gigawatt-in-energy-capacity-provide-for.” 24 May 2016. https://www.quora.com. Webpage. 27 April 2018.

Deign, Jason. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/imagining-two-futures-for-energy-blockchain?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GTMDaily#gs.rwTY0tI.” 23 February 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 30 April 2018.

Fehrenbacher, Katie. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-virtual-power-plant-south-australia#gs.V65Nel4.” 6 February 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 27 April 2018.

Froese, Michelle. https://www.windpowerengineering.com/business-news-projects/key-findings-2018-sustainable-energy-america-factbook/. 23 February 2018. Webpage. 20 April 2018.

“http://www.renovagen.com/?services=rollable-pv-array.” 19 April 2016. http://www.renovagen.com. Webpage. 24 April 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/articles/top-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-concentrating-solar-power. 31 October 2013. Print. 10 March 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/articles/top-6-things-you-didnt-know-about-solar-energy. n.d. Webpage. 28 March 2018.

“https://www.google.com/search?safe=active&source=hp&ei=2YbnWuy-DOSijwTJr5qYDA&q=what+is+blockchain&oq=what+is+bolck&gs_l=psy-ab.1.0.0i10k1l10.860.2714.0.9990.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..3.11.1223.0..0j35i39k1j0i131i67k1j0i67k1j0.” 30 April 2018. https://www.google.com. Webpage. 30 April 2018.

“https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/13/rain-or-shine-new-solar-cell-captures-energy-from-raindrops.” 13 March 2018. https://www.theguardian.com. Webpage. 23 April 2018.

Lacey, Stephen. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/imagining-two-futures-for-energy-blockchain#gs.df8bxDk.” 11 April 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 30 April 2018.

Lawrence, Richard. “https://www.letsgosolar.com/consumer-education/solar-jobs-careers-certifications/.” n.d. https://www.letsgosolar.com. Webpage. 28 April 208.

Marsh, Jason. “https://news.energysage.com/solar-power-companies-us/.” 31 January 2018. https://news.energysage.com. Webpage. 1 May 2018.

Munsell, Mike. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-virtual-power-plant-south-australia#gs.V65Nel4.” 16 April 2018. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 27 April 2018.

Panels, Rolling Solar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9MAZLhm_9k. 11 March 2016. YouTube. 24 April 2018.

Reid, Gerard. “http://energypost.eu/future-batteries-lithium-impact-will-bigger-think/.” 2017 15 December. energypost.eu. Webpage. 20 April 2018.

Rosic, Ameer. “https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/.” 2016. https://blockgeeks.com. Webpage. 30 April 2018.

Spector, Julian. “https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/power-play-tesla-nabs-south-australia-contract-for-worlds-biggest-battery#gs._alf1jA.” 7 July 2017. https://www.greentechmedia.com. Webpage. 23 April 2018.

As always, its been a pleasure writing for you.




Solar Energy Definition and Examples

Solar energy or solar power is energy collected from the sun’s rays through solar collectors such as solar panels which concentrate sun rays for conversion into electricity. Because the sun shines every day all day, this energy is renewable and sustainable. Because solar energy is merely collected rather than pumped or coaxed, and because it arrives at each home solar panel clean and ready to use with no refining nor delivery required, solar energy is completely green energy. Best of all, solar energy is free.

There is so much about solar energy that screams, “the future lies this way,” that it is hard to believe that there are still people and governments out there behaving as if fossil fuel is the future despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

In fact, according to the latest from https://www.energy.gov/science-innovation/clean-energy  “The clean energy industry generates hundreds of billions in economic activity, and is expected to continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. There is tremendous economic opportunity for the countries that invent, manufacture and export clean energy technologies.”

We get electricity from solar energy when our solar panels convert sunlight into usable solar energy (electricity). N-type and P-type semiconductor material is used in the panels. As the sun shines on these semiconductors, it knocks electrons loose from their atoms. The electrons flow through the semiconductor material, producing electricity.

This incredible process of making photons of light into volts of electricity is called the photovoltaic or PV effect. Today’s solar panels can convert the majority of the visible light spectrum into electricity.

Using the photovoltaic effect to generate electricity with solar panels is a safe and straightforward process: collect energy, convert the energy collected, use the electricity now or store the electricity in batteries.

Other solar technologies have been developed to concentrate solar power (CSP). These are called CSP technologies. There are two types of CSP technologies, determined by how they work: the parabolic trough and the linear Fresnel system both focus sunlight onto linear receivers while dish/engine and power tower technologies focus sunlight to a point.

Whereas panels simply collect sunlight, all of these types of technologies convert sunlight into heat energy for use in heat-driven engines so they are considered thermal solar technologies.

CSP technologies are used by utility companies or for industrial load users and are considered thermal solar because they use thermal energy in their electricity making process. Notably, even CSP power is completely green, renewable, and unlimited.

Basically, if you are thinking about residential solar, you are thinking of panels and converters generating electricity at the house level, which is simple use of the photovoltaic effect.

Current near-constant improvements in batteries fuel rapid, inexorable growth in solar power technologies. Each year we use more solar energy to power our world.

In fact just in the US according to energy.gov, “at the end of 2015, there was a combined 100 GW of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power in the United States. To help put this number in perspective, it’s important to know just how big 1 gigawatt is. A watt is a measure of power and there’s 1 billion watts in 1 GW.  (And if you wanted to break it down even further, 1 million watts = 1 megawatt (MW) and 1,000 watts = 1 kilowatt (kW).”

Reckoning in Gigawatts

1 gigawatt is equal to 4.6 million solar photovoltiac panels or 1 million LED lightbulbs or 1.3 million horses.

According to  insideenergy.org, “If you are a perfectly average American living in a perfectly average household, your monthly electricity bill will read 911 kilowatt hours (kWh), which costs $114.”

Solar Energy System at Home

Jim Schmid Photography, NREL

According to energy.gov, “the average solar energy system size in the U.S is approximately 5 kilowatts (kW). Based on the average price of $3.14/watt, a 5kW system would cost $10,990 after tax credits. Below are some average 2018 quotes for other solar energy systems by size:

6kW solar energy system cost: $13,188

8kW solar energy system cost: $17,584

10kW solar energy system cost: $21,980

Thanks to Santa Cruz Solar Energy for the infographic.

So you know about how much energy you would need to collect to power your home, now what? There are many reputable solar energy system installers in the US. Many have financing available. Click here, here, or here to visit a solar supplier website and review opportunities.

Just to give you a ballpark, gogreensolar.com has a 7280 watt DIY Solar Install Kit w/String Inverter that, “For half the homes in the United States . . .is more than enough to completely eliminate their [electric] bill” when installed. We would love to hear from any readers who try it.

Solar energy is a workhorse we have always been using: making sun tea, frying eggs on pavement, sun tanning your skin or waiting for the pool to get warm in the afternoon sun are all made possible by passive solar energy. It is passive because we just take advantage of what the sun naturally does every day. Today we can purposefully collect solar energy on panels for conversion to electricity in our homes.

Read more about

Advantages of solar energy

Solar energy definition

Solar energy facts

Solar energy companies

Solar energy system

Uses of solar energy

Solar energy projects

Renewable energy

Wind energy

Sustainable energy

Geothermal energy

Wind power

We found these videos too compelling to omit.



Works Consulted

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/advantages_solarenergy.php. n.d. Print. 17 March 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/articles/top-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-concentrating-solar-power. 31 October 2013. Print. 10 March 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/how-much-power-1-gigawatt. 2018. Webpage. 9 April 2018.

https://www.energy.gov/science-innovation/clean-energy. n.d. Webpage. 28 March 2018.

https://www.seia.org/initiatives/concentrating-solar-power. n.d. Print. 18 March 2018.

SEPCO. https://www.sepco-solarlighting.com/blog/bid/115086/Solar-Power-Advantages-and-Disadvantages. 2012. Print. 17 March 2018.

Our thanks to NASA for the featured image.


The Endless Advantages of Solar Energy Heavily Outweigh the Few Disadvantages

Advantages of Solar Energy

The advantages of solar energy are manifold. Solar energy is clean because it burns nothing, it is sustainable because the sun replenishes it daily, and it is free for everyone to use, while conversely, traditional fossil fuel energy is dirty burning, limited in supply, costly to deliver and messy to use.

Old Timers will be quick to chime that solar costs more to start with, and that is true. However, who buys a fossil fuel burning home and doesn’t weatherize and upgrade the furnace? No one in any northern state who pays the electric bill, that’s who. So, we will spend one way, or we will spend the other, but spend we will.

Solar energy systems begin paying back the initial cost as quickly as next month’s electricity bill doesn’t come. Most solar systems are designed to operate without repairs for 30 years.

Jim Schmid Photography, NREL

Read on for the extended discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. Spoiler alert! With the ongoing research in battery technology, upgrades in the performance of solar panels, and more efficient converters, there just isn’t a downside to solar any more.

Tesla’s Powerwall with inverter and grid connection installed. Thanks to Google Images for the photo.

Battery Improvement

No one knows just how efficient lithium batteries may become, but technological advances in battery design are made nearly every day. Funding for energy storage research is abundant and flowing. According to the 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, “Global clean energy investment rose to $333 billion, the second-highest amount on record.”

No one knows how large batteries may grow. Thanks to greentechmedia.com for the photo.

Affordable lithium ion batteries powerful enough to operate homes during rainy and dark periods have long been available. And the trend is for innovations to keep increasing the efficiency and performance of these batteries.


Moving Forward

More exciting battery storage options may be just over the horizon. Tesla is currently working on a virtual power plant that will be the largest battery installment to date. It will be made up of thousands of Powerwall home batteries linked to solar panels on residences in South Australia. These residential solar battery installments, “will operate just like a one big Powerpack system — charging up when demand and electricity rates are low and discharging when demand and prices are high” (“Tesla Virtual”).

Money, Money, Money

Even now solar storage batteries enable most homes with solar or wind installed to sell back a percentage of the energy they create. So not only do solar powered homes not have to buy electricity as often, they may also make a profit for homeowners.


Notably, solar powered homes with batteries don’t depend on electricity from the grid so are much less effected by grid outages. Literally, each home that has a solar panel and battery system is a small, fully self-sufficient energy generation system that does not rely on anything but sunshine.

Environmental Cost

While the final bill for fossil fuel use has yet to be presented, we know for sure the sun doesn’t hurt the Earth. Contrarily, the sun feeds and sustains the Earth, so its energy is incontrovertibly safe. Safe in this instance also means cheap. The initial investment in material combined with minimal maintenance and occasional upgrades in equipment compose the only expenses involved in solar energy production since the sun delivers right to our doors.


Abundance and Renewal of Solar

Estimates on the actual amount of solar energy that shines on the Earth each day all agree that we are oversupplied with solar energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “more energy strik[es]. . . the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) 67 than worldwide energy consumption in the year 2001 from all sources combined (430 EJ)68.”

  • Solar energy definition
  • Solar energy facts
  • Solar energy companies
  • Solar energy system
  • Uses of solar energy
  • Solar energy projects
  • Renewable energy
  • Wind energy
  • Sustainable energy
  • Geothermal energy
  • Wind power

Limited Supply of Burnable and Existing Fossil Fuel Reserves

One the other hand, way on the other hand, scientists agree (97% of scientists) that we have only a short time to keep burning fossil fuels before we increase the carbon in our atmosphere past the tipping point. The tipping point is when we will have released enough carbon by burning petroleum and coal that climate change is past fixing. We aren’t there yet, but we are very close.

A 2015 estimate of fossil fuel reserves still in the ground indicate that “at current rates of production, oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54, and coal in 110. We have managed to deplete these fossil fuels – which have their origins somewhere between 541 and 66 million years ago – in less than 200 years since we started using them” (“How long”).

Whereas the sun shines every day amply renewing itself, to replenish fossil fuels we need between 56 and 541 million years to repopulate the planet with some millions of dinosaurs and let enough of them live and die so that their bodies slowly become fossil fuel. It’s hard to list how many things are wrong with that plan.

Estimates of how much more oil, gas, and coal we can burn before we fully cause climate change to melt our polar ice caps and precipitate another ice age say that we should leave most of our current oil, coal and gas reserves in the ground.

Thanks to Google for the photo. Some say strip mining for coal is an ugly insult to the Earth.

Cost of Refitting for Solar Versus the Cost of Maintaining Fossil Burners

A solar system for your residence is still a little pricey at the outset. Solar panel prices have dropped by half in the last six years (“The Future”). According to energysage.com,

The average solar energy system size in the U.S is approximately 5                      kilowatts (kW). Based on the average price of $3.14/watt, a 5kW system            would cost $10,990 after tax credits. Below are some average 2018                      quotes for other solar energy systems by size:

  •           6kW solar energy system cost: $13,188
  •           8kW solar energy system cost: $17,584
  •           10kW solar energy system cost: $21,980

Wonderfully, a solar energy system begins paying back dividends to the homeowner within the same or next month it is installed.

Solar power users never have to call the supplier to have more sun delivered. The sun will not run aground and spill oil. No pipelines will ever be needed to transport sunshine. Using the sun’s energy does not create any exhaust or pollution. The sun will always shine at your house on most days. When the sun is overcast at your house, your solar batteries will kick in and continue running your home until the sun comes back out.

If you doubt that a battery could do such a thing, then try one of the newer electric lawnmowers. Batteries have matured. The one below charges whole cars.

Even the Armed Forces love solar. Defense experts agree that reliance on foreign sources of energy makes our country vulnerable to the vagaries of other economies and governments. Energy self-sufficiency, both at the public and private level is preferable.

No discussion of the advantages of solar energy would be complete without the following video.

Read More News About Solar Energy Here

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

These are few. We scraped the barrel for you. Because of so many recent advancements in battery and panel technology, the long list of former complaints about solar energy, such as that solar cars and batteries didn’t perform well, are simply outdated ideas.

There are still some disadvantages to using solar energy: initial high cost of installation and equipment, solar energy production is lower in winter months, and larger solar panels may be necessary depending on location.


Solar is so very obviously the choice for us now and in the future. We tried to be even-handed in our assessment of the pros and cons of installing solar, but as you probably noticed, it was just not possible to tell the truth about solar without praising it.

It is unfortunate that the realities of clean renewable energies like wind and solar aren’t better known because the very instant people learn about this clean energy, common sense asserts itself, and they embrace renewable energy. It’s just a no-brainer: spend approximately $11,000.00 today and never dread your electric bill’s arrival again.

Solar energy offers irresistible benefits. With a minimal investment people can own the means of the production of their own power, power which pays cash back, day after day. Many people suffer without electricity during power outages, some for as long as months. People with their own solar systems at home never suffer long outages. Now is a very fine time to use and promote clean solar and wind energy.

An Epitaph for Fossil Fuels

Human development owes much proper credit to the progress we’ve made because we could use fossil fuels to create more light, warmth and mobility for human beings. We simply would not be at our current level of advancement without the leg-up that plentiful fossil fuels provided for us.

Ironically, the only reason we are able to collect solar and so many other types of renewable fuels is because we had years’ of abundant, cheap energy from those same fossil fuels. That said, the fossil fuel ship has simply sailed. There isn’t too much of it left that we can safely use, and even if it were safe to use all we have, there is only so much left in the ground.

Works Cited

https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/how-much-power-1-gigawatt. n.d. webpage. 18 March 2018.

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-virtual-power-plant-south-australia?utm_source=Storage&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GTMStorage#gs.=Lfdxdw. February 2018. Webpage. 30 March 2018.

https://www.nrel.gov/workingwithus/re-csp.html. n.d. Web page. 18 March 2018.

In 2018, most homeowners are paying between $2.71 and $3.57 per watt to install solar, and the average gross cost of solar panels before tax credits is $18,840. Using the U.S, average for system size at 6 kW (6,000 watts), solar panel cost will range from. 18 February 2018. Webpage. 31 March 2018.

Singh, Siddharth. “http://www.business-standard.com/article/punditry/how-long-will-fossil-fuels-last-115092201397_1.html.” 22 September 2015. http://www.business-standard.com. Webpage. 5 April 2018.

Vice. “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd8O5YE8Uak.” The Future of Energy. Vice, 21 June 2017. Video. 31 March 2018.

Suggested Reading 

www.greentechmedia.com: these folks are up to the minute on all US solar issues. They publish an email newsletter and maintain an informational website.

www.YouTube.com: we recommend you sample a few of the available videos about solar energy. We were astounded at the variety of solar energy applications.

As always, its been a pleasure writing for you.