4 Myths About Solar Energy

Fossil fuels are not renewable and produce greenhouse gases. Nuclear, as we have recently been reminded, is dangerous and produces waste that remains radioactive for thousands of years. Natural gas, while less ‘dirty’ than coal, is not renewable. So why haven’t we switched to the forms of energy that we know are renewable and have the technology to develop? There’s solar, of course, but also wind, geothermal, and hydro.

Good question. And while part of the answer has to do with existing infrastructures and industry influence over energy policy, some of it has to do with misconceptions about renewable energy. We’ve chosen to look at four common myths about solar, but many of these apply to other forms of renewable energy as well.  

Myth #1. Solar is not viable as a major source of energy. It is too expensive/impractical/inefficient to be adopted on a largescale basis.

In fact, solar efficiency has been rising yearly and has topped a remarkable 40% in some lab experiments. While real world efficiency is lower, it still achieves 10-20% in actual applications. As for feasibility, both approaches to solar — distributed rooftop systems and remote solar power plants — are capable of generating a large percentage of our total energy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “The solar energy resource in a 100-mile-square area of Nevada could supply the United States with all its electricity (about 800 gigawatts) using modestly efficient (10%) commercial PV modules…A more realistic scenario involves distributing these same PV systems throughout the 50 states. Currently available sites—such as vacant land, parking lots, and rooftops—could be used. The land requirement to produce 800 gigawatts would average out to be about 17 x 17 miles per state. Alternatively, PV systems built in the “brownfields”—the estimated 5 million acres of abandoned industrial sites in our nation’s cities—could supply 90% of America’s current electricity.”

Myth #2. Solar only works when it’s sunny.

That’s not quite true. Solar photovoltaic works when there’s light, and even on overcast and rainy days, there’s enough to generate electricity. It’s true that solar panels are less efficient and produce less energy on overcast days. However, Germany, not a country known for its sunny weather, is a world leader in producing solar electricity.

Myth #3. Solar does not offset significant emissions.

Although the manufacture and disposal of solar modules do have a small environmental impact, solar modules do not produce emissions for the 25+ years they operate.  Over this lifetime, even small solar systems can offset significant quantities of emissions that would otherwise have been produced by traditional energy. It doesn’t take a solar power plant. A modest 2.5kW system is equivalent to 270,000 miles not driven, 300 barrels of oil not produced, or 220,000 pounds of greenhouse gases not emitted.

Myth #4. Solar requires more energy to manufacture than it produces in a lifetime.

Actually, according to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the amount of energy used to manufacture solar modules is paid back in less than four years. The lifespan of solar modules is usually 25 years or more, producing a net energy gain for at least two decades.

Curious about how solar could work for your home or business? Premier Power offers a whole range of residential and commercial solar solutions, from small rooftop systems to major solar power plants. Come visit us for a free solar consultation or to learn more about solar power plants, solar roof tiles, and more.


April 1, 2011 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

Nuclear Disasters and the Renewable Energy Solution

Conventional energy is problematic. We’ve known that for a long time, but the recent nuclear disasters in Japan and the Gulf oil spill before that have highlighted just how badly things can go wrong — on top of the known consequences of radioactive waste, mining issues, and pollution. They will go down as two major tragedies of our time.

A popular tweet that surfaced during the oil spill went, “Large Air Spill at Wind Farm. No threats reported. Some claim to enjoy the breeze.” No one denies that renewable energy technology like wind and solar are safer for humans and the environment than nuclear and coal plants, but renewable energy is often dismissed as impractically small scale and unable to address our growing energy needs.

In fact, commercial scale solar power does exist and is becoming more widespread all the time. Interest in renewable energy is on the rise amongst investors and governments, especially amidst worries over Japan’s troubled nuclear plant. Solar power plants range enormously in style, size, and efficiency, and the sheer variety of the technology available makes them one of the most accessible forms of renewable energy. Check out some of the  solar power plants in the world and how much clean, renewable energy they generate.

Sarnia Solar Farm, Ontario, Canada

  • Largest solar power plant in the world
  • 97MW solar power plant
  • 1.3 million thin film solar panels
  • covers 365 hectares

Copper Mountain Solar Facility, Nevada, USA

  •  48MW capacity (enough to power 14,000 average homes)
  • 775,000 cadmium telluride (thin film) solar panels
  • Covers 150 hectares
  • Largest US solar power plant
  • Operational since December 2010

SMUD, California, USA

  • 1.2MW capacity
  • 8.5 acres
  • Premier Power’s environmentally friendly leave-no-trace design
  • Completed in 6 weeks

Can we really afford to continue depending on nuclear and coal energy? More and more, the answer seems to be no. Commercial solar power is one solution that can help us switch from conventional power quickly and affordably. If you’ve been looking for renewable energy solution, get a free solar consultation today!

March 16, 2011 at 4:36 am Leave a comment

Solar Power Generation: Distributed vs. Utility Scale

Here’s something to think about: the amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth in one hour is greater than the amount we use in an entire year. Solar power generation makes sense in a world concerned with peak oil and environmental turmoil. But how do we make the switch over to renewable solar energy? There are two basic paths to choose from: distributed solar and utility scale solar. Both approach the same issue — how to harness and distribute energy from the sun — in very different ways. Here’s the scoop on each.

Distributed solar

Distributed solar refers to smaller solar photovoltaic or solar thermal systems that generate power on-site. When you see rooftop solar panels, either on homes or commercial buildings, you’re seeing distributed solar power generation at work. The panels provide power to the building they are installed on. Other distributed solar solutions, including ground-mounted solar arrays and solar-covered parking lots, provide power to nearby structures.

Pros: Distributed solar uses space effectively, often without requiring any additional space.  Because the energy does not need to travel far, little energy is lost in transmission. Outages or equipment problems do not affect large populations, and installation has little, if any, impact on local ecosystems.

Cons: The adoption of distributed solar will depend on individual businesses, organizations, and families that choose to go solar. Distributed solar systems produce far less power individually than solar plants.

Utility Scale Solar

Utility scale solar involves centralized energy production through  solar plants capable of generating many megawatts of power. The largest solar power installation is a group of nine solar plants in the Mojave Desert, with a generating capacity of 354 megawatts. Utility scale solar often uses solar thermal energy rather than photovoltaic. Plants require much more space than distributed solar systems and are often located in the desert.

Pros: Utility scale solar generates large amounts of solar energy and enables a faster and larger scale switch to solar energy. Compared to coal plants or hydroelectric power generation, solar uses land more efficiently and can take advantage of spaces unsuitable for human use.

Cons: Utility scale usually requires new transmission lines to be built. In transmission, some energy is inevitably lost, reducing efficiency. Storage and cooling are issues in some plants. There are also ecological concerns over desert habitats.

Want to learn more about solar power generation? Premier Power offers free solar consultations and customized solutions. Come on over!

February 17, 2011 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

Premier Power & KB Home Team Up for Solar Power Installations

Great job, California! A few years ago, the state enacted the largest solar policy ever in the US. The historic California Solar Initiative (CSI) plan allots $3.2 billion for solar energy rebates in the state over the next 11 years. To meet the increased demand for solar power installations, Premier Power teamed up with one of America’s leading homebuilders, KB Home, and with Sharp Corporation, the top solar cell manufacturer in the world.

Premier Power worked with KB Home to install integrated solar roof tiles on houses in its new Woodshire community in Northern California. KB Home’s Woodshire community offers buyers 16 floor plans ranging in size from 2 to 5 bedrooms with 1,191 to 3,544 square feet. When these Energy Star-rated houses are paired with the cost-effective 3.0kW solar power system, the result will be 30 years of nominal electric bills for residents, who also receive a $2,000 federal tax credit.

“The California Solar Initiative will help keep the solar industry on the right path to having a very bright future,” said Dean R. Marks, president of Premier Power. “I feel it’s important that all states, cities and businesses adopt Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to ensure that a certain percentage of their energy comes from renewables. Premier Power believes that we all need to do what we can to become strong environmental stewards.”

Once the domain of counterculture activists, solar power has quickly become a hot, high tech commodity because of concerns over high oil prices and global warming. Public demand for environmentally friendly energy and a longterm solar rebate program were catalysts for change in California. The rebate from the CSI plan, which applies to the solar power installation project in Woodland, is currently $2.80 per watt, and will decline gradually over the next 10 years.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to see another large home builder embrace green building practices that will help us all protect our environment, reduce fossil fuel consumption and decrease our dependency on foreign oil,” said Marks. “KB Home knows the consumer wants to do the right thing and that’s why they are making it easy for the home buyer to purchase this solar electric appliance.”

Learn more about Premier Power’s solar powered homes and get started with a free solar consultation today.

January 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm Leave a comment

Solar Powered Houses & the Environment

We often focus on the impact a solar powered house has on your budget. After all, solar is one of the most stable yet profitable financial investments you can make, with an average overall ROI of 12%.  However, let’s not overlook all the environmental benefits installing even a modest 2.5kw solar power system can have over its 25+ year lifetime.

  • 300 barrels of oil not produced
  • 270,000 miles not driven
  • 1,100 lbs of acid rain emissions not discharged
  • 550 lbs of smog emissions not produced
  • 220,000 lbs of greenhouse gases not emitted

And if you’d rather have a positive figure, installing a 2.5kw solar power system is equivalent to planting 500 trees.  By replacing the fossil fuel energy you use with renewable solar energy, you’re not only reducing the amount of oil you use, but also sharply cutting down on all the emissions associated with transporting, processing, and burning it.

If you’d like to learn more about how solar powered houses are saving the planet, see more pictures, or get a free solar consultation, please drop by the main Premier Power site.


January 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

Premier Power on Video

We’re usually too busy installing solar panels to make videos, but Buildaroo.com was kind enough to record an interview with us. Curious about how we got started as a solar installer? How we continue to think outside the box? The difference between building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) and retrofit solar installations?  Learn all about it in the video below!

Inspired by our enthusiasm for what we do? Please visit our website to get a free solar consultation today! 2011 could be your year to go solar.

December 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Bardessono: LEED Platinum Certified Hotel

Is it possible to combine both luxury and environmental consciousness? Bardessono Hotel and Spa in Napa Valley, California, was determined to do so. With its solar system installed by Premier Power and a host of other environmentally friendly features, Bardessono was awarded LEED Platinum certification, the highest standard for environmental design. It’s the only hotel in California to achieve this standard, and one of only three in the world.

Our role was to install a 200kw rooftop solar system that supplies about half the property’s energy usage. Because it was considered a building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) solar system, the entire roof qualified for the 30% investment tax credit (ITC) that made solar possible for Bardessono.  With rising energy costs, the payback period is expected to be between 6-8 years. Premier Power designed and installed an inconspicuous solar panel system that combines efficiency with aesthetics.

Renewable energy was only the beginning for Bardessono. Take a look at some of the other ways in which it committed to environmental responsibility:

  • passive solar design for more efficient heating/cooling
  • automated thermostats & lighting that sense when rooms are not occupied
  • drought-tolerant landscaping
  • drip irrigation
  • gray and black water recycling
  • low-flow faucets, showers, and toilets
  • low VOC paints, adhesives, and finishes
  • all-organic linens and cleaning products
  • salvaged, reused, and locally sourced materials

…and many more. (Read more on its green features.) Bardessono has set a new standard for sustainability, and Premier Power is honored to have been a part of its LEED certification.

Not everyone has the resources or desire to build a green hotel, but homes and businesses can still be made greener with renewable energy. Please visit us for a free solar consultation today!

November 29, 2010 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment

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