Solar energy is by far the biggest source of energy on Planet Earth; the sun sends us thousands of times more energy than we can use every day. The trick is to figure out how to take that energy source and make it work 24 hours/day in our modern society. The reward for doing this is great; freedom from fossil fuels, mitigation of climate change, and the halting of the destruction of nature.
On a small scale, solar energy can work for you and your family at your home or business. On a large scale, solar energy can supply us with many of the things that we have come to rely on, without the use of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and uranium. It is up to us to choose solar, and to encourage others to do the same, so that the technology can be developed further and can be made more widely available.
There are three basic ways to use solar energy in a home: Passive solar heating (the sun coming in through windows), solar water heating, and solar electricity production. Solar air heating is also used, but usually in an industrial application. Each of these methods has its own advantages and requirements.
Your home or building may be suitable for only one method of solar energy use, or it may be able to support all three (or none if shading is too prevalent.) We invite you to look at the information on this web site about the two types of solar systems that we offer; solar water heating, and solar electric generation, and contact us if you would like to learn more.
Passive solar energy is the unsung hero of renewable energy, quietly providing inexpensive heating, sometimes unbeknownst to the beneficiary. South-facing windows with exposure to the winter sun, and a tight, well insulated building are all you need to capture this energy. Sunlight, when it strikes objects and surfaces in your home, down-converts to infrared light, or as we feel it, heat. This can provide up to 25% - 50% of heating for homes, annually. Passive solar heating can provide more units of energy per dollar spent than any other type of solar energy system. If you are building or remodeling, we can recommend architects and designers who specialize in passive solar design.
Solar water heating can be used for domestic hot water, commercial or industrial hot water, space heating, and pool heating. Domestic water heating is the second biggest energy user in most homes, and is often a large user of energy for commercial operations such as restaurants and laundry facilities. The market for solar hot water systems has cooled off due to the falling cost of solar electric projects, and the introduction of affordable heat pump water heaters, but it is still the most efficient use of roof space per unit of energy delivered.
Solar electric systems provide the most versatile energy for homes and other buildings. Power produced by these systems will offset energy use for anything that uses electricity. For locations that experience power outages, there are solar electric systems that also provide back-up power, instantly and silently. Battery costs are falling and batteries are now in use as a way to make solar 'dispatchable', delivering power after the sun goes down. See our section on solar electric for more information about costs and benefits.
Solar Storage Methods
If you have a solar hot water system, you already have solar energy storage, but if you have a solar electric system you are probably relying on your electric utility to store your excess solar production. Times are changing, though, and as battery storage becomes affordable and user-friendly, solar + battery storage is a growing segment of the solar marketplace, and has many advantages for user and utility alike. Look for the value of solar electricity storage to rise as the cost of producing solar electricity continues to fall.
If you're a bit further along and want more detailed information we can answer your questions when we meet for a site assessment. Questions often arise on the spot when we meet with customers that may not come to mind otherwise. We can also point you to some excellent resources that are available on the web if you contact us.