A brighter future in theory
One of the first alternatives, and one that held out hope for home owners was the solar panel. These photo voltaic panels that capture sunlight and turn it into energy held the promise of heat in winter and air conditioning in summer without burning oil and using electricity provided by the grid.
A panel is made up of an array of photovoltaic cells. Cells are generally made from crystalline silicone, or crystal blends, form a sheet of semiconductors to capture photons, or light from the sun. Modules are interconnected forming two plates of different silicone types creating positive and negative fields to achieve a desired output of AC power. The efficiency of solar panels is based on their ability to capture the largest range of sunlight possible.
The first use of solar modules was in space. In 1958 the US Signal Corp launched the Vanguard I Satellite into space with a 9% efficient PV Cell array designed by Hoffman Electronics. The satellite operated successfully for 8 years. In 1975 the US Government began funding additional research and development of this alternative energy source. As part of a campaign to conserve energy, Carter installed 32 solar panels on top of the White House. The panels were a symbol of America’s desire to free itself from dependence on foreign oil through innovation. The solar panels were removed during the Reagan administration.
Improvements and Affordability Make Solar a Reality
Today’s panels are far more efficient and affordable. The cost of PV Cells is estimated that the per watt price in 1977 was $76.67. Today the price is $0.74. Tax credits and rebates offered by both state and federal governments making solar technology accessible to the homeowner. Solar panels can be purchased or leased. Some states (CA, NJ, MD, TX) even have programs that offer no money down installations. Modern panels are more efficient and more durable lasting up to 25 years.
Instead of paying the electric company you might receive a check for the energy you supply to the grid.
Check out this Solar calculator to see what it would cost to outfit your home.