You may already be aware that solar heating has been used to warm homes for literally thousands of years. Ancient peoples used everyday objects like glass and mirrors to harness the sun’s energy and light fires. Later, architects built sun rooms and south facing homes to use the warmth of the winter’s sun to heat rooms and people. More advanced solar technology came about as early as the 1700′s as scientists learned to cook food with the solar energy.
Solar technology has continued to grow and advance so that buildings today are able use the sun’s energy to provide enough electricity to power even very large homes and businesses. This energy can then be used for cooking, heating water, powering lights or appliances, warming or cooling or for whatever you might require electricity.
So what about the Northwest, where we often don’t see much sun at all for several months out of the year? According to the Renewable Northwest Energy Project, ”The Northwest receives more than enough sunlight to meet our entire energy needs for the foreseeable future. The Northwest’s highest potential is in southeastern Oregon and southern Idaho; however, there are no ‘bad’ solar sites—even the rainiest parts of the Northwest receive almost half as much solar energy as the deserts of California and Arizona, and they receive more than Germany, which has made itself a solar energy leader,” making solar energy a viable green energy option for those of us living in the Pacific Northwest.
As with any energy upgrade, there is an initial investment. Solar energy systems have no fuel cost, so the main cost comes from the original cost of the equipment. But, there are federal and state tax credits, rebates and incentives available that can help offset much of cost of solar electric systems. For example, in Washington State in addition to net metering, the state requires utilities to pay the producer of solar electricity 15 to 18 cents per kilowatt hour for all the solar electricity produced, regardless of whether it is used or not. Also, on September 23, 2008 the U.S. Congress passed the “Energy Improvement and Extension Act”. This act provides, among other things, an Individual Income Tax Credit amounting to 30% of the total installed cost of solar electric systems installed from January 2009 through 2016.
Solar electric systems typically require little or no maintenance. There are no moving parts and the panels usually have a 25 year warranty. The inverters are warranted for at least 10 years and good quality solar batteries can last for 5 to 15 years. And don’t forget, solar is renewable energy, which will also add value to your home and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
So yes, seriously, consider solar when thinking of your home’s energy options. It is an initial investment that can pay off for many years to come and really can work for us here in Washington State.