The world will always have a need for more energy and power, and industries are always looking for ways to meet the ever-growing demand for energy. Traditionally, such energy comes from fossil fuel-powered plants that create electricity, such as coal-powered plants found across the United States. But these older power plants are coming under increased scrutiny and facing increasing criticism for their heavy pollution, and those who support the global “go green” initiative are critical of coal’s presence in the future of energy production. Instead, going solar is a popular alternative, along with wind farms and geothermal energy. Going solar and using solar panels is growing rapidly in popularity in the United Sates and beyond. In fact, some European nations already get the bulk of their power from solar energy and wind farms, and there are international agreements in place for going solar within the coming decades. In years past, solar panel design was criticized for being inefficient and expensive, but in general, prices are dropping and solar panels become ever more powerful, so going solar has quickly emerged as a strong competitor to fossil fuels. How can this transition be made, and why?
Power in the United States
As mentioned above, a lot of American electricity is produced in coal-powered power plants, and there is a general push to phase out these pollution-heavy plants in favor of going solar on both a private and commercial scale. It is generally agreed that the current climate change crisis is being aggravated by pollution of all kinds, ranging from car exhaust to power plant emissions and beyond, so alternative power sources are competing to fill the void that would be created when and if fossil fuels are entirely phased out. Hybrid and electric cars are becoming more popular on the roads of the United States today, and many private homes and city power grids are making their own effort to wean themselves off of polluting power plants and instead go solar to meet energy needs. The United States is among the most electricity-hungry nations on Earth alongside China, so going solar means filling in some big shoes.
Solar panels themselves are simple enough: they are flat panels that collect solar energy, then use that power to excite electrons and create electricity that is then used to power a building or even a community’s power grid, and these panels can be installed either on roofs or in arrays on the ground. Sunny areas are often the most popular for these large-scale solar arrays, such as the Southwest, including Texas. Out there, vast amounts of semi-arid grasslands or deserts dominate and the human population density is low, meaning that huge solar arrays can collect industrial levels of solar energy while not disrupting any nearby human settlements. Texas, for example, is making big strides in the American solar energy effort. Today, Texas ranks 6th in the country for solar panel use, and while that is a drop from 4th place in 2017, it still shows that Texans are taking solar energy seriously. In fact, by the third quarter of 2018, nearly 282,032 homes across Texas were being fed with solar power. Texas has relatively little cloud cover, and being further south, it is exposed to strong sunlight, making it an excellent site for large solar panels arrays that can collect energy not just for a single home, but entire neighborhoods or even city blocks. Similar arrays may be found in Nevada, New Mexico, and similar states.
Vast swaths of American civilization are powered with these enormous solar arrays out in the deserts, but going solar on a smaller scale is feasible and helps contribute to the “going green” effort. Nearly any homeowner can choose to have solar panels installed on the roof of their home, and contractors and city officials can build the panels and inspect them for approval, respectively. A solar home is reducing the need for coal-based electricity and can even generate a surplus that is sent to the electric grid for a modest profit. As solar panels become more efficient and cost-friendly, many more American homes are having such panels installed by professional crews and retiring from the coal-based power grid.