Solar Energy encompasses many different areas. The common feature of the all is that they take advantage of the free energy that the sun radiates every day, even when it is cold and cloudy. Solar will cut your energy bills and fix future energy costs plus it will reduce your impact on the environment. .
All of these are considered active systems. Passive systems have no mechanical parts. They rely on the warming rays of the sun. We all take advantage of simple passive solar when we open our curtains and let the sunshine warm and light a room. A true passive solar home is properly sited to gather the maximum radiation in winter, reduce the radiation in summer, often has tile, cement or some other high mass flooring to hold the heat, is well insulated and tight, and has many other design features. A passive solar home can cut your fuel needs by 70-90%. Often wind, pellets & wood, geothermal, and air heat pumps are included in the “green” category since they also rely on mother nature to provide a renewable source of energy.
Unless the government figures out a way to tax sunshine, this energy is free. If you are frustrated by unstable fuel prices and want to help reduce pollution levels then solar is for you.
The 2 panels on the right are solar thermal, all the remaining panels are PV electric. This is a common ratio.
Photovoltaic (PV) panels create electricity. Since 2011 PV module prices have plummeted over 50%. Germany is the global leader in the adoption of solar electric and we have 30% more sunshine than they do. While dry southern states such as Arizona have more sun, they also have heat. PV panels increase their performance the colder it gets. That is why you are likely to see the highest kW output on a cold winter day.
Solar hot water can integrate with all existing system and works wonderfully in Maine provided you use the right type of collectors. For the average family a rack of 40-60 evacuated tubes are generally placed in a sunny spot on the roof and will meet 70% of your annual hot water needs.
While wind does not use the sun’s radiant energy, it does use another free energy source. In a very good location wind provides the same emission free electrical energy as PV panels, in a smaller footprint, and at a similar cost. Good sites include hillside ridges and coastal areas with no tall structures or trees to disrupt the wind patterns.
Geothermal and air source heat pumps (mini splits) fall into the "solar & green" category. They take advantage of the difference in temperatures to create power. An air source heat pump will pull heat from the air, while a geothermal system use ground temperature.
DsireUSA.org lists the many incentives that help with installation costs
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