DID YOU KNOW... The United States receives more energy in the form of sunlight in less than 40 minutes than from all the fossil fuels we burn every year? Source: Solar Energy Research and Education Foundation

1. MYTH: Solar energy and solar designs work well only in warm, sunny climates. REALITY: Solar technologies and passive solar design can work efficiently and cost-effectively anywhere in the United States, even in cloudy communities. Solar energy electrifies message signs and flashing arrow boards on roadways in every state in the country. Solar water heating systems are providing hot water economically for a swimming pool in Aurora, Colorado, and a Transportation Agency building in Boston. Solar energy pre-heats ventilation air in Fort Carson, Colorado and Ontario, Canada. A dozen small lighthouses off the New England coast run on solar power while large lighthouses are being converted to solar power off the shores of Washington State and lower Alaska. Passive solar design illuminates a nonprofit health facility in Frederick, Maryland - an area that receives 25 percent less sunshine than the national average. Energy storage systems make solar technologies in less sunny regions possible. Some photovoltaic systems store electricity in batteries so that energy can be retrieved later - even after up to 30 consecutive days without sunlight. Solar water heating systems typically are linked with conventional backup heaters which need to be fired up only during periods of cloudiness or excessive demand.

2. MYTH: Solar power is too costly. REALITY: There are hundreds of situations where solar is the least expensive method for delivering power. Each solar power example in this issue is saving money over its life-cycle. Many solar outdoor lighting applications are immediately less expensive than grid-connected systems because they avoid costly pavement cutting and repair.

3. MYTH: Solar power is not as reliable as conventional energy technologies. REALITY: Solar is often more reliable than any other energy source. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found photovoltaics to be "the most reliable source of electric power ever invented." According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, surveys taken over the last decade what that over 94 percent of solar water heating owners consider their solar heater to be a wise investment. The main reason for solar's superior reliability is that as a decentralized power source, it is not subject to power blackouts or breaks in a system network. Because it is highly reliable, solar technologies are used to power warning signals, navigational buoys, aircraft warning lights and railroad crossing signals.

4. MYTH: Solar power is not practical in urban areas. REALITY: Solar-powered lights eliminate the need to trench underground and dig up asphalt; thus, they are cost-effective alternatives to grid connections in many urban settings. Solar water heating is usually an economical replacement for electric heaters in any urban setting. Solar ventilation air pre- heaters are as often found in urban settings as well as remote locations.

(Reprint, ENERGY IDEAS, Washington, D.C., Spring/Summer 1996 edition)

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

Back to Top

Back to Energy Directory