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Solar Energy: Demand Grows
When photovoltaics (PV) or the conversion of solar energy to electric power came on the scene 30 years ago, it was so inefficient that few thought it could ever power American homes. But the technology has come a long way, and demand for PV systems in the U.S. is now growing at almost 25 percent per year.
Government Incentives Reduce Costs
The cost of installation can be daunting for homeowners, but government incentives make them much more enticing.
Solar Energy: How it Works
As roof-mounted panels or even integrated into asphalt roof shingles, photovoltaic cells contain silicon wafers which react to sunlight by releasing free electrons. These electrons create direct electric current, or D/C power. The system’s inverter switches the D/C to the alternating current, or A/C, that powers our homes.
Household photovoltaic systems have become simpler and better adapted to mainstream use now that grid-tied net metering is easier and no battery backup is needed. Any electricity the system generates that’s not used in the home gets sold directly back to the power company.
The Wave of the Future
In sunny areas, the larger 4-kilowatt systems available today can generate half or more of what the average household consumes. Even where it’s not so sunny, photovoltaic systems have become so viable that many forward-thinking developers are pairing them with geothermal heat systems to market the new non-polluting, low-energy home.