Using home solar power systems in the U.S. is a concept that is still evolving. Compared to other nations like Germany, China and Spain, the U.S. is slow to catch on. Less than 1% of the electricity used in the nation is solar power, and much of that is probably in California.
Power companies in the U.S. currently operate by burning fossil fuels. Solar energy requires mirrors that reflect the rays of the sun to generate heat. That heat then helps to operate a generator and provide power. The solar photovoltaic panels that can be found atop house roofs and high-rise office buildings operate based on this process.
Perhaps one reason Americans have been slow to embrace the concept has to do with the cost of producing solar energy. It is extremely expensive, costing anywhere from two to four times what people pay to burn coal or use other forms of energy. Both consumers and power companies have been reluctant to take on the cost. The government has tried to assure potential converts by easing that burden. It has offered tax and stimulus incentives for those who begin to use solar energy.
In an effort to practice what it preaches, one government entity-the Obama White House-has confirmed plans to add solar panels and a hot water heater powered by solar energy by spring 2011. The New York Jets headquarters location has agreed to similar changes, as has the Kennedy Space Center for NASA. In recent press announcements, the White House has revealed the move is part of a Department of Transportation initiative to show citizens that solar energy is reliable. The Jets planned conversion is projected to save 540 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.
As a leading state in solar energy reform, California will have an important role to play, too, in demonstrating the viability of solar energy. A $1.4 million government loan will enable the state to build a solar power plant in the middle of the Mohave Desert. That plant will generate power for almost 140,000 homes.
There is even news that scientists have come up with a technology that can be sprayed on windows to make them operate in the same way as photovoltaic panels. This means that existing windows can be converted for minimal equipment costs. It also eliminates the excuse of costly equipment that frequently prevents conversion.
Many potential believers also fear not being able to have much electric power at night - since there is no sun at that time. There have been plausible solutions to this challenge. The use of molten salts in pipes might help allay fears, since they can store heat energy from the sun to be released later. These salts have been known to kick out energy for almost eight hours after the sun has set.
No matter how skeptical some consumers choose to be, home solar power systems are becoming a strong alternative as renewable energy sources. If the use of it is a success for the leader of a nation and his family, it will surely become a reality for many other homes across the land somewhere in the close future.
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