Helping the World through Solar Power

In This Chapter

^ Investing in solar energy ^ Looking at the benefits of solar power ^ Solving for challenges roducing energy can be dirty work. Carbon emissions, coal slurry, nuclear waste, and other pollutants can wreak havoc on the environment, cause health problems, and make people hopping mad. And many energy sources are in limited supply. Not only does that drive prices up, but it also leads to political conflicts when people decide they're not willing to share. You're probably not ready to go completely unplugged, but you do want to play your humble part to save the environment, help the country become less dependent on outside energy sources, and save money. Tall order? Maybe not. Above all the energy sources in use today, solar shows the most long-term promise for solving the world's energy problems.

On any given day, 35,000 times the total amount of energy that humans use falls onto the face of the Earth from the sun. If people could just tap into a tiny fraction of what the sun is providing each day, society would be set. Of course, some problems do crop up, but they're solvable, and going solar can be well worth the effort.

To understand the role solar energy can play in your home, you need to have a good understanding of where your own energy comes from, where it's used, and how much pollution each of your energy sources generates. In this chapter, I explain how solar fits into your day-to-day life — and why it's such a good energy option.

Consuming the Earth

Here are some statistics about power use in the

United States (from DOE):

I Americans import more than half their fossil fuels. Thirty years ago, this figure was only 33 percent, and analysts predict that within a few years, it'll rise to 66 percent.

I Of all the energy used in the United States, 39 percent comes from oil, 23 percent from natural gas, 24 percent from coal, 6 percent from hydropower dams, 7 percent from nuclear, and only 1 percent from renewables such as solar energy.

I Americans get 51 percent of their electrical production from coal, 20 percent from nuclear, 18 percent from natural gas, 2 percent from petroleum, and only around 9 percent from renewables, of which the vast majority is hydro (water). Solar plus wind accounts for only around 0.18 percent of the grand total.

Solar Power

Solar Power

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