Despite its growing popularity, solar technology remains unfamiliar to many Americans. As renewable energy becomes a mainstay topic for the nation's partisan political debates, consumers may struggle to separate the facts about solar energy from common misconceptions.
Here are the realities behind five common solar myths:
Myth 1: Solar is a new, unproven technology. Solar technology roots reach as far back as 1885, when Charles Fritts built the first solar cell using selenium. In 1954, researchers at Bell Labs harnessed the photoelectric effect on silicon, setting the course for modern solar technology. Since then, solar has powered space exploration, oil derricks, cellular networks and grid-tied businesses and homes.
Myth 2: Solar only works in warm climates. While sunny states like California lead the U.S. in solar deployment, northern residents still have much to gain from installing residential solar panels. Just as people don't require full sunshine to see, solar panels don't require full sunshine to produce electricity. Germany, the country with the most installed solar capacity worldwide, counts on solar irradiation comparable to Seattle's.
Myth 3: All solar panels are created equal. Consumers should be aware that differences in quality and workmanship can curb the amount of energy produced. Be wary of solar panels manufactured in poorly regulated factories with questionable quality-control, labor and environmental practices. Instead, look for home solar panels from a reputable manufacturer, which can guarantee the highest power production and stand behind a 25-year warranty.
Myth 4: Solar panels are unattractive. To meet customer demand for attractive installations, a few companies now offer true-black solar panels, designed to blend well with residential rooftops. The panels are made from the most powerful solar cells available, meaning a homeowner can produce more electricity with fewer panels.
Myth 5: Solar is too expensive. Thanks to technological advances and attractive rebates, residential solar systems are more affordable than ever. In many parts of the U.S., homeowners can use financing programs to reduce upfront costs and spread payment over 20 or more years.