“Fueling the Future” is a recurring segment on our blog where we feature the work of companies and organizations working today to provide the energy sources of tomorrow.”
Solar panels are all around us and sometimes we don’t even realize it. You know you’ve seen calculators with solar cells, and emergency road signs or call boxes with solar panels. And for a long time these devices represented the only practical use for solar technology. But in recent years, there has been a pivotal change in harnessing solar power. Installers are making an effort to increase opportunities to utilize solar in residential areas by having financial options more widely available. An organization called Solar San Antonio is encouraging homeowners to join the expansion of solar energy. Since its founding in 1999, the organization has been committed to transforming San Antonio into a leader in renewable energy. The organization actively encourages the widespread use of solar and other renewable, sustainable energy sources by informing the community about how it benefits the regional economy, environment and human health.
Solar San Antonio is currently running a campaign called “Bring Solar Home” which encourages homeowners and business owners to go solar by providing three free solar estimates from local installers. Solar San Antonio works with CPS Energy, local solar installers, and financial institutions to simplify the process of “going solar.” The goal is to increase the number of solar installations in San Antonio by bridging the gap between consumers and industry professionals and by educating the public about solar. The campaign started back in 2010 as part of Solar San Antonio’s participation with the Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities program and has been a success ever since. As of July 2014, the campaign has produced 211 PV installations with 1.6 megawatts installed. The organization connects homeowners and business owners to Solar PV and Solar thermal installation companies. There have been a total of 1,807 solar PV projects and 113 solar thermal projects installed city-wide. Since the launch of the Bring Solar Home campaign, Solar San Antonio continues to leverage solar energy to the consumers of San Antonio.
The most effective method to utilize the sun’s rays is to install a solar photovoltaic system. Photovoltaic (PV) devices generate electricity directly from sunlight using a process that naturally occurs in some materials, called semiconductors. Electrons in these materials are released by solar energy and can be produced to travel through an electrical circuit, powering electrical devices or sending electricity to the grid. This process does not emit any harmful pollutants, making solar a clean, safe source of energy. Solar PV Systems are groupings, or “arrays,” of modules wired together along with an inverter and utility meter to produce electrical power. A PV system is typically installed on a roof, but a different option is a “ground mount” system which is installed on the ground.
Another great method is using a solar thermal system. This technology uses the sun’s energy rather than fossil fuels to generate low-cost, environmentally friendly thermal energy. The difference between solar thermal and PV systems is that solar thermal generates heat rather than electricity. Solar San Antonio gives consumers many reasons why going solar can be beneficial. First off, going solar is a smart investment. Solar power is more affordable with local rebates from CPS Energy and a federal tax credit. By utilizing the CPS Energy program, homeowners can have up to 50 percent of their PV installation costs covered. Solar power is a safe choice by having no greenhouse gas emissions or producing any radioactive waste. By installing solar, you reduce the amount of electricity you need to purchase from a utility.
In a recent survey of 1,600 people, conducted by SolarCity, it was found that two out of every three homeowners in America are interested in solar for their own homes and yet less than one percent of households have their own solar installations. With help from organizations like Solar San Antonio, the average homeowner is able to obtain their own clean and independent source of energy.