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The good news on solar power

The good news on solar power

The Energy Dept. took the time to debunk what it sees as common misconceptions about solar power. And no, we're not talking about the theory that solar technology came to Earth on a UFO that cashed in Roswell, N.M.

  • Myth #1: Solar power cannot contribute significantly to the nation's electrical needs. Solar panels can help meet electricity demand on any scale, from a single home to a large city. For example, the solar energy that shines down on a 100-by-100-mile area of Nevada could supply the U.S. with all of its electricity. If these solar panels were distributed to the 50 states, each state would need to devote an area of about 17 by 17 miles to solar panels. The U.S. could also get enough land by using rooftops and vacant land. In fact, putting solar panels on the estimated 5 million acres of abandoned industrial sites in U.S. cites could supply 90% of America's current electricity needs.

  • Myth #2: Manufacturing solar panels creates pollution and uses more energy than the panels can generate over their lifetimes. Most solar panels pay back the energy used to make them in about one year. And with the panels generally lasting 30 years, they producing free and clean electricity for 29 of those years.

    Solar-panel manufacturing is regulated by safety and pollution control standards, and it does create unwanted byproducts. But for each kilowatt generated by solar power rather than fossil fuels, the Earth avoids 9 kg of sulfuric oxide, 16 kg of nitrous oxide, and between 600 and 2,300 kg of carbon dioxide each year.

  • Myth #3: Solar power is unreliable and generates substandard electricity. Solar panels are reliable because they have no moving parts and have been tested by public and private organizations. Many solar panels have been tested and listed by Underwriters Laboratories, just like electrical appliances. Warranties of 25 years are standard on most solar panels.

    Solar panels connected to the utility grid generate the same power as that from power lines. Panels today are configured to meet the requirements of the National Electrical Code and the local utility and building codes. Once panels are installed according to these requirements, the owner receives electricity of the same quality as any other utility customer.

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