Solar Power is Great — But Not through the Grid

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The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) awarded $500,000 worth of grants to 26 Community Energy Management (CEM) programs. The grants focused on energy efficiency and solar power systems. Solar power is quite a popular source of renewable energy in Lansing and other parts of Michigan. In a recent poll, 76 percent of respondents gave their support to community solar projects as well as a shift to solar power in the state’s power grids. While a solar-powered grid might be beneficial to the environment, it also comes with serious disadvantages. The best application of solar power is for individual homes — and residential solar power is practically free.

Solar-Powered Grids

As the name suggests, solar power requires the sun. Different forms of electrical generation from dependable sources are also used, such as nuclear, hydropower, natural gas, or petroleum. In particular, solar power is vulnerable to the whims of weather, and a cloudy day can limit electrical generation to a minimum. Summers can be especially problematic, as people turn up their air conditioning and drain more power from the grid. Forcing power companies to switch to solar will also require massive funding. Don’t expect companies to shoulder the cost due to altruism. Your electricity bills will more likely spike, as it has in most states that require power companies to go green.

Free Solar Power In Your Home

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Solar power is best used on individual homes. The cost might be surprising, especially since solar power systems are practically free. You can even consider them as investments that pay for themselves thrice over. The average Michigan resident pays $100 to $120 per month in electricity. That money can go to the monthly premiums of a 10-kW solar power system. Such a system can completely cover the energy needs of a home with 3 to 4 bedrooms while sending enough extra electricity to the grid to cover nighttime use. A 10-kW system can cost around $16,000, but federal solar rebates bring the price down to $12,000. A 10-year loan will have you paying less than $120 a month for your panels, and you can pay for them with the money you saved on your electric bills. Solar power systems last for more than 35 years. Most solar companies guarantee an 80 to 90 percent efficiency for the first 25 years. However, experts believe modern solar power systems can last for 45 years without significant drops in output. From an investor’s point of view, solar power systems are long-term investments that pay for themselves at least twice over — with a potential to quadruple your investment through savings. Since your home is effectively independent of the grid, you’ll also be protected from eventual price hikes once green policies are implemented.

Cutting Back on Consumption

Michigan can be lacking sunny days, but you can limit your consumption to stay under your system’s production. Insulation is the easiest and most efficient way to do so. Around 30 to 60 percent of a home’s energy consumption is used in either heating or cooling. Heat transfer mainly occurs through the roof of your house via sunlight or snow. Merely insulating your rooftop, ceiling, or attic — can reduce your home’s energy consumption by up to 30 percent. Modern appliances can also cut your electrical consumption by another 30 percent. Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning units, and washers equipped with inverter technology use far less energy than their older counterparts. Switching to LED lights will also make your home more energy-efficient. Aside from using less electricity, LED lights produce less heat — reducing the stress on your cooling systems.

Making Use of Extra Electricity

Most residents of solar-powered homes make it a point to stay within or under their system’s power generation. Staying under makes your home net-zero in electricity, but it won’t get you a check from your local power company. While there’s no harm in sending extra green energy into the grid, you can also make use of it more efficiently with an electric vehicle (EV). Modern electric cars outperform their gas-guzzling counterparts in speed, acceleration, handling, and comfort. Mileage won’t be an issue as most EVs can run more than 150 miles on a single charge. Residential electricians can easily install the car’s charging setup to your solar power system, and you can save $2,000 or more in gas each year.

Solar power works best in the home. Use the power of the sun to cut your electricity bills to zero, all the while helping the environment by producing green energy for the grid. Save $30,000 to $40,000 throughout the lifetime of your system and add another $2,000 each year with an electric car.

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