Seven Solar Fallacies in Idaho

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The world is flat. Smoking is good for you. Solar energy isn’t trustworthy, affordable, effective, and won’t work in Idaho. One of those statements isn’t quite like the others. But what is like the others is how misinformation can affect people’s thoughts on a wide range of topics. We know now, that the world is not flat and smoking is in fact, bad for you. Like the previous statements, misinformation has had a somewhat negative impact on the reputation of solar energy. Whether you’ve heard that the cost is prohibitive, Idaho isn’t a great place to invest in solar, or anything else, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Below are seven of the most common fallacies commonly associated with solar energy in Idaho and in general.

Solar Energy is New and Unreliable

False:

While the purpose of this list isn’t to make you an expert in the history of solar energy, it is important to know that solar has roots as far back as 1885, when Charles Fritts built the first solar cell with selenium. IN 1954, Bell Labs researchers were finally able to harness the photoelectric effect on silicon. For those less scientific minded, they made the first recognizably modern solar cell that pushed the boundaries of solar potential. Solar is present in nearly every industry today. It is used in space exploration, oil derricks, cell networks, and can even be found powering things like traffic signs. Idaho Power currently has contracts with eight solar projects in Idaho, with a combined total capacity of 240 megawatts.

Solar Panels Only Work in Warm Climates

False:

Sunny California leads the nation in U.S. solar deployment likely to no one’s surprise. Idaho, like California, enjoys long stretches of warm sunny days, especially in the summer months. Unlike California, Idaho has also been known to experience sub-zero temperatures and intense winters. One simple fact is important here: solar panels are powered by light, not heat.. Sunlight contains energy. Usually when it hits something, that energy is converted to heat. Solar panels generate electricity through the placement of electrons in silicon, or other more efficient materials. Whereas any normal surface, a paved road for example, will suck sunlight up and become hot due to immobile electrons, silicon and other panel materials are designed to allow electrons to move.

All Solar Panels Are the Same

False:

Not all solar panels are created equal. While the black squares shining in the sun on the roofs of the houses you drive by might look identical, there are substantial differences between them. Much like any other product, consumers should be aware that the quality and workmanship of a certain panel can vary greatly, and this variance can absolutely impact performance. Be wary of solar panels from unknown suppliers, or that come from unregulated factories. How will you know if this is the case? Most reputable manufacturers will guarantee their product performs at the highest power production for up to 25 years.

Solar Energy is Prohibitively Expensive

False:

Like any other home improvement project, the installation and conversion to solar energy is an investment. As with any good investment, the reward comes over time. In this case, the timeframe is the duration of ownership as the solar system will lower power bills month after month, with the break-even point typically at or below half of the warrantied life. Due to advancements in the technology, residential solar systems are more affordable than ever before. The cost is further reduced by rebates, financing programs, and governmental incentives targeted at reducing the country’s dependence on oil. In addition to the federal tax incentive, or investment tax credit (ITC), which allows up to 30% of the total cost of solar installation to be deducted from federal taxes.

Idaho Isn’t a Good Place for Solar

False:

While you may think the frigid temperatures and snowfall of Idaho winters would eliminate solar energy as a viable option, the complete opposite is true. Idaho is one of the best places in the U.S. for solar. Keeping in mind the earlier point about light not heat, the issue comes down to daylight hours. This is a measurement of how long the sun shines over the course of a full day’s time. Remember sunny California? Idaho actually gets more sunlight hours annually than Los Angeles, CA

Solar Systems Require Lots of Maintenance

False:

Like the three factually incorrect statements at the beginning of this article, this too is wrong. Solar panels have no moving parts which means they don’t require additional maintenance. The only thing resembling maintenance that might be required of the installer is to occasionally hose them off if they get dirty and keep them free of debris. The amount of work required to maintain a solar system is no more, if not less than what is required to maintain a roof.

Net Metering is Bad Because.....

False:

Net metering allows customers plugged into the electrical grid to sell back surplus power for credit. In the case of solar, any power generated over the course of a day that goes unused can become a further benefit. Here are a few incorrect views of net metering: it is costly, it increases electricity prices for non-solar users, and it burdens low-income communities. False, false, and false. According to the Frontier Group for Environment America, “Net metering provides economic benefits to the electric grid, including savings from reduced electricity transmission, avoided capital and capacity investment, reduced financial risks, increased grid resiliency, and avoided environmental compliance costs.” How about the point about increasing electricity costs for non-solar users? Net metering keeps electricity prices low for all customers by reducing the need for new plants, which lowers transmission costs. According to Crossborder Energy, “The benefits of net metering include: avoided energy costs, avoided capacity costs for generation, reduced costs for ancillary services, lower line losses on the transmission and distribution system, reduced investments in facilities, and lower costs for the utility’s purchase of other renewable generation.” And the low-income burden? Nonsense. Based on recent studies, the opposite has been shown to be true. Solar systems reduce energy costs for the power consumer regardless of their income.
Unfortunately, myths and distorted truths all too often get passed off as fact. The truth of the matter is that no energy source is without flaw from some perspective or another. However, solar energy has so few downsides that it is easy to see why more and more home and business owners are looking to it as their preferred energy source. That goes for states all across the country...even Idaho.

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