SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Learn About Solar Energy
Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth. Enough energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year! A range of technologies and innovations are used to convert sunlight into usable energy, such as solar water heating, space heating and cooling, and solar photovoltaics (PV) for electricity.
Though these technologies operate on essentially a free resource – sunlight – the upfront capital cost, particularly for PV, has historically been a hurdle for most consumers. In recent years, however, technology advancements, creative financing options, and enabling policies have significantly reduced the installed costs for PV systems, resulting in rapid market adoption across the residential, non-residential and utility sectors. The figure on the right, based off SEIA & GTM Research’s 2012 Q2 Solar Market Insight Report, illustrates just how much the average price of PV systems has decreased since 1998.
Solar energy represents a strategic national opportunity to create jobs and support economic development, while also reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. As with The Southeast United States is second only to the Southwest regarding regions of the country with the best solar resources (also known as solar irradiance or insolation). The long, hot and humid summers and resulting high electricity usage (air conditioning) coincides well with peak solar energy output during the day. At the end of 2011, North Carolina and Florida led the Southeast in installed PV capacity, with 85 megawatts (MW) and 95 MW, respectively (IREC 2012).
Though relatively small in market share compared to states such as California (~1,500 MW) and New Jersey (~565 MW), the continued decline in costs for solar has sparked a growing interest by consumers and utilities across all southern states. In addition, several states – such as Tennessee and Georgia – are now home to major solar manufacturing facilities, further developing the solar industry and southern economy. America’s solar energy market has grown exponentially in the last 10 years and has an even sunnier outlook for the years to come.