Solar means sun in Latin. Solar energy uses the sun’s power, either in passive applications such as heating water in swimming pools, or directly converting it to electricity using photovoltaic cells. It works through a process called photovoltaic energy. When bits of solar energy, called photons, are absorbed by a solar cell, electricity is generated.

To provide solar power, solar companies install large, flat panels on top of roofs, and each panel contains grids of solar cells. It works best in wide, open locations that get plenty of sun. Some systems can store energy for use at night or on cloudy days.

Many utility companies, especially in California, offer rebates and credits to home owners who install solar panels. In addition, excess electricity can also roll-back the solar power owner’s electrical meter – in essence, sending electricity back to the utility company – netting home owners a credit

To familiarize yourself with the types of solar energy systems available for residential use, check out the Consumer Guide to Energy and Efficiency and Renewable Energy produced by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office.

An important first step is to find out if your home is a good candidate for solar by determining the approximate size and cost of a solar system and the savings you will see over your current energy costs. This Solar Estimator can help you determine this information.

You can find information on your state’s solar incentives from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

Looking to buy a solar system or for a solar professional to install your new solar system? SEIA’s member directory provides the names of local installers and contractors. All SEIA members have agreed to adhere to SEIA’s high standards and Code of Ethics. Download the PDF Now

Will Solar Energy Initiative Affect the Real Estate Market?

In February 2006, President Bush announced what’s has come to be called the Solar America Initiative (SAI), designed to promote the widespread use of various solar energy technologies in homes throughout the United States by 2015.

It’s yet to be determined what effect SAI will have on America’s sagging real estate market, and that may actually be beside the point in the initial stages of the program. The overall goal of the program is to expand America’s electricity options while reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil, which will ultimately improve the country’s overall economy and environment.

The push to incorporate more solar technology into American homes will be coming from many different directions, including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which has been given a mandate to encourage more use of solar heat and electricity in homes and businesses, beginning immediately.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently released a document titled “A Guide to Federal Tax Credits for Solar Energy,” offering details about a number of federal solar tax incentives that were enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Included in those incentives is a 30 percent tax credit (up to $2,000) for the installation of qualifying photovoltaic or solar water heating systems in the home.

The goal of the tax incentives is to encourage market growth and improvement in solar technology by increasing the demand and acceptance of the concept. As solar technology becomes more ubiquitous, public acceptance should become more mainstream as well, and providing attractive tax incentives for both homeowners and businesses is a good place to start.

Get a Jump Start on Going Solar

Upcoming this week at Western Nevada Community College is a class “Introduction to Solar Energy” this Saturday from 9am to 12pm (class 17173 – CMSV 094C C05).