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Solving ‘Clean Energy’ with Solar

Today’s ‘standard’ cars–gas guzzlers with internal combustion (or ICE) engines–are slowly phasing out. EVs, even if the electricity used to charge them comes from fossil fuels, are still considered the best option to support a greener future, and science supports it. As the number of electric cars increases, however, so does the need for more electricity to power them.

The rarely discussed concern, however, is that EVs are still contributing to lots of carbon emissions because the electricity that powers them is not yet ‘clean’. Because of this, everyone is racing against the clock to find ways to ensure that renewable electricity becomes the primary power for EVs. To address these challenges and still keep carbon counts down, we need to generate more renewable energy and make sure it’s available closer to where it will be used. To date, solar has been the power source of choice.

A survey conducted by CleanTechnica found that 38% of EV drivers in North America have solar panels on their homes. This is a big ol’ number compared to the measly 8% of total U.S. homeowners with residential solar, making it safe to assume that EV owners are big fans of it. This connection makes perfect sense. Electric cars can still be expensive, and early adopters are more likely to be homeowners. The public charging infrastructure is still pretty scarce, so EV charging is mainly happening at home.

Governments and utilities also have a vested interest in addressing our energy challenges, so they too have leaned in on residential solar power. A functioning electric grid requires a constant balance between supply and demand, with electricity available whenever needed. In situations of unexpected surges in demand, such as during winter storms and hurricanes, utilities typically rely on “dispatchable” energy sources like natural gas. Having more solar panels distributed throughout an area covered by a utility provides much needed flexibility.

Homes equipped with solar panels also help by relying less on electricity from the grid. This means that during times when the supply is limited, fewer homes are competing for juice. Additionally, if these homes are connected to the grid, utilities can redistribute the surplus of solar power they are generating–sometimes even paying the homeowner directly for it. This, in essence, creates production and transmission nodes that utility companies can lean on to enhance grid performance.

A final shout out for solar is that transmitting electricity over shorter distances is simpler and more reliable than pulling it from a distant power plant. In the event of a power line failure, electricity can be rerouted through alternative lines. When more solar panels are situated closer to these potential points of failure, utilities gain greater agility. This translates to fewer outages and reduces the need for costly infrastructure investments.

Solar is still expensive to install residentially, but the industry is making progress with more incentives and turnkey install and maintenance plans. If all goes well, by 2024, solar energy will have become up to 35% cheaper, with the US doubling its solar installations this year.

By evee Life Contributor

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