Despite all its success, the solar panel still faces a lot of skeptics.
That's not much of a surprise, considering some of the claims that have been made about solar power in the past.
Perhaps you've seen internet ads that claim you can build a cheap solar energy panel that will power your entire house.
I've never tried one of these offers so I can't say whether they deliver what they promise, but I have my doubts (let me know if you have any success!).
Unfortunately, extreme claims about solar power have created a 'boy who cried wolf' situation where many people no longer believe that solar energy is capable of playing any role in our energy future.
If we look at the solar power facts, however, it's easy to see that solar electric panels provide a viable energy source that we can take advantage of today.
You may be wondering why solar energy requires government incentives to compete with traditional energy sources.
That's a good question, and here's the simple answer:
Governments have been supporting the oil, hydroelectric, and nuclear industries with major subsidies for decades. Therefore, government incentives are not giving solar power an unfair advantage but are simply leveling the playing field and giving solar energy a fair chance to compete.
The good news is that solar power shouldn't need government money for very long. As more solar electric panels are manufactured and installed, an 'economy of scale' should drive prices down to a level that allows solar energy to compete without government rebates and grants.
While looking at all the sensible reasons for why solar power makes sense, however, we shouldn't forget about why solar power panels have captured people's imaginations in the first place.
You don't have to know anything about how solar panels work to find them pretty amazing. Even if you don't know anything about how sunlight knocks electrons loose from the silicon in a solar cell, you can still see the huge potential that solar panels have.
We have an almost limitless source of fuel in the form of light energy from the sun and solar electric panels take this fuel and put it to work!
Thomas Edison said it best:
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
Mr. Edison makes a pretty good point, wouldn't you say?