The Earth receives more energy from our sun in an hour than we can consume in a year. The sun is powered by nuclear fusion, producing energy when hydrogen fuses into helium. Solar panels harvest that energy.
How does it work? Solar panels are made from semiconductor materials that give off electrons — energy — when excited by light. Most solar panels are able to convert about 20 percent of light energy into electricity.
The federal government gives a 30 percent tax rebate on the price of a solar panel installation. That in addition to the rebate most states offer, it’s possible to save up to 80 percent of the price of solar panel setup.
The average price of a solar installation dropped last year to $4.72 per watt, a median 5KW installation will cost about $23,600. After rebates, that comes to between $7,000 and $15,000, even before factoring in energy savings.
Solar power users save about $84 monthly, or $20,160 over the course of 20 years. Panel installations that are connected to the grid can actually earn you money if you produce more electricity than you consume.
Information about the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit program: Energy.gov
State and regional resources: DSIRE
Installation information US Energy Department & American Solar Energy Society
Solar power pros and cons: Economist
Helpful infographics: Clean Technica