Being able to power our homes and businesses with clean energy has to be one of the most powerful motivators for switching to solar energy.
Undoubtedly, halving energy bills (at least!) is an exciting incentive, but so is contributing to renewable energy production. We all know what greenhouse gases are doing to our planet. How livable our world depends on what we do now.
While it’s fantastic to know that solar energy is good for the planet, not many of us know exactly why or how. The environmental benefits of solar are numerous and wide-reaching and bring some unexpected advantages.
How have we made energy in the past?
Spoiler alert: we have come full circle when it comes to energy production. The first sources of energy that humans used were the sun and the wind, and now, with much more advanced technology, we’re turning to those sources again.
Let’s look at the main sources of energy people have used in the last 300 years.
Humans have always been resourceful and found sources of energy production. Energy and power generation has a long history and its timeline has been marked by significant technological milestones starting from Benjamin Franklin when he discovered electricity in the year 1752.
One of the earliest available sources of energy was coal. Archaeologists have found evidence that cavemen used this fossil fuel for heating. It was later in the 1880s when advances in alternating current technology paved the way for coal to generate electricity a multitude of uses in homes, factories, furnaces for heating, and stoves for cooking.
Between 1880 and 1918, coal was mined at deeper depths and demand for coal quadrupled. Large amounts were needed in the production of iron and steel, particularly for the railroad industry. As the demand for electricity, producing electrical power became regulated. However, when the largest oil fields were discovered, the cost of power dropped and the demand increased. Natural gas became widely used and by 1947, its consumption exceeded that of coal.
Fossil fuel use in Australia.
Australia has abundant sources of both fossil and renewable fuels, which we have heavily relied on for our growth and prosperity. Australia has substantial resources of coal— both black and brown, making it our largest commodity export. Our black coals deposits are deemed to be adequate for the next 90 years based on our current rates of production, while we could keep using our brown coal resources for nearly 500 years.
Australia is a net importer of refined oil products such as crude oil and other feedstocks. We also export a small volume of refined products and LPG. Our oil resources are boosted by substantial condensate and LPG resources by large gas fields that have not yet been developed. And if we are smart, they won’t have to be.
As our economy and population have grown, the demand for energy sources has increased. To date, Australia’s energy has been largely met by fossil fuels. These are being used to generate most of our domestic electricity. While this step laid the foundation for Australia to have one of the cheapest electricity prices in the world, it also made us reliant on unsustainable energy sources, as we are now realising with some alarm. We have, however, explored other ways to obtain energy.
Other energy sources.
After coal and uranium, gas is the largest and fastest-growing energy resource in Australia. Our conventional gas resources are widely distributed both on and offshore and are located in fourteen different basins. Gas makes up 18% of the primary energy use and is growing year on year.
Geothermal energy resources are large but inadequately defined and quantified in Australia. It is an emerging industry with exploration being conducted in all states. Geothermal energy is heat contained within the earth, and there is great potential for its use in Australia. For power generation, it uses temperatures as low as 100°C, while for direct use applications, temperatures of 30° and above can already be used for commercial and residential applications.
Australia has more than one-third of the world’s known economic uranium resources. It is mined using both conventional and in situ recovery mining techniques. The Australian government has a tight policy on uranium production and export. The export policy also acknowledges the strategic significance which distinguishes the resource from all other energy commodities.
Australia’s current leading sources of clean energy are solar and wind. In 2020, wind supplied 35.9% of the country’s clean energy and 9.0% of overall electricity. Wind energy resources are primarily located in the southern coastal regions and extend for hundreds of kilometres inland and highland.
The solar energy revolution.
In 2020, 24% of Australia’s total electricity generation was from renewable energy sources, including solar (9%), wind (9%) and hydro (6%).
The uptake of renewables, particularly solar, in Australia has been fast and exciting. Clean, reliable and low-cost, solar energy is going to play a major role in us meeting our emission reduction targets – it’s come a long way in a short space of time.
Their reliability is guaranteed by SolarEdge, with one of the most impressive warranties on the market. You get a 15-year panel warranty, which is significantly more than the industry average of 10 years. They have partnered with a tier 1 manufacturer to produce their panels, which additionally shows that the company has confidence in the longevity of their product which is great news for clients.
In addition, SolarEdge Smart Panels deliver maximum safety and an elegant black-frame design, making these panels smart, safe, and beautiful!
A modern history of solar energy.
We will focus on the modern history of solar energy, as humans have been using the sun for cooking, lighting, and even warfare for thousands of years! Things really got interesting around 1839, when Frenchman Edmund Becquerel started experimenting with metal electrodes. He placed two electrodes in an acidic solution and exposed one of the electrodes to sunlight. He had in fact discovered the photovoltaic effect, which is a process that generates an electric current in a photovoltaic cell when it is exposed to sunlight.
It took many years for this technology to be refined into the convenient, clean, and efficient solar panels we have today.
How do solar panels work?
In 1883, American inventor Charles Fritz created the first working selenium solar cell coated with a thin layer of gold. This cell achieved an energy conversion of 1-2%, which became a major prerequisite to modern solar panels of today— which is made of silicon and works at an efficiency rate of up to 20%. Many physicists played important roles in the historical development of solar technology and at present, solar panels are used to power the tiny and the vast, the residential and the commercial.
Why is it better for the environment?
Solar energy has the least negative impact on the environment compared to other energy sources. It is the leading clean and renewable energy for households and businesses as it creates no direct greenhouse gas emissions. Solar electricity is made from sunlight rather than by burning fossil fuels, which is hugely beneficial for the environment. Once you install solar panels on your roof, they convert sunlight into electricity cleanly and quietly.
Sunlight is a renewable energy source, which means we will never run out of it, especially in our sunny state of Queensland. Coal and gas are fossil fuels and will eventually run out.
The use of solar energy can help offset electricity costs since capturing power from the sun is basically free. It also keeps you away from being dependent and connected to a large electricity grid and you may have the option to export and sell your unused power back to your electricity retailer— talk about making a green investment! Because solar energy is in high demand, having a solar photovoltaic system adds value to your both residential and commercial buildings. Components last for decades and require little to no maintenance, while technological advances are constantly improving their longevity.
Solar energy combats greenhouse gas emissions and reduces our carbon footprint. It provides electricity, which we all need, in a manner that does not pollute our atmosphere, keeping our planet livable.
How are people using solar energy?
Here at Energy Partners, we see the practical application of solar energy every day, both for our residential and commercial clients.
Here is an example of where we worked on a residential project. We consulted with the homeowner to discuss energy goals, priorities, and design. We then created a customised design for him, as we do for all our clients, and professionally installed the new solar system at his Runaway Bay home.
We used 63 Canadian Solar KuDymond glass-on-glass Smart Panels in this design. The system size was 19.53kW, which generates 31.23MWh of power for Leigh and his family every year. This offsets 24.98 tonnes of carbon, which is the equivalent of planting 1,147 trees annually.
This system is saving this client $5,779 every year, which is a fantastic outcome for everyone involved. You can see how pleased the client was with the outcome in this video.
We can also highlight one of our commercial projects at Samin Sheet Metal. Samin had already installed LED high bay lights and a power factor correction device to drive down their peak demand energy costs, which was a great start. However, after completing a detailed data analysis and load profiling, we identified opportunities to drive down their energy costs even further.
We used 380 Canadian Solar 365 watt KuMax commercial solar panels on this install. Their system size was 99.36kW, which generates 149.95 MWh of power for Samin every year. This offsets 119.96 tonnes of carbon, which is the equivalent of planting 1,754 trees.
This system and tariff optimisation is saving Samin Metal $51,690 every year, which meant that they were back paying what they were many years before. Watch Wade from Samin Sheet Metal talk about his experience with Energy Partners and their new energy system in this video.
Is solar energy 100% good for the environment?
Solar electricity has come a long way, and it still has areas it can improve. One of the disadvantages is that the creation of photovoltaic cells creates some toxic materials and chemicals. Some solar thermal systems also use hazardous fluids to transfer heat while monocrystalline solar cells produce silicon waste and use additional energy. Leaks of these materials could cause environmental harm so manufacturers are required to follow safe disposal of their waste.
Solar power plants also take up large areas of land that are occupied by native plants and animals. It is possible for solar farms to be minimised if it is placed on brownfield sites. Investing in floating solar panels for reservoirs can also help. Solar power plants also require water for cleaning and cooling their equipment which affects the surrounding ecosystem. The solar energy industry is acutely aware of where it can be better and is constantly innovating to make its components more efficient, smaller, longer-lasting, and investing in recycling programs. Ideally, solar componentry will be part of a circular economy in the future, with minimal or no waste.
Clean, renewable energy for the world
Although hydropower takes the largest modern renewable source, wind and solar power are also growing rapidly. Globally, one-fourth of our electricity comes from renewables. In 2019, power generation that came from solar technologies takes up approximately 1% of the global energy. As of 2020, Solar power has rapidly increased, taking up to 844.39 TWh of the world’s energy generation.
Asia is one of the regions with the most growth in renewable electricity generation. It shows an increase of 245 TWH in 2019. As of December 2020, Clean Energy Regulator data shows that more than 26.8 million solar power systems have been installed in Australia— making us the country with the highest uptake of solar globally.
The future looks bright, with huge global investment in renewables. A total of $US501 billion ($A683 billion) was invested in the clean energy sector in the 2019/2020 financial year, an increase of 9% over the previous year and a new record level of clean energy investment.
One of the great win/win scenarios of the solar energy industry is that you can gain all these environmental benefits and massive financial savings as well. It’s no wonder that about one in four Australian homes uses solar panels. There is certainly an initial financial investment, but the long-term savings more than refund your outlay.
To help with the initial purchase, the Australian Government offers financial incentives through the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, where you are issued with tradable certificates for eligible solar PV systems. The Queensland Government’s regional feed-in tariff pays eligible customers for electricity generated and exported to the grid from their solar PV system.
Solar energy system owners see their financial benefits in their energy bills. According to research done by Canstar Blue in 2020, an average electricity bill for solar powered households in NSW would cost approximately $317 a quarter. This is compared to non-solar-powered homes whose average is $404 per quarter.
For comparison, the average for solar powered homes is $309 a quarter, while Queensland had the cheapest quarterly cost with an average amount of $260 per quarter.
An additional financial benefit is that solar panels significantly improve your resale value. Most home buyers understand what a home with solar panels means – especially when the system is already in place and they didn’t have to make the initial investment and installation. According to research, most homeowners see a $5,911 resale value increase per installed kilowatt. That means if you install a 3.1 kilowatt system, you could improve your home’s resale value by nearly $18,000.
Not only does going solar provide powerful environmental benefits and attractive financial incentives, but installing a solar system has even more benefits.
Going solar makes you more mindful of your electricity use. Especially since solar electricity systems have wonderful apps to let you know how much energy you are generating and spending, it gives you knowledge that you previously may not have had. This knowledge means you can make lifestyle changes so you can save even more energy and money.
As an added bonus, solar panels also help to extend the life of your roof because it protects it from rain, snow, direct sun, or debris. Commercial clients report instantly noticing warehouses feel cooler after solar panels are installed, requiring less air conditioning, further reducing energy use and costs.
A clean future is our ‘why’
Energy Partners was founded to help as many households and businesses go solar using smart design and quality componentry.
Being able to grow the amount of clean energy generated is hugely rewarding and motivates us daily to help our clients end their reliance on fossil fuels.
Could your home or business do with lower power bills and an energy solution that is going to give you clean, reliable energy for years and years? Get in touch with us for an energy assessment to find out how much you could save. Use our contact form here, or give us a call on 1300 768 977.