By: Samantha Yurek
Solar energy has been on a modest climb for most of its existence, but this year the solar power market jumped 71% compared to last year’s sales. A growing renewable industry is a boost to our economy; over 93,000 Americans are employed within the solar business alone. As the demand for solar installations grows higher, the prices will drop correspondingly. This is already evident, in 2006 the price of a residential installation plummeted from $9 a watt down to $5.46 a watt. Today we see prices around $ 4.00 per watt.
Even with the rise in solar sales, the US is still trailing behind Germany, Italy and Spain. Around 20% of power in Germany is harvested from the sun only, but only around 11% of energy here in the Unites States comes from a collaboration of renewable resources (solar, wind, hydro, etc.). Harvesting power from the sun is a smart idea. Not only is the sun a renewable resource, but the process creates zero atmospheric emissions. It’s clean and reliable! Even with this spike in interest, solar power is still underused here in the United States because investors often look only at the capital costs. Capital costs of a Coal Power Plant are at around $ 2.10 (source Wikipedia) vs. around $ 4.00 for Solar.
Note that the capital costs are not the only determinant of the cost of the electricity produced. A coal plant needs to burn coal to produce power (a limited resource), while a solar panel and other renewable generation has no fuel input at all.
“Externality and insurance costs of energy sources” became in the 2010s recognized as equivalent to fuel costs as a decision factor. In particular for Nuclear and coal power plants but also for ground mounted Solar these costs can be deal breaking.
Roof mounted Solar power plants combined with a vegetated roof (extensive green roof) increases the capital costs by less than 20%. At the same time this marginal increase pays back in a short time due to the reduction in stormwater fees, reduction of the environmental foot print and recognizable increased in efficiency.
The synergetic combination of vegetated roof / Green Roofs with Solar is truly State-Of-The-Art and unmatched in modern green energy production and environmental protection.