Bill Gates recently made a calculation regarding the dollars spent on clean energy research versus dollars spent on gasoline. His findings were staggering. He found that in the United States (he is American after all...sigh) about 5 billion is spent per year on clean energy research versus roughly 332.8 billion spent on fuel per year for cars alone. And while those staggering statistics are not the be all and end all when it comes to the inadequacies in regards to green tech R and D, it certainly paints a picture. Those figures are not what I'm here to discuss, in fact I originally had planned on writing a mini-profile on one of my heroes and environmental superhero; Elon Musk. But perusing Musk's twitter feed I saw the Gates calculations and my feathers were more than a little ruffled.
Why is the gap so monstrous still? Why aren't more folks making the switch to clean energy? Why aren't more people seeming to care? In the midst of this frustration I came to a realization; it's not that people don't care, and it's not that people don't want to make the switch to solar (there are other alternatives but solar energy is my specific focus for this piece). I feel that it's because making the switch to solar energy feels either impossible or unfeasible for most of us folks in Edmonton (sorry non-Edmontonian readers!). So, I've done the research, and here is how to access solar energy right here in Edmonton, some price points, and what you (and Mama Earth) could get out of it.
First of all, Edmonton is one of the world's single best locations for solar powered technology as solar tech works best in sunny, cold weather. The sunny part of the equation is pretty clear, however the cold part is an interesting one. Instead of trying to explain it in detail myself, here's a link to the actual science and some cool formulas I will probably never understand on why solar works best in cold (bottom line, it works better in cold): http://bit.ly/1OVFuGk. Clearly, Edmonton, with our incredible amounts of sunshine and frigidity is ideal for the tech, but what about cost? Well, first of all, solar works best when the sun is out, i.e, during the daytime, also known as peak hours for energy providers. With Alberta's deregulated energy industries those hours have peak prices. Therein lies one of the chief virtues of going solar in Edmonton, Alberta (great savings).
Using American statistics I have created an estimation regarding how much going solar could save the average Edmontonian. Because I am a passionate nerd, I have looked at average sunlight in hours per day for various American states, and with Montana being so close in proximity and sunlight hours I have selected it. Montana receives an average 6:29 SH per day whereas Edmonton receives 6:02. Bearing in mind the American costs, solar panels save the average Edmontonian thousands per year in energy costs (the Canadian data was harder to access).
If you're worried about the up-front costs of going solar, fear no more! Most solar companies offer leasing opportunities and alternatives to up-front payments. Leasing is a brilliant option for those among you who continuously wait for prices to fall further. Just lease and then upgrade when the prices fall! For those who want actual subsidy and rebate figures, here is a full list of what Canada and Alberta has to offer: http://www.cansia.ca/government-regulatory-issues/provincial/consumer-incentives.
Additionally, there's great news on the up-front payment costs; according to recent estimates as reported by the CBC and other sources , the cost of installing solar panels for half of the average Edmonton home is about around 10-20 thousand dollars, which, when you factor in the rebates, the money saved, and the pride that comes, the price is paltry. Additionally, because of the excess energy produced via solar panels, owners can actually make money of off them. This link helps explain that: http://www.greenenergyfutures.ca/blog/enmax-makes-solar-energy-masses-easy. Of course, many may still use a combination of both solar and fossil fuels and that's okay too, but solar is a real, and very reliable option. Let's not forget either what going solar can do for those who are looking to sell their homes either. Studies show that installing solar panels can add between 15-30 thousand dollars in value to the average home as well as allowing the home to be sold about 20% quicker!
Now you probably want to know what going solar will actually save the environment, not just your pocketbook. So, I have done more nerd-statting (new term, huzzah!) and have found that all the solar users in the world combined save about 35,000,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released in the atmosphere per year and about 75 million barrels of oil per year (in addition to a myriad of other benefits). From fighting climate change, to preserving non-renewable resources longer, solar just makes sense. The world currently uses 0.0000122% of it's solar capacity, and only 0.0005% of the world would need to be covered in solar panels to power it. To say this is an underappreciated resource is like saying Michael Jordan was at least one of the best 10000 basketball players. It's true, but wildly undercutting.
Worried about the reliability of solar panels? Not to fear, most companies offer warranties of up to 25 years for all full-purchases of panels! And that's if they fail, which most don't.
There has never been a better time to go solar, the time to make the switch is today. I urge you, I implore you, I, as a young citizen of Earth and lover of this planet and it's species ask of you to make the switch, to encourage others to do so, and if you don't have the means yet (like me) you can always aid the cause in some way. I have stressed the importance of solar in this piece, but there are other ways to contribute and, to conveniently save money. Of course not all of you want to go solar, nor do all of you necessarily need to (you should though), but I hope this helps some among you, and those with whom you share it.
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not." -Dr.Seuss from The Lorax
Here is a list of all the solar providers in Edmonton and Alberta: http://solaralberta.ca/directory/alberta-solar-providers. If you want to set up panels, book a consultation with any provider and the rest will be as straightforward as a straight thing (I've been writing for a long time, okay?!).
Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading,
PS: My bibliography reads like the Encyclopedia Britannica so if you have any questions about sources at all, feel free to just ask me directly!