The SunPower by Stellar Solar SolarCast: Earth Day with Michael Powers
In our first episode of the SunPower by Stellar Solar SolarCast we are talking with CoFounder Michael Powers about Earth Day, it's history, and how it's popularity has correlated with the growth of the solar industry. Michael is a longtime solar industry expert who runs a popular renewable energy news blog: terrawatts.com.
Earth Day History
Earth Day started during the Vietnam War in the 1970's along with the Peace Movement. The perceived meaninglessness of the Vietnam War caused many young Americans to question the intentions of the government, including it's intentions with the environment. In 1970 this sparked a Winsconsin Judge to establish Earth Day as a national holiday to be celebrated on April 20 every year. The point of the holiday is to make people aware of the health of the planet at least one day a year, which will hopefully cause them to think about it more often and become concious of their own habits that may affect the planet.
Solar made it's debut around the same time as Earth Day, in the 70's when people were starting to consider alternatives to fossil fuels. It started off mainly as 'thermal solar' which was utilizing solar to heat water, marked by Jimmy Carter installing thermal solar on the White House during his presidency. When photovoltaic solar came around in that time, it was mostly powering off-grid houses that needed an alternative power source. It took progressive government legislation to finally get solar to a level that was affordable and made sense for on-grid homes.
With the emergence of Net Metering in the 1990's, solar finally had a chance to reach the mainstream. Many states, 2/3 of all US states in fact, adopted Net Metering laws, which made it so that solar homeowners could sell the extra power they were producing back to the power company for retail price or "cash value". This made it so that solar homeowners could "zero out" their electric bill, such that they were using more less power than they are producing, and therefore would have to pay no money to the utility company, their electric bill being zero. The combination of Net Metering and the lowering costs of solar panels allowed solar to explode nationwide.
Solar and the Environment
While the financial benefits of solar help the individual, the environmental benefits help us all. While the environmental benefits aren't quite enough to sell most people on solar, some people enjoy the fact that they are helping to reduce their carbon footprint. That's because solar is a renewable resource, and presents an alternative to burning fossil fuels, which are harmful to our environment. Climate change, as it is popularly refferred to now, is proven to be a consequence of our relentless burning of coal and natural gases, so solar provides an alternative, 100% carbon free source of energy that will not contribute to greenhouses gases and as a result, climate change. Solar homeowners can feel good about the fact that they are both saving money, and reducing their impact on the environment.