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Solar Energy: Everything Contractors Need to Know

Renewable and green energy initiatives are growing in popularity, and in the U.S., solar is the fastest growing renewable resource. It could be an opportunity to grow your contractor business.

It’s not just utility companies and large organizations focusing on solar energy—homeowners are getting on the bandwagon, too.

The U.S. now has 918 megawatts of concentrated solar power, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, making it the second-largest source of new electricity in the U.S. Only natural gas beats it.

With all that energy, solar alone could power more than 2.2 million houses in the U.S.

Renewable and green energy initiatives are growing in popularity all around the globe, but in the U.S., solar is the fastest expanding renewable resource, according to the SEIA. In the U.S., 9 out of 10 people think it’s important for the country to develop and use solar power, the SEIA reported.

It’s not surprising then that solar accounts for 29 percent of new electricity generation. Comparatively, wind accounts for 7 percent.

How Does Solar Power Work?

Solar energy can be created in multiple ways.

The most popular method for generating solar power is by using photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight directly into electricity, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The PV effect was discovered in 1954 when scientists at communications company Bell Telephone found silicon created an electric charge when exposed to the sun.

PV technology has evolved since then. First, it became cells that powered satellites and small electronics like calculators and watches, according to NREL. Now, PV modules are built into panels that can be installed almost anywhere—on homes, businesses and in dedicated solar fields.

Solar cells aren’t just made of silicon anymore either, according to the NREL. Now there are solar inks, dyes and conductive plastics.

How Much Solar Does One House Need?

Solar electricity is measured in watts, which is why homeowners see kilowatt-hours or kWh on their utility bills.

One kWh is 1,000 watts of electricity used in an hour. The average amount of electricity used by a home in the U.S. is 8,900 kWh every year, according to the Solar Tribune.

If the house receives its electricity from a 1 MW solar facility nearby, that solar plant still has enough electricity to power 163 more homes.

But solar is becoming more popular for residents to take on themselves, having electricians install modules on their homes. In this way, consumers are striving to reduce their reliance on the grid while using renewable energy sources.

Isn’t It Expensive?

The cost of solar power in the U.S. has fallen 50 percent in 18 months, according to research by the SEIA and Green Tech Media. The average price for a solar panel has also decreased by 60 percent since 2011.

Costs are declining, and homeowners are probably wondering if they’ll see that benefit as well. The answer is yes, the price of a residential solar system fell 18.1 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Does It Help the Economy?

Solar power is not only producing renewable, clean energy for U.S. consumers, it’s also creating new jobs.

There are now more than 142,000 solar workers in the U.S., according to SEIA. Last year, there was a 21 percent increase in solar-related jobs, and this year, the Solar Foundation anticipated a 21 percent growth rate again.

If homeowners haven’t become familiar with solar power yet, they will soon.

Solar isn’t going anywhere. In fact, a new project is installed every four minutes in the U.S., according to the SEIA. And once someone’s neighbor gets solar panels, they’re twice as likely to invest in solar themselves.

By installing solar systems, even the value of consumers’ homes will improve because solar homes have a 17 percent higher value and sell 20 percent faster than houses without solar, according to Pure Energies.

It’s an Opportunity to Grow Your Business

If you’re interested in becoming a solar product installer in your area, getting certified may help you land more jobs.

SolarWorld is a premier manufacturer of solar products for electrical contractor installation, and the manufacturer offers an authorized installer program. It’s a good way to make connections and grow your business by diversifying your service offering.

Get the visual: Check out the infographic on the solar energy opportunity for contractors.