The Future of Energy Is Bright
Technologies That Were Doubted – And Now We Can’t Function Without Them
1876: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” — William Orton, President of Western Union.
1889: “Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” — Thomas Edison.
1903: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.” — The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company.
1946: “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” — Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox.
2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” — Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.
Throughout the history of the modern world, progression and integration of technology into our lives has at times been disputed or even predicted to fail. Even the prestigious minds of their time, like Thomas Edison, wouldn’t accept the progression of newer, cutting edge technologies. We’re often too comfortable in our old way of doing things that new ideas are dismissed and not taken seriously, especially if it’s seen as a threat.
Solar vs. Fossil Fuels
In today’s energy world, the top competition is solar power, and renewable energy overall. Good or bad, you’ve heard a lot about it within the last decade. You may even already have it on your roof, or know someone who does. A common argument, which has since been disputed, is that solar will never replace fossil fuels. While we still rely on these dirty sources of energy because we’ve been conditioned to, this is slowly evolving. Solar now employs more workers than coal, oil and natural gas combined, and it’s among the world’s cheapest forms of electricity. This trend will continue, and solar will steadily become cheaper as time goes on.
The progression of solar began in 2006 with the implementation of the ITC; nearly 30,000 homes in the United States had solar installed. By 2013 the number jumped to 400,000, and 4 years later it has broken records. There are now over 1 million installations across the country. This explosive growth is a result of companies like Momentum Solar, offering installations to middle class homeowners at no upfront cost.
The fossil fuels argument relies on an archaic way of thinking — these resources may have been main source of power since the industrial revolution, but we’ve come such a long way since then. We’ve drastically upgraded our technology, so why not our main source of electricity? Yes fossil fuels are convenient and have advanced us into the modern life we enjoy today, but it’s time to transition again and create a cleaner environment for future generations. Coal, while still maintaining about 30% energy capacity, has seen a 50% decrease over the last 10 years. Natural gas has increased in capacity, yes, but prices are continually rising and it’s just plain dangerous. Fracking can pose health risks to residents around the location of construction, as well as gas leaks that are a common side effect of construction.
Solar energy has already proven its efficiency and environmental benefits, but there are still skeptics who aren’t sold on the true capability. They ask: “What if it rains?” or “What if it’s cloudy?” To these doubters, fossil fuels are a comfort zone they want to remain in. Consider this fact, though: Solar panels often overproduce when the sun is shining, especially on longer days. Any excess power generated is pumped back into the grid and allows the homeowner to build a bank of energy credits to use at night or when it’s raining (a process called ‘net metering’). The panels are still generating power during days that are less sunny, just not as much. It’s like opting to not use sunscreen when it’s overcast —you can still get a sunburn. Not to mention, rain actually washes away the dust and dirt from the panels to ensure optimal production on the next sunny day.
Long story short: Renewable energy is not only the key to fighting climate change, but prices are rapidly decreasing. The cost of wind power has gone down 58% since 2009, and solar has decreased by an even more impressive 78% since then. The key to making a difference is continuing the trend of massive adoption and transition into a cleaner future. If every single American who qualifies for solar completes an installation, we’ll make a major impact.