The Future of Solar Energy in the United States
When we hear about solar power, we tend to think about massive farms of solar panels, generating thousands of kilowatt hours of energy. The debate in scientific circles has tended to focus on whether or not renewable energy sources, like wind, solar, and geothermal, can come close enough to matching the output of traditional forms of energy like oil, natural gas, and coal to make the switch to renewables worth it. In reality, any sustainable energy plan for America’s future must necessarily feature solar power as one amongst a plethora of energy options that are more sustainable for our planet. Solar power is here to stay, and many experts think that as solar panel technology is improved solar power will become more readily available for average, everyday Americans. In fact, though cost is the greatest enduring barrier to widespread use of solar panels, many technologies are being developed that will make solar powered conveniences for everybody, not just those who can afford to put a full set of solar panels on their roof.
Helen Lee Schifter has recently pointed out that solar power does not just have to do with large scale energy operations, though. Even something as simple as sustainable décor for holiday decorations can make a small impact. Helen Lee Schifter notes that many Americans like to use string lights during the holidays. The problem with that, however, is that string lights on such a grand scale tend to use a great deal of energy. A solution to this that she suggests is solar powered holiday lights that soak up the sun’s rays during the day and shine brightly at night. This would mean that a net zero amount of energy would be taken from coal or natural gas powered plants to fuel a festive holiday decoration setup. It is true that sustainable holiday decorations like solar powered lights are great for the environment and save on fossil fuels, but they also help the individual consumer as well. Those who switch to solar powered lights and other sustainable holiday decorations will notice a great deal of savings on their energy bills. Creative solutions like this are a great way to take discussions about solar power out of the media and into individuals’ homes. The future of solar power does not just have to be about how the country at large structures its power grid. In fact, discussions about solar power do not have to be political at all. Developing new sustainable technologies like solar powered holiday lights that are cheap and widely available to consumers will encourage individuals to take responsibility for the way that they consume electricity. It will also allow people to make sustainable yet small choices that, on the aggregate across many consumers, will have a great total impact on the health of the environment. In the end, that is what sustainability is all about. Helen Lee Schifter believes that each individual should be empowered to make ethical decisions that can end up making a profound impact on the world.