When solar energy became commercially viable in the mid 2000s, it was still far too expensive for the average consumer.
Since then, technology has improved, prices have dropped exponentially, governments around the world have built infrastructure, and innovators have entered the market to make this renewable source of energy more widely accessible.
“The problem in America is that most people cannot put solar on their own rooftops,” Steph Spiers, co-founder of Solstice, a solar power company, told Global Citizen. “[Around] 80% of people are locked out of the market for a ton of reasons — they're renters, a tree is covering their roof, their roof isn’t facing the right way, they don’t have the money for upfront costs, [etc.].”
Another reason according to Spiers, is of a general lack of awareness. Many people don’t realize that they can access solar energy.
The benefits of solar energy are both personal, communal, and international. Solar can greatly reduce energy costs, create more energy for power grids, and it doesn’t harm the environment with emissions. Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, which call for universal access to clean energy. You can take action on this issue here.
So if you’re interested in becoming part of the solar revolution, here are seven things you can do.
Traditional Solar Panel Installation
If you own a home, there are countless solar installation companies that can assess your roof’s viability, provide materials, install solar panels, and maintain the overall system.
They’ll even be able to work with your utilities company to arrange how your new system will fit into the larger energy grid. Here’s a list of the 20 biggest solar installers in the US.
Tesla Solar Roof
If you want a household name, a sleek design, and lifetime warranty, Tesla recently rolled out its Solar Roof for consumers in the US.
Ikea Solar Power Kits
Ikea is also getting in on the solar panel action and customers in the UK can now go to a store to pick up a panel installation kit.
Solar Sharing Program
This might be the best option for the majority of people. It doesn’t require any deep up-front costs or individual installations and it provides the same cost-savings and environmental benefits.
Essentially, sharing programs encourage people within a community to agree to joining a subscription to pay for a solar farm that’s built somewhere nearby. Ultimately, the farm supplies power to the community and the costs of the subscription are outweighed by the savings afforded by solar energy.
“The cool thing about community solar is it’s really taking this idea of the sharing economy to heart,” Spiers of Solstice, a company that specializes in community-based solar power, told Global Citizen. “You take resources [land] that are optimal for the production of solar and then you use them for solar and let everyone share [the energy].”
Spiers said that compared to installing panels on individual homes throughout the country, community-based solar panels are more efficient and can help those who are normally locked out of the market.
Solar Water Heating & Air Conditioning
Solar power can be used for more than electricity. Solar water heating and air conditioning, for instance, are two easy ways to reduce your electricity bill and carbon footprint.
It works through simple physics. A closed container storing water sits outside and absorbs the sun’s heat. It then passes this water through pipes so you can take warm showers, do the dishes, or cool your home.
This resourceful and simple form of energy can save a lot of money off your summer and winter electricity bills, according to Popular Mechanics
Ask Your Utility Company
Many utilities companies get some of their energy supply from renewable sources. Ask if the energy that flows to your home can come from renewable sources. This will make sure you’re doing your part to stay environmentally responsible, while also showing the utility that there is demand for solar power.
Encourage Your Representatives
A lot of time, large-scale renewable energy projects are greenlit and even partially funded by state and federal governments. By calling your representative and encouraging them to support renewable energy, you’re making it more likely that your future energy supply will come from solar power.
The reason some states have more solar power than others isn’t because of coincidence — it’s because they’re constituents made it clear that supporting renewables is important.