25 Common Questions About Solar

1. Will solar power save me money?

The short answer is, yes.

To understand why, though, takes a little bit more analysis. The thing about solar is that it’s a long-term investment. It’s like you’re pre-paying your electricity costs all upfront and then you’re reaping the benefits for years to come.

With solar, you purchase a system that is capable of generating the electricity you use (or at least a percentage of what you use). That portion of your electric bill is then taken care of for at least the next 25 years and most likely 30 or 40 years.

To illustrate how it works, imagine that someone came to you back in 1980 and asked if they could install a gas pump in your back yard.

You could pump enough gas to cover all of your needs for $1.00 per gallon. However, you had to pay a one-time fee of $15,000.

At the time, you might’ve hesitated because coming up with $15,000 all at once might’ve been a challenge. However, when you thought about the numbers, it would definitely be in your best interests to make the deal.

By comparison, if you kept going to the gas station for the rest of your life, you would spend way more than $15,000 in gas costs.

The same principle applies with going solar. You’re prepaying your electricity costs for a fraction of the cost that you’re going to spend with the utility company for the rest of your life.

However, you do have to pay for the system on the front end.

Luckily, the solar industry has evolved to the point where most customers who go solar use innovative financing programs to help pay for their purchase. These financing programs get you a low monthly payment that is fixed to help you pay for your system.

The payment is typically cheaper than what you’re currently paying for electricity. This means that on a monthly basis, you may be able to start saving money right from the beginning.

Regardless of whether you’re looking at it on a monthly basis with financing or looking at the long-term numbers of a cash purchase, solar will save you money.

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2. Will Solar Power Get Cheaper?

Solar power pricing has been on a steady decline for the last few years.

By some estimates, prices have fallen over 99% compared to where they were 10 years ago. Manufacturers achieving economies of scale, the 30% solar tax credit, and improvements in technology have led to lower pricing.

The significant pricing decreases have made solar power a viable option for the average homeowner in Missouri.

While the decreases have been steady, most experts agree that the decreasing prices are on hold for now.

Over the last year, pricing has remained steady and actually started increasing again. Industry forecasts see equipment pricing increasing in 2018 and possibly beyond.

The two biggest factors that are driving pricing increases are huge demand and a trade dispute that could result in tariffs on imported solar panels.

Two panel manufacturers in the United States (that are owned by foreign entities) filed an obscure trade case with the Federal Trade Commission, seeking tariffs on imported solar panels. Since the vast majority of panels are imported from outside the U.S., this has the potential to impact the industry.

Manufacturers have started preemptively raising prices because of this, and many companies are buying stock of panels in preparation for tariffs.

In addition to the pricing increases on equipment, the 30% federal tax credit is scheduled to step down over the next few years until it expires in 2023. While a lot of different factors go into the final price of a solar power system, the moral of the story is that there is really no incentive to wait anymore.

The time is now and you may never get a better deal on solar.

As a side note, if you happen to be on Empire Electric, the timing is definitely in your favor to go solar now. A rebate that they offer for customers who go solar will step down in 2019 and eventually go away.

The rebate money could also run out for the entire program at any time, so if you are considering going solar on Empire….the sooner the better.

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3. Can Solar Power Be Stored?

Solar power can be stored in batteries. This is done in systems that are grid-tied with battery backups and in off-grid solar systems.

With this approach, the panels convert the sun’s energy into DC power, which then travels into the batteries and is stored until the home uses the energy. This makes it possible to operate independently of the utility grid.

While this technology sounds really cool, it’s not practical for the vast majority of customers.

Of all of the solar systems installed worldwide every year, less than 1% of them utilize battery technology to store the solar energy. Batteries are currently too expensive and unreliable for most homes. The large electrical loads most homes have (like air conditioning, clothes dryers, water heating, etc) require too much immediate power to pull it all from batteries. Instead, they use a method in which the system is connected to the grid.

With this approach, energy is used by the house or business in real-time and any excess flows back onto the utility grid. The utility then keeps track of how much energy is going back onto the grid. When the solar customer isn’t producing power, they pull what they need back off of the grid. This is also referred to as net metering.

By doing this, you’re basically using the grid as your battery without the cost or maintenance of batteries. It’s much more affordable and it works like a charm. Grid-tied systems are currently the only ones that Simple Solar offers.

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4. Can Solar Power My Whole House?

Yes! One of the common misconceptions about solar power is that you run only certain items with the power that is produced.

While this may be the case with off-grid systems, grid-tied systems, like the ones Simple Solar installs, do not provide power to specific devices. Instead, it simply a percentage of the electricity that your entire house uses.

For example, you could offset 10%, 50% or even 100% of your monthly electrical usage.

The solar system ties into your home’s electrical system and simply provides power as it is produced. The amount of your usage that can be offset by solar depends on the size and angle of your roof, as well as your budget. Many customers do offset their entire electric bills with solar.

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5. What are Solar Power Advantages?

Solar power has grown massively in popularity in recent years, but it still has a long way to go before the majority of people are familiar with it.

Many are unclear on the many benefits of going solar and because of that are not sure what to make of it.

What are some of the advantages of solar power?

Avoid rising utility rates. One of the biggest benefits of going solar is that you can avoid rising utility rates. With solar, you buy a system that produces a certain amount of your power for the next 25 or 30 years.

That portion of your electric bill is eliminated, and you don’t have to worry about the utility company raising their rates every year anymore.

Tax benefits. Solar makes it possible for you to send less money to Uncle Sam in taxes. The biggest tax benefit of going solar is the 30% federal tax credit.

This allows you to take 30% of the cost of your solar system and claim it as a tax credit. In addition to the tax credit, businesses can also claim depreciation on the cost of their solar system.

Helping the environment. Solar is a clean and renewable energy source. Harvesting the sun’s rays to produce power doesn’t create any pollution or hurt the environment like some other sources of energy.

Independence. Getting a solar system installed is like creating your very own power plant. You make energy right on your own property instead of relying completely on the utility company to do it for you. While you can’t disconnect completely from the grid, you have the ability to generate your own power every time the sun comes up.

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6. What is a Solar Power Inverter?

If you’re new to solar power, you may be wondering what all it takes to put together a working solar system for your home or business. While most people are somewhat familiar with solar panels and what they do, the solar power inverter is kind of a mystery.

What exactly is a solar power inverter and why do you need one?

Quite simply, the inverter is like the brains of the operation. It performs the vital task of converting the energy produced by the solar panels into a form of electricity that your house can use.

Solar panels produce Direct Current or DC energy. Your house runs on Alternating Current or AC. The energy produced by the panels runs down into the inverter, is converted to AC and then on into your house, so that it can be used.

The inverter also communicates with the electric grid and keeps the energy in sync. If the grid goes down, the inverter immediately shuts down as a safety feature. This ensures that no electricity makes its way back onto the grid and shocks anyone working on the lines. Overall, the inverter is essentially the hub that makes the whole system work.

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7. When Does Solar Power Work?

Solar systems only generate power when the sun is out. The solar panels in the system use the sun’s light to produce electricity.

While the panels are less efficient on cloudy days, they still do produce electricity.

One of the common misconceptions about solar power is that you can’t offset your entire electric bill because it doesn’t produce anything at night. However, this is not the case.

When you have a system professionally installed by Simple Solar, we can size the system so that it produces enough power during the day while the sun is out that it offsets all of your usage. By doing this, you effectively use the utility company as a way to store your extra power produced during the day.

At night, when your system isn’t producing power, you get what you need from the grid. If the system is sized correctly, the power you put on the grid offsets the amount you take off. This means that even though your system isn’t producing at night, it can produce more than what you need during the day.

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8. Why is Solar Power Not Widely Used?

Many people wonder, “if solar power is so great, why don’t more people use it?”

The answer to that is complex, but it boils down to one primary factor. Up until recently, it wasn’t really cost effective for the average person to go solar.

The cost of solar 20 years ago was many times more expensive than it is now. For example, a system that now costs $15,000-$25,000 might’ve cost someone $100,000-$150,000. Obviously, an average homeowner couldn’t afford to drop that much money on a solar system.

Another big change that’s occurred in recent years is the increased availability of financing mechanisms to help regular people go solar.

Instead of having to write a check for a system for thousands of dollars, you can use a solar financing plan, get the system installed, and just make a small monthly payment that’s often lower than your existing electric bill.

It’s become more about trading an electric bill for a smaller solar payment instead of coming up with a huge chunk of money upfront.

These changes have made solar available to the average person, and thousands of homeowners are making the switch every day.

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9. Why is Solar Power Useful?

Solar power is useful because it provides a renewable source of energy that is created by clean, abundant sunshine.

When you stop and think about it, being able to create as much power as you need with something that is literally all around you, every day, is unbelievable.

Another big benefit of solar power is that it helps you break free from the monopoly of the utility company.

Although monopolies are technically illegal in the United States, somehow the “powers that be” missed the utility company. In Missouri, you’ve got a total of one choice when it comes time to get electricity.

Why is that a bad thing for you? Because when there is no competition required, there is no incentive for the utility to earn your business. This means that they can charge whatever they want to, within reason.

That’s why the rates keep going up year after year.

When you make the decision to go solar, it’s like you’re finally taking charge of your own energy situation.

Instead of relying on someone else to make the power that you and your family use, you’re making it right there at your house. While you’re not going to break free from the utility completely, you at least won’t have to buy all your power from them, or be subject to their constantly increasing rates.

Solar power is useful because it gives you a slice of economic freedom, while at the same time helping the planet.

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10. Are solar power systems really worth it?

That depends on your perspective and several factors that are specific to your situation.

Here are a few things that will determine whether investing in solar is right for you:

What do you pay the utility? The rate that you pay the utility per kilowatt-hour is one of the biggest factors in considering whether an investment in solar is wise. If your utility rate is higher, the payback period for an investment in solar is shortened. Each utility in Missouri charges a different rate, so solar is more attractive to some customers than others.

Your roof. Not every roof is perfect for solar. If you have South, East, or West facing roof space that isn’t shaded, then it could be ideal for solar. If you have trees that shade the whole roof and you’re unwilling to trim or remove the trees, then solar isn’t going to work. If your roof has many obstructions on it, this can also negatively impact the amount of panels that can fit. Most homes can at least fit some panels on the roof, but the size of the system we can do may be affected.

Time frame. Another thing to think about when determining if solar is worth it is the time frame you’re looking at. With solar, it’s almost like you’re pre-paying your electricity costs for the next several years. You buy a system that produces power for the next 25 or 30 years. The advantage of doing it that way is that the cost of the system is much less than what you’re going to pay the power company over 25 or 30 years just to buy electricity. Some people look at what seems like a bigger investment to get a solar system, but don’t compare that to 25 or 30 years of electricity costs. You have to look at the big picture and think of solar as an investment that will pay off big in the long run.

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11. How Solar Power Works at Night

For the uninitiated, one of the most common questions about solar power is “what happens at night?”.

If the sun isn’t out, your solar panels won’t work, so do you just not have power at night if you go solar? Of course not!

When you have solar power, you’re still connected to the grid. The solar system works in conjunction with the grid.

During the day, your solar system makes more than what your house needs to function at that time. The excess goes back onto the grid and your meter keeps track of the extra going onto the grid.

At night, when your solar isn’t producing any power, any energy you need comes from the utility grid. The meter then measures how much power is coming into your home.

If your solar system is sized correctly, the power going out to the grid will cancel out the power coming into your house from the grid. In essence, you’re using the utility as your solar system’s battery.

If you are thinking about going solar, don’t worry… you don’t have to live by candle light and wood heat at night!

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12. Will Solar Power Ever be Viable?

The short answer is…yes! It’s viable right now!

The idea that solar power isn’t viable for some reason is a very common misconception. If you’ve never really looked into solar power for your home in-depth, then you might believe that solar isn’t a realistic option for your home. In reality, it’s more realistic than it’s ever been and possibly ever will be.

The cost of solar equipment has come down significantly over the last decade.

That is probably the biggest factor in determining the viability of solar for your home. When it cost 10 times more than it does now, only very wealthy people could afford to go solar. Now that it’s come down, the average person can realistically afford solar.

Another big factor in solar becoming viable is the fact that utility rates have risen every year. On average, it has gone up 5% per year nationally. As the utility rates increase, solar becomes more and more viable.

The third thing that has made solar a viable option for the average homeowner is financing. In the past, there were no realistic options when it comes to paying for a solar system. Now that solar has become more common, lenders have created financing programs that are designed to make solar more affordable.

Instead of having to come up with a large chunk of money all at once, you can make a small, monthly payment instead. Most of the time, the monthly payment is less than the cost of your monthly electric bill.

Overall, solar is viable for the majority of people in our area. If you own your home and you pay an electric bill, solar could realistically be viable for you.

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13. Will Solar Power Take Over?

Solar power is a long way from becoming the dominant form of energy production in the world.

Currently, less than 1% of the power generated on the grid comes from solar power. With that being said, thousands of people and businesses across the United States are going solar every year.

At some point, solar may overtake other forms of energy as the most predominant source of energy. However, there is a long way to go before that happens.

Why isn’t solar more widely used?

It takes a long time to change the perception that it’s not a viable source of energy. Solar has been around for a long time and for the vast majority of its existence, it wasn’t affordable. This has lead to an ongoing perception that it’s too expensive and not realistic.

The utility companies also generally don’t like people to go solar, because it reduces the amount of power that they can sell. Many of them have done everything in their power to try to squash solar from going mainstream.

Although solar is a long way from taking over the world, that doesn’t mean that it’s not the best option for you. For many people, it’s still the absolute best way for them to generate power. Don’t let the fact that most people don’t know about solar yet deter you from making the decision that’s best for you and your family.

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14. Can Solar Power Run AC?

Air conditioning is often the biggest electrical load that most homes have.

During the summer, homeowner’s electric bills are usually higher than at any other time of the year. This is because of the big electrical demand that a regular air conditioning unit requires.

So can solar power provide enough electricity to run your air conditioner?

Solar power can provide whatever electrical load you have, provided you have a big enough solar system.

Huge businesses that need 3-phase power utilize solar for their energy needs. To understand how this works, you have to stop thinking of solar running specific appliances or electrical loads in your home.

If you were talking about an off-grid system, then this would make sense. However, the overwhelming majority of solar installations are grid-tied.

With a grid-tied solar system, the energy that the system produces is fed into the home’s existing electrical system and is used up in real-time. If your system is making more than what you need in that moment, it goes back onto the grid and you get credit for it.

Solar power is not flowing specifically to your AC unit or to your fridge or anything else in the house. It’s just being fed into the house just the same as the power comes into your house from the grid.

Instead of thinking about the solar powering specific things in your house, just think about it providing power to offset the total amount of electricity that your house uses each month. With enough solar panels, your system can offset any amount of your electric bill.

In summary, solar can provide enough power to run an AC unit, but only if you get a big enough system to provide that amount of electricity.

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15. How Solar Power Saves Money

Solar power saves you money by reducing the amount of electricity that you have to buy from someone else. Anytime that you can do something yourself cost-efficiently, it’s going to save you money compared to going out and buying it from someone else.

The same principle applies with gardening. Many people grow a garden every year because it allows them to grow a large portion of the food that they eat. Instead of having to go to the grocery store to pay a premium for organic vegetables, you can grow them in your own back yard.

Over the course of time, the amount of money that you can save by doing this is astounding. The same thing applies with solar power.

When you buy a solar system, you’re purchasing your very own little power station. The power company invests millions or billions of dollars to build power plants that can produce power that they can turn around and sell for a profit.

By going solar, you’re cutting out the middle man and making the power yourself on your own property. Over time, the savings you realize will be substantial.

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16. Why Solar Power is Sustainable

Solar power is considered to be a renewable and sustainable form of energy. Why exactly is it sustainable while many other forms of energy are not?

Solar is sustainable because it is created by converting the sun’s rays into electricity. Sunlight isn’t going anywhere and the sun has risen every day since the beginning of time. You can’t exhaust the supply of sunlight and it never slows down. All over the Earth, there is way more sunlight than we need to produce enough electricity for everyone.

By comparison, think about fossil fuels. We go through drastic measures to extract it from the ground and transport it around the globe. While fossil fuels have served a valuable purpose in helping to develop the world, sunlight is readily available everywhere. By simply setting up the right type of equipment, you can harness that sustainable energy source right at home.

Fossil fuels take many years to produce and there is a finite supply of them.

Solar power doesn’t run out, and it is plentiful enough to provide the energy the planet needs and then some.

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17. What Does Solar Power Cost?

One of the most commonly asked questions we get is “what does it cost?” When thinking about the cost of solar power, you have to look at the net cost after incentives and then compare it to the cost of doing nothing.

For example, an average home in Missouri can get enough solar power to offset their electric bill for somewhere around $25,000. However, $25,000 isn’t the amount that you ultimately have to pay for the system. The federal tax credit for solar will give you 30% of that cost off of your taxes for the year. That means in this example, you’d get a tax credit of $7,500. This customer would then have a net cost of $17,500. If you happen to be on Empire Electric, you’d also be eligible for a rebate of over $4,000. After deducting the rebate, your net cost is only $13,500.

Now when you take a look at what you will pay the utility company over the next 25 or 30 years, you’ll probably be blown away. This size house might pay the utility $60,000 or $70,000 in utility costs over 30 years when factoring in their rising rates.

This means that you’re ultimately paying $13,500 for something that’s going to offset as much as $70,000 or more in utility costs.

Besides looking at just the cost, you also have to look at the financing options available. The vast majority of our customers use our financing programs to go solar. With these programs, you get a low monthly payment to pay for the solar that is usually less than your electric bill.

This means that you’re essentially saving money in your monthly budget right off the bat. Even though there is a cost associated with going solar, you’ll save a lot more than you spend.

For most people, the savings start right away.

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18. Which Solar Power Company is the Best?

Simple Solar, of course! If you’re trying to weigh your options and choose the solar installation company that’s right for you, look no further.

What exactly makes Simple Solar the best solar installer in Missouri?

Quality installation. One of the biggest things we offer is quality installation. When you go solar with Simple Solar, you can rest assured that your project is being installed to the highest quality standards. We use the best installers in the area, and we pay attention to detail.

NABCEP Certification. NABCEP is the certifying agency in the solar industry that ensures you’re getting someone who knows what they’re doing. We are a NABCEP associate, which means we’ve got experience in the industry and have been recognized as being an expert.

Simple process. Going solar doesn’t have to be a huge, daunting project. It can be simple! Going solar with us ensures that you won’t have any headaches or issues to deal with along the way. Just sign some paperwork and we take care of the rest – fast!

Simple Solar portal. With the Simple Solar customer portal, you can keep track of what’s happening with your project every step of the way. You no longer have to wonder what’s happening behind the scenes. With the portal, you can login and get the scoop!

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19. Why Solar Power is the Best Energy Source

Solar is the best source of energy for several reasons.

Obviously, we’re a solar company, so we’re a little biased. But when you think about all that solar has going for it, we think you’ll agree.

Renewable. One of the biggest benefits of solar power is that it’s renewable. No one has to go out and drill for solar power. It never runs out, and it’s available anywhere. If the world can get away from utilizing finite sources of energy like fossil fuels, we’ll all be better off.

No maintenance. When you invest in a solar energy system, you don’t have to worry about maintenance or moving parts. With wind energy, for example, you have a turbine that is turning non-stop. That requires some kind of lubrication and you’re counting on moving parts never wearing out. With solar, nothing is moving or wearing out. You just install the system and forget about it.

Independence. With solar, you can achieve a degree of independence. When you buy your power from the electric company, you’re at their mercy. When they raise their rates, you have to agree to pay them. You can’t really go down the street to another utility. When you install your own solar equipment, it allows you to control the cost of your energy production. You buy the system one time and that’s your total cost for energy.

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20. Can Solar Power Charge an Electric Car?

Have an electric car and wish you could charge it with solar? Well, you’re in luck because you can!

There are a couple different ways that you can charge an electric car with solar. No, they don’t involve duct taping solar panels to the roof of your new Tesla either.

Electric cars allow you to simply plug them into an outlet at your house to charge. If you take this approach and want to power your car with solar, you’d simply install a grid-tied solar system.

With this strategy, your entire house can be powered by solar and you’re tied into the grid. You’re not necessarily going to be generating power straight from the sun and pumping it into your car. Instead, you’re just offsetting a certain percentage of your usage with solar.

If you charge your car at night, that power is going to be coming straight off the utility grid. However, if you have a big enough system, it should’ve put power onto the grid for you during the day.

The other way is to invest in a solar car charger unit. Some of these actually have solar panels right on them.

They are fully self-contained units that collect sunlight during the day, have batteries to store the power, and you can plug your electric car directly into them. These are less common, but it is possible to charge your car directly with solar power by using them.

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21. Will Solar Power Reach Grid Parity?

Yes…in fact it already has! Where have you been?! It really depends on what your time frame is and what utility you’re on.

Grid parity basically means that the cost of the power produced by solar is on par with, or cheaper, than what you can buy power from the grid.

A typical solar system is guaranteed to last at least 25 years and often last a lot longer than that. This means that if you take the total cost of the solar system and divide it out by all of the kilowatt-hours that it’s going to produce over the next 25 years, the cost will be cheaper than what you could buy that same power from the grid.

With that being said, the rate that you pay your utility provider, and how much their rates increase over the next 25 years will play a role in this calculation also. Solar systems on some utilities will pay off much faster than others, because some customers pay much more for electricity than others.

Regardless, solar will still be cheaper over the course of 25 years than sticking with the grid.

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22. How Solar Power Works for Dummies

Solar panels make electricity from sunlight. The end.

Just kidding! It’s a little more complex than that.

Solar panels are comprised of solar cells. These cells collect sunlight, which makes electrons move inside them. This creates a DC electrical current.

The cells are wired together inside the panel and the current travels through the wires and out of the panel. All of the panels are connected together, and their collective energy produced travels down wiring to an inverter. The inverter is the brains of the operation and is what converts the DC electricity made by the panels into AC electricity.

From there, the AC power goes into the electrical system of your house or business and is used just like regular power from the utility. If your house has more power than it needs, the extra will be pumped onto the grid. In this case, it goes through a bidirectional meter that keeps track of power going both ways.

While there are more components than this in a solar system, this should give you a decent idea of how a solar system works in general. The important thing to know is that it works like a charm and it can offset your electric bill.

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23. What Are Solar Power Cells?

Solar cells are the main components that comprise solar panels (modules). They are typically small, square-shaped or rectangular pieces that are blue or black.

You can see several of them on the front of a solar panel. This is where the “magic” happens with a solar system. The cells are made of silicon and when sunlight hits them, electrons start to move. These moving electrons cause a current to be created inside the cell.

Multiple solar cells are connected together within the panel. Each panel typically has 3 strings of cells within it. The currents of each solar cell combine together, which increases the power as it leaves the panel.

There are different types of solar cells and different ways to make them, but they all fulfill the same basic purpose, which is to generate electricity from sunlight.

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24. Will Solar Power Work After an EMP?

One of the common questions that we get from people preparing for a worst-case scenario is if their solar system will work after an EMP blast.

The truth is that, no one really knows, because there hasn’t ever been a large scale EMP attack before. Factors like the location and strength of the EMP blast will play a role in what electronics still work.

One thing to keep in mind is that over 99% of solar systems are connected to the utility grid. This means that if the grid goes down, the solar system most likely will not work either.

If you don’t have a battery backup with your solar system, then the system will not work when the grid goes down. Even if your system isn’t necessarily damaged directly by the EMP, if the grid is down, your system will be down as well.

If you have a battery backup system, there’s a chance that the system could still work after the EMP attack, but no one can really guarantee for sure if it would.

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25. Why is Solar Power Bad?

Solar power is bad if you happen to work for the electric company.

In that case, you most likely don’t want solar power to take off because it takes money out of the electric company’s pocket.

Every time a customer goes solar, that reduces the amount of power that the electric company can sell. While they’ll still charge that customer a connection fee, they don’t get to sell them as much, or possibly any electricity any more. When you multiply that by hundreds or even thousands of homes and businesses on one utility, it starts to add up pretty quickly.

So if you work for the utility company or someone in your family works there, you might not be thrilled about the idea of solar power becoming more mainstream. However, for everyone else…it’s definitely a good thing!

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