Look around at houses these days and something might jump out - there’s a lot of shiny roofs!
By the end of 2016 in the U.S., over 1 million homes had solar panels, with four times as many installed that year compared to just four years earlier.
But if you don’t own the roof over your head, or can’t afford this kind of upgrade, are you left out of the solar energy revolution?
Hey, I’m Talia.
Author William Gibson once said “The future is already here.
It's just not evenly distributed yet”.
That’s kind of like solar today.
Turning light into usable energy isn’t new - living things have been doing it for like, billions of years.
Humans joined the light harvesting game about a hundred years ago, when we discovered that materials like silicon produce electricity when you shine light on them.
This led engineers to invent useful things that turn light into electrical signals, from digital cameras, to of course, solar cells.
Thanks to the steady march of innovation, solar panels are getting cheaper and cheaper.
In the US, we paid a quarter as much to get the same amount of solar power in 2017 as we did in 2009.
People choose solar power for different reasons.
Some want to pay less for electricity.
Others want to decrease the amount of CO2 they’re personally responsible for releasing.
Some just want to live as independently as possible.
You might say solar is making the near future better faster cheaper - sign me up, RIGHT?!!
But not everyone can get solar power, because installing solar panels at home can be expensive: in 2018, it cost an average of $20,000.
Through tax rebates and lower utility bills, you miiight make that back in about 20 years… that is, if you’re going to live in the same home for decades, if you’re eligible for those paybacks and, if your utility doesn’t tack on extra fees.
Let’s be honest, even if we wanted solar panels of our own, most of us don’t have 20 thousand just lying around.
And even if you have the extra cash, it may take some convincing to get your condo board or homeowners association to let you install solar panels.
Or maybe you rent, and the decision isn’t even up to you.
This means lots of people, no matter their income, don’t get to choose the sort of energy they want to use.
So communities, non-profits, entrepreneurs and governments are creating a new way: shared solar.
That includes solar “gardens”.
These banks of solar panels add electricity to the grid.
Residents or businesses can chip in to help install panels that provide renewable power to all.
In exchange, those residents or businesses get a cheaper electricity bill.
But solar gardens still require spending money now to save money later.
So more US states are pushing utilities to let customers pay a little extra get electricity that’s generated in a shared solar array.
More places are finding it makes sense to offer housing options that provide both lower rent AND lower electricity bills.
Cities in Texas and Colorado are installing solar panels in places where they provide electricity to affordable housing communities.
And in California, all new buildings must have at least a portion of their roof space available for solar panels.
Also, around the world, communities that never had electricity before are finding solar is getting them up and running faster than imagined.
In a remote village in eastern India, a bank of batteries charged by solar panels, gave residents access to LED lighting and a place to charge their phones.
Bringing less expensive electricity to a community literally em-powers the people and the economy, raising productivity and opportunity.
Shared solar is starting to show us that renewable electricity is something that everyone can