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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Can solar power compete with fossil fuels?

The price of solar technology is declining
Renewable energy is often a topic of intense debate. There are those that feel solar power, and other forms of renewable energy, just can’t compete with fossil fuels. However, there have been a number of important developments in the past ten years, and it is now reasonable to state that solar is on a level playing field with natural gas, oil and coal. In fact, solar may even have a slight edge, partly because of things like price, jobs and the impact on the environment.


Solar panels are expensive. However, the price continues to get more competitive each year, and coupled with a rise in coal prices, solar is looking more attractive than ever. While it is true that government subsidies are necessary at this stage, if the price of solar drops to predicted levels in the next five or six years, subsidies will simply become a thing of the past.


The sun generates an enormous amount of energy. On any given day, it provides enough power to light up the world for a year – in the span of just sixty minutes. While it was a challenge to figure out how to convert sunlight to energy, we have overcome that hurdle. In contrast, fossil fuels are becoming harder and harder to access. New machinery must be produced if we are to be successful, and that machinery will continue to pollute the Earth. And, at some point, we will simply run out of fossil fuels.


In the United States, more people are employed in the solar field than in the coal industry. Tens of thousands of jobs have been created in the past two years alone. During the same time period, there has also been a reduction in positions in the fossil fuel industry. Approximately half of all solar jobs are in installation; it is a position that pays just above the median national wage. Therefore, in many ways, solar energy is doing much more for the economy than the alternatives.

In addition, it is important to consider the fact that fossil fuels create a lot of problems that the coal companies don’t assume responsibility for. Those damages may amount to hundreds of billions of dollars.


Coal mining is harmful to the environment. It contributes significantly to air pollution, releasing more than a dozen chemicals into the atmosphere. These chemicals include copper, radium, lead, arsenic and mercury, and they can lead to acid rain, cancer and smog. Coal mining alters the landscape, killing off plants, harming wildlife and creating dust that can affect human health. Finally, it causes water pollution and contributes a significant amount of waste to our landfills. Obviously, the process of gathering solar power is much less harmful to the environment.

Some people feel that solar power simply doesn’t measure up to fossil fuels. However, recent developments have made solar energy competitive and may have even given it an advantage. Solar power is becoming more affordable, and it isn’t unusual to find solar panels or kits in residential homes. In addition, the solar industry is employing a large number of people across the country. The next few years should bring with it even more advancement in the solar industry.

About the author: Morgan is a blogger for Solar Sphere, a company committed to helping people go green with their solar kits and panels. When Morgan isn’t writing, she enjoys reading and traveling with her family.

Image license: Kevin Dooley; CC BY 2.0