I have had a look at the articles written to this title and I believe that I am the only person who is actually using Solar Power to solve my own energy needs. Obviously for this reason I do believe that solar power is a potential solution to the energy crisis. I want to explain here how we have used solar power to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and provide for our energy needs.
We bought our first panels over twenty years ago when we moved to the Australian Bush. At that time it would have cost us $17000 to hook to the grid whereas our used panels, batteries and inverter were all up only about $4000. So for us, it was actually financially a better decision to go solar. That first system was inefficient and solar panels are much better these days. We did have a back up generator for cloudy days and a kitchen that ran on gas but we still got more than half our power from the sun. With an inverter we were able to have all the "mod cons": lights, tv, computer, music etc. When we put on the generator to fizz the batteries, we used that power to run the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner and any other power hungry machinery that we needed such as power tools. Needless to say, we were very power-conscious and always turned off lights and appliances when not in use.
The best thing about being solar powered is not losing one's power when the grid goes down. When other people were suffering power outages our system went right on producing.
A few years ago we replaced our system with much more efficient panels. We still have batteries and a back up generator because we are not connected to the grid. The batteries are the weak link in a stand alone system. They are a pain in the butt because we have to make sure they don't go flat, keep them topped up with water and check the acid levels. The ideal situation would be to have panels and also be connected to the grid. That way the home could feed power in when the sun was out and take power back out when it was cloudy or night time. Energy efficient homes could be net energy producers, while people who were profligate would have to pay for some of their energy but would still have lower bills than those who had no panels. Since the initial investment is still hefty, the ideal situation would be for power companies to produce the panels, install them and let the owners pay them off over time through their energy contributions. This would work if the 'green' power the panels produced could be sold for more than non-renewable sources such as coal.
The trouble with this scenario is that the big power companies don't want people to have such control over their own power production and needs. They want to have big power plants that make big bucks by selling power to customers who are dependent on them. That is why people need to take matters into their own hands and invest in solar panels.
I believe that every home could be providing some of its own power and water needs, if every home had solar panels on the roof plus a rainwater tank. This would help considerably with the energy crisis and allow people some level of self sufficiency, especially if they also had a garden in their back yard. If people had access to solar power, then when the grid went down they would at least still have lights. As well as emergency candles and torches, people should keep solar powered garden lights, which could be brought into the house and used when the grid was down. This wouldn't work so well for high rise buildings and apartment blocks but in America and Australia, many people own homes in suburbia where the roofs are large and capable of supporting a lot of solar panels.
Solar power has certainly helped me solve my personal energy crisis. It was an easier decision for me because grid connection was so expensive out here. For those who are already connected to the grid, solar power is still an option if people think beyond the box and want to help solve the problem rather than just whinging about the cost and thinking that the only issue is money.
Solar power may not be sufficient to supply all our needs but there are a lot of watts falling on the earth every day that could be harnessed to make us less dependent on fossil fuels and to help solve the energy crisis we are now facing.