Solar Energy is Taking Off, Have You Noticed?

When is the last time you’ve thought about energy? I mean really thought about energy, not just filling up your gas tank or turning on your furnace, but thought about where your energy comes from or how it’s produced. Well, if you are like a typical American, you haven’t. 

Recent polls show that despite the fierce geopolitical debates about energy going on in congress, most Americans are disengaged about where we get our energy and how much it costs. Most think that our biggest oil supplier is Saudi Arabia, but it’s actually Canada. One poll shows that only 14 percent of Americans read or hear about energy issues daily and about half of the respondents knew that energy production in the US is up.

Although most Americans are disconnected with energy issues, the polls do indicate that they do want more renewable energy. And it’s not just the average American who is taking interest in solar energy; big businesses have been adopting solar at an unprecedented rate. Leading solar adopters include Walmart, Costco, Kohl’s, Apple and Ikea. As a major corporate initiative, Ikea tops one list with 89 percent of its facilities powered by solar. Walmart heads up another impressive list with more installed solar capacity than 38 states

If you’ve made it this far, dear Ecocentric reader, you are not a typical American. You do care about energy and I have some good news for you. Not only is the price of solar energy continuing to fall, but there are many more options to help you understand your energy use and become more efficient at using it. 

One company that is offering a whole home approach to energy use is Energy Aware. The company is combining a system that senses how your home uses power (similar to those offered by The Energy Detective, Blue Line Innovations, Bidgely, Verdigris and Navetas) with a solar system installed on your roof. By combining all of these features, Energy Aware’s product will give its customers a greater understanding of how much solar power they’ve generated, energy use around the house and how utility rate structures (how much you pay for electricity as a residential customer) and time-of-use programs (how the price of electricity may fluctuate at different times of the day) work together.

By giving utility customers greater access to energy information, it is possible to imagine a population who cares about energy. Certainly the public takes notice when the price of gasoline increases or the power goes out. But a greater awareness of where energy comes from will help the average American become more informed about the choices they have. Truly understanding energy’s costs will not only help Americans understand why they pay so much at the pump or on their utility bills, but also the costs in emissions, water use and other external factors that arise from the US’s energy-intensive economy. It has become clear that “Americans overwhelmingly agree that the nation must transition to a new energy future that protects our water supply.” This energy-water nexus thinking may be one avenue for transforming the country’s energy consciousness. Fortunately, solar’s ever-increasing adoption coupled with new technologies will provide new opportunities to become more engaged with the role that energy plays in our lives.