I am a strong proponent of using solar energy. Out of all the renewable sources out there, for some reason, I simply have more of an affinity for solar. But is it practical for the entire US to convert every rooftop?
I suppose that depends on what stocks you own and in what industries your family works.
8 Things that Going Solar Would Change
So, this is merely a hypothetical situation. In reality, it’s probably not practical to mount solar panels on every roof of every home in the United States. But, I was curious to see what would happen if we did.
And I’m sure I’m probably missing a few data points. So, take this with a grain of salt. But what I have come across, makes for an interesting outlook.
1. Giving Every Household an Extra $1,373 per year
If the government decided to implement a solar panel program for every household, each would essentially get an extra $1,373 per year. This is taken from the average electric bill across the United States.
Of course, every location is different. For instance, the average bill in Alabama is considerably higher than it is in Kentucky.
However, as a whole, the entire country would be individually powered. This means there is no energy bill for the electricity itself. All that’s left is the gas-powered units of homes such as the water heater and/or furnace.
On the upside, these things can also be replaced with electrical appliances. In truth, there really is no need for combustion-based technology today.
2. Decimating the Need for Gas, Oil, and Coal
As I mentioned, everything today has an electric alternative. This means there is no longer a need for gas, oil, or coal. And if there was a solar array on everyone’s house, we wouldn’t need nuclear plants, either.
Any downtime from producing energy, such as winter, rainy days, and at night, wind farms can pick up what little slack there is.
Because we do have the capacity to set up energy storage locations for the explicit purpose of collecting the sun’s power to use for later.
3. Greater Need for Energy Storage
Speaking of energy storage, this is perhaps one of the biggest downfalls to implementing a wide-scale plan of this magnitude. In order to keep the grid active, the US would definitely need more energy storage facilities.
And to be able to sustain a large number of homes simultaneously, the facilities would have to take up a large section of an industrial area. This means using up a lot of land mass.
One of the largest in the US is that of the energy facility in Escondido, California. This massive lithium-ion storage locale, and it’s smaller counterpart in El Cajon, can service up to 25,000 homes for four straight hours.
Now, keep in mind that these facilities wouldn’t have to continuously power the grid. Between the power collected during the day, any homes that already have off-grid batteries, and wind farms, these facilities would act more like a stop-gap.
That way, brownouts and blackouts would be extremely minimal. Probably about as often as they happen now, if not to a less degree.
4. Eliminating Natural Monopolies
Utility companies are what’s called, “natural monopolies.” It’s the only way that a monopoly is legal given the situation of providing certain services. I mentioned a bit about Xcel Energy being a natural monopoly trying to be carbon neutral in the next few decades.
But the fact remains, they are the only electricity game in town, unless you install solar or wind turbines on your property.
Anyway, by adding panels to every roof, this would immediately end those monopolies. Of course, billions of dollars would be lost by those companies as there would be no need to keep them around.
Then again, you wouldn’t be at the mercy of the electric company…especially if you don’t have the money to pay your bill. Instead, it would be “free” electricity for all.
I only say free because, after the initial install, I’d assume the government would pay for maintenance, upkeep, replacements, and repairs. Which would create more jobs – more on that in a moment.
But there is still a cost involved for someone. In this case, it would be tax dollars at work. But, it would be for an exceptionally worthy cause.
5. Would Cost About $2.5T to Implement
So, this is a very generalized amount. That’s because I’m using the amount of money it would take to put solar on my roof in Denver, Colorado times the number of households in the US.
Currently, there are 128.58 million households in the United States, if you’re curious. And it’s a growth of approximately one million per year.
Anyway, at the current climate, it would cost the government approximately $2.5 trillion dollars to implement wide-scale solar distribution. This would mean every home in the US would be self-sufficient in terms of electricity.
The downside to this is the amount of time it would take to install solar panels on every roof. There simply aren’t enough trained professionals to do this on a massive scale within any reasonable amount of time.
6. The Need for Career Support Services
Once we start rolling out power to all of the households, a lot of businesses are going to shut down completely. This means we would need some kind of response to help people find new career paths.
And this is something I complained about quite a bit when coal was getting shut down. On the other hand, a lot of people didn’t take advantage of the support services that were available out of defiance.
So, you can’t really put all the blame squarely on the government for sinking the coal industry. If you’re not willing to improve your life when someone offers, the fault of failure is your own.
Still, there could have been far more put into place before the legislation was passed. A seamless transition from one career to another probably would have saved a lot of these towns that experienced hardships once the mines were closed.
7. Safer Advancement in Technology
One of the things that drives a capitalist economy is finding cheaper ways to do something while making more money. Unfortunately, cheaper isn’t always better.
Especially when you start buying cheap products from places in China.
And if you skimp on technological safety concerns just so you can make a buck, problems can crop up. For instance, there should be no reason a solar panel should fail and cause a fire.
Although this is an incredibly rare occurrence, it does lend to the point of not cutting corners. And I’m sorry to say, a lot of manufacturers out there do just that.
We live in a disposable society. If we want real reform to secure a future, this mentality has to be changed. It needs to be less about profit and more about the stability of a product.
8. Creating Jobs
And lastly, a solar roll-out such as this would create quite a few jobs. I know I said that many companies would go out of business. But who is going to maintain panels, the lines, batteries, and other elements that go into a renewable power grid?
Not to mention how something of this scale would need an army of professionals for the next few decades.
It’s almost job security, when you think about it.
I highly doubt the government can install more than one million households worth of solar power each year. And since the growth rate is faster, that means it would be a never-ending workflow.
Well, that is until every square inch of the United States was covered in houses and apartments.
But Total Solar Won’t Happen Anytime Soon
I find it fun to hypothesize about solutions to world problems. But in reality, setting up every household with solar power just isn’t practical for a slew of reasons.
Mostly, because something like this is no where near being profitable.
And because money is what makes the world turn, it’s something we’ll never see in this century. Still, it’s not entirely out of the scope of possibility.
It would just take one hell of a commitment from the government to buy everyone solar panels.
Michael has been interested in the practicality of living green for quite some time. He works closely with GreenGeeks Web Hosting as the Content Marketing Team Lead and an author of various articles.