Illustration of sun in corked jar (State Dept./Doug Thompson)
(State Dept./Doug Thompson)

So you think you know solar energy? Think again.

Myth #1. Solar power doesn’t generate enough electricity.

Illustration of smokestacks blocking sun (State Dept./D. Thompson)
(State Dept./D. Thompson)

Solar energy is now mainstream and contributes to electricity grids around the world. Globally, solar installations grew by nearly 30 percent in 2015, and the industry is on an upward trend. Texas, Colorado and other U.S. states have successfully integrated solar and other renewables to the point that at certain times of year more than 50 percent of their electricity can come from renewable sources.

Myth #2. Solar energy is expensive.

Illustration of balance scale with money outweighing solar (State Dept./D. Thompson)
(State Dept./D. Thompson)

Not anymore. Solar has become very affordable. Costs of solar technology have fallen dramatically — by 80 percent since 2007 — and are expected to become even cheaper. In sunny places, electricity generated from solar is becoming cheaper than electricity from other sources.

Myth #3. Solar energy only works when the sun shines.

Illustration showing half sun and half moon making full sphere (State Dept./D. Thompson)
(State Dept./D. Thompson)

Not so. Solar energy can be a reliable energy source even when it is cloudy and in winter, as long as there is some sunlight. And electricity generated in businesses and homes may be sent to power grids in return for energy credits, paid back as the users draw from the grid after the sun goes down. Electricity also may be stored off the grid. Storage technologies are becoming increasingly efficient, with larger storage capacities.

Myth #4. Solar panels are hard to maintain.

Illustration of wrench tightening bolt on sun (State Dept./D. Thompson)
(State Dept./D. Thompson)

On the contrary, there are no moving parts to repair, and solar panels are durable and long-lasting. Hailstorms pose no problem. Most companies offer 25- to 30-year warranties because solar panels are so low-maintenance and reliable.

Myth #5. Solar energy isn’t profitable.

Illustration of sun looking at downward arrow on chart (State Dept./D. Thompson)
(State Dept./D. Thompson)

Solar energy has become cost-competitive with coal and other polluting energy resources. That’s one reason 2015 saw installed solar capacity increase 16 percent over 2014. The Solar Energy Industries Association says solar energy is growing at a record pace in the United States. California dominates the U.S. solar market, but other states are accelerating solar installations, notably Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

Those are the myths. Now a few facts.

  • Solar energy is creating lots of new jobs. In the United States alone, more than 200,000 jobs are in the solar industry — three times more than in coal. That figure is set to double by 2020.
  • Widespread use of solar energy will dramatically reduce air pollution, providing health and economic benefits. Solar technology can electrify remote and low-income communities without expensive grid infrastructure. That’s why the Chinese, Indian and U.S. governments, and many more, are investing heavily in solar technologies.
  • Expanded use of solar and other renewable energy resources is essential to meet climate goals of keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the Paris agreement.