How to talk to your family about solar

It’s the holiday season and that means extra time spent with family (for better or worse). If you already have solar on your home, or you’re planning on installing solar panels soon, you may get some curious questions from relatives. Even if you’re not going solar yet, it’s a great time to talk about why the future of energy is solar and maybe win a few more converts to our movement!

Here are some common questions you may be asked and some tips on how to respond.

“Solar, here?” asks Aunt Linda. “Last I heard, you needed sun for that!”

Yes, Aunt Linda — we do need sun for solar to work. We get more than enough sun to make solar a smart investment. Most of the United States gets far more sunshine than Germany does (see the map below for reference), but they have many times more solar panels installed than we do.

This graph shows how much energy from the sun falls on different regions of the U.S., Germany, and Spain, measured in kilowatt-hours per square meter per year. The orange and red regions enjoy lots of sunshine while the blue and purple regions are cloudy. Note that Germany is comparable to Alaska in terms of sunshine, yet they still boast more installed solar capacity than the entire United States.

This graph shows how much energy from the sun falls on different regions of the United States, Germany, and Spain, measured in kilowatt-hours per square meter per year. The orange and red regions enjoy lots of sunshine while the blue and purple regions are cloudy. Note that Germany is comparable to Alaska in terms of sunshine, yet they still boast more installed solar capacity than the entire United States. Source: NREL 

“Aren’t all those panels made in China?” inquires Uncle Bob.

Let’s be tactful and ignore the fact that Uncle Bob’s pants, cell phone, and household appliances are likely made in China. Some of them are — solar panel manufacturing is a huge global industry and they are made all over the world, including right here in the United States. And, just like with cars, there are some foreign-owned companies that manufacture their panels in America. It’s worth noting that much of the price of your solar installation is going to your solar installer, rather than to equipment manufacturers, and this installer is likely a regional or even local company. Solar is a great way to support good-paying local jobs.

“What are you going to do when the sun goes down? Use candles?” asks Grandma.

Most people who install solar systems stay connected to the electric grid. This lets them have access to electricity even when the sun goes down. It also lets them use the grid like a big battery, thanks to our strong net metering policy in Pennsylvania. In the summer, I can generate more electricity than I need and earn credits on my bill for the extra energy I sell back to the utility. Then in the winter when my panels aren’t producing as much, I can use those bill credits to pay for electricity from the utility. This lets me offset up to 100% of my annual electricity usage with my solar system, even though it’s not sunny all year.

If any of your relatives are interested in learning more, tell them to look us up at: www.solarunitedneighbors.org. And regardless of how your solar conversations go, we wish you a very Happy Holidays and a sunny New Year!

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