The Cost Difference Between Solar Energy & Electricity

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Today's populations are almost entirely dependent on electricity. From heating to running appliances, electricity powers almost everything in the household. Solar power is an emerging source of power which takes energy from the sun. People should consider the costs of both solar power and regular electricity when considering which to use.

Home Solar Power

Solar power is the conversion of rays from the sun into electricity that can be used in the home. Active and passive solar power are the two most popular types of solar power systems. Active solar power systems require a variety of extra equipment including fans, pumps and controls to transfer energy, while passive systems do not. Solar energy is popular with environmentalists because it has no waste products.


Electricity is created primarily by combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Another popular means of creating electricity is by nuclear power. Nuclear power harvests power from the fission of uranium and plutonium. Nuclear power and especially fossil fuel combustion are not considered "green" because they release by products such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. They are also not renewable, meaning fuel could eventually run out if not conservatively used.

Solar Power Costs

Solar power at the moment remains expensive. However, a new solar panel created by engineers at Princeton University may be the break solar power has needed for years. Researchers have found a way to replace indium tin oxide with cheap plastics and maintain efficiency.

“MWh” is a unit of power that allows electric companies to charge their customers for their monthly power consumption. Solar power cost between $129 and $206 per MWh in 2009. Costs are generally expected to decrease with time.

Electricity Costs

Most electricity is created at power plants.
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At the present, electricity remains much cheaper than solar power. This is because the fuel for combustion is still in high supply and is cheaply extracted. Coal power costs between $71 and $153 per MWh in 2009. This is merely a range, however. In reality, power prices vary from state to state in the United States. Hawaii, which has the most expensive power, have electricity rates that are almost four times that of South Dakota, the state with the cheapest power, in 2010. Nuclear power is expensive, costing between $105 and $140 per MWh in one 2009 study, and between $250 and $300 per MWh in another 2009 report.

Choosing Between Solar Power and Electricity

There are a number of things that should be considered when choosing whether to use electricity or solar power to power a home. For one, users should consider whether either power source is even available. People at high latitudes will have difficulty maximizing solar power efficiency during the winter months. On the other hand, those living in isolated areas may not have access to a power grid to use electricity. If neither of these applies to a user, then costs should be the deciding factor. For some, the fact that solar power is green may make up for the extra costs. However, users should evaluate their budgets and make an appropriate decision.


About the Author

Charles Alex Miller began writing professionally in 2010. He currently writes for various websites, specializing in the sciences. He is a full-time employee in the chemicals and environmental sciences industry.

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