We are really only starting to develop the energy potential of the giant nuclear reactor in space that we call the sun. We know that every day it sends enough energy to earth to power human civilization 10 times over, but we haven’t managed to scale ways to harvest it the way nature has done almost perfectly.
For generating electricity, photovoltaic cells on solar panels have been the method of choice, but even then there are different approaches, like large solar farms owned by electric utilities and investors or distributed solar installations on rooftops owned by homeowners and businesses. The latter has been an attractive solution to many: it decentralizes energy production and enables homeowners to get the direct benefits of solar energy.
But the question of scaling remains: how many houses and buildings can realistically benefit from solar? A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) tried to answer just that, and came to the conclusion that about 25% of the electricity needs in the US could come directly from rooftop solar installations. expand full story