The amount of sunlight a location gets is one of many factors to consider when calculating the potential energy generation for a solar energy system. Sunlight strength is most often measured in sun power shining on a unit area, with the technical units being watts per square meter. This also is usually referred to as the number of hours of peak sunlight in a day, and it is measured and tracked by the National Weather Service and the US Department of Energy. This number is an annual average that takes actual measured local weather patterns into consideration including clouds and rain, hot summers and our winters that sometimes seem long and dark and cold. These annual average sun hours are what makes for a strong, profitable stream of solar electricity.
The Tristate area is relatively rich in sunlight, despite winters that can seem very long. Like everywhere else in the U.S., there is more usable solar radiation in summer than in winter, but solar energy makes a big impact year round. A bright sunny winter day will produce abundant electricity contributing to the annual total. The best way to put sunlight intensity into perspective is to compare various cities and countries.
|LOCATION||AVERAGE SUN HOURS PER DAY|
|New York City||4.56|
You may wonder why Berlin is on the list. We included it to point out that sunlight is not the most important consideration when evaluating the viability of solar energy. Germany isn’t really a very sunny place, but it has the second most installed solar of any country in the world after China—ten times more per capita than America, although we’re catching up. On a sunny weekend day early in 2014, solar supplied 20 percent of the entire German electrical demand—using sunlight weaker than Alaska! Currently, the U.S. gets only about 1 percent of its electricity from solar, but we have enormously more solar potential than Germany.
New York state doesn’t get quite as much sun as Los Angeles or Miami, which comes as a surprise to no one, but its sunlight intensity isn’t the most important factor in how practical solar is. Most property owners who consider adding a solar energy system are interested in what the financial benefit will be. Two things that have a bigger impact on solar profitability than sun strength are local utility prices and government incentives to encourage clean energy.
Utility bills in the Northeast are the highest in the country, which makes solar more profitable than it is in most parts of California.
All three of the states that SunUp services—New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey—have progressive energy policies that promote the production of clean energy. In addition to income tax incentives, solar is encouraged with state funding or renewable energy payments, depending upon the state. Most of these incentives are set to decline as solar goes mainstream, but right now they are still in full effect.
In the first three months of 2014, an astonishing 40,000 American homes went solar, with the Northeast being one of the most active areas of the country.
This is SunUp Solar’s standard disclaimer about the need for a careful evaluation of each unique property to determine if and how to best adapt solar to that property. Like any other kind of property improvement, solar requires an inspection by a professional to take site conditions into account. In the case of solar, these include roof size, pitch and orientation, shading issues, the status of the property’s electrical system and the property’s electrical billing history. This is routine for us, although some other solar companies do not take this critical step, and it is absolutely necessary to provide an accurate proposal for property owners. We use satellite photos, such as Google Earth, to get a general idea of your property’s situation. Unlike some companies, we will not provide a firm quote until one of our Energy Consultants has visited the property, done the proper analysis, and discussed the project thoroughly with the property owners. We stand behind our work and must have customers that are pleased with every aspect of their solar project.