Solar Beaverton

Solar Oregon: Introduction to Solar (PDF)

What is solar energy and how does it work?

Yellow triangle, caution-style street sign with words Sun At Work.

In Latin, solar means sun. Solar energy is created from collecting the sun’s energy via solar panels and converting it into electricity. This energy is harvested and used as power for either solar electric or solar water heating. The sun’s energy is one of the most sustainable forms of energy because it is a clean (meaning, it does not pollute the environment) and a renewable source of energy (it won’t ever run out!). Originally created in the late 1800’s, solar power didn’t become an efficient means of power until the mid-1950’s with the discovery of silicon as a component for solar panels.

To learn how solar electric works.

To learn about how solar water heating works.

Solar Oregon logo graphic link to Solar Oregon website.

Solar Oregon is a nonprofit advocacy organization that seeks to educate the public on the benefits of solar energy.

Two workers stacking solar panels for installation.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “more energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than use used by everyone in the world in one year.”

What are the benefits of solar?
Solar energy is valuable for a variety of reasons:

It’s Sustainable: Not only is solar energy sustainable, it is renewable, meaning that it won’t ever run out! As long as the sun is shining, it will be available for us to harvest its energy.

Lower Emissions: The manufacturing of solar panels does produce some greenhouse gas emissions from the energy required to create the materials for the panels and for installation. Solar panel production can use heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Even considering these aspects of production, the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of solar panels is significantly less than using non-renewable forms of energy. Once panels are made and installed, they produce virtually no emissions throughout their use.

Low Maintenance: Once a solar system is installed, it requires very little future maintenance.

Incentives & Rebates: The state of Oregon is one of the top ten states to offer the biggest incentives and they have one of the highest solar power ratings in the country.

It’s Cost Effective: Solar energy is almost comparable in price to energy created from fossil fuels. At 8 cents a kilowatt hour, Oregon has some of the cheapest power in the nation, if not the world. That being said, as solar technology continues to improve, solar is getting closer to being equivalent in price and solar experts say that in the near future solar will be cheaper than conventional fossil fuel-burning power.

It’s Silent: Solar energy is a silent producer, meaning there is zero sound created when the sun’s energy is converted into electricity.

It’s Been Around For a While: Solar has been an effective means of generating electricity for over six decades. Technology continues to improve regularly, making the technology cheaper and more efficient.

It Lasts: Solar panels are guaranteed to last 20-25+ years and often longer than that.

Array of solar panels in a field on a very clear, sunny day. 

Additional Resources:

National Renewable Energy Laboratory — NREL is a program within the Department of Energy that researches and analyzes new and innovative renewable energy technologies for the commercial market in order to respond to present energy challenges.

Solar Oregon — Solar Oregon is a nonprofit advocacy organization that seeks to educate the public on the benefits of solar energy.

Sunny day photo of solar canopy located near Beaverton Library and City Park.