Hey Forsight, good question. Baypoint is quite right on the various energy sources. I agree with his assessment that solar will not be the main player in grid electricity in the years to come, but for different reasons. In the United States alone, grid electricity generates over 100 billion dollars in revenue each year. I am a bid advocate of solar power, but what is more important to me is that as we move away from a fossil based energy economy, we move into something more diverse. Lots of people think solar is the answer, or wind, or nuclear. I believe all these things are the answer, and I would be excited to see solar get 10% of that 100 billion dollars in 15 years. Solar has two main advantages over traditional energy sources. The first is obvious, the fuel is free. The second is that solar energy is spread out pretty evenly over the middle half of our globe, so people in New Delhi can get as much power from a small solar array as people in New York, and you don't need to run a wire between them to do it. But it's important to note that wind is a fantastic compliment to solar, in most places where the sun is limited, such as the midwest in the winter, the artic and cloudy coastal areas such as the Pacific Northwest, wind resources are generally good. Seasonally, many places that have limited solar power during one season, such as winter, have their greatest average wind speeds during the same season. Geothermal is also a great energy source if it is used properly, but again, it is more readily available in Iceland than it is in Lakeland, Florida. So the key to utilizing our abundant renewable energy sources is to use them all in moderation and not concentrate on one source at the expense of another, and our planet.
Ten years ago we embarked on a project to convert our home over to wind and solar power. It's been very interesting, we made plenty of mistakes, and we learned a great deal. People ask me if I had it to do over again, would I bother. My answer is, "If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have brought in the utility company 20 years ago in the first place." It isn't because I don't like the grid, or the utility company, they have been pretty reliable over the years. But in the first 10 years after our home was built, we used over 60,000 kilowatthours of electricity. In the next 10 years, we used less than 8,000. If I had taken the money I spent on those 68,000 units and put it into a solar and wind system in the first place, I would have paid for it by now.
Most people involved in renewable energy feel this way as well, our energy source should be as diverse as our people, but you don't have to take my word for it, here are some good resources if you're interested in learning more. Take care, Rudydoo
Home Power Magazine
Backwoods Home Magazine
American Wind Energy Association
Solar Energy International
Midwest Renewable Energy Association
Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association