What if you could save on energy while cleaning up the environment? With companies like SolarCity in the mix, that notion is becoming a solid reality.
On Tuesday, the solar giant released its 2015 Impact Report. The document is the first of its kind for the company, and compares current and previous information detailing SolarCity’s improvements in energy efficiency and stability. As mentioned on the company’s blog page, one of the highlights in the report is the breakdown of its carbon footprint, which has decreased significantly since 2014 thanks to “carbon payback.”
Carbon payback occurs when a solar system produces enough clean energy to “make up” for the carbon emissions involved in its respective installation. According to SolarCity Editorial Director Barry Fischer, the latest turnaround times are very important.
“Carbon payback can occur in less than a year,” he told Planet Experts. ““It takes energy to do things like manufacture, ship, and install solar panels, but in a year or less after installation, customers will have made up for the full life-cycle carbon emissions associated with their solar power system.” Other highlights involve the creation of 15,000 jobs and installation in approximately 1,500 schools in the “developing world.”
According to the report, for each ton of carbon emitted by SolarCity in 2015, the clean energy systems it deployed “avoided more than three tons.” Last year, the net amount of avoided CO2 was more than 820,000 metric tons, “equivalent…to taking over 173,000 cars off the road for a full year, or taking 113,000 U.S. homes entirely off the electric grid for a full year.”
Solar energy systems deployed by SolarCity in 2015 also avoided more than 32 billion gallons of water use at America’s power plants. That’s enough to fill 49,000 Olympic swimming pools.
In 2014, SolarCity began to manufacture its own solar panels. The company is now building a production facility in western New York, and Fischer says they’re doing everything to make sure construction is handled responsibly.
“The location of that plant in western New York is within close proximity to abundant, non-polluting hydropower,” he explains. “Because it is energy intensive to manufacture solar panels, [that] clean energy will help to reduce the carbon footprint produced by the manufacturing process.”
Founded nearly ten years ago on July 4, 2006, SolarCity is now the largest provider of residential solar in the U.S. In an interview with Planet Experts, Fischer acknowledged the irony of the date.
“It signifies energy independence,” he said. “People should be able to produce clean power from their rooftops. That’s one of the founding principles of the company.”
SolarCity has enjoyed stable growth since coming to fruition nearly a decade ago, and their rise has coincided with a greater awareness of the impacts of global warming. Many homeowners are now looking to renewable energy sources to offset the hazardous emissions of fossil fuels. “This company is founded on the fact that we can do something about it,” said Fischer. “We can help solve this problem.”
SolarCity performs installations in 20 different states, added Fischer, and the costs of doing so have repeatedly gone down. “Part of our impact on the world is driving down the costs of solar panel installation,” he said. “The costs have gone down each year, and that’s why it’s so important to turn to solar energy. Costs have gone down because of technological advances, yes, but it’s also because we’ve gotten better at doing what we do.”
Three years ago, the installation process for a solar system took approximately two to three days to complete. Now, the company can perform installation in less than 24 hours.
“The crew doesn’t need to return to the site,” Fischer said. “We don’t need to pay for the gasoline to get to the site, and we can spend more time installing more systems. We’ve become so efficient because we’ve learned what works, and our employees can work faster and smarter.”