Solar energy, which is energy from the sun, is free for everyone. The cost comes in acquiring the equipment needed to harness that energy. Most of the time, you will need a solar panel to get solar energy, and these panels can be quite expensive. You can get free solar energy — or at least close to free solar energy — by looking for rebates or government solar energy incentive plans. Many solar energy enthusiasts also claim that the initial cost of equipment is quickly eclipsed by the energy savings they impart, making the panels functionally free over time.
Humans have been looking for ways to capture and use the enormous power of the sun for centuries. The most successful solar energy plans began in the 1950s, when the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, began using solar cells to power satellites orbiting the earth. These cells absorbed the radiation from the sun, then converted that radiation into energy.
Cells and panels are still the most popular ways of containing and converting the sun’s energy. Modern solar panels can be used to power numerous things, from calculators and small electronic devices to streetlamps, city signs, houses, and even cars. Solar cells take the place of batteries and use only sunlight, converted to electricity, for power. The panels re-charge each time they are exposed to sunlight, making them a truly renewable resource.
The energy itself is, of course, free. Panels are often quite costly, however, and the upfront expenses of using solar energy can be significant. Most of the cost relates to technology development. Solar panels are complex devices that use semiconductors to absorb and restructure heat waves. It is usually easy to feel the power of the sun without any specialized tools, but without some way of converting that power into electricity, it is next to impossible to use. This makes the concept of "free solar energy" something of a paradox.
One way to get free solar energy is to look for energy rebate programs in your area. Many governments provide incentives for homeowners and businesses to use solar power for at least some of their electricity needs by offering discounts, rebates, or tax deductions. Most of these programs require you to purchase the paneling equipment outright, but then offer reimbursements to off-set that cost.
Some solar energy companies also offer discounts to builders who commit to constructing new solar powered structures, or to homeowners on the same block or in the same neighborhood who are all looking to convert to solar energy at the same time. Companies tend to save money in bulk sales and installations, and solar energy contractors have to make fewer trips that way, as well.
Solar energy is growing in popularity, but is not yet ubiquitous. The technology needed to facilitate the power conversion is constantly evolving, and solar energy jobs in the research sector are growing by leaps and bounds. Many industry insiders expect the cost of solar paneling to go down in time, and hope for a future when solar energy is the default energy in many communities. If and when this time comes, free solar energy might be more of a tangible reality.