In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources


    A variety of technologies capture the sun's energy for use in homes and businesses and, on a larger scale, to produce electricity at power plants.   

    Photovoltaic (PV) technologies convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV panels can be installed on homes and businesses to reduce owners' electric bills, and utilities can build large farms of PV panels to generate clean electricity for their customers. Another technology -- concentrating PV (CPV) -- uses lenses to concentrate sunlight onto high-efficiency solar cells. The panels are mounted on tracking systems that keep the sunlight focused on the cells throughout the day.

    Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technologies produce electricity indirectly. CSP systems use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the solar energy and convert it to heat. The thermal energy can then be used to heat a fluid and produce steam to power an electric generator -- or it can be stored in oil or molten salt, which can retain the heat for hours and be used to generate electricity after the sun goes down. CSP plants can generate electricity at relatively low cost and deliver power during periods of peak demand. The U.S. southwest, which receives the greatest amount of solar energy because of its low latitude and clear skies, has the best potential for CSP production.  

    Solar Thermal systems use thermal energy from the sun to heat water for homes, businesses, and swimming pools and to provide the energy for space heating and cooling systems. Solar water heating systems can be used in any climate and typically are a very cost-effective way to generate domestic hot water.  

    Potential. Solar energy is the most abundant renewable energy source and is the fastest growing energy technology in the country, on an annual percentage basis. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that the U.S. solar market had its second largest quarter in history in Q2 2013 and that the industry is on pace for another record year. The U.S. now has over 9.4 GW (gigawatts) of installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes.   

    The growth is due in part to the declining cost of PV systems, technological improvements in the PV industry, and a move towards large-scale PV installations by the utility industry. 

    Challenges. Although the cost of solar PV has dropped significantly in recent years, costs must come down still further to make it competitive with conventional energy sources. Improved energy storage technologies are also needed, given the intermittent nature of solar power. Finally, the U.S. southwest, with its large open spaces, clear skiers, and superior solar radiation, is the best place for large-scale solar power plants -- but a modern transmission grid is needed to move the electricity to the country's major population centers.


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    Last updated: 10/31/2013