Renewable Energy: An Overview - Solar

Updated December 11, 2013

Arizona is the sunniest state in the nation. It receives more than 4,000 hours of sunshine each year. This makes Arizona an ideal state for making solar energy work.

The modern solar industry, founded in 1974 following the Arab oil embargo of the previous year, experienced tremendous growth from the end of the 1970s through the late 1980s. The mainstay of the solar industry during that timeframe was solar water heating. It is estimated that more than 100,000 solar water heaters were installed in Arizona during the 1970s and 80s.

Today, Arizona ranks second only to California in market share for the burgeoning rooftop solar photovoltaic industry. Although solar electricity is only about one percent of the energy mix in Arizona, analysts predict phenomenal growth for solar power over the next two decades.  Traditional market drivers like favorable public policy (rebates and net metering) and tax credits, are getting a boost from falling prices and growing acceptance of alternative financing mechanisms that allow commercial and residential end-users to lease rooftop solar electric systems. 

And as the solar industry grows, so does its beneficial effect on society, such as greater energy independence, improved environmental enhancements, and positive economic impact on jobs. In 2012, the Solar Energy Industries Association estimated that 9,800 people were employed in the solar energy industry in Arizona and approximately 120,000 full-time, permanent jobs nationwide.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that nationally the photovoltaic (solar electricity) industry will grow by 11.6 percent a year through 2040 and that the solar thermal industry will grow at 3.6 percent annually. 

But, solar energy is more than just equipment.  

Passive solar homes (homes that are designed for natural heating and cooling) are popular in both mountain and desert areas of the state. Some of these homes have adobe, rammed earth, or straw bale as a building material. Others solar homes feature strategies and techniques such as solar porches, greenhouses, solar clearstory windows, trombe walls and solar air heaters.

Whether in rural areas or urban settings, Arizonans throughout the state are proving that solar energy can be used by anybody. Solar energy is not a vision of the future; it is an opportunity for today.

Renewable Energy: An Overview


Renewable energy is the term used to describe energy that comes from sources whose supplies are regenerative and virtually inexhaustible. Among these sources are sunshine,  wind,  water,  vegetation, and the  heat of the earth

Throughout history, these sources have been successfully harnessed and used to provide energy. Almost 2,500 years ago, the Greeks designed their homes to use winter sunlight for heating. Large, south-facing windows were used to collect solar heat, which was stored in massive walls and floors for gradual release throughout the night. The wind has also been used as an energy source for centuries. Some of its early uses include propelling ships and pumping water.

Today's technological advancements have developed more efficient means of harnessing and using renewable energy sources, and these sources are gaining increasing popularity. They offer us alternatives to nonrenewable energy sources such as oil, coal and natural gas which, when burned can cause acid rain and contribute to the overall warming of the Earth known as the "Greenhouse Effect." Existing renewable energy installations are making significant contributions to the US energy supply, and research activities are demonstrating the far-reaching impact that a greater reliance on renewable energy sources could have on our country's energy security. In addition, on-going and planned research offers still more possibilities.

Solar Technology & Science


Renewable Energy: An Overview



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Technology for Consumers

Solar for Consumers

Photovoltaics, passive solar heating and cooling, solar cooking, solar hot water, a guide to buying a solar electric system, solar architecture and more...



Solar for Professionals

Professional & Technical Documents

Technical Documents

Batteries, How Not To Do It,

Emerging Technologies

Emerging Technologies- Needs new article

Fuel cell system as longer lived battery replacement?



Our hand-picked selection of books (some with AzSC Board Member-written reviews) and a selection of relevant journals and articles...



All About Solar Cookers 7



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Conservation Programs Credits
A publication of the Arizona Department of Commerce Energy Office
3800 N. Central Ave, Suite 1200
Phoenix, Arizona 85012
(602) 280-1402
or call toll-free in Arizona
(800) 352-5499

Fourth Edition: October 1994

Editor: Jim Arwood
Written by: Jim Arwood and Norma Dulin Gurovich
Layout and Design: Shauna Obergfell
Solar Panel Cooker Layout & Design by: LeAnn Moorehead 

Some of this information was copied from publications by Citizens for Solar, Tucson, Arizona, Solar Box Cookers International, Sacramento California and Solar Box Journal, Seattle Washington.