amish solar panel

A barn-mounted solar panel in a Maryland Amish community

One of the highlights of President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night was a call for clean energy.

The president put forth a goal: “by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”  “Clean energy” in this case means “wind and solar…nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas”.

To me, that sounds a bit ambitious.  Solar currently accounts for less than 1% of US electricity.  The last new nuclear plant was built 15 years ago.  And I’m not sure how clean “clean coal” really is.

But it got me thinking about how Amish use energy.

Amish do burn their share of fossil fuels–such as naphtha and diesel–to light their homes and power everything from washers to log saws.  Batteries power buggy lights and handheld flashlights.  Amish heat their homes with natural gas, propane, wood and coal.  None of this sounds terribly clean.

But some Amish do use solar panels.

Amish use of solar power

Solar fulfills a number of Amish energy needs.  Solar cells recharge batteries, heat water, and power electric fences.

solar power amish

Solar panels on display in the Amish-owned Lighthouse shop

I’ve heard Amish say that solar is not the best for everything.  But some Amish have found it worth installing, which means it must be financially practical on some level.

Not all Amish accept solar technology, however.

For those that do, a number of shops cater to an Amish clientele.  The Lighthouse in Holmes County, Ohio is worth mentioning.  The Lighthouse carries an array of lamps for the home as well as solar panels.  Lancaster County has at least a couple of solar dealers as well.

Anyone have experience with solar power?  As I understand it, solar panels are expensive up-front, but pay for themselves after a number of years.  Are they worth it?

And–what are the chances we’ll be living in an 80% clean-energy nation by 2035?

Tags: ,