By Gigen Mammoser
Soft lighting. Comfortable furniture. Art decorating the walls.
To the untrained eye, this setting appears to be a living room. But it's not. It's a research facility specially designed to evoke comfort and ease.
A psilocybin therapy session is taking place.
The State of Psilocybin Research<p>Research has shown psilocybin to have potential to treat a range of psychiatric and behavioral disorders, although it's yet to receive FDA approval for anything.</p><p><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329398607_Classic_Psychedelics_An_integrative_review_of_epidemiology_mystical_experience_brain_network_function_and_therapeutics" target="_blank">Its potential indications</a> include depression, <a href="https://arizona.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/safety-tolerability-and-efficacy-of-psilocybin-in-9-patients-with" target="_blank">obsessive-compulsive disorder</a>, quitting smoking, alcohol addiction, cocaine addiction, <a href="https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12954-017-0186-6" target="_blank">cluster headaches</a>, and cancer-related or other end-of-life psychological distress.</p><p>High-profile <a href="https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/kzvp73/magic-mushrooms-are-inching-closer-to-decriminalization-in-denver-and-oregon" target="_blank">initiatives have also popped up</a> in recent months in Denver, Colorado, and Oregon to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.</p><p>However, experts say they're unlikely to pass.</p><p>Psilocybin mushrooms remain <a href="https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling" target="_blank">a Schedule I drug</a> according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning they're classified as having "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."</p><p>Other Schedule I drugs include marijuana, MDMA, and LSD.</p><p>Yet, despite social stigma and legal red tape, researchers are forging ahead with clinical trials for FDA approval.</p><p>Dr. George R. Greer, co-founder and president of the <a href="https://heffter.org/" target="_blank">Heffter Research Institute</a>, a non-profit research center that focuses on the therapeutic uses of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin, explains his motivations:</p><p>"Our mission is two-fold: one to do research that helps us understand the mind, the brain, how all that works, and number two, to help reduce suffering through therapeutic use of psychedelics."</p><p>The institute is currently focused on two main areas of psilocybin research: addiction and cancer-related psychiatric disorders. Cancer-related psilocybin therapy is considered one of the <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881116675513" target="_blank">most promising areas of research</a> for the drug.</p><p>However, considering the vast number of potential indications for psilocybin, it's important to keep in mind that the amount of research also varies widely, from single pilot studies to phase II or III approval trials by the FDA.</p><p>Here's what the current research says about psilocybin treatment for some potential indications.</p><p><strong>Depression</strong></p><p>Depression is among the most researched indications for psilocybin therapy. As <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/fda-looking-at-magic-mushroom-ingredient-to-treat-depression" target="_blank">Healthline previously reported</a> last year, psilocybin therapy was given "breakthrough therapy" designation (a review fast track) by the FDA for the treatment of depression.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.usonaclinicaltrials.org/" target="_blank">Usona Institute</a>, a psychedelic research center, is currently in the planning stages of their phase III trial, which will likely begin this year.</p><p><strong>Smoking Cessation and Other Addictions</strong></p><p>In a small <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641975/" target="_blank">pilot study from Johns Hopkins University</a>, researchers found that psilocybin therapy significantly improved abstaining from smoking over a 12-month follow-up period.</p><p><a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/profiles/results/directory/profile/0800020/matthew-johnson" target="_blank">Matthew Johnson, PhD</a>, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led that study.</p><p>According to him, psilocybin also has potential to treat other substance use disorders, including alcohol and cocaine addiction.</p><p>"The general idea is that the nature of these disorders is a narrowed mental and behavioral repertoire," he told Healthline. "So, [psilocybin] in well-orchestrated sessions [has] the ability to essentially shake someone out of their routine to give a glimpse of a larger picture and create a mental plasticity with which people can step outside of those problems."</p><p>In fact, a small <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25586396" target="_blank">open-label study</a> on psilocybin and alcohol dependence found that following treatment, both drinking and heavy drinking declined.</p><p>Researchers in Alabama are also currently <a href="https://www.uab.edu/news/research/item/9565-study-can-taking-a-hallucinogen-curb-cocaine-use" target="_blank">conducting trials</a> for psilocybin therapy on cocaine addiction.</p><p><strong>Cancer-Related Psychological Distress</strong></p><p>"There've been some promising preliminary results in such areas such as the treatment of overwhelming existential anxiety in people who are facing the end of life,who have diagnoses of advanced-stage cancer," <a href="https://labiomed.org/charles-grob-md" target="_blank">Dr. Charles Grob</a>, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, told Healthline.</p><p>Grob, who's also affiliated with the Heffter Research Institute, has studied psilocybin extensively and authored research on the subject, including, among other things, <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/210962?FIRSTINDEX=0&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Charle%20S.%20Grob&hits=10&maxtoshow=&resourcetype=HWCIT&searchid=1" target="_blank">a pilot study</a> in 2011 on psilocybin treatment for anxiety in people with cancer.</p><p>A randomized, double-blind <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881116675513" target="_blank">trial</a> from Johns Hopkins in 2016 found that a single dose of psilocybin substantially improved quality of life and decreased depression and anxiety in people with life-threatening cancer diagnoses.</p><p>"The thing that we have the most evidence for is cancer-related depression and anxiety. That seems really strong, and I'd be surprised if those results didn't hold up," Johnson said, who was part of that research.</p>
Will Psilocybin Ever Be Approved by the FDA?<p>Despite promising research, there's no realistic timeline for when, or if, psilocybin will ever be approved by the FDA.</p><p>All three experts interviewed by Healthline stress that the substance can be dangerous for a host of different reasons if administered incorrectly.</p><p>"It will only be administered in a clinic by specially trained and certified therapists, physicians. It's never gonna be available out on the street where people can sell it or take too much, or take too many of their pills from a prescription," Greer said.</p><p>Psilocybin affects the cardiovascular system and can lead to increased blood pressure or irregular heartbeat.</p><p>It also has the potential to cause serious and permanent psychological problems.</p><p>"Psilocybin is a lot more psychologically dangerous than cannabis, and it's especially dangerous for a small percentage of the population who have had an episode of psychosis or mania, manic episode, or even, say, a close family member whose had those problems, because it can trigger a psychosis or manic episode in a person who is vulnerable to that," Greer said.</p><p>And there's always the chance of a "bad trip," or negative experience while taking the drug. There are rare but documented cases of individuals <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1556-4029.13982" target="_blank">jumping to their deaths</a> or otherwise behaving erratically in such a way that endangers themselves or those around them.</p><p>As Grob puts it: "Taken in uncontrolled settings, honestly, all bets are off. You don't know what you're gonna get."</p><p>But psilocybin therapy is nothing like taking shrooms at a party. It's meant to be a meticulously controlled environment to ensure that nothing unexpected happens.</p><p>"You name the risk, and we have really good mechanisms for addressing it," Johnson said.</p><p>He further explained, "There are risks, but they are dramatically reduced in medical research and potentially in approved medical use, and I would argue that those risks and our ability to address them fairs very reasonably compared to many procedures that are routinely used in medicine."</p><p>Nonetheless, the safety and efficacy of psilocybin treatment must still be satisfactorily proved to the FDA, which, thus far, it has not.</p><p>While some are optimistic that psilocybin may follow in the footsteps of MDMA therapy and potentially even have approval within the next 5 to 10 years, its pathway is far from clear and very uncertain.</p><p>When asked if there's a realistic timeline for approval, Grob told Healthline, "I don't think so. Even though the research we're talking about has by and large been very positive and encouraging, there hasn't been enough research."</p><p>"There needs to be more FDA-approved clinical research with psychedelics," he added, "exploring both how to optimize their therapeutic potential but also trying to get a better understanding of the range of medical effects, which may be problematic … There's still some questions that need to be answered."</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dani Burlison
It's late spring, and I'm hiking Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma County with therapist, ecopsychologist, and California naturalist Mary Good. A mist is drifting down, and we have the park mostly to ourselves. In October 2017, 80 percent of Sugarloaf's 3,900 acres of oak woodlands were scorched by the firestorms in California's North Bay. But today, most of what stretches out before us is green and vibrant, brushed with the last signs of a wildflower superbloom that erupted from the ash earlier this spring.
Residential solar energy companies are helping more and more homeowners upgrade their properties to clean energy sources. Solar energy companies can equip you with the technology you need to harness the amazing power of the sun and reduce your need for fossil fuels. In this article, we'll review some of the most trustworthy providers and installers of solar power.
Our picks for the best solar companies
The first step in the process is researching some of the top companies in the solar industry. Here are the ones that stood out in our research.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
How we chose the best solar energy companies
How did we determine which solar power companies to recommend?
To begin with, we took a deep dive into each company's offerings, assessing them for the following criteria:
- Range of services offered
- Pricing/affordability and financing options
- Extent of service area
- Solar panel efficiency
- Temperature coefficient (e.g., how much high temperatures affect efficiency)
Additionally, we weighed membership and certification by professional associations like the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Affiliation with these groups is a good indicator that a solar energy company is reputable, and that their work is up to the highest standards within the industry.
The best solar energy companies
schmidt-z / Getty Images
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the best solar panel providers and installers in the industry.
If you're looking for a company that can walk you through the process of upgrading to solar power for an easy and convenient experience, look no further than to SunPower. The company offers:
- A "design studio" app, allowing you to safely and seamlessly design your own solar power system so that you can see a visual of what the finished product will look like once installed.
- Online calculators that make it easy for you to determine about how much electricity you will save once you upgrade to solar panels.
- Virtual consultations, allowing you to chat one-on-one with a solar power expert and to ask any questions you might have.
SunPower offers leading solar panels and energy storage technology to homeowners across dozens of states. And, they are also the preferred solar partner of many major businesses, including Walmart, FedEx, and Lowes.
Why buy: SunPower is a reliable solar energy company with an impressive tech portfolio and an extremely easy, intuitive process.
Upgrading to solar power can seem a little intimidating, but SunRun is out to bring simplicity. Their approach makes it extremely straightforward to select a custom solar energy plan for your household. Here's what to know about SunRun:
- They offer virtual consultations with solar energy experts, making it simple to explore your options and determine which solar set-up is right for your home energy needs.
- Each system they design is completely customized to address the customer's needs. SunRun doesn't do "one size fits all" solar equipment options.
- Their guarantee, the best in the industry, offers extraordinary peace of mind that your solar system will prove durable and reliable.
- SunRun also leads in terms of flexible financing options, making solar power accessible and affordable.
Why buy: With SunRun, the name of the game is customization. This is one of the best solar installation companies to turn to for solar power solutions that are truly made with you in mind.
You probably associate Tesla with their electric vehicles, but did you know that the company also produces high-efficiency solar panels? Depending on your needs and your budget, Tesla can hook you up with an array of solar panels or even a solar roof, making it easy to cut electricity costs and power your home via the sun's vital energy.
Some fast facts about choosing solar power from Tesla:
- They offer a price match guarantee and affordable financing options.
- Their advanced solar panel technology offers a low profile, a sleek style, and long-term durability.
- Home battery backups allow you to save solar power and then access it on demand, whenever you need it.
Why buy: Tesla offers sophisticated solar products for what the company claims is the lowest price of any national provider, which they back with a price-match guarantee. Plus, all of their solar panels come with a solid 25-year performance guarantee.
LG is another well-known tech company that is also a leader in solar energy. Some of their solar panels use a bifacial solar module that captures energy from two directions to increase their efficiency. While they are a solar panel manufacturer, they can also help you with the installation process by finding an LG Pro installer in your area.
- They offer an online "solar concierge" service that allows you to evaluate your home energy needs and to compare different options for going solar.
- LG offers a 25-year warranty, not only on their technology but also on the work their of their solar installers.
- They offer a range of solar panels and supporting products, and they supply you with plenty of information to make a fully informed choice.
Why buy: LG is a company that knows technological innovation. Their award-winning solar energy products are reliably efficient, well-priced, and designed for maximum efficiency.
Panasonic has one of the most impressive tech portfolios in the solar energy industry. Their products boast some of the highest conversion efficiency rates, along with the lowest degradation rates. And they back everything with a generous warranty.
Some additional reasons to choose Panasonic:
- They offer a range of solar panels to choose from. With Panasonic, you'll find that you have plenty of options.
- They also provide a lot of great online support and consumer education, ensuring you'll get the most out of your solar technology.
Why buy: Panasonic is a solar panel company with products that are tough to beat. Both their pricing and warranties are very appealing, and their HIT high-performance solar panels offer some of the best power conversion rates of any product.
Vivint is a company that offers a full spectrum of services, including solar power consultation, design, and installation. A few reasons why homeowners trust their solar power needs to the Vivint team:
- Everything Vivint does is customized. They tailor everything to fit your roof and to help you achieve your home energy goals.
- They make the entire process simple, handling all of the little details for you. This includes securing permits, filing the right paperwork, etc.
- They emphasize safety, using only the highest caliber of solar panels and backing everything with a world-class warranty.
Why buy: Vivint is noteworthy for their focus on customization, their commitment to safety, and their one-stop-shop solar power solutions. In addition to solar panel installation, they also offer other specialized technology, including solar-powered electric vehicle chargers.
Enphase is another company that stands out, both for their robust technology as well as for their commitment to customization. Their microinverter technology makes their solar system safer by reducing the likelihood of arc fault fires.
- They design their solar technology with safety in mind, including fire safeguards that other companies can't match.
- Their solar panels are built for durability and can hold up even through the most extreme kinds of weather.
- Enphase uses smart technology to update itself; all you need to do is connect it to your home Internet.
- They also have one of the best apps in the solar industry, making it simple to monitor your home energy use.
Why buy: Enphase is a company of innovators, and their solar portfolio has a lot to offer. Their system is also modular, meaning you can easily add more panels to your system as you need them.
This solar power provider has won recognition not just for their excellent technology, but also for their sincere commitment to sustainability and to ecological stewardship. And don't let the name throw you off: Though Canadian Solar is based in Canada, they provide solar power solutions in the U.S. and other countries.
Some additional facts about Canadian Solar:
- They offer a wide range of products, from energy converters to storage solutions.
- Their solar panels boast exceedingly high energy efficiency rates.
- Canadian Solar has won a number of awards for its first-class innovations, and one of their products even set a world record for conversion efficiency in 2020.
Why buy: This company has a proven track record of technological excellence, plus a real commitment to ecological stewardship. They also closely monitor their supply chain to ensure that no goods or materials used in their products come from prohibited forms of labor.
First Solar boasts an impressive track record of advocacy for solar power and for renewable energy sources. And, thankfully, they back their advocacy with some excellent solar technologies.
A few reasons to choose First Solar solar panels:
- Their technology offers an outstanding temperature coefficient, meaning they won't lose performance during high temperatures.
- Their solar cells are among the most reliable and most efficient in the clean energy sector.
- First Solar also offers a lot of post-purchase, post-installation help, as needed.
Why buy: First Solar is a great option for anyone who's serious about renewable energy, and who wants the best performance from their solar panels.
The biggest drawback to Go Solar is that, right now, their work is limited to just a few states. But if you happen to live in that part of the country, you're in luck. Go Solar's panels are uniquely calibrated to take advantage of the western region's abundant sunlight. Some additional reasons to pick Go Solar include:
- They offer free home solar assessments.
- They custom-design solar systems to meet the needs of your home.
- They have some of the most trusted installers in the solar power industry.
Why buy: For solar solutions that are tailored to the climate of the American West, definitely consider Go Solar. Plus, with their Give Solar International partnership, they give an equivalent solar panel system to a family in Uganda for each system sold.
How does a solar energy system work?
schmidt-z / Getty Images
As you explore the different options for embracing solar power, it may be helpful to have a baseline understanding of how solar energy systems actually function.
Generally speaking, solar energy systems involve solar panels installed on your roof. These panels absorb the sun's energy, storing it in what are known as photovoltaic cells. These cells convert the solar energy into direct current (DC) energy, then use an inverter to convert that DC energy into alternate current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is what you need to power all your home appliances.
It's important to note that, before you purchase solar panels, it's worthwhile to meet with a solar energy consultant who can tell you more about how many panels your home will require, and also to let you know how those panels should be ideally positioned on the roof.
One more note: If you're concerned about the affordability of solar power, it's important to remember that most solar energy companies provide a host of options, including flexible financing and solar lease options for a system rather than purchase it outright. As you talk with different solar energy companies, don't hesitate to inquire about these leasing and financing options.
Benefits of solar energy
Installing solar panels on your home can yield a number of benefits. Here are just a few examples.
One of the main reasons why homeowners choose to install solar cells is that it allows them to truly embrace clean energy sources. Rather than depend on fossil fuels and power plants, you can power your home with renewable energy that comes straight from the sun. This can be a highly effective way to minimize your environmental footprint.
Solar tax credits and rebates
There are a number of ways in which choosing renewable energy can save you money, starting with the fact that there are so many rebates and tax credits available. Essentially, both the federal government and many state governments want to encourage people to "go green" as much as possible, and they will make it worth your while by allowing you to claim these important tax incentives. Some utility companies also offer rebates that can help pay for the upfront costs of solar projects.
Lower electricity bills
Of course, embracing solar power will also help you save money by slashing your electricity bills. Most solar energy companies offer online calculators that allow you to see for yourself how much money you'll save over time, simply by changing to a renewable energy source. There is also an option called a power purchase agreement (PPA) that can allow you to host a solar or renewable energy system from a utility provider in exchange for lowered energy rates. If your solar panel system generates excess energy, the utility will then purchase that energy from you in the form of a net metering credit on your bill.
Make a smart choice about solar power
There are obviously a lot of perks to choosing solar energy for your home. And yet, it can also be a rather daunting process, simply because there are so many solar energy companies to choose from.
Using our guidelines and rankings, start doing your due diligence, seeking the solar power company that's right for you. Remember to look for a company that's well-regarded within the industry and get a consultation before you buy. Always be sure to ask some direct questions about the financing options that are available to you.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. His writing on natural health, nutrition, and supplements has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.