Top Six Reasons to Go Solar
Going solar makes sense on so many levels – and here are some reasons why.
If you’re just starting to look into solar for your home, or you’ve recently noticed you’re the only one on the block without big blue rectangles covering your roof, you might be wondering why solar is so hot right now. What’s the big deal?
It’s an easy question to answer and below we’ve come up with our top six reasons to go solar. Hopefully they inspire you to dig a little deeper into this exciting technology, reap the benefits of green energy, and join the solar movement!
Reason to Go Solar #1: Help Save the Environment
The first thing most people think of when they picture solar energy is how it benefits the environment. I’m sure you already know that solar panels generate electricity through sunlight, but this is actually quite amazing when you think about it: your fuel (sunlight) will never run out and produces no emissions (unlike natural gas and coal).
When we burn coal, oil, and natural gas for electricity, we’re producing harmful emissions including carbon dioxide (a major contributor to global warming), carbon monoxide, particulate matter, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
You might have heard that manufacturing solar panels produces a lot of emissions and therefore negates all the clean energy panels produce in their lifetime, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. While the production process does produce emissions, after operating for a certain amount of time, solar installations produce enough clean, renewable energy to ‘cover’ any pollution during the manufacturing process many, many times over.
This idea, known as “solar energy payback time,” is typically around two years depending on your location. Back in 2004, the National Renewable Energy Lab looked at solar energy payback time and found that about 90% of all the electricity produced by solar panels is free from any pollution or emissions – something that can never be said of traditional electricity sources!
Reason #2: Benefit from a fixed electricity cost
Generating electricity with coal or natural gas (which account for 65% of all the US’ electricity) means the utility must constantly be purchasing – can you guess? – coal or natural gas. Prices for these finite resources are constantly going up and down as supply and demand does its thing. As these resources become more and more scarce, we can assume the prices will increase more and more as well.
On the home front, you’ve probably noticed your electricity bill increasing a little bit each year. Are you just using more electricity? Probably not, as the average utility increases their electricity prices by 2.5% each year. That means if you’re paying $0.12 per kilowatt-hour right now, you’ll be paying $0.19 per kWh in 20 years. That doesn’t sound like much, but for an average household that means an extra $450 each year! Ouch!
Guess what – this isn’t the case for solar energy. Unlike coal and natural gas, with solar you’re not paying for the fuel (ie sunlight, which is free), you’re paying for the technology. So once you’ve paid off your technology purchase (in other words, your installation cost), you’ll be producing absolutely free electricity for the rest of its life. No more worrying about rising fuel costs, shortages, embargos and everything else that can plague fossil fuels.
Reason #3: Add Value to Your Home
Getting shiny new appliances or polished marble counters in the bathroom might look great, but they don’t necessarily add an equal value to your home. In other words, spending $2000 on countertops might not add the full $2000 in value to your home.
With solar installations though, not only do you slash your electricity bill, but a 2014 study conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that homebuyers nationwide are willing to spend a premium for homes with solar, around $4 per watt on average (as long as the installation is owned by the homeowner herself).
This means a 5kW installation you purchase outright can add an additional $20,000 to the value of your home! In addition, most states have property tax exemptions when you install solar, allowing you to bypass any higher taxes because of the added value your solar installation brings to your property.
Reason #4: Save some serious cash
Beyond contributing to a cleaner, healthier world, saving money is the best part about going solar! Installing solar is a safe investment – recessions, inflation, or anything else can’t affect how much energy your solar installation produces. It just keeps chugging away, producing clean, no-cost electricity, giving you peace of mind.
For many homeowners, solar is even a better investment than investing in stocks! The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center studied the value of solar installations in 50 cities across the US and found that, in 46 of those cities, solar provided a better financial return than the S&P 500.
Exactly how much money you can save depends on your financing (whether you choose a cash purchase, loan, or lease), utility prices, installation cost, and hours of sunlight. For an average-sized solar installation, you can save over $36k in San Diego, $24k in Arizona, and $17k in Florida. Not too bad!
Reason #5: Never go without electricity again
If you live in a hurricane or tornado state, you’re probably tired of stocking up on flashlights and batteries should your home suddenly lose electricity for a few days. Utility infrastructure (think wires and poles) is getting older and older, making it all particularly susceptible to damage during stormy weather.
Today, homeowners with solar PV systems don’t just have to sit in the dark. We’ve got options, starting with storing solar electricity for later use. With solar prices constantly dropping and utility prices increasing, adding batteries to your solar installation is becoming a reality. National installers like Sunrun and SolarCity already offer battery back-up in areas with high utility rates (like Hawaii and California). Interest in batteries for solar is being spurred on by Tesla and their sleek Powerwall battery backup (which both SolarCity and Sunrun currently install).
And if you’re worried that maybe your solar panels won’t make it through a rough storm, don’t forget that they undergo extensive testing to ensure they can withstand extreme weather conditions, including heavy snowfall and hurricane-force winds.
Reason #6: Invest in next-Generation technology
For a lack of better words, solar energy is cool. Powering your house with the sun’s energy? Nothing really trumps that, especially if you’re planning on equipping your home with Elon Musk’s chic solar roof tiles, which they plan to begin manufacturing sometime in 2017. Solar technology is developing fast, with new breakthroughs all the time: higher efficiencies, lower cost, easier installations. It’s exciting to be a part of this technological, green movement.
It’s not just homeowners who are jumping on the solar bandwagon, more and more utilities are installing huge solar ‘power plants’ instead of natural gas or coal plants. While the U.S. ranks fifth internationally in terms of solar energy production, a report from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that in 2016 US utilities added more solar than any other type of electricity generation, with 9.5 GW of solar compared to 8 GW of natural gas and 6.8 GW of wind.
Traditional energy sources, including coal, natural gas, and oil, are finite and are all predicted to eventually run out, some much earlier than others. On the other hand, the sun will burn out in about five billion years. Until then, we are free to harvest this clean, abundant energy.