Is Solar Cost Competitive With Traditional Power Yet?

It seems as though solar panels have gotten a rep as being a luxury item of environmentally-friendly-wealthy-Prius-driving homeowners. But that reputation is quickly changing, as solar energy continues to become cheaper and the technology advances.

So are solar panels cheaper than traditional power NOW?

A concerned and intelligent homeowner recently posed this question to Scientific American. And the answer is, in a nutshell, that it depends on the government — but it’s looking good for homeowners.

Federal tax credits for residential solar installations are set to be dramatically reduced at the end of 2016, and no one is sure yet if the current policy will be extended. There could be cutbacks on the program, even if it’s not scrapped. But, Scientific American pointed to a recent report from Deustche Bank, which says that solar energy is on track to be cheaper than your electricity bill by 2016 in nearly all 50 states!

There are three factors that make it cheaper than ever to install solar panels and power your with energy from the sun:

  1. The cost of putting solar panels on a typical American house has fallen by about 70 percent, says the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
  2. The federal government currently offers a 30 percent solar investment tax credit (set to reduce or expire in 2016) and
  3. Electricity costs are skyrocketing and homeowner bills are becoming exorbitant.

If you live in a state with amazing solar incentives and net-metering, such as in the Southwest or Northeast, you might be able to power your home for cheaper with solar panels. For example, if you live in New Mexico, you may be eligible for a personal Advanced Energy Tax Credit. You can see all the solar incentives available in your state (and others) by checking the free Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency (DSIRE).

With the prices coming down overall, it looks like solar installations will continue expanding. Moreover, solar is a proven and globally tested technology; consistent innovations and advances have and will continue to reduce costs. Don’t forget solar leasing programs, which allows customers to pay as less per month for solar power then they would pay the Utility have for grid power. So while it’s still going to take time, advocates and middle-class consumers alike have reason to be hopeful; solar is a bright idea today, and the forecast is sunny too!

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