Solar EV: the first-ever promotion to bundle a solar roof with an electric vehicle by a coalition of municipal governments in Colorado during the last four months of 2015 was a huge success.
The program resulted in a sharp rise in EV purchases as more people were alerted to the powerful carbon-cutting synergistic relationship created by marrying rooftop solar to an EV in the garage. The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) provided support.
You would think that those who go solar would be celebrated as heroes – because if everyone who could go solar did go solar, we’d all have a lot better shot at a livable climate. But instead, a nasty campaign of rumor-mongering is trying to take these true heroes down.
No late night parties, no smoking, no loud quarrels, no cleaning costs when the tenant skips out in 6 months. This tenant is just no trouble at all and pays promptly every month.
In a truly surprising move, the US congress actually moved pre-emptively ahead of the 2016 expiration of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar to extend the ITC.
The ITC will now continue at 30% until the end of 2018 for both homeowners and businesses, and then step down over the next three years to 25%, then 20%, then 15%, until it is just 10% in 2022. The ITC is essentially a 30% discount on the cost of going solar.
The cost of going solar has gone sharply down overall as a global solar glut due to several years of Chinese oversupply drove solar cost down over the last four years.
We’ve talked about the problems plaguing Florida’s solar power before. Even with the building of a solar farm next to Walt Disney World, the Sunshine State has had trouble exploiting its abundant sunshine. According to the New York Times, they rank third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, but 13th in the actual amount of solar energy generated.
Even though we, understandably, are in favor of solar, everyone should be aware of all the disadvantages of solar energy before committing to anything.
Installing solar panels on your roof will save you money in the long run, but it’s not a cheap purchase upfront. Depending on which company you go with, it can cost a pretty penny, and is hard to figure out without input from companies and their quotes. Rebates and tax credits can help reduce the cost, but unless you’re saving up for this, it can be a huge detriment to someone looking to install solar. That said, solar prices have considerably dropped the past few years: the cost of a solar panel today is about $0.65 per watt, compared with $0.74 per watt a year ago and $4 per watt in 2008.
If you read a lot about the solar industry you will often hear of efficiency records being broken. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what efficiency is. It is not as if a solar panel with 15% efficiency is just not working very hard. It’s easy to start to think that the ideal is supposed to be 100%.
But in fact, efficiency is simply about how much space it takes to produce the power. A 250 W panel with 15% efficiency makes the same power as a 250 W panel with 20% efficiency. The difference is the size. The more efficient panel will simply be smaller.
Higher efficiency is very important in powering small electronics because of the space issue. But a roof is generally large enough to make enough power for the average household use, so for rooftop solar it only comes into play when roof space is tight. More efficient panels are generally more expensive.
Related: Why Are Solar Panels Inefficient?
Before going solar you have a one-way connection to the grid. When you go solar, you create a two-way connection, meaning you both consume and generate power. Since most people are away during the day when solar is producing energy, and home at night using power, the typical home will draw some power back from the grid when you need it just as you do now both day and night. Power produced during the day is in essence ‘stored’ in the grid.
In rare cases it makes sense to get a battery backup system. Currently adding a battery backup system can add tremendous cost to the solar system (think $10k+) and doesn’t make sense unless it’s crucial. If you choose to have your own battery backup with your system, your system and your battery would be sized so that you are 100% self-sufficient.
Solar panels work just fine in ambient light and will produce significant energy in the fog or on overcast days. In fact, solar panels are actually more efficient at cooler temperatures than hot ones. Although this might seem counter-intuitive, consider that solar panels on a rooftop in cool, foggy San Francisco produce only one percent less electricity than one in nearby Sacramento, where it’s sunny and hot. Consider too that Germany leads the world in residential solar right now, and doesn’t have a sunny climate.
Related: Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?
When you move, the solar leasing or contracting company will simply arrange to have the lease or the PPA switched to the new owner. Since the new owner will be continuing to pay less for their electricity than if your house didn’t have the solar system reducing the utility bill; they have no reason to want them taken down.
The larger solar leasing and contracting firms have specialists on staff to work with realtors and home inspectors and title agents to ensure the transfer is straightforward.
They can even educate realtors on the lifetime value of the lower electric bill and let them view the monitoring that shows how much is being saved. Realtors already know that home buyers understand the value of a good neighborhood public school, because that lowers education expenses over time. Similarly, a lifetime of lower energy bills has the same kind of long-term value for a potential buyer.
If for any reason, you prefer to take the solar system and take the lease or contract with you, that can be arranged too, but there would be a de-installation and re-installation cost of course in that case.
A study from Stanford researchers says that all the solar panels installed around the world produce enough energy to make up for the energy it took to make them. The future looks even brighter, according to the study, with researchers projecting that the industry will be generating enough power between 2015 and 2020 to offset all of the historic creation costs. Their full results were published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The fact that it is possible, even today, to recycle virtually all of a PV panel is not widely known. New products can be made of the recycled glass, aluminium, copper and plastic. Solar has a useful life of half a century, and is such a new industry that we’ve yet to see much end-of-life recycling, but it is a responsibility that must be addressed as time goes on.
Related: Recycling Solar Panels It’s time to think ahead!
Again, we’re a bit biased, but we think there are plenty of great reasons to support solar. We’ve written all over the site about the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, and here are a few highlights.
That’s right, adding solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of your home is going to save you tons of money. On average over 20 years, you’re likely to save up to or over $20,000, and even more if you live in particularly sunny or populous states where energy costs are higher. If you live in Hawaii, project savings are nearly $65,000! It doesn’t just save you money in energy, however…
Recent reports indicate that homebuyers are willing to pay a premium for homes that have already installed solar panels. That means if you install rooftop panels on your house now, and decide to sell in a few years, your home could see an increase of up to $22,000!
The sun goes up, and it goes back down, every day. Even with cloudy days, you’ll still experience enough sunlight to gather enough energy to power your house. And because the sun belongs to everyone in every corner of the globe, it can’t be monopolized. One day, there may be a monopoly on solar energy companies that create panels or sell back energy to utility companies, but you can’t patent the sun. Thus, your energy is safe and secure so long as you’re able to capture it. You essentially become an independent source of electricity, giving you energy independence!
As a source of energy, solar power has been steadily — even exponentially — creating jobs. The money invested into solar power creates new jobs in manufacturing and construction, along with research and development. Plus, an annual $150 billion clean-energy investment would generate a total of about 2.5 million jobs, according to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts. By contrast, spending the same $150 billion within the fossil-fuel industry would produce about 800,000 jobs.
Solar panel systems, when used efficiently, allow us to produce electricity without contributing to pollution. By investing in solar, the world over is investing in clean energy that will help reduce the negative effects of traditional energy and offer long-term benefits that help fight climate change.
What do you think gives solar the advantage? What makes it less beneficial compared to other clean energy? Tell us in the comments!
Image credit: via Pexels under CC license
Residential solar panels can seem like a hefty investment. And truth be told, without federal tax credits or state incentives, they can be. But if you’re asking how much money solar panels cost, you’re asking the wrong question.
Solar panels are not the cheapest to install, otherwise everyone would have them. But with federal tax credits, state tax credits, and other local rebates, you’ll save already on the installment process.
Obviously, you’ll also save on the amount of energy you use because you won’t be paying the same price for high energy bills. Electricity is much cheaper in some states than it is in others, so solar is really going to benefit you if you live in a state that offers high prices and tax breaks.
Read our extended post about the cost of solar panels here.
1. Your region’s insolation (how many hours of sunlight your roof receives an average year)
2. Your region’s policies (ranging from rebates, subsidies, tax credits, net metering and utility decoupling)
Any one of these conditions will affect your cost to go solar. So, worst case scenario; if your state had low sunlight, offered no incentives to help you buy solar, and lets your electric utility charge you more if you use less of their electricity (which you will if you go solar, right?) then solar might be more expensive for you.
Luckily, no state in the US has every one of these potential cost drivers.
In general, some of the more sunless states – for example in the Northeast – have tended to counter their solar deficiencies by offering state incentives and decoupling their electric utilities so that the higher costs of lower insolation won’t hit you too hard in the pocket book.
Conversely, abundant sunshine can still mean you need less of an outlay to buy a solar system that supplies your needs in states like Nevada and Arizona, even though they have poor net metering policies and low incentives, because 10 hours of sun a day makes it easy to generate from a smaller (cheaper) system. So each of these elements can be balanced out to counteract the worst effects.
Here’s how much cost is affected by each of these elements:
Northern states get fewer than the national average hours of sunlight a year. Alaska is the most extreme example. It gets an annual average of just four hours of sun daily. How can that add to cost?
A solar system will need to be bigger if you live in the northern part of the nation where the hours of sunlight daily tend to be lower, so that it takes a bigger system to supply the same amount of electricity. The further north you go, the fewer hours of sun are available to make your electricity in. For this reason, someone living in Connecticut will have to outlay more money – just for more panels – than someone living in San Diego, for example, in order to go solar. More panels also take more space, so you also need a bigger roof to go solar in Maine than in Arizona.
Federal State and Local incentives:
Solar panels are not the cheapest to install, otherwise everyone would have them. But with federal tax credits, state tax credits, and other local rebates, you’ll save already on the installment process.
The Federal Investment Tax Credit is the biggie. At 30%, this affects every state equally and allows you to use a third of the cost of your solar system to reduce your Federal income tax.
There are so many individual state incentives and they change frequently so it is best to check your state’s current incentives in the DSIREUSA database or contact a solar firm in your area for a free estimate (it is their business to stay up to date on what is available locally).
Under net metering, the solar power your system produces, offsets the grid power that you use. The meter runs forwards when you use electricity and backwards when you generate electricity, and at a predetermined “true up” period, your electric utility then credits you back for the kilowatt-hours your solar system generates, reducing your electric bill.
The various states have various net metering rates, and you can find yours here, or by arranging a free consultation with a solar firm that installs in your area.
With net metering, the solar panels are offsetting the kilowatt use of the home on which they are installed and the state will pay full retail value per watt to the homeowner; the system works using one meter that can count up and down as electricity is produced or consumed.
If you live in the states whose Public Utility Regulator (PUC) allows utilities to charge you more money for using less electricity, your electric bill before going solar will be higher on average than electric bills of people living in the states that have regulated their electricity providers and “decoupled” earnings from sales.
Decoupling utilities gives those utilities an incentive to help you save electricity, rather than to try to sell you more. So utilities in decoupled states like California earn more if you use less electricity.
Conversely, utilities in states like Alabama charge customers more if they use less electricity. So if you live in Alabama and pay the state average of $1,740 a year ($145 a month) chances are good that your electrical use is much lower than a Californian who pays that high of a bill.
Let’s look at a typical utility bill. You can find the EIA data on average utility bills in each state here.
Let’s say you live in Alabama, and you pay the highest average bill nationally; $145 a month. That comes to $1,740 per year. But notice; Alabama is not a decoupled state, so this very high bill does not correlate to higher energy use. Alabama utilities are allowed to charge you more if you use less of their electricity.
How does that affect your savings in going solar? That deceptively low use becomes a plus when sizing a solar system. The less electricity you really use, the smaller your solar system needs to be to supply it. The smaller the solar system, the cheaper it is, obviously.
Therefore, even though now you (in Alabama) pay the highest in dollar amount, you might find that a solar system large enough to supply your usage actually costs quite a bit less than average nationwide, simply because you really don’t need as large of a solar system.
You might well not use enough electricity to warrant getting a 5 kW system, the average in these previous examples. You might only need 2.5 kW, which will be a lot cheaper.
OTOH, though, since Alabama is decoupled, your utility could turn around and charge through the roof for those last few electrons you still get from your electric utility. So, in a state like that, it might turn out to be preferable to simply go off the grid, so you don’t get dinged a high rate for using too little utility power.
So, these averages don’t tell you what your case might be.This is why you should consult with a solar company in your state.
In 2016, installed solar now generally comes in at a bit over $3 a watt, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA). A 5kW system, on an average-sized house in 2016 — which would need about 500 square feet of roof space — would cost between $15,000-$18,000 fully installed in most of the US. This is a definite drop in price within even the last few years.
In fact, as of the first quarter of 2016, solar panels have dropped an astonishing 70 percent in price since 2006 according data tabulated by the SEIA.
Keep in mind that this cost applies only if you will be investing in buying your own solar by paying cash for solar systems, as opposed to leasing them.
(Yes, Virginia, You Can Host Free Solar Panels on Your Roof!)
There is no cost if you simply switch electricity providers from your current utility to a Third Party Owner (TPO) like SolarCity or Sungevity. TPO’s are sort of the new electric utilities, they sell you the (solar) power, but they can sell it at a lower cost than your utility by housing your individual solar plant on your own roof, instead of building a dirty fossil fuel power plant far away and then sending that power to your house.
So, renting power from a TPO is more akin to simply switching to a cheaper internet provider and paying less from the first month. There is no investment involved. There are savings, but nothing like the savings possible if buying your own. No pain, no gain.
So, this article only applies to those planning to invest in their own solar:
This infographic gives you a great look at each state and how much you could actually save just in the first 20 of those years, when you buy your own solar system.
Going solar will affect your finances but in a good way. The thing to look at is how much it can save you, and how soon you can start saving.
In general, you could save between $10,000 and $70,000 – depending on where you live – over the course of the usual warranty period for a solar array, 25 years.
As mentioned earlier, certain states just aren’t going to have as great a savings as others. This is because every state has its own unique combination of the factors; insolation and policies, as not every state offers the same kind of benefits for installing solar, and has the same hours of sun.
Going solar in California can save you nearly $35,000 over 20 years, because California offers lots of incentives to install solar. In an up-and-coming solar state like Georgia, you’ll save a little more than the average. However, if you install a residential solar system in Kentucky, it’s only going to save you a little over $14,000 over 20 years. Still, $14,000 is nothing to scoff at.
Living in Hawaii isn’t so expensive once you’re saving that much money — residents who go solar save an average of $64,000 after 20 years, and $73,000 over 25 years!
Interestingly, these numbers are based on research from 2011 and the prices of solar panels have dropped since 2011 by 60 percent, so take that into consideration when you’re tallying up the savings. In fact, the average price of a completed commercial solar photovoltaic project in 2014 dropped by 14 percent and by more than 45 percent since 2012.
But by far the biggest savings long-term come when you buy your system, by paying cash if you can (or by borrowing) and paying upfront. This is the big advantage in paying cash for your solar system as opposed to leasing it, or renting the power it produces – the incredible savings over the long-term.
States vary when it comes to rebates and tax credits, but you will see 30 percent upfront savings due to the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of the gross cost. If you live in a state that has energy saving policies, you’ll see even more savings. It’s best to talk to your solar installation company and research the policies in your state.
Besides the actual credits you receive, there’s hundreds of dollars of year you’ll save on energy usage, depending on your home’s size. Plus, there’s what owning solar panels will do to the property value of your home. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California found homes powered by solar sell for nearly $25,000 more than traditionally powered homes. In states where the cost of energy is higher, like New England, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Southwest, these panels are sought after. This means you’re investing not only in a cleaner future, but a more profitable one to boot.
Like any home installation or repair, it’s best to talk to multiple providers. Rates will vary depending on where you live, so do your homework and look into what the total savings will be for you and your home. Just know that the savings are there, and they will be more significant than you think.
So — will solar cost? Yes, but that’s not as important as how much solar will save.
Have you gone solar? How much are you saving on average? Let us know in the comments!