Solar Power is a Good Idea, Today

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solar energy lightbulb

This is a guest post contributed to the BuildDirect Blog by http://www.outdoorliving.online/ – an online content hub dedicated to “all things outside” and spreading their passion for outdoor products.

 

It’s definitely a great time to consider solar power for your home, business or even for recreational use i.e. powering your cabin, boat, RV, campsite etc. The setbacks of using solar power have been reduced significantly over the past few years. In fact, most setbacks have been replaced by notable benefits in the form of federal and local subsidies for solar power panels among other solar powering equipment. Today is a great time to consider investing in solar.

Traditional hurdles, like large upfront costs, has been mitigated as more financing options today that have helped make solar power very affordable. The price of solar panels and systems has also reduced significantly by up to 70% over the past few years. 70% is a big number! Solar powered products have also become more efficient/reliable, especially on the battery storage side of the equation. There are hardly any reasons for discrediting solar power anymore which explains the sudden shift in the number of people shifting to solar power in the U.S. Below are some impressive U.S. solar power statistics to consider.

2016 SEIA Solar Statistics

sky reflected in bar graph

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar power accounted for 64% of all new electric generating capacity in the United States in Q1 2016. This growth derived it’s momentum from a record year (2015) where solar power exceeded the annual natural gas capacity additions for the first time ever. Since 2010, solar has grown at a compound annual rate of 58%. By the end of Q1 2016, over 1 million solar installations had been installed in the U.S. This figure is expected to double by 2018.

2016 will see the capacity of the U.S. solar industry jump to 14.5 GW (gigawatts) which will represent a 94% jump from the 7.5 GW installed in 2015. Judging from these statistics alone, solar power has already cemented its role as a dominant electricity source in the U.S. Over 29 gigawatts of solar capacity has been installed already in the U.S. This is more than enough electricity to power 5.7 million homes.

There’s also a lot of impressive statistics on the cost of solar panels, solar systems, installation, financing, taxes etc. For instance, the overall cost of using solar power has dropped a record 70% since 2010. Solar panels/systems are cheaper. Solar installation costs have also gone down. It’s also easier to get financing to install a solar system in your home or business.

There are many other incentives that make solar energy a perfect option today. For instance, if you just want to play your role in reducing the carbon footprint, solar is one of the greatest tools to consider on an individual level. Your home also stands to gain in value when you install a solar power system.

What Are Your Solar Power Options?

choosing solar

 

It’s worth noting that most of the growth experienced in the U.S. solar industry is being driven by typical homeowners keen on enjoying the savings that solar power provides. If this excites you, there are many ways of joining the solar power bandwagon i.e. purchasing and array, leasing or entering through a power purchase agreement. All these options have their own variables so it’s important to take a look at each option to be able to identify the best one for you. Solar power is generally a good idea but it’s important to make it an even better idea by choosing the right option for you.

Option 1: Purchasing a solar power system and having it installed

Purchasing your own solar power system requires a significant initial investment, however, it offers one of the best financial advantages. For instance, homeowners who buy their own solar power system can get a federal investment tax credit amounting to 30% of the entire cost of the solar power system. Other benefits of buying your own solar power system revolve around maintenance benefits. For instance, most solar panels have a 25 year warranty. Inverters can last for approximately 30 years. This simply means that you won’t be spending anything in system maintenance and upkeep cost for a very long time.

Option 2: Leasing solar equipment

If you don’t want to incur the huge initial cost of purchasing a solar power system, you can consider the leasing option. This option gets rid of the huge initial equipment and installation cost spreading it into small payments over a number of years. When you choose this option, you will be required to make monthly payments for the equipment and installation costs. You won’t own the solar system until you have made all the payments, however, you get to keep and use all the electricity generated by the system. It’s also worth noting that you may not be able to get direct tax benefits because you don’t own the system until you finish paying for it. This is however subject to the company leasing the solar equipment. It is possible to negotiate and have the benefits passed down to you.

Option 3: PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements)

You can also get solar power in your home through a PPA. PPAs work like electricity bills i.e. the equipment is 3rd party owned and consumers are charged only for the electricity they use. Most U.S. companies today offering solar PPAs go as far as giving you a single solar power bill helping you enjoy savings on transaction costs. PPAs have become increasingly attractive because they come with no up-front equipment and installation costs. You only pay for the solar power you use at the end of the month. That’s it!

solar panels on apartment roof

Option 4: Community solar

This option is perfect for renters/condo owners. You don’t have to own a home to take advantage of solar power. You don’t need to buy solar panels/systems either. With community solar, you sign a contract to buy solar power from a solar farm near you. The solar power comes at a discounted price compared to the current electricity rates. It’s a great option for renters and condo owners who want to reduce their carbon footprint while enjoying substantial savings on their electricity bills. According to EnergySage, community solar can save you up to $180 per year in energy bills.

solar panel and piggy bank

Option 5: Net metering & solar renewable energy certificates

You can install solar power in your home with the aim of generating money/earning credits with lucrative solar power options like net metering and SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates). Net metering allows you to sell any excess solar power you generate back to the grid in exchange for credits on your electricity bill. With net metering, you can claim credits when you are not in a position to generate enough power during seasons like winter. SRECs are certificates home owners earn, and can sell, every time they generate 1 megawatt of solar power. SRECs also come in handy when you want to sell excess power.

Summary

Solar power doesn’t leave out anyone. It is possible to start using solar power today in the U.S. without paying anything initially. In fact, most people considering solar power today in the U.S. are entering into leases and PPAs instead of buying their own solar equipment upfront. If you can afford the initial investment, well and good. If you can’t, there’s nothing to worry about.

A Few Disclaimers

Solar power is not only a good idea but the best idea currently in all aspects from cost to energy efficiency, however, you need to be aware of some facts. First and foremost, solar system setups vary from one home to another even if the two homes in question have similar equipment and use the same financing options. The variance usually arises from the differences in energy consumption from one home to another. It is, therefore, important to understand your electricity consumption first before switching over to solar.

Other factors that also come into play include location. For instance, some locations receive more sunlight than others which will affect solar power generation. The orientation and degradation of panels, size and angle of roof, latitude and temperature are other factors that affect solar power generation. Do research on a website like BuildDirect to learn more about how solar works everywhere, but is currently more effective in some regions vs others.

It’s important to understand such factors so that you know exactly what to expect. It’s also worth noting that you may be required to have proper building permits before you can be able to build a solar power system in your home. This usually depends on your location. Choosing a reputable solar power company is a great way to start and ensure you realize the full benefits of using solar power in your home. A reputable solar power company will help you understand everything from the start from how much savings you stand to enjoy to claiming tax credits and acquiring building permits if you have to. From what we see developing on product platforms like BuildDirect, building your own system, piece by piece, is also an option that wasn’t easy to accomplish previously. Do your research on what products are appropriate in your application and it could be a great way to enter solar in a DIY friendly way.

 

 

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James