Solar Power: Rising Trends In the U.S, and The World

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Solar power costs and savings by region

Taking the most and least expensive states for solar, and the states most relevant to BuildDirect’s readership, I’ve pulled the following data from research conducted by One Block Off the Grid.

On average, how much does it cost to install solar?

Louisiana – $3,552
New Jersey – $8,802
New York – $9,856
California – $10,192
Illinois – $12,333
Pennsylvania – $15,971
Texas – $17,088
Washington – $22,834
Florida – $24,692
South Dakota – $38,428 (!)

How much are you likely to save, per month?

Louisiana – $64
New Jersey – $72
New York – $130
California – $143
Illinois – $49
Pennsylvania – $90
Texas – $87
Washington – $71
Florida – $139
South Dakota – $76

How much do you stand to earn over 20 years

Louisiana – $15,315
New Jersey – $17,377
New York – $31,166
California – $34,260
Illinois – $11,745
Pennsylvania – $21,658
Texas – $20,960
Washington – $17,101
Florida – $33,284
South Dakota – $18,140

What is the payback period, in years?

Louisiana – 7
New Jersey – 7
New York – 8
California – 9
Illinois – 18
Pennsylvania – 14
Texas – 14
Washington – 19
Florida – 16
South Dakota – 20+ years. (Solar panels last up to 50 yrs.)

Solar power is making headway all over the world as a major player in the future of the 21st energy grid, including in the United States. To help to trace this trajectory in detail, guest writer and alternative energy enthusiast David Thomas, who is writing on behalf of The Eco Experts out of the U.K, is here to help map things out.


Energy usage is changing. Rising energy prices concern most people; renewable energy is a solution if you can afford the initial installation. New data shows the changing returns of solar in the US from state to state.

Globally, solar power is being used more than ever. Since Jimmy Carter heated his bathwater with solar energy back in the late ’70s, and since Bond villain Scaramanga [Ed: played by Christopher Lee!] brought solar gadgetry to cinemas, photovoltaics have gradually become less of a gimmick. Solar is now a viable alternative to buying your power from energy companies.

The US is on course to install more solar PV systems in 2012 than it did in the whole 2000-10 decade. There is no nationwide incentive such as the feed-in tariffs of Germany and the UK because of America’s state-by-state system of government.

Source: via Sandi on Pinterest


Solar power in Europe

Germany is the world leader in terms of usage, with over 29 gigawatts installed – around half of the world’s current solar capacity. In 2011 solar produced around 3% of Germany’s total electricity needs with some analysts predicting that number will rise to 25% by 2050. The Eco Experts – operating in the company where I work, the UK – conducted research showing 92% of people are seriously concerned about rising energy prices – the 8% who were not worried were on wages of over $300,000. It’s a growing market here: we found there is a need for more affordable energy but less than one in three people knew how much a solar panel cost.

Common questions and misconceptions

Back in the United States, Danny Kennedy of Sungevity and Lyndon Rive of SolarCity were recently featured in a New York Times article on the US solar market. Unsurprisingly – as solar enthusiasts – their comments made up the most compelling parts of the article.

According to Lyndon Rive the most common questions he is asked are “So how much does this cost again?” and “What’s the payback period?”. He replies: “‘You haven’t heard me! You get cheaper electricity! Full stop!’ ”

Kennedy was reported to have said: “The most frequent question I get, is: ‘What’s the sting? Where’s the trap?’ ”He then goes on to describe solar like this: “Think about it this way. We’re killing people in foreign lands in order to extract 200-million-year-old sunlight. Then we burn it . . . in order to boil water to create steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. We frack our own backyards and pollute our rivers, or we blow up our mountaintops just miles from our nation’s capital for an hour of electricity, when we could just take what’s falling free from the sky.”

Conclusion and anticipation

Solar power is like any technology: it improves exponentially as it is worked on and optimised by competing factions all over the world. At present there is a manufacturer’s war going on between the major panel producing nations, the top dog being China.

As someone who works in the industry I believe this can benefit consumers and increase the efficiency and value of solar technology. However the realist in me understands competition can lead to unsustainable practise and greed. Excessive mining for profit and the mining for silicon is bad form, ethically and environmentally. Let’s hope everyone remembers to keep the race for clean electricity clean.


Thanks, David!

David Thomas writes about energy efficiency and about the solar industry for websites and Talk to The Eco Experts on Twitter, and David, or his colleague Lima will respond.



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