As electricity bills soar, homeowners are reconsidering solar

Rising costs lead to clean energy innovation

Tech breakthroughs over the past decade are bringing the cost of solar power down, even as traditional energy bills continue to rise for thousands of homeowners across the country.

Solar power in the United States is now more affordable, more accessible, and more prevalent than ever before. The primary reason solar energy has become so popular is that it puts more control, and therefore more confidence, in the hands of homeowners. As traditional energy costs continue to rise around the country, solar energy prices continue to drop, thanks in large part to homeowners buying more solar panels and to the development of more efficient and more effective solar panels. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the cost of solar has dropped more than 70% in the last decade.1

Rooftop solar is the power source of the future

Solar power has grown steadily over the last 50 years and support for its continued growth crosses political lines. Due to the increasing number of homeowners who buy solar panels, in 2007, the United States produced roughly 16,000 megawatts hours of solar electricity. That amount increased to nearly 16,000,000 in 2014, and rose to over 64,000,000,000 megawatts (64.2 GWs) by the end of 2018.2 In the last decade alone, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 48%, while in 2019 the total amount of installed solar photovoltaic energy (solar panels) reached 78 GWs. That’s enough solar energy capacity to power the equivalent of 14.5 million American homes and is strong evidence that homeowners are becoming increasingly excited about the potential of solar energy.

Solar installers have also become more efficient and effective at installing solar energy systems at scale but some soft costs remain. Soft costs derived from utility and municipality requirements include surveying, permitting, paperwork, inspections, and interconnections. The good news is that some of these costs can be offset with the aid of Federal and State tax incentives for anyone willing to go green. Incentives like the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) provide significant financial returns for homeowners who purchase their solar energy system, solar tariffs enacted over the past 4 years notwithstanding.3

Homeowners continue their quest for sustainable energy

Aside from cost savings, solar panels offer any number of environmental benefits to homeowners and their communities, including reduced air pollutants and dependency on fossil fuels. Solar energy, along with other smart technologies, provide cost-effective ways for homeowners and businesses to transition to renewable energy and reduce their carbon footprint. Based on the Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American home going solar is the equivalent of growing 122 seedlings for 10 years.4

Solar puts power in the hands of homeowners

The growth of solar puts power in the hands of homeowners and benefits the environment, but also presents challenges to large-scale utility companies. Most households follow a similar pattern of energy consumption: high rates of energy usage in the morning that drops off at midday then picks up again in the evenings. Unsurprisingly, solar panels are in peak production during the day when exposure to sunlight is greatest. In essence, this means that supply and demand don’t always line up and this can create problems for local utility grids. Depending on the city or state, homes with solar can send their excess solar power to the grid (often in exchange for a credit from the utility company) but grid infrastructure can struggle with these varying ebbs and flows. Luckily, solar power battery and other smart tech devices help manage solar energy production and consumption patterns. Some utilities benefit so greatly from solar power production now that they will actually give credits to homeowners who install rooftop solar systems on their homes.

Coronavirus won’t derail the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy

Projection models from solar experts (SEIA, along with partners at Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables and The Solar Foundation) forecast continued solar growth at a national scale in 2020 and 2021.1 Those projections do not take into account any impact as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak but the pandemic won’t derail the world’s long-term need to shift the world to green, sustainable energy sources. Climate change, along with increased demand, is forcing necessary innovation and that innovation is being embraced by thousands of homeowners adding rooftop solar panel systems to their homes.

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The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic joins logistical barriers and soft costs as obstacles that Vivint Solar and others are successfully overcoming. Solar installers are working with local jurisdictions to introduce digital permitting and paperwork, as well as remote surveying and inspection processes. Solar energy consultation services can now be done over the phone, or through video conferencing, and interior surveys can all be conducted by homeowners who send the results back to their consultants to review. Although some local jurisdictions are not yet able to perform final inspections remotely, most municipalities are now allowing digital permitting. These types of technological and social innovations pose a compelling question: is the power source of tomorrow already thriving today?

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