Have you received another utility bill that spoils your mood and increases your anxiety with ever growing sums of money you have to pay? We have a good alternative for you. Your growing utility bill is just one of the reasons why you should consider going for solar energy.
Alternative energy options are available to homeowners now more than ever before. Residential solar energy comes with a variety of advantageous options to accommodate every homeowner’s needs.
We have come a long way since we first understood how the sun’s power can be harnessed in 1839 when Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect . Over the past decades, solar power capacity has grown globally from less than one megawatt in 1975 to more than 400 gigawatts by the end of 2017 , becoming the fastest growing energy generation source.
It would have been perhaps hard to imagine back in 1839 all the benefits solar power could provide. But today, in the decade of a solar energy boom, it would be hard to avoid acknowledging them. Let’s see what benefits solar energy comes with.
What are the best reasons for a homeowner to go solar?
Our sun is the world’s single most abundant source of energy, producing an outstanding 173,000 terawatts of solar energy every second. This amounts to more than 10,000 times of the world’s total combined energy use. And it is a resource that we have all free access to from any location !
What makes modern solar power technology particularly attractive is that energy can be generated even when it is not perfectly sunny. This is because today’s technology relies on a daylight. If you don’t live in an area which is as sunny as California, do not be put off from looking into solar power ! You still have options that could be worth it. Here are the most important ones.
#1 Solar power is locally produced source of energy
With all the unexpected events happening in recent couple years, the word ‘local’ gains more and more importance. We have been through many uncertainties, disease, lockdowns, and energy prices skyrocketing without limit due to low stocks and fluctuations in availability of natural gas. According to estimates, the average European household energy bill went from the range of 1,200 euros to 1,800+ euros in a year and half . Uncertainty is what accompanies our need to bring energy from distant sources.
Solar energy is based on a different model. Solar is local. As a matter of fact, in most cases, you have solar panels right on your own property and have access to them and power to control what happens with the equipment needed to generate energy for your home.
If your solar system includes also a battery storage, you will be pretty much independent in the event of a power outage (depending on how much power your system is able to store and your energy consumption). It will enable you to use the stored power to run the most important appliances like a freezer or a fridge.
Solar energy industry supports local community and generates local jobs in a renewable energy field. On a community scale, solar energy helps municipalities to save money, which can be then allocated to infrastructure improvements and local development projects.
The saving on reduced energy price can be significant and positively affects you as a taxpayer as well. For example, numerous municipally owned buildings in Washington D.C. have a large 10.9-megawatt solar system installed on their roofs. The municipality anticipates saving $25 million over the upcoming 20 years on reduced energy costs .
#2 Using solar power reduces your utility bills & locks your price of energy for years
Solar panels and all equipment you need is a major investment, especially if you are planning to pay for everything upfront. Making the transition may seem expensive at first, but you should know that in most locations, your solar payback period should be less than 10 years — that is without accounting for the money saved on reduced utility bills.
In 2020, the average American household’s energy bill was $117.46 per month, or about $1,410 annually.
Regardless of the upfront costs for the equipment and the payback period, if you were to install a solar photovoltaic system that generated enough power to offset this bill entirely, you would be saving $1,410 in year one. With a 3.8 percent increase each year, your savings in year two grow to $1,464 and would reach $1,518 in annual savings in 3 years.
Even if your solar system doesn’t cover 100 percent of your energy demand, you will still save money on reduced utility bill. Most home solar energy systems are connected to the grid, regardless of their size anyway and the owners benefit from net metering.
Net metering eliminates the need to install batteries with the solar system and allows you to divert any excess power produced by your solar panels to the grid in return for credits on your utility bills. A solar array that meets even half your needs will still be economically advantageous if you can use the net metering option in your area.
Once you have made the decision and had a solar system installed, your energy price will not fluctuate based on global trends. If you are supplying 100 percent of your energy needs with solar, it will not change at all. You will lock in price for your energy consumption for the next 25 years. In grid-tied systems depends on how much power your solar system produces and how much power you offset with solar.
#3 Tax reductions and generous incentives for homeowners are widely available
Incentives on residential solar energy are what makes the whole difference, and they are the main reason why solar energy has become so accessible to many. Yes, switching to solar energy is a major decision when it comes to finance, but right now you have the great advantage of reducing the final price of solar equipment by at least 25 percent thanks to numerous incentive programs offered by the federal and/or state governments.
Currently, you can take advantage of tax benefits, solar rebate programs or performance-based incentives for your solar system. However, as the solar popularity grows among homeowners, many incentives will be phased out or reduced in the upcoming years.
One of the game-changers for widespread adoption of solar energy has been the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The ITC offered a 30 percent dollar for dollar reduction in taxes for solar projects until 2019 and originally was supposed to phase out by this year. Luckily you still have your chance on this one! The phasedown process has been delayed. In 2022 you can still benefit from 26 percent tax reduction. In addition to the ITC, some states offer state tax credits.
Many states are compelled to procure a certain percentage of energy from renewables. One promising area to earn money from residential solar energy is in the market for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (or SRECs) if available in your state. You are basically sending your solar energy to the utility company and in return get paid as a compensation for helping to outsource renewably produced energy.
At today’s SREC price of $234 per megawatt hour , a New Jersey homeowner with a 4-kilowatt system could expect to make close to $900 per year. Over the 20-year life of the solar project, SREC payments in New Jersey could more than pay for the system itself.
You may be eligible even for the performance-based incentives, when you are paid per kilowatt-hour of electricity your solar system produces and supplies to the grid.
If interested in finding out about local solar policies, you can find detailed information on solar incentives for your state in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).
#4 Flexible options of financing your solar system
With solar energy you can start anywhere from zero upfront costs to paying the whole sum outright while benefiting from solar incentives.
The simplest choice is to pay outright for your solar panel installation. This means there is no complicated financing, no interest payments and no third party involvement – just you and the installer – and as the system owner you may be eligible to claim any solar grants or incentives on offer.
But we are well aware that this option is why many of us are thinking twice before making the decision of going solar. The price of solar panels is also an important factor that determines how much of our energy demand you will offset from solar energy. Good news is that you have more options when it comes to financing a solar system installation.
You can get a loan, or a mortgage aimed at improving energy efficiency of your house. In some states, solar loans can be repaid through your monthly electricity bill with participating utility companies using a mechanism called on-bill financing until you paid back the principal cost. It may seem as the same thing as paying for energy from the utility company but your savings on electricity costs will offset this investment eventually, which is the primary reason you’re considering solar in the first place.
You also have an option to lease solar panels for 20+ years, or purchase the energy produced by solar array. These options often come at zero or a little upfront cost. Similarly like with the energy from the grid, you pay a monthly fee defined by the contract with the party that owns the solar installation you are using. Additionally, they will also be in charge of the regular maintenance and performance control.
#5 Installing solar power technologies is easy and possible in any home
Solar energy technology has become very versatile. Today, homeowners can install traditional photovoltaic solar panels on a roof or ground with minimum disruption, or integrate solar technology in building materials for cleaner look. It is up to your budget and preference. You may have heard about solar roof tiles, which are designed to not only look as good as traditional tiles, but they are also functional and should be stronger than normal tiles.
The thin film solar panels have been also improving their efficiency and quality. They are becoming more competitive with traditional solar panels made from mono or polycrystalline silicon. The advantage of thin film is that they are flexible and can be applied over diverse surfaces under different angles. This means that larger areas of buildings could be used to collect solar energy, allowing you to maximize the power generation potential even from a limited space. They could be easily integrated into building’s design.
Solar energy is a rising force in the residential renewable energy sector. Solar panels are appearing on more and more roofs and the whole process of getting a solar installation approved and going is easier than it used to be.
A great advantage is also accessibility of information on internet. You can get many of your questions answered and calculations done from the comfort of your home before you make any commitment. This gives you time to think about best options for your personal situation, taking into consideration your location, available space, financial possibilities, or energy efficiency and demand.
#6 Solar power adds value to your home
One of the lesser-known reasons for installing solar panels is that it increases the value of your home. This will come in handy if you are looking to sell or rent your property. As residential solar gains momentum, it is becoming increasingly easier to sell your solar powered home and to transfer your lease to the new owner. Solar companies have specialized teams to administer these transfers of ownership and to switch service between the new and old owners.
There is already an increase in people’s demand for renewable energy technologies for their homes, so having a solar system already installed is an asset.
A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California has showed that buyers were willing to pay an extra $15,000 for a home with an average-sized solar panel system !
Additional advantage is when you are participating in net metering or some other local performance-based solar program. Based on the solar system’s performance you may also ask for a higher price when selling your property, especially when your solar system produces excess energy and you are receiving extra credits or payments for it.
A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that solar homes also sold up to 20 percent faster than a regular home . This means less time waiting for a buyer and receiving payment for your home, and the sooner that you can move into your new residence.
#7 Solar energy systems for homes are durable with minimum maintenance
Solar power technology is a good investment as it is extremely durable and will not break-down easily even when exposed to elements for two decades. Solar panels have no moving parts, which makes them less prone to mechanical damage, and they are optimized to withstand tough weather conditions as well as surges in energy without significant damage.
This means that after the initial investment of purchasing and installing solar photovoltaic panels or other solar energy systems, you will be able to start seeing returns on your investment – in the form of reduced energy bills – without needing to spend money on repairs.
Solar technology is therefore relatively hassle-free and even if something were to happen, most solar panels come with a twenty-years warranty. All you need to do to make sure you receive the best energy output is basic maintenance from time to time.
Some installers may offer a maintenance service that includes checking all parts of the system as well as cleaning the panels regularly for you. If you lease solar panels, this service is done automatically.
But even if you do the maintenance yourself, it’s not difficult work. In most cases, it just means removing dirt or dust from solar panel surface to enable maximum light absorption. It is not a difficult task that would take much of your time.
#8 Solar energy does not pollute air and helps to phase out dangerous fossil fuels
Solar energy reduces air pollution substantially, especially when compared to fossil fuels. Solar panels generate energy without releasing any emissions at all. It is a clean process during which energy from sunlight gets converted into current.
Widespread adoption of solar energy could significantly reduce concentrations of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter, all of which can cause health and environmental problems. These air pollutants contribute to acid rain, but are also underlying causes of chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
It is estimated that 100 gigawatts of additional solar capacity in the United States would prevent emissions of at least 70,000 tons of nitrous oxide and 126,000 tons of sulfur dioxide each year, and reduce 437 air pollution related deaths, in addition to cases of heart attacks and chronic respiratory diseases .
Some emissions that are attributed to the solar industry occur during other stages of the solar equipment life cycle like the manufacture or transportation of fuel and raw materials. New initiatives to minimize even these emissions are appearing with the growing popularity of solar technology.
Deployment of solar power is the key to combating climate change
Energy sector, based on fossil fuel combustion, along with industrial production that requires high amounts of this energy, have been responsible for releasing 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions globally. It’s like a circle of destruction and it may seem impossible to get out. But we are starting to have alternatives at hand and solar panels for homes are one of them.
Solar power has a great potential for mitigating the impact of the energy sector on climate change. A research study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) indicates that replacing coal power plants with 100 gigawatts of solar power could eliminate over 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year .
Even now, the 20 gigawatts of solar installations operating in the United States offset 17 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year .
Solar industry does emit also some greenhouse gases during the manufacture process, but the carbon footprint is still much smaller. A single solar module takes just about one year to generate more electricity than what was used to manufacture it. So, that is one-year energy payback. Since photovoltaic solar panels last up to 30 years, they save 29 years of emissions that would have come from gas or coal .
#9 Opting for solar energy helps conserve natural resources
Producing solar panels comes at a smaller environmental cost. The environmental impacts of making solar panels are minimal, especially when compared to the impact of fossil fuel energy.
Compared with coal electricity, solar electricity uses 86% to 89% less water; it also uses 80% less land and has 95% lower toxicity to humans; it also causes 92% to 97% less acid rain, and 97% to 98% less marine eutrophication (the cause of algal blooms) .
Even though solar technology is made of resources that have to be mined and processed, 96 percent of the material contained in silicon solar panels is recyclable and can be reused to produce new solar cells right away.
This makes the solar industry much more environmentally friendly compared to fossil fuels, especially since fossil fuels can only be used once. For example, oil companies may extract petroleum 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year over several years, but once extracted and used, there is no way to reuse this finite resource.
Solar panels, on the other hand, keep producing energy for over 25 years and then can be recycled to continue producing energy in the new form once again.
Solar energy is good for biodiversity
Solar energy is not just good from a climate or resource saving point of view – even though reduced greenhouse gas emissions help protect earth’s ecosystems, but having solar panels is good for the environment in terms of allowing biodiversity of species to safely coexist and reducing pollution on land and in the water.
There is evidence that the land on solar farms can be simultaneously used as a free area of local biodiversity where native plants grow and support healthy populations of insects, including bees, birds and small wildlife.
The possibilities are many, unlike with large and polluting fossil fuel plants, solar technology is safe in most cases (unless built in sensitive ecosystems) and allows for simultaneous use of land for more purposes. For example, by integrating solar panels in the right way, small farms can do both, provide us with sustainably grown food produce while generating renewable energy that helps to run the farm operations.
#10 Solar energy is accessible in remote areas
Photovoltaic solar power opens new possibilities in areas without utilities or sufficient infrastructure. Off-grid solar systems are more expensive because they need also batteries to store enough energy to supply expected power continuously, but in remote rural areas, on islands or mountain cabins, they are often the best solution if you do not want to deal with noisy and polluting generators.
Thanks to solar technology it is possible to run the basic appliances, lights, pumps and charge small electronics even in off-grid conditions.
You may have noticed even some articles about solar being the first source of energy in hardly accessible settlements. One of our writers covered this topic in Malawi. The article ‘Solar power bridging the electricity gap in rural Malawi’ from 2018 describes how a healthcare center in Makata benefits from having enough electricity to keep two refrigerators for storing medicines and lights for emergency cases running.
Why solar energy is important for future?
Global warming, sea level rise, floods and pollution are the real price of today’s modern life. Our economy is based on energy, and assumes energy is going to always be consistent, easily available and affordable. Energy from fossil fuels has provided just that, but it is also the major cause of climate change, and it is finite. So, the idea of business as usual cannot be accepted anymore. It’s time for change.
The Earth receives around 73,000 terawatts of solar radiation (sunlight) every day, which is roughly 10,000 times the daily global energy use. The potential of solar energy to power our future is undeniable.
If we decide to switch the sun’s clean and free energy on a larger scale, we wouldn’t have to drill for fossil fuels. Even though the solar technology is just catching the momentum, it starts to be increasingly cost-effective and a lot more people start to be aware of the advantages it brings.
Solar energy is clean, leaves ecosystems intact, is accessible to many and better for our health and the health of the planet. Compared to nonrenewable sources of energy, it also comes with a benefit that hasn’t been specifically mentioned until now.
Solar energy doesn’t pollute or use too much water. Water is becoming quite endangered resource with climate change. Solar farms leave local water resources intact and pollution-free. It’s important to acknowledge that this form of energy does not compete with agriculture, drinking systems, and other vital water requirements.
Solar is a virtuous technology, and its virtues make it an easy sell to those who are paying attention to these crucial details.