We are used to grid electricity. And thinking of saying goodbye to the traditional electricity may engender some apprehensions. Such as,
If you are a homeowner who is grappling with these questions, you are not alone. A short answer to your question will be: yes, solar panels are good, and for a variety of reasons. Below we delve a little more into the details.
Here is what makes solar panels a good choice.
1. Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy
The environmental benefits of solar energy abound. Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy is clean, green, and inexhaustible. Not only humans but animals and plants too pay—and have paid over the years—the price of fossil fuel consumption. Our traditional electricity is obtained from resources that emit carbon dioxide (CO2). These carbon emissions remain trapped in our atmosphere for long periods of time, leading our temperatures to rise. Of all the greenhouse gases (GHGs), CO2 is the most lethal gas for our climate. Other than stimulating global warming, it pollutes our air, impacting our present as well as the future of our children. Besides, these resources are unsustainable. If we go forward with the same pace, these resources will run out in 53 years, a study conducted by the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) predicts. Imagine the damage done to our planet and climate if these resources are exploited to their fullest extent. A truly endangered future is awaiting us, provided that we don’t act now!
In sharp contrast to this, solar energy is a safe and sustainable resource. Obtaining power from solar energy produces zero carbon emissions, thus greatly reducing your carbon footprint. In fact, you not only reduce it, but you also offset the effects of these emissions in many ways. For instance, this study says, if you install a solar energy system on your rooftop, it is akin to planting 150 trees every year.
Another study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reiterates these findings. According to that, the average household emits roughly 20 metric tons of carbon every year. Turning to renewable energy sources, solar being the most notable and cost-effective of all, a typical household of two persons can reduce these emissions by 4 to 5 tons. A comparative analysis of which resource releases how much carbon dioxide will help us understand the danger fossil fuels pose to our planet. Coal releases 850 to 1250 grams of CO2 for 1kWh of power; gas 360 to 575g CO2 per kWh, and solar 0g per kWh. Similarly, when many people start relying on solar energy, your utility uses fewer fossil fuels to meet the energy demand, thus fewer carbon emissions.
Alongside environmental benefits come public health benefits. Water is a precious commodity, and given the burgeoning population, our water demand per capita is increasing. Whether it is hydropower or nuclear, they use a lot of water for generating electricity. By going solar, we can conserve enough water to hydrate 1.3 million households. In the same study conducted by the Office of Energy and Renewable Energy, solar energy reduces pollutants that can prevent unnecessary healthcare costs and save more than 25,000 lives.
As far as sustainability is concerned, solar energy is the most sustainable of known renewable energy resources. We’ll see the sun rising every day. True, there comes clouds, but we can be sure that the sun will reclaim its spotlight in a day or two. Solar energy is limitless, infinite, and above all, free.
The only solution to avoid the impending climate disaster is to turn to renewable energy resources, the most notable and user-friendly of which is solar. It can not only save the planet and its biodiversity from the effects of climate change but also secure our future—in terms of both money and the environment. This is what we called ‘killing two birds with one stone.’ You save (hyperlink savings page) your money as well as the planet.
Can you save with solar energy? The short answer is: Yes, big time! How much can you save? That depends on many factors such as your usage, your financing options, the rates your electric company charges you, the incentives you avail, and the system you install. You can get rough estimates of your savings through our solar calculator.
In general, however, you can go as far as eliminating your electric bill altogether. Let’s understand how much you can save with solar energy by an example. The average electricity bill throughout the U.S. is $111. In one year, it becomes $1332. In 25 years—which is the lifespan of solar panels—this figure will amount to $33,300. This is without factoring in the rise and unpredictability of electricity costs. If we count the 3% annual rise in electricity prices, this figure may be around $40,000. This is what you’d pay for the next 25 years.
Now, suppose your solar energy system costs you $20,000. Subtract 26% of Federal Income Tax Credit from this, this becomes $14,800. There may be some other rebate programs in your state. Some states, such as California, offer a rebate of $0.2 to $1.2 per watt. Other states, such as Arizona, offer 25% of the cost of your system or $1000, whichever is less. Some states even go higher than this. Now, count these rebates too, and your upfront cost further diminishes. This is it? No, there is more!
In most states, there is a net metering policy. That means that if your system can generate more than you consume, you can sell the excess power to your utility company, for which you will be paid in the form of credits. More savings?
Lastly, a typical system of 5kW can increase the value of your home by about $20,000, according to a report by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
This means, if you go solar, you can save much more than you expect and at the same time be in the driver’s seat and taking control of your electricity bills. Solar panels’ return on investment (RoI) is pretty attractive for anyone who wishes to save more for the future. Experts have put the solar energy’s RoI around 10-25 percent. This is better than investing the same amount in stock shares or real estate.
But what if somebody doesn’t have this much upfront cost? Need not fret! There are flexible financing options (Hyperlink Financing Options) where you can avoid your upfront cost and exploit the benefits of solar energy. You can obtain a loan, install the system through lease, or the power purchase agreement with a company. In any of the financing options, your electricity costs come drastically down. Homeowners who go for the latter options save up to 30 percent on their electric bills every year.
Installing a solar system is more like renovating your home—having them on your rooftop increases the value of your property by 3-4%. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), on average, homebuyers are willing to pay $4 per watt for homes having solar electricity systems installed. This means a 5-kilowatt solar P.V. system can add about $20,000, or more, to your home’s resale value. More enticing is the fact that in most states, this added value is exempted from the property tax. Similarly, a solar home is sold quicker than non-solar homes.
Last but not least, solar panels add beauty to your homes. Solar panels have not only improved in efficiency but in style and design too. Today’s panels’ sleek and modern design gives a classic and attractive look to your home’s exterior. For the same reason, a solar home is sold faster than non-solar homes. It is estimated that a solar-powered home is preferred 20 times more than the others.
4. Energy Independence – Rising Electricity Costs
Electricity is expensive today. Your cost of electricity depends primarily on two factors. Your usage and the rate your utility company charges you for that usage. But is it this simple? No. Actually, the more electricity you use, the higher your bill be. Given the tiered rate structure, your bill runs upward exponentially when you exhaust all the kWhs allotted to a tier. For instance, if you use 500kWh a month, your bill maybe $100. But if you use 1000kWh, your bill is not $200 but maybe $250 or more. Electricity gets more expensive when you use it more.
Secondly, electricity costs are rising every year! As the graph by the U.S. Energy Information Administration below shows, prices have risen three percent annually and more than 70% in the last decade. They are not fixed. A year later, you will pay more than what you pay today. And so on.
Thirdly, the prices of electricity are unpredictable. Since most of our energy needs come from fossil fuels, these prices are more prone to fluctuations in the market. For instance, when the oil crisis hits, the prices may go up drastically.
With solar energy, you can shoo away this three-fold anxiety associated with electricity prices. How can that happen?
When you install solar panels on your rooftop, you can be sure of where your energy is coming from. This is a one-time investment with a lifetime—at least 25 years—of benefits. You don’t need to pay monthly electricity bills to your utility company after that. At this moment, a thought might enter your mind about what you would do at night—or when the sun is away for days. There are three arrangements (hyperlink: How to Connect Your System to Grid) you can get enough energy in such situations. First, by going on-grid. That is, connecting your solar energy system to the grid. This allows you to consume energy coming from the grid at night. Second, going completely off-grid. This means cutting off the grid for good and relying on power storage systems—batteries. Third, going hybrid. Here, your system is connected to the grid as well as batteries.
It is simple now. You consume the energy your solar panels generate during the daytime. For the night, it depends on your arrangement with the grid. If it is off-grid, the excess power generated during the day is stored in your batteries which can be used at night. If it is on-grid, you directly derive power from your grid. If it is hybrid, you have a choice to use either grid’s power, or batteries’. What is interesting here is net metering. It keeps track of your system’s generation and household consumption. If you generate more than you consume at the end of the month, the grid buys that power, giving you credit. If the production equals the consumption, great, no bill for the month. That is what we call energy independence. Whether electricity costs are rising or there are blackouts, none of those will concern you, thanks to solar panels installed on your rooftop.
5. Supports Local Economy
Most of the components of a solar power system are homemade. Whether they are panels, inverters, batteries, wires, are chargers are made here, employing American citizens. In 2019, the solar industry generated $18.7 billion of investment in the American economy.As the graph based on the data taken from the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Job Census shows, there were around 250,000 workers earning their livelihood through working in the solar industry in 2019. It is to be noted that this figure doesn’t include those who work part-time in the solar sector. If we include that, the figure becomes 344,532. Since 2010, there has been a 167% increase in solar jobs. And there is more potential. Besides many other benefits, this is another great benefit. Going solar is supporting your local economy.
6. Solar Incentives and Rebates Programs
You might have noticed your neighbors’ rooftops turning blue or seen solar workers installing systems while going for a drive. The demand for solar energy is increasing due to two factors. One, people are more concerned with the harmful effects of nonrenewable energy resources. Another is, they want to save more. But it is not just a bottom-up approach, driven by the masses only, as it seems. It is also a top-down approach, with governments—both the Federal and state—taking commendable steps to encourage the citizens to go solar. These steps are not just policies but concrete actions. For instance, the Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC) gives you 26% back on your system’s upfront cost in the form of a tax credit if you installed a system in 2020. In 2021, this becomes 22%. Other than the ITC, there are other incentives and rebates programs offered by different states and municipalities. Read more about incentives here. (Hyperlink Incentives page here)