Solar panels are a great way to offset energy costs, reduce your home's environmental impact and provide a number of other benefits such as supporting local businesses and contributing to energy independence.
I would like to share the four main benefits as I see them:
1. Reduce or eliminate energy bills.
This one is pretty awesome. We live in a state, where there is an average amount of sun, but enough to power our house of three kids and two adults at net zero energy. On warm spring days, we generate much more than we consume and then trade it for utility. On hot summer days, when we run the air conditioner, or on cloudy days, we draw from the grid.
Even if you live somewhere cloudy, such places usually get more than two hours of sunlight per day, while sunny places get an average of 5.5 hours of sunlight per day.
Although sunny days produce more solar energy, the solar panels will continue to draw energy even when it is cloudy. Indirect or diffused sunlight will still help power your home. Cloudy days typically produce about 10 to 20 percent of the energy generated on sunny days.
2. Get tax credits and rebates.
I didn't realize how much of a benefit this would be, but our solar panels are actually paying us. For starters, you get 30 percent of the total system cost back from equipment and installation as a federal income tax credit when you file your taxes. That means you would save $7,500 on a $25,000 solar system.
Combine that with state and local rebates and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) and the total cost can be cut in half. SRECs are generated throughout the year and you can sell them to energy companies, generating a very impressive return on your initial investment.
Our mayor D.C. Muriel Bowser signed the Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Act of 2016 into law in the summer of 2016. This bill, B21-0560, increases the renewable and solar portfolio requirements to 50 percent and 5 percent by 2032, respectively. The bill establishes a program under the Department of Energy and Environment to help low-income homeowners install solar systems on their homes.
The idea behind this bill is to spur the continued growth of D.C.'s solar industry, which has grown 170 percent in the past year.
The investment only has a payback period of 3.5 years, while the solar panels have a 10-year warranty and a 25-year lifetime – meaning you generate free electricity and extra credits for 20+ years. It's hard to beat. It is both socially responsible and economically profitable.
Many installers also offer free installation where they pay all the money for the panels and installation and charge a reduced rate for electricity. They basically “rent” your roof space and in return give you a discount on electricity. This is a good option for homeowners who don't want to make an initial investment or prefer a no-money-down option. The installer in this case collects all SREC revenue.
No matter where you live, you most likely have some amazing solar tax credits. Take advantage of them while you can.
3. Start saving from day one.
Annual energy costs can run into the thousands. In fact, the average annual energy expenditure per person is $3,052, including transportation and residential energy. Solar power can reduce or eliminate these costs once installed. They also offer long-term savings because capturing the sun's power is essentially free.
Solar panels significantly improve your resale value. Most home buyers understand what a home with solar panels means – especially since the system is already in place and they didn't have to make the initial investment and installation. According to the research, most homeowners see an increase in the resale value of $5,911 per kilowatt installed. This means that if you install a 3.1-kilowatt system, you can increase the resale value of your home by almost $18,000.
Solar panels also extend the life of the roof by protecting against the elements such as rain, snow, and debris. Thanks to them, the house is more energy efficient in the summer because the hot sun does not fall directly on the roof – instead, it is absorbed by the panels and keeps the temperature in the house lower.
4. Help the environment and help us all.
Solar systems get clean, pure energy from the sun. Installing solar panels in your home helps combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduces our collective dependence on fossil fuels. Traditional electricity is obtained from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. When fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity, they release harmful gases that are the primary cause of air pollution and global climate change. Fossil fuels are not only bad for the environment, they are also a limited resource. Because of this, the price is constantly fluctuating and can increase in a short period of time.
Renewable energy also improves public health. Coal and natural gas power plants produce air and water pollution that is harmful to human health. But replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, such as solar power, can reduce both premature mortality and overall health care costs.
Although fossil fuel production requires significant water resources and causes water pollution, solar energy requires little or no water to operate. Therefore, solar energy not only does not pollute water sources but also does not strain the world's water supply.
Solar energy works even during a drought or heat wave. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear power use large amounts of water for cooling. During heat waves or major droughts, as we have experienced in recent years, electricity production is at risk. However, solar systems do not need water to produce electricity.
In addition, solar power creates clean energy jobs. The US leads the world in clean energy. Hopefully, this trend will continue in the face of government budget cuts to the EPA and DOE, as innovative and forward-thinking companies continue to embrace the changing energy generation landscape and transition to renewables.