Author Archives: Luke Richardson

Solar factories: do solar panels make sense for manufacturing?

solar for factories

Since the industrial revolution, factories have been among the world’s biggest consumers of energy due to their mass scale and high volume of processes centralized in one location. As a result of the major energy costs associated with manufacturing, many CEOs (such as Tesla’s Elon Musk) have identified solar power as the perfect way to reduce operating costs. In this article, we’ll explain why solar panels are a pragmatic investment for factories in 2017.

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Tesla’s solar panel roof: solar glass tiles are the new solar shingles

tesla solar roof shingles

If you’ve found it difficult to stay up to date on the future of Tesla Motors and SolarCity in recent months, you are not alone. Numerous industries (solar, electric vehicles, and ridesharing, to name a few) worldwide are starting to feel the impact of a merger that could significantly alter growth plans for manufacturers and executives across the globe. Now the concept of an integrated solar glass shingle – the Tesla solar tile – is on everyone’s mind. 

We had already heard about Tesla’s plans for total clean energy integration – a one step carbon reduction process that involves pairing solar panels with your Tesla electric vehicle. Now for the latest: thanks to a surprise appearance of Chairman Elon Musk in SolarCity’s 2nd quarter earnings call that lead to a highly anticipated Tesla solar roofing product launch at the end of October, we’ve now seen the future of PV roofing and the future of Tesla. One thing is certain: building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are going to be a part of Tesla Motors – or should we say Tesla Energy’s – future.

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How do solar panels work for your home?

how solar panels work

As the cost of solar has plummeted in recent years alongside major improvements in technical efficiencies and manufacturing quality, many homeowners across the U.S. are starting to look at solar as a viable alternative energy solution. And as solar enters mainstream energy markets, the big question is, “how do solar panels work?” In this article we’ll break down exactly how solar panels produce energy for your home and how pragmatic going solar really is in 2017.

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Are Chinese solar panels good quality?

chinese solar panel manufacturing

When homeowners are considering solar offers on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, we often hear questions about a solar panel’s manufacturer origin and whether it’s a good idea to choose Chinese panels for an installation. This is a common question as the latest estimates indicate that China is manufacturing roughly 70% of the world’s solar panels today – a dominant market share and a clear indicator of China’s key role in the global solar industry. China has a significant impact over worldwide solar trends like pricing, warranties and manufacturing practices. For example, the 80% decline in worldwide solar prices between 2008 and 2013 occurred largely due to improvements in manufacturing costs in China. And because China is such a major player in solar, many U.S. homeowners are asking “should I choose Chinese solar panels and will it match the quality of other top brands?” In this article we’ll break down pricing, quality and brand influence of Chinese solar panels.

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How Much do Solar Panels Cost in Utah in 2017 and What Incentives are Available?

solar panel cost utah 2017

While it has been evident that solar power has been taking off across the U.S. in the past decade, it’s been less clear where the majority of the growth is occurring. Though certain states (California, Arizona) are known to be major states for rooftop solar, others like Utah have stayed somewhat under the radar. Regardless of how aware the general public may be, the Beehive State has one of the fastest growing solar markets in the U.S. This reality was illustrated in our hottest solar markets state ranking for 2017, where Utah was ranked first in the nation for solar growth. In this article we’ll explain why Utah’s solar market is taking off and what you should expect solar to cost in the Beehive State.

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How much do solar panels cost in Orlando in 2017?

solar panel cost orlando

The U.S. has seen remarkable solar growth in the past half decade, and Florida is certainly one of the states leading the way. The Sunshine State now ranks in the top 10 for installed solar capacity and number five in the country for solar jobs. It’s also home to one of the nation’s top cities for solar energy – Orlando. The theme park capital of the world is starting to garner a reputation for its record-low solar prices. In this article we’ll explain why Orlando has become a top spot for solar power and what Orlando homeowners can do to cash in on big solar savings.

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What are the fastest growing states for solar power in 2017?

best states for solar power 2017

In an industry that has continued to grow at an impressive rate nationwide (4.4x over the past 5 years), details on solar hot spots in the U.S. can be elusive. Though there are a few states that are known for having plentiful sunlight (California, Florida, Arizona), there are many states leading the U.S. solar revolution that are flying under the radar. In this article, we’ll break down the top five solar states to date by cumulative solar capacity as well as the states with the fastest growing solar markets in 2017.

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How much do solar panels cost in Chicago in 2017?

solar panels chicago

The United States has experienced dramatic solar growth over the past decade and it can be attributed to a number of factors. The state of Illinois has seen a 64% decline in the cost of an installed solar system over the past 5 years with price drops even more significant in populated areas like its famous windy city, Chicago. Chicago is seeing some of the most significant solar growth by any city in the nation and this article we’ll explain why and what you should expect to pay for a solar panel system in 2017.

How much do solar panels cost in Chicago?

As of the first half of 2017, the average price for a solar panel system in Chicago was $3.48 per watt. Thus, since the typical system size in the U.S. is 5 kilowatts (5,000 watts), the average cost of a solar panel system in Chicago is $17,421 before any rebates or incentives.

Though this price may already look attractive, it’s missing a major incentive that bolsters the economics of solar in the U.S.: the federal tax credit for solar energy systems. The solar ITC signifies a huge price reduction thanks to a hefty 30% rebate offered to both residential and commercial markets. Check out this data table that shows the cost of solar at different system sizes with the ITC factored in:

Chicago solar pricing table: average system cost and net savings

System size Average solar system cost
3 kW $8,877
5 kW $12,195
7 kW $16,349
10 kW $23,386
12 kW $27,281

*Note – prices in this table have the 30% Federal solar subsidy already included

The above table shows the discounted price for a solar panel system in Chicago after the solar ITC is included. The data draws from real quotes submitted to homeowners on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace between the second half of 2016 and first half of 2017. Keeping in mind the typical system size for a U.S. homeowner is 5 kilowatts (5,000 watts), a solar panel system will cost just over $12,000 in 2017.

Chicago net metering and other solar power incentives

One major reason for the popularity of solar power in Chicago is centered around the great solar incentives in the state of Illinois. Every major state utility offers net metering – a “make or break” factor for the economics of solar.

Net metering is a major benefit for homeowners connected to the grid who have a solar system installed. These homeowners will receive credits on their utility bills whenever their solar panel system sends electricity back to the grid. In a sense, net metering allows you to use the grid to “store” your energy for free – when your solar panels are not producing enough electricity, you can use your net metering credits instead of buying electricity from the utility.

This is what makes solar a truly efficient and pragmatic option: with net metering, you can cover 100 percent of your energy needs even during nighttime when your system is not generating energy. Without net metering, most homeowners have to opt for another storage option like a solar battery.

Additionally, Chicago homeowners benefit from the incentive of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). Illinois’ renewable portfolio standard (RPS) now requires the state to source 25 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025. That’s an ambitious goal, and to make it happen, the state has a program that rewards homeowners that help Illinois reach that target. For each megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity your solar system produces, you will be granted one Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) that you can then sell on the market, putting cash in your pocket on top of the savings you’re already generating with solar.

How Chicago homeowners can save big with solar

Though Chicago residents will see some of the cheapest solar prices in the country with continued cost declines expected over the next five years, low prices aren’t necessarily the biggest selling point. When it comes to going solar, the long term ROI and savings from avoided bill payments is often the biggest deciding factor – and the figures can be staggering even in states where utility rates are reasonable. In 2016, solar quotes received by Chicago homeowners yielded 20-year savings estimates of over $15,000 on average. Checkout the breakdown of average net savings by solar system size:

Chicago net 20 year savings from solar

System size Average net solar savings over 20 years
3 kW $6,867
5 kW $13,946
7 kW $17,194
10 kW $26,767
12 kW $28,234

And even though these numbers may be enticing, what isn’t captured in a savings figure is the control you have as a solar shopper on the final quote you’ll receive for your solar energy system, bringing us to our…

Three tips for solar shoppers in Chicago

  1. Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more

    As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.

    To find the best solar contractors in Chicago that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $2,000 or more on their solar panel installation.

  2. The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price

    The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.

  3. Comparing all your equipment options is just as important

    National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.

    There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.

For any Chicago homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.





Don



Solar farms: what are they, and how do you start one?

solar panel farms

The solar industry has seen rapid growth over the past decade, and a major contributing factor has been the surge in solar farms popping up across the globe. A “solar farm,” also known as a photovoltaic power station, typically refers to a massive decentralized solar array meant to supply the electric grid.

The majority of these massive arrays are owned by utilities and are merely another asset for the utility to supply power to properties in their coverage area. However, a broader understanding of solar farms could include other ground mounted solar arrays large enough to supply power for many households. This general concept of a solar farm could be associated with both residential community solar and larger utility-scale solar. In this article we’ll explain the different types of solar farms, how much they cost and how to start one.

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8 Solar Energy Facts in 2017

solar energy facts

The U.S. solar industry has witnessed remarkable growth in the past decade while the cost of solar has declined by nearly 70 percent.  Now that solar has entered the mainstream, everyday homeowners are starting to wonder how much solar could save them and how simple making the switch really could be. If you’re starting to think about installing solar panels, it’s helpful to understand the big picture for solar power. In this article, we’ll break down eight facts about solar energy that may surprise you.

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