It’s that time of year again when the sun starts to set earlier and earlier, especially here in Boston: already, it’s dark well before 5. But just because the number of daylight hours is dwindling towards its yearly nadir doesn’t mean it’s the wrong time to talk about solar.
As of 2019, 92% of Americans support expanding the use of solar, but just in case you’re dealing with an uncle who’s in that 8% minority, here are some solar facts and figures so you have your talking points ready for Thanksgiving:
Solar can save you money in the near term
There are three primary ways to pay for solar: in cash, with a loan, or with a lease. Cash purchases yield the largest financial benefit, but require having the capital on hand to pay for a system upfront. Leasing solar doesn’t produce the same levels of long term savings, but may provide immediate savings on your electricity bill.
Zero-downpayment solar loans sit perfectly between these two extremes – providing you many of the benefits associated with owning solar, while also allowing you to see savings on your electric bill in your first month of solar production. Over the last few years, solar loans have become increasingly popular nationwide as a way to purchase solar with no money down upfront and yielding immediate savings.
…and also in the long term
Solar panels last for more than 25 years, meaning two-plus decades of electricity bill savings. In fact, many solar panel manufacturers warranty their products for 25 or 30 years. And as electricity rates continue to rise in the future, your current $100 or $250 monthly electricity bill will cost you $40,000 to $100,000 over the next 25 years, which can be mostly or entirely offset by going solar today. Across the EnergySage Marketplace, the average payback period for solar is around 7-10 years, meaning an additional 15+ years of straight savings from solar.
What’s more, a recent national study found that solar-powered homes sell for 4% more than similar, non-solar homes. For a $300,000 house, this means an additional $12,000 benefit from installing solar.
Solar costs are declining
On EnergySage, we’ve seen the quoted cost of solar decrease 25% in the last five years alone. Eleven years ago, the installed cost of residential solar hovered around $8 per Watt; in the second half of 2020, the average solar quote on EnergySage came in at $2.75 per Watt, indicating solar costs have decreased by over 65% in the last ten years.
…and the quality of solar equipment is improving
A decade ago, the maximum solar panel efficiency was around 14%. These days, the best available solar panels are over 20% efficient. In other words, as costs have declined 65%, solar panels have become 40% more efficient at converting sunlight into power for your home, meaning more solar production at a lower cost.
In fact, the quality of equipment is improving so quickly that we had to revise our solar equipment rating system. We collaborated with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to update our first-of-its-kind solar panel quality rating system, to which we added a rating system for inverters and batteries as well. Check out the new ratings for yourself on the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide.
Solar is no longer niche
As of 2019, there were more than 2 million solar installations nationwide, including residential, commercial and utility-scale projects. And, by 2014, the Solar Industries Association (SEIA) predicts that 2.5% of all homes in the U.S. will have a solar installation.
This sort of growth doesn’t happen overnight and doesn’t occur without the strong support of a robust industry. In fact, according to The Solar Foundation’s Solar Jobs Census, there are nearly a quarter-million solar jobs in the US. For reference, that’s about five times as many people as are employed by the coal industry in 2020.
…and the solar industry has a bright future
All signs point to the solar industry just getting started. Even though the best incentive for solar–the federal investment tax credit (ITC)–is slated to disappear in a few years (Note: or not! Tell your family to call their Representatives and support an extension!), there’s reason to believe the growth of the industry won’t stall. One out of every three citizens of the US lives in a state or territory with a 100 percent renewable energy law, and solar will play a huge role in meeting those state mandates.
According to SEIA, 18.6 million homes could be powered by the cumulative solar electric capacity currently installed in the U.S.–however, there are almost 130 million households overall. If we continue to increase access and improve affordability, the potential for solar in the US is truly sky high.
Thanks for reading and have a great Thanksgiving!