Can I afford to go solar?
A survey of 2,200 homeowners showed 97% still believe installing a solar energy system requires an investment of at least $20,000, making it too expensive to consider.
However, in 2023, the solar scenario has changed completely, and solar is a lot cheaper and more profitable than people think:
- Solar panel costs have come down due to technological improvements and increased competition between solar companies. In states like Arizona, you can now get a 5 kW solar system for under $10,000 after incentives.
- Homeowners will instantly see lower monthly electric bills, and in the 30+ states with net metering you can make excellent returns by exporting their power.
- Most solar installations can be leased or purchased with no down payment, and lower monthly installments than their current utility costs.
- Savings begin right when your solar panels are turned on, not at some distant point in the future.
So, the question should rather be “can you afford NOT to go solar?”
Are there incentives, rebates, and discounts to lower the cost of a solar installation?
Yes! A range of cost-saving options are available from the different levels of government:
- At the federal level, under the Residential Clean Energy Tax Credit taxpayers can claim 30% of qualified expenses for investing in a solar system for a home you own and live in. Eligible costs include labor on site, assembling and installing the system, and the cost of all related piping and wiring. The tax credit can be carried forward to the next year if the full amount exceeds the homeowner’s tax liability.
- Some states also offer tax credits for installing solar energy systems, which work in a similar way to the federal credit.
- Some utilities or cities also offer upfront rebates for people that buy solar systems. However, these are becoming increasingly rare because solar is now so much cheaper than it was. Lawmakers are now aware that solar can provide consumers an excellent return on investment without the need for such rebates.
- Certain states require utilities to get a portion of their electrical power from solar. Some even require a portion of this to be from rooftop solar rather than utility-scale solar projects. This legislation has created a market for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). SRECs are certificates given to owners of solar systems that represent 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity production. These certificates can be sold to utilities that have a legal obligation to source a specific amount of power from renewable or solar generation.
- Some utilities offer performance-based incentives (PBIs). With PBIs, the customer is paid a specific amount for all kilowatt-hours (kWh) of solar generation their panels produce regardless of whether it is consumed in the household or exported to the utility. It is similar to net metering in that it is a legislative way to give value to solar production and sometimes PBIs and net metering exist simultaneously.
Claiming all the credits and incentives you qualify for may sound daunting, but if you contact Solar Reviews we can help you navigate the various programs and reduce the cost of your installation significantly.
What are some of the top programs in the United States that help people go solar?
In addition to the federal solar tax credit program available to all Americans, many states have excellent incentive programs. New Mexico, for example, has a state solar tax credit option that is equal to 10% of eligible costs. In New Jersey, solar homeowners with an average-size solar system can earn an extra $650 the first year their system is installed on top of electricity bill savings thanks to the state’s solar incentive program.
What solar programs help the U.S. workforce?
The shift to solar isn’t only affecting residential and commercial installations, but it’s also opening up thousands of jobs. The National Solar Jobs Census shows 255,000 Americans were employed in solar in 2021. To support this growth, some solar programs exist to help train and deploy workers in the field. Some of these include:
- Solar Ready Vets is a program created by the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. It enables active duty service members to take a 5 to 6-week course to teach them about all aspects of the solar industry, ahead of their return to civilian life.
- The Solar Training Network coordinates and promotes a number of training programs aimed at helping Americans gear up for the industry and find work.
- A Women in Solar installation training program supported by Grid Alternatives gives women workers the chance to develop their leadership abilities and gain access to solar job opportunities.
There are also a number of other programs funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Energy, that offer workforce and training opportunities.
Is community solar an option for me?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a homeowner to enjoy the benefits of solar energy. Various programs enable non-owners to install systems, and community solar initiatives make it possible for groups of residences to combine their investments and create a “garden” of solar panels that feed participants’ households. The solar array is jointly owned by all participants, who pay a fixed price for their share. The payment can be made with cash or financed through a solar loan. Once the system is operational, participants get net metering credits proportional to their share, which are applied to reduce their power bills.
This is an excellent option for anyone who doesn’t own their residence or can’t accommodate solar panels on their roof.
What are the benefits of going solar?
Before you make any investment, it’s important to quantify exactly what your return is going to be. With a solar electric installation, most homeowners can look forward to:
- Reduction of energy bills. Whether you merely reduce your costs or eliminate your energy bills completely depends on variables such as the system you install, the incentive programs in your area, and how much sunlight you get. If you live in a sunnier region, you probably get an average of 5.5 hours of sunlight each day, which will contribute to higher energy production.
- Earning tax credits and incentives. The value of solar incentives is significant. The federal tax credit of 30% means a $6,000 saving on a $20,000 system. This doesn’t take into account all the other savings you could get through state and utility incentives.
- Kickstart your savings immediately. There’s no waiting period to start saving. The average annual energy cost per person is over $3,000, and a solar system begins reducing costs from the day it’s turned on. If you’re planning to resell your home, statistics show the installation will push up the value by 4.1%.
- Helping the environment. Solar panels generate clean energy from the sun, so they reduce the use of fossil fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Not only does this help the environment, but it also helps improve human health by decreasing air pollution.
How long does it take to repay the investment in a solar system?
Solar systems typically have a useful life of at least 25 years, and carry a warranty for 25 years. With all the incentives available, customers can typically recover their investment within 5-8 years, which means you get free electricity and extra credits for the remainder of the 25-year period. It’s hard to beat that kind of return.
Since it’s so easy to offset the costs, why isn’t everyone installing a solar energy system? If that’s the question you’re asking yourself, let us help you determine the best answer for your home and family.