Why solar panels for homes are vital to the future of our planet
Climate change is the defining issue of our generation. At least I hope it is because if there is a bigger issue it could only be nuclear war… and that would be very, very bad.
Here is a graph from NASA showing that the planet has warmed 1.1°F (0.6°C) since 1980. Doesn’t sound too scary until you also hear that most scientists expect that a 7°F (4°C) increase in temperatures will lead to the extinction of human life on Earth. This is not data from hippies or self-interested groups; it is government weather data from folks like NASA and the Japanese Meteorological Agency. And it is not just predictions any longer—it is actually recorded weather data over the last 38 years.
What this shows is that at some point greater action will be required on climate change than what is currently the case, and this is likely to lead to higher power prices. Further action on climate change and banning of fossil fuels are coming. This will make the solar system on your roof even more valuable than it is now, and increase the savings and investment return it yields.
Emerging trend #1: Electric Vehicles
The same graph also points to the impending rise of electric vehicles as transportation alone accounts for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. The recent drop in Tesla prices with the release of the Tesla Model 3 has really shaken up the debate about electric vehicles.
Over the coming years, there will be a whole host of new electric vehicles on the US market with almost all of the major auto manufacturers realizing this is a growing segment of the market. The price of EVs will fall and before long you will be test driving one.
Electric vehicles use kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, not gallons of gas, and the simple fact is that on a per-kWh basis solar is already much cheaper than grid power. At an installation cost of $3.50 per watt, the levelized cost of solar power (cost of the system divided by total kWh produced over the life of the system) is around 7 cents per kWh. By comparison, the average price of grid power in the US is currently around 13 cents per kWh, and as high as 20 cents per kWh in California and much of the Northeast.
Emerging solar trend #2: Solar roof and solar shingles
There are two other trends that are changing the game when it comes to the attractiveness of powering your home with solar panels. The first is the introduction of the Tesla solar roof which is a giant leap forward for the solar industry in terms of trying to make solar panels more aesthetically attractive. These solar roof tiles are designed to look exactly like the non-active roof tiles and are really cool. The downside is that currently, the Tesla solar roof cost is around triple the cost of regular Tesla solar panels.
However, other companies are working on similar solar shingles and soon there will be many more aesthetically pleasing options for residential solar, and at more affordable prices. Unfortunately, solar roof tiles are not likely to be cost-effective within the timeframe left for the 30% solar tax credit.
Emerging solar trend #3: Solar batteries
The other major trend that is changing the attractiveness of solar is the cheaper availability and improved quality of solar batteries. Again this trend has been led by Tesla’s release of the Powerwall 2, the latest Tesla battery.
The new version of the Powerwall has a storage capacity of 13.5 kWh, more than double the Powerwall 1. It also now includes an integrated battery inverter and battery charger for a price of around $7,000 plus installation. The Tesla Powerwall 2 could now be a compelling solution but some are still wondering how long does the Tesla battery last? Some battery chemists are expressing doubts that lithium-ion batteries will last very long in real-world conditions.
The warranty is for 10 years but it is notable that—at least in the case of a quote I saw—the warranty is not from the Tesla parent company but from Tesla N.V., an overseas subsidiary. This raises some concern that perhaps the engineers at Tesla are also concerned about the Tesla home battery lasting 10 years.
Nonetheless, it is a groundbreaking solution and one I would be happy to buy. Even if it falls a bit short, the potential of solar batteries to help in the fight against climate change is something we should all support wholeheartedly.
What climate change and emerging solar tech mean for solar panels
All of these factors mean solar panels will become more necessary over time and this makes it more important that you seriously consider solar panels now—while the 30% federal solar tax credit can still pay for a significant part of your system. The solar tax credit steps down at the end of 2019. You can start by entering your details into the solar panels calculator and generating an online solar estimate tailored to your home.
Author: Andrew Sendy | Home Solar Journalist
Andy is deeply concerned about climate change but is also concerned about cost of living pressures on American families. He advocates for solar energy and solar battery storage only to the extent that they make financial sense for homeowners. He is not affiliated with any particular solar company in the United States.