Here at Solar Circuit, our goal is to help you go solar in California. And a big part of our commitment to you is to supply you with all the information you’ll need to make the decision that’s right for you. While there are various reasons why homeowners and businesses are going solar, it comes down to the two biggest benefits of solar technology: helping the environment and saving money. So, whatever your motivation is, our expert staff is here to make it happen.
It’s good for the planet
Let’s first look at the environmental implications of installing solar panels. While some energy is expended in the manufacture of solar energy systems, the net environmental impact of solar energy generation is extremely small. However, once the panels are installed, you’ll no longer be sending out all those residual pollutants that come from oil, natural gas, coal, and wood. On top of that, you won’t be producing those massive volumes of carbon dioxide–a gas that affects the global climate.
Keep in mind, not only is solar energy clean, but it comes from a renewable source, so you can also stop fretting about being complicit in using up the earth’s dwindling supplies of petroleum and coal. After all, those fossil fuels that remain in the ground will be long gone before the sun burns out.
It’s good for your budget
We’re sure you’ve heard the solar naysayers pointing out the up-front costs of a solar energy system. Of course, if you purchase your system, there will be expenses at the beginning. There are compelling alternatives to buying your equipment, but if you decide that buying is the best choice for you, just remember that with modern technological advancements in the design and manufacturing of solar panels, equipment costs have come down significantly.
Also, consider that even though there are variables—the type of system and its location, for instance—the payback from decreased or eliminated electric bills could be relatively short. And since your savings will be equal to the costs you avoid by going solar, you’ll stand to save even more over the 25-plus year lifespan of your system as electricity rates continue to rise.
You have options for taking advantage of the benefits of a solar panel system
You can circumvent the initial costs of a solar system by entering into a Power Purchase Agreement, but if you would rather purchase your equipment outright, there are many incentives, depending on where you live, that can soften the blow of upfront costs.
The recently extended Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a 30 percent federal tax credit that is claimed against the tax liability of residential and commercial investors in solar energy systems. There are also many solar tax credits, rebates, and incentives in the state of California.
Okay, a solar system makes environmental and economic sense, but just how does it work?
It all started over sixty years ago when scientists at Bell Telephone discovered that silicon, an element found in sand, created an electric charge when it was exposed to sunlight. Soon, those same scientists began developing solar cells to capture the sun’s energy and turn it into electricity. The technology has evolved over the years, and today solar power systems harness the inexhaustible power of the sun by collecting its energy and turning it into direct current (DC) electricity. The DC electricity is passed through a device called an inverter, which converts it to the alternating current (AC) electricity used in most homes and businesses.
So, what are some of the advantages to the each of these two major consumers of electricity—homes and businesses?
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Among the many reasons that homeowners give for going solar is that they believe solar is an excellent home efficiency upgrade, they are enthusiastic about reducing their carbon footprint, and they realize that it will improve their property’s value. Here are some of the specifics:
- No electric bill: One of the best reasons to go solar is that you can eliminate or minimize your electric bill. Think about it: A monthly electric bill of $100 becomes a $1,200 annual expense. Project that amount over 20 years, and you’ve paid $24,000 to your utility company, and that figure doesn’t include rate increases that will almost certainly make your 20-year energy costs even higher. With a solar panel system installed in your home, you have removed yourself from this cycle.
- Easier budgeting: Electricity prices can be unpredictable, making it difficult to manage your budget. In fact, over the past ten years, residential electricity prices have gone up by an average of three percent annually. Solar panel systems fix your electricity costs and make them more predictable. While this helps every family to manage their monthly expenses, it’s especially beneficial for those living on a fixed income.
- Higher return on investment: If you choose to purchase your solar system, don’t look at it as an expense. Rather, think of it as an investment with returns equivalent to the stock market–without any of the market’s risks. Because of the substantial savings on your electric bills, most homeowners see a payback of seven or eight years on their systems, which works out to a return-on-investment of about twenty percent. Not too shabby!
- Increased property value: Studies have found that homes equipped with solar energy systems have higher values. In California, research has shown that not only do solar systems create higher property values, but those homes sell faster than homes without solar.
How much difference in value can a solar panel system make? Some estimates suggest that solar energy can add 15 to 20 times your annual energy savings to the value of your home. For example, say you save $1200 per year in electricity costs with your solar system. That could add $18,000 to $24,000 to the value of your house!
- Lower energy dependence: The world’s energy markets are particularly unstable, with price fluctuations often having a negative influence on the U.S. economy. By expanding our capacity to generate solar electricity, we can protect ourselves from those ebbs and flows, while ensuring a sustainable source of energy for the future. Homeowners who invest in solar power help to bring our country a step closer to energy independence.
- Protect the planet: Solar energy is crucial to reducing our carbon footprint. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an average household emits nearly 20 metric tons of carbon pollution each year. Installing a solar power system can reduce those carbon emissions by three to four tons each year– the equivalent of planting over 100 trees annually.
By switching to solar energy, businesses can receive those same benefits, including tax incentives, which homeowners enjoy. What company would not appreciate the stable cash flow that solar provides? Smart companies have already recognized solar power as a way to stay competitive and profitable by reducing the big bite that electricity takes out of their budget.
Some recent market data shows the average commercial property owner paying $1,950 in monthly electricity bills before installing solar, and $500 per month after—a rather significant 75% reduction!
And remember, solar isn’t just for the big guys. Small and medium-sized companies are also capitalizing on the financial benefits that solar energy has to offer.
But there are also other less obvious reasons to consider making the change:
Demonstrating a commitment to the environment
No business should ever underestimate the power of positive publicity. In addition to producing bottom-line results, solar panels indicate a corporate social responsibility that speaks volumes about an organization’s culture and values. Consumers are acknowledging and rewarding companies that choose to operate responsibly, and eco-friendly credentials are beginning to drive consumer purchasing decisions, creating goodwill and improving business results.
Helping to create jobs and improve the local economy
The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census of 2016 found that solar employment increased by over 51,000 workers, a 25 percent increase over 2015. The census also showed there were 260,077 solar workers in 2016, which means solar industry employment has nearly tripled since the first census was released in 2010. In 2016, forty-four states, including California, added jobs in the solar industry. And this growth is expected to continue.
So, now you’re convinced that you want to join the solar panel energy revolution, but you don’t have the means to purchase a system right now. Are you out of luck? Relegated to waiting on the sidelines until you can save enough to participate and start reaping the benefits of solar?
Not at all! There is a solution, and it’s called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Read on to find out how it works and if it’s right for you:
Power Purchase Agreements (PPA)
If you’re looking to avoid the upfront capital costs of a solar panel system, there’s good news. A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is a viable alternative to owning a system. Instead, you enter into a financial agreement in which a developer arranges for the design, permits, financing, and installation of a solar energy system on your property.
This arrangement allows you (the host customer) to receive constant, low-cost electricity, while the developer gets financial benefits, including tax credits and the income generated from the sale of electricity.
PPAs typically range from 10 to 25 years, with the developer having responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the system for the duration of the agreement. When the contract expires, you could have the option of extending the PPA or have the developer remove the system. In some cases, the developer might offer to sell the system to you.
Consider some of the benefits of a Solar PPA:
No (or low) upfront capital costs: The developer bears all the costs of designing, acquiring, and installing the system. The host customer can start saving money as soon as the system is up and running.
Lower energy bills: Solar PPAs provide a lower, more predictable cost of electricity for the duration of the agreement. Depending on the agreement, prices can rise at a predetermined rate or can be fixed for the life of the agreement.
Reduced risk: Maintenance, insurance, and repairs are the responsibility of the developer.
Potential increase in property value: Solar energy systems have been shown to increase property values.
Transferable: Your system can be easily transferred to a new owner if you decide to move.
Keep in mind that PPAs are available to homeowners, businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and other organizations that are looking to take advantage of affordable and sustainable energy from the sun without the initial costs.
You buy the energy, not the equipment and all the responsibilities of owning it.