Ready to start your solar journey?
Embarking on your solar journey is an exciting step towards a more sustainable and cost-efficient future. Solar power not only reduces your carbon footprint but also offers significant long-term savings on your energy bills. With advancements in technology and various incentives available, now is the perfect time to start harnessing the power of the sun to create a cleaner, brighter tomorrow for yourself and the planet.
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The second technology is concentrating solar power, or CSP. It is used primarily in very large power plants and is not appropriate for residential use. This technology uses mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, which can then be used to produce electricity. Learn more about how CSP works.
If a solar professional determines that your roof is not suitable for solar, or you don’t own your home, you can still benefit from solar energy. Community solar allows multiple people to benefit from a single, shared solar array that can be installed on- or off-site. Costs associated with purchasing and installing a solar energy system are divided among all of the participants, who are able to buy into the shared system at a level that best fits their budget. Learn more about community solar.
Those interested in community solar can take advantage of a tool from SETO awardee EnergySage. The company's Community Solar Marketplace aggregates the many available options in one place and standardizes project information, allowing interested consumers to easily locate and compare multiple community solar projects in their area.
Solar co-ops and Solarize campaigns can also help you start the process of going solar. These programs work by allowing groups of homeowners to work together to collectively negotiate rates, select an installer, and create additional community interest in solar through a limited-time offer to join the campaign. Ultimately, as the number of residents who participate in the program increase, the cost of the installations will decrease.
For its analyses, NREL uses an average system size of 7.15 kilowatts direct-current with a 3-11 kilowatt range. According to SETO awardee EnergySage, that’s enough power to meet all the energy needs for an average home in Austin, Texas.
In some cities around the country, solar is already cost competitive with the electricity sold by your local utility. The cost of going solar has dropped every year since 2009, a trend researchers expect to continue. Not only are the prices of panels dropping, so are the costs associated with installation, such as permitting and inspection—also known as “soft costs.” All of SETO's funding programs are working toward improving the affordability of solar and making it easier for consumers to choose solar.
It should also be noted that energy efficiency upgrades complement solar energy economically. By using Energy Star appliances and other products in your home, you’ll need less solar energy to power your home.
If you prefer to buy your solar energy system, solar loans can lower the up-front costs of the system. In most cases, monthly loan payments are smaller than a typical energy bill, which will help you save money from the start. Solar loans function the same way as home improvement loans, and some jurisdictions will offer subsidized solar energy loans with below-market interest rates, making solar even more affordable. New homeowners can add solar as part of their mortgage with loans available through the Federal Housing Administration and Fannie Mae, which allow borrowers to include financing for home improvements in the home’s purchase price. Buying a solar energy system makes you eligible for the Solar Investment Tax Credit, or ITC. In December 2020, Congress passed an extension of the ITC, which provides a 26% tax credit for systems installed in 2020-2022, and 22% for systems installed in 2023. The tax credit expires starting in 2024 unless Congress renews it. Learn more about the ITC.
Solar leases and PPAs allow consumers to host solar energy systems that are owned by solar companies and purchase back the electricity generated. Consumers enter into agreements that allow them to have lower electricity bills without monthly loan payments. In many cases, that means putting no money down to go solar. Solar leases entail fixed monthly payments that are calculated using the estimated amount of electricity the system will produce. With a solar PPA, consumers agree to purchase the power generated by the system at a set price per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. With both of these options, though, you are not entitled to tax benefits since you don’t own the solar energy system.
Navigating the landscape of solar financing can be difficult. The Clean Energy States Alliance released a guide to help homeowners understand their options, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each. Download the guide.
DSIRE is the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewable energy in the United States. It is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. By entering your zip code, DSIRE provides you with a comprehensive list of financial incentives and regulatory policies that apply to your home. Additionally, an experienced local installer should be able to assist you in claiming any state and local incentives, as well as the ITC.
If you want to learn more about state and federal solar policies regarding incentives and tax breaks, the Solar Power in Your Community guidebook (PDF) has a section—Appendix A on page 87—that explains it in detail.
When it comes to third-party owned (TPO) systems, data shows that while they add some complexity to the real estate transaction, the overall impacts in terms of sales price, time on market, agreement transfers, and customer satisfaction are mostly neutral. In some cases, TPO systems can even add value.
The PV Value® tool is helpful for both home sellers and homebuyers. It calculates the energy production value for a PV system and is compliant with Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and has been endorsed by the Appraisal Institute for the income approach method. Make sure your appraiser uses this tool to get the most accurate estimate of your PV system’s value.
A working PV panel has a strong encapsulant that prevents chemicals from leaching, similar to how defroster elements are sealed in a car windshield. Occasionally, a solar panel may break due to weather or other events. According to the International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Technology Collaboration Program, any lead and cadmium exposure from broken solar panels in residential, commercial, and utility-scale systems would be below the acceptable limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for soil, air, and groundwater.
A Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing: Leases, Loans and PPAs – This guide from the Clean Energy States Alliance helps homeowners navigate the complex landscape of residential solar system financing. It describes three popular residential solar financing choices and explains the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as how they compare to a direct cash purchase.
Solar PV Project Financing: Regulatory and Legislative Challenges for Third-Party PPA System Owners– Third-party owned solar arrays allow a developer to build and own a PV system on a customer’s property and sell the power back to the customer. While this can eliminate many of the up-front costs of going solar, third-party electricity sales face regulatory and legislative challenges in some states and jurisdictions. This report details the challenges and explains alternatives.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Encouraging Solar Development through Community Association Policies and Processes – This guide, written for association boards of directors and architectural review committees, discusses the advantages of solar energy and examines the elements of state solar rights provisions designed to protect homeowner access to these benefits. It then presents a number of recommendations associations can use to help bring solar to their communities.
Selling into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes – This report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that home buyers are consistently willing to pay premiums of approximately $15,000 for homes that have solar across various states, housing and PV markets, and home types.
SEIA Residential Lease Disclosure Form – This form for solar energy leasing companies will help consumers better understand the terms and costs of their solar leases. The form is also designed to help consumers choose among competitive providers.
Residential Solar-Adopter Income and Demographic Trends – This report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that while solar adoption skews toward high-income households, low- and moderate-income households are also adopting, and that the rooftop solar market is becoming more equitable over time.
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You Would Qualify for a 30% Tax Credit
The Inflation Reduction Act includes some two dozen tax provisions that will save families money on their energy bills and accelerate the deployment of clean energy, clean vehicles, clean buildings, and clean manufacturing, including a 30% tax credit for households to install solar on their rooftops.
Electricity Rates Are Unpredictable
Switching to solar power is not just a sustainable choice, but also a savvy financial decision. By harnessing the sun's energy, you can significantly reduce your electricity bills, ultimately saving you money in the long run. Moreover, solar panels contribute to more stable electricity rates, as they insulate you from the volatile price fluctuations often associated with traditional energy sources. This dual benefit of cost savings and rate stability makes solar power a smart investment for a brighter and more economically secure future.