Solar isn't just an energy industry; it's a technology industry. Since the first experimental photovoltaic (PV) panels in 1954 to today's record-holding most efficient monocrystalline panels, the tech has made leaps and bounds. Manufacturing keeps pace, getting more efficient all the time. One delightful result of this dual progress is lower prices for solar panels.
Meanwhile, electricity rates generally go in one direction, up. This is why the value proposition of solar keeps improving. Clean solar energy gets cheaper to harness every year, while the grid power it competes with can't help but get more expensive.Get A Free Solar Quote Now
Let's break down the factors that contribute to solar's ever-winning value proposition.
The Tech Keeps Getting Better
PV panels were developed at Bell Labs in 1954. That's where D.M. Chapin, C.S. Fuller, and G.L. Pearson used silicon to make a reliable power source with 4% efficiency. The rest of the sun's energy was lost as heat. To put that seemingly measly efficiency rate into perspective, the familiar incandescent light bulb only converts 10% of its energy draw into light; 90% is lost as heat.
Theoretically, PV panels can achieve 29% efficiency, and researchers have gotten tantalizingly close to it in labs. Chinese manufacturers made a couple of breakthroughs back-to-back recently, setting a record of 21.65% efficiency in 2019 and then bounding over it to 22.38% a month later.
But an American company holds the record right now. One line of SunPower's monocrystalline X-series panels offers a verified 22.7% efficiency rate.
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Electricity Rates Mainly Go One Way: Up
Based on the rate projections it published recently, the U.S. Energy Administration expects electricity prices to rise 2.6% this year and another 2.5% the next. So compared to what we were paying last year, that's more than a 5% increase.
Meanwhile, solar keeps getting more affordable.
You Are Already in a Contract, But With the Utility
Most residential solar equipment is leased (or lease-to-own). Despite the proven benefits of solar power, some homeowners are reluctant to enter into a leasing contract. It's understandable. They already have a mortgage, a car lease or two, and maybe they even leased the family smartphones.
But having to enter into a contract is not a negative in the solar value proposition when you consider that you are already in a "contract" with the utility company. Whatever the power company chooses to charge, you agree to pay it. Or else . . . lights out!
Viewed from this perspective, the solar value proposition improves. So what if a solar lease or loan takes you six or seven years to break even? Won't you still need electricity in six years, and beyond? Won't you still be buying your electricity from the utility then?
As long as your live in that home, you agree to buy power from the utility at whatever rate it sets. Solar gives you a more affordable alternative.
Solar's Flexibility Pleases Most Homeowners
A collection of photovoltaic (PV) panels is called an array. You might picture the array on your rooftop, but you have other options. For example, mounting the panels on a ground framework in a corner of your property could be better for capturing sunlight and won't detract from the pleasing lines of an attractive roof.
Another option is to make the array serve double duty as a patio cover or carport roof. The variety of mounting locations and styles means your panels can follow the planes of your roof or be split between roof and pergola, between roof and yard, and so on.
Impressive ground frameworks
Hours of sunlight per day can be maximized with tracking. This is when panels rotate/tilt to follow the sun. Tracking is an attractive option for arrays mounted on ground frameworks because it can extend the array's period of peak production by several hours per day.
Solar's Value Proposition
Consider all the ways solar keeps getting more affordable compared to the only real alternative people have, which is to buy power from the grid:
- Manufacturing gets more efficient, reigning in prices
- Technology improves, lasts longer
- Energy prices keep rising
- Solar installations grow more flexible, creative
- Owned solar energy systems increase home value.
In response, what can utility companies say? Only that they will try to raise their rates less, if possible. But they know they have you by the short hairs because you must power your home. This brings us to another benefit in solar's value proposition, which we could have listed above: You get a degree of energy independence.
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