Solar energy is a promising source of renewable energy, with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projecting that it, along with other counterparts like wind power, will be one of the most competitive sources of new energy generation in the years to come. There is popular support of renewable energy initiatives, with less than 10 percent of respondents polled by Pew Research expressing opposition to expansion of the solar sector. With other programs like the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which offers a 30 percent credit for business and everyday energy systems, it is hardly surprising that the sector saw its biggest capacity increase in 2016, outstripping the growth of any other player in the industry. Despite this, the question of cost still raises a host of concerns to consumers who are potentially thinking about adopting solar panels in their energy use plan.
The growing expansion in solar has lowered costs dramatically over the past several decades, with many renewable energy incentives cropping up in each state. The U.S. Department of Energy announced the SunShot Initiative, which aims for significant cost reduction and expansion of solar energy across the board, but particularly in residential applications.
According to 2017 data from Department of Energy affiliate Energysage, the costs of residential solar power systems can range from $2.87 and $3.85 per watt to install solar panels, with average total costs between $10,045 and $13,475 for a complete 5kW system. The up-front costs, admittedly, can be quite intimidating. However, financing options such as low-interest, 0 percent down payments, and solar loans aid consumers who wish to make the transition. According to Energysage, a complete solar energy system will pay itself back in 6 to 8 years due to energy savings, and incentives such as solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs).
Despite these pro-solar initiatives, many people often perform Do It Yourself (DIY) solar projects instead, and often require only a few spare panels to get the job done. In these cases, one would likely be paying close to $1 per kW installed, with a panel ranging from 150W to 350W. With regards to single panels, Energysage recommends to have whatever system that you are thinking of installing done by professionals because the costs are relatively low, and electrical work can be tricky. Finally, when deciding on a solar system, whether it be large or small-scale, it is considerably beneficial to shop around, receive multiple quotes, and understand which distributor best fits your needs. With a growing presence, strong government incentives, and falling costs, solar energy represents one of the brightest lights in the U.S. energy market.
“How much do Solar Panels Cost in the US?” (EnergySage.com)
“Americans strongly favor expanding solar power to help address costs and environmental concerns” (Brian Kennedy, Pew Research Center)
“Sunshot Initiative Goals” (US Dept. of Energy)