Everyday we can count on the sun coming up, and each day it rises the cost of residential solar continues to fall. No wonder residential is the fastest-growing segment of the solar market. While once upon a time, solar energy use was largely relegated to the eco-conscious, “Earth-crunchy” set, these days it’s absolutely mainstream — and you don’t even need to own a tie-dye shirt to benefit from its efficiency and affordability as a renewable energy source.
The Future’s So Bright, You Gotta Wear Shades
The outlook for solar power just keeps getting brighter. “By the end of 2020, the amount of installed solar capacity will be 300 percent higher than today,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Nationwide, it grew 10 times between 2008 and 2015.”
Clearing the Hurdles
Among the key reasons for the increase in solar installation are tax incentives and that the panels themselves are getting less expensive, which of course is great news. That aside, before a consumer can reap the benefits of solar there are taxes, permit fees, inspections and labor costs that must be dealt with.
Soft Costs Shouldn’t Be Hard
It all adds up to what are known as “soft costs.” In the first half of 2012, soft costs accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total residential system price, according to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Luckily help is on the way. To aid consumers untangle the convoluted path toward solar several government programs are stepping up to help customers streamline the process. One such program launched by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Orange Button, is currently developing easily downloadable, standardized set of data about individual solar installations which the DOE hopes will help reduce the troubles with permitting that in the past, have made some homeowners think twice about going solar.
“When you look at the cost of financing for these solar projects, it’s artificially high,” says Elaine Ulrich, program manager at the DOE. “Solar is a long-term asset that has pretty well-known characteristics, but it’s treated as a higher-risk asset because there isn’t sufficient data available to help folks in the financial industry to know how to assess the risk of [a] portfolio of assets.”
Orange Button is part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which launched in 2011 with the goal of making solar energy cost competitive with coal, natural gas and other traditional sources of electricity such as nuclear and hydroelectric power.
Schooling you in Solar
Another program, SolSmart was launched by The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and The Solar Foundation (TSF). The SolSmart goal is to help communities raise awareness that their city or county is solar-ready, helping to attract local development and create solar jobs. So far SolSmart has deployed 40 staff member to various communities.
“Our city has worked hard to make solar more affordable and easier for our residents and small businesses to install,” said Solsmart City Manager Scott Wingerson of Gladstone, Missouri. “We have seen firsthand how our actions have led to considerable social and economic benefits locally.”
Want to find out more about solar power, including initiatives and incentives in your neck of the woods? Contact us today for a free consultation.