The following is a guest post from a reader named Greg Petersen. I have been so busy homeschooling kids and going crazy in isolation that I haven’t been able to get into the flow of writing. I also find it very hard to write on personal finance topics when there are so many things that are more important. However, I was so impressed at the research and references to my other solar articles that I felt it was worth running. At a time like this, I doubt too many people are consider solar energy, but if you have some time on your hands to do the research now, maybe it will make sense when things look better.
The news about the polar shift and different natural catastrophes being experienced in different parts of the world has made the idea of going green and going off the grid seem a lot more appealing. With climate change and other man-made destruction identified as the possible reasons for the earth’s outcry, many people are seriously thinking about using clean energy.
The constant earthquakes in different parts of the world, the sudden drop in temperature in Afghanistan, and bushfires in Australia are all indications of how serious the earth’s condition really is. These global catastrophes are not something one person can solve. Instead, these concerns need a more urgent, unified effort from the people of the world.
If you are still not convinced of the urgency of going green and shifting to solar energy, here are some points of contention that might sway you in the right direction.
Solar power is environmentally-friendly
One common but underrated fact about solar energy is that it’s a green and clean energy source. This means that when you shift to solar power, you are significantly reducing your carbon footprint. With solar power, nothing hazardous is being released to the air that might pollute mother nature. And since solar energy does not release greenhouse gases, it does not use other resources. Given these factors, one can say that solar energy is 100% environmentally-friendly and safe.
In addition, solar power is also self-sustaining. If you install solar panels on your roof, you are on a path to contributing to the earth’s sustainable future. Plus, your home will offer proof of your personal commitment to mother nature.
Solar energy paves the way for a cleaner renewable power source that not only benefits homeowners but also the environment. Compared to other alternative sources of energy, solar power reduces the local and global carbon footprint, significantly contributing to the efforts of reducing greenhouse gases. This energy source is known for its favorable impact and advantages to the environment.
In the U.S. electricity is mostly generated from natural gas, coal, and other fossil fuels. The process of extracting and converting fossil fuels into viable energy sources is not only expensive but also detrimental to the environment. Solar energy, on the other hand, is abundant and free. If you could capture all of the sun’s energy for an hour, you could produce power for the entire world that would last for a year.
If you invest in solar energy, you take a proactive stance in reducing the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. In the process, you’re pursuing a more consistent and abundant energy source — the sun.
Solar energy helps limit the emission of greenhouse gases
If you generate electricity using solar power instead of natural gas or coal, you can dramatically decrease the volume of greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases are produced through fossil fuel burning, leading to the rise in global temperatures and climate change. The latter contributes largely to public health and environmental issues; including ecosystem changes, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events.
If you go solar, you can help reduce the rising demand for fossil fuels while shrinking your carbon footprint and limiting your greenhouse gas emissions. A single home that opts for a solar energy system can create a measurable impact on the health of the environment. The U.S. Energy Information Administration stated that an average home using solar panels in Connecticut consumes 8,288 kWh of electricity every year. If that home was switched from fossil fuels to solar power, the homeowners could reduce emissions significantly and create a positive effect on the environment equal to planting 150 trees a year.
The average electricity use in New York homes is at 7,248 kWh per year. If these homes switched to a cleaner energy source like solar power, they could reduce the carbon emissions that result from burning more than 5,000 pounds of coal every year.
Solar energy helps decrease cardio and respiratory health issues
One of the most persuasive reasons why one should invest in solar energy is its effects on our health. With such a clean energy source, you can expect that there will be less air pollutants. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with more people shifting to a solar power system, there would be lesser emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and other particulate matter. Aside from this, NREL also found out that solar power helps decrease cardiovascular conditions, respiratory problems, and chronic bronchitis. Worker productivity will also increase as people experience less illness.
With solar power you can go off-the-grid
Compared to electricity, solar panels are less costly. Traditional electricity significantly relies on fossil fuels like natural gas and coal. These substances are all detrimental to the environment. They are also not sustainable energy resources. As a result, the market for energy resources is volatile, with prices fluctuating violently all through the day.
If you choose solar electricity, your independence from electricity will be boosted further. If you invest in a 4KW-size solar system, a common size for domestic use, you can spare yourself from the ever-fluctuating utility prices. With a cheap and clean electricity source, you won’t feel guilty enjoying your appliances all day long. After all, the sun will never increase its consumption rate. The sun will give you the energy security you need.
The moment your solar panels are installed securely on the roof of your house, technically, you already reached the status of a person that’s energy-independent. Plus, the storage systems of your solar battery will allow you to safely store electricity for use during rainy days and nighttime.
Underutilized land can be used with solar power
If after all that has been said you are still not sold on the idea of installing your own solar power, think of the unused lands that have been left unattended. With solar energy, you can transform these untended lands into areas that can be used to generate more solar power.
Energy shortage is a worldwide phenomenon. Especially now that the threats of natural calamities and disasters are almost everywhere, the topic of energy sufficiency is more than timely. And since everyone is using electricity, it is time to join hands in a collective effort to capture more solar power.
People can harvest solar power in large quantities from solar farms. A 45-acre farm is able to provide electricity in more than 2,500 home volume of energy. The amount of solar energy that can be sourced here is more than enough to power a town, city, state, or even country. People and nations will no longer have to suffer from high-priced electricity costs and unclean energy sources that will end up destroying the environment.
Enjoy a lower energy bill
If you don’t want to go completely off the grid, you can still benefit from a solar panel-powered home. The generation of solar power happens primarily in the afternoon when the sun is up. More solar power can also be generated during summertime. This is the perfect answer to the high energy need during this time of the day and season of the year. It’s in the afternoon when it’s so hot that most homeowners turn on their air conditioners.
Solar energy is valuable in the sense that other energy production methods like natural gas plants that are used to meet the highest energy demands end up being overly expensive. Before the new utility pricing scheme was introduced, homeowners were charged with a flat rate for electricity. This means it doesn’t matter what time of the day they used electricity, they pay a fixed monthly rate. If you install and use a solar power system during this time, you can’t really feel the benefit. It’s like the cost of installation of your solar power system offsets the cost of your electricity bill.
Fortunately, a vast majority of the utility companies in the U.S. now adapt a new pricing scheme that charges homeowners different rates for different hours of the day. The ratio behind such a scheme is to reflect the actual electricity production cost at different times of the day. This means that you will be charged higher rates in the afternoon when the demand for electricity is at its peak, and lower rates during the night. The extent of the benefit you enjoy as a solar power system owner depends on when you use your electricity the most. This investment is most beneficial to those living in areas that implement varying pricing schemes over different seasons of the year due to seasonal demand fluctuations. Those who consume more electricity during summer will feel the most benefit from solar power.
Sell solar-generated energy to electrical companies
Apart from a significantly lowered bill, you can also get a credit from the utility company if you sell your extra solar-generated power to utility companies. Net metering plans are common in the U.S. This is where residential consumers are allowed to use the solar power that they put into the grid to offset their use of power at other times. A home is selling power to a utility company when the power that the house puts into the grid is greater than the amount of electricity their household consumed. Your monthly bill will be the basis for your net energy consumption.
As you already know, the net metering mechanism enables utility customers to feed their saved-up and unused solar electricity back to the electricity grid. To fully take advantage of this benefit, you need to educate yourself on the varying net metering policies and regulations across the states. You can also refer to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) or get in touch with the office’s local utility companies to get more specific and thorough information.
A Portland homeowner, for example, saves about $17,000, on average, if they use solar energy for more than 20 years. If you live in Boston, in the span of over 20 years of solar power usage, you can save around $43,000. If you live in Los Angeles, in the same period, your savings can spike up to more than $50,000. To get an estimate of how much you can save, check with DSIRE.
Added home value
Another benefit of using solar energy is the potential increase in the value of the home. Generally, it’s safe to assume that solar panels will raise the market value of most homes. As already discussed above, the homeowner can forever benefit from lower electricity if they buy a house that’s powered by solar energy. Next, there’s a global trend toward green living and this also means there’s an equally increasing demand for houses that are powered by sustainable and clean energy sources that emit smaller volumes of carbon. Lastly, if you buy a home that is already powered by solar energy, the investment will be financed through the mortgage for the homebuyer. Because it’s possible to finance a mortgage for houses with solar panels already installed, this is easier and possibly more affordable than buying a house run by traditional energy sources and choosing to invest in solar panels later.
Take advantage of tax subsidies and grants
Lastly, another worthwhile advantage of going solar is the tax grants or subsidies offered by the state government. You may have already heard of the campaigns run by federal and state governments encouraging homeowners to switch to solar energy. If you do, the government offers a tax grant or subsidy to assist you in having your solar power system installed. The rationale behind these financial incentives is to encourage more homeowners to use solar panels. The final cost of the system after it is installed can be less than its sticker price. Additionally, tax credits are also given for homeowners who use solar power, which can decrease your tax bill.
One thing you want to do is check with your home insurance (such as Allstate Insurance) to make sure that your solar panels are insured. You want them to be safe from hurricanes, tornadoes, and other acts of nature.