Installing solar panels that are designed specifically for residential electrical production helps to reduces your own fossil fuel dependence and, in general, reduces our environmental carbon footprint. Even though most consumers are in favor of adopting various renewable energy sources, the generally higher cost of both installation and ongoing maintenance has to a large degree limited widespread adoption. Prior to today’s changing energy landscape, home solar power has only been practical for individuals with more money or a strong belief in supporting the environmental, but not, in general, for the hard-working, middle class public.
Producing electricity derived from sunlight is not a new concept. During the Industrial Revolution, sunlight was used to produce steam capable of running heavy machinery, and eventually for the direct production of small amounts of electrical power. With all the new technologies, such as fracking, the world is certainly not about to run out of oil or natural gas as was once feared, however, the deposits remaining are becoming considerably harder and more expensive to extract, prompting more interest in alternate energy sources. Not surprisingly, with more attention on other energy sources, prices on fossil fuels have been going lower, blunting some of that attention.
What with all the innate advantages of clean, sustainable green energy sources, the trend toward solar electrical production has not yet become self-sustaining although new projects are announced regularly from states in the U.S. and countries around the world. One of the primary reasons for the slow consumer adoption has been the cost of creating the silicon wafers, which may also include expensive heavy metal, silver and rare earth components. When combined with the substantial price of installation, many consumers find a major switch-over to be economically prohibitive.
Various entities have stepped up to assist consumers. To help defray initial installation and start-up costs, Federal and most state governmental agencies have come forth with financial incentives designed to make the transition less of a financial hardship. Although methods vary depending on where you live, incentives may take the form of tax deductions, credits, and exemptions, as well as grants, rebates or loans designed to encourage the broader adoption of solar power. Some utilities and new green utility competitors also may offer discounts or leasing-types of terms.
Public utilities are also legally mandated to make net metering available to anyone who requests it. Metering allows customers who produce more electricity than they use to receive financial credits from the local energy company, which must buy the extra electricity for its own grid. Rules governing net metering can determine its success, and may differ due to local interconnection regulations although utilities are pushing back against such rules because, as more adopt solar, the utilities are receiving less income to support their overall electrical transmission facilities.
Even with these significant incentives, total costs have remained stubbornly high. Recent trends within the industry, however, have caused panel prices to plummet in many areas of the world. The loss of governmental subsidies in some European countries has also resulted in a major industry shakeup in other nations, including the United States. A glut of panels currently exists due to competition from producers in Asia, a fact that has sent many fledgling companies into a serious decline.
While this is undoubtedly bad for some producers, it is actually good news for consumers. Companies which have relied solely upon governmental support may disappear, while others may use trending market conditions to consolidate profitability. As has been the case with many other products, Asian companies are leading the march toward lower costs, and will likely be the most influential in future developments within the industry.
What this means for the average consumer considering home solar power is increased affordability and practicality. For producers who weather the current economic tailspin within the industry, the future will undoubtedly be brighter, and profitability greater. Lower costs will open new markets by creating increased demand, giving consumers everywhere a greater choice in residential energy sources.