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Solar Energy Pros and Cons: What’s Changing for 2021?

If you're looking to set up solar panels on your house, you'll discover a wide variety of advice and information on the web.

This can make it tough to find out whether solar panels would be ideal for you.

To help you out, below we provide a comprehensive list of solar advantages and disadvantages, updated for 2021.

Best of luck!


Solar Energy Pros And Cons

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Looking at solar power's benefits and disadvantages from a homeowner's perspective is an essential step in the research procedure when thinking about installing solar panels for your residence.

The debate for the average American resident to install solar panels for their home is better than ever, as the benefits far outweigh the downsides.

Let's take a closer look at the solar energy advantages and disadvantages.


Advantages Of Solar Energy

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1. Reduces your electrical bill

One of the most notable benefits of solar panels is that they provide you substantial savings on your electrical bill.

Many states require utilities to give net metering, allowing homeowners to cut off their electrical costs with their solar panels' energy.

They can then sell that surplus energy to the utility.

This will typically be added onto electric bills as a credit that could then be utilized to offset future electricity prices.

In many states, including solar panels to your house can bring in electric bill savings of well over $1,000 each year.

California residents who go solar save an average of $99,181 over the lifetime of their solar system.

2. Insurance Against Rising Power Prices

One thing most homeowners know is that power keeps getting more expensive.

The purchase price of power has increased steadily within the last ten years, with an average growth of about $0.2 annually.

Electricity prices will continue to grow in the future, meaning that your electric bill will continue to go up also.

Solar panels protect you from rising electricity prices.

If you're generating your own energy, you do not need to purchase that expensive power from your utility.

So, rising electricity prices are a worry of the past!

In actuality, rising prices may actually be a great thing when you install solar.

For example, let us say your utility charges 12 cents per kilowatt-hour of power. Meaning with net metering, your utility will pay you 12 cents for every extra kWh of power your solar panels create and send to your grid.

If your utility increases power cost to 13 cents per kilowatt-hour of power, that means the power you send into the grid would also be worth 13 cents.

Hence, net metering is saves you even more money when your utility increases prices.

3. Solar Is Less Costly Than Ever

While electricity costs continue to get more expensive, the price of solar has continued to fall.

Solar is now more affordable than before; the cost has dropped over 70% in the last ten years.

These low costs make solar more accessible to more people than ever before.

Installing solar can be even less expensive when you take advantage of solar incentives.

Example: if you install a solar system before the end of 2020, then you qualify for the 26% federal tax credit. This tax credit is equivalent to 26 percent of your total cost of a solar system and can be applied to your income taxation.

Along with the federal tax credit, there are quite a few other solar incentives provided locally.

4. Return On Investment

Solar panels do not just eliminate your electric bill, but they can also be sources of additional income.

As we mentioned previously, net metering lets you make money by selling surplus power your solar panels create to your utility.

Some states have other performance-based incentives, such as Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), that have the potential to make you hundreds of dollars annually, depending on where you live.

The money you get from net metering, together with your electric bill savings and other incentives goes towards paying back your system's cost.

In regions with all incentives, the payback period for a solar panel system can be four years.

Once your system is paid in full, your solar panels will continue to produce free power for your house for the lifetime of the system!

5. Environmentally Friendly

Another significant selling point for solar is that it is renewable energy.

This means it will not deplete natural resources to produce energy.

Plus, electricity generated with solar panels doesn't produce greenhouse gas emissions.

Nothing is being discharged into the air when we produce electricity with solar panels.

6. Energy Independence

Installing solar panels helps homeowners make their own energy, thereby providing them energy independence.

This means a solar home is not dependent on the electric grid. This lets you take power into your own hands and manage where your home is getting its energy from.

At scale, the United States is making the switch to solar and other renewable energies will enable the nation to achieve energy independence.

The US would not need to rely heavily on other countries to acquire gas, oil, and coal just like we do today.

Using energy produced right here in the USA rather than relying on foreign resources is fantastic for national security and the nation's economy.


Disadvantages Of Solar Energy

Solar energy

1. High Upfront Cost

The high upfront cost is one of the most significant drawbacks of solar panel systems.

At the moment, the average price of solar in the US is roughly $3.18 per watt. A 6 kW solar panel system would cost you about $19,080, then, before the federal tax credit.

The actual expense of a solar system will vary by state and the incentives that you eligible for.

Fortunately, there are solar financing opportunities available.

You may be eligible for zero-down solar financing, which lets you save bucks on your electrical bill and get the advantages of having a solar system.

2. Solar Energy Is An Intermittent Energy Supply

There are three significant reasons why solar is considered an intermittent source of power:

  • The sun does not shine at night. Therefore solar panels do not generate power at night.
  • The sun's strength varies depending on the place, the time of year, and the time of day.
  • Cloud, snow, and foliage cover may substantially influence the amount of energy produced by solar panels.

All of these factors are used to argue that solar energy can't be relied on for base load or mission-critical applications.

But this is changing with the development of cost-effective battery alternatives. Batteries make it possible for homeowners to put away their solar energy and draw energy from the battery when their solar panels do not produce power.

The most famous residential solar battery is Tesla Powerwall, a 13.5 kWh lithium-ion battery.

Other makers, such as LG, Sonnen, and BYD, provide great solar batteries for house energy storage.

Ongoing improvements in battery storage are an indication that intermittency might not be a limit on solar power for long.

3. Solar Panel Production Does Impact the Environment

While the electricity that solar panels create is emission-free, it is essential to be aware that there's pollution created by solar panel production.

Some solar panels contain dangerous pollutants, like sulfur hexafluoride, which can be more potent than carbon dioxide.

However, the effects of carbon dioxide on the climate is considerably greater than that of sulfur hexafluoride.

The environmental effects of solar panels are minimal compared to the quantity of damage related to the mining and burning of fossil fuels.

4. Solar Panels Require Space

Solar panels require space to fulfill energy needs. For residential installations, a roof will nearly always have sufficient space. But when you look at big grid-scale solar installations, space could be a bit of a problem.

This is because solar panels have relatively low power density.

Power density is how much electricity can be derived from a power supply in a specific area, quantified in watts per square meter (W/m2).

The power density of solar panels is lower than fossil fuels.

This means that you will need a bigger area of solar panels to produce the same amount of energy that a coal plant might.

However, the amount of land mined for fossil fuels isn't considered in this dimension.

So although you would require a large solar energy plant and a little coal plant, coal mining destroys acres upon acres of property, whereas the solar power plant doesn't.

5. You Can Not Take Solar With You

One of the drawbacks of installing solar panels on your house is it may be costly to move them if you choose to move. The net metering contract with your utility is adjusted to the property. Additionally, finding someone to eliminate and reinstall your solar panels can be expensive.

However, solar panels can add value to your house, so even if you decide to move you're most likely to find the cost of your solar panels reflected in a higher sale price.

If you plan to move in the not too distant future, then it's best to buy your solar panels outright.

If you have a solar rental or a power purchase agreement (PPA), you will want the new owner to take over your contract, which can be a real hassle.

About the Author David Roberts

I'm a Mechanical Engineer who's obsessed with solar energy and sustainable living.

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