Solar power demands in the United States increased more than 30 percent in 2014 as residential installations exceeded one gigawatt for the first time. As more homeowners realize the full potential of solar power, the residential market continues to increase at least 50 percent in each of the preceding three years. Growing consumer awareness of climate change and cheaper panels spurred interest among homeowners. The market is expanding as interest rises in new regions and geographic diversification is something that is becoming more evident in 2015. In fact, the fourth quarter of 2014 was the first time that California did not account for more than half of the residential market.
The Energy Landscape of America
Overall, solar power still is not a large portion of the energy landscape in America, accounting for only one-third of new capacity last year. Getting active solar systems in the mainstream residential market has proven a tough challenge simply because a lot of us don't understand how it works. However, solar has been growing rapidly because homeowners are realizing the benefits of residential solar power, including:
- Save money. Adding solar panels to your home results in savings of $100 per month or more. Over 20 years, this equates to over $30,000.
- Financing available. Many homeowners choose financing options, which means that the solar provider takes care of installation, maintenance, monitoring, and repairs. You just pay the solar provider for electricity less that you would pay the utility company.
- ROI is less than 10 years. In terms of lower electricity costs, you will see a return on your cash investment in less than a decade.
- Increase your home value. A home with solar power is more attractive because it translates into lower electricity costs.
- Secure investment. By calculating how much electricity your solar panels generate, you can determine fixed energy costs for at least the next 20 years.
- Federal, state, and local incentives. When you combine the 30 percent total system cost back with state and local solar rebates, your total investment costs can be halved.
- Guaranteed performance. Solar panel manufacturers include a 20 to 25 year warranty, and the industry standard guarantees 80 percent performance after 25 years. The actual lifespan is closer to 30 to 40 years.
- Positive environmental benefits. The United States is second in the world in annual carbon dioxide emission, directly behind China. By lowering your carbon footprint, you can do your part to replace utility power with clear, solar power.
- Transition to solar is easy. Shopping for solar is a simple and uncomplicated process. Many independent solar consultants can help you sort through options.
- Create energy independence. You can help reduce the United State's dependence on foreign energy.
Solar is a widely available, low-emissions energy alternative for Americans. Forward-looking investment decisions and policies by industry, government, and individuals are crucial for continued development, as are future innovations. For instance, a recent development in the solar-power industry put solar panels within reach of those who do not have thousands of dollars to spend on clean energy. Now there are companies across the country that rent out solar panels without any upfront charges. Homeowners are assessed a monthly rental fee to use the panels, but the rental company maintains and owns them. This could remove the huge cost consideration from the equation.