Going Green with Solar Energy Has Never Been More Affordable

Solar energy first entered the consciousness of American consumers in the 1970s, when a worldwide oil shortage resulted in gas shortages and long lines at gas stations. While photovoltaic (PV) technology had been around since the 1800s, it took the race to space of the 1960s to transform solar energy into a viable energy alternative. NASA realized that sun-power could be a reliable source of energy for spacecraft. When the oil crisis hit, solar panels were just beginning to be used to generate electricity for buildings here on Earth.

Solar has come a long way since the 1970s. Early home PV systems proved to be too expensive for most homeowners. All PV systems require a substantial upfront cost for the installation. The investment is recouped over time through monthly savings on energy bills. The ROI period on those early systems was around 20 years, which was as long as the system was expected to operate efficiently. Today, homeowners can expect to recover their investment in half that time, and the lifetime of today’s PV systems is 25 to 30 years or longer.

Today, improvements in technology combined with rebates and tax credits that are offered by government and utility incentive programs have made residential PV systems far more affordable. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, home PV system installation costs have dropped 43 percent since 1998.

The federal government incentive program has contributed to the growth of green energy by offering up to a tax credit that covers up to 30 percent of a PV system’s installation cost. In some areas of the country, incentive programs offered at the state and local level are nearly as generous. Combined, the rebates and credits can reduce the upfront cost of going solar by 60 percent or more. Homeowners immediately enjoy lower energy bills, and once the initial cost is recovered, the electricity that a home PV system generates is free for years to come.

For those that like the idea of going green with solar appealing, but still find the initial cost a barrier, leasing options are now available throughout the country as well. With a solar lease, the solar provider purchases the system, installs it, insures it and maintains it. The homeowner then pays the provider for the energy that the system produces, which is less than what was being paid for conventional electricity. Solar leases can be had for little or no money down.

Aside from home solar panel arrays, there are plenty of other solar products that people can purchase to contribute to green energy solutions. From solar outdoor lighting to solar-powered e-readers, using energy powered by the sun has never been easier.

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