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Is Solar Worth It?

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

This question is a popular one these days, and it’s getting more and more popular every day, as more and more people think about going solar and then actually go solar. But the question remains for hundreds of millions of people: is solar power worth it?

Well, on a solar power website, what do you expect I’m going to write?

Yes, solar power is worth it! (In general.) A ton more people should be going solar than are actually going solar today. Society-wide, we need solar power big time. On an individual level, many people would benefit financially by going solar. There’s massive money to be saved by going solar… for many or even most households.

I started writing about solar power not out of necessity — I could have chosen to write on anything (writing about Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber probably would have paid better). Several years ago I chose to starting writing about solar power because I knew solar power was necessary and that it was also a good deal for numerous homeowners. The number of homeowners it’s good for has grown exponentially since then. (Yes, exponentially.) So, in my mind, solar power was worth it back then, but it is even more worth it now, and it is certainly worth it to many more homeowners these days when you are simply looking at the finances.

Solar Power Isn’t Worth It For Everyone

However, that doesn’t mean going solar is a good deal for everyone. There are some cases in which people simply don’t have an ideal roof or land for solar panels. A handful of states still have pretty horrible solar power policies. In such cases, the answer for “is solar power worth it?” can actually be a “no.” I’m not going to lie to you about that just because I’m a fan of solar or employed by a solar power company.

In the end, though, the obvious answer to “is solar power worth it?” is a very simple one: “I don’t know — you should look into it!”

The relative worth of solar power for different households in different states or countries can vary tremendously. You have to get an actual solar quote to see if solar power is worth it for you.

Solar Power Is Worth It For A Ridiculous Number Of People

If you just want some general facts and statements regarding solar power’s worth for individual households, I’ll quickly run down a handful of key, general points.

As I wrote in August in an article about solar power’s return on investment, in a whopping 86% of states, going solar offers a better return on investment (ROI) on average than investing that same money into a 5-year certificate of deposit (CD), according to one recent study. Not familiar with CDs? CDs are the things your bank is probably repeatedly offering you as a better option than a savings account. They are also helpful to the bank, since you promise to leave your money in there for the specified period of time, which is why the bank pays you more interest than in a typical savings account. The short and simple summary: they offer better interest than a general savings account, but you can’t touch your money for awhile.

More generically, in 49 states, investing in solar is projected to earn the average homeowner at least some money over the course of 20 years (which is really the minimum number of years a solar panel system should last for — many of the first solar power systems are going strong well after 30 years).

If you actually invest money on the stock market, the above may be a little too “low risk, low reward” for you. A common point of reference for a good investment for stock market investors is the S&P 500. So, for you, “is solar power worth it?” may actually mean, does investing in solar beat the investing in the S&P 500? (Of course, this ignores the local air quality, climate, economic, and “feelgood” benefits of going solar, but nonetheless….) In over 25% of state (13 states), going solar actually beats investing that same money in the S&P 500 — at least, that’s the projection for the average homeowner in those states.

Here’s an infographic for more on all this solar power investment jazz:

solar roi

Is Solar Power Worth It For You?

I think the above should have convinced you that you should at least find out more about your situation. Every home is different. Even if you’re in Mississippi, you may have a better-than-average situation that makes going solar worth it. There are a lot of things that actually come into account when evaluating the worth of solar for an individual situation, such as:

  • how much money you spend on electricity
  • whether or not your utility has a time-of-use electricity pricing system (hint: if it does, electricity is probably much more expensive at the time that solar panels would be generating the most power, so going solar can save you much more money)
  • whether or not your utility will adopt a time-of-use electricity pricing system in the future (this is a growing trend, and it makes a lot of sense, so I wouldn’t count it out)
  • the age of your roof
  • whether or not your roof is shaded by trees that you aren’t going to cut down or trim back, or even by other buildings
  • whether or not your state or city has net metering, solar rebates, a feed-in tariff, or various other solar incentives
  • whether or not you have or will buy an electric car that could charge up on the electricity generated by your solar panels
  • how much you value fighting global warming, air pollution, and water pollution
  • and so much more….

The bottom line: in the end, the answer to “is solar power worth it?” is a very personal one. You need an answer specifically focused on your home and personal details. The best way to get that answer? Get a solar quote from a local installer.

Just do it.

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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