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Published on November 25th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


15 Solar Facts You Should Know

November 25th, 2013 by  

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

If you’ve missed many of the articles we’ve published over the past couples months, I figured it was a good time to catch you up on some things. Below are 15 solar statistics or key facts that I think are worth your consideration:

1. About  of the solar PV installed around the world was installed within the last 2½ years. In the US, the number was 68% in the last 2½ years. (There’s a reason or two for that.)

2. US solar panel installations smaller than or equal to 10kW in size dropped in price approximately 14% in 2012.

3. A record number of solar modules were shipped last quarter (Q2 2013). 21% more solar modules were shipped in Q2 2013 than in Q2 2012 by the top 20 solar module providers. (There’s a reason or two for that.)

4. The cost of solar panels has fallen approximately 100 times over since 1977, and solar panels today are about half the price they were in 2008.

price of solar

5. The average American who went solar back in 2011 (when solar was much more expensive), will probably save about $20,080 off their net electricity costs over 20 years thanks to that decision (that’s $20,080 after paying off the cost of the solar power system).

Infographic Credit: One Block Off The Grid

Infographic Credit: One Block Off The Grid

6. The average Californian who went solar in 2011 will probably save about $34,260 over 20 years.

7. The average New Yorker who went solar at that time will probably save $31,166, the average Floridian $33,284, and the average Texan $20,960… and that’s only if their solar systems don’t last more than 20 years (some solar systems in the field today have been working to factory specs for over 30 years).

solar energy cost

Credit: Cost of Solar

8. The average Hawaiian who went solar in 2011 will probably save about $64,769 over 20 years, getting their money back after 3–5 years and then having free electricity for as long as the panels are on their roofs.

are solar panels worth it hawaii

9. Solar power offers a better return on investment (ROI) than many “good investments” for tens or hundreds of millions of Americans. Homeowners, on average, can get a better ROI from going solar than from the S&P 500 stock index (considered a very good investment) in over 25% states now. In ⅔ of states, solar offers a better average ROI than 30-year treasury bonds. In 86% of states, your likely solar ROI beats a 5-year CD (certificate of deposit). Check out the story linked above for a full infographic on these matters, including state-by-state ROI.

10. Not surprisingly, most people go solar because of the financial benefits, not for the environment. Check out the funny video below about that, and check out the story linked above for 3 more videos along those lines.

11. It’s not just the rich going solar, but actually many average-income households.

top solar cities

12. Many people can actually go solar for $0 or close to $0 down. Seriously. In over a dozen states, there’s the solar leasing or solar PPA option discussed in that story, but word on the street is that there are also $0 loans avalable for people wanting to go solar.

13. People of all political and religious stripes go solar. Conservatives, moderates, and liberals; religious and non-religious people; as well as a high proportion of military veterans.

14. Solar energy advantages beat solar energy disadvantages 8 to 0.

15. The advantages of solar power are projected to more than double total US solar power capacity within the next few years. Solar is projected to be the #2 source of new power capacity in the US in 2013. Companies such as Walmart, IKEA, Google, Apple, Walgreens, and Kohl’s are going solar to a big degree. (There’s a reason or two for that….)

In other words, if you can go solar and you aren’t doing so, you might want to go in for an insanity check.

Advantages of solar -- money!

Money! (Photo Credit: Cayusa | CC BY-NC)

Join the US solar power rooftop revolution!

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Frank Fernandez

    Notice that they are not telling us the disadvantages

    • Rosabae101

      I agree what if there is an eclipse we wont be able to use our technology and what if its night time will if stop working what if its a rainy day or a cloudy day they dont tell us the disadvantages ??

  • hi


  • chodon

    sigh i wish there was n article all abt solar panels!!!! i neex it for my sience project

  • walter17

    Love this article! To the author I have one small problem. The average Hawaiian, a more pc term would be Hawaii resident. Not everyone that lives in Hawaii is Hawaiian. I wish everyone could be native Hawaiian.

  • Marion Meads

    Bursting the solar bubble:
    While the policies on grid-tied solar varies with state by state, some utilities are now fast at work to modify the net-metering system. They no longer want to match kWh per kWh for grid-tie. When you dump your excess to the grid, they will give you a credit of only 10%-50% of the retail price or their average cost of wholesale purchase, and they will charge you normal tiers price for your actual use. Thus you may not be able to get a payback period for your solar investment anymore even at these low solar panel prices. Many utilities are going this route and are working hard with their lobbyists. San Antonio, Texas utilities are forming policies like this.

    And when you go off-grid, you will have to pay the standing fee.

    • Russell

      “stranding fee” – yep privatize the gains, socialize the losses.

    • Bob_Wallace

      What we’ve seen in Germany is that a very modest amount of end-user solar can collapse the price of peak hour electricity on a sunny day. That will likely happen everywhere as solar is installed in larger levels. Midday electricity can easily become less expensive/valuable than early evening electricity when solar is gone while demand remains high.

      We need a reimbursement system which is fair to both utilities and end-users. We don’t seem to have invented one yet.

      • Marion Meads

        Right now, we have achieved significant reduction in prices so that installing residential solar could result in less payment for electricity needs for the entire life of the project. With the utilities fighting back, this could change the current balance and would make solar much more expensive source of electricity. The payback period would be over infinity if you pay more for the APR of the loan than the cheap price of electricity that the utilities would be crediting you for.

        • Bob_Wallace

          That could happen. But it’s not likely the price of electricity will drop much in the short term. If midday electricity prices drop it may pay people to store their surplus and use it in place of buying evening peak power from the grid.

          ’tis a bleak and bitter world in which you reside….

          • Marion Meads

            the next immediate revolution would be cheap battery storage at the residential level in order for solar to have sustained viability, then we would be left with stranding fee after that next revolution.

            which planet do you live?

          • sorry, but i don’t see this happening/surviving in many places. the citizens will fight back, the industry will fight back, and people will simply start going off grid when storage comes down a bit, which would really threaten utilities.

          • Marion Meads

            I agree! We should fight back! Tooth and fingernails if we have to!

    • RobS

      They can afford to charge a stranding fee because only a tiny population of hardcore renewable fans and serious consipracy kooks are going off grid at this stage. Just wait and see once solar+storage becomes cheaper than the grid what happens when the utilities want to be paid thousands of dollars to do nothing…literally. Once mass public pressure is in place the utilities will be under such intense pressure to drop these “stranding fees” it will be a thing to behold.

      • Marion Meads

        Fortunately, if you hadn’t started out tapping the grid, you won’t get charged such socialized debt. For example, I have friends who are using diesel powered water pumps and are replacing them with solar powered pumps.

        I am questioning the stranding fee as in one of my partner’s vineyards, they hooked up with PG&E’s electric grid from 100 yards away of their neighbor’s current line. They paid $150,000 for the connection so that they can install their automatic irrigation systems. Had we known about the direct solar water pump using disc concentrator instead of PV, we would have chosen that, and it would cost less than $400 per unit and we would need 5 units of these maintenance free pumps. Aside from forking out $150,000 to the utilities, now they will have to pay a stranding fee if they switched over to solar pumps even if those pumps do not generate electricity.

        • mds

          I would question the legality of a business charging you for a non-service. I bet there’s an winnable legal case there.

          • Marion Meads

            They originally intended to build a house, a warehouse and a winery, and so they needed a lot of power capacity including the 240V and 440V lines for heavy equipments that is why they paid too much upfront to PG&E …. then they changed their mind later and only installed the automatic irrigation system.

          • Sun Powered


          • Bob_Wallace

            “We” need to unlock our caps.

          • Sun Powered

            ADD “US” ON FB BOB!

      • Marion Meads

        And it is good that we have some Republicans to our side. There is hope for the US yet.

        • Yes, we need more than lukewarm support (have had that for decades). Need passionate activists, and that’s what we’re now getting. 😀

  • jburt56

    “solar panels today are about half as cheap as they were in 2008.” You mean half as expensive.

  • Peter

    I think policy makers quite often don’t fully comprehend the exponential growth in the solar market and the ramifications of this. I think graphs are an excellent way to present this information. If policy makers did grasp the reality then I think they would realise the benefits to be gained by shifting policies that support solar and renewable energy, which includes providing the current level of support for fossil fuels. The shift to a renewable energy economy need not be as expensive as they are led to believe, in fact with such a steep curve I think policies makers will be overwhelmed by how cheap electricity from solar will become relatively soon.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      solar cannot be a major player without storage, because installed solar panels makes natural gas proportionally less profitable. But fortunately Swanson’s law applies also lithium batteries.

      Solar at large scale is perhaps a decade away in the future.

    • RobS

      Why would you put supportive policies and additional public money into solar if it is already growing exponentially? WE have got to start to move away from this ethos that says this industry cant survive without more government money because about 50% of the population will never go solar whilst it receives large government subsidies, if we want truly mass scale adoption then we need to start phasing out subsidies not increasing them.

  • johnnewton

    So what’s happening with solar thermal in the US

    • Colin

      Yes, I’d love an update on that one too. A world overview too would be nice.

      • iwasaddison@yahoo.com

        PV became more cost effective. Besides the projects already started, thermal is probably dead.

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