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Published on May 28th, 2018 | by Guest Contributor

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How Solar Power Works. How Much Solar Panels Cost.

May 28th, 2018 by  


Originally published on The Climate Reality Project blog.

The benefits of solar don’t end with lower power bills. Cutting carbon pollution? Check. Empowering communities? Check. Creating good jobs? Check and check.

Today, solar power is everywhere – from home roofs to IKEA superstores to the Nevada desert. And thank goodness. It’s a win-win solution to the climate crisis that creates jobs, saves money, and helps cut the carbon pollution changing our planet.

Plus, when it comes to energy, solar might be the closest thing to free money out there – and we haven’t even begun to touch its full potential.

Why? Well consider this fact from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): More energy from the sun strikes the Earth in an hour than all of humanity uses in a year.

Get the facts on clean energy: Download our free fact sheet Climate 101: What Is Renewable Energy?

What Sort Of Maintenance Is Required?

Not too much, really. Your solar panels themselves can last for decades on end without much upkeep (maybe just remember to keep them free of debris, snow, etc.). But you will likely need to replace the inverter a few times throughout the life of your system.

Like the solar panels themselves, inverters typically come with a warranty – these can range from 5-15 years (and sometimes even longer). Unlike your panels, your inverter will not see its efficiency dwindle very slowly; instead, it may simply stop working and need to be replaced.

However, technological developments on this front are afoot! New “micro-inverters,” which are installed or included with each solar panel, are quickly replacing the more-common central inverters that handle the output of all your panels at once. These micro-inverters can have a much longer lifespan (all the way up to 25 years) than a central inverter, and if one does fail, it won’t shut your entire system down cold.

Do Solar Panels Work On Cloudy, Rainy, Or Cold Days?

We’ll cut straight to the chase – solar panels work just fine when it’s cloudy, rainy, and/or cold.

Are clouds and rain ideal for solar panels? Of course not. They are most effective in direct sunlight. But solar panels can still generate power when the sun is blocked by clouds – more than enough, in fact, to remain a viable source of electricity. Take Germany, for example. It’s not particularly warm or sunny, but is nevertheless a world leader in solar energy.

As for winter, there’s some even better news: Solar panels are powered by light, not heat, and because of the way the technology works, they’re just as effective — if not more effective — in cooler temperatures as in hot ones.

How Much Does A Solar Energy System Cost?

That depends.

“In 2018, most US homeowners are paying between $2.71 and $3.57 per watt to install solar, and the average gross cost of solar panels before tax credits is $18,840,” EnergySage estimates.

That may seem quite expensive, but it also doesn’t take into account the many incentives available to solar customers and the multiple new forms of solar financing that have emerged in recent years that can allow customers to put solar on their rooftops at little or no cost up front.

In addition, in the US, a 30 percent federal investment tax credit is available until 2019 (stepping down in the years beyond) and can offset the cost of your investment substantially, and many states also offer their own tax breaks and incentives to encourage home solar panel installation.

And, of course, looking at the straight upfront cost of the system and its installation is far from the whole story, at least as far as your bank account is concerned. Which leads us to our next question…

Can People Really Save Money With Solar Panels?

Yes. Not only does a solar energy system add substantial value to your home the minute it’s up and running, it often pays for itself – and then some!

“Twenty-year electricity savings from solar can be significant, ranging from the low end of $10k to almost $30k,” according to EnergySage.

If you follow that math – and please keep in mind your savings will vary, depending on factors like your typical electricity cost, average sunlight in your region, and the scale of your system you install – depending on the final cost of your system after federal, state, and local incentives, in as little as seven-and-a-half years, your system will have paid for itself.

Few major purchases can claim such an impressive return on investment.

Looking at these numbers, the conclusion is clear: Solar isn’t just the right choice for the planet – it can also be the smart choice for your wallet. Whatever fossil fuel companies may claim.

The benefits of solar don’t end with lower power bills. Cutting carbon pollution? Check. Empowering communities? Check. Creating good jobs? Check and check.

And all that’s before we even get to solar’s part in transitioning to a clean energy economy and avoiding some of the worst possibilities of climate change. Like increasing extreme weather and the terrible – and terribly expensive – destruction that can come with it.

Learn more about the benefits of renewable energies like solar by downloading our free new fact sheet,Climate 101: What Is Renewable Energy?

Climate 101: What Is Renewable Energy? offers a straightforward, no-BS take on what renewable energy is and why it works, outlining the basics you need to know about solar, wind, and geothermal energies.

Be sure to share it with friends and family so they can stand with you at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution. Download today!


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