In 2013, China installed more solar panels than any country ever has, for a total of 12 gigawatts, which happens to also be the entire amount installed in the U.S. The UK is following suit, expecting 10 million homes with solar panels by 2020. Why the recent boom in solar panels and how can the average homeowner also benefit from this renewable source of energy?
Solar panels for homes work by converting sunlight into electricity for household use. A net meter then measures the power generated. Lifestyle Solar’s company website provides a useful flowchart illustrating the working parts the and process that occurs, from sunlight hitting the panels to the generation of usable power for the home. Homeowners also have the option to connect to the local power grid for extra power, and can feed excess power they’ve generated themselves back to the local power grid to assist local energy providers, something homeowners can actually be paid for in some states.
There are multiple benefits to solar energy, but many homeowners are deterred because of cost of installation, a factor that may no longer be such an issue. A recent Fox Business article discussed the decline in the cost of panels over the past decade. Though residential solar panels can still be pricey, the average cost has dropped 50 percent since 2010. Acquiring them for a house is cheaper and easier than ever.
Payment options include a lease similar to a car loan with a monthly statement, and a fully pre-paid loan with interest rates similar to a credit card. For tax purposes, though, buying is better and cheaper than a lease in the long run.
If homeowners can pay the initial installation cost, they are almost guaranteed free electricity after the “payback period” – the first 10 years of use, while they are likely still paying for the panels. Solar panels have a lifespan of 30 years and little to no maintenance, so after the payback period homeowners essentially enjoy free power for 20 years. There is also no worry of power outages, using too much electricity, or overdue power bills.
Besides the cost savings and convenience, the environmental benefits are hard to deny as solar power is a renewable resource unlike natural gas, coal or oil, and even the materials used in the panels are recyclable.