For the first few decades of its existence, solar energy was mostly seen as something passionate environmentalists would opt for—even though it didn’t pan out well from a cost perspective. It was green energy, but didn’t deliver much green for your wallet.
Well, that was then, and this is now.
With solar manufacturing costs having plummeted, solar energy has become affordable for the average homeowner and business. Most interestingly, the popularity of solar is growing across all political persuasions, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Coastal Solar, a company headquartered in Georgia, has seen an uptick in people from all political persuasions looking into solar energy for a variety of reasons besides the environmental benefits.
“We had both the democratic and republican gubernatorial candidates make appearances at our office during the last election cycle,” says Coastal Solar CEO, Clay Sikes. “And that’s just one demonstration of a trend we’ve seen where people of all backgrounds are investing in solar. Their motivations really run the gamut from environmental to financial to a desire to be more energy independent and ‘stick it’ to the big utility monopolies.”
How much more popular is solar energy in the US today? Check out the chart:
In just ten years from 2010 to 2020, installed solar capacity in the US grew from about 1 GW to well over 70 GW. In the world, it’s now over 700 GW and climbing just as fast. As of 2020, solar accounted for 2.3% of total energy production in the US, and it’s increasing every year. Not that long ago it was just barely more than 0%.
Seven reasons solar's popularity is booming
Let’s look at the variety of reasons solar energy is becoming popular among people on both ends of the political spectrum.
#1 Energy independence for consumers
In an interview with Forbes, Lior Handelsman, founder of SolarEdge, had this to say when asked why solar energy and battery sales are increasing:
“There are two major trends driving the sale of solar energy and battery systems: grid parity and grid independence…. Grid independence is when consumers want to use the energy that they themselves produced. This can happen in areas where the grid is unstable and suffers from frequent blackouts.”
As many in the industry say, solar energy enables you to ‘own your power.’
You produce it. You use it. And you cut out the monopolistic utility and their ever-increasing prices, fees, and restrictions.
Energy independence is appealing to people who like the idea of freedom. Even if you don’t choose to install battery storage, you still get to benefit from all the solar energy you produce, especially if your state offers net metering.
#2 Energy independence from other nations
There’s individual energy independence, and then there’s collective independence. On a national level, the more solar energy produced, the less reliant that country will need to be on other nations for their energy.
Solar energy liberates the US from reliance on other countries for oil and natural gas. Looked at from that perspective, some might view going solar as an act of patriotism.
#3 Solar energy protects the environment
Other than the production of solar panels and other components, solar energy is ‘free.’ It requires nothing but sunlight, which will never run out.
Environmentally, this produces a swath of benefits beyond the obvious one of needing to use fewer fossil fuels—though that’s a major argument in favor of solar too. Producing energy with no emissions means we’re producing fewer greenhouse gases and other air pollutants caused by the mining, production, and use of fossil fuels.
It also means a reduced need for ocean drilling, coal mining, and natural gas mining. In addition, you can eventually forecast a reduced need for the shipping of these resources, which makes disasters like oil spills less likely. It also means less fuel needed to operate as many ships.
Another environmental benefit of solar energy is that solar panels use far less water than other energy sources, particularly nuclear and hydropower. So solar will reduce our use of water for energy production, leaving more water for human and plant life.
#4 Solar energy saves money
More and more homeowners, farms, and businesses are realizing that solar power is often a very smart financial decision. Some are recovering their initial costs in under five years. Under ten is par, especially in sunnier climates.
Over the expected 30-year life of most solar panels, you can pretty much guarantee that you will save thousands of dollars on energy costs. For larger arrays, you can save hundreds of thousands and even millions.
There’s great joy in receiving a monthly power bill for three dollars, which can happen with a large enough array in certain months of the year.
This solar energy benefit appeals to everyone.
#5 Solar can make you money too
Saving money is great. Making money is even better. With solar, you’re doing both.
You’re making money because it’s an investment. And once you have recovered your costs, all the money you ‘save’ afterward is really a return on your investment. It’s as if you’re receiving a monthly check each month for the difference in energy costs that you would have otherwise been paying.
You can then use that money as with any other income—however you want.
In addition, solar panels can increase the value of properties. If it has a fully-paid-for solar array that dramatically slashes monthly power bill costs, you can expect a lift in property value that will pay you back even more for your solar investment.
#6 Extends the life and reliability of the energy grid
Reducing dependence on utilities is great, but we’ll always need functional electric grids. And solar energy protects and lengthens the life of the energy grid.
With more homes and businesses producing their own energy, that energy never needs to travel through the energy lines. That means electricity lines can carry energy to more places than they otherwise could, and with less wear and tear.
Also, it reduces the strain on the grid during extreme weather events when more people use their heaters or air conditioners. With fewer people needing energy from the grid, the grid is less likely to overload itself and will be more reliable for everyone who depends on it.
From this perspective, going solar is good community service.
#7 Saves money for the grid
Since fewer people will need the grid’s resources, more people can be reached with the existing grid infrastructure. Investment in new distribution and transmission equipment will be less necessary than it otherwise would.
Are there more reasons people are going solar?
We’ll stop at seven, but if we could add an eighth reason why solar energy is becoming popular regardless of which way people lean politically, it would be this:
Solar just feels good.
When you look at your new solar array, and all it represents—grid independence, improved financial health, personal and long-term environmental contribution, and all the rest—it feels good.
You’re doing something good for yourself, good for others, and good for the planet. Doing good feels good. It’s probably also good for your mental and emotional health, for these same reasons. Maybe there’s a study on that, too…