In 2005, if households in New York City wanted to switch to solar power, they would have had to choose between exactly five solar installers across all five boroughs. Fast-forward to 2015, there are 55 solar installers in the city.
According to data from climate science and energy policy website Carbon Brief, solar was responsible for almost 7,000 GWh in the United Kingdom between April and September. Over the same time period, coal-produced electricity accounted for 6,300 GWh.
In a significant announcement, Asian Development Bank has approved a $500 million loan aimed at installing solar roof systems in India, which recently ratified the Paris climate agreement.
These developments indicate a steady adoption of solar power – once a niche market and today, a viable option for home and business owners.
Solar power costs are falling
As demand has risen, costs of solar power have fallen. A research report in multi-disciplinary journal Research Policy concludes that the costs of solar panels have decreased 10 per cent each year since the 1980s. The report believes that the downward trend in prices will continue, and – by 2027 – 20 per cent of global energy needs will be satisfied by solar.
However, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concurs that solar panel costs haven’t changed much since 2012. What has decreased is the cost of building the larger utility scale projects, says the renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development laboratory. It estimates that costs have fallen by 30 per cent in the past four years. In Q1 2016, the average construction cost for solar farms dropped to $1.42 per watt of DC capacity from $1.78 per watt of direct current capacity in Q1 2015.
How much can homeowners expect to pay for solar panels?
Data indicates that, as of 2016, homeowners are putting down $3 to $4 per watt in solar panel system installation, with the average price at $3.70. The costs are subject to the size of the solar energy system as well as the state in which homeowners live.
As far as size is concerned, a 5kW system could cost less than $23,000 before tax incentives and credits, and under $16,000 after credits. Quotes for a bigger 10kW solar energy system won’t exceed $26,000, and after federal solar tax credit and rebates/incentives from the local government, a solar energy system can be less expensive than what it cost even a year ago.
States with the highest number of solar installations include California, Nevada, North Carolina, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas, New York, New Mexico and Hawaii. Some of these states enjoy a number of sunny days throughout the year : the availability of sunlight is a key consideration for solar panel installation.
Depending on location and available hours of sunshine, the size of the solar panel can vary from 400 square feet to 800 square feet, or 4kW to 8kW. The costs thereof will determine the payback period of the system. Falling prices and good solar conditions can shorten payback period and make the investment worthwhile. comment