The Costs and Benefits of Solar Panels: 6 Factors You Need to Consider

Solar panels are sliding into mainstream consumerism—and it’s posing a challenge. For instance, when you want to buy a car, there is a surge of first-hand information from friends and family who can walk you through the ins and outs of buying a vehicle.

Putting up solar panels on your roof, on the other hand, doesn’t carry the same level of hype from the people around you. What’s worse, they cost the same as a brand new car. To make matters dicier, the number of homeowners who’ve adapted to solar infrastructure isn’t all that many, too.

That aside, the stakes are high. You are, after all, going to install this on your roof. It’s also an adaptation you can’t easily shrug off as, “I’ll do better the next time if I make a mistake now.” Present figures tell us that solar installations are rising and the costs are becoming more feasible. But how much do we know about the said technology and are we personally ready to switch to natural energy?

Here are a few factors you can consider when it comes to solar panels:

Have you tried working on energy efficiency before turning to solar panels?

The whole point of using solar panels is for you to be able to store and conserve natural energy. But apart from that, have you started doing the little things to help better your energy consumption, like turning off the lights when they’re not in use or unplug the television cord when you’re not watching?

The extent of solar energy you need to come up with equates to how much you need. That said, it’s wiser for you to begin consuming your energy much more efficiently before turning to solar panels. You can begin by looking at efficiency upgrades starting with an energy audit before whipping up a blueprint.

Is your roof sturdy enough for solar panels?

This can make or break your solar panel situation. Additionally, if, for most of the day, your roof is covered in shade, then having to splurge a hefty amount for solar panels might not be worth it. You should consider that condition before marching onward.

Also, how sturdy is your roof? Even the lightest panels can be heavy for a decaying house covering. Make sure your roof is in structurally good shape. The usual warranty for solar installations can last up to 25 years and if your roof will need renovation in the next couple of months, you might want to rethink your strategy. Having it renovated first is often the smartest route versus putting up these panels straight away.

Moving forward, another factor is ownership. Many times, house dwellers can’t call the shots because they simply rent the place. A good solution to this is resorting to a community solar. This alternative lets more clients buy a stake in these installations and receive electricity bill credits.

Do you trust your installer?

Advertising comes easy nowadays. Don’t trust the first installer who hands you a flyer or presents you an ad. You have to remember that solar projects are a combination of electrical work and home improvement. References, credentials, and certifications are important. For instance, do they have accreditation under the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)? It goes without saying that you wouldn’t hire an electrician to come to your home and shake things around when they don’t have sufficient experience. Consider an expert’s number of years in the industry.

It also comes as no surprise that these installations call for big checks. Shop around for installers and get as many quotes as you can before inking a deal. This can be challenging, but try looking for a company that will be available for you throughout your installation. While solar cells are stationary, you’re going to want to work with an installer who will emphatically extend their services even after your warranty period is over.

Which solar-type should you go for?

There are two prevailing solar sciences: the first one is photovoltaic. This technology produces electricity sourced from sunlight. Thermal, the second one makes use of sunlight to heat air or water for your everyday needs. At the end of the day, your context and living conditions help determine what you need the most. Despite that, those who use solar thermal are rare and qualified installers for this aren’t that many.

Buy or lease?

Before diving right into the world of solar panel usage, run a cost-benefit analysis. Is buying your own solar infrastructure the wisest decision you can make? Purchasing your costs more in the beginning, but you’ll have more evident benefits in the long run. On the other hand, renting grants you access to more affordable electricity bills. On top of that, you spend little to no money upfront in this arrangement. The tradeoff, however, is that there are limited monetary benefits for you.

When you rent your system, the company who you ink a deal with owns the infrastructure and you only shell out a certain fee for the electricity. When your rental period is over, they can either take the solar infrastructure back or sell it to you. But if you own your infrastructure, you can reap its advantages long after you’ve bought it. To snag a better deal, weight the lifecycle cost of both arrangements to see where you benefit the most. Factor in how much you earn at present and how much you see yourself earning in the near future. You have to put in a lot of research before you make a decision.

What should your contract contain?

As with any other contract, your welfare should be upheld as these last for long periods. The deal you ink should break down ownership, financing, and performance expectations. You should also factor in data-collecting technology if your infrastructure contains web-enabled devices. Determine who has access to it, if this applies. When there are things or contract segments you’re unsure of, it’s best to consult a legal advisor.

After everything’s been said and done, you’re not only cutting back on costs, you’re also contributing to a healthier planet.

Global Trends in Solar Energy Sector

Many countries around the world have switched to solar power in order to supplement or provide an alternative source of energy that is cheaper, more reliable and efficient, and friendly to the environment. Generally speaking, to convert solar energy to electricity, there are two kinds of technologies used by the solar power plants – the PV (photovoltaic) systems which use solar panels to convert sunlight directly into electricity, and the CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) that indirectly uses the solar thermal energy to produce electricity.

The solar PV systems, which are either placed in ground-mounted solar farms or on rooftops are considered cheaper than CSP and constitutes the majority of solar installations, while CSP and large-scale PV accounts for the majority of the general solar electricity-generation-capacity, across the globe.

Global Trends in Solar Energy

In 2017, photovoltaic capacity increased by 95 GW, with a 34% growth year-on-year of new installations. Cumulative installed capacity exceeded 401 GW by the end of the year, sufficient to supply 2.1 percent of the world’s total electricity consumption. This growth was dramatic, and scientists viewed it as a crucial way to meet the world’s commitments to climate change.

“In most countries around the world there is still huge potential to dramatically increase the amount of energy we’re able to get from solar. The only way to achieve this is through a combination of both governance and individual responsibility.” Alastair Kay, Editor at Green Business Watch

Both CSP and PV systems are undergoing a considerable amount of growth and experts claim that by 2050, solar power will become the greatest source of electricity in the whole world. To achieve this goal, the capacity of PV systems should grow up to 4600 gigawatts, of which 50% or more would come from India or China. To date, the capacity of solar power is about 310 gigawatts, a drastic increase on the 50 gigawatts of power installed in 2010.

The United Kingdom, followed by Germany and France led Europe in the 2016 general statistics for solar power growth with new solar installations of 29%, 21%, and 8.3% respectively. In early 2016, the amount of power across Europe was near 100 gigawatts but now stands at 105 gigawatts. This growth is regarded as slow and experts in the solar industry are calling upon the European Union to give more targets concerning the renewable source of energy. It is said that setting a target that is not less than 35% will revive the solar business in Europe.

Across the United States in places, such as Phoenix and Los Angeles, which are located in a sunny region, a common PV system can generate an average of 7500 kWh – similar to the electrical power in use in a typical US home.

In Africa, many nations especially those around the deserts such as Sahara receive a great deal of sunlight every day, creating an opportunity for the development of solar technology across the region. Distribution of PV systems is almost uniform in Africa with the majority of countries receiving about 2000 kWh/m2 in every year. A certain study shows that generating solar power in a facility covering about 0.3% of the area consisting of North Africa could provide all the energy needed by the European-Union.

Asia alone contributed to 66.66% of the global amount of solar power installed in 2016, with about 50% coming from China.

With these reports, it is clear that the development of solar energy technology is growing in each and every continent with just a few countries with little or no apparent growth.

The growth of solar power technology across every continent in the world is very fast and steady and in the near future, almost every country will have a history to tell about the numerous benefits of going solar. The adoption of solar power will help improve the development of other sectors of the economy, such as the electronics industry, hence creating a lot of employment opportunities.