Homeowners debating switching their electricity to solar power could soon find greater support from Washington. How much of a boost remains tied up in the closely contested infrastructure and budget bills still under consideration in Congress.
There’s little doubt, however, that a future mix of cleaner energy in the U.S. means that solar can only grow.
Consumers now more than ever can take advantage of competitive quotes from dealers, and overall, lower installation prices in regions that are well-supplied. Consumers can also rely on steady or expanding tax incentives and conditional rebates to help cover the upfront costs, although the future of these programs also depends on final legislation, say industry analysts.
While it’s true that ambitious national solar plans require more company, hospital and school installations of panels, as well as large solar farms for “distributed solar,” household panels, including those that feed energy back to the grid, are a major part of hitting renewables targets.
All told, consumers should do their homework, asking questions about shipping availability, projected cost and savings, warranties, tax programs and lending or lease options. We talked to residential solar experts about forecasts, navigating incentive plans and current market conditions.
The big picture: Solar panels are falling in cost
U.S. solar installations hit a record high in 2020 as falling costs and supportive policies boosted demand, and the industry is expected to post another banner year in 2021. The solar sector is now a $25 billion industry that employs over 231,000 people.
A September report produced by the Department of Energy argued that solar panels had fallen so much in cost that they could produce 40% of the country’s electricity by 2035 — enough to power all American homes at least in part — and produce 45% of electricity by 2050, compared to less than 4% today. President Biden detailed these projections in a September pledge to grow U.S. solar.
But the electric grid — built for coal power, and then for natural gas and nuclear plants — would have to be almost completely remade with the addition of storage batteries, and transmission lines to send power around the country. For now, this helps drive the push for home installations.
The Solar Energy Industries Association trade group and other energy-industry allies have their own data: solar energy will comprise 30% of all U.S. electricity generation by 2030, they say, including home installations and broader, distributed solar energy. Reaching this target for generation from solar will result in hundreds of thousands of new U.S. jobs, more than 14 million solar rooftops and 500 million metric tons of CO2 emissions offset each year, the …….