Going solar for your home

Solar power is now a reality and it isn’t just a pipe dream today as many people have managed to switch to solar because there are now practical implementable ways to integrate residential and commercial solar panels in your home or business, including solar power purchase agreements (solar PPA), solar leasing, solar loans, and other ways of switching to solar explained in this article. Switching to solar photovoltaic (PV) is becoming a better option because of the unpredictable electricity prices compared to the decreasing cost of solar PV. The cost of photovoltaic has been declining steadily since 2009.

1. Many have switched to residential and commercial solar panels

Some of the economic and sustainability benefits of switching to solar include reduced energy bill by about 50–75%, mitigating climate change and creating solar green jobs. With many homeowners and small businesses becoming aware of these benefits, the rate of solar adoption is increasing and in 2014, there were over 195,000 installations in the U.S. and according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), nearly 645,000 U.S. homes and businesses have now gone solar while a new solar project was installed every 2.5 minutes.

Noting this move of switching to solar PV, this article attempts to give an overview of how to solar power home and enjoy the benefits of switching to solar PV.

2. Barriers to solar PV and how to overcome them

The is no good thing that doesn’t come with its disadvantages and solar with all its advantages, it has faced challenges of adoption because of its high prohibitive cost until recently when models such as solar PPA and solar lease managed to overcome this barrier with government support.  The other major barrier of solar has been its intermittent nature causing its harvest at night very problematic since solar photovoltaics generate electricity when sunlight is directly facing the solar panels. Therefore, solar panels cannot generate power at night and the only practical way to solve this problem without batteries is through net-metering which allows for storage of excess power produced by your solar system(mostly during the day) into the utility grid. In other words, the excess power generated by your solar panels offsets the energy you use at night. Through net-metering which has been approved by most states in the US, utility companies appreciate excess solar energy and through the net-metering arrangement, homeowners or businesses can sell or receive credit for the surplus power they produce. You can learn more about net-metering here and see whether your state is implementing a net-metering program.

3. Approaches of integrating residential and commercial solar panels in your home or business using solar PPA or solar lease

Having taken into consideration the advantages and disadvantages of going solar, the next step is to consider conducting an energy audit for your home or business to fix energy efficiency issues you might have. This audit will address areas of energy loss or wastage, for example switching from incandescent bulbs to LEDs which will help you to save energy and thus reduce your total energy requirements for your home.

Once energy efficiency for your home/business is achieved, solar energy can then be used to significantly increase your energy efficiency while at the same time reducing your energy bill anywhere from 50–75% based on your specific energy situation.

There are two ways of going solar:

  • Do it yourself (DIY) which is basically installing the solar panels yourself and there are manuals that you could locate at Amazon.com that can guide you on a step by step basis on how to go solar. You can learn how to DIY solar here by clicking the banner on your left  Also you can get the Solar Electricity Handbook 2012 edition by Michael Boxwell which gives guidance on how to install DIY solar. This book will tell you specifically what you need to know for your DIY solar projects.

4. Going solar through solar PPA or solar lease process

This is the process of how to obtain your solar panels using a solar PPA or solar lease if you decide to choose these  options:

  • Step 1: Get a free customized quote 
  • Step 2: Sign your agreement (solar PPA or solar lease)
  • Step 3: You solar panel design is done 
  • Step 4: Schedule a one-day installation with the solar contractor 
  • Step 5: Turn on your solar power. 

The advantage of this option is that you will worry less about how to finance and maintain your home solar power system. All you need to do is sign a Solar PPA whose time frame is agreed between you and the solar contractor. However, in most cases, solar PPA can range from 6 years to 25 years based on your current situation. However, in case you decide to move or sell your house, many homeowners simply transfer their solar PPA agreements to the new homeowner and this transfer process is usually not complex. For more details, determine with this solar panel cost calculator to answer the question: Are solar panels worth it? based on your geographical location and energy consumption.



Going solar with community solar

Going solar with community solar

Odds are, there are many home and business owners in your area who would also like the idea of going solar—so why not switch to solar as part of a larger community?

What is community solar?

Community solar is an excellent option for multiple members of a neighborhood or community to go solar at the same time. Traditionally, the solar provider purchases a nearby plot of land then places their panels on the land—opposed to on an individual home or building. The number of panels required depends upon the number of community members to go solar—combined with the expectant growth of more community members who will transition to going solar over the next few years.

What is the benefit of community Solar?

The benefits to Community Solar are many, but one of the most compelling reasons is the cost-savings benefits. Since multiple community members are going solar at the same time, both the initial and the ongoing expenses are reduced. Not only that, going solar as part of a community is often the tipping point for those who are still on the fence.

Community Solar can be installed in housing developments, shared commercial and residential neighborhoods, and in communities both large and small. Learn more about community solar. Get started today with this solar panel cost calculator

Energy poverty in Africa

Can we end the energy poverty in Africa?

Many countries in Africa remain not connected to the main grid and they never will be. Why do I say this? These countries may leapfrog from using power from the main grid to use of decentralized renewable energy packaged solutions. Just the same way Africa leapfrogged from using grid type connected telephone lines to use of cellphones—there is a potential and the technology is available to use to help homes or businesses in going solar through the use of packaged solar PV solutions, that may include smart grids, smart meters, financing, service, warranties, etc.

With electricity, children would not have to gather wood in order to boil water – a simple electric stove could do that. A light could be turned on at night so that they could read before bed. And the aged grandparents or infant sibling could enjoy the breeze from a simple fan on sweltering, 40+ degree Celsius days – it could make a difference between life and death.

I believe we can make this happen by offering decentralized energy solutions to these homes. Governments alone cannot solve this problem, because we are talking about 600 million people without electricity and this translates to $19 billion a year in energy investments. This huge population of Africans without electricity is almost twice the population of the USA.

Therefore, this problem could be solved by the private sector with support from the governments and civil society. The solutions would center around creating decentralized renewable energy solutions rather than constructing massive power plants or grid extension which may take time to develop and may require huge investments.

It would take simple renewable energy-based packaged solutions that come with power, financing, service, warranties and energy-efficient appliances (in this case solar PV or wind technologies where there is a good wind potential).  This solution has failed in the past, because of the mode of delivery or approach. In the past, the donor approach failed to deliver; because development agencies would provide “free stuff” which would stop functioning at some point, maybe because of lack of maintenance, no training and lack of after-sales service by the provider. This model, therefore, proved it couldn’t work because the donor approach is reliant on “targets” rather than provide a service to the people that would develop a long-lasting customer relationship.

If it was a private sector entity providing this service, this would change because a truly private sector would want to develop a relationship with the community or village, then train the villagers on how to use the equipment, install, and then provide after-sales service if needed. This model would work because the private sector entity is incentivized by profits they make as well as the number of sales they obtain. Hence, it is to the advantage of the private sector to provide a better service for them to remain in business and expand in other areas.

Just like the telecommunications sector changed from the grid type of sector to mobile phones, a similar paradigm shift could take place when it comes to energy access in Africa or other developing countries. These countries may leapfrog to the mobile type or renewable energy packaged solutions. In this regard, solar will play a major role in technology advancement, solar will become cheaper and affordable to reach millions of individuals in rural Africa and other developing countries.

The government and development agencies like the World Bank would provide the regulatory and policy frameworks to eradicate the barriers of inferior quality of solar products entering the market and encourage fair competition among the private sector companies. Also, governments would set up financial mechanisms and schemes to overcome the investment or cost issues by the private sector or the end-user.

Since the initial cost is a huge barrier for rural communities, and a solar set could cost up to $200, the private sector can be provided guarantees or other incentives by the government to allow people to pay small installments or buy in credit in order to overcome this barrier. This lowers the risk for the private sector entity and encourages them to invest in decentralized renewable energy solutions. The communities would get service from the private sector and in-return the private sector will get paid by communities. On the issue of quality, communities distrust solar solutions, because they have been sold cheap products that don’t last long or they’ve bought appliances and haven’t been taught how to use them properly. Private sector companies that are service-minded can help solve this problem.

In conclusion, I would say this issue is solvable and currently many players including the World Bank are already applying these models, but to accelerate and solve this problem will require targeted campaigns that would raise awareness about this issue and how to solve it. It will take you and me to raise this awareness about the best models for energy access, the best financing solutions available, the best technologies to adopt and how or even how to solve the energy access problem. The private sector also needs this information, as most of them may not have the capacity to conduct meaningful data analytics to determine what models work or how to fine-tune them and get the desired results.

To get started in knowing about the benefits of going solar, you can learn more about this solar panel cost calculator.

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Is going solar good for sustainability?

It is true that fighting climate change will take combined efforts of government, private sector and individuals like you and me.

I have worked on a few projects concerning mitigating climate change, and I have come to the conclusion that innovations to reduce the effects of climate change will require huge amounts of finance by the private sector with technical assistance from the government.

Finances alone without innovation in policy and technology will be a waste of time and this calls for a multi-stakeholder approach where businesses work together with government and financiers to solve this sustainability challenge. 

Solar innovations/going solar 

When it comes to solar innovations or going solar, this approach works well because the government creates an enabling environment to attract the private sector and individuals like you and me to innovate and cause a market transformation that will ensure wider adoption of solar PV technologies or cleantech.

For example, the private sector has developed solar PV technologies through innovation and the government facilitates their wider adoption by making it easy to adopt through online solar tools such as the solar panel cost calculator that help individuals and businesses in going solar with reduced customer acquisition cost. 

So far this approach of creating solar energy markets is working because the government is providing tax credits that cause the private sector to innovate by researching how to develop innovative products as well as innovative business models for engaging the end-user.

For example, to obtain solar panels such models like the solar PPA and solar leasing help the end-user to acquire solar panels without any requirement in putting any money down.

Such financing models are developed with the idea that a third-party investor will invest their money into buying the equipment.

Then the investor will charge the end-user a monthly fee that is slightly lower than their current energy bill. This way, the third-party investor bears all the risks but enjoys an attractive rate of return when a customer agrees in going solar.

However, it takes the government to provide the 26% federal tax credits and other additional state tax credits to reduce the high initial costs of solar panels.

Also, the investors or private sector are encouraged to put their money down because they know it will cost them half the actual cost (i.e. when they have a high tax appetite) and thus are able to claim the full 30% tax credit while enjoying a good rate of return.

A solar panel cost calculator can show you the actual cost of a typical solar panel based on your current energy bill and how government tax credits help to reduce this cost by almost half; thus making solar panels affordable to a third-party investor.  

With solar PPA and solar leasing, the end-user or the customer may not be required to put any money down and hence can enjoy the benefits of adopting clean technology while reducing by between 25% to 30% of their total energy cost. 

EnergySage provides a great platform to get started to determine how much you can save with solar energy with or without any money down if you are interested in going solar. 

Is going solar good for sustainability? 

In my personal opinion, going solar in the long-term is good for sustainability because of the cumulative effect it has on reducing your carbon footprint. Platforms like the EnergySage are a great place to start to show you the carbon footprint potential in terms of how much carbon can be reduced by going solar has in the long-term.

For instance, the EnergySage provides a good comparison point to use when thinking about carbon emissions and what a typical vehicle emits 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. EnergySage makes this comparison using the national system size of a PV system in American households which is 6 kW (6,000 watts).

Such a solar PV system can help you reduce about 6.3 metric tonnes of carbon emissions per year. Hence, we can say going solar is good for sustainability i.e. going solar with the right solar panels comes with the “benefit of taking a car off the road” as noted by the EnergySage

When it comes to sustainability, it will take homeowners and businesses to adopt the right solar panels or adopt the right concepts for going green to move towards sustainability.

One way of going green is through going solar or the adoption of sustainable technologies such as solar panels.  It is the combined effect of adopting sustainable technologies that would have a meaningful effect on reducing one’s carbon footprint.

The total cumulative carbon footprint reduced in the long-term will be worthwhile because any good solar panel will last for over 20 years and hence depending on the number of people or businesses that adopt, it will have a tremendous effect. 

Also, clean technology such as solar panels is one solution for helping us to move towards sustainability or fighting climate change and therefore the government and private sector can work together to make it happen. 

If you are interested in going solar today, you can get started by using this solar panel cost calculator to help you determine your solar potential, solar savings and solar panel cost.

EnergySage are good online solar marketplaces that we recommend since they help to reduce the customer acquisition cost of going solar.