Seven Strengths of Solar Power for 2021

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The Sun is Abundant

Former Vice President Al Gore often notes that there is enough solar energy reaching the Earth in one hour to meet the world’s energy needs for a year. Photovoltaic panels already power 2.3 million US households and the solar industry is bigger than coal or steel. The International Energy Agency recently declared that solar offers the cheapest form of electricity in history. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar has an annual growth rate of 49 percent over the last decade.

The Price of Solar is Dropping Fast

According to EnergySage, the average cost of solar power has dropped from $3.69 per watt in 2015 to $2.09 today. A 6 kW system in New York (enough for a modest house) costs $15,900 to $21,300 before state incentives and tax credits.

The Sun Has a Warranty

Well, solar (PV) panels do! They are a long-term investment that can last up to 30 years. Panels generally have warranties that cover equipment (defects, premature wear) and also performance. Equipment warranties last from 10 to 25 years, and should guarantee no more than a 10 to 20 percent loss of performance over the life of the panel. Read the fine print.

You Don’t Need Panels

If your place isn’t properly oriented to the sun, or is shaded, or if you rent, you may want to consider a community solar subscription service where customers gain access to energy savings from electricity produced at a solar farm. They’ll save you money too. Through a larger-scale variation, Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), entire towns and communities can source their power from the sun (though by law individuals can opt out). Central Hudson’s Clean Energy Marketplace offers incentives and allows you to compare and estimate savings when choosing community solar. Check if your energy provider offers something similar.

Your Meter Can Run Backward

If your PV system is connected to the grid (as most are), you have access to “net metering.” Whenever your panels produce more electricity than you’re using, the surplus gets put back into the grid, making the economics of solar even better. Current regulations in New York on net metering are in transition but your installation contractor will be on top of them.

You Can Put the Sun in A Box

If the box is a battery, that is. Battery storage is fast dropping in price thanks to standard models like Tesla’s Powerwall, but storage can also be customized for your needs.

New York Loves the Sun

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was passed last year and provides a template for New York State to transition off of fossil fuels, starting with the ambitious target of 70 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030. A major focus is on making sure renewables are affordable and accessible for people without a ton of money, so watch for solar energy to be even more visible going forward.

Dave Conover is the program coordinator for Sustainable Hudson Valley.

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