DOE Announces Plan To Further Cut Cost Of Solar

The U.S. Department of Energy has just announced a plan to cut the cost of solar power 60 percent by 2030.

The plan includes $128 million in funding to accelerate the adoption of solar, improve solar panel performance, and lower the overall costs of implementing solar. “This burst of funding will help us add even more affordable clean energy to the grid, jobs to communities across the country, and will put us on the fast track toward President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035” – Jennifer M. Granholm (Secretary of Energy).

This plan is a key element of the nation’s goal of achieving a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2035. To help make this possible, the D.O.E. is looking to reduce the cost of utility scale solar electricity from 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour to 2 cents per-kilowatt hour by 2030. This reduction in the price of solar power has significant implications. This will help enable between 30 and 50 percent of the country’s electricity needs to be met by solar power alone by 2035.

Here’s a breakdown of the primary ways in which the funding will be spent –

  • There will be $40 million spent on Perovskite R&D. Perovskites are a newer type of materials that show promise in making thin-film solar cells that have high efficiency ratings. The funding will be dispersed among 22 different projects.
  • Another $33 million will be allocated to increased reliability in Concentrated Solar Power technologies. This type of solar power is created by a large array of mirrors reflecting light at a receiver on a tower. The subsequent heat is utilized to drive a steam turbine to create electricity. A unique advantage and feature of CSP plants is that they can utilize molten salt to store power for use at a later time.
  • Further developments in CSP plants will be possible through an additional $25 million in funding. Researches will be able to use this money to develop the next generation of CSP plants.
  • $20 million will be used for increased developments in CdTe thin film technologies. CdTe is short for Cadmium telluride. This crystalline compound has already shown its ability to produce extremely cost effective solar cells. The funding will increase the the amount of CdTe solar panels produced in the U.S which already stands at about 20 percent of the market.
  • $7 million will be used to increase the longevity of solar panel systems. The goal is to make the new standard 50 years instead of the current expected useful life of 30 years.
  • Finally another $3 million will be allocated to a Perovskite Startup Prize. This will take the form of seed capital for companies looking to use this specific solar technology to create a business.

It should be noted that this news bulletin from the D.O.E. is largely pertaining to utility scale solar. Cost reductions in solar power have different trajectories based on the scale involved. In other words, residential solar may not see the same price reduction over the next 10 years. Sure, prices for solar components will continue to decrease, though by much lower amounts and there are different costs involve for home solar.

The bottom line is that while this is good news for our overall transition to a clean energy society, this will not have a dramatic effect on residential solar. The best time for homeowners to go solar is now. Expecting solar prices to come down significantly in the coming years is not that likely. Homeowners who start saving with solar power now will actually save more money over the long term than by waiting for further price reductions.

Homeowners Are Warming Up To Solar

A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that homeowners across the U.S. are showing much higher interest in solar power.

The overall awareness of residential solar is certainly nothing new. Over the past 10 years or so, rooftop solar panels have become an increasingly common sight in many cities across America. However, solar adoption rates have seen a significant uptick in recent years.

According to this Pew Research Center article, since 2016, some areas of the country have seen a 20 percent increase in solar adoption, with the nation as a whole showing 6 percent more solar activity. The bulk of the article goes into details on the political divide concerning climate change.

Pew Research Center

Perhaps the most astonishing figure is that 46 percent of Americans have “given serious thought about installing solar panels on their homes in the last year.”

It’s not difficult to determine what is affecting this increase interest in solar power. If people are presented with a way to save money, they’ll take it. 96 percent of people polled said that saving money on their utility bills was the primary reason why they’d consider going solar. An impressive 87 percent said that environmental reasons were also a factor.

This newfound love for solar power is not evenly distributed around the nation, of course. Every state has different policies in place concerning solar and local opinions can vary as well. While the Pacific, North East, and Mountain states are, by now, solar veterans, other areas are catching up. Solar adoption has increased significantly in southern states. Solar is now cheap enough to make it attractive in the not-always-sunny North West.

Again, this rather noticeable increase in the positive way that solar power is viewed is largely due to the cost of solar. The word is finally spreading that installing solar power on a home is a wise financial decision. The truth is that, as much as the average person would like protect the environment, unless its economically feasible it’s not likely to happen.

Many upcoming solar installations will also include energy storage as solar plus storage becomes economically attractive as well. This will help assuage any homeowners that are concerned about their local utility playing games with net metering policies. Home energy storage leaves homeowners in full control of their energy costs.

Word will continue to spread about how great of an idea going solar is!

The True Cost Of Solar Still Not Well Known

After years of the cost of solar power being lower than conventional sources of electricity, the truth can still be hard to find.

Case in point is when a local news outfit does a report on solar, the tag line is usually – “Does solar make sense for you?” Now, understandably, news organizations need to remain as impartial as possible regarding any stories they cover (except, of course, when they are getting paid by a company to advertise a product).

However, if the given news organization did some quick math, they’d have to change the question to not if it makes sense but – “Why haven’t you gone solar yet?”

The news example is just one of many that can be used. The bottom line is that there still remains a general lack of awareness of the overall costs involved with going solar and how feasible it actually is.

Here are some basic financial facts about residential solar often not discussed.

  1. The monthly payments on a solar power system are either the same or lower than monthly electric bills for a ten year loan. After the loan is paid off – free electricity.
  2. Solar does in fact add value to a home. Please see this Berkeley Labs report. In fact, its basically a one to one proposition.
  3. Solar actually saves homeowners many thousands of dollars over a long period of time.
Solar Saves $$$

$15,000?!! I don’t have $15,000!!” This is certainly the response from many when they see what a solar panel system costs. Was this their same reaction when they saw the cost of their home?… “$150,000?!! I don’t have $150,000!!! Of course not, everyone knows that you acquire a mortgage to realize the dream of home ownership. In much the same way, a homeowner can acquire a loan to help pay for solar. (Obviously the $150,000 figure is just an example, home values can easily be more or less depending on location.)

Again, the homeownership analogy is the best one to use to better explain the solar value proposition.

Those that have a full appreciation of the value of home ownership should be able to understand the value of solar power. They share many of the same basic advantages that come with simply owning something. Such as, when payments are done being made, that asset is now owned outright. Unfortunately, quite a few homeowners that have gone solar are leasing their solar panel systems. They will never fully realize the financial benefits of going solar.

It needs to be stressed that the true value of solar is only available to homeowners who OWN their systems outright or through non-leased financing.

Now a reasonable objection might be – “I will most likely move in 7 or 8 years. If I do that I won’t get to experience the majority of savings involved with solar.” Again, solar adds value to a home, so homeowners can get their investment back when they sell.

The good news is that more and more people are going solar. The word is certainly spreading about the massive long term savings made possible by acquiring a solar panel system. That word will continue to spread as these new owners of solar power tell their neighbors all about the benefits of going solar. Hopefully solar misinformation will soon be a thing of the past.

Want more information on the costs involved? Just head to the cost of solar page.

Tesla To Drastically Cut Solar Panel Prices

Tesla has just announced a major price cut for their solar panel systems. The new pricing for the company’s systems will be about 10 percent cheaper than the national average.

This is big news for Tesla. The company is finally cost competitive with the rest of the industry.

Solar panel price information is a major focus of One of the primary missions of this site is to help homeowners find the most affordable solar possible. Up until now, the large solar installation companies have not been able to offer good value to their customers. As we approach summer of 2019, this may be the point in time when this idea changes.

Let’s take a look into the numbers.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the average price paid for solar panels is about $2.98/watt. Tesla’s new pricing ranges from $1.75-$1.99/watt. This is their pricing after the federal tax incentive. Before that potential savings are applied, their pricing is actually $2.65/watt, installed. This means that, normally, homeowners that need an 8 kilowatt system, (which is close to average size) the pre-tax incentive cost is about $24,000. Tesla’s new pricing for the same sized system is only $21,200, pre-tax incentives.

For homeowners that do not use that much electricity, a 4 kilowatt system from Tesla would cost about $10,600. After the 30 percent federal tax incentive, the total cost is only $7,420. Financed over ten years at a 5 percent interest rate, payments on this system would only be $79/month.

It’s fair to say that it is the cost of solar that holds some homeowners back from going solar. Many still think that it is too expensive. The reality is that it has been financially attractive for quite a few years now. It’s that much more attractive now.

How is this pricing suddenly possible? Tesla has crunched the numbers based on the idea that they can drastically cut labor costs by having their customers order online and also assist with providing the company the information it needs to get the install done (such as pictures of their roofs, electric breaker boxes, and circuit breakers). The company is also looking to lower labor costs by eliminating the door-to-door sales model that Solar City used. Sales are expected to be generated via their physical stores and via the internet.

Another way in which the company is attempting to streamline the process to lower costs is to only offer 4 different sized solar packages. Their systems are only available in 4, 8, 12, or 16 kilowatt sizes. This could potentially be seen as a drawback, because homeowners will not be able to precisely size a system based on their energy usage. For example, many homeowners may be forced to either buy a system that is slightly too large or one that does not quite cover their energy needs.

It’s fair to say that Tesla has realized that they can’t get away with high prices for solar, as opposed to their expensive cars. They’ve certainly learned some lessons from the recent failure of Solar City, the company that Tesla just acquired. It’s actually quite ironic that Solar City did not survive considering how much business they did and how high the company’s prices for solar was.

Solar power in the United States is already a good deal. Return on investment averages are about 15 percent. Systems pay for themselves in about 8 years, on average. This amounts to tens of thousands in savings over the guaranteed life of 25 years or more for a solar panel system. All these numbers would improve under this new pricing.

Along with Tesla, any company that can offer prices that are less than the current costs should be able to find plenty of customers. This could really be the tipping point in which homeowners finally take advantage of the massive savings that solar can provide.