With a declining costs in solar power that result in an increased economic scale, photovoltaic panels and better leasing models have led to declining costs and higher numbers of solar panel installations. It has been predicted by scientists and economists alike that solar electricity will be on par with prices for non-renewable energy. Common coal and oil-powered generation will have major competition when it comes to solar electricity within the next two years as the technology and installations get cheaper. Many solar power companies are projected to be making double in solar panel sales and installations within the next two years.
Currently in 2014, only 10 states have solar energy costs that are equaling to conventional electricity generation methods including Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, California, and New York to just name a few. Last year alone in 2013, these 10 states made up about 90% of US solar panel installations, but it is expected that by 2016, solar energy will reach price equality in all 50 states and perhaps even surpass nuclear, coal, and wind energy. As of right now, the US has around 16GW of solar capacity and nearly 5GW just added last year alone.
One major reason for such a large amount of growth is the soon to be expired federal government’s solar investment tax credit (ITC) which was passed in 2008. Allowing for a 30% tax credit when it comes to residential and business installations, the ITC will drop to a more permanent 10% once it expires in 2016. At the same time, it is projected that the cost to install solar installations on homes and businesses will drop from around 8 cents to almost 5.5 cents by 2015. Helping this potential drop in cost and increase in installations are new financing models, including solar loans and retail bonds. Based on a continued fall in installation and financial costs, and the increase in more mainstream funding, many scientists are predicting that solar electricity will not only equal the amount of coal and oil used, but surpass it, turning the US into a more renewable energy country. Another reason why solar will surpass coal is because of the governmental pressures on coal plants to reduce their production of CO2, which is harmful to the environment making it so coal power plants have to install expensive pollution controlling equipment. Many of them are opting to close rather than take on the financial burden of reducing CO2 emissions.
One area of concern for solar energy is the attempts to net meter it. Net metering is the ability for commercial and residential solar installations to sell their unused power back to utilities, making the meter a two way street. On top of net metering, utility companies are attempting to start charging solar companies and residents who have installed panels higher monthly rates to ‘help maintain the electrical grid’, making solar less competitive and less appealing due to fixed monthly charges controlled by utility companies, which many people install solar panels to get away from in the first place.
But, even with the potential negatives, solar energy is still a better option than non-renewable energy that hurts the environment and our future. Continued education is key to also helping solar power grow, the more people know, the more they will want to invest.