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How Much Can You Save Using Solar Power?
The Polar Vortex and its freezing aftermath have helped to draw more attention to heating costs and power consumption across the U.S., which naturally leads to questions about the efficiency and affordability of solar power as an alternative (or supplement) to gas or electric power.
<strong>Solar Power’s Uphill Battle</strong>
A report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) <a title="Solar Energy Industries Association" href="http://www.seia.org/research-resources/us-solar-market-insight" target="_blank">noted in its most recent executive summary</a> that more photovoltaic solar cells were installed in the U.S. in 2013 than in the last 30 years combined, which marks a huge leap forward in solar power popularity. That’s good news, but the industry is not without its troubles.
<em>Net-metering</em>: The first hurdle is competition to the solar market in the form of public utilities that argue solar users are getting an unfair advantage over traditional ratepayers thanks to government tax credits and net-metering mandates. (Net-metering is the ability of solar users to sell excess power back to the grid at above-market rates as an incentive for using solar power.) Utilities complain that solar users are shifting energy costs onto their neighbors and some states are <a title="Take Part" href="http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/07/19/solar-energy-arizona-net-metering" target="_blank">attempting to levy fees</a> on solar users who enjoy the rewards of selling net-metered energy.
<em>Tax credits</em>: The second hurdle relates to those tax credits, which amount to a 30% tax deduction on the cost of installation. There’s been a lot of talk about rolling back the credits, which could put a huge dent in solar power’s forward progress and makes for a good argument for why getting in sooner rather than later may be a good idea.
<strong>Solar Power’s Savings Power</strong>
It goes without saying that your potential solar savings will be determined in part by your location. The SEIA provides <a title="Solar Energy Industry Association" href="http://www.seia.org/research-resources/2012-top-10-solar-states" target="_blank">“solar rankings”</a> for every state based on how much sun it gets and people living in high-ranking states (we’re lookin’ at you, California) reap bigger rewards.
It will also depend on how much power you use, because that will determine how much you can sell back. In 2012, the average U.S. household consumed <a title="Nerd Wallet" href="https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/2012/save-money-putting-solar-panels-roof/" target="_blank">900 kWh of energy per month</a> and the solar cells required to deliver half that power cost about $10,000. Do a little math and you’d find that it would take just over 17 years to recoup that cost at a savings of $600 per year once you factored in your 30% tax credit.
That doesn’t include tax credits, property tax exemptions and other incentives found at the state level, however, and it also doesn’t account for a faster rate of recoupment if you spend twice as much and end up with a salable energy surplus.
Critics make a good point that solar power, at least for now, represents a significant financial commitment that can’t be taken likely. Thankfully, <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/default.aspx">ATGStores.com</a> offers many energy-saving products that can help you cut costs on your power bill while you save up for the solar revolution.