Solar energy was, at one time, something homebuyers and homeowners considered a great idea... for someone else. Dropping prices, greater ease of installation, more choices, and available rebates and credits have made solar energy a reality today for your average residence. The third quarter of 2013 was "the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations, according to the U.S. Solar Market insight report from the Solar Energy Industries Association. "Even more importantly, 2013 is likely to be the first time in more than 15 years that the U.S. installs more solar capacity than world leader Germany."
Thinking it might be time for you to go solar? Here are a few things to consider.
Is there an upfront cost to going solar? Yes. But it's lower than ever and continuing to drop, said Motley Fool in their Trends to Watch for 2014. "Solar power is the only energy source where the fundamental cost to produce a unit of energy is falling year after year.
"The revelation in 2013 was that solar power has passed the grid in cost per kW-hr, and as costs fall, the industry will probably continue to grow. Since Q1 of 2010, the cost to install a residential solar system has fallen 32.5% to $4.71 per watt, and a utility system has dropped 57.5% to $2.04 per watt."
Solar panels continue to provide energy savings
Plus, homes with solar panels increase in value, according to Solar World. "Studies performed by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory have shown that adding a solar system increases a home's resale value by an average of $5.50 per watt and depending on location, can be as high as $6.40/watt."
That means a "3.1kW system can add $17,000 to your home's value." Solar World also noted studies that have shown that "homes with solar sell 15 percent faster than homes without solar."
Smarter Technology, Better-Looking Features
BIPVs can be integrated right into building materials to provide solar benefits.
The solar industry continues to develop better resources, which means the unsightly panels of yesteryear that required flat roofs for best application may soon be all but gone. In place of solar panels, building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are increasingly being used. These are "photovoltaic materials that are used to replace conventional building materials in parts of the building envelope such as the roof, skylights, or facades," said Wikipedia.
"They are increasingly being incorporated into the construction of new buildings as a principal or ancillary source of electrical power, although existing buildings may be retrofitted with similar technology. The advantage of integrated photovoltaics over more common non-integrated systems is that the initial cost can be offset by reducing the amount spent on building materials and labor that would normally be used to construct the part of the building that the BIPV modules replace. These advantages make BIPV one of the fastest growing segments of the photovoltaic industry."
Where solar panels are being used, the trend is to use them in new ways - or in new places. At the Solar Decathlon, a biannual college competition where contestants compete to develop and showcase cutting-edge technologies and techniques, "Vermont's Middlebury College took a different approach. It put solar panels atop an exterior walkway, providing a shaded entry to the house and optimal orientation to the sun," said USA Today. This created a house that "can orientate to the street whereas our solar panels can orientate to the sun. This allows for anyone in a residential community to have solar."
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