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10 Best Solar Companies in New York (2022)

We narrow down the best installers in the Empire State.

Reviews
FernandoAH / Getty Images

When you think of New York, it's doubtful you'd picture solar panels lining the tops of urban buildings, but the Empire State is actually a top state for solar energy in the U.S. If you're thinking about going solar, the best first step to make is to find the best solar companies in New York and compare quotes.

It may surprise you to learn that the state of New York actually has more solar companies than Texas, the number two state for solar. Progressive leadership has laid the foundation for a market very encouraging of solar's growth, and a large number of top solar companies are looking to capitalize on it.

For most home or business owners considering solar power, the choice of which company to choose often comes down to costs. To start getting quotes from the best solar companies in New York, you can use this tool or fill out the form below.

Our Picks for Top New York Solar Installers

  1. SunPower
  2. SUNation Solar Systems
  3. EmPower Solar
  4. Tesla
  5. Kasselman Solar
  6. Momentum Solar
  7. Harvest Power Solar
  8. Brooklyn SolarWorks
  9. SunCommon
  10. Plug PV

Comparing the 10 Best Solar Companies in New York

SunPower

SunPower logo

SunPower

Service Area: State of New York

What We Like: SunPower has been a leading top solar company since 1985, manufacturing, selling and installing its own modules, which routinely rank as the industry's most efficient solar panels. SunPower provides national coverage, some of the highest-quality all-in-one solar systems and the best warranty in the business.

What We Don't Like: SunPower is able to service the entire nation through partnerships with local certified dealers throughout the nation. SunPower still maintains a standard of excellence, but your experience can be dependent on which dealer you live nearest.

What Customers Are Saying: "After doing my research and getting bids from four different companies, SunPower won hands down for us in meeting our overall needs. [Our consultant] was a real pleasure to work with… I'd recommend SunPower as the solar company of choice to anyone." — KG via Better Business Bureau (BBB)

SunPower at a Glance:

SUNation Solar Systems

SUNation Solar logo

SUNation Solar

Service Area: Suffolk County, Nassau County, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island

What We Like: SUNation Solar systems is a local leader trusted by over 7,000 homeowners in New York and has been voted the "Best Solar Business of Long Island" for 12 years running. Certified to install products from Tesla, Panasonic, LG and Solaria, SUNation delivers high-quality solar solutions with a local approach.

What We Don't Like: Though SUNation's local approach is what allows for such a personalized and smooth experience, its service area is smaller than some of its competitors.

What Customers Are Saying: "Very positive experience working with SUNation. From the sales process to the various logistical efforts (local permissions, array layout, frequent communication, installation), it was really a first-class effort. Really excited to be joining the 21st century thanks to SUNation!" — Daniel via BBB

SUNation at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, community solar, EV chargers, electrical upgrades, maintenance and backup batteries
  • Warranty: 25-year workmanship warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

EmPower Solar

Service Area: Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island

What We Like: With a vision of creating a new energy paradigm powered by clean, renewable power, EmPower Solar strives to provide its customers with the latest solar technology and the highest quality workmanship. EmPower Solar works in both residential and commercial solar markets installing eco-friendly energy solutions throughout greater NYC. EmPower is a certified dealer of SunPower solar panels, which are some of the best solar panels in the business.

What We Don't Like: We'd like to see EmPower Solar emphasize energy efficiency and electrical system upgrades in their services to accompany solar and storage. It was also difficult to find information on EmPower's solar financing options.

What Customers Are Saying: "EmPower installed our solar system in May 2018. After the site inspection and design were all completed and the contract signed, the installation was completed in one day. It has performed flawlessly since that time and delivered 107% of our energy usage! We couldn't be more pleased." — Michael via Google Reviews

EmPower Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, community solar, EV chargers and backup batteries
  • Warranty: SunPower 25-year warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Tesla

Tesla logo

Tesla

Service Area: State of New York; solar facility in Buffalo

What We Like: Known primarily for its electric cars, Tesla is also one of the top national solar companies. Tesla provides premium, designer solar technology meant to fit in seamlessly with a house's roof. Though not a solar installer like the other names on this list, Tesla will match you with a solar technician near you that is certified to install its products.

What We Don't Like: Tesla is much better known for its technology than its customer service, and it shows in a few negative reviews.

What Customers Are Saying: "From beginning to end, the process went perfectly. I liked that all the documents could be signed online. No back-and-forth paperwork. They showed up on time on the day of installation. They installed the whole system in one day. My solar has been running now for 4 months without any issues." — Victoria via BBB

Tesla Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, EV chargers and Tesla Powerwall batteries
  • Warranty: 10-year comprehensive warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Kasselman Solar

Service Area: State of New York; Based in Menands

What We Like: Kasselman Solar specializes in powerful, affordable and aesthetically attractive solar panel installations. Installing LG and LONGi solar panels, Kasselman provides both quality and performance with a generous warranty and solar panels reaching a power of 445 watts.

What We Don't Like: Kasselman specializes in solar projects, period. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you need electrical upgrades or other special services, Kasselman may not have as many options.

What Customers Are Saying: "Kasselman Solar is a top-notch organization and a leader in its respective markets. Its ability to navigate challenges with ease and deliver on commitments is unrivaled. For homeowners out there considering Kasselman as a solar provider, this is exactly the type of installer that you want to work with. They are honest and trustworthy, deliver a quality product, and provide a top-notch customer experience." — Victoria via BBB

Kasselman Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 1948 (as Kasselman Electric)
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year full warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Momentum Solar

Momentum Solar logo

Momentum Solar

Service Area: State of New York

What We Like: One of our top solar companies of 2022, Momentum Solar and its leadership are highly respected in the industry for providing affordable, effective solar energy solutions. Momentum Solar focuses on flexible financing options to appeal to a wide range of customers.

What We Don't Like: Momentum Solar is young and growing quickly, and a few customer experiences have suffered from those growing pains.

What Customers Are Saying: "I appreciated my experience with Momentum Solar. They truly want what is in the best interest of the customer. We are very pleased with our system, which was installed 9 months ago. Our all-electric house now has an electric bill that is practically nothing. Thanks for a great solar system at a fair price" — Nina via Google Reviews

Momentum Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2009
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year solar panel warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan, solar leases/PPA

Harvest Power Solar

Harvest Power Solar logo

Harvest Power Solar

Service Area: Greater NYC area and Long Island

What We Like: Established in 2008 as a branch of Friendly Construction, Harvest Power has grown into one of the biggest solar providers in New York. With roots in construction and access to cutting-edge solar technology, Harvest Power Solar provides some of the most reliable and high-quality solar installations in the state.

What We Don't Like: A limited service area means most of its installations are tied to Long Island. Harvest Power's warranties are also nothing to write home about.

What Customers Are Saying: "A little over a year ago, [I] went live with a 28-panel solar system. Very happy with the job overall and its power generation. Should pay back in 7 to 10 years. The salesman was very knowledgeable and seemed honest. I've dealt with a lot of salesmen in my business that I wouldn't say that about. The job was completed very cleanly and generally timely." — Robert via Google Reviews

Harvest Power Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2008
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year solar panel warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Brooklyn SolarWorks

Service Area: Greater NYC area

What We Like: Brooklyn SolarWorks has a simple mission to make solar appealing, easy and available for Brooklyn's urban homeowners. Solar is probably not the first thing you think about when you think of Brooklyn — but Brooklyn SolarWorks has embraced its expertise in making clean energy as practical as possible for the unique needs of urban and suburban solar customers of New York City. It specializes in providing solar for challenging roofs, landmarked homes and the many co-ops and condos of NYC.

What We Don't Like: Let us lead by saying we love that Brooklyn SolarWorks has focused on such hyper-local, specific needs. However, this sets the company up for an easy negative: a very small service area.

What Customers Are Saying: "Brooklyn SolarWorks installed our solar system in 2019. The entire process from permitting through installation was easy and painless. I cannot emphasize enough the value and comfort of using a local Brooklyn-based company. I can honestly say it has been one of the best things we have ever done, and the savings are very impressive." — Mike via Google Reviews

Brooklyn SolarWorks at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2015
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, electrical work
  • Warranty: 30-year complete system warranty (we also love this!)
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

SunCommon

SunCommon logo

SunCommon

Service Area: Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Columbia, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Rockland counties

What We Like: SunCommon is built on pillars of community activism, transparency and care for the people and places that surround it. A certified B-Corporation, SunCommon has proven its commitment to responsible business practices, focusing on tenants of people, planet and profit. If keeping money local, investing in shared values and supporting your community is of utmost importance to you, we recommend reaching out to SunCommon.

What We Don't Like: Is it possible to be too committed to activism and education? We'd almost like to see SunCommon focus more on also highlighting its exceptional workmanship in both residential and commercial installations, affordable solar financing and technology.

What Customers Are Saying: "We evaluated a few different solar companies. We chose SunCommon because they have a great reputation. The team was excellent to work with, had the best technology, and financing with a 0.9% interest rate. The install team was friendly and professional, and the install went perfectly… I highly recommend SunCommon. You won't be disappointed." — Jeffrey via Google Reviews

SunCommon at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2011
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, solar canopies, backup batteries and solar farms
  • Warranty: 25-year warranty on power, parts and labor; 10-year workmanship warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loans

PlugPV

PlugPV logo

PlugPV

Service Area: State of New York, based in Albany

What We Like: Built on high-quality workmanship, PlugPV solar is a small but experienced team of world-class solar contractors in the Northeast. PlugPV offers an impressive product portfolio including solar PV, backup solar batteries and EV chargers.

What We Don't Like: PlugPV has only been in business for five years as of 2022. Given the long-term nature of solar investments, it can be wise to choose an established company with a longer history of success.

What Customers Are Saying: "I'm almost 5 months with the system now, and things are running perfectly so far. At this point, I'm a fairly low electricity consumer, and my meter spins in reverse most of the time, generating credits with my utility. Everything went according to our plan, and I'm very happy with the results all around. There has not been a moment of regret working with them, and that's fairly unusual for me." — Adam via Google Reviews

PlugPV at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2017
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: Product-specific warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loans

How We Chose the Best Solar Companies in New York

We researched the product portfolios, solar services, financing options, customer feedback and industry reputations of every major New York solar installer. Using this methodology, we rated and ranked each company to narrow down and rank our picks for the top solar companies in New York.

Choosing the Best Solar Installer for Your Home

Everyone's needs are different when it comes to solar, so what may be the best solar company for your neighbor might not be right for you. Give these factors some thought and place more emphasis on what will meet your home's needs when choosing the best company for your installation:

Services Offered

To start, due to the unique range of needs of home and business owners in New York, a variety of solar installers focus on different services. For instance, Brooklyn SolarWorks focuses more exclusively on downtown roofs, which are typically flat and have needs different than a larger home in Long Island. Think about what makes your home or business unique — and find a company that prioritizes those needs. Other things to consider might be whether you need electrical upgrades, EV chargers or backup power.

Installation Process

Before you sign any paperwork, make sure you're confident in knowing how the installation process will look. How long before the installation day will happen? How many days will it take? What is my utility company's net metering policy? Permitting and interconnection can vary from city to city, so it's best to be sure you're familiar with the process.

Solar Pricing and Financing

Solar energy systems are a great investment — one that takes planning and time to mature. Think about whether you might need special financing options if your budget is tight. Any of the best solar companies in New York should be able to assist you in applying for the federal solar tax credit, but specific financing options and flexibility will vary from provider to provider.

Industry Affiliations

We generally recommend hiring a company that maintains industry credentials, such as membership in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a B Corp certification or affiliation with other professional associations. Memberships and certifications are a great indicator of the company's professionalism, workmanship, reputation and reliability.

Types of Panels

Some types of solar panels are better than others, and each company will offer a slightly different product portfolio. Small homes in more dense cities will likely need high-efficiency solar panels, while homes with more space might opt for a sleek design. It can't hurt to ask what brands of panels your company has available, and why they might recommend each. Certifications from some of the best solar panel brands like Panasonic, LG or SunPower might also be a good indicator of legitimacy.

Incentives, Rebates and Tax Credits

New York State has a variety of solar incentives that can vary by city, county and utility. Though effective, these incentives can be complex, and finding a solar installer that knows the ins and outs of local policy may provide the best overall value in the long run. It's best to think locally here. Does the company you're looking at have plenty of experience in your community? This will be important.

Warranty

Finally, we recommend finding an installer that offers a good warranty. Solar panels are incredibly tough, but things happen. The best warranties will last 25 years and cover the equipment, workmanship and performance of your installation.

Cost of Solar in New York

As of 2022, our market research and data from top brands show the average cost of solar panels in New York is around $2.95 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $10,927 after the federal solar tax credit is applied. Keep in mind that a 5-kW system is about the minimum size for most homes.

New York State also offers a variety of solar incentives to help offset the cost of your system. These incentives have spurred the growth of solar in New York to new highs in 2021, pushing to over $7 billion of total investment. Under the right circumstances, New York's solar incentives are capable of offsetting nearly half of the aggregate system installation costs.

New York Solar Incentive

Incentive Description

NY-Sun Megawatt Block Incentive

This statewide incentive provides direct financial incentives for solar installations on a per-watt basis, meaning the larger your installation, the more financial support you'll receive.

Solar Energy System Equipment Credit

New York residents are entitled to claim a tax credit equal to 25% of your qualified solar energy system equipment expenditure (limited to $5,000).

Sales Tax Exemption

New York residents don't have to pay the state's 4% sales tax on qualified solar equipment.

Net Metering

Standard net metering is available to most New York residents through 2022. Throughout 2022, New York will begin enrolling its solar customers in a net metering alternative aimed at easing utility costs.

How to Find the Best Solar Installer in New York

Sorting through the large number of New York solar installers can seem challenging, but this actually presents a great opportunity for New York home and business owners. Unlike a number of other states, solar customers are far more likely to find a company that tailors to their local needs.

The large number of solar companies in New York also gives solar customers the opportunity to shop competing offers against each other, sometimes securing thousands of dollars during the process. Remember, these companies are competing for you.

To start getting free quotes from the best solar companies in New York, use this tool or fill out the form below.

Best Solar Companies New York: FAQs

Who is the most reputable solar company in New York?

The most reputable solar company in New York will depend heavily on your individual needs. New York may be the toughest state to answer this question in due to the wide variety of unique needs stemming from metropolitan, suburban and rural areas of the state.

Is solar in New York worth it?

As long as you have the right roof, solar in New York is typically well worth it. Rather than the sunshine being the main factor behind solar's value, in New York, solar incentives are what make the switch worth it. Between the Megawatt Block incentive, federal tax credit and solar energy system equipment credit, New York homeowners can offset nearly 50% of their project costs.

How do I find a reputable solar company in New York?

One of the best ways to find a reputable solar company in New York is to compare free quotes from a number of installers. When comparing these quotes, or getting on-site consultations, you can find the best offer for your needs. Refer to our guide on finding local solar installers near you to learn more about reading and interpreting solar proposals.

Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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Mischa Keijser / Getty Images

Broadly speaking, state governments have led the way in implementing renewable energy policies in the U.S., and a couple of states have always been at the forefront of these efforts. Despite not having the vast land of California or the year-round sun of Arizona, the availability of a Massachusetts solar tax credit has long been a reason that this New England state is a top state for solar energy installations.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Massachusetts is currently eighth in the country for solar energy installations, which is especially impressive given how small the state is geographically compared with many of the states it's outranking. For residents, the availability of Massachusetts solar rebates and incentives has made solar energy an appealing and logical option, and in offering such opportunities, the Massachusetts government has set a great example for the rest of the country.

If you live in Massachusetts and are wondering how much a solar panel system would cost for your home, you can get a free quote from a certified solar installer near you by using this tool or filling out the form below.

Massachusetts Solar Tax Credit

The most appealing Massachusetts solar tax credit available is the Personal Income Tax Credit, otherwise known as the Residential Renewable Energy Income Tax Credit. Massachusetts residents who purchase home solar energy systems are eligible for a tax credit on their income tax filing that totals 15% of the cost of the solar system (up to a maximum tax credit of $1,000).

Massachusetts implemented this tax credit back in 2016, and the direct impact is bringing down the cost of solar panels for homeowners. This serves as a hefty incentive to adopt solar power or another renewable energy system. The impact has been steady and notable, which is no doubt a reason that solar installers have seen such demand across the state of Massachusetts.

Other Massachusetts Solar Incentives

While the Massachusetts solar tax credit has been the most heralded and impactful of the solar incentives available in the state, residents of Massachusetts have several additional opportunities to take advantage. The following programs and policies make the decision to go solar even more financially savvy.

Massachusetts Solar Rebates and Incentives

Description

Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program

Customers who install approved solar systems can get direct compensation for every kilowatt-hour generated by their system.

Massachusetts Solar Tax Exemptions

Massachusetts does not collect sales tax on solar systems and omits the value of solar systems from property value assessments for tax purposes.

Massachusetts Net Metering Program

Homes and businesses are paid per kilowatt-hour for all excess electricity they generate and send back to the central power grid.

Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program

The goal of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program is to offer direct incentives for both residential and commercial solar energy systems that are tied to one of three investor-owned utility grids in the state: Eversource, National Grid and Unitil.

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources instituted this program in late 2018 and it directly pays the owners of solar systems for all power generated by their systems for 10 years.

The specifics of how much a customer gets paid varies based on their utility provider and the size of their system, but the payouts range from $0.22 per kilowatt-hour produced all the way up to $0.34 per kWh. Further, the SMART program has added provisions for higher payouts if a battery storage system is added. While many solar systems can already pay for themselves via reduced energy bills in less than a decade, the additional incentives offered by the SMART program can nearly cut the solar payback period in half.

Massachusetts Solar Tax Exemptions

Direct tax exemptions are another way that the state of Massachusetts seeks to ensure that the cost of solar panels is not preventing residents from investing. Most products in the state will have a standard sales tax of 6.25% applied at the point of sale, but Massachusetts would rather the tax not be collected if it would deter any additional homes from investing in solar. As a result, solar energy systems are exempt from sales tax.

Another solar tax exemption offered to owners of systems in Massachusetts is the property tax exemption. For any typical home upgrade — such as an extension to a house, a new pool, or otherwise — the property will get inspected, and the value of the home is reassessed so taxes can be paid on the full value of the home. While solar energy systems increase the value of a home and how much it can sell for, the state of Massachusetts opts to not include the value of the solar system when assessing the total amount at which the property should be taxed.

Massachusetts Net Metering Program

Lastly, Massachusetts is ahead of the curve when it comes to net metering as a benefit allowed for owners of solar systems. Through net metering, properties that are generating electricity, whether through solar panels or otherwise, can be compensated for sending excess power that they don't need in a given moment back into the grid.

For example, the peak time to generate solar power is mid-afternoon, but if a home is empty during those hours because its residents are at school or work, it's likely that all of that energy will not be used. In such an instance, the home can send power to the local grid to be used by other people in the service area, and thanks to net metering policies in Massachusetts, the owners of those solar systems are compensated at the same price they pay when consuming power from the grid.

When done optimally, such net metering policies can nearly wipe out an entire power bill for efficient homes operating with solar.

Federal Solar Tax Credit

While Massachusetts is going out of its way to offer tax incentives and rebates to potential solar customers, these projects are eligible for the relevant federal solar tax credit as well. In fact, the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is the most commonly utilized tax credit for new solar projects and has been for a number of years.

For eligible customers and solar systems, the ITC allows 26% of the cost of solar systems to be claimed as a credit against federal tax returns, provided those systems are operational before December 31, 2022. For systems placed into service in 2023, the tax credit is 22% of the total system cost. As the code is currently written, there is no ITC for solar systems installed after 2023, though clean energy advocates and pro-solar politicians are seeking to extend the federal solar tax credit in the future.

FAQ: Massachusetts Solar Incentives

Does Massachusetts have a solar tax credit?

Massachusetts has a solar tax credit called the Residential Renewable Energy Income Tax Credit. Homeowners can claim this credit on their state tax filing, and it's worth 15% of the cost of the solar system (up to a maximum tax credit of $1,000). All Massachusetts installations are also eligible for the federal investment tax credit (ITC).

Is it worth going solar in Massachusetts?

Yes, Massachusetts offers numerous financial incentives that help the already profitable endeavor of installing solar energy to be even better for the budget in the long run. With properly planned and installed solar systems, many in Massachusetts can expect their payback period to be just a couple of years, though you should consult with an expert about your exact situation for any unique aspects of your potential solar system.

Can you get free solar in Massachusetts?

Solar energy systems will always come with some level of upfront costs, though many opportunities exist for financing (including on-bill financing) that bring the initial capital required down to a manageable and accessible level for residents across Massachusetts. Once systems are installed, the reduced energy bills, the availability of net metering, and potential participation in the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program will all pay back the initial investment and the bulk of the solar system's life will represent profit.

How much does it cost to install solar panels in Massachusetts?

The specific costs will vary based on the size of the system and how well suited the potential location is to solar installations. That said, our research shows that the average cost paid in Massachusetts is $2.94 per watt for solar system installations, slightly higher than the nationwide average of $2.66 per watt.

To see how much a solar system would cost for your home, specifically, you can use this tool or fill out the form below to get a free, no-obligation quote from a certified solar installer near you.

10 Best Solar Companies in New York (2022)

We narrow down the best installers in the Empire State.

Reviews
FernandoAH / Getty Images

When you think of New York, it's doubtful you'd picture solar panels lining the tops of urban buildings, but the Empire State is actually a top state for solar energy in the U.S. If you're thinking about going solar, the best first step to make is to find the best solar companies in New York and compare quotes.

It may surprise you to learn that the state of New York actually has more solar companies than Texas, the number two state for solar. Progressive leadership has laid the foundation for a market very encouraging of solar's growth, and a large number of top solar companies are looking to capitalize on it.

For most home or business owners considering solar power, the choice of which company to choose often comes down to costs. To start getting quotes from the best solar companies in New York, you can use this tool or fill out the form below.

Our Picks for Top New York Solar Installers

  1. SunPower
  2. SUNation Solar Systems
  3. EmPower Solar
  4. Tesla
  5. Kasselman Solar
  6. Momentum Solar
  7. Harvest Power Solar
  8. Brooklyn SolarWorks
  9. SunCommon
  10. Plug PV

Comparing the 10 Best Solar Companies in New York

SunPower

SunPower logo

SunPower

Service Area: State of New York

What We Like: SunPower has been a leading top solar company since 1985, manufacturing, selling and installing its own modules, which routinely rank as the industry's most efficient solar panels. SunPower provides national coverage, some of the highest-quality all-in-one solar systems and the best warranty in the business.

What We Don't Like: SunPower is able to service the entire nation through partnerships with local certified dealers throughout the nation. SunPower still maintains a standard of excellence, but your experience can be dependent on which dealer you live nearest.

What Customers Are Saying: "After doing my research and getting bids from four different companies, SunPower won hands down for us in meeting our overall needs. [Our consultant] was a real pleasure to work with… I'd recommend SunPower as the solar company of choice to anyone." — KG via Better Business Bureau (BBB)

SunPower at a Glance:

SUNation Solar Systems

SUNation Solar logo

SUNation Solar

Service Area: Suffolk County, Nassau County, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island

What We Like: SUNation Solar systems is a local leader trusted by over 7,000 homeowners in New York and has been voted the "Best Solar Business of Long Island" for 12 years running. Certified to install products from Tesla, Panasonic, LG and Solaria, SUNation delivers high-quality solar solutions with a local approach.

What We Don't Like: Though SUNation's local approach is what allows for such a personalized and smooth experience, its service area is smaller than some of its competitors.

What Customers Are Saying: "Very positive experience working with SUNation. From the sales process to the various logistical efforts (local permissions, array layout, frequent communication, installation), it was really a first-class effort. Really excited to be joining the 21st century thanks to SUNation!" — Daniel via BBB

SUNation at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, community solar, EV chargers, electrical upgrades, maintenance and backup batteries
  • Warranty: 25-year workmanship warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

EmPower Solar

Service Area: Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island

What We Like: With a vision of creating a new energy paradigm powered by clean, renewable power, EmPower Solar strives to provide its customers with the latest solar technology and the highest quality workmanship. EmPower Solar works in both residential and commercial solar markets installing eco-friendly energy solutions throughout greater NYC. EmPower is a certified dealer of SunPower solar panels, which are some of the best solar panels in the business.

What We Don't Like: We'd like to see EmPower Solar emphasize energy efficiency and electrical system upgrades in their services to accompany solar and storage. It was also difficult to find information on EmPower's solar financing options.

What Customers Are Saying: "EmPower installed our solar system in May 2018. After the site inspection and design were all completed and the contract signed, the installation was completed in one day. It has performed flawlessly since that time and delivered 107% of our energy usage! We couldn't be more pleased." — Michael via Google Reviews

EmPower Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, community solar, EV chargers and backup batteries
  • Warranty: SunPower 25-year warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Tesla

Tesla logo

Tesla

Service Area: State of New York; solar facility in Buffalo

What We Like: Known primarily for its electric cars, Tesla is also one of the top national solar companies. Tesla provides premium, designer solar technology meant to fit in seamlessly with a house's roof. Though not a solar installer like the other names on this list, Tesla will match you with a solar technician near you that is certified to install its products.

What We Don't Like: Tesla is much better known for its technology than its customer service, and it shows in a few negative reviews.

What Customers Are Saying: "From beginning to end, the process went perfectly. I liked that all the documents could be signed online. No back-and-forth paperwork. They showed up on time on the day of installation. They installed the whole system in one day. My solar has been running now for 4 months without any issues." — Victoria via BBB

Tesla Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2003
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, EV chargers and Tesla Powerwall batteries
  • Warranty: 10-year comprehensive warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Kasselman Solar

Service Area: State of New York; Based in Menands

What We Like: Kasselman Solar specializes in powerful, affordable and aesthetically attractive solar panel installations. Installing LG and LONGi solar panels, Kasselman provides both quality and performance with a generous warranty and solar panels reaching a power of 445 watts.

What We Don't Like: Kasselman specializes in solar projects, period. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you need electrical upgrades or other special services, Kasselman may not have as many options.

What Customers Are Saying: "Kasselman Solar is a top-notch organization and a leader in its respective markets. Its ability to navigate challenges with ease and deliver on commitments is unrivaled. For homeowners out there considering Kasselman as a solar provider, this is exactly the type of installer that you want to work with. They are honest and trustworthy, deliver a quality product, and provide a top-notch customer experience." — Victoria via BBB

Kasselman Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 1948 (as Kasselman Electric)
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year full warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Momentum Solar

Momentum Solar logo

Momentum Solar

Service Area: State of New York

What We Like: One of our top solar companies of 2022, Momentum Solar and its leadership are highly respected in the industry for providing affordable, effective solar energy solutions. Momentum Solar focuses on flexible financing options to appeal to a wide range of customers.

What We Don't Like: Momentum Solar is young and growing quickly, and a few customer experiences have suffered from those growing pains.

What Customers Are Saying: "I appreciated my experience with Momentum Solar. They truly want what is in the best interest of the customer. We are very pleased with our system, which was installed 9 months ago. Our all-electric house now has an electric bill that is practically nothing. Thanks for a great solar system at a fair price" — Nina via Google Reviews

Momentum Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2009
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year solar panel warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan, solar leases/PPA

Harvest Power Solar

Harvest Power Solar logo

Harvest Power Solar

Service Area: Greater NYC area and Long Island

What We Like: Established in 2008 as a branch of Friendly Construction, Harvest Power has grown into one of the biggest solar providers in New York. With roots in construction and access to cutting-edge solar technology, Harvest Power Solar provides some of the most reliable and high-quality solar installations in the state.

What We Don't Like: A limited service area means most of its installations are tied to Long Island. Harvest Power's warranties are also nothing to write home about.

What Customers Are Saying: "A little over a year ago, [I] went live with a 28-panel solar system. Very happy with the job overall and its power generation. Should pay back in 7 to 10 years. The salesman was very knowledgeable and seemed honest. I've dealt with a lot of salesmen in my business that I wouldn't say that about. The job was completed very cleanly and generally timely." — Robert via Google Reviews

Harvest Power Solar at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2008
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: 25-year solar panel warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Brooklyn SolarWorks

Service Area: Greater NYC area

What We Like: Brooklyn SolarWorks has a simple mission to make solar appealing, easy and available for Brooklyn's urban homeowners. Solar is probably not the first thing you think about when you think of Brooklyn — but Brooklyn SolarWorks has embraced its expertise in making clean energy as practical as possible for the unique needs of urban and suburban solar customers of New York City. It specializes in providing solar for challenging roofs, landmarked homes and the many co-ops and condos of NYC.

What We Don't Like: Let us lead by saying we love that Brooklyn SolarWorks has focused on such hyper-local, specific needs. However, this sets the company up for an easy negative: a very small service area.

What Customers Are Saying: "Brooklyn SolarWorks installed our solar system in 2019. The entire process from permitting through installation was easy and painless. I cannot emphasize enough the value and comfort of using a local Brooklyn-based company. I can honestly say it has been one of the best things we have ever done, and the savings are very impressive." — Mike via Google Reviews

Brooklyn SolarWorks at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2015
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, electrical work
  • Warranty: 30-year complete system warranty (we also love this!)
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

SunCommon

SunCommon logo

SunCommon

Service Area: Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Columbia, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Rockland counties

What We Like: SunCommon is built on pillars of community activism, transparency and care for the people and places that surround it. A certified B-Corporation, SunCommon has proven its commitment to responsible business practices, focusing on tenants of people, planet and profit. If keeping money local, investing in shared values and supporting your community is of utmost importance to you, we recommend reaching out to SunCommon.

What We Don't Like: Is it possible to be too committed to activism and education? We'd almost like to see SunCommon focus more on also highlighting its exceptional workmanship in both residential and commercial installations, affordable solar financing and technology.

What Customers Are Saying: "We evaluated a few different solar companies. We chose SunCommon because they have a great reputation. The team was excellent to work with, had the best technology, and financing with a 0.9% interest rate. The install team was friendly and professional, and the install went perfectly… I highly recommend SunCommon. You won't be disappointed." — Jeffrey via Google Reviews

SunCommon at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2011
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, solar canopies, backup batteries and solar farms
  • Warranty: 25-year warranty on power, parts and labor; 10-year workmanship warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loans

PlugPV

PlugPV logo

PlugPV

Service Area: State of New York, based in Albany

What We Like: Built on high-quality workmanship, PlugPV solar is a small but experienced team of world-class solar contractors in the Northeast. PlugPV offers an impressive product portfolio including solar PV, backup solar batteries and EV chargers.

What We Don't Like: PlugPV has only been in business for five years as of 2022. Given the long-term nature of solar investments, it can be wise to choose an established company with a longer history of success.

What Customers Are Saying: "I'm almost 5 months with the system now, and things are running perfectly so far. At this point, I'm a fairly low electricity consumer, and my meter spins in reverse most of the time, generating credits with my utility. Everything went according to our plan, and I'm very happy with the results all around. There has not been a moment of regret working with them, and that's fairly unusual for me." — Adam via Google Reviews

PlugPV at a Glance:

  • Year Founded: 2017
  • Services Provided: Solar panels, backup batteries and EV chargers
  • Warranty: Product-specific warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loans

How We Chose the Best Solar Companies in New York

We researched the product portfolios, solar services, financing options, customer feedback and industry reputations of every major New York solar installer. Using this methodology, we rated and ranked each company to narrow down and rank our picks for the top solar companies in New York.

Choosing the Best Solar Installer for Your Home

Everyone's needs are different when it comes to solar, so what may be the best solar company for your neighbor might not be right for you. Give these factors some thought and place more emphasis on what will meet your home's needs when choosing the best company for your installation:

Services Offered

To start, due to the unique range of needs of home and business owners in New York, a variety of solar installers focus on different services. For instance, Brooklyn SolarWorks focuses more exclusively on downtown roofs, which are typically flat and have needs different than a larger home in Long Island. Think about what makes your home or business unique — and find a company that prioritizes those needs. Other things to consider might be whether you need electrical upgrades, EV chargers or backup power.

Installation Process

Before you sign any paperwork, make sure you're confident in knowing how the installation process will look. How long before the installation day will happen? How many days will it take? What is my utility company's net metering policy? Permitting and interconnection can vary from city to city, so it's best to be sure you're familiar with the process.

Solar Pricing and Financing

Solar energy systems are a great investment — one that takes planning and time to mature. Think about whether you might need special financing options if your budget is tight. Any of the best solar companies in New York should be able to assist you in applying for the federal solar tax credit, but specific financing options and flexibility will vary from provider to provider.

Industry Affiliations

We generally recommend hiring a company that maintains industry credentials, such as membership in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a B Corp certification or affiliation with other professional associations. Memberships and certifications are a great indicator of the company's professionalism, workmanship, reputation and reliability.

Types of Panels

Some types of solar panels are better than others, and each company will offer a slightly different product portfolio. Small homes in more dense cities will likely need high-efficiency solar panels, while homes with more space might opt for a sleek design. It can't hurt to ask what brands of panels your company has available, and why they might recommend each. Certifications from some of the best solar panel brands like Panasonic, LG or SunPower might also be a good indicator of legitimacy.

Incentives, Rebates and Tax Credits

New York State has a variety of solar incentives that can vary by city, county and utility. Though effective, these incentives can be complex, and finding a solar installer that knows the ins and outs of local policy may provide the best overall value in the long run. It's best to think locally here. Does the company you're looking at have plenty of experience in your community? This will be important.

Warranty

Finally, we recommend finding an installer that offers a good warranty. Solar panels are incredibly tough, but things happen. The best warranties will last 25 years and cover the equipment, workmanship and performance of your installation.

Cost of Solar in New York

As of 2022, our market research and data from top brands show the average cost of solar panels in New York is around $2.95 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $10,927 after the federal solar tax credit is applied. Keep in mind that a 5-kW system is about the minimum size for most homes.

New York State also offers a variety of solar incentives to help offset the cost of your system. These incentives have spurred the growth of solar in New York to new highs in 2021, pushing to over $7 billion of total investment. Under the right circumstances, New York's solar incentives are capable of offsetting nearly half of the aggregate system installation costs.

New York Solar Incentive

Incentive Description

NY-Sun Megawatt Block Incentive

This statewide incentive provides direct financial incentives for solar installations on a per-watt basis, meaning the larger your installation, the more financial support you'll receive.

Solar Energy System Equipment Credit

New York residents are entitled to claim a tax credit equal to 25% of your qualified solar energy system equipment expenditure (limited to $5,000).

Sales Tax Exemption

New York residents don't have to pay the state's 4% sales tax on qualified solar equipment.

Net Metering

Standard net metering is available to most New York residents through 2022. Throughout 2022, New York will begin enrolling its solar customers in a net metering alternative aimed at easing utility costs.

How to Find the Best Solar Installer in New York

Sorting through the large number of New York solar installers can seem challenging, but this actually presents a great opportunity for New York home and business owners. Unlike a number of other states, solar customers are far more likely to find a company that tailors to their local needs.

The large number of solar companies in New York also gives solar customers the opportunity to shop competing offers against each other, sometimes securing thousands of dollars during the process. Remember, these companies are competing for you.

To start getting free quotes from the best solar companies in New York, use this tool or fill out the form below.

Best Solar Companies New York: FAQs

Who is the most reputable solar company in New York?

The most reputable solar company in New York will depend heavily on your individual needs. New York may be the toughest state to answer this question in due to the wide variety of unique needs stemming from metropolitan, suburban and rural areas of the state.

Is solar in New York worth it?

As long as you have the right roof, solar in New York is typically well worth it. Rather than the sunshine being the main factor behind solar's value, in New York, solar incentives are what make the switch worth it. Between the Megawatt Block incentive, federal tax credit and solar energy system equipment credit, New York homeowners can offset nearly 50% of their project costs.

How do I find a reputable solar company in New York?

One of the best ways to find a reputable solar company in New York is to compare free quotes from a number of installers. When comparing these quotes, or getting on-site consultations, you can find the best offer for your needs. Refer to our guide on finding local solar installers near you to learn more about reading and interpreting solar proposals.

Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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A solar system can provide electricity for over two decades, saving homeowners thousands of dollars in power bills over time. Getting familiarized with the main types of solar panels is a useful first step when deciding on a solar panel system. This way, you can pick the best option for your home or business.

No matter which type of solar panel you choose for your project, make sure it's a high-quality product with a solid manufacturer warranty. Getting a professional installation is also critical, since even the best solar panels can malfunction when wired incorrectly. Poor workmanship can also create a fire risk, and the warranty will be voided if solar panels are not used as indicated by the manufacturer.

If you're ready to get a quote for a home solar installation, you can use this tool or fill out the free form below to get connected to a certified professional in your area.

3 Main Types of Solar Panels

You will find that solar panels come in many sizes, ranging from large commercial modules that are nearly 7 feet tall to compact and portable panels that fit in your pocket. However, the vast majority can be classified into three main types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Each uses materials that produce electric power when they receive sunlight, but the specific materials used in the panels are different.

Like in any design decision, each type of solar panel has pros and cons, which are summarized below:

Type of Solar Panel

Major Pros

Major Cons

Monocrystalline

+ Highest efficiency, which means more kilowatt-hours per square foot covered

+ Long lifespan (25 years or more)

- Most expensive type of solar panel

Polycrystalline

+ Balanced cost and efficiency: intermediate between monocrystalline and thin-film solar panels

+ Long lifespan (25 years or more)

- Lower efficiency than mono panels

- High temperatures can lower their productivity and durability

Thin-Film

+ High temperatures only have a small impact on their productivity

+ Lower weight than mono and poly solar panels

+ Lowest cost per panel

+ There are flexible and adhesive thin-film panels available

- Lowest efficiency, which means fewer kilowatt-hours per square foot covered

- Generally less durable than mono and poly solar panels

Polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels both use solar cells made of silicon crystals, but with a different physical structure. On the other hand, thin-film solar panels use non-crystalline silicon or other photovoltaic materials.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest efficiency ratings in the industry. These solar panels can normally convert over 20% of sunlight into electricity, and the most efficient panels now exceed 22% efficiency. Mono panels are an excellent choice when you have limited roof space, since they will generate more electricity per square foot.

Mono solar panels are also characterized by their black photovoltaic cells, and many homeowners prefer this appearance over the lighter blue tone of poly solar panels. The main downside of these panels is their high cost, but in return, they give you more electricity per panel you purchase.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels have a lower efficiency than monocrystalline silicon panels — typically below 17% — but they are also more affordable. High efficiency really only becomes critical when your roof has limited space for solar panels and you need to make the most of the available area. When space is not a limitation, you can simply install a few additional polycrystalline panels to compensate for their lower efficiency.

Contrary to popular belief, lower efficiency does not mean lower quality when comparing solar panels. In the case of polycrystalline panels, this is just a consequence of their material property: They have multiple silicon crystals per cell, as opposed to a single crystal that carries electrons more efficiently. You can find high-quality solar panels of both types, mono and poly, with solid warranties from their manufacturers.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels are not divided into cells like polycrystalline and monocrystalline modules. Instead, their entire surface has layers of photovoltaic material. Since these panels use material layers instead of rigid cells, they can be manufactured to be flexible and lightweight. There are also adhesive thin-film panels, which can be used on windows and other vertical surfaces. These panels are also popular for RV solar energy systems.

However, thin-film panels generally have a lower efficiency than the other two types, which means you need to cover a larger area to produce as much power as mono and poly panels. For this reason, thin-film panels are more suitable for large commercial and industrial rooftops, or ground-mounted solar farms. They are not normally recommended for homes, since they need too much space to be productive.

Key Differences: Design, Cost & Efficiency

When comparing solar panels, the purchase decision is often based on appearance, cost and efficiency. While all types of solar panels perform the same function, there are important differences between them in these three areas:

How Different Types of Solar Panels Look

The appearance of solar panels can be described based on their color and number of cells.

  • Monocrystalline solar panels have black cells with cropped corners, and most panels have 60 or 72 silicon solar cells. The latest designs use 120 or 144 half-cells that boost efficiency, but panel dimensions are roughly the same.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels have blue cells with sharp corners. Like mono panels, they are normally available with 60 or 72 cells (or 120 or 144 half-cells in newer models).
  • Thin-film solar panels have a uniform surface with layers of photovoltaic material, instead of separate solar cells. Their color depends on the material composition, and you can find black, blue or even gray thin-film panels.

Cost of Each Solar Panel Type

The specific price of a home solar system will depend on the panel brand and model, as well as local labor costs. Also keep in mind that your total installed cost of solar will include components like the inverter, racking, wiring and circuit breakers. However, the cost of solar panels themselves can be ranked as follows:

  • Monocrystalline: Highest price
  • Polycrystalline: Intermediate price
  • Thin-film: Lowest price

This is the general pricing trend you can expect, but there may be exceptions.

Efficiency and Power Ratings

The efficiency and power output of solar panels is closely related, since a higher efficiency means more watts with the available sunshine. However, you also need to consider the dimensions of solar panels, since a larger product has more area to collect sunlight.

Assuming you compare solar panels of similar sizes, you can expect the following ranking when it comes to efficiency and wattage:

  • Monocrystalline: Top efficiency, typically over 19%
  • Polycrystalline: Medium efficiency, typically 15-17%
  • Thin-film: Lowest efficiency, typically below 15%

Solar manufacturers are constantly investing in research, and all three types of solar panels have been improving over time thanks to new technology. There are now thin-film panels that can match the efficiency of mono and poly panels in laboratory conditions. However, they are not widely available as commercial products yet.

What Are The Different Types of Solar Panels Made Of?

The appearance and efficiency rating of solar panels depends on their material composition. While having high efficiency is favorable, this metric is overestimated in some cases. There are high-quality solar panels of all three types, and you can get excellent results with polycrystalline and thin-film panels when space is abundant.

As mentioned above, polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels are both made of crystalline silicon wafers. However, the microscopic structure of those crystals is different in each type of panel:

  • Monocrystalline solar cells are made from PV cells that are cut from a single crystal of pure silicon (hence the prefix "mono"). This is an advanced manufacturing process, which is a key reason why mono solar panels have higher prices.
  • Polycrystalline solar cells are made from multiple crystalline silicon fragments that are melted together during the manufacturing process, and they are also called multicrystalline for this reason. Their manufacturing process is simpler, since there is no need to carefully grow a single crystal of silicon. This leads to a lower cost, but also a lower efficiency.
  • Thin-film solar panels don't use silicon crystal cells. Instead, they use thin layers of photovoltaic material. The most common chemical compositions are copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and amorphous silicon (a-Si).

Choosing the Right Panel for Your Solar Installation

Monocrystalline solar panels are often considered the "best" due to their superior efficiency, but any of the three types of solar panels can achieve great performance when used in the right applications. Efficiency is only one of several performance metrics, and there are cases where polycrystalline panels offer a better return per dollar invested. Thin-film panels may not have the best efficiency, but their low weight and reduced thickness make them viable in applications where the other types are impractical.

If you're a homeowner who wants to maximize electricity production with limited roof space, monocrystalline panels are the recommended option. The same applies if you have plenty of space but want your solar panel system to be as compact as possible. Finally, mono panels are recommended if you prefer the black color of their solar cells.

When space is not a limitation for your home solar system, you can also consider polycrystalline solar panels. They are also recommended when you want to keep the budget as low as possible: Assuming equally sized systems with the same number of panels, the total cost will be less with polycrystalline options.

Thin-film solar panels are not generally recommended for residential roofs. Since their efficiency is low, you need to cover a much larger area with more panels to achieve a significant output. However, thin-film panels are excellent for recreational vehicles and camping, as they are lighter and more portable. You can also find thin-film solar panels with flexible or adhesive designs, which can be used in surfaces that are not suitable for the other two types.

So, which type of solar panel is best for your home? To find out for sure, you'll need to talk to a solar installer near you. Most of the best solar companies offer free consultations that can tell homeowners what type of panels they should buy and how much they will cost.

To get started, you can use this tool or fill out the form below and get connected to a pre-screened solar installer in your area.

Leonardo David is an electromechanical engineer, MBA, energy consultant and technical writer. His energy-efficiency and solar consulting experience covers sectors including banking, textile manufacturing, plastics processing, pharmaceutics, education, food processing, fast food, real estate and retail. He has also been writing articles about energy and engineering topics since 2015.
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What Is Solar Energy & How Does it Work?

We walk you through the basics of solar power.

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Tim Robberts / Stone / Getty Images

For homeowners who are looking for clean energy solutions, solar power is utterly essential. But what is solar energy, exactly, and how does solar power work?

Solar energy is the energy emitted by the sun that reaches the earth's surface. In this article, we'll cover how it's converted into electricity that we use to power our lives, as well as discuss the biggest advantages and disadvantages of using solar energy.

The U.S. has one of the best climates for solar power in the world and is home to some of the best solar companies and manufacturers. So how should we take advantage of this natural, renewable energy we enjoy in such abundance? Let's dive in.

Solar Energy Definition

In its simplest form, solar energy is the heat and light released by the sun. Individual particles of sunlight are known as photons, and they carry high amounts of the sun's energy to Earth. In fact, during any given hour, the Earth receives enough solar energy to theoretically fuel our entire population's energy needs for one full year.

But where does all of this solar power actually come from? Well, like any other star, the sun is basically one big nuclear reactor. There are nuclear fusion reactions happening in the sun's core all the time, a process through which hydrogen atoms collide and fuse to create helium atoms.

This process produces an enormous amount of energy, as the sun fuses about 620 million metric tons of hydrogen every second.

Nuclear fusion is the process through which hydrogen atoms collide and fuse to create helium atoms.MARK GARLICK / Getty Images

That solar energy can be collected here on Earth via photovoltaic technology, which converts solar energy into electricity that can be used to supply power to a home or a business. Solar power currently represents 18% of the global energy economy, and it's rapidly gaining in popularity (and necessity), largely thanks to the falling costs of solar and a desire among governments and homeowners alike to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.

Using Solar Power

You've likely heard the term "PV" associated with solar power, which as we've mentioned refers to photovoltaic technology used in most solar cells. Most commonly, PV cells are made with a silicon semiconductor due to its cost and abundance. Generally used for small-scale applications, such as residential solar systems or portable solar generators, PV represents the most common method of harnessing solar energy.

Another option, called solar thermal capture, is typically better suited to produce solar electricity on a larger scale, like in a power plant.

We'll focus more on the former, as it's the most common method.

Converting Solar Energy via Solar Panels

By installing solar energy systems made with solar photovoltaic cells, or PV cells, home and business owners can collect solar energy and convert it into electricity. Here's a breakdown of that process:

  1. The sun's photons reach the surface area of the solar panel, and through the photovoltaic effect, those photons excite and displace loose electrons within a solar cell.
  2. Solar panels are designed so that these displaced electrons flow toward metal plates that line the outside of the panel. This creates an energy current.
  3. This electric current within the solar panel is a direct current (DC), which has to be converted into an alternating current (AC) in order to be used as electricity for a home. Inverters convert the current from each panel.
  4. This AC electricity can then be channeled to the primary circuit board of your home, where it can be directed either into the home's electrical system as power or into a battery to be stored for later use. If your utility company has a net metering program, you can also send excess energy to your local power grid in exchange for energy credits.

Usable sunlight hits a solar cell, which sets off the photovoltaic effect.Alejomiranda / Getty Images

Solar PV is one of the best methods we have today for generating power on a large scale with a renewable, clean resource like solar energy.

Why Switch to Solar Energy?

The benefits of solar power go beyond just saving money on your energy bills; you can take complete control of your electricity use and energy efficiency, reducing or even eliminating your reliance on utility companies. Even more impactful, you can directly lower greenhouse gas emissions and your reliance on fossil fuels, which provides a number of tangible environmental benefits.

But are solar panels really worth it for homes and businesses? Let's walk through the pros and cons of solar energy.

Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy

The environmental benefits surrounding solar energy are perhaps the most well known:

  • Being a clean and renewable energy resource, collecting solar energy directly offsets carbon emissions and air pollution associated with burning fossil fuels like oil and gas.
  • Though not as well publicized, mining and burning coal, as well as fracking natural gas, require an extremely high volume of freshwater. Using solar energy rather than non-renewable resources contributes to healthier water systems by fighting water scarcity and acidification.
  • No matter which way you look at it, solar technology helps us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and the companies that profit off of environmental degradation. Every single home that goes solar gives a small slice of power back to the people.

Financial Benefits of Solar Energy

There are also a number of financial perks that come with solar, including:

  • Solar energy use can reduce your monthly electric bills and, in some cases, eliminate those bills completely. This produces big cost savings over time.
  • When you buy solar panels, there are a number of tax credits, incentives and rebates available to offset startup costs, including some available at the federal level and some that are state-specific. More companies are adopting solar financing to increase accessibility.
  • Most residential and commercial solar systems will produce electricity for 20 to 30 years and require very little maintenance. This allows you to reliably budget your energy costs decades in advance rather than relying on power plants and public infrastructure, which is far less predictable.

Challenges of Solar Energy

Solar power is one of the best renewable energy sources available to us, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. Some of the most significant challenges to solar energy include:

  • The initial cost of solar panels is fairly significant, typically ranging between $10,000 and $20,000. Tax incentives and monthly utility savings can offset this cost, but paying these upfront costs just isn't an option for every homeowner.
  • Some homes aren't suited for solar. If your house is shaded by trees or other buildings, or you don't get enough exposure to the sun, then a home solar system may not work out.
  • If you live in an area where electricity is inexpensive, then the savings you get from a solar system may not be worth the cost and the hassle.
  • It's much better to deal with a broken solar panel than a leaky oil rig, but even solar panels have an impact. With well over a million panels in use nationwide, we'll have to address the system for recycling solar panels.

Is My Home Suitable for a Residential Solar Energy System?

The best way to determine whether your home is a good fit for solar electricity is to contact a solar installer in your area. A solar energy specialist can come to take a look at your home and give you a custom recommendation.

Generally speaking, solar energy is best suited for those who live in sunny areas, have plenty of surface area on a south- or west-facing roof and whose homes are unobstructed by trees or neighboring buildings.

What to Look for in a Solar Energy System

As you shop around for home solar systems, make sure to keep the following factors in mind (read our guide to purchasing solar panels for more information):

  • The efficiency of your solar panels, or how much sunlight they actually turn into electricity (the most efficient solar panels convert over 20%).
  • The capacity of your solar battery storage system.
  • Warranties and other protections for your home solar system.
  • The total number of panels you need to get the desired results.
  • The services offered by your solar installer (such as individual system design).

If you're interested in solar, it only takes 30 seconds to get a free, no-obligation quote. You could save up to $2,500 per year on utility bills and get a tax rebate all while reducing your carbon footprint. Use this tool or fill out the form below to get started.

FAQ: What is Solar Energy?

What is solar energy in simple words?

Solar energy, in simple words, is the light and heat radiated by the sun. Here on Earth, we can collect that solar energy with solar panels and convert it into electricity we can use to power our homes.

What are five advantages of solar energy?

Five advantages of solar energy include:

  1. It's a truly renewable energy source that directly offsets carbon emissions and air pollution.
  2. It helps homeowners save money on power bills.
  3. There are low maintenance costs for homeowners.
  4. Solar can be used in remote applications to power homes or shelters that aren't connected to an energy grid.
  5. Solar panel manufacturing and installation creates thousands of green jobs per year.

How do you explain solar energy to a child?

Here's how we would explain solar energy to a child: You know how when you step into the sun, you feel hot? That heat is a form of energy. Solar panels are a way of catching that energy, and using it to power your home.

Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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Park visitors walk along a section of the Great Salt Lake that used to be underwater at the Great Salt Lake State Park on Aug. 2, 2021 near Magna, Utah. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

In July, the water levels of Utah's iconic Great Salt Lake fell to a record low.

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This holiday season, you may be anticipating spending time with some family members that, let's just say, don't share your concern for the environment. If you find political and generational differences becoming more apparent, you may be wondering how to speak about something as important as sustainability in a way that will resonate with others.

We're here to help. Below, you'll find nine of the most common arguments against solar. Of course, this goes beyond just speaking with family — we hear the following misconceptions about solar from a number of sources, so we've decided to put together a guide about how to address them.

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A blue orchard bee. Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A new study shows just how dangerous pesticides can be for bees.

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A day octopus, also known as the big blue octopus, found in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California on May 27, 2021. FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images
A new animal welfare law in the UK may soon recognize decapods, like lobsters and crabs, and cephalopods, like octopi, as sentient beings. The classification means that the government would officially recognize that these animals feel pain.
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