As the (still life threatening) remnants of Hurricane Ida continue northeast, survivors of the storm in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana are coming to terms with a different and dangerous reality: extreme heat for weeks on end without power.
Heat is the top weather-related killer, annually and, as if on cue Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for the area with a heat index of 106°F forecast for Wednesday. The NWS urged residents to "drink plenty of fluids, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors."
With nearly 800,000 people without running water or under a boil-water advisory, and a lack of power to charge phones. A (potentially weeks-long) power outage was supposed to be prevented by a new gas plant built by Entergy, the local utility, despite calls for distributed renewable energy with battery storage backup instead.
Entergy has a long history of opposing efforts to cut fossil fuel use and improve grid resiliency, despite knowing for decades that climate change caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels would pose an increasing threat to the grid by supercharging hurricanes like Ida.
As reported by The Washington Post:
The near-total failure of the region's energy grid coincides with a sweltering southeastern summer and little respite for residents. Cars and generators will eventually run out of fuel; service stations can't pump gasoline without electricity. Cellphone batteries will expire. Water treatment systems will buckle without a reliable power system.
"Really what we're looking at is how you sustain a large population in New Orleans when it's very hot, very humid and there's no power or food," said Nate Mook, chief executive of relief agency World Central Kitchen, which is preparing to serve 50,000 meals a day in New Orleans for weeks on end. "We're looking at a really difficult situation that is more dangerous than the actual storm impacts. If the energy company isn't able to get the power back on in a week, imagine."
For a deeper dive:
Heat threats: Axios, AP, The Washington Post; Outages: The New York Times, Utility Dive, Democracy Now, E&E News, NBC, Entergy and its gas plant: Earther, The Washington Post; Climate Signals background: Hurricanes, 2021 Atlantic hurricane season
- Hurricane Ida Slams Louisiana, Knocking Out New Orleans Power ... ›
- Hurricane Ida Badly Damages Home of Goldman Prize Winner ... ›
- Hurricane Larry Forms in Atlantic, Could Become ‘Major’ Storm ›
Solar power has been an energy source of growing importance in recent years, as technology has advanced and the cost of solar panels has declined sharply. As a result, many smaller sun-powered products have become available, from solar phone chargers to solar generators to outdoor solar lights.
Whether you're looking for ground lights or flood lights, illuminating your outdoor spaces with a wired system can be both an electrical challenge and an eyesore. Convenience, sleekness and sustainability are just a few reasons so many people are looking for the best outdoor solar lights.
In this article, we'll go over how solar lights work, show you some of the best solar lights available and help you decide whether solar-powered lighting is a good choice for your home.
6 Best Outdoor Solar Lights
The below table provides a quick summary of our recommendations for the best outdoor solar lights across six unique categories. We chose these products based on criteria including durability, ease of installation, ease of use, run time, cost and more.
|Best Outdoor Solar Lights||Our Award||Buy Now|
|Solpex Solar Ground Lights||Best Overall||Check Price|
|Brightech Ambience Pro||Best String Lights||Check Price|
|Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights||Best Path Lights||Check Price|
|AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights||Best Flood Light||Check Price|
|Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights||Best Fairy Lights||Check Price|
|Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights||Best Lights Under $20||Check Price|
To dig into the advantages and disadvantages of each of these models specifically, keep reading.
Best Overall: Solpex Solar Ground Lights
Solpex's outdoor in-ground solar lights provide bright illumination without getting in the way or even really being noticeable until they're turned on. The high-quality system is designed to be exceedingly easy to install, is extremely durable in material and operates with ease, turning on automatically and running from dusk to dawn. Solpex's bright LED bulbs are perfect for providing your yard with guiding light year-round.
- Easy to install
- Weather-resistant and durable
- Efficient and effective
- More expensive than some competitors' models
- In-ground lights need more maintenance to keep clean and clear
Why Buy: If you're looking for an in-ground solar garden light that will truly wow your guests when they turn on, the Solpex Solar Ground Lights could be your best pick.
Best String Lights: Brightech Ambience Pro
String lights can be the perfect mood-setter, and using the Brightech Ambience Pro solar powered string lights ensures that you brighten your space reliably and efficiently. With a thorough two-year warranty and extensive weatherproofing and shatterproofing, these lights will hold up through most weather conditions while still appearing delicate enough for any setting — romantic, celebratory, relaxed or otherwise.
- Long lifetime
- Flexibility in installation and design thanks to clip-on bulbs
- Decorative cozy feel
- May not provide enough light for safety or security applications
- Heavier than non-solar string lights
Why Buy: To fill your outdoor space with a warm ambiance, Brightech's solar-powered outdoor string lights are a great option. The Edison bulbs give off a vintage feel that your guests are sure to appreciate.
Best Path Lights: Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights
To dot a pathway, garden or outdoor patio, using solar outdoor lighting eliminates the need for fragile and cumbersome wiring, and the Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights are some of the best ones out there at an affordable price. These solar path lights take seconds to install — simply use the spike to insert them directly into the ground — and are built to last for years.
- Easy installation
- Great value for money
- Extensive battery life
- Stylish appearance
- Made of plastic, so not as durable as more robust materials
- Provide accent lighting rather than full illumination that may be needed for some pathways
Why Buy: The Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights are the best outdoor solar lights if you're looking for affordability and quick installation. They're ideal for accent lighting during the darker hours, and buying multiple packs can allow you to light up a wider area.
Best Flood Light: AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights
Floodlights are critical for outdoor security, but if the lights burn out or aren't illuminating enough, then they can't do their job. That's why solar floodlights, and specifically the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights, get high marks from us. They provide a wide angle of light to illuminate an expansive area brightly, and they do so using motion sensors in durable, waterproof fixtures.
- Wide angle is great for security
- Built-in motion sensor requires no additional power
- Highly durable, weatherproof design
- Designed for function rather than decoration, so they may not fit into your outdoor style
- Doesn't provide constant light (only on a motion sensor basis) so may not work for steady light applications
Why Buy: Floodlights can be critical for outdoor safety, and the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights accomplish that efficiently with solar energy and built-in motion detection. We recommend them as the best outdoor lights to illuminate your entire yard for safety.
Best Fairy Lights: Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights
Fairy lights provide the perfect touch of style and design to an outdoor area, and moving to solar lights eliminates the frustrating constraints of having to plug them in. We recommend the Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights because of their quick charging, flexible design and warm light that's perfect to decorate for holidays, barbecues, parties, weddings and more. They also have eight light modes that range from slow fades to steady twinkling.
- Easy to shape into different designs
- Multiple lighting modes and patterns for customizability
- Great price
- More delicate in construction
- May not hold up as well in heavy snow or flooding
Why Buy: Solar-powered fairy lights are the perfect decorative addition to a yard or patio, and the flexibility the Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights offer in design and operation can't be beaten for the price.
Best Lights Under $20: Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights
The best solar-powered outdoor lights don't have to break the bank. Sunnest's stainless steel landscape lights come in a pack of 12 for under $20 yet still deliver great functionality, appearance and ease of use. They can be installed to illuminate pathways, gardens or other outdoor areas.
- Attractive in design with cool white lights
- Ready to install in seconds
- Cheaper price means less durable over the long term when up against the elements
- Provides accent levels of lighting rather than full illumination
Why Buy: If you want to dip your toes into the solar outdoor light area without investing a lot of money right away, the Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights are your best bet to enjoy that initial experience and get hooked into more solar light solutions.
How Do Outdoor Solar Lights Work?
When choosing the best outdoor solar lights for your yard, it may be helpful to understand how these solar panels work.
You may have seen traditional solar panel installations on the rooftops of homes around you, businesses at which you shop or even installed in large outdoor solar farms owned by utilities. What's particularly intriguing about solar lights is that the technology used is more or less the same as these large-scale panels that are powering entire buildings.
Regardless of the size of a solar panel, it contains solar cells, which are made up of unique semiconductor materials like silicon. When sunlight strikes the cell, some of that energy is absorbed by the material via electrons being knocked loose and being able to flow freely (otherwise known as electricity!).
While standard types of solar panels may contain 36 to 48 solar cells connected together, solar lights are smaller in size and require much less electricity to run (particularly when paired with energy-efficient LED lights). The typical solar light will therefore use just four solar cells, but that's really the only difference from a solar technology basis.
The rest of the solar light comprises a battery, controller board, photoresistor and the light itself. During the sunny daytime hours, the four-cell solar panel will charge up the battery, typically receiving more than enough juice to run for the entire night.
The photoresistor's job is then to detect when light is no longer hitting the solar panel, at which point two things will happen: 1) the battery will stop getting charged, and 2) the controller board will tell the light to turn on. In that way, the solar light is always either charging or illuminating.
When morning strikes and the sun hits the photoresistor once again, the controller board will send a message to turn off the light, and the battery will begin accepting its daytime charge.
Types of Outdoor Solar Lights
Outdoor solar lights are a broad category, filling lots of niche needs and popping up in new opportune areas as the technology continues to improve. Because of their low installation threshold, falling prices and efficiency, solar outdoor lighting solutions can be ideal for countless scenarios, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Ground lights
- Path lights
- Landscape lights
- Motion or security lights
- Fairy lights
- String lights
- Hanging lights
- Post lights
Homeowners deciding which style of outdoor solar light they want to install should consider all the same factors as they would with traditional lighting technologies: What areas do they need to be illuminated for safety? What fits into the aesthetic of the outdoor area? What security needs can lights fill?
The advantage is that homeowners wise enough to go the route of solar lights will have fewer headaches with installation, will have their lighting last for a longer period of time before it needs to be replaced and can easily change their minds on lighting locations because no wiring is needed.
How Much Do the Best Outdoor Solar Lights Cost?
You may be sold on the technology and ease of outdoor solar lights, but how much will it set you back to purchase the best option out there? As with any advancing technology, the answer to that question can vary significantly depending on the choices you make. The answers to these questions, for example, will all have a material impact on price:
- How bright (i.e., how many lumens) do you need the lights to be?
- How efficient do you want the lights to be?
- How durable do you need the lights to be?
- How top-of-the-line do you want the materials and decorative nature to be?
For the bulk of the outdoor solar light market, regardless of your answers, each light system will typically cost between $20 and $50. If you really want to go with a high-tech system (which could mean higher-capacity batteries, more intelligent functionality, intricate customizations and more), it could end up costing over $200.
The best approach is to analyze your specific needs and then purchase accordingly.
Choosing the Best Outdoor Solar Lights for Your Home
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, outdoor solar lighting works quite well in most areas of the U.S., as it doesn't require an excessive amount of sunlight to charge up and work. This means that even on cloudy days or during winter, you'll still be able to light your way. Solar light adopters aren't only helping the environment, but they're also saving money via reduced energy consumption.
If you're ready to make the switch, identifying the best solar lights for your specific home and need is no small task. When picking the best outdoor solar nights for your need, some characteristics you're going to have to make decisions on include:
- Design, style and aesthetics
- Size of fixture
- Ease of use and control after installation (remote-controlled, connected to in-home smart device, manually controlled, etc.)
- Durability to weather and general wear and tear
- Expected lifetime before replacements are needed
- Overall system cost
FAQ: Best Outdoor Solar Lights
What are the brightest outdoor solar lights?
If you want the brightest outdoor solar lights, you'll want to look at floodlights or spotlights. These often have a higher lumen count and can light spaces better than string or ground lights. Our pick for the best solar-powered floodlight is the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Light.
What is the best outdoor solar lighting?
We named the Solpex Solar Ground Lights the best overall choice for outdoor solar lighting. These lights are easy to install, ultra-efficient and hold up well in the elements.
What should I look for in outdoor solar lights?
When choosing the best outdoor solar lights for your home, consider factors such as design, brightness, durability and cost.
Do outdoor solar lights really work?
Yes, outdoor solar lights work just as well as traditional outdoor lights. According to the DOE, solar-powered outdoor lights work well in most areas of the U.S. because they don't require much sunlight. This means that even if you live somewhere with more gray days than sunny ones, you can still harness the sun's power to light your outdoor space.
For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.
So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.
While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.
In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.
Solar Roadways: The Original Concept
Solar roadways are complex in execution, but in concept, they're as simple as they sound. They're roads "paved" with extremely strong solar panels that are covered in glass that can withstand environmental stressors and the weight of vehicles driving over them on a consistent basis.
The idea was something that got people really excited when the initial Solar Roadways, Inc. project (which is still seeking funding) burst onto the scene in 2014:
More advanced designs included solar roadways outfitted with LED lights that could be used to illuminate lane lines, communicate to drivers and more. Other iterations included weight sensors that would detect when obstructions were on the road or could alert homeowners if unexpected vehicles were approaching their driveway. Embedding these kinds of technology into the solar roadways renderings only added to their appeal and the initial hype around the concept.
Key Selling Points of Solar Roadways
Early innovators of solar roadways touted the numerous benefits of their ideas. These included:
- Sunlight shines down on roads at no cost, making the energy not only readily available, but also free (aside from installation and maintenance).
- The ability to power street lights with solar roadways eliminated the need to pull extra energy from the grid.
- Having electronics embedded into the roadway opened up a world of possibilities for communicating with drivers in ways that didn't require painting and repainting of roads.
- The ingenuity to attach weight sensors on the solar panels could be used to alert drivers about potential obstructions, such as animals, disabled vehicles or rocks on the road.
- In a future of electric vehicles, the possibilities were seen as even more beneficial, as solar roadways could be used to power electric vehicle charging stations or to charge the cars while they're driving.
While some early thinkers may also have envisioned these roadways sending solar energy to the local power grid, the most impactful way solar roadways could utilize the energy they generated is right around the road itself: lighting street lights, heating mechanisms to melt snow on the roadway, or powering small emergency equipment on road shoulders.
Using the energy for on-road applications would mean that the power didn't have to be sent long distances before being used, which results in energy loss. However, in more rural or remote locations, having the solar roadway energy available for nearby homes and businesses could be a huge benefit, especially if there's an outage in the overall grid.
Why Solar Roadway Tests Have Failed
To much of the general public — and especially to people who weren't well versed in the intricacies of solar panels or road structures — solar roadways seemed like a slam-dunk solution that both looked futuristic and had benefits that went far beyond electricity generation. It was the kind of innovation that had people exclaiming: "How has no one done this yet?!" But in reality, the execution of solar roadways was much more complex than the idea.
Here are a few reasons solar roadway tests have failed:
Cost of Manufacturing and Maintenance
The cost of the energy from the sun may be free, but the investment to install and maintain the solar roadways was undeniably prohibitive. The reason asphalt is used by default to pave roadways is because it is immensely affordable and low-maintenance, which is especially critical on vast, expansive roadways and interstates.
In 2010, Scott Brusaw, co-founder of Solar Roadways, Inc., estimated a square foot of solar roadway would cost about $70. However, when the first solar roadway was built in France by a company called Colas, it measured 1 kilometer and cost $5.2 million to build — or about $1,585 per foot of roadway. Of course, this was a small iteration and bulk manufacturing would cost less, but either way, it's hard to believe the cost of a solar roadway would ever be competitive with the price of asphalt, which is about $3 to $15 per square foot.
Further, the cost and complexity to send a crew to repair individual panels that fail would far outweigh those to maintain asphalt. So, while one of the presumed benefits of solar roadways is the cost savings associated with self-generated energy, even back-of-the-envelope math highlights how the numbers would simply not add up to be more cost-effective in the long run.
Energy Required to Produce the Panels
Another limiting factor appears when considering the energy it takes to make asphalt versus high-durability glass and solar panels. Most asphalt used on roads today is a byproduct of distilling petroleum crude oil for products such as gasoline, which means it makes use of a substance that would otherwise be discarded as waste.
The solar roadway panels, although intended to save energy in the long run, take much more to produce. Typical rooftop solar panels can easily make up for the extra energy used in production because the glass doesn't need to withstand the weight of vehicles driving over them, but solar roadways have that added complexity.
Power Output of the Panels
When estimating power output, early optimists seemed to perform calculations based on the raw surface area they could cover — and not much else. However, beyond the stunted energy generation that any solar panels face on cloudy days or at night, solar roadways presented unique new performance challenges.
For example, vehicles constantly driving over solar roadways would interrupt sun exposure. Plus, they'd leave behind trails of fluid, dirt and dust that can dramatically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Being installed on the ground is a challenge in itself because of how readily shade would find the roads; that's the reason you find most solar panels on rooftops or elevated off the ground and angled toward the sun.
Issues With Glass Roadways
Lastly, driving on glass surfaces is simply not what modern cars are designed to do. Asphalt and tires grip each other well, being particularly resilient in wet conditions. If the asphalt is replaced with glass — even the textured glass that's used for solar roadways — tire traction could be reduced dramatically. Wet or icy conditions could lead to catastrophic situations on solar roadways.
Could Recent Advances in Solar Technology Bring Solar Roadways Closer to Reality?
For all of these challenges and even more roadblocks that early solar roadway projects have run into in the past, the reality is that solar technology continues to improve. In the seven years since the first Solar Roadways, Inc. video went viral, solar panels have developed to be more durable, more cost-effective and more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. To put some numbers behind these trends:
- The average solar PV panel cost has dropped about 70% since 2014.
- In 2015, FirstSolar made news with panels that were 18.2% efficient. Today, the most advanced prototypes are able to exceed 45% efficiency.
- Total solar energy capacity in 2021 is nearly six times greater than in 2014, and with that explosion has come advances to flatten the learning curve and increase the general public's acceptance of the benefits of solar.
- Solar jobs have increased 167% in the last decade, giving the industry more capable workers able to take the reins of a solar roadway project and more professionals who know how to affordably install solar.
The question to ask is whether these advances are enough to bring solar roadways from failure to success.
Despite the improvements, many of the original challenges with solar roadways remain, and the scale of execution is immense. Even with decreasing solar PV costs, outfitting long stretches of roadway with such complex technologies will require tremendous capital.
Rather than a future where solar roadways cover the country from coast to coast, a more likely outcome is that these advances will bring solar roadways to viability in narrow, niche applications.
Just like tidal energy is a great opportunity for small coastal communities but can't be scaled to solve the energy crisis across the world, it's conceivable that limited-scope solar roadways could be constructed around the world. However, large-scale solar roadways may never be more than a pipe dream.
Installing solar panels on your home can dramatically reduce both your dependence on traditional utility companies and your environmental impact. One of the first steps to switching to renewable energy is figuring out where to buy solar panels.
In this article, we'll help you figure out how to buy solar panels, as well as how to find the best solar panels for your home and what other equipment you'll need to complete your solar power system. As you prepare to purchase solar panels, consider a few recommendations about where and how to make a smart investment.
Where Can You Buy Solar Panels?
The first consideration for you to make is where to buy solar panels. Really, this comes down to a question of whether you'll install your home solar system yourself or hire a professional installer.
DIY Solar Panel Installation
Installing your own solar panels can potentially give you the opportunity to save money, and it also gives you greater control over the final configuration of your home solar system. Be aware, however, that there can be significant downsides.
First, this is complex, technical work, requiring careful knowledge of electrical installation and how solar panels work. If you're unskilled or inexperienced working with electricity, solar installation can be difficult and dangerous. Additionally, going with DIY solar panels means you won't reap the benefits of experienced solar designers, who can help you set up the optimal energy-generating, money-saving system.
If you do choose to buy solar panels and install them on your own, you can purchase panels from:
- Manufacturer websites
- Hardware stores
- Amazon.com (where you can buy full solar panel kits)
Choosing an Installer
If you decide to go with professional solar panel installation, you'll need to choose between hiring a local or national company.
A local installer will usually be able to offer you more personalized service, more affordable prices and more intimate knowledge of local solar trends. The flip side is that nationwide installers can often have access to a wider range of solar products, like the most efficient solar panels and the best solar batteries in the industry. This can give you more options to maximize the power output and durability of your system.
There's not really a right or wrong answer here, and in fact, the best approach may be to interview two or three installers that service your area before making your decision.
How to Buy Solar Panels
As for how to buy solar panels, your next steps will once more depend on whether you hire a professional or go the DIY route.
Buying Your Own Solar System
One way to go is to research, design your own home solar system and purchase the parts you'll need.
Part of this is determining how many solar panels will be necessary, which hinges on an array of factors: The amount of electricity your household consumes, the surface area available on your roof, the amount of sun exposure your roof receives and more. Note that, if you have limited roof space and cannot place as many solar panels as you might like, you'll need to ensure that the solar panels you do get are extra-efficient. (We'll get into the different types of solar panels below.)
Also, remember that designing a solar system requires more than just panels. You'll also need to think about other solar equipment, including inverters, chargers, wiring and possibly a battery (which we'll also get into later in this article).
Hiring an Installer
The other option is to hire a solar installer who will buy solar panels on your behalf. Note that, because installers access wholesale prices, they can actually help you save money on your equipment costs, though of course you'll have to pay for the labor.
The general steps in the process are as follows:
- Consultation: Meet with a few of your area's top solar companies to compare pricing and solicit opinions about your home's eligibility for solar power.
- System design: Once you choose a solar installer, a representative will take a look at your roof and design a solar system that meets your energy goals. This is a crucial step, as solar installation is never one-size-fits-all.
- Permitting: Depending on where you live, you may require permits and approvals from your municipality before your solar system can be installed. Your installer can handle all of this on your behalf.
- Installation: Once you receive the needed permits, your installer can begin work to assemble your system. This may take anywhere from a day to a full week depending on the complexity of your residential solar needs.
- Review and approval: Many municipalities will require you to have your system inspected for safety before it's "switched on."
- Using your system: After you get this final approval, you'll be ready to start using your solar panels.
- Applying for tax credits: Professional installation companies will often help you identify and apply for any solar tax credits and rebates you may be eligible for through federal and local government programs.
Find a Solar Installer Near You
What Type of Solar Panel Should You Buy?
Before you buy solar panels, it's crucial to know the three basic types of photovoltaic panels that are available to you: monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as multicrystalline) and thin-film. The major differentiators of these options have to do with the efficiency and cost of the solar panels:
|Type of Solar Panels||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Monocrystalline solar panels||Higher efficiency and better performance than either of the other two types||Higher upfront cost than the other two types|
|Polycrystalline solar panels||More affordable than monocrystalline||Lower efficiency than monocrystalline|
|Thin-film solar panels||Portable and flexible||Lowest efficiency of the three types of panels|
Other Equipment You'll Need to Buy for Your Solar Panel System
An important note: For homeowners with limited surface area on their roofs, it may be necessary to get the most efficient panels possible. In other words, if you only have space for a small assembly of solar panels, you may need to make them monocrystalline.
If you're doing your own installation, when you buy solar panels, you may also need to purchase the following:
- Inverter: Converts direct current (DC) solar energy into the alternating current (AC) electricity needed to power your home.
- Battery: Allows you to store excess energy for future use rather than feeding it back into the electrical grid.
- Mounting system: Helps you stabilize your solar panels in their proper rooftop position.
- Wiring: Connects your residential solar system to your electrical panel.
- Solar charge controller: Helps regulate voltage and prevent batteries from overcharging.
Final Thoughts: Where to Buy Solar Panels
As you consider where to buy solar panels, you'll need to make some crucial decisions about whether to go with professional or DIY installation, as well as the type of solar panels and any other equipment you'll need to buy. Make sure you have a full understanding of your energy needs — and the complexity of the solar installation process — before you make any final decisions about your home's solar power system.
Interested in making the switch to solar energy, but not sure how solar panels work? Understanding household renewable energy systems can make it easier to find the best solar panels for your home.
Many homeowners are going solar to help lessen dependence on traditional utility companies and slash monthly electric bills. In addition to these cost savings, switching to a home solar system means minimizing your environmental footprint. Between the financial advantages and the improved ecological stewardship, solar energy can seem like a no-brainer.
Let's dive into the science behind solar and how solar panels work to power homes.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
When you buy solar panels, your installer will position several panels on the roof of your home in what's called a solar array. The specific number of solar panels you require depends on several factors, including the size and position of your roof, the amount of sunlight your home receives, and the type of solar panels you select.
Solar panels use photovoltaic cells, or PV cells, to absorb light from the sun. (More on the photovoltaic effect in just a moment.) When sunlight hits the panels, they generate a direct current, or DC electricity. However, homes require alternating current, or AC electricity.
A device called a solar inverter is a key part of the solar energy system, as it converts the electric current from DC to AC. The AC power then circulates through your household electrical panel and is distributed as needed to your different systems, appliances and outlets.
Here's a quick, step-by-step summary of how solar panels work to power your home:
- Photovoltaic cells absorb sunlight, then turn it into DC energy.
- An inverter turns the DC energy into AC energy, which is what your household electrical system requires.
- Electricity is distributed throughout your home, powering outlets and appliances.
- Any excess or leftover electricity that is produced is fed into a battery bank or back to your local power grid.
The Science of Solar Panels
While there are a few types of solar panels to choose from, most household systems work in roughly the same way. There is usually a layer of silicon cells surrounded by a metal frame and a glass case. There are also wires throughout the panel, allowing the free flow of electricity.
You may (or may not) remember from your high school science classes that silicon is a non-metal with conductive properties. In other words, it is able to absorb light and then turn it into electricity. How it works is simple: when light hits the silicon cells, electrons are set into motion, producing an electrical current. This electricity generation process is known as the photovoltaic effect, and it is one of the core principles of solar technology.
More About the Photovoltaic Effect
Let's dig into the photovoltaic effect a little deeper. This principle was first discovered way back in 1839 and is generally associated with semiconductor materials. The photovoltaic effect simply describes the property by which these materials can generate electricity any time they are exposed to sunlight.
Here's a step-by-step summary that explains how solar panels work by employing the photovoltaic effect:
- Sunlight hits the solar panel, which has two layers of silicon, an n-type layer that sits on top of a p-type layer.
- The sun's energy knocks an electron from its bond in the upper n-type layer, creating both a freely roaming electron and a positively charged "hole" where the electron was previously bonded.
- The hole travels down to the p-type layer, and the free electron travels through conductive wires to an inverter.
- The inverter transforms the solar electricity from DC to AC so that it can be used in your home.
- The electricity flows throughout your home to power systems, appliances and outlets.
- The free electron eventually flows through the house and back to the p-type layer of the panel, where it fills a positively charged hole and closes the loop needed to maintain the flow of electricity.
How Solar Panels Work With Your Power Grid or Battery Bank
We mentioned earlier that any excess electricity generated by a solar panel is fed back into a power grid or can be stored in a solar battery. What are these, exactly, and how do solar panels work with each component?
If your home is connected to the electrical grid (and most homes are), then it comes with a utility meter. This meter allows your utility company to measure how much energy you are consuming. During solar panel installation, your solar system will typically be connected to the utility meter. Thus, the meter assesses and measures your home's solar energy production.
Many solar homes produce more energy than they consume. In this case, you can either send your excess energy back to the electrical grid (through a process called net metering), or you can purchase a battery to store your energy for future use.
- Power grid: When you feed energy back into your power grid, you can receive credits from your utility company to save even more money on your monthly bills and help offset the cost of solar panels.
- Battery bank: The best solar batteries have a high capacity so that you can store enough excess energy to power your home during power outages and on cloudy days.
Additional Components of Your Home Solar System
Now that you understand the most important components of your home solar system, there are a couple more items to consider that affect how solar panels work in terms of efficiency.
We mentioned above that most solar panels come with a glass casing. This helps protect the silicon solar cells and ensures the longevity and durability of your home solar system. Beneath that glass case, there may also be some insulating materials, which protect your equipment from humidity as well as from heat dissipation. This insulation is crucial because it allows the solar panel system to work optimally.
A lot of solar panels are coated in anti-reflective materials as well. This is so that they can absorb as much of the sun's light as possible. Again, this is an important way to keep your home solar system working smoothly and efficiently.
A final note for homeowners who are interested in solar energy: As you select your solar panels, you will generally have a choice between monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are made using a single silicon crystal. They tend to be the most efficient solar panels, though they can also be pricier. Polycrystalline solar panels are made up of multiple crystal fragments and usually cost less.
Getting Started With Solar Energy
Now that you know how solar panels work, you may feel ready to get going with a home solar system. The first step is identifying the top solar companies in your area and calling an installer to find out if solar panels are worth it for your home. Your installer will conduct an assessment based on the size of your home, the surface area of your roof, the amount of sunlight you get and more. It will furnish some guidance as to how many solar panels you need and which type of panel is the best bet.
Getting a home solar system can be a great way to save money on your monthly utility costs while demonstrating a real commitment to environmental stewardship.
Learn More About How Solar Could Help You Save
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. Fill out the form below to get started.
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If you live in an area that gets consistent, year-round exposure to the sun, then you may be a good candidate to install a residential solar system. Installing solar panels on your roof is by far the most common way to harness the sun's energy, but solar shingles are another option that's becoming increasingly popular.
So how, exactly, do solar shingles work, and how do they compare to traditional solar panels? In this article, we'll explain the answers to these questions and more.
What are Solar Shingles and How Do They Work?
You can think of solar shingles like small solar panels that integrate with your existing roof shingles or a new roof (if you need one). They work the same way standard types of solar panels do, but where solar panels are assembled on top of your roof, solar shingles are used to build a roof.
The most obvious benefit to this type of solar energy system is simple aesthetics; while photovoltaic solar panels tend to be pretty obtrusive, solar shingles allow you to have a completely normal-looking roof.
Like solar panels, solar shingles absorb energy from the sun, some of which may be stored in a solar battery and some of which is converted into useful alternating current. This allows you to power appliances and devices throughout your home with renewable energy.
Note: Those who prefer the appearance of a "tiled" roof to a shingled one may wish to consider solar tiles. These work in roughly the same way that photovoltaic shingles do but integrate with roofing tiles rather than asphalt shingles.
Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels: Pros and Cons
As you consider your options for residential solar power, it's worthwhile to note the pros and cons of both solar shingles and conventional solar panels. Both PV systems can supply your home with energy, but with its own advantages and drawbacks.
Solar Shingles: Pros and Cons
Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether solar shingles are the best choice for your residential solar system:
|Solar Shingles Pros||Solar Shingles Cons|
|Solar roof shingles are more aesthetically pleasing||Shingles are a newer solar technology, so there aren't as many options readily available|
|Shingles are typically quicker to install||Fewer top solar companies install solar shingles|
|They can be a more cost-effective if you need a roof replacement anyway||Solar panel shingles are much more expensive than regular solar panels|
|Shingles have a lower conversion efficiency than solar panels|
|Solar shingles are more difficult to take with you if you move|
|Shingles are much more dependent on the slope of your roof|
Solar Panels: Pros and Cons
Now, consider how standard solar panels compare:
|Solar Panels Pros||Solar Panels Cons|
|There are plenty of products to choose from||Panels look bulkier and do not have the same elegant aesthetics|
|There are many solar installers that work with panels||You'll need your roof to be in good condition before you can install solar panels|
|The cost of solar panels is much lower than that of solar shingles||The solar panel installation process is usually a little longer than solar shingle installation|
|Solar panels are more efficient than solar shingles|
|You can more easily adjust panels to get an optimal position|
Generally speaking, solar shingles are a better option if you:
- Need to replace your roof
- Care a great deal about the aesthetics of your roof
- Have a roof that is already well-positioned and sloped to capture sunlight
If you don't fit into any of those categories, you may be better off pursuing solar panels, which are the more time-tested, widely available, energy-efficient and affordable option.
How Much Do Solar Shingles Cost?
As a rule of thumb, you can assume that solar shingles will be more expensive than panels. With that said, the exact cost of solar shingles can vary depending on which company you go with.
According to Solar Magazine, the average solar shingle installation cost runs somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000. But of course, there are some outliers. High-end solar shingles from a company like Tesla may cost as much as $70,000 or more for full roof installation.
Before installing, it's best to shop around and compare rates from at least two or three different solar shingle companies, ensuring you get the best value.
Also, keep in mind that the solar tax credits, rebates and other incentives for homeowners who buy solar panels are also available for those that opt for solar shingles. The current federal incentive program will give you 26% of the cost of your system back as a tax credit.
Installing Solar Shingles: How Many Do You Need?
Installation of solar roofing shingles may take up to a week; old shingles will need to be removed from the home, new shingles put into place, and the entire solar system connected through your inverter and solar battery.
Before the installation process begins, an installer will join you at your home to help you assess how many solar shingles you'll need. There are a couple of factors that will determine how many shingles you need: The size of the shingles you select, the square footage of your home and the amount of energy you need to generate.
One thing to keep in mind is that most homeowners do not need to cover their entire roof with solar shingles; you can intermingle them with traditional roof shingles to cut costs while still generating plenty of solar power.
Where to Buy Solar Shingles
Solar shingles are still relatively new, which means there aren't a lot of companies offering them. Some of the heavy hitters in the solar shingle industry include:
Though the Tesla Solar Roof system is one of the most expensive options on the market, many homeowners find it totally worth the cost. Indeed, Elon Musk's high-efficiency solar shingles may actually be more cost-effective than traditional solar systems, at least in the long run. And while they only come in one style, their sleek aesthetics will be appealing to anyone who prefers a more contemporary look.
A bit less expensive than Tesla's system, SunTegra shingles are notable for their low-profile appearance, ease of installation and high level of efficiency.
CertainTeed was one of the companies that pioneered solar shingles, and its products are still top-notch. They have a number of options to choose from, including solar shingles as well as solar roof tiles.
Luma's shingles are efficient and aesthetically pleasing and fall somewhere in the middle of the pack with regard to price.
Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Shingles
If you're thinking about switching to solar shingles, here are some other questions you may have:
How long do solar shingles last?
While it depends on the product, most solar shingles will last somewhere between 25 and 30 years.
Can you walk on solar shingles?
While most solar shingles are made to be fairly durable, and can probably accommodate you walking on them, you probably don't want to walk on your roof any more than is necessary.
Can you go off-grid with a Tesla Solar Roof?
Yes, if you want to completely break away from dependence on traditional utilities, Tesla roofs can offer you an off-grid option.
Are solar shingles worth it?
Given the high cost of solar shingle installation, they are unlikely to ever "pay for themselves." However, they can reduce your monthly electric bills considerably; factor in tax incentives and increases to your property values, and shingles can certainly be a reasonable investment.
Whether solar shingles are worth it for you will likely depend on how much it would cost for you to install a standard solar panel array. To get a free quote for your home system, you can fill out the form below.
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Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.
Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.
Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.
For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.
If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.
How Net Metering Works
There are two general ways net metering programs work:
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.
In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.
How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?
Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:
- You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
- If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
- Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.
With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.
You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.
Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.
Is Net Metering Available Near You?
Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.
In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.
If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:
- Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
- Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.
Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.
Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar
Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:
- The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
- State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
- Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.
In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering
Why is net metering bad?
When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.
In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.
How does net metering work?
With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.
Can you make money net metering?
You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.
On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.
Victoria has committed to sourcing 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, The Age reported. The new lithium-ion battery will have a capacity of 300 megawatts and provide 85 jobs.
"The big battery will help protect our network in summer, create jobs and drive down energy prices, as well as supporting our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic," Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said Thursday, The Age reported. "Victoria is embracing new technologies that will unlock more renewable energy projects than ever before."
The battery was first floated in April and originally set to be 600 megawatts and cost $300 million, The Guardian reported. Energy company Neoen has since won a contract to build a 300-megawatt version with Tesla equipment. It will be double the size of the South Australian battery that had been the largest in the world when it was built in 2017. However, projects planned in California and New York will be larger than both.
The battery will have the capacity to power half a million homes for one hour, Australia's ABC News reported, but its main purpose will be to provide backup energy to the grid to prevent blackouts. It is therefore an example of technology designed both to combat the climate crisis and adapt to it.
"We know in the time of climate change, our summers are getting far hotter and much longer, so that means there is increased strain on our thermal generators," D'Ambrosio said.
Victoria has signed an $84 million contract with Neoen, while the company will pay for the installation itself. However, an independent analysis found that customers would see a return of $2 for every dollar invested in the project. It is expected to be completed by November 2021.
Environment Victoria welcomed the news.
La Nauze said the project would help the state move toward shuttering the coal-fired Yallourn power station.
The Victorian Greens also applauded the new battery, but said the state needed to do more.
"Now the government needs to go one step further and actually admit we need to get off coal in Victoria," acting party leader Ellen Sandell told The Guardian.
Australia is one of the leading exporters of coal, despite the fact that it is especially vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis, as the devastating wildfires that burned from late 2019 to early 2020 attested.
However, a new analysis reported by The Guardian found that Australia's emissions from electricity, transport and gas fell by 4.6 percent for the 12 months ending in July 2020 when compared to the 12 months prior. What's more, the drop was driven less by the coronavirus pandemic than by the shift to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
"Renewables in Australia are now cheaper and more popular than fossil fuels, and we expect a lot more renewables coming on line soon," Australia Institute climate and energy program director Richie Merzian told The Guardian.
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By Julia Conley
A vote overwhelmingly in favor of placing a moratorium on deep-sea mineral mining at a global biodiversity summit this week has put urgent pressure on the International Seabed Authority to strictly regulate the practice.
The vast majority of governments, NGOs, and civil society groups voted in favor of the moratorium at the world congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Wednesday, after several conservation groups lobbied in favor of the measure.
Eighty-one government and government agencies voted for the moratorium, while 18 opposed it and 28, including the United Kingdom, abstained from voting. Among NGOs and other organizations, 577 supported the motion while fewer than three dozen opposed it or abstained.
Deep-sea mining for deposits of copper, nickel, lithium, and other metals can lead to the swift loss of entire species that live only on the ocean floor, as well as disturbing ecosystems and food sources and putting marine life at risk for toxic spills and leaks.
Fauna and Flora International, which sponsored the moratorium along with other groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Synchronicity Earth, called the vote "a momentous outcome for ocean conservation."
The motion called for a moratorium on mining for minerals and metals near the ocean floor until environmental impact assessments are completed and stakeholders can ensure the protection of marine life, as well as calling for reforms to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) — the regulatory body made up of 167 nations and the European Union, tasked with overseeing "all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area for the benefit of mankind as a whole."
Yes! Now time to take this overwhelming support for a moratorium on #deepseamining into the International Seabed Au… https://t.co/2klA6Wtwtw— Sian Owen (@Sian Owen)1631208614.0
In June, a two-year deadline was set for the ISA to begin licensing commercial deep-sea mining and to finalize regulations for the industry by 2023.
"Member countries of the ISA, including France which hosted this Congress, need to wake up and act on behalf of civil society and the environment now, and take action in support of a moratorium," said Matthew Gianni, co-founder of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, in a statement.
The World Wide Fund for Nature, another cosponsor of the motion, called on the ISA to reject the deep-sea mining industry's claims that mining for metals on the ocean floor is a partial solution to the climate crisis.
"The pro-deep seabed mining lobby is... selling a story that companies need deep seabed minerals in order to produce electric cars, batteries and other items that reduce carbon emissions," said Jessica Battle, a senior expert on global ocean policy and governance at the organization. "Deep seabed mining is an avoidable environmental disaster. We can decarbonize through innovation, redesigning, reducing, reusing, and recycling."
Pippa Howard of Fauna and Flora International wrote ahead of the IUCN summit that "we need to shatter the myth that deep seabed mining is the solution to the climate crisis."
"Far from being the answer to our dreams, deep seabed mining could well turn out to be the stuff of nightmares," she wrote. "Deep seabed mining — at least as it is currently conceived — would be an utterly irresponsible and short-sighted idea. In the absence of any suitable mitigation techniques... deep-sea mining should be avoided entirely until that situation changes."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
One of the biggest obstacles to going solar is the initial cost of solar panels. However, incentives like the federal solar tax credit can take thousands of dollars off your initial investment.
Homeowners who wish to install a residential solar system may have sticker shock when they find out what they'll need to spend in order to get the right equipment. In this article, we'll break down the federal solar tax credit, also called the investment tax credit (ITC), and help you understand whether you qualify for the credit and how much you can get back.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on for and is not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice.
What Is the Federal Solar Tax Credit?
The federal solar tax credit is a tax credit that you can claim on your federal returns. This tax credit is not valued at a set dollar amount; instead, it's a percentage of what you spend to install a residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system. The tax credit is currently 26% of your total system cost.
Tax credits help to reduce the amount of money you would otherwise owe on your income tax returns. So, for example, if you claim a tax credit of $4,000, the total amount you owe on your income taxes will go down by $4,000.
The federal solar tax credit can be claimed by any U.S. homeowner, so long as the solar system you install is for a residential location based in the United States. (It does not have to be your primary residence.)
The system must be placed in service (in other words, it must be "turned on" and generating power) during the tax year. So, if you install and begin using a residential solar system during the year 2021, you'll claim the credit on your 2021 tax filing. If you start a solar panel installation in December of 2021 but don't turn the system on until January of 2022, you'll claim the credit on your 2022 filing.
Exactly how much is the federal solar tax credit worth? Right now, the credit is being phased out, which means its value is steadily decreasing. Unless Congress renews the credit, it will eventually be phased out completely.
|Year Placed in Service||Federal Solar Tax Credit|
|2019 or prior||30%|
|2020 to 2022||26%|
|2024||Credit set to expire for residential systems|
What Does the Credit Cover?
Homeowners who install and begin using a solar PV system can claim a federal solar tax credit that currently covers 26% of the following costs:
- Cost of solar panels
- Labor costs for solar panel installation, including fees related to permitting and inspections
- All additional solar equipment, such as inverters, wiring and mounting hardware
- Energy storage devices that are powered exclusively through the solar panels, including solar batteries
- Sales taxes paid for eligible solar installation expenses (though some of the top states for solar tax incentives waive sales tax on PV system equipment)
History of the Federal Solar Tax Credit
The solar tax credit was originally created through the Energy Policy Act, which was signed way back in 2005. As originally written, the credit was set to expire in 2007. It proved pretty popular with homeowners across the country, however, prompting Congress to renew the credit multiple times.
As it stands, the credit will be available at least through 2023. However, an act of Congress could extend it even further, allowing future homeowners and solar adopters to reap this financial benefit.
Are You Eligible to Claim the Federal Solar Tax Credit?
In order to claim the federal solar tax credit and get money back on your solar investment, you have to meet the following criteria when filing your 2021 taxes:
- Your solar PV system must have been installed and began operating at some point between January 1, 2006, and December 31 of this year.
- Your system must be installed at either your primary or secondary residence.
- You must own the solar PV system, whether you paid upfront or are financing the cost. (If you're leasing your system, you won't be eligible for the tax credit.)
- The solar system must either be brand new or have been used for the first time. You only get to claim this credit once, for the "original installation" of your solar PV equipment.
How Other Solar Incentives Affect How Much You Can Get Back
Along with the federal solar tax credit, there are a number of rebates, programs and state tax incentives that you may be eligible for depending on where you live. In some cases, these other financial incentives may impact your federal tax credit. Here's what you should know:
- Rebates from your utility company: Typically, subsidies from your utility company are excluded from income tax returns. In these situations, the rebate for installing solar must be subtracted from your system cost before you can calculate your tax credit.
- Rebates from state-sponsored programs: Rebates from the state government generally do not reduce your federal tax credits.
- State tax credits: Any state tax credits you get for your residential solar system will not decrease federal tax credits. With that said, getting a state tax credit means the taxable income you report on your federal returns will be higher, as you now have less state income tax to deduct.
- Payments from renewable energy certificates: Any payments you receive from selling renewable energy certificates will likely be considered taxable income. As such, it will increase your gross income, but will not reduce your tax credit.
How to Claim the Solar Investment Tax Credit
Claiming the federal solar tax credit simply involves completing IRS Form 5695 and submitting it with your annual tax return. This form can be downloaded straight from the IRS. Alternatively, if you use a tax preparation service or tax professional, they can assist you in completing this form.
Frequently Asked Questions: Federal Solar Tax Credit
Will I get a tax refund if the solar investment tax credit exceeds my tax liability?
No, the federal solar ITC is a nonrefundable tax credit. However, if you do not use all of your tax credit, you can carry over the unused amount to the following year.
Can I use the federal solar tax credit against the alternative minimum tax?
Yes, you can use your solar tax credit either against the federal income tax or against the alternative minimum tax.
Will there be another federal solar tax incentive after the current one expires?
A new solar tax credit would require an act of Congress. While it is certainly possible, it isn't something that can be predicted with any certainty.
Can I claim the credit if I'm not a homeowner?
Yes, but only under specific circumstances. Specifically, you must be either a tenant-stockholder at a cooperative housing corporation or a member of a condominium complex to claim the federal solar tax credit.
Can I claim the credit if I am not connected to the grid?
You do not have to be connected to the electric grid to claim the solar tax credit. You only need to have a solar power system that's generating electricity for your home.
Can I claim the credit if my solar panels are not installed on my roof, but on the ground on my property?
Yes. The solar panels do not have to be installed on the roof in order for you to claim the tax credit, just so long as they are generating solar energy for your home.
See How Much Solar Would Cost for Your Home
When trying to figure out how much you'll save with the federal solar tax credit, you'll need to know the cost of the system you're installing. To get a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area, fill out the 30-second form below.
It likely comes as no surprise that the world's best-selling electric vehicle manufacturer is also one of the top solar companies in the U.S. Tesla solar products like the Solar Roof and Powerwall have made a name for themselves in the renewable energy industry, and in this article, we'll dive into whether they're really worth the hype.
Read on to learn more about Tesla solar panels, the Tesla Solar Roof system and the Tesla Powerwall solar battery.
Overview of Tesla Solar
As noted, the Tesla enterprise has sought to become the first and foremost name in U.S. solar rooftop installations. These efforts started back in 2016 when Tesla acquired the company SolarCity. At the time, SolarCity was the leading residential solar installer in the country, and it just happened to be founded by cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
In the time since, numerous other solar manufacturers have made strong plays in the residential solar market, and some of those leaders, such as Sunrun and Vivint Solar, have jockeyed back and forth with Tesla for being the market leader. Rankings vary depending on the year, quarter or even month observed, though no single provider ends up providing more than 15% of the market share.
That inherent diversity in the market is a great opportunity for potential customers to shop for their best option and identify what specific offerings best align with their needs and budget. Unsurprisingly, Tesla solar comes in first place for many households. Specifically, the basic offerings that Tesla solar has become known for are:
- Tesla solar panels: Standard rectangular panels most people associate with solar installations
- Tesla Solar Roof: Rather than panels on top of the roof, these systems use solar shingles designed to cover the entire roof and look like the roof tiles themselves
- Tesla Powerwall: Rechargeable battery Tesla can install in conjunction with new solar systems or add to existing systems to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of home energy use
Tesla Standard Solar Panels
The most basic offering, and the one the majority of customers are envisioning when considering solar energy for their household, are standard Tesla solar panels. These work the same way as any rooftop solar panel, but the main features that set Tesla solar panels apart from competitors' products include:
- 24/7 monitoring: You can keep tabs on your panels at any time and from anywhere through a mobile monitoring app. The app tracks your panels' performance, efficiency and generation, as well as detects any issues with your system.
- Aesthetics: Tesla prioritizes the design of its rooftop panels in a way competitors don't, creating a sleek, blended, low-profile installation that brings direct curbside appeal.
- Streamlined pre-installation: As part of Tesla's solar panel installation process, homeowners send in photos of their equipment and system spaces rather than having a crew come out to inspect these areas. This helps bring total costs below the national average.
The exact nature of the installation chosen for your home will be customized based on your rooftop, power needs, geography, budget and more.
Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
Here are a few specs to note regarding Tesla solar panels:
|Category||Tesla Solar Specs||Why it Matters|
|Wattage||42 5W||Most residential solar panels run around 250 W to 300 W. This means you will need to purchase fewer Tesla panels to produce a certain amount of power.|
|Operating Temperatures||-40°F to 185°F||These are the lowest and highest temperatures your Tesla solar panels will operate in. While it's not likely they will ever reach these extremes, most residential solar panels are rated to similar degrees.|
|Size||82.4" x 40.9" x 1.57" (including frame)||Most residential solar panels measure about 65 inches by 39 inches. Tesla's are longer, which allows you to purchase fewer modules.|
|Warranty||25 years||Tesla's performance warranty is about average for the industry.|
|Inverter||3.8 kW or 7.6 kW||The Tesla Solar Inverter is a key part of the home solar system, as it converts the panel's direct current (DC) power into usable alternating current (AC) power for in-home consumption. Tesla's inverters operate at 97.5% efficiency and come with a 12.5-year warranty.|
As you may be able to tell, Tesla's panels are some of the best solar panels on the market today. This leads to one question: How much do they cost?
How Much Do Tesla Solar Panels Cost?
While Tesla is known for high quality (which can often be quite pricey), the company actually advertises its solar panel systems as the "Lowest-Cost Solar Panels in America." Is that a fair claim to make?
Kind of. The cost of solar panels depends on a number of factors, including the size of your system, installation complexities, available local tax incentives and more. Given all of these considerations, though, Tesla seeks to ensure it can truly follow through on the "lowest cost" claim via its price-match guarantee. Through this program, homeowners can present a recent quote (within 14 days of order) from a competitor for a similar system, and Tesla will match the price.
In general, the average Tesla solar system of about 8.2 kW will cost a home $11,840 (after accounting for the federal solar tax credit), while an extra-large system of 16.3 kW will cost $22,200. Tesla estimates that most homeowners recoup that investment in six to eight years.
If you want to see how much a Tesla solar panel system would cost for your home, you can use the company's design feature. And to get a free quote to compare from a top installer in your area, you can fill out the form below.
Tesla Solar Roof
Moving beyond the conventional solar panels that are associated with household solar power, Tesla has made waves with its offering of the Tesla Solar Roof. The difference in this system is that rather than large-scale panels installed on top of roof tiles, Tesla uses solar shingles that integrate with the look of your existing roof while generating energy to power your home.
This new way of thinking about residential rooftop installations isn't just a gimmick. The Tesla Solar Roof brings with it a host of benefits that makes it more appealing than standard solar panels:
- The solar shingles are three times more durable than standard panels, meaning the risk of damage from hail, storms or other environmental factors is minimized.
- By covering the entire rooftop, even more clean solar energy can be generated for the home.
- The aesthetic appeal of the solar rooftop is undeniable, as no panels appear outside of the existing design of the roof. Rather, the Solar Roof is a part of the building aesthetic. Note that Tesla used to offer different styles of solar roof tiles, but today it only offers black-on-black tiles.
Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
That said, the decision to go for a full solar roof over standard solar panels is not an obvious choice for all households. These installations bring with them a number of downsides that may turn customers away:
- Solar shingles are more expensive to create on a per-watt basis, and they usually have a greater total coverage area. This makes the initial investment notably more expensive and out of reach for many customers.
- While a storm is more likely to damage a standard solar panel than a solar shingle, if a storm is severe enough that it is able to cause Solar Roof damage, repair costs will be higher than they would be for other types of solar panel repairs.
- Solar panels can be readily installed and then removed later on for any reason a homeowner may choose, but the solar roof is a more permanent decision.
While customers may have an untold number of solar panel providers to choose from when going the traditional route, Tesla is among the only companies offering solar shingles today.
How Much Does a Tesla Solar Roof Cost?
Given that the main drawback of a Tesla Solar Roof is the significant investment it will require, even more so than traditional solar panels, curious homeowners will naturally ask: Exactly how much more do they cost?
We used Tesla's website to design theoretical systems in Florida and received the following outputs:
|City in Florida||Square Footage of Home||Average Monthly Power Bill||System Size||System Cost Estimate*||Powerwall Cost||Cost of System Per Watt|
|Daytona Beach||2,000||$125||10.88 kW||$63,460||$10,500||$5.83|
|Fort Lauderdale||3,000||$225||19.59 kW||$93,772||$17,000||$4.79|
*System estimates include installation and Powerwall costs but do not reflect federal and local tax credits. All data sourced from tesla.com/energy/design.
These costs, of course, are simply example quotes, and prices will vary based on location, energy needs, local incentives and more. For example, the Solar Energy Industries Association notes that the average cost per watt for a fully installed system in 2020 was $2.96 (before tax credits). All told, the solar roof is significantly more expensive than the traditional solar panel route.
The ideal customer who will want to consider a Tesla Solar Roof either a) doesn't consider money to be an object, or b) is already considering a rooftop replacement and wants to lump in this upgrade (though installing a solar roof amid a roof replacement will add $10,000 to $70,000 to the solar roof installation costs, according to Tesla's online cost calculators).
The last Tesla solar product that homeowners may be considering is the Tesla Powerwall, which is one of the best solar batteries on the market. By adding a battery to your home solar system, you can use solar energy even when the sun isn't shining (like at night or on cloudy days), have power stored up in case of a utility outage, and even sell the excess energy back to the grid when energy costs are greatest.
Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
When considering Tesla solar energy storage for a new or existing solar system, customers will come across both the Tesla Powerwall and the Tesla Powerwall+. The Powerwall+ comes with additional benefits (at an additional cost, of course). Key differences between these two options include the following:
|Category||Tesla Powerwall||Tesla Powerwall+|
|Energy Capacity||13.5 kWh||13.5 kWh|
|On-Grid Power||5.8 kW continuous||7.6 kW / 5.6 kW continuous|
|Backup Power||10 kW peak||9.6 kW / 7 kW continuous
22 kW / 10 kW peak
|Size||45.3" x 29.6" x 5.75"
|62.8" x 29.7" x 6.3"
|Warranty||10 years||10 years|
All customers who install a Tesla Solar system, whether standard solar panels or a Solar Roof, are required to purchase a Powerwall (or Powerwall+) to ensure the highest efficiency and effectiveness of their system. The Powerwall and Powerwall+ are also available for purchase alone to pair with an existing non-Tesla solar installation, though the homeowner will still need to utilize a Tesla-certified installer.
How Much Does a Tesla Powerwall Cost?
Once again, cost will be a major question and consideration for potential Powerwall owners. The main factor that will determine how much your Tesla solar battery setup will cost is how many Powerwalls you actually need based on the size of your panel system.
While every system will differ, each installation type will be unique and your mileage may vary, we reached out to Tesla to ask about general cost estimates and found the right rule of thumb to consider is:
- One Powerwall: $10,500
- Two Powerwalls: $17,000 (i.e., price drops to $8,500 each when buying two at a time)
Why Should a Home Go Solar?
Given the extensive costs and considerations pertaining to Tesla solar, is solar energy even worth it for your home? The upfront costs of these systems are a serious hurdle for many homeowners, but if you have the capital available, there are numerous reasons to consider going solar:
- With the climate crisis worsening, installing solar on your home is a direct way for you to reduce your home's carbon footprint and potentially even start a trend of neighbors adopting clean energy after seeing you do so.
- Monthly power bills can be high and volatile, so the more energy you can generate self-sufficiently for your home, the less you'll pay in utility bills.
- In many areas, the owners of a solar system can sell their excess energy back to the utility company, which can give you a greater return on your solar system investment.
- Rooftop solar combined with energy storage is a great way to reduce how likely your home is to be impacted by power outages.
- Installing solar panels ups the market value of your home, and with a sleek Tesla solar system, they can also make a home more aesthetically appealing.
While the high costs to install may be frustrating, it's important that potential customers research or talk to experts about available tax incentives that come from federal, state and local governments. These incentives come as credits, rebates, low-interest loans and other tools to help make solar power accessible to more homes.
FAQ: Tesla Solar
How much does Tesla solar cost?
A Tesla solar system (including equipment and installation) can vary in cost from $11,840 for 8.2 kW of standard solar panels to $22,200 for 16.3 kW (both after tax incentives). A Tesla Solar Roof will have a higher price tag, typically in the ballpark of $30,000 to $90,000. A Tesla Powerwall will be about $8,500 to $10,500 per 13.5 kWh battery. These costs represent a wide range of system sizes, local geographies, available tax incentives and more.
Why is Tesla solar so cheap?
Tesla is able to mass-produce its equipment, use economies of scale and streamline the installation process by recruiting homeowners themselves to contribute to the evaluation of their homes. These are some of the factors that allow Tesla to offer a price-match guarantee, ensuring the company offers the cheapest solar panels in the U.S.
How effective are Tesla solar panels?
Once installed, Tesla solar panels are highly efficient and effective, which has kept them as one of the most popular solar installers in America and able to offer customers payback periods of just a handful of years.
Does Tesla solar include installation?
When you buy solar panels, depending on your location, Tesla will either send its own installers or contract workers from another local installation company to set up your system.
Should I buy a home solar system?
The concept of going solar is fairly straightforward: by installing solar panels or shingles on the area of your roof that gets the most direct sunlight, power is generated for use in your home, offsetting the need for you to purchase that power from your utility company. Doing so will help you save money each month and ensure the energy used within your home is carbon-free. Other advantages include the ability to generate power even during local utility outages and directly increasing the resale value of your home.
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Before installing a residential solar system, you may stop to wonder: Do solar panels increase home value? It turns out, the answer is a resounding yes.
In this article, we'll go over how much solar panels can increase the value of your home, as well as how that increased value affects property taxes and whether buyers are really looking for homes with solar energy systems. With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about whether solar panels are a good investment for your home.
How Much Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?
Many homeowners, buyers, and appraisers know that the installation of solar panels and solar batteries can increase a property's market value. In fact, one study confirmed that solar installations increase a home's resale value by up to $5,911 for each kilowatt of solar panels installed, and another estimated an increase of 4.1% of the home's value.
Where do these figures come from, exactly? To begin with, consider a Zillow study, which notes that homes with solar installations tend to sell for about 4.1% more than homes without. Of course, this is an average. Some locations show a higher value-add (5.4% for New York City), and some show lower (2.7% for Riverside, California). An older study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reveals an increase in resale value of approximately $5,911 for each kilowatt of solar power that's installed.
So, how much do solar panels increase home value? Let's take a look at some averages:
|Home Solar System Size||
Amount Solar Panels
Increase Home Value*
*Figures based on study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
It's worth noting that these amounts are roughly in line with the total cost of a solar panel system, which may be just the incentive you need to finally take the plunge into solar power.
Factors That Influence the Value-Add of Solar Panels
While these simple calculations can give you a ballpark, there are a number of factors that influence the value-add of solar panels. Some of the most prominent include:
- Geographic location: Different communities experience different electrical costs (and higher electrical costs result in greater value from your solar panels). Additionally, geography can influence the amount of sun exposure you get, as well as the social benefits of installing solar power.
- Local solar installation prices: Another geographic factor is the cost of getting a new system in your area. If a buyer would save money by purchasing a home with a system already installed, it will make your home that much more valuable.
- System output: As you can see from the chart above, a larger system with more energy generation will provide more added value.
- System age: If you have an older solar system, you'll need to account for depreciation. Older systems won't add that much value to your home when you sell it, as there's a higher chance the buyer will need to do repairs or replace parts sooner.
- System replacement value: Along the same lines as system age, how expensive or difficult parts of your system would be to replace affects the added value of the system overall.
Are Buyers Looking for Homes with Solar Panels?
Another question to consider when figuring how much solar panels would increase your home value is just how enticing a solar system is to buyers in your community. This is something that will vary by geography, and specifically by local solar literacy. Simply put, buyers won't be as willing to invest in a solar system if they don't really understand how solar panels work or how they can benefit from them.
With that said, there's some data that shows homeowners to be pretty open to energy efficiency features, for the most part. For example, more than 80% of homebuyers say that energy efficiency is a priority, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report.
Some earlier data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that homes with solar panels sell 20% faster and for 17% more than those without. (Granted, this information is about 15 years old; there's now greater supply and greater demand for homes with solar panels, but these data points should be promising nonetheless.)
How Do Solar Panels Affect Property Taxes?
Of course, when your property values go up, that usually means that your property taxes increase as well. The good news is that many states offer exemptions, meaning that when you install a solar system, your property taxes do not go up, even if your property value rises.
Here's a rundown of property tax exemptions by state:
|Solar Property Tax Exemption||States*|
Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida,
Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island,
Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin
|Local exemptions||Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia|
|100% exempt for 20 years||Massachusetts|
|100% exempt for 10 years||Montana|
|100% exempt for 5 years||Iowa, New York, North Dakota|
|100% exempt until 2025||California|
|80% exempt||North Carolina|
|System-based exemption||Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee|
Tax exemption of $50,000 or 70%
of total property value
Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky,
Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,
South Carolina, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming
*Accurate as of date of publication.
Do Solar Panels Make Sense for Your Home?
As you weigh the pros and cons of solar energy, it makes sense to consider the overall impact on your property value. You'll also want to take into account factors including:
- How much you spend on utility bills each month: If you live in an area that has high average electricity rates, you'll get a better return on your solar energy investment.
- How much sunlight your home gets throughout the year: Some homes are better positioned for solar panel installation than others. If your home is situated at an optimal angle for harnessing the sun's energy, it makes more sense to go solar.
- Financial incentives available to you: All American homeowners are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, but many states and municipalities have added rebates, low-interest loans and other financial incentives for their own residents as well.
For many homeowners, the question of whether to buy solar panels comes down to cost. If you want to see how much solar panel installation would cost for your home, you can get a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area by filling out the form below.
FAQ: Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?
Do solar panels hurt the resale value of your home?
Generally speaking, the opposite is true; installing a home solar array actually increases the resale value of a home, particularly if you have a high-efficiency system that helps lower monthly energy bills.
Solar literacy in your local community is an important factor here, but for most homeowners, the answer to this question will be a resounding no. Multiple studies have shown that buyers are looking for more energy-efficient homes to reduce their carbon footprints and help save on electricity bills.
Do bigger solar installations present a better value-add than smaller systems?
Bigger solar installations may present a better value-add than smaller systems. However, in many cases, it's not the number of panels that matters so much as the power output. A smaller system, assembled with the most efficient solar panels can be just as impactful as a larger, lower-efficiency system.
The aesthetics of the system may also be a factor, with many buyers actually preferring smaller, less conspicuous systems.
How much value does solar add to the home?
A few studies have shown that solar installations increase a home's resale value by up to $6,000 for each kilowatt of solar panels installed, or by about 4.1% of the home's value. However, this can vary quite a bit from one geographic location to the next, even for comparable homes with similar solar panel systems.
Do you really save money with solar panels?
While the initial investment may be steep, solar panels can definitely help to significantly reduce or even eliminate your monthly electric bills. These ongoing energy savings are a nice addition to the elevation in property values.
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Solar energy is growing in popularity — especially amongst homeowners who are looking to reduce their carbon footprints, lower their electric bills and move away from being dependent on traditional forms of energy. Nicknamed the "Sunshine State," it's no surprise Florida has been a top state for solar installation in the U.S.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the state of Florida has the fourth-highest solar installation rate in the country, lagging just behind North Carolina, Texas and California. The state's total solar investment clocks in at $9.6 billion — and that number is only expected to grow.
Of course, even in one of the sunniest states in America, solar energy is more popular in certain geographic areas than others, which may leave you wondering: What are the top cities for solar in Florida?
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Florida
To narrow down the top cities for solar energy in Florida, our team compiled and examined reports generated by the SEIA and Energy Information Administration, solar generation maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America.
Based on our research, we have deemed the following 10 cities to be hubs for solar energy in Florida:
- Fort Myers
- Fort Lauderdale
- West Palm Beach
- St. Petersburg
- Winter Park
Taking the top spot on our list of top cities for solar in Florida is Jacksonville. In the latest Shining Cities report, Jax ranked No. 13 in the country for total installed solar PV capacity, outranking places including Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and New Orleans. The city has implemented a number of programs to make solar more accessible to its residents, including a rebate of $4,000 per home on solar battery purchases.
Tampa is another solar leader in the Sunshine State, boasting a solar installation rate that averages out to 42 watts per resident (as of December 2019). With an average of 246 sunny days annually, the city is well situated to truly reap the benefits of solar. Summers are hot, and while the area is humid in certain months, the winter and early spring are mild and dry.
Orlando comes in just below Tampa with about 35 watts of solar PV per person through the end of 2019. Nestled snug in the middle of the state, the city is exposed to ample sunshine year-round, making solar energy a natural choice to combat high traditional electric bills, and residents have eagerly embraced the utility cost savings that solar can offer.
The southernmost city on this list, Miami has a tropical climate with pleasantly warm winters and long and muggy summers — as well as plenty of sun. Yes, the area gets its share of rain, but that doesn't stand in the way of solar being a great investment for residents. The city of Miami is fast-tracking its solar panel installation: It has about 10 watts installed per person, and that number is steadily increasing.
5. Fort Myers
NREL maps show Fort Myers has one of the most highly concentrated potentials for rooftop solar generation in the state. Something else that makes this Southwest Florida city stand out is its proximity to Babcock Ranch, the first solar-powered town in America. The planned community is located just 25 miles north of Fort Myers.
6. Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, receives over 3,000 hours of yearly sunshine. And rightfully so, the city has recognized the need to harness the power of natural sunlight to produce clean energy. Fort Lauderdale is an active participant in the GoSolar Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge, which is focused on making it easier and more affordable for homeowners to install rooftop solar PV, and has local financing programs and community co-ops to help lower the cost of solar panels.
7. West Palm Beach
Just north of Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach benefits from a tropical climate and abundant sunshine year-round. The city has embraced multiple forms of clean energy and is focused on phasing out oil and coal, while simultaneously boosting solar usage. West Palm Beach seeks to employ at least 30 million solar panels by 2030.
Melbourne is another coastal Florida city that soaks up sunshine all year long. NREL maps show this area has an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar installation, and residents have been cashing in on their prime positioning. One reason for this may be that the average solar investment comes with a sizable return — according to Google's Project Sunroof, Melbourne residents stand to save $8,000 over 20 years after buying solar panels.
9. St. Petersburg
Situated in West Florida just south of Tampa, St. Pete has been nicknamed "The Sunshine City," averaging 361 days of sunshine each year. In fact, the city set a Guinness World Record between 1967 and 1969 for logging 768 days of sunshine. Knowing that, it's probably no surprise NREL maps show the area as having one of the state's highest potentials for rooftop solar energy generation.
10. Winter Park
Winter Park, located just outside of Orlando, was the first city in Central Florida to offer residents PACE financing for solar panels — and its commitment to solar energy has only continued to expand. Recently, the City of Winter Park was even awarded a SolSmart Gold designation for its strides toward renewable energy and its efforts to make installations faster, easier and more affordable for residents.
Where Solar Panels Make the Most Sense
Solar panels generally work best in cities that have regular and constant exposure to sunlight on an annual basis. Additionally, areas where winters tend to be shorter and less harsh stand to benefit more from solar energy. This alone demonstrates why there are so many solar-embracing cities all across Florida.
Renewable energy systems are also more attractive in cities that have adopted incentives for their residents, such as Jacksonville's solar battery rebate program. Many cities that didn't make our top 10 list offer solar rebates and low-interest loan programs, including Longwood, Tallahassee and Lauderhill.
Another factor that goes into where solar makes sense is local energy costs. Generally speaking, Florida's energy costs are high, which makes an investment in solar energy a worthy choice. If this were not the case, and the cost of energy wasn't above average, then the benefits associated with solar energy would be reduced.
Average Florida Electricity Costs
According to the EIA, the average monthly electric bill for a Florida resident is $129.65, with normal monthly consumption totaling 1,108 kWh. Comparing these numbers to other South Atlantic states, Florida is one of the clear leaders in terms of cost and consumption, making solar energy a natural choice for reducing bills as well as minimizing traditional energy output.
Florida Solar Tax Incentives
When considering solar energy, it is also important to learn about any tax rebates or incentives that are provided by the state. Along with city-specific programs, all Florida homeowners can benefit from the following statewide incentives:
|Florida Solar Incentive||Details|
|Property Tax Exemption||
Installing a solar panel system will up the value of your home,
but this mandate ensures you won't have to pay higher property
taxes due to the increased value.
|Sales Tax Exemption||
Florida's 6% sales tax is not applied to the purchase of solar
panels or related installation equipment.
Also worth noting is Florida's net metering program. This is one of the most important regulatory policies pertaining to residential solar owners in Florida. It allows a homeowner to sell excess solar energy that is generated by the grid, resulting in a cost savings.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
On a federal level, Florida residents who invest in solar can also receive a 26% federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). This applies to people who buy their PV system outright either through a cash purchase or through a solar loan or financing.
Florida Solar Regulations
The state of Florida has numerous regulations that must be followed as it pertains to solar energy. The most prominent, however, is the Florida Solar Rights Act. This restricts any person or group, inclusive of homeowners associations, from barring solar or other renewable energy device installation on any building. Additionally, an HOA cannot require that a homeowner's solar system be screened from view by trees, fences, remote roof location or any other means.
All in all, based on the high need to use energy in Florida in order to keep houses cool, solar is a great choice. Plus, residents are well-positioned to receive cost savings by embracing this form of clean, renewable energy.