With low grain prices and the loss of the soybean exports to China because of a trade war, Iowa's farmers face dark times. But one Iowa farmer sees a light of hope with a crop that fell out of favor, but may be poised for a big comeback. Ethan Vorhes, a farmer in Charles City, Iowa sees great potential for growing industrial hemp.
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Yes, Houston, we have a problem: Our oceans are dying.
As the brilliant futurist Buckminster Fuller used to point out, our Spaceship Earth is hurtling through space at a great speed.
Residential solar energy companies are helping more and more homeowners upgrade their properties to clean energy sources. Solar energy companies can equip you with the technology you need to harness the amazing power of the sun and reduce your need for fossil fuels. In this article, we'll review some of the most trustworthy providers and installers of solar power.
Our picks for the best solar companies
The first step in the process is researching some of the top companies in the solar industry. Here are the ones that stood out in our research.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
How we chose the best solar energy companies
How did we determine which solar power companies to recommend?
To begin with, we took a deep dive into each company's offerings, assessing them for the following criteria:
- Range of services offered
- Pricing/affordability and financing options
- Extent of service area
- Solar panel efficiency
- Temperature coefficient (e.g., how much high temperatures affect efficiency)
Additionally, we weighed membership and certification by professional associations like the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Affiliation with these groups is a good indicator that a solar energy company is reputable, and that their work is up to the highest standards within the industry.
The best solar energy companies
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With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the best solar panel providers and installers in the industry.
If you're looking for a company that can walk you through the process of upgrading to solar power for an easy and convenient experience, look no further than to SunPower. The company offers:
- A "design studio" app, allowing you to safely and seamlessly design your own solar power system so that you can see a visual of what the finished product will look like once installed.
- Online calculators that make it easy for you to determine about how much electricity you will save once you upgrade to solar panels.
- Virtual consultations, allowing you to chat one-on-one with a solar power expert and to ask any questions you might have.
SunPower offers leading solar panels and energy storage technology to homeowners across dozens of states. And, they are also the preferred solar partner of many major businesses, including Walmart, FedEx, and Lowes.
Why buy: SunPower is a reliable solar energy company with an impressive tech portfolio and an extremely easy, intuitive process.
Upgrading to solar power can seem a little intimidating, but SunRun is out to bring simplicity. Their approach makes it extremely straightforward to select a custom solar energy plan for your household. Here's what to know about SunRun:
- They offer virtual consultations with solar energy experts, making it simple to explore your options and determine which solar set-up is right for your home energy needs.
- Each system they design is completely customized to address the customer's needs. SunRun doesn't do "one size fits all" solar equipment options.
- Their guarantee, the best in the industry, offers extraordinary peace of mind that your solar system will prove durable and reliable.
- SunRun also leads in terms of flexible financing options, making solar power accessible and affordable.
Why buy: With SunRun, the name of the game is customization. This is one of the best solar installation companies to turn to for solar power solutions that are truly made with you in mind.
You probably associate Tesla with their electric vehicles, but did you know that the company also produces high-efficiency solar panels? Depending on your needs and your budget, Tesla can hook you up with an array of solar panels or even a solar roof, making it easy to cut electricity costs and power your home via the sun's vital energy.
Some fast facts about choosing solar power from Tesla:
- They offer a price match guarantee and affordable financing options.
- Their advanced solar panel technology offers a low profile, a sleek style, and long-term durability.
- Home battery backups allow you to save solar power and then access it on demand, whenever you need it.
Why buy: Tesla offers sophisticated solar products for what the company claims is the lowest price of any national provider, which they back with a price-match guarantee. Plus, all of their solar panels come with a solid 25-year performance guarantee.
LG is another well-known tech company that is also a leader in solar energy. Some of their solar panels use a bifacial solar module that captures energy from two directions to increase their efficiency. While they are a solar panel manufacturer, they can also help you with the installation process by finding an LG Pro installer in your area.
- They offer an online "solar concierge" service that allows you to evaluate your home energy needs and to compare different options for going solar.
- LG offers a 25-year warranty, not only on their technology but also on the work their of their solar installers.
- They offer a range of solar panels and supporting products, and they supply you with plenty of information to make a fully informed choice.
Why buy: LG is a company that knows technological innovation. Their award-winning solar energy products are reliably efficient, well-priced, and designed for maximum efficiency.
Panasonic has one of the most impressive tech portfolios in the solar energy industry. Their products boast some of the highest conversion efficiency rates, along with the lowest degradation rates. And they back everything with a generous warranty.
Some additional reasons to choose Panasonic:
- They offer a range of solar panels to choose from. With Panasonic, you'll find that you have plenty of options.
- They also provide a lot of great online support and consumer education, ensuring you'll get the most out of your solar technology.
Why buy: Panasonic is a solar panel company with products that are tough to beat. Both their pricing and warranties are very appealing, and their HIT high-performance solar panels offer some of the best power conversion rates of any product.
Vivint is a company that offers a full spectrum of services, including solar power consultation, design, and installation. A few reasons why homeowners trust their solar power needs to the Vivint team:
- Everything Vivint does is customized. They tailor everything to fit your roof and to help you achieve your home energy goals.
- They make the entire process simple, handling all of the little details for you. This includes securing permits, filing the right paperwork, etc.
- They emphasize safety, using only the highest caliber of solar panels and backing everything with a world-class warranty.
Why buy: Vivint is noteworthy for their focus on customization, their commitment to safety, and their one-stop-shop solar power solutions. In addition to solar panel installation, they also offer other specialized technology, including solar-powered electric vehicle chargers.
Enphase is another company that stands out, both for their robust technology as well as for their commitment to customization. Their microinverter technology makes their solar system safer by reducing the likelihood of arc fault fires.
- They design their solar technology with safety in mind, including fire safeguards that other companies can't match.
- Their solar panels are built for durability and can hold up even through the most extreme kinds of weather.
- Enphase uses smart technology to update itself; all you need to do is connect it to your home Internet.
- They also have one of the best apps in the solar industry, making it simple to monitor your home energy use.
Why buy: Enphase is a company of innovators, and their solar portfolio has a lot to offer. Their system is also modular, meaning you can easily add more panels to your system as you need them.
This solar power provider has won recognition not just for their excellent technology, but also for their sincere commitment to sustainability and to ecological stewardship. And don't let the name throw you off: Though Canadian Solar is based in Canada, they provide solar power solutions in the U.S. and other countries.
Some additional facts about Canadian Solar:
- They offer a wide range of products, from energy converters to storage solutions.
- Their solar panels boast exceedingly high energy efficiency rates.
- Canadian Solar has won a number of awards for its first-class innovations, and one of their products even set a world record for conversion efficiency in 2020.
Why buy: This company has a proven track record of technological excellence, plus a real commitment to ecological stewardship. They also closely monitor their supply chain to ensure that no goods or materials used in their products come from prohibited forms of labor.
First Solar boasts an impressive track record of advocacy for solar power and for renewable energy sources. And, thankfully, they back their advocacy with some excellent solar technologies.
A few reasons to choose First Solar solar panels:
- Their technology offers an outstanding temperature coefficient, meaning they won't lose performance during high temperatures.
- Their solar cells are among the most reliable and most efficient in the clean energy sector.
- First Solar also offers a lot of post-purchase, post-installation help, as needed.
Why buy: First Solar is a great option for anyone who's serious about renewable energy, and who wants the best performance from their solar panels.
The biggest drawback to Go Solar is that, right now, their work is limited to just a few states. But if you happen to live in that part of the country, you're in luck. Go Solar's panels are uniquely calibrated to take advantage of the western region's abundant sunlight. Some additional reasons to pick Go Solar include:
- They offer free home solar assessments.
- They custom-design solar systems to meet the needs of your home.
- They have some of the most trusted installers in the solar power industry.
Why buy: For solar solutions that are tailored to the climate of the American West, definitely consider Go Solar. Plus, with their Give Solar International partnership, they give an equivalent solar panel system to a family in Uganda for each system sold.
How does a solar energy system work?
schmidt-z / Getty Images
As you explore the different options for embracing solar power, it may be helpful to have a baseline understanding of how solar energy systems actually function.
Generally speaking, solar energy systems involve solar panels installed on your roof. These panels absorb the sun's energy, storing it in what are known as photovoltaic cells. These cells convert the solar energy into direct current (DC) energy, then use an inverter to convert that DC energy into alternate current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is what you need to power all your home appliances.
It's important to note that, before you purchase solar panels, it's worthwhile to meet with a solar energy consultant who can tell you more about how many panels your home will require, and also to let you know how those panels should be ideally positioned on the roof.
One more note: If you're concerned about the affordability of solar power, it's important to remember that most solar energy companies provide a host of options, including flexible financing and solar lease options for a system rather than purchase it outright. As you talk with different solar energy companies, don't hesitate to inquire about these leasing and financing options.
Benefits of solar energy
Installing solar panels on your home can yield a number of benefits. Here are just a few examples.
One of the main reasons why homeowners choose to install solar cells is that it allows them to truly embrace clean energy sources. Rather than depend on fossil fuels and power plants, you can power your home with renewable energy that comes straight from the sun. This can be a highly effective way to minimize your environmental footprint.
Solar tax credits and rebates
There are a number of ways in which choosing renewable energy can save you money, starting with the fact that there are so many rebates and tax credits available. Essentially, both the federal government and many state governments want to encourage people to "go green" as much as possible, and they will make it worth your while by allowing you to claim these important tax incentives. Some utility companies also offer rebates that can help pay for the upfront costs of solar projects.
Lower electricity bills
Of course, embracing solar power will also help you save money by slashing your electricity bills. Most solar energy companies offer online calculators that allow you to see for yourself how much money you'll save over time, simply by changing to a renewable energy source. There is also an option called a power purchase agreement (PPA) that can allow you to host a solar or renewable energy system from a utility provider in exchange for lowered energy rates. If your solar panel system generates excess energy, the utility will then purchase that energy from you in the form of a net metering credit on your bill.
Make a smart choice about solar power
There are obviously a lot of perks to choosing solar energy for your home. And yet, it can also be a rather daunting process, simply because there are so many solar energy companies to choose from.
Using our guidelines and rankings, start doing your due diligence, seeking the solar power company that's right for you. Remember to look for a company that's well-regarded within the industry and get a consultation before you buy. Always be sure to ask some direct questions about the financing options that are available to you.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. His writing on natural health, nutrition, and supplements has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
The actor is a longtime advocate of environmental causes, and his film is surely helping to increase awareness of global warming and the challenges we face with climate chaos. In it, DiCaprio journeys from the remote melting regions of Greenland to the burning forests of Sumatra to the halls of the Vatican, exploring the devastating impact of climate change on the planet.
Before the Flood discusses how climate change is moving us rapidly into an era in which life on Earth might be much, much different. It does a great job describing the pressing problems we face. Yet, sadly, the film has a serious omission. It makes only passing mention of the food issue and almost no mention of soils or ocean acidification.
Carbon farming is the solution to climate change. It's time for us to de-carbonize our energy and re-carbonize our soils.
Too few people know that Monsanto and industrial agriculture are contributing more to climate change than Exxon, Chevron and the entire transportation industry combined. Not many understand that a large animal feedlot is just as environmentally destructive as a coal-fired power plant—if not even more damaging.
The True Cost of Industrial Meat Production https://t.co/TAwvj2Cczq @SoilAssociation @RootsofChange— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479422720.0
So why are so many concerned people not addressing the food-climate connection?
It's Time for a 100% Solution
As the planet surges toward an atmospheric 450 ppm, solar, wind and reducing extraction alone cannot slow the release of carbon emissions fast enough. Yet Before the Flood, along with most climate groups, preaches only half a game plan—a 50 percent solution that will, in fact, allow continued destruction.
The unfortunate reality is that the carbon-busting Congressional legislation that will be awaiting Trump's signature will make Exxon blush! Thus the need to sequester carbon into the soil using the power of plants and grazing animals is greater now than ever. Will those who are a part of the climate movement start spreading the word of this potential solution?
The oceans are dying from a massive carbon bomb. We need to balance the carbon cycle and reduce climate chaos without losing any more time. The scientific solution—carbon sequestration—is one already proven by 500 million years of R&D. The short film The Soil Story explains this process well in an easy-to-follow five-minute animated clip:
We can readily increase the scale of carbon farming—also known as regenerative agriculture. And the good news is that hundreds of millions of farmers on small plots the world over already know a thing or two about this beneficial farming methodology.
Regenerative Agriculture Will Feed the World and Cool the Planet https://t.co/qWmR0ZPF79 @SoilAssociation @RootsofChange— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478818866.0
Growing sea kelp in the oceans is another innovative way to sequester carbon while producing food, feed and fuel. But for this to be possible into the future, we're going to have to help our seas.
A recent Huffington Post article, The Ocean Is Losing Its Breath—and Climate Change Is Making It Worse, states:
"From the waters off the Oregon coast, to the upwelling zones off Peru, to the Baltic and Black seas, Bay of Bengal, South China Sea, and Gulf of Mexico, to name but a few regions, so-called dead zones are on the increase. Low oxygen areas in the deep ocean are also expanding, primarily due to warming. ... For example, experiments have shown that reduced oxygen greatly limits the metabolic scope of fish, and their whole metabolism slows down. Feeding and growth can be greatly reduced."
Soil Health Equals Cleaner Air
It seems that many climate environmental groups have yet to understand the carbon cycle or to see the big picture of ecology, a situation I pointed out in a 2015 EcoWatch piece, Why Are Climate Groups Only Focused on 50% of the Solution? If they did, these organizations would be unfurling banners at Monsanto's giant pesticide factories and soil health would be discussed when talking about climate action.
A few weeks ago, I chatted with the founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, in the green room before he went on to the main stage at the annual Bioneers conference. In the course of our exchange, I realized that McKibben is so focused on fighting big oil and big coal that the idea of carbon sequestration as a solution isn't a part of his message.
Many 350.org members I've met show interest in this proven solution, yet prior to our discussions they've never heard about it. Except for a few rare mentions, the media has a virtual blackout on the subject. However, the Sierra Club is working on a new food climate campaign. Several people from the Sierra Club attended the second annual Soil Not Oil conference in Richmond, California, that Miguel Robles of Biosafety Alliance and I helped produce.
It seems as if, DiCaprio's Before the Flood team never thought to include in the documentary this solution that can actually reverse climate change. Instead, a professor interviewed in the film suggests that we switch from eating beef to chicken—without mentioning that 99 percent of all chicken on the market today is produced in a toxic, industrial, climate-killing manner. Also, there's a major difference between beef raised in metal pens and beef raised by letting cattle graze holistically.
The Solution is Literally Under Our Feet
Carbon faming is the solution to climate change. It's time for us to de-carbonize our energy and re-carbonize our soils.
Britain's Prince Charles gets it. A longtime champion of organic farming, he's joining a UK-France governmental initiative to improve the condition of global soils. Both governments are meeting with the prince to discuss the need to improve the health of soils worldwide.
Prince Charles has praised the French government's signature project on soil health, the 4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate, which seeks to increase the health and organic content of soils worldwide. The Initiative aims to do this by demonstrating that agriculture, and agricultural soils in particular, can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned. Those taking part in it will discuss how to restore degraded soils, improve the land's fertility and increase food security.
The Four per 1000 Initiative, launched by France at COP21 in Paris, is bringing together all willing contributors in the public and private sectors (national governments, local and regional governments, companies, trade organizations, NGOs, research facilities and others) under the framework of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda. Many countries have signed, yet sadly the U.S. was a no-show at the Paris COP 21 rollout. The U.S. Department of Agriculture could still champion this win-win solution for farmers, ranchers, eaters and—yes—earthworms.
Becoming a Carbon-Literate Society
It's time for humans to become more carbon-literate. The climate movement has done so much right, and its millions of participants would love to learn how they can be part of the solution by eating a diet that's regenerative and that returns carbon to the soil. It's a basic rule we learned in preschool: Put things back where they belong. We all have a huge opportunity to share this vital educational message.
Paul Hawken's Project Drawdown is showcasing one hundred of the best climate ideas, including planned animal grazing. His team's work demonstrates that land-based solutions give us the biggest bang for the buck in our climate fight. The organization's mission is to: reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere through efficiency and resource productivity; replace existing energy sources with low carbon renewable energy; and bio-sequester carbon dioxide through innovative farming, grazing and reforestation practices.
We can all make a difference, every day. Here is a list of seven positive options for human and planetary health:
1. Elect climate-aware leaders.
2. Educate climate leaders about soil's redeeming powers.
3. Avoid industrial meat and milk. Instead, choose pasture-raised meats while eating less meat and dairy overall ... or just go vegan.
4. Choose organic foods, which have a lower carbon footprint.
5. Plant more trees, shrubs and herbs, all of which help to sequester carbon.
6. De-invest in firms that promote industrial ag or coal and re-invest in green energy and organic farming.
7. Share this article!