"One out of three Americans lives within 50 miles of high-level nuclear waste, some of which, like Plutonium, is lethally dangerous and will be around for an incredible longtime," John Oliver explained last night on Last Week Tonight.
According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, there is more than 71,000 tons of nuclear waste stranded at 104 reactors. "It was a problem we should have solved in the 1980s," Oliver said, "much like a Rubik's Cube."
Despite years of using nuclear energy, the country still doesn't have a permanent facility for its storage, the comedian said. Oliver proposed what the U.S. really needs is some kind of "nuclear toilet."
Are you ready to watch the Great American Eclipse of 2017? Will you be in the path of totality? Do you have your safety glasses ready?
Well, however you decide to watch the solar eclipse today, NASA TV will be showing the "Eclipse Across America" with live video of the celestial event. The feed is already live with lots of handy information about today's unprecedented eclipse. So be sure to watch above.
The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017: What, When, How? https://t.co/Uv2wrmMkFm @TheScienceGuy @ScienceNewsOrg— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1502409307.0
Embracing solar power means reducing both your reliance on traditional utility companies and your environmental footprint, but the high upfront cost of solar panels can be a big deterrent for some homeowners.
If you're considering solar, you may have questions like: How much does it cost to install a solar energy system? What are some of the factors that can impact pricing? What else should home- and business owners know about going solar? In this article, we'll touch on each of these important topics, with the goal of helping you make a fully informed, financially responsible decision about solar energy.
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 Much Do Solar Panels Cost to Install?
To begin with, let's take a look at the basic price range for solar panel installation. According to the most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight report, in the first quarter of 2021, the national average price of a residential solar system was $2.94 per watt, which would mean a 5 kWh system would cost $14,700 and a 10 kWh system would cost $29,400.
The exact price you'll pay for solar panels will depend on a number of factors, including your geographic location, the size of your home and more.
Now, you might rightly wonder: What exactly are you paying for? The solar panels themselves usually make up just about a quarter of the total cost. Remaining expenses include labor, maintenance and additional parts and components (such as inverters).
What Factors Determine Solar Pricing?
As mentioned, there are a few key things that can lead to variation in solar system installation costs. Analyzing these can help you determine whether solar panels are worth it for your home. Let's take a look at them in greater detail.
Your Electrical Needs
The solar panels themselves will be rated for a particular wattage, which reflects the amount of energy they can absorb for storage and ultimately for power generation. You will actually pay according to wattage, which means that the greater your household energy needs, the more you'll have to spend to get the correct number of solar panels.
So, how do you determine how much energy you need for your home? The best way to figure this out is through a consultation with a solar installer. (We recommend shopping smart by requesting free consultations with two or three top solar companies in your area.)
Your installer will evaluate your home energy needs based on total square footage, the number of people who live in your home, the number of appliances and power-draining devices that you have connected and more. It can then recommend the ideal solar panel system size to accommodate your energy usage.
Type of Panels and Other Components
Variation in manufacturing can also affect the cost of solar panels. There are three basic types of solar panels, two of which are commonly used residentially: monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Of these two, monocrystalline options tend to be more energy-efficient and thus may provide you with greater savings in the long run. They are also a bit pricier on the front end. With that said, homeowners with a smaller roof surface area may benefit from getting the most efficient solar panels, even if the initial cost is a bit steeper.
Other components you'll need to purchase include inverters, wiring, charge controllers, mounts and more. The quality of these materials can affect your total solar system cost. For example, if you spring for the best solar batteries, they may add a few thousand dollars to your investment.
Another factor that can have a big impact on solar pricing? Your geographic area. Solar installation tends to be most cost-effective in parts of the country that get a lot of sun exposure, and thus a lot of photovoltaic light. This basically means that solar panels can operate more efficiently, and in many cases means that fewer total panels are needed. Those who live in states like California, Florida and Arizona — or really any areas of the Sun Belt or Southwest — will likely get the most out of their home solar power systems.
Both state and federal governments have established incentive programs to encourage homeowners to buy solar panels. There is currently a 26% federal solar tax credit, called an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), available for homeowners who install residential solar panels between 2020 and 2022. It is scheduled to reduce to 22% in 2023 and may not be extended thereafter.
Local incentives vary by state, but most of the best solar panel installers will help you identify and apply for these programs so you don't miss out on savings.
There are plenty of other factors that can impact solar panel installation costs. Different vendors are going to offer different levels of customization, expertise and consumer protections (including guarantees and warranties). The bottom line? It is wise to shop around a bit, determine the average cost of solar panels in your area and evaluate the value of services offered by a few solar installation companies.
Solar Panel Price Vs. Return on Investment
Clearly, your upfront solar panel installation cost may be a little steep. Now, let's look at the flipside: How much money will you actually save? And will your energy savings be enough to offset the initial cost of your solar energy system?
It is not unreasonable to think that you can cut your monthly utility bills by as much as 75% or more by switching to solar energy. Of course, the specific dollar amount will depend on where you live, the size of your home and the number of people in your household.
One way to look at it: The average household energy bill is somewhere between $100 and $200 monthly. It would probably take about 15 years for your energy savings to cancel out the cost of solar panel installation. In other words, within a decade and a half or so, your solar system might pay for itself. Factor in savings from tax rebates and other incentives, and most solar systems pay for themselves in closer to seven or eight years.
Note that most solar energy companies offer free solar calculators, which help you arrive at a ballpark for monthly energy savings. While these calculators are imprecise, they can certainly give you a general sense of the financial benefits you will experience when you convert to solar energy.
Free Quote: See How Much You Can Save on Solar Panels
Fill out this 30-second form to get a quote from one of the best solar energy companies in your area. You could save up to $2,500 each year on your electric bills and receive tax rebates.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Cost of Solar Panels
As you continue to weigh the pros and cons of solar energy, it's natural to have a few questions. The best way to resolve these is really to set up a solar consultation with a local expert, but in the meantime, here are a few general answers to some of the most common solar inquiries.
How much will it cost to maintain my solar energy system?
In general, solar systems are designed to run smoothly for decades without requiring any maintenance or upkeep. As such, you should not really need to factor maintenance into the equation for the first 20 years or so after you install your system. (And most solar companies will offer you warranties and guarantees to give peace of mind on this front.)
How will solar energy impact my property values?
Many homeowners want to know how going solar will impact the value of their homes. Going solar increases property values. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy has reported buyers are willing to pay an average premium of about $15,000 for a home with a solar panel system. With that said, you are only going to see your property values go up if you own your solar system outright, as opposed to leasing it.
How can I finance the cost of solar panels?
Different solar installers may offer different financing plans, allowing consumers some flexibility. With that said, there are three basic options for paying for your solar energy system:
- Purchase your solar energy system outright (that is, pay in cash).
- Take out a solar loan to purchase the system, then pay it back with interest.
- Lease your system; you will pay less month-to-month but won't actually own the system yourself.
Which is better, buying or leasing my solar system?
It all depends on your motivation for going solar. If you want to maximize long-term savings and increase the value of your home, then purchasing your solar system is usually best. However, if you just want a low-maintenance way to reduce monthly energy costs and practice environmental stewardship, then leasing might be a better option. Also note that leasing can be a good option for those who do not plan on being in their home for exceptionally long.
How can I be sure my roof will accommodate a solar system?
If your roof faces south, has ample space and has little to no shade cover, it should work just fine. Even roofs that are not optimal can still be utilized with a few tweaks and adjustments. Your solar energy consultant will advise you on whether your home is a good fit for solar energy.
How long will my solar energy system last?
Solar systems are designed to be exceptionally durable. With just the most basic upkeep, most solar energy systems should continue to work and produce power for anywhere from 25 to 35 years.
Make the Best Choice About Solar Energy
Solar energy is not right for every homeowner, nor for every home. With that said, many homeowners will find that the initial cost of solar panels is more than offset by the long-term, recurring energy savings. Make sure you factor in cost, energy needs, tax incentives, home value and more as you seek to make a fully informed decision about whether to embrace solar power.
Leave it to Stephen Colbert to make sure he mixes in some "lighter news" during his evening monologue on The Late Show. "The world is burning," Colbert begins. "The New York Times just published a report on the drastic impact of climate change on the U.S.," Colbert continued. "'Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans' and 'Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now,'" Colbert read from Times report.
And, if you don't think that's daunting enough, Colbert makes sure you understand that the Times explains that the 600-page document is "an unreleased, as yet unapproved government report, but it was released and leaked, because the Times said, out of 'fear the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.'"
If all this information is too much to digest, Colbert helps out by showing a 4-second video summary.
Colbert also hits on other alarming news, including the memo that was released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture "instructing staff to avoid using certain teams," including climate change.
If you're looking for some comic relief during these egregious times, watch above.
Do you plan to take a hot date to go see Al Gore's An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power? If so, be sure to watch this Stephen Colbert segment from Friday night's The Late Show offering the best Al Gore approved climate change pick-up lines.
Gore, who appeared on Colbert's show July 17 to promote his sequel to his 2006 climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, explained that his film is "an amazingly hot date movie." Colbert responded, "Because if the end of the world is coming, you might as well hook-up with me."
Watch the video above and let us know in the comments below which is your favorite pick-up line.
I'm a huge Trevor Hall fan so when I saw he was playing in my hometown of Cleveland, I was stoked. I knew seeing the show would be fantastic, but I was also thinking an interview with Trevor would be something really cool to give EcoWatch readers. So, lucky enough, I was offered an interview and was able to hop on my paddleboard from Whiskey Island on the shore of Lake Erie, head up the Cuyahoga River and get to the Music Box Supper Club just in time to chat with Trevor before the show.
"My dad was a drummer, so most my musical influence comes from my dad," Trevor said during our nearly hour interview. "Growing up, my dad had this CD collection in the hallway and I was always fascinated by all the CDs. My hobby was pulling out a CD that looked cool and I'd put it on the stereo and pretend I was rocking out. My dad was really into The Doobie Brothers, Allman Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Simply Red, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young."
Trevor grew up near Hilton Head, South Carolina, and spent a lot of time surfing. He said he had "a natural affinity for music at a very young age." He tried multiple instruments, including drums, bass, trombone and harmonica, until he finally decided, at age 13, to focus on the guitar since he also wanted to be a songwriter. He explained how his mom would drive him to the nearest music shop in Savannah, Georgia, about 40 miles away, to rent him the many instruments he wanted to try.
"I taught myself," Trevor said. "I had a few lessons in town, but I would just learn over the internet. Then I went to a boarding arts school for high school and majored in classical guitar and that was my real formal training. I learned how to read music and music theory."
When I listen to Trevor's music, I definitely feel the reggae vibe, so I wasn't shocked when he told me that Bob Marley was a huge influence in his music. He said, "One of the biggest things for me was when I heard Bob Marley for the first time. It wasn't just music, there was this thing behind it. I then got interested in his life and began reading books on his journey and Rastafari. I realized this isn't just a music thing, it's a life thing."
Trevor and I chatted a bit more about the power and message of reggae music. He mentioned the time he first met Ziggy Marley and when he opened for him in Cleveland at the House of Blues. "Being inspired by Bob and then getting to open for Ziggy, I was just like OMG," he said.
So now that I had the scoop on where his cool vibe and irie beat comes from, I wanted to better understand the spiritual aspects of his music.
"When I was in high school I became best friends with this kid," Trevor told me. "One night I went to his dorm room and he had this picture on the wall of this Indian saint named Neem Karoli Baba, and when I saw the picture I felt like I knew this person. I asked him if that was like his grandpa, or who is that, and he said, no, it's this saint named Neem Karoli Baba and my older brothers and my dad were with him in India in the 1970s."
Trevor wanted to learn more, so his friend told him about this book, Miracle of Love, that has stories about the saint. "That was a huge turning point for me," Trevor said. "I got really into reading about him and since he was from India, I wanted to learn more about India, so it really stemmed from there."
"His message and his life and his overall ora and vibration is probably the other biggest influence, if not the biggest influence, in my music," Trevor told me. "My music took a turn at that point, it took a turn into this navigating tool of my spiritual world, because before that it was about the girl I had a crush on or something."
Trevor's music embodies a deep appreciation for the natural world. You can hear it in so many of his tunes, including Green Mountain State from his album Chapter of The Forest and Mother from his album Kala, which he performs with Xavier Rudd and Tubby Love. I wondered what drove his environmental consciousness.
"For me it was getting on this spiritual path and being inspired by all these saints and people that had such a connection to the earth and who spoke about the earth as a living being, as the mother of all of us," Trevor said. "And, seeing their relationship to the land as a real living relationship and not just that this is a tree, but that the trees are our ancestors and the river is a goddess and this mountain is a king. Seeing the landscape as all our relations. It was a gradual process. The deeper I got on my spiritual path the more I started looking upon the earth as my mother. And, you don't want anybody to mess with your mama, so ..."
Trevor went on to explain that "I'm really lucky to be in a group of friends and a community of musicians who are also very passionate about the earth, like Xavier Rudd, Nahko Bear, Xiuhtezcatl from Earth Guardians ... Each one of us, in our own unique way, are doing what we can ... We're all working toward the same thing, respect for the land, preservation of the land."
"For me, I look at my activism towards the land in the way I was brought to caring for the land, which was working on my soul and my heart, and seeing the spirit in everything and trying to subdue or get rid of our bad seeds, like selfishness and greed," Trevor explained.
As far as an environmental issue Trevor feels most connected to, he explained that: "I find it really important to focus on one thing, or else you're just going to be digging small holes everywhere and you're not going to be going deep ... One of the most important issues for me is water. The fact that there are human beings on this planet that don't have clean water, I think is so outlandish. I think water hits home the most because it's the biggest necessity of our life. I'm passionate about water because it's so universal."
Trevor has worked with Surfrider Foundation where he has played benefit concerts in support of the group's work.
"I feel there are different ways of being an activist," he said. "The root of all of us desecrating the earth is just greed and power. I think one of the ways of being an activist is inspiring positive qualities and learning to see the one in the all and the all in the one, and developing compassion and selflessness."
For all those fans wondering about Trevor's next album, which will be released Sept. 15 (see tour dates), I was able to get the lowdown.
"The title of my new album is The Fruitful Darkness," he told me.
"The Fruitful Darkness is actually a book by Joan Halifax Roshi. This is a perfect example of what I'm taking about with being an activist through working on your own consciousness. She is a total badass warrior zen nun who has done so many things in her life, but she's worked with a lot of tribal communities and shamanism in particular with different indigenous culture throughout the world and through her travels and through her journeys and being an apprentice to these carriers of such an ancient knowledge who have such a strong connection with the earth, it's really amazing," he explained.
"Each chapter goes through the way of the mountain, the way of story, the way of non-duality ... She tells the stories of all these different shamans and how they relate to the earth and why it's so important for these connections to be sustained and when it's broken, when you break your spiritual umbilical cord, when you break your way of tradition, these traditions have a meaning, these traditions are very powerful to transform our consciousness to see the earth as it really is, which is a living, life-giving mother."
He told me that he's "very, very excited" about the new album. "It's very different, more of a creative journey, kinda stepping out of my comfort zone sonically, which is scary but fun," he explained. "I'm very eager to let people hear it."
I know I'm looking forward to its release and was super appreciative of the time Trevor was able to give me for our chat. It was now time to hop back on my paddleboard and go get ready for his show. Trevor and his band played an incredible set, which had people dancing all night and connecting on many spiritual levels.
Here's to the power of music!
Last night on The Late Show, former Vice President Al Gore joined Stephen Colbert to discuss his new documentary, Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the massive iceberg that just broke off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica and the benefits of renewable energy.
"I went to Trump Tower after the election," Gore told Colbert. "I thought there was a chance he would come to his senses. But I was wrong." However, as Gore explained, "Immediately after that, all the other countries in the world doubled down and said, 'we're going to do even more. And here in the U.S., a lot of our most important governors and majors and business leaders said, 'we're still in the Paris agreement, and we're going to meet the commitments of the country regardless of what Donald Trump tweets.'"
"The climate crisis is by far the most serious challenge we face" https://t.co/Vd1HO1lHfx @American_Bridge @The_Anti_Fox— Stefanie Spear (@Stefanie Spear)1500338106.0
Gore made sure to explain how renewable energy can help combat climate change. He said, "The other really exciting thing is, the cost of electricity from solar panels and windmills has come down incredibly fast, and in many areas it's now cheaper than electricity from burning fossil fuels."
Colbert asked Gore what he would say to young people who are losing hope in resolving the issue of climate change. Gore responded by suggesting that young people go see his movie, claiming that "it's a hot date movie."
He also strongly encouraged everyone to "use your vote, use your voice, win the conversations on climate change."
California lawmakers extended the state's climate legislation Monday night, in what is being considered a victory for Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to lower greenhouse emissions.
The legislation, a package of bills that extends California's plan to address climate change, passed with a supermajority in both the Assembly and the Senate, insulating it from any legal challenges. The bill passed the Senate 28-12 and was approved 55-21 in the Assembly. Eight Republican lawmakers in the Assembly voted in favor of the bill, and three democrats voted against it. In the Senate, one Republican joined the Democrats voting for the legislation.
Brown's signature on the bill will extend the world's second-largest carbon market to 2030.
"Tonight, California stood tall and once again, boldly confronted the existential threat of our time," Gov. Brown said in a statement. "Republicans and Democrats set aside their difference, came together and took courageous action. That's what good government looks like."
However, as Inside Climate News reported, not everyone is celebrating:
When Brown last week announced the legislation to extend the program, three vocal factions emerged: Republicans pleaded with the governor to back away from the proposal, saying it would hurt California's economy. Progressive environmental groups—including may representing polluted minority communities—bashed the proposals as a giveaway to polluters, particularly the oil industry. Other influential environmental groups applauded the legislation, saying it represented a reasonable balance that represented the best change for moving the program forward.
State Sen. Andy Vidak, speaking in opposition to the bill, said the laws represented a "regressive" tax that would not make any impact on climate change. "We could shut down the entire state of California and it would have no effect on the global climate," Vidak said.
Sen. Vidak is not alone in speaking out against the bill. The extension of AB 398, the state's cap-and-trade program, is being criticized by more than 50 California leading environmental organizations for making concessions to industry and consulting with the oil and gas lobby. The extension on the cap-and-trade program has very few changes. It still allows big polluters to continue buying permits to emit more greenhouse gases and bars some separate regulations on refineries.
"This bill makes a bad cap-and-trade system even worse," Adam Scow, California director for Food & Water Watch. "It was written with oil and gas lobbyists and keeps us dependent of fossil fuels. The climate crisis demands that the state regulate and reduce pollution, but this bill gives polluters massive loopholes.
"Governor Brown's success in passing this polluter friendly bill is consistent with his record of supporting fracking and firing regulators who attempted to hold Big Oil accountable."
Masada Disenhouse, 350.org's U.S. organizing coordinator and co-founder of SanDiego350, agrees. "This plan has Big Oil's fingerprints all over it and doesn't do enough to protect vulnerable communities or to achieve California's ambitious targets for reducing carbon pollution," Disenhouse said. "We need to extend California's climate law, but we also need to protect the ability of local air districts to regulate pollution in their backyards—not give refineries and other fossil fuel infrastructure a free pass to pollute."
Other environmental organizations showed their support for the bill.
Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp strongly supported AB-398 and AB-617. "This vote ensures that another generation of Californians will enjoy a world-leading cap-and-trade program that places a firm and declining limit on carbon pollution and holds polluters accountable," Krupp said. "At the same time, it provides the flexibility and cost-effectiveness necessary to achieve one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world."
Natural Resources Defense Council's Director of California advocacy, Annie Notthoff, said, "Cap-and-trade is a backstop for California's groundbreaking, comprehensive plan to reduce dangerous climate pollution. The legislature set aggressive new carbon-cutting targets last year, and extending cap-and-trade through 2030 helps ensure that the state will meet those new goals—a 40 percent statewide reduction below 1990 levels by 2030, the toughest in North America."
"We made a record we wanted to share with you," Canadian rocker Neil Young said in a Facebook post. "We played with a bunch of people ... total strangers in the same room on a full moon, 65 of us. It was very great. We had a great time. Enjoy."
Young is referring to his new Neil Young + Promise of the Real music video, "Children of Destiny," which urges listeners to "stand up for what you believe, resist the powers that be."
Young opens the song singing:
Stand up for what you believe,
resist the powers that be
Preserve the land and save the seas for the children of destiny
The children of you and me.
The song goes on to say:
Should goodness ever lose
And evil steal the day
Should happy sing the blues
And peaceful fade away
What would you do?
What would you say?
How would you act on that new day?
After releasing the video, Young posted this video on Facebook:
Watch as Dr. Jane Goodall shares her hopes and vision for a healthier, greener world.
"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make," is one of EcoWatch's favorite Dr. Jane Goodall quotes. Read more of her incredible quotes here.
Adrian Grenier: 'We Must Usher in a New Era of Compassion Through Forward Thinking Environmental Programs'
Adrian Grenier was named UN Goodwill Ambassador earlier this month. The Hollywood actor, best known for his iconic role of A-list movie star Vincent Chase in the HBO smash hit and film Entourage, will advocate for drastically reducing single-use plastic and protection of marine species, and encourage his followers to make conscious consumer choices to reduce their environmental footprint, according to the UN Environment announcement.
"Together we must usher in a new era of compassion and carefulness through forward thinking environmental programs to drive measurable change," Grenier said. "I am personally committed to creating ways in which the global community can come together to help solve our most critical climate crises through routine, collective action.
"The more we connect to nature in our daily lives, the more dedicated we will become to our individual commitments. Together, I believe we can go further, faster in our race to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030."
Watch the video above to learn more.
"There's no such thing as clean coal," according to this ATTN: video.
Watch above as ATTN: explains the many hazards of coal beyond carbon emissions, that no matter what there's no reviving the coal industry and how investment in renewable energy is the best way forward.
Share this video if you think America needs real energy solutions.