Debunking 10 “Mistruths” About the Solar Industry
The United States is currently #4 in the world in solar power generation with about 7% of the global market. At the same time, we are the 3rd largest by population, and #1 in power consumption using almost 25% of the world’s power. This imbalance, while troubling, is a harsh reality largely driven mainly by misconceptions and flawed information given to our public. With this in mind, consider these 10 Myths about solar that are assumed to be true by millions of Americans, and the effect they’re having.
Have you heard others that should be on the list? Leave a comment and help us let the people know the truth.
1. Myth: Solar has a 15-20 year “payback period”
Fact: Along with all the amazing innovations we’ve seen in the solar industry from a technology perspective, the most important “innovations” in the past few years have been on the business side. Across the entire United States, there are new financing programs available that make solar an income producer for system owners. This applies to commercial buildings as well as residential homeowners. Today, when you go solar you’re more likely to start saving money from day-one. As soon as you turn the system on, you’re not only doing your part to prevent further environmental damage, but you’re turning a profit that can be used to finance your family’s future. Look for PACE programs in your community, these allow you to finance your system through your local municipality for up to 20 years at extremely low interest rates. You can also talk to your local bank about special financing programs for solar, and consider a solar lease or joining a solar buying group.
2. Myth: Solar will not be a viable technology for another 5-10 years
Fact: This argument has been around for longer than I’ve been alive. The fact is that the technology that’s being installed right now is the best we’ve ever had, and the industry standard crystalline silicon solar panels will continue to be the technology of choice for almost all residential and commercial building applications. While its true that we’re making quantum leaps forward in technology, the application of these technologies will not be for the mainstream building applications, but for new uses like automobiles, portable electronics, and very specialized applications like space exploration. The talk of all the new technology is very interesting and fun to read about, but if you’re serious about making the move, don’t be distracted by this chatter, do your homework and you’ll see how far we’ve come and what you can take advantage of right now.
3. Myth: The solar industry is run by idealists, environmentalists, and non-conformists.
Fact: While this may have been the case for many years, these days are clearly way behind us. Today’s solar leaders are some of the most intelligent, aggressive, and creative businessmen and women in America. Yes, we care about the environment, but the bottom line in solar today is money and there’s no faking that. The most famous Venture Capitalists, Hedge Funds, and Business Icons including Vinod Khosla
, Elon Musk
, and Ted Turner
, to name just a few, are betting big on solar, and these guys don’t like to lose money. Additionally, the top graduates from the most prominent business schools and engineering programs are pouring into the industry looking for the opportunity to make a fortune while making a difference.
4. Myth: Our utility grids can not stand too much solar power generation.
Fact: This is one of the nay-sayer’s favorites. They would have us believe that our electrical grid is so weak and unreliable that it can’t handle the electricity produced from private rooftops. Bollocks. In fact our utilities are widely supporting additional development of “distributed” generation by putting up their own money in support of solar. These companies are facing strict government regulations that require them to get larger and larger amounts of their energy from renewable sources. By having the individual consumers install solar, they’re getting help reaching these targets at no cost! That’s why so many utilities are offering incentives in addition to the ones already provided by the Federal, State and Local governments to incent more installations. It’s the cheapest solution they have, and we all know that money talks with Utilities.
5. Myth: To put solar on an average home it will cost between $25-$30,000
Fact: For the first time in solar’s long history we are seeing suppliers sitting on inventory and factories running well below their capacity. We can get into the drivers of this shift in another article, but the fact is that the prices of solar installations have collapsed nationwide in just the last year. Add to this the fact that the government incentives have actually improved over this period, and the financial case for solar looks a whole lot different than it did even one year ago. Have you ever gotten a quote for a solar installation on your home or business? Call them again, you will be amazed! That residential system that cost $40,000 as recently as 2009 can be had for as little as $20,000 today, and in some markets even less. Yes it’s that pronounced, if you don’t believe me find out for yourself. Take away the 30% Tax Credit from the Fed and your local incentives, and the cost of that system averages out to around $11,000 across the country. Which means you can power over 80% of a 3000 square foot home with your own personal power supply for about $50 a month. Take a look at your electricity bill and find out what you’re paying right now… Is it any surprise that the oil and coal companies to keep solar out of the mainstream?
6. Solar electricity is currently unproven
Fact: Solar “PV” (solar electricity) technology has bee around longer than the internet, the personal computer, and even the fax machine. Solar technology has proven it’s self reliable beyond any doubt, and in fact there are systems that were installed over 40 years ago that are still producing clean, reliable power. Don’t believe it? Download this great timeline
produced by the United States Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
7. Myth: Solar panels are ugly.
Fact: Solar Panels come in all shapes, sizes and colors today, and when asked most people find them “cool” and interesting to look at. Very few residential homeowners are turned off by the look of solar panels. The reason this perception is out there is because the architects who make a lucrative living being very particular about “aesthetics” haven’t kept pace with the industry and still see solar as an eyesore. The fact is, solar is cool, and you should be proud to show off your system to anyone. They will applaud your decision to go solar, and then you can brag about the money it’s saving you. . . That’s when they will buy it too.
8. Myth: If I sell my house, I might lose the money I spent on my solar installation
Fact: The data provided by realtors in California show that the average selling price of a house pre-equipped with solar electricity is up to 20% higher than the same house in the same development without. They tested this in a side-by-side new development where on one side all the homes had solar and on the other they did not. Even though the test took place in the middle of the housing market meltdown, demand for the higher-priced solar homes was considerably higher, sale prices were up to 20% higher, offsetting the cost of the systems several times over, and the time it took to sell the solar homes was less than half that for the non-solar ones.
Also, new finance vehicles such as leases and PACE programs
allow you to transfer the payments for the solar system on to the new buyer of the home. This makes the transaction a win-win, they get the lower utility bills and you get a higher home price, and it’s completely seamless.
9. Myth: Solar electricity is not competitive with current electricity rates.
Fact: Based on the current market environment right now, most major urban centers in the United States are at “parity” with grid electricity prices. Yes, you need to understand the costs of solar, and the incentives available, but this little bit of knowledge will ultimately save you thousands of dollars if you live in one of these areas. More and more cities are reaching grid parity each year as utility rates continue to climb. In fact, right now solar hot water is required by code in the State of Hawaii.
10. Myth: New solar technology will make the cost significantly cheaper in a few more years
Fact: This is a tale told to help stall the growth of the solar industry in the USA. It’s not working… Yes, costs for solar will continue to decline over time, but not nearly as severely as they have over the past 18 months. What’s more, subsidies that make solar up to 50% cheaper exist today, and will be phased out over the next few years, more than offsetting the decline in cost of the materials and installation of the systems. The fact is this is an unusually good time to buy solar because the incentives we have available were crafted at a time when the cost of solar was about double what it is today, and we are committed to rapid growth of solar in the US if only to keep up with it’s growth in other countries around the world. Currently #4 in solar in the world, the United States is committed to getting back to #1 by 2014, politicians, businesses, and taxpayers alike understand the importance of the solar industry on our country’s competitiveness, and more importantly jobs
and our economy.
Take these 10 myths to heart when you talk about solar with your friends and colleagues, and when you consider installing solar and generating your own power rather than depending on the Utility to do it for you. We are making fast progress here in the U.S. having grown by 58% last year, and we continue to get stronger and grow faster, with the forecast for solar installations in 2010 to more than double over last year. This is incredible growth considering the problems in our economy, and it will continue for many years to come.
Still, the U.S. will need to do even more to become competitive with other economies around the world, even China and India have more aggressive growth plans than the U.S., but with more accurate information available to more people, we will regain our status as #1 in the world by 2014. So spread the word, and let us know that you want solar to produce thousands of new jobs right here in our own country. Have a comment? Leave it below. And don’t forget to check out the solar jobs being created in your area by registering on our career site today!
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