The Advantages of Solar Power

The advantages of solar power are almost as diverse as the 11,500+ systems Real Goods Solar has built to capture them. Whatever your primary interest in solar power might be – helping the environment, saving money, investing in your home’s equity, supporting the clean energy economy – we make the switch to clean, renewable solar power easy and affordable so you can use it at home. Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages of solar power:

It’s good news for your electicity rates

When you go solar with Real Goods Solar you immediately save on electricity, and you can do it with no out-of-pocket expense. Most solar customers experience savings of 15-20% on their energy bills, which can add up to $35,000 or more over 20 years. You’ll also protect yourself from utility rate increases for 25 years or more (current increases are about 6.7% a year, with a 30% jump in the last three years alone). In some areas where time of use billing is employed, you’ll save even more because electricity from solar panels is generated most efficiently at peak times when electricity is needed most.

It’s good news for your investment portfolio

One of the less-heralded advantages of solar power is that it proves again and again to be a great investment. Calculations will typically show a modest 3-4% return over the first year. But when projected utility rate hikes are applied to the equation, the 25 year forecasted pre-tax internal rate of return (IRR) in most cases averages 10-25%. That’s far better than the stock, bond and money markets or long-term CDs. And far safer too, since no one expects utility rates to decrease.

It’s good news for your home equity

Not sure you’re going to be in your home long enough to reap the long-term investment benefits of solar power? We’ve got good news for you: according to the National Appraisal Institute, for every $1 reduction in annual utility bills you increase your home’s value by $20. Furthermore, your property tax won’t increase even one cent, and houses with solar electricity sell faster in the real estate market.

It’s good news for the planet

Not long ago, the list of the advantages of solar power began and ended here because it was too expensive for practical use at home. Fortunately that’s no longer the case, and now solar’s environmental impact is just one of its benefits. The sun provides enough energy in one day to power the entire world for a whole year! We can’t harness all of that (and we don’t need to) but we certainly can try! And you can make it a reality at your house. Localized clean, renewable energy generation is a good solution to many of the problems sprouting from today’s national energy portfolio. Here’s a closer look at the impacts of today’s energy sources:

  • Coal – The U.S. still has a lots of coal, but it’s getting harder to get to, and its sourcing – especially in eastern states – is increasingly destructive. As it burns, pollution (like asthma-causing particulates and neurological disorder-causing mercury) is released into the air, and 200 billion gallons of water is used each day! After the celebration, coal waste is hauled off at the rate of nearly two railcars per minute.
  • Natural gas – Natural gas is highly promoted for the cleaner-than-coal burn and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Less is good. Zero emissions is our goal. Further, natural gas extraction has been linked to contaminated drinking water.
  • Hydroelectricity – Hydroelectricity is indeed a clean energy source, but its ecological costs are well publicized – the effects of flooding vast areas, the effect on wildlife habitats, etc.
  • Nuclear power – Nuclear energy brings with it the high costs of uranium extraction and the storage of the highly-toxic spent fuel waste that lasts 200,000 – 500,000 years.
  • Wind – Yes, the answer just might be blowin’ in the wind. But we think it’s shining in the sun, too. We see wind as a key part of the grid that ties in with solar, creating large regional hybrid systems that get us away from fossil fuels. Wind provides free energy whenever it blows. The energy deficit created in the manufacture of these behemoth turbines – what’s called embodied energy – takes less than one year to pay back.
  • Solar – Nothing! Clean free energy from the sun, e’ry day! Ok, we got a little excited there. It’s true that there’s an upfront environmental cost in solar. There’s the embodied energy of the equipment itself and there’s the environmental cost of deployment (we do drive a truck to your house to install it, after all). Studies show that an average solar panel will pay back its embodied energy in about 1.5 years’ time. With panels still producing electricity 60 years after initial activation, we feel pretty good about the environmental ROI here. Rooftop solar cannot solve our energy needs alone, but we see it as a key component in an integrated, fossil-fuel free, clean energy future! In fact, our average installed residential system is a CO2 reduction effort equivalent to driving 6,000 fewer miles each year or hosting a small forest. Plus, thousands of gallons of water are saved each year!