Will Solar Panels Ever Become a Thing?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, (EIA) a government agency that collects and analyzes information about the energy industry, the solar energy industry is geared up to add more electricity-generating capacity than any other source this year! Solar panels are not just going to “become a thing, " but it already surpasses other forms of energy as the most popular alternative energy source. Planned large-scale solar farms are expected to add 9.5 gigawatts of electricity-generating capacity to the power grid. And that figure doesn’t count electricity-generating capacity from distributed solar, such as rooftop panels.

Many homeowners have already installed or are exploring solar power options at home too. According to a Pew Research Study,  homeowners’ increased interest in solar panels reflects both financial and environmental concerns. Nine-in-ten homeowners said they have installed or considered home solar panels  to save money on utility bills and 87% say they did so to help the environment.

Other homeowners say getting a solar tax investment credit is a reason they installed or considered installing solar power at home. A federal tax credit for solar projects, which was scheduled to expire at the end of this year, has since been extended five years for residential solar projects.

Many people wonder when the cost of producing power from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels will be equal to or less than buying from the grid as affordable solar panel options could accelerate solar adoption. But that question, as US News reports, is often a comparison of apples to oranges. The answer varies from place to place and from one type of installation to another. Residential electric rates, on average about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour in  the U.S., are much higher than wholesale electric rates – the price utilities pay to power generators – which are usually less than 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Predictions within the Energy community project solar energy usage and installation to rise, while the costs of solar power drops. Solar energy is predicted to cost less than coal or gas by 2017. MJ Shiao, GTM’s Director of Solar Research, in a roundtable discussion following the tax-credit extension, said “solar isn’t just a promising technology. It’s a real, deployable tool and platform for a next-generation electricity grid. The regulations and innovations that come together in the second half of this decade will set the stage for what the future of electricity in the U.S. looks like.”