Harnessing the Sun at Home: Three Key Solar Trends You Need to Know in 2020

Residential is continuing to take hold as the technology becomes increasingly accessible. Source: Giorgio Trovato

Solar power is an increasingly competitive solution for homeowners to avoid rising costs of electricity, achieve independence from the grid, and help fight climate change. Learn about three key solar trends that are making this technology even more competitive and accessible.

Many of us are currently staying home and beginning to run out of house projects. Wouldn’t it be nice to identify a project that could also provide significant financial savings over the coming months and years? If you are a homeowner, consider taking advantage of this time to plan a solar panel installation in your home.

It used to be that solar panels were a niche investment pursued only by people who were particularly environmentally conscious. But the solar game is changing. 

Homeowners are finding that solar panels help them not only reduce the environmental impact of their home’s energy use, but also save money.

Why is this?

Broadly speaking, as solar technology advances, the cost of producing solar panels is decreasing. With that, residential solar power continues to become more accessible. But what exactly are these advances and how exactly will they impact you?

In this post, we’ll provide a refresher on solar power. We will also explain three key solar trends and how they will impact you, whether you’re considering an investment or already own solar panels of your own.

What is Solar Power? A refresher.

Solar power is a renewable—or “clean”—energy that is generated by collecting sunlight using photovoltaic panels (solar cells). These solar cells harvest light and turn it into electricity. You can then use that electricity to directly power your home or store it for later use.

In recent years, residential solar power has become a popular cost- and energy-saving choice for homeowners. In fact, of all renewable energy generation, solar PV is expected to grow the fastest from now to 2050.

Three key solar trends are making the renewable energy source more competitive than ever.
EIA projections of electricity generation by type up to 2050. Source: U.S. EIA

Why Consider Residential Solar Power?

There are a number of reasons to consider integrating this technology in your home, all of which we covered in our recent Beginner’s Guide to Solar.

With residential solar power, you can reduce your energy costs and your carbon footprint. Rooftop solar energy continues to become a more affordable source of electricity over the lifetime of the panels. This is due to a combination of rising fossil fuel energy costs, advances in solar cell technology, and tax breaks and incentives for residential solar panel use. 

Furthermore, solar power is far more environmentally friendly than electricity produced via fossil fuels. Unlike fossil fuel-produced electricity, solar energy does not produce pollutants or greenhouse gases as a byproduct of their use.

Three Key Solar Trends to Follow in 2020

The three key solar trends below are making both of these key selling points even more compelling. 

Residential solar power combined with battery storage is making the technology that much more viable for homes around the U.S. Source: Vivint Solar
Solar power combined with battery storage is making this renewable energy source that much more viable for homeowners around the U.S. Source: Vivint Solar

Trend #1: Solar Power Joins Forces With Battery Storage

Energy storage is playing an increasingly important role in the viability of solar power in the U.S. This technology enables more reliable solar integration with the grid. It also helps smooth electricity prices as this trend continues. 

Many large scale solar + storage projects are underway. One residential-scale example is Tesla’s Powerwall. This home battery enables owners to harvest solar energy collected through residential solar panels. The Powerwall is 100 percent self-powered. It can be used off the electrical grid to help residential solar users meet all of their energy needs, whether the sun is shining or not. Products like the Powerwall can store home energy for later use in three ways. First, in time-of-use (TOU) load shifting to reduce peak energy usage. Second, for backup power to ensure continuous power supply in the event of an outage. And third, for off-the-grid use. 

Battery prices for the Powerwall and similar products have declined in recent years. This reduction is largely thanks to advances in lithium ion battery technology. The Tesla Powerwall 2.0, which stores twice as much energy as the original model, retails for less than $7,000. Competitor LG’s Chem RESU battery sells for under $6,000. Though, we should note, these prices do not include related equipment or installation costs.

Trend #2: The Federal Solar Tax Credit Starts Decreasing in 2020

One barrier to the adoption of residential solar power has been high costs of panels and installation. Panels can cost around $12,000 with the help of rebates and tax credits. That’s why the federal government has provided generous tax credits to people seeking residential solar power. EnergySage provides a comprehensive list of these savings opportunities.

Indeed, the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit is a great way to save money on the costs associated with residential solar panels.  However, this tax credit will be decreasing in the next few years. In 2019, residential solar users received a 30 percent credit. In 2020, this credit will drop to 26 percent. And in 2021, it will decrease to 22%.

This trend of decreasing financial rebates and credits means that people seeking residential solar power systems for their homes should act quickly to benefit from the 2020 rate! It remains unclear whether the federal tax credit will continue to be a significant discount or whether it will be reduced further in 2022 and beyond.

Trend #3: Electric Vehicles Boost Solar Demand

People are increasingly turning to electrical vehicles for transportation, with 3,290,000 battery-powered electric vehicles on the road as of 2018. As transportation electrification takes hold, electric vehicles’ batteries can act as a form of “storage” for your home’s solar power. How? Use your solar power to charge your electric vehicle battery, instead of relying on your home’s fossil fuel powered electrical grid.

Harvesting residential solar power can also help you power your electric vehicle in addition to reducing home energy costs.  While charging stations are becoming more and more commonplace, most electric vehicle owners actually meet charging demands through home charging. Residential charging is convenient and cheap, which is why over 80 percent of EV owners charge up at home. 

Residential charging capability may require an electrical service upgrade. Homeowners can choose either the simple Level 1 electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) or more complex, but faster and more convenient Level 2 EVSE. The EVSE installation is generally inexpensive. However, it can become more expensive if your home needs a major electrical service upgrade. However, once installed, most systems can operate year-round. In sunnier climates, solar charging stations can harvest solar energy (i.e., sunlight) for seven hours a day.  This can help you meet both your residential and electric vehicle solar energy needs.

Here Comes The Sun! 

Solar power is a plentiful form of renewable energy that is becoming increasingly affordable and accessible thanks to three key trends. Battery storage can help extend the reach of your residential solar power system. It can help you subsist off the grid, draw energy from your battery storage in peak hours to save on energy costs, or even power that electric vehicle you’ve been eyeing! If you’ve been weighing the pros and cons of a residential solar power systems at your home, consider acting quickly. Tax credits and incentives for solar power adoption will decrease in the next few years.

For more on solar, check out our Beginner’s Guide. Our pro tips on important energy efficiency steps to take before implementing renewable energy will also put you ahead of the curve. And subscribe for regular updates on the latest and greatest energy saving strategies. We make it our mission to help you save energy, save money, and help save the planet day-in and day-out! 

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