Californians are continually trying to find new energy sources, as electricity prices soar and summer temperatures continue to rise (much to our dismay). “Is it time to get solar?” This may be the question that you have been asking yourself for the past few years, so here are some reasons why you should install solar on your home in 2023:
Solar energy is environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Solar energy can save money on electricity.
Solar energy is abundant and free, especially in the western United States.
“Solar” refers to the method of taking energy from the sun and using it for our regular everyday electricity-based activities. The photovoltaic panels are able to concentrate the solar radiation (energy from the sun) and store it in batteries for future electricity usage. Solar is considered one of the many “clean” energy sources, meaning that it produces very little to no carbon dioxide or toxins to our atmosphere.
Solar energy is not new: thousands of years ago, people channeled the sun’s energy to do a variety of tasks, such as using mirrors and sunlight to create fire for religious purposes, or warming up a building with large windows to let in the sun’s light and heat. Between the 1980’s and 1990’s, solar became much more popular, with different and increasingly efficient systems emerging to decrease the cost and increase the accessibility of solar energy. If you already have a home in California (or eventually intend to purchase a home), a mandate was passed in 2018 that states any new homes that are constructed will be required to have solar panels installed.
How does it work in California?
Enough about the history of solar, if you live in California this is what you need to know!
California and the energy companies in the state offer incentives for people who will switch to solar on their homes., Depending on where you live, you may be provided a large tax write off for purchase and installation and you will likely pay significantly less on your electricity bills if you have solar energy generated in your home that contributes back to the power grid. Though solar is a major expense upfront, after about 6-10 years, installation costs will have broken even with energy savings.
California solar programs are constantly shifting. The government is consistently working with companies to create incentives and better methods to implement solar for more people. For example, "The California Solar Project General Market Program was stopped at the end of 2016, and this program was intended to support clean energy by incentivizing homeowners to implement solar. This program was discontinued because there was a significant drop in solar prices on the general market, leading to increased solar usage even without incentives. With the constant changes, it is important to be aware of the current laws and regulations pertaining to solar energy in California.
Currently, the new implementation of the net metering 3.0 program (shifting from the net metering 2.0) in April of 2023 will make it less lucrative to have a solar-only home for houses that are built after that date. The return on investment will take longer, however the intent of lowering the value of exported solar electricity (electricity that is contributing back to the power grid from solar homes) is to encourage homeowners to create a more resilient power grid with battery and solar systems in their homes. These systems should still save just as much as a purely solar home does on the original net metering 2.0 plan, but the goal of creating a more resilient power grid will help prevent the summer blackouts that occur frequently in California.
Benefits of Solar
In short, solar is a renewable energy source that we can use far into the future, without the worries of carbon dioxide emissions and toxic health effects from the air pollution. If you are not planning on buying a new home, there are still plenty of reasons why solar is extremely beneficial for California residents!
Solar energy usage significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, reducing their contribution to global warming.
Solar energy is free, abundant, and (as long as the sun still exists) unending.
Especially in the Western United States, or any area that has a significant amount of sun year-round, solar energy is very convenient.
Solar energy production does not use as much water as other methods of energy production, which in California is extremely valuable.
Solar energy when used on buildings can actually contribute energy BACK to the power grid, leading to less need for conventional electricity production, and saving homeowners and businesses money.
Solar energy also helps lower particulate matter that can cause health issues and lung issues.
Downfalls of Solar
Though solar is one of the most promising sustainable energy sources, there are always downsides to making transitions.
When they are thrown into the landfills, they contaminate them with heavy metals.
Solar panels require consistent sunlight (or at least sunlight during a significant part of the year), and open space. Battery storage is also an additional cost.
Solar can be expensive to install.
It is difficult to transition to solar energy if you do not own your home.
Add some of the issues with wildlife on larger solar grid systems - birds can be distracted by reflection and other issues.
Call to Action
Californians are already moving toward more “green energy” solutions, but doing your part can help the movement go even faster. As technology advances, solar energy options in the Western United States will continue to expand and become more accessible. Though it may be expensive, the costs should continue to decrease as technology improves and the cost is worth it to start undoing the damage that we have done with carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
If you are building a new home in the next few years, or work in an industry involving home renovations and construction, remember that EVERY new home in California after 2018 will require solar panels.
If you are thinking about installing solar panels on your home soon, make sure you do your research and find out which company works best for you regarding price, quality of panels, and quality of service.
In California and the western United States, solar will likely be the main source of sustainable electricity and energy, rivaled only by wind energy in the near future.
If you have yet to be swayed into the transition to solar energy, remember to conserve as much as possible in the summer months, to both save you money and save the electrical grid from black-outs!