Is going solar a good idea? The answer to this question can vary for each situation. Being a solar installation company, it is our mission to help you save money with solar. However, we realize there are pros and cons to going solar and it’s not an investment everyone should make.
We’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons of solar energy to help you answer whether or not solar is a good idea for you. It’s important to review this list with an eye on your specific goals and requirements. The items on the list could have a different outcome depending on your situation – i.e. commercial project vs. an agricultural project.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy?
Benefits of Solar Energy
- Reduces an Expense
- Protects You from Rising Electricity Rates
- The Financial Return Is Front Loaded
- Solar Will Grow Your Bottom Line
- It’s Sustainable
- It’s a Set-and-Forget Solution
Downsides of Solar Energy
- No Electric If the Grid Goes Down
- The Initial Cost Can Be Intimidating
- Sunshine is Required
- Space is Required
- Can Reduce Curb Appeal
Advantages: Six Pros To Going Solar
1. Reduces An Expense
Solar will reduce your electric bill and give you control over a fixed cost.
Imagine opening up your electricity bill and seeing that you owe next to nothing. Imagine that happening for 30+ years. With solar, you can make that a reality. Whether you’re looking to install a solar panel system for your home, business, or farm, it will put you in control of a recurring, and oftentimes unavoidable, monthly bill.
2. Protects You from Rising Electricity Rates
With solar energy, you’ll purchase less or no electricity from the utility, meaning you no longer need to be concerned about rising electric rates.
Residential electricity rates have increased by 38% since 1990. While rates vary from region to region, it’s pretty likely that over time, electricity rates will only continue to go up. Investing in solar now will keep you safe from any future increases in electricity rates.
3. The Financial Return Is Front Loaded
With cost-saving incentives like tax credits, grants, and accelerated depreciation, you can quickly recover a large portion of the install cost in year one.
Throughout 2020, the 26% federal tax credit allows you to receive 26% of the system’s cost back on your owed federal taxes in year one. In 2021, that will drop to 22% - still a substantial savings. Businesses and farms can also quickly recover a large portion of the installation cost by taking advantage of 100% accelerated depreciation and grants, like the USDA REAP Grant. Both of these incentives can be used in year 1, returning a significant amount of money for your business to pay off the solar system or to reinvest somewhere else.
Some states also have additional benefits that can be used. Visit our location pages for information on grants and incentives in your state.
4. Solar Will Grow Your Bottom Line
The savings generated by a solar system will drop straight to your bottom line.
Solar energy helps you eliminate a cost. Let’s compare that to revenue growth, where only a portion drops to your bottom line. For example, a $10k growth in revenue with 10% margins will only add $1,000 to your bottom line. $10k of savings from solar will add $10k to your bottom line. There are no material or labor costs eating into your savings.
5. It's Sustainable and Clean
As long as the sun continues to shine, your solar system will produce clean, emissions-free energy.
Solar panels don’t use any fossil fuels or give off any emissions while they’re producing electricity. Everyone from your children to your customers will appreciate it, which is a claim backed by Neilsen research.
According to a recent report, 81% of customers feel strongly that businesses should help improve the environment, and 66% of global consumers are willing to spend more money on sustainable brands. Plus, saving on your electric bill will free up your budget so you can reinvest in the future of your business, farm, or home.
6. It's A Set and Forget Solution
There are no moving parts to a solar system, so the maintenance and upkeep will be minimal.
After installation is complete and the system is energized, you can just sit back and let it go to work. For many, there’s no added benefit to cleaning dirt and grime off your panels or snow that accumulates on them.
If something would go wrong, it’s likely under the manufacturer’s warranty. Most panels come with 25 or 30-year warranties. Inverters come with 10,12,15, 20 or 25-year warranties.
For added peace of mind, look for an installer with a top-of-class installer warranty (like Paradise Energy’s Triple Ten Guarantee). Not only will we monitor your system to ensure it’s working properly, but we’ll fix any issues, and we put our own money behind our work. If your system doesn’t produce what we say it will, we’ll write you a check for the difference.
Disadvantages: Five Cons To Going Solar
1. No Electric If the Grid Goes Down
If the electric grid goes down, your solar system will shut down.
While your solar system can generate electricity from the grid, you won’t have electricity in the event of a power outage, unless you’ve invested in a battery backup.
Due to safety regulations for grid-tied solar systems, each system must be installed with rapid shut down components that will keep electricity from back-feeding into the grid. This means if the electric grid goes down for any period of time, your system will shut down until power is restored to the grid. This is required by law to protect those who are working on the electric lines.
2. The Initial Cost Can Be Intimidating
Solar is a significant investment that requires up-front capital or access to financing in order to save over the long-term.
However, costs for installing solar have fallen substantially. From 2010 to 2018, the average installation cost per watt of solar energy has decreased 63.22% for residential projects and 66.3% for commercial projects. And with so many cost-saving incentives on the national and regional levels, solar has never been more affordable.
To learn more about the cost of solar, check out our blog post How Much Does Solar Energy Cost.
3. Sunshine Is Required
Your solar panels won’t produce electricity if it’s very cloudy or at night.
Solar panels need sunlight to produce power. Your system will produce little to no power on cloudy days and at night. At those times, electricity is pulled from the grid, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use solar panels to provide 100% of your electricity.
Net Metering (or the VDER Value Stack if you’re in New York) allows you to switch from ‘solar power’ to ‘grid power’ depending on the production of your solar system. Acting as basically free storage, you’re able to trade the value of an unused kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced by your solar system for a kWh from the grid while your system is not producing.
And if you live in an area that isn’t well known for sunshine, that doesn’t mean solar isn’t for you. Your installer should factor in local weather patterns when determining your system’s payback, so you’ll get a realistic picture of what solar can do for you.
4. Space is Required
Whether a roof mount or ground mount, space is needed to install the panels.
In many instances, solar panels can be installed on your roof, utilizing unused space. However, in some situations, a ground mount may be the better option, though it may be installed in an area that could be used for other activities.
5. Can Reduce Curb Appeal
Depending on your tastes and where the system is installed, it can stand out.
Depending on the placement, type of panels used, and quality of the installation, solar systems can stand out and be unattractive. However, there are a few things you can do to take advantage of solar energy’s savings while still keeping your business, farm, or home looking great. And when it comes down to it, it’s been pretty firmly established that solar panels actually add value to your property.
Check out our tips for an attractive-looking solar system.
Should You Install Solar Panels?
To sum it all up, solar energy is a low-maintenance source of clean energy that’s good for the environment and your bottom line, from year one to year 30 and beyond.
However, while there are many benefits of solar panels, it’s important to understand and consider solar’s challenges as well. Without a battery backup system, you need the grid to be up and running to use the power they produce. They also require an upfront investment, sunshine, and space.
Originally published June 6, 2018. Updated March 11, 2020