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Aerial drone view of solar panels at a solar energy generation farm

At any given time, our planet receives an astounding 173,000 terawatts of solar energy. This incredible amount of power is more than 10,000 times the entire world’s energy demand. This staggering amount of energy is also completely renewable, which is one of the reasons why the demand for solar power is growing rapidly.  Currently, the United States has 179 Gigawatts of solar capacity – enough to power 33 million homes.

As the use of fossil fuels becomes more dangerous, more expensive, and less sustainable, solar power stands as a cost-effective and long term energy solution.  Solar panels have no fuel costs, minimal maintenance requirements, and significantly reduce your carbon footprint. At Integrity Energy, we’re dedicated to helping our valued customers understand their energy choices and innovations in the energy industry. Here, we shed a light on the pros and cons of solar panels, empowering you to start harnessing the power of sunlight.

How does Solar Power Work?

Solar power works by converting sunlight into energy. The two most common methods of generating solar power are through the use of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels or concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP). 
Most people are familiar with PV technology because PV cells are used in all solar panels. As sunlight hits a solar panel, PV cells convert solar radiation into electricity, turning it into usable energy. Most solar panels contain 60-72 PV cells. CSP systems are less common, primarily used in large-scale power plants. These solar energy systems use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto receivers, which collect energy and convert it to heat. This heat can be used to produce electricity or be stored for later use.

An explanation of how solar panels work, from sun to panel to electricity, the power is then converted into usable power with an inverter and sent to consumers or a battery for storage.

Does Solar Energy have a Positive Public Perception?

The solar energy industry is booming across the country and residents are taking notice. Within the last decade, solar technology has achieved an annual growth rate of 22%. Federal policies are encouraging this growth, providing incentives like the Investment Tax Credit to offset installation costs, encouraging wider adoption. Solar has become a $51.4 billion industry, employing more than 250,000 workers in renewable energy.

Public opinion about solar energy is overwhelmingly positive, with an 84% approval rate for large-scale solar farm expansion. Approval continues to skyrocket as the cost of solar technologies continues to drop. Since 2010, the cost of solar panel installation has reduced by more than 40%, driven by consumer demand, technological advances, and federal incentives.
About 3.5% of all commercial buildings in the U.S. have solar panels. Another 1% can be added for commercial buildings who are part of a community solar program. While commercial solar adoption has been a bit slower, residential consumers are currently driving the industry. 3.3 million homes across the United States have solar panels installed as of 2022. In general, 82.6% of solar panel owners would recommend to others based on their experience.

The Pros of Solar Panels

Solar panels are a sustainable solution that benefit business owners and homeowners alike. From cost savings to creating more eco-friendly operations, solar panel installation has a multitude of benefits. Below is an exploration of the many advantages you can achieve by harnessing solar energy.

Solar panels save you money

Solar energy systems reduce your reliance on your local energy supplier, resulting in lower energy bills. While wholesale energy rates are expensive and volatile, consumers can save a considerable amount of money by switching to solar. Over the 30 year lifespan of solar panels, an average business will save between $100,000-350,000 in energy costs.  Solar panels also increase property value. Homeowners can expect an average 4.1% property value increase while business owners can achieve an increase of 4-7%.

Solar technology is getting less expensive

While the upfront installation costs of solar panels can be daunting, the cost of this investment is getting less expensive over time. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the cost of commercial solar panel installation has decreased by 66% over the past decade. Furthermore, there has been a significant increase in federal financial incentives for renewable energy technologies. From the Inflation Reduction Act to the Federal Investment Tax Credit, those interested in investing in solar can reduce installation costs by up to 70%. 

Solar panels contribute to greater energy independence

Installing solar panels reduces your reliance on the electrical grid and your local utility. Depending on the size of your solar energy system, it could potentially generate 100% of the energy to meet  your business needs. Becoming energy independent means you are much less likely to experience power outages, especially if you invest in solar energy storage components.

Establish an environmentally friendly reputation

Many customers, especially Millennials and Gen Z consumers, are drawn to businesses who demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and the environment. Establishing an environmentally friendly reputation not only attracts a new customer audience, but also can attract and retain top talent. 90% of millennial job-seekers actively seek out green initiatives, followed by 84% of Gen Xers, and 77% of baby boomers. 

Net-Metering enables you to create a new revenue stream

Some states and utility companies offer net metering incentives. Net metering is the opportunity to create a new revenue stream by selling excess solar energy generation back to your local utility. These programs enable businesses to make money while sharing excess solar power with the greater community.

The Cons of Solar Panels

Solar energy is by far the most popular renewable energy source. While it doesn’t have many outright disadvantages, there are several important details to carefully consider before investing in solar panels.

Upfront installation costs can be expensive

On average, a 50 kilowatt to 100 kilowatt commercial solar system ranges from $130,000-250,000. Investing in a comprehensive solar energy system is a substantial investment. Upfront investment costs are often the greatest hurdle to sustainable energy solutions, like solar panels. 

Solution? Leverage solar tax credits and other incentives!

Businesses investing in solar technology can apply for the Federal Investment Tax Credit or the Production Tax Credit. Many states, cities, and local utilities also offer their own renewable energy incentives. Check out the state database of incentives (DSIRE) to see what’s available in your area.

Solar Panels require specific space and infrastructure

Not all buildings or properties are ideal for solar panel installation. In the United States, southern sun exposure is ideal for maximum solar advantage. In order to offset 100% of a small to midsize business’s energy demand, it would take roughly 70 solar panels, which is a significant spatial requirement. For some commercial properties, onsite solar power generation might not be the ideal solution. 

Solution? Consider Community Solar Programs!

For buildings and properties that aren’t properly equipped for solar installation, there’s still an opportunity to harness solar power. Many areas across the country are starting to invest in large-scale community solar projects. This enables businesses, residences, and communities as a whole to opt-in to renewable energy solutions. Community solar projects make renewable energy more accessible to all Americans.

Solar power is an intermittent energy source

One of the biggest challenges about solar power is that it does require sunlight to generate power. While solar panels still generate electricity on overcast days and during the winter months, they may operate at a lower level. Nighttime operations can also pose power issues if solar panels produce 100% of your energy demands. 

Solution? Consider energy battery storage systems

Counteract overcast days and nightly power demands by investing in solar energy storage batteries. Battery storage systems enable businesses to reserve excess solar power generated during the day for later use. While an energy storage system  will increase upfront investment costs, it makes a substantial difference in solar energy reliability.

Solar panel installation typically requires professional help

Solar panel installation is a unique and customized project that requires expert guidance. Hiring a solar installation specialist ensures compliance with building standards, adequate power provision, and proper grid connection for net metering. Their expertise reduces installation headaches.

Solution? Research top-rated solar experts in your area!

To find the right solar installation expert, invest time in researching local companies. Assess each company’s offerings, rates, and customer reviews meticulously to make sure you’re making the right choice for your business.

Infographic depicting the pros and cons of solar panels. The pros include: saves you money, net-metering for additional income, solar tech is getting cheaper, achieve greater energy independence, and create an eco-friendly reputation. The cons include: high upfront installation costs, larger spatial requirements, requires battery storage for reliability, installation requires professional help

Power a Brighter Tomorrow By Investing in Solar

Solar panels offer numerous benefits to business owners and homeowners alike. They provide substantial cost savings over their lifespan, contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing carbon footprints, and increase property values. Advancements in solar technology and federal financial incentives make solar energy increasingly accessible and affordable, encouraging their adoption for a greener future.

Integrity Energy is dedicated to providing up-to-date energy news and industry innovations, empowering proactive energy consumers. We leverage our partnership with more than 30 trusted energy suppliers to secure the most cost-effective commercial energy solutions. Request a free quote today to see how our energy experts can help you reduce energy expenses and meet sustainability goals.