8 Important Solar Power Facts In 2018

The U.S. solar industry has witnessed remarkable growth in the past decade while the cost of solar has declined by nearly 70%. Now that solar has entered the mainstream, everyday homeowners are starting to wonder how much solar could save them and how simple making the switch really could be. If you’re starting to think about installing solar panels, it’s helpful to understand the big picture for solar power. In this article, we’ll break down eight facts about solar energy that may surprise you.

1. Solar is now the cheapest and most abundant energy source in the world

In December 2016, the cost of building and installing new solar electricity generation dropped to $1.65 per watt, narrowly beating out its renewable counterpart wind ($1.66/Watt) and its fossil fuel competitors.

A major turning point in terms of the economics of solar vs. fossil fuels occurred in 2016 when a commercial solar provider in Dubai offered solar electricity for sale at $0.029 cents per kilowatt hour, setting a world record for solar as well as all energy sources. Today, there are 89 Petawatts (PW) of potential solar energy production available on earth, making solar the world’s most abundant available source of power.

2. Over a million solar systems have been installed in the U.S. alone

In early 2016, the millionth solar system was installed in the U.S., notching a milestone that took 40 years for the photovoltaic industry to reach. However, the more notable story that came with this achievement is the forecasted timeline for the next million installations, which is expected to happen in the next two years. This comparison is a meaningful illustration of solar’s rapid pace as the fastest growing energy resource in the world.

3. Multiple manufacturers offer a solar panel today above 20 percent efficiency

Solar panel efficiency levels have been increasing as quickly as solar costs are declining, thanks to the scientific community’s focus on the need for innovation in solar technology. To help offer perspective, just five years ago the most efficient solar panel that money could buy was 17.8 percent. In 2018, homeowners can get affordable quotes for solar panels in the 20 to 23 percent efficiency range anywhere in the U.S. In terms of solar cell efficiency, the two leading brands are SunPower and Panasonic. To learn more about how solar panel efficiency has changed over time, checkout our entire writeup.

4. Homeowners in the U.S. have achieved breakeven point with solar in as short as 3 years

The cost of solar has plummeted while the cost of grid electricity has continued to gradually rise, and the concept of the solar “break-even point” with solar has become more and more attractive. In 2018, most homeowners are seeing payback periods between five and eight years and 20-year savings estimates upwards of $20,000. Some homeowners are seeing break-even points as low as three to four years in states where utility prices are high like Massachusetts and New York.

5. The cost of a solar installation is now at or below $3 per watt in certain U.S. states

Not even a decade ago the cost of an installed solar system was upwards of $8 a watt, and many theorized about the day when solar could break the $4/watt threshold. Now in 2018, we’re seeing the $3.00/Watt mark take effect — quotes with pricing below $3.00 are coming in on the EnergySage Marketplace every day. The average cost per watt in 2018 is $3.16 per watt on EnergySage, meaning that an average sized system (5,000 watts) will cost $11,060 after the solar ITC subsidy.

6. Airplanes can fly around the world while running entirely on solar energy

Though many may be aware that solar energy can power trains, cars and even space stations, many were skeptical when Bertrand Piccard decided to fly a solar-powered plane around the world with no additional power source than the sun. In early 2016, the Swiss pilot and professional explorer departed from Abu Dhabi in the famous aircraft known as Solar Impulse II, making his much anticipated worldwide return in July. The global flight offered numerous photo opportunities and made a statement around the world about the boundless potential of solar energy.

7. Homeowners don’t have to install their own solar panels to go solar

People are often surprised to learn that going solar does not necessarily involve installing solar panels on your property. In 2018, the concept of shared solar or community solar — the idea of installing a massive solar farm from which hundreds or even thousands of people can source their electricity — is really taking off.

Community solar is now offered by many large utilities that have an incentive to source a certain percentage of their supplied power from renewable sources. Currently, community solar is most popular in 4 states: California, Coloardo, Minnesota and Massachusetts. However, with the many pragmatic and affordable aspects of community solar, the concept is quickly gaining popularity across the country. To see the community solar options in your state, check out our network of shared solar providers.

8. Solar energy can provide power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

One of the common concerns voiced by homeowners when considering going solar is, “What would I do at night?” This is the resource’s most evident barrier towards reaching mainstream status, and solar energy storage providers are answering the call. A number of well-regarded brands have entered the solar storage space (including Tesla, LG, and Mercedes) and new competition and innovation is causing the cost of solar storage to plummet. In 2018, homeowners can purchase solar-plus-storage systems and be completely energy independent. To learn more about storage, check out the best solar batteries available in 2017.

Overall, these eight facts offer multiple angles on solar’s growth in the recent decade and the way it has become a legitimate competitor of fossil fuel resources in 2018.