It’s time to cut the cord (or at least loosen the ties) between your home and the electric company. More people are doing so by installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, saving considerable money in the long run, reining in their electricity costs and building their own future rather than helping to build more transmission lines.
The staid old electric company and its bills
When people think about their utility company, thoughts range from visions of the traditional electricity delivery process involving power plants, transmission lines and meters measuring home use, to the latest bill and continually escalating rates. To quote publicly owned utility Southern California Edison, “Creating a 21st century electric grid requires significant investment.”
Those with home PV systems, however, typically think of their local utility company as a reduced or non-existant monthly payment that has gone down or gone away. They rarely think about rising electricity rates.
To better manage demand in hot summer months, many utilities have adopted programs that allow the utility to turn off air-conditioning in customers’ homes during peak demand in exchange for some monetary reward, such as reduced rates. These demand management programs are designed to reduce the demand on the electric system since the power companies may not generate enough power on really hot, sunny days. For customers who do not sign up for these types of programs, the utility needs to purchase more power on the expensive same-day markets and those costs are passed on to customers.
The solar alternative and sunny savings
Homeowners with solar panels, generate more power on hot sunny days so the air conditioning demand can easily be handled. Additionally, next months’ power bills for those customers will not be an unpleasant reminder of the heat wave. That is because the price of their power does not go up with the temperature. The system costs, even if they’re still being paid off or the panels are leased, do not increase and the sunshine to create the power is always free.
For years, naysayers pointed out that the sun does not shine 365 days a year and questioned the efficacy of solar panels as a “new” technology. But, solar power has proved itself for decades now and more homeowners and businesses are reaping the benefits. Additionally, the costs for people adding solar PV panels are considerably less than they were five years ago and electric rates are higher. Those two facts combine to make the investment in solar even more attractive. Add in available tax incentives and favorable financing programs, so many people are paying little up front and locking in attractive solar savings now.
While solar power seems most natural in Arizona, Florida and Southern California, the reality is that solar is a viable alternative throughout the U.S. The amount of sunlight varies by less than 30 percent across most of the country. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a solar PV system on the roof of a home in Portland, Maine, would generate 85 percent of what the same size system would generate in Los Angeles, 95 percent of what it would produce in Miami and, more surprisingly, six percent more power than it would generate in Houston, Texas.
Will the picture change in the foreseeable future? Most likely not. More utilities are adding to their renewable resource portfolio because of mandates, but their operating costs remain high with the grid infrastructure requiring updating. For example, California is moving toward one of the most aggressive renewable portfolio standards in the world at 33 percent. The increased renewable energy resources will undoubtedly help avoid another energy crisis like the one the state experienced in 2001. Solar energy probably helped the grid weather the 2012 shutdown of the reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County without the public experiencing power outages.
It’s also important to consider the outstanding environmental benefits! Solar power provides electricity without a reliance on fossil fuels and does not create pollution that contributes to global warming. Given the abundance of sunshine, solar is an environmentally and economically sound way to separate your home from dependence on the electric utility serving the area. There is no better time to get started with installation and begin reaping the benefits the next time the sun begins to shine.
RGS Energy has almost 40 years of experience in installing solar energy systems throughout the country, in a wide variety of settings. To find out how solar energy could power your home, visit www.rgsenergy.com.