Mostly Sunny Forecasts for Solar Power

Despite the slow economy, 2012 is looking like a good year to invest in solar tech: Sunny Forecasts for Solar Power.

Solar panels are the key technology to a sustainable energy future based on renewable energies – this is old news. What’s revolutionary is how the decentralization of energy production (from large centralized power plants to the rooftops of individual homes) will affect the energy landscape.

Unfortunately, one of the main inhibitors to the comprehensive adoption of photovoltaic technology in buildings is the commonly cited narrative that it is too costly. It’s certainly true that the up-front costs of solar panels and triple glazed windows, among other things, have been higher than less green alternatives since their introduction. But many modern eco-friendly construction projects have more or less reached price parity with traditional projects when energy cost savings are accounted for over time.

Wider Adoption of Green Materials, Standards, and Solar Energy in the U.S.

In 2011 alone, the up-front cost of solar panel installations dropped as much as 50 percent worldwide, making this technology more affordable than ever. Compounding that decrease in price is legislation that gives both businesses and individuals a tax credit for installing green technologies at a business or a home. This was originally intended to benefit the economy alone, but has resulted in much more eco-friendly construction. That’s the kind of dual-effect that many environmentalists have been waiting for as changes finally make their way to the marketplace. Reflecting the rapid price decline, installation of solar photovoltaic panels doubled in 2011, and appears to be on track to grow by an additional 75% in 2012.

Clouds in the Distance

We’ve been wanting to put solar on our house for a long time. After upgrading many things in our home to make it more energy-efficient, solar is like adding the finishing touch. The installation happened at a time when we finally were getting plenty of rain, so given that, things went smoothly. Native answered any questions we had promptly and in a very pleasant, friendly manner. We asked that one of the arrays be adjusted after it was installed, and Native did it the very next day. We have already recommended them to friends and have plenty of business cards on hand for anyone else we run into that is interested. — Michele R. | Austin

The tax breaks passed by the U.S. government to encourage the construction of eco-friendly buildings are set to expire in 2012 and 2013, calling into question just how sustainable the enthusiasm for sustainability in the building industry will be. It is clear however, that both the Obama and Romney administrations have made it a priority to continue supporting green initiatives despite the squeeze on government funds, which is good for home and business owners.

Despite strong progress in the sustainability front and a supportive administration, the United States still lags in key areas of the green industry economy compared to more established, heavy green-tech users and innovators such the European lowland countries like Germany and producers such as China. The fierce competition and the limited economic leeway available in a recession economy has seen recent moves by U.S. legislators to propose tariffs on foreign, especially Chinese, solar technology which could cause the price that consumers pay to purchase solar systems to increase substantially once the excess inventory has been cleared out.

Conclusion: Now Is The Best Time To Buy (While Supplies Last)

All this international competition, especially from China, has an inherent silver-lining. The glut of inventory from China and the natural progression of solar technological development have seen prices hit rock-bottom. As traditional fossil fuels become more and more scarce and costly to extract, photovoltaics are set to become as ubiquitous as other commodities such as corn. Warm, sunny places, ranging from Texas to Italy, can be expected to reach unsubsidized price parity levels by 2013. While the long-term trends undoubtedly point to a solar future, those looking to invest in solar power should do so now.