A growing body of evidence suggests that the solar energy boom of late will not be a flash in the pan but an increasingly important component of the world's electricity future.
The need for power is unavoidable in today's society. Be it to keep a business running or the lights on in a home, energy is one of the basic lifelines that allows daily life to function. However, its use is also taking a toll on the environment – a toll that is becoming more and more expensive.
While some utilities are looking for ways to mitigate the effectiveness of sun-generated electricity in today's energy spectrum, the fact of the matter is that solar energy is here to stay. During 2013, it was the second largest new source of electricity in the U.S., building on momentum from years prior. Over the course of the year, the country's solar capacity surpassed 10 gigawatts of power, which was a major milestone for the renewable energy source. Historically, solar has been seen as more of a novelty than a legitimate supplier of power, but a growing body of evidence is showing that solar power is not only a viable energy source, but one that is here to stay. The following are just three of the reasons why.
It's good for consumers
Energy prices continue to grow, creating headaches for families and business owners alike. While the fossil fuel industry has long been subsidized to cover drilling and extraction expenses, solar technology continues to become less expensive to produce.
CNBC recently pointed to findings from Bernstein Research, which indicated that the cost of solar will soon be much less than that of fossil fuels.
"Solar can simply get bigger and bigger," the research firm noted, according to the news source. "Since it is a technology, it will get even cheaper over time. Fossil fuel extraction costs will keep rising."
Already, solar is proving to be a more lucrative energy solution than conventional fossil fuels. A residential solar installation allows homeowners to produce electricity independent of the utility, eliminating the costs of the monthly power bill. As a result, a resident can pay off the cost of an installation through these savings and then proceed to produce power for free. Even if consumers cannot own their own systems, lease agreements allow homeowners to use solar electricity at a rate lower than that of the utility by agreeing to purchase solar energy from a third party who owns and maintains the system.
Cost of solar makes it competitive
As noted before, the cost of solar continues to fall, to the point where many market analysts believe it will be able to compete with the conventional methods of energy generation that require high-carbon emitting fossil fuels. CNBC reported that a McKinsey and Company study noted that the falling cost of solar puts it within economic "striking distance" of traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas.
Further, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that a new study from Prognos AG, an industry consultant, found that renewable energy produces electricity 50 percent less expensively than nuclear power plants. This means that it is fast becoming an energy source that can handle the workload that fossil fuels carry at a lower price point.
Investment is growing stronger
Bloomberg also noted that global clean energy investment grew by 9 percent during the year's first fiscal quarter compared to the same time last year. This brought the total those three months to just under $48 billion.
Further, the U.S. government also sees the merit in the burgeoning solar industry. The Department of Energy recently announced that will be working to make as much as $4 billion available in loans to help develop and commercialize technology as the government body advances with its low-carbon energy plan.
With all signs indicating a positive future for the solar industry, now is as good a time as ever to invest in a residential solar installation.