One of the most common misperceptions surrounding solar in the United States is that it's only for wealthy homeowners living in comfortable suburban homes. But the results of a recent study done on solar power in major American cities should go a long way toward dispelling this notion.
The cost of solar power for the home has plummeted over the last decade thanks to government incentives and technological innovations that have brought solar to a point where it is financially possible for most homeowners to start taking advantage of the benefits it offers them.
And this isn't just for people living in the suburbs either. In fact, a recent study suggests that urban homeowners may have the most to gain by going solar.
Solar with an urban twist
Energy prices are already very high throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., but very often, those prices are even higher in major cities. Solar starts to make a lot of sense in areas where energy prices are high, but this is even more so in these major metropolitan areas.
According to a study of 50 of America's largest cities by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, a fully financed, average sized solar PV system is a better investment than the stock market. Even better: In 42 of these cities, the same system already costs less than getting energy from a residential customer's local utility.
The study estimated that there are 9.1 million homeowners who already live in these cities that would pay less when making an outright purchase of a solar PV system than they would if they kept paying their utility for all of their power. That number increases to a whopping 21 million if low-cost financing is available.
Why this must be a turning point for solar
Looking at the results of this study, it's clear that there are way too many people living in our cities that are paying far more than they should be for energy, and that number will only increase as prices continue to increase without any sign of stopping.
"Solar makes the most sense not where the sun shines brightest, but where energy prices are already high or volatile."
As the NCCETC wrote, the problem here isn't that solar is too expensive. It's that people still think it is. Solar has been able to overcome many obstacles on its way to becoming an attractive option for ratepayers, but this may be its biggest one yet. It has to win the battle of public perception.
"Right now, buying an average-sized, fully-financed solar PV system costs less than electricity from their local utility for 93 percent of single-family homeowners in America's 50 largest cities, and in most places, is a better investment than many of the stocks that are in their 401(k). Nevertheless, most people are unaware that solar is this affordable for people of all walks of life," Jim Kennerly, project manager for the Going Solar in America report, said in an interview Greentech Media.
Solar makes the most sense not where the sun shines brightest, but where energy prices are already high or volatile. In this case, it's about offsetting the grid energy costs that keep spiraling out of control in urban areas.
Going forward, the most important thing for the solar industry is to continue its outreach and educational campaigns. Whether a homeowner is just trying to make ends meet, or he or she just wants to have more money to spend on what is truly important in life, solar is a powerful way to take a bite out of the burdensome energy costs that most Americans are paying.