The shift toward renewable energy is visible in the proliferation of rooftop solar panels on U.S. homes. Three percent of U.S. homes are solar equipped, and that number is expected to double by 2023 and, with U.S. residential solar viability at nearly 80%, the longer-term growth horizon is vast. Consumers will increasingly look to their utility for solar support and services.
In 2020, solar installations saw a 43% year-over-year increase, and, by 2030, solar installations will quadruple from current levels. Solar installations represented more than 40% of new electric generation capacity in 2020, adding more than 19 gigawatts. States with the largest capacity include California, 31.2K megawatts; Texas, 7.78K MW; North Carolina, 7K MW; Florida, 6.5K MW; Arizona, 5.1 MW; Nevada, 3.87K MW; New Jersey, 3.59K MW; Massachusetts, 3K MW; Georgia, 2.75K MW; and New York, 2.7 MW.
With December’s two-year continuance of the federal tax credit and the falling cost – dropping 20% over the past five years – solar has become more affordable to a greater range of homeowners. The least expensive states to install solar include Kentucky with an average cost of $13,101; Alaska, $13,454; Kansas, $13,535; South Dakota, $13,535; North Dakota, $13,555; Arizona, $13,680; Alabama, $13,706; Tennessee, $13,909; Florida, $13,920; North Carolina, $14,040; and Washington, $14,040.
In addition to the federal tax credits, several states have robust incentives that reduce panel payback time, depending on location. Several states also offer tax credits, which can be claimed in addition to the federal government’s tax credits with the maximum ranging from $500 and $5,000. Solar Renewable Energy Credits and performance-based incentives are available from some utilities and/or states. Some solar panel manufacturers and utilities also offer incentives, further pushing down payback time.
Regulators continue to prioritize solar, and Environment America has championed rooftop solar mandates in 10 states, including New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota and Colorado. The proposed legislation is modeled after the California Building Standards Commission’s code requiring all newly built residential units of three stories or less either incorporate rooftop solar or hold a community solar contract. The group’s strategy is to encourage legislative and regulatory efforts at both the local and state levels, depending on political will and interest.
As interest in rooftop solar generation increased, so did the number of companies that offered installation, but some have gone out of business, leaving a growing number of “orphaned” solar customers. In California, where the state Solar Initiative requires warranty coverage, many rooftop installations were completed with the expectation that, if something went wrong, homeowners would have recourse.
When a company goes out of business or declares bankruptcy, another company may acquire the service plans or the bankruptcy may be structured in such a way that the warranties will be honored. However, sometimes – especially when it concerns smaller, local companies – their customers are simply out of luck.
Although solar is frequently marketed as a hand’s off way to generate electricity, it needs regular maintenance. In places where there is a lot of smog, dust, pollen and dirt, electricity production may take a hit if the panels aren’t adequately cleaned. If there is an extended period without rain, they also may need to be cleaned.
Solar panels also are at risk of becoming infested with pests. The cool, dark spaces beneath solar panels are inviting to them. Birds and rodents can invade installations, chewing through wires, leaving droppings and building nests, reducing the efficiency of solar panels and creating fire hazards.
Additionally, there is the balance of the system – primarily the electrical components that connect the rooftop installation to the home’s electrical system and to the utility – to consider. Regular monitoring and prevention measures will keep repair bills low.
In a November survey, HomeServe learned that 71% of respondents had a maintenance or repair issue with their solar array, 62% worried about a system malfunction and a whopping 89% would be interested in obtaining a maintenance plan from their utility. In fact, offering a home systems maintenance plan can improve customer satisfaction by 30%.
Anticipating increasing need in this area, HomeServe has created a first-to-market maintenance plan for residential solar rooftop arrays, which will include an annual 50-point full system inspection and pest removal from qualified and vetted solar technicians, a panel cleaning discount and discounted rates for additional solar repairs and services, if needed. This covers the gaps in warranties offered by manufacturers and installers, and it helps demonstrate to regulators a utility’s commitment to clean energy.
To find out more about how we can give your customers peace of mind, contact us.