What to Know Before Building a Solar Rooftop

A solar energy expert weighs in on the present--and future—of home-based solar power.

In a time of increasing international strife and scientific certainty about the future of our planet under growing demands on fossil fuels, there has never been a better time to think about alternative forms of energy. One solution that more and more homeowners are looking at is the building of solar rooftops.

In the past, the only thing slowing down the proliferation of home-based solar power was a seemingly prohibitive entry cost. However, thanks in part to the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative, costs have come down and the time may just be right to consider gaining your own energy self-reliance with a solar rooftop.

“The primary driver for change in solar power over the past five to ten years stems from it becoming more cost-effective,” said Charlie Gay, Director of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative. “In August 2010, the Energy Department launched its SunShot Initiative, which targeted driving down the cost. Since SunShot’s inception, the average price per kilowatt hour of a utility-scale solar project has dropped from about $0.21 to $0.07/kWh.”

Gay attributes this price drop to increased deployment, a side-effect of a booming solar energy job market.

“As costs have fallen, the solar industry has become a consistent contributor to high quality job growth,” said Gay. “Deployment has soared with more than 260,000 solar workers in the U.S. today, adding about 1,000 new jobs every week.”

Aside from obvious benefits to the U.S. job market and the environment, installing a home solar rooftop has even more value for homeowners that they may not realize, including gaining that crucial energy self-reliance, a priceless commodity in today’s ever shifting political and environmental landscape. And on top of it all, adding a solar rooftop is an easy way to boost the value of your home and differentiate the property in today’s competitive real estate market.

According to researchers with the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Berkeley Lab, Solar can add to "the HGTV effect," wherein home buyers are looking for more move-in ready homes with cool features a neighbor’s home doesn’t have. Knowing that you will be saving money for years to come on utility bills only increases the value added from going solar.

Gay and the Department of Energy say that while costs have come down and the future is bright, more work still needs to be done and solar energy will only become more practical over time.

Said Gay, “More advanced research is necessary to significantly cut costs of solar technologies, improve the process of going solar and ensure that solar technologies are efficiently integrated into the nation’s electricity grid.”

Still, the growth of solar power is impossible to deny. In the next few years, shiny rooftop panels may just be the must-have for home buyers in America.

“The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased 38 fold—from 1.1 gigawatts in 2007 to an estimated 42.4 gigawatts in 2017,” Said Gay. “Enough to power the equivalent of 8.3 million average American homes when the sun is shining.”