3 Reasons Why Solar Has Gotten So Cheap

The solar industry has changed dramatically in the past five years, some would even say that it’s in a “boom”.

Since 2010, the amount of solar installations has grown exponentially, with the amount of the amount of installed solar capacity topping 6,000 Megawatts in 2014; nearly six times that of the amount installed in 2010.  What can explain this huge uptick in solar sales?

The price.

Graph via SEIA.org

Graph via SEIA.org

While we would like to believe that US citizens have all suddenly woken up to the environmental benefits of going solar, we are more inclined to believe that the falling price, and the savings that are yielded, are the real motivation behind the sudden switch.  In years past solar wasn’t quite worth it, but now homeowners cannot turn their heads away from the numbers.  Solar is now too good of a deal to deny, mostly due to three factors:

1. Cheaper Panels

Probably the biggest contributing factor to the price of solar installations dropping is the fact that solar panels are much cheaper than they used to be.  A recent report by the SEIA found that the price of photovoltaic solar panels has dropped 63% since 2010.  The reason for this can be partly attributed to China, when a few years ago they decided to enter the solar market.  The Chinese opened up a ton of panel factories, so many in fact that there was a surplus of panels once these manufacturers hit the market.  This surplus caused the price of panels to plummet, and they’ve stayed low since.


2. Easier Installationssolar

As with any business, the biggest cost for solar companies is labor – paying the guys who install the solar system.  While solar installers aren’t being paid any less than they used to, they are working faster and more efficiently.  New technologies that allow panels to be simply snapped in place have allowed for installations to take a quarter of the time they used to, which saves the solar companies money, in turn saving the solar consumer money.

3. Financing Options

New financing options have allowed for a new economic class to access solar.  While a new solar system may cost $25,000, solar companies like us at Stellar offer financing options to fit a wide variety of budgets.  Most companies offer a lease or loan option, with lease agreements typically lasting 20 years.  Stellar Solar offers a zero money down, 1.89% solar loan along with a solar lease that is backed by industry leader Sunpower.

So it’s clear why solar panel installation has gotten so cheap, and thusly, so popular.  With a plummet in panel prices, cheaper and more efficient labor, and affordable financing, solar has never been cheaper or more accessible.  Projections show that these prices should remain stable or drop even more over the next few years; a good indication that solar will continue to boom.


It’s Official: America Loves Solar.

Recent Gallup Polls found that about 90% of Americans want a push for more solar.

A recent Gallup poll found that 79% of Americans think that the US government should put more emphasis on solar, while 12% thought that there should be the same emphasis.  That’s 91% of Americans who support the same or further development of solar.

The poll was performed via telephone interviews conducted March 5-8, 2015.  All 1,025 adult (18+ year old) participants were randomly selected in the United States and British Columbia.  The poll is the most recent and extensive of its kind.

The percentage of Americans who believe there should be more emphasis on solar has gone up 3% since the poll was last taken in 2013.  All other sources of energy lost support since 2013; even wind energy is down 1%.  From these numbers, it’s easy to see that America is slowly figuring out that solar is the way to go for renewable energy heading into the future.

Political Uniformity

Perhaps the most interesting conclusion that can be taken from the polls is that solar is popular across the board politically.  82% of Democrats support the development of solar, 83% of independents, and 70% of Republicans.  That’s pretty huge considering that the Republicans and Democrats rarely agree on such issues.  Apparently, solar is too appealing to deny, no matter your political affiliation.

So it’s clear from the results that America is, by a large majority, in support of solar.  With 91% of people polled supporting the development of solar, it’s hard to deny that America sees it as a clear solution to the energy problem.  With political parties in agreeance on the issue as well, it seems as though solar has a bright future in America.


Source:   http://www.seia.org/research-resources/polling-data-support-solar#


Solar Cars: How You Can Save Thousands on Gas by Going Solar

Filling up your gas tank can be one of the most painful parts of the day.

You work hard for your money, and watching how much of that hard work gets wasted at the pump can be a bit discouraging.  For many of us, gas is a huge expense that can eat up a lot of our money.  If only we could break our addiction to that liquid gold that is gasoline, we could save money we never knew we had.

The good news is, you can break the gasoline addiction.  No, you don’t have to ride a bike, but nowadays, the payoff of owning an electric car is hard to ignore.  The hybrids and full electric cars out there today are becoming more mainstream, and more and more people are waking up to the savings that an electric car can bring.

solar cars

Let’s break down the savings.

A standard gasoline car gets about 20 miles to the gallon.  Gas, although it does fluctuate a lot, is generally around $4.00 a gallon.  So the cost per mile of driving a standard gasoline car is about 20 cents a mile.

The standard electric car these days gets about 3.5 miles for every kilowatt-hour.  The average kilowatt-hour costs a homeowner about 20 cents per kWh.  So the cost per mile of driving an electric car that your charge at home is about 5.7 cents a mile.

So the saving are obvious there.  By switching to electric, the cost to drive your car literally is cut by almost 75%.  Pretty incredible right?  But think about this:  what if your electricity was costing you less?

By switching to solar energy to power your home, you can cut your power bills by more than half. The average solar installation makes the cost of a kilowatt-hour drop from 20 cents a kWh to 7 cents a kWh.

So how does this translate to savings when it comes to driving?

Solar cars, when powered by a solar powered home, will cost only 2 cents per mile to drive.  With electric cars getting 3.5 miles per kWh, at 7 cents a kWh, solar powered cars save you 90% per mile.

So it’s obvious that solar cars are the cheapest way to get around.  The question remains though as to how expensive these electric cars are compared to their counterparts, and how easy they are to attain.

The new hybrid 2015 Nissan Leaf starts at $29,000.  They are now easily available at any Nissan dealership.  A comparable non-electric car of similar size from Nissan, the 2015 Nissan Sentra, a similar sized hatchback, starts at around $16,500.

So let’s look at how the gas savings compare.  Let’s say you commute 30 miles a day, five days a week.  So you drive 150 miles a week, 600 miles a month, and 7,200 miles a year.

Nissan Sentra: 7,200 Miles X 20 cents a mile = 144,000 cents, or $1,440 for a years’ worth of driving.

Nissan Leaf (without solar powered home): 7,200 Miles X 5.7 cents a mile = 41,040 cents or $410.40 for a year’s worth of driving.

Nissan Leaf (with solar powered home): 7,200 Miles X 2 cents a Mile = 14,400 cents, or $144 for a years’ worth of driving.

So if you’re driving a solar powered car, you could be saving around $1,300 a year on gas.  The savings on gas will make up for the price difference between the Leaf and the Sentra in around 9 years, and after that it’s purely savings.

Setting an example for anyone considering solar powered cars is Stellar Solar’s own VP of Sales and Marketing Michael Powers.  Powers drives his Nissan Leaf to and from work every day, and plugs it in to his solar powered home at night. In a recent interview with the Union Tribune, Michael had this to say about his solar car:  “I drive an electric car that I plug into a solar-powered house so that car runs on sunshine, and to me that’s a great idea.”

solar powered cars

Michael Powers mows his lawn next to his solar powered car.



2014 California Solar Report

While it was a record-breaking year for solar nationwide, no state set the solar example in 2014 like California.  See just how much solar California installed in this infographic we put together:

california solar



Michael Powers: Newsmaker

This week, The San Diego Source did a feature video on Stellar Solar co-founder Michael Powers, interviewing him about Stellar and the state of the solar industry.  In the video, Michael speaks of Stellar’s reputation, not only in the residential but the commercial sector of solar installation.  He then goes on to explain the reasons why so many people have been going solar in the past few years.  Michael chalks it up mostly to financial reasons, but adds that public awareness of global warming has helped as well, as people are looking to reduce their environmental impact.michael powers

Michael goes on to explain why now is a better time than ever to go solar.  Currently, the “net metering” rule, as he explains it, allows you to sell the extra power your panels produce during the day back to the utility company for a credit.  At night, when your panels aren’t producing, you then buy power from the utility company using your credit.  This allows you to maximize your solar power production, as it is somewhat “distributed” evenly throughout the day.  California solar has been operating by these rules for the last 20 years.

The net metering rules are set to change once more than 5% of the meters in California are connected to solar.  At the rate that solar has been installed in California in the last few years, we are expected to hit that percentage in the next year or so.  Once we hit that percentage, the utility companies are allowed to renegotiate the rules by which solar is hooked up to their grid.  Michael comments on this renegotiation: “We don’t think there is going to be major changes, but the truth is we don’t really know what is going to be negotiated.”  The good news is that if you hop on the solar bandwagon before these changes, you will be grandfathered into the current net metering rules for the next 20 years.  As Michael puts it: “There has never been a better time to go solar than right now.”


Stellar Solar Makes Angie’s List Honor Roll

Angie’s List, the largest and most respected consumer review site besides Yelp, has just nominated Stellar Solar for their May “Honor Roll”.  The Angie’s List Honor Roll is awarded monthly to nine companies with outstanding reviews, and Stellar was honored this month as one of the top solar companies in San Diego.  Angie’s List is highly regarded as a consumer review site as no anonymous reviews are allowed, and therefore every review is legitimate and must be backed up.

stellar solar angies list

We at Stellar Solar are honored to receive such an award, and would like to thank our loyal customers for writing such complimentary reviews.  For our future customers, we encourage you to use Angie’s List to review our company.  Any feedback we receive is valuable, so please let us know how you’re experience with us was.

From everyone here at Stellar Solar, we just want to say thank you San Diego, for the reviews, and the business.


2014 Solar Industry Report

In 2014 the solar industry continued to see the exponential growth that is has been experiencing the last few years.  We put together this infographic to illustrate just how much the solar industry has grown.

2014 solar industry report


Clock Is Ticking on Solar’s Sweet Deal

For the past 10 years, utility costs kept growing and solar costs kept going down, so going solar just got better and better.

However, coming changes to solar rules suggest the best time to go solar is right now, because the outlook for solar in future years may actually be less rosy than today.

So, homeowners who have been putting off their purchase of a solar energy system until a “better time” should make note: the best time to go solar has now arrived.

For one thing, the very generous solar income tax credit – by which the federal government pays for 30% of the solar energy system cost — is set to expire at the end of next year (2016). That amounts to a 30% price increase on new solar.

For another thing, the present California utility rules on “net metering” — which allow solar customers to zero out their power bills, guaranteed for the next 20 years — will be changing sometime in the future (although the exact date is not certain).

The present favorable rules will apply until solar reaches 5% penetration in SDG&E territory. With the popularity of solar still growing, that deadline could be reached as early as December 2015, according to some industry experts. After that, who knows?


 Homeowners who move forward in the next six months are guaranteed the best deals:

  • Greatest savings compared to the power company
  • Lowest prices on solar hardware
  • Fastest delivery times for installation
  • 30% solar tax credit guaranteed
  • 20-year guarantee to zero-out your power bills with solar

Past experience suggests that these future deadlines tend to cause longer delivery times and also higher costs, as materials and labor start to be in short supply.

Don’t let this great opportunity pass you by… the best time to go solar is RIGHT NOW!

So click here for your free, no obligation quote and remember: the sooner you go solar, the sooner you start saving!


The Solar Equipment Debate: Central Inverter vs. Micro-Inverter

Discussions about solar energy systems tend to focus on the solar modules themselves – the most visible component in the system — and often, neglect the other important piece of hardware: the inverter.

how solar power works

An inverter converts the DC electricity produced by the solar panels into AC electricity, which is what the home can actually use.

Some would argue that the choice of inverter is actually a more important decision than the solar module because the solar module plays a somewhat “passive” role in gathering the sunlight while the inverter is more actively managing it, while keeping track of (“data logging”) how much power is being produced.

There are two types of inverters: the “tried and true” central inverter (also called the string inverter) and the newer technology called the micro-inverter.  There is an ongoing debate as to which one is better.

Central inverters have been in use for more than 40 years.  Micro-inverters are still a fairly new technology, only in commercial usage for the last 10 years.  Central inverters are typically mounted on the side of the home near the main electrical panel, while micro-inverters are mounted on the back of individual solar panels on the roof.

The central inverter requires that panels grouped into “strings” or circuits.  If one panel in as string has shade that causes it to lose production, all of the panels in that string are also affected.  However, with a micro-inverter system shade only affects the single module being shaded; the neighboring, unshaded panels still produce at full power.  Each micro-inverter essentially manages its own solar module independently rather than in groups.

Similarly, the central inverter powers the entire solar energy system so if the inverter fails, the entire system stops working until the inverter is repaired or replaced.  If a single micro-inverter fails, the rest of the system is still working properly and producing power.

It should also be mentioned that a central string inverter usually weighs over 100 lbs and must be shipped via truckline (which  may take up to 1 week) and require at least 2  workers to replace it.  A typical micro-inverter weighs less than 5 lbs and can be shipped overnight and installed the next day by a single worker.

The most common question about inverters concerns the warranty.  Central inverters have a standard 10-year warranty and are typically a little less in cost depending on the size of the system; however, an extended warranty can usually be purchased.  Micro-inverters come with a 25-year warranty standard.

Finally, not all brands of solar panels are compatible with micro-inverters, due to their unique technology.  It is importnat to check with an experienced solar installation company who can recommend the best system for your needs, both in terms of equipment and financing.

Stellar Solar carries multiple brands of central sting inverters as well as microinverters and has been in business since 1998, supporting both commercial and residential solar energy system installation, so we can recommend the right system at the right price with the right financing for homes and businesses throughout San Diego.



How Valuable is a PV Solar System?

We’ve all heard it before.

The benefits of adding a photovoltaic solar system to your home are innumerable, but one that you always hear is that it adds value to your home.

photovoltaic solar system

That should be obvious, as the systems are expensive and save tons of money, but the question of just how much value they add to your home has mostly remained unanswered, up until recently.

 In conjunction with Sandia National Laboratories, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory have recently completed the largest study on the effect of solar photovoltaic systems on home values in history.  Researchers more than doubled the amount of solar homes evaluated from previous studies, looking at around 22,000 home sales, 4,000 of which had PV systems.  In order to open up the scope of the research, researchers also looked at eight states outside of California where solar is not as prevalent.  Considering all these factors, the study is the most extensive of its kind.

The research determined that home buyers will pay about $4 per watt of installed PV, which averages out to about a $15,000 premium per home.  This value is averaged based on information gathered from housing busts, booms, and recoveries, so if projections are accurate, it should remain consistent.

The next step towards achieving this standard of value for PV systems is for realtors to be able to more accurately appraise homes with systems installed.  Hopefully, researchers will continue to improve valuing methods that realtors will adopt, and the value of PV systems will remain consistent and measurable.


Source: http://www.utilitydive.com/news/study-rooftop-solar-adds-15000-premium-to-home-values/352862/

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