SolarCity and CleanEdge teamed up recently to ask Americans their opinions on solar energy. According to Green Tech Media, the survey shows more than 50% of respondents say solar power is important to the future of energy. Wind power was slightly behind at 44%.
Cost is still the biggest issue for homeowners thinking about their energy future. Despite the price of photovoltaic solar panels falling dramatically over the past 10 years, a complete solar power system, including an inverter and all the software necessary to interface properly with the traditional electric grid, can cost from $15,000 to $30,000 dollars, depending on where the home is located and the amount of electricity a particular family needs.
When it comes to investing in clean energy for their own home, saving money is more important than environmental concerns. More than 80 percent of 1,400 respondents identified financial factors as their top reason for considering alternatives. “Returns trump sustainability,” said Ron Pernick, lead author of the report and managing director of Clean Edge.
In most cases, consumers preferred products with a relatively low upfront cost. LEDs were the most popular choice, with about one-quarter of respondents saying they planned to purchase at least five LED bulbs in the next year.
When it comes to larger clean energy purchases such as rooftop solar, prices will need to fall even further in order to spark growth says SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. He says the sweet spot for a 20-year solar lease is 15 to 20 percent less than retail electricity rates. If the savings are less than that, most people aren’t interested in switching to solar power.
It will be interesting to see how storage batteries will affect the number of homeowners considering a solar panel system. Tesla is expected to unveil its new storage battery for residential use this week. Other companies like Aquion are preparing products for the home storage market as well. Will home battery prices fall as rapidly as solar panel prices did over the past 10 years? That could be just the economic incentive needed to convince a lot more homeowners to install a solar system on their homes.