Last year, the solar industry grew faster than ever, with the number of solar cells in the United States nearly doubling. And within the next decade, solar power will cost less than coal in many parts of the world. Should you put solar panels on your roof? What if you don’t own your home?
Solar roof panels are only one way to harness the sun. Some utilities offer power from solar and other renewable energy sources, although it may cost more. Check your utility bill for green options that can provide some or all of your electricity. But those aren’t your only choices.
In about an hour, the sun provides more energy than the whole world uses in a year.
Community Solar Programs
For both homeowners and renters, many parts of the U.S. have community solar programs, sometimes called solar farms or gardens. Solar panels are installed in large groups on otherwise unusable land, and local residents can either rent or buy a number of those panels.
How It Works
In theory, you get the power generated by your panels, but it doesn’t usually go directly to your home. Rather, the local utility company buys the power and credits you for it on your bill. Panels in a community program cost less than installation on a home roof, and you don’t have to worry about maintenance. Prices vary around the country, depending upon state regulations and financial incentives, and not every community has a solar project. Here are some helpful resources to get a sense of your options:
- Information about existing community solar programs: rooflesssolar.com
- Help with starting a community program: communitysolarplatform.com
- Solar panel installation cost calculator: solarpowerauthority.com/calculator/
- More information about solar: thesolarfoundation.org
Contributing editor Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997. As a journalist, she specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives. For more information, visit www.veratweed.com.