Solar power is finally within reach, but not for long

– [Sean Hollister] Solar
panels used to be something you only saw in fancy neighborhoods or that one nice house down the street. But in the last 10 years, the cost of solar has fallen by more than half. In 2019, installing solar
is starting to look like a really smart investment
for millions of homeowners. But that might be about to change. As of a couple weeks ago, I’m one of the couple million homeowners who invested in solar. When I dug into the research, there were some clear benefits. Not only would it be
better for the planet, it turns out to be a
good investment overall. Installing solar was more
affordable than I thought. It would instantly increase
the value of my home, and after crunching the numbers, I realized I’d recoup the
cost pretty quick, too. But we’ll save that math for later. The real motivation behind my
decision to do it now, though, was knowing that the federal
tax credit was expiring. If you install solar
before the end of the year, the US government will repay
you 30 percent of your total cost. Next year it’ll be a little less, and in 2022 this credit will be gone. And that’s not including state, city, and county-level incentives, which in 43 states let you deduct your sales tax, reduce your property tax, or even give you a tax credit
after you’ve produced a certain amount of clean electricity. That’s on top of the federal credit. So what’s the actual cost of
installing residential solar? With the federal credit, your
average 6 kilowatt setup can set you back about $16,000, which, yeah, is the cost of a cheap car. And how long it takes to recoup that cost really depends on the
individual homeowner. For me, I average around $100
in electricity per month, plus gas to heat in winter. But I just got AC and
switched to electric heating, both of which can be huge energy hogs. So let’s double the number
to account for all that. When you do the basic math, it looks like I’ll make my money back in a little over five years. For me, that’s a 5
kilowatt system at $18,200 minus $5,460 in tax credit. That’s $12,740 divided by $200 estimated monthly electric bill for 12 months, gives you 5.31 years. But that’s assuming
electricity prices don’t go up. And an idea called
time-of-use net metering might help me recoup costs even faster. So here’s the thing with solar, you’re not always generating power and using power at the same time. Your panels pump out
energy during the day when you might be off at work, but you’ve got to buy electricity
from the grid at night. With net metering, your utility gives you credit
for the energy you contribute to the grid. You spend those credits
on the energy you need and it mostly balances out. But many utilities also charge
you more for electricity during peak hours when
there’s more demand for power — usually in the afternoon or evening when people get home from work. But because my solar panels
are still producing electricity in the afternoon, I don’t need to buy as
much pricey peak power as I would without solar. Now you might ask, why don’t I just buy batteries to store all that extra energy my
panels produce during the day? I wondered that, too. Tesla has a very Tesla-looking battery that costs $7,800 and there
are other options as well. But several installers I
spoke to say the storage tech isn’t worth the cost unless you live in a blackout-prone area. That’s partly because the
batteries are expensive, partly because they’re
expected to become much better and far cheaper in the next five years, and partly because even with batteries you can’t easily ditch the grid. Right now batteries are an upsell that help your local
utility more than anything. When Google surveyed 60
million US buildings in 2017, they found out that 79 percent of our rooftops have enough sun hitting
them to generate power. It depends on the size of the roof, how steep it is, which direction it’s facing, but Google found that even less stereotypically sunny
states like Minnesota have 60 percent of rooftops viable. For me, solar made a lot of sense. It’s sustainable, readily available, it took them a day to install on my roof, and I’m contributing to the grid, which puts more money in my pocket. Should you get solar for your home? Well, that’s a loaded question. For me, the math worked out. As for you, break out the calculator. And if it’s something you want to do, maybe think quick, because some of the perks of
installing residential solar are starting to sunset. So my question is, how is climate change going
to affect all of this? Also, Verge Science is back, they’ve got a whole slate of new videos you’re going to want to check out.

100 thoughts on “Solar power is finally within reach, but not for long

  1. You could simply use heavy weights as storage for electricity, a motor lifts them during day, and the drive a simple dynamo at nights. much cheaper than batteries or trading energy with the main network. wights can be liquid or solid, doesn't differ much. There are also tens of other methods.

  2. sustainable? far from it. Where are you gonna chuck your solar panel (which fails very often) after 10-20 years?

  3. Actually its they are made with coal and oil power in China. Now add on 25% tariff might as well install a coal power plant in your back yard. Tesla battery might burn down your home. There is no climate change. So this is a hot mess.

  4. Net metering will go the way of the dodo in nearly every state, mark my words. Basically, this is because these laws force electricity production companies to pay the homeowner the same rate as they charge, but the price they charge covers not just electricity production but also transmission, which the homeowner is still dependant upon. So it's very likely that these laws won't last. Plus, distributed production makes things much harder for electricity producers, not easier. Our current grid wasn't really built for electricity to follow backwards, and more solar means a steeper 'duck curve'. Ie, the power demands of the entire grid shoot up rapidly at sundown, which is hard for the companies to match, often requiring less efficient or more polluting energy sources.

  5. Time to rain on the parade. There's actually a big problem with tax credits in general. When you read tax credit, you should think regressive tax. Here's why. Basically, there are two ways in which electricity system rebates work. For small items, like more efficient lightbulbs or dryers, power companies are sometimes mandated by the state to give rebates for these items. The cost of these rebates are built into the rates that they charge all consumers. But overwhelmingly, the people buying these devices are already fairly well off. This means that all customers are paying for the richest customers to buy fancy new devices and lower their energy bill. Insidiously, because there is now lower demand, the company then has to raise rates even higher to cover grid costs. Thus, these rebates are not magically drawing money from nowhere, they are taking money from the people who can't afford fancy LED bulbs and giving it to people who already could.

    The second mechanism is through a federal tax rebate, which is less direct, but ends up with the same result. It's basically taking money from the entire country to give it to people who then start making money off of it. I'm hardly a progressive activist, but I worked at a electricity production company and this is a legitimate concern.

    Also, see my other comment about how more distributed generation is actually bad for the grid. But don't just take my word for it, do some in depth research on these topics. There are a lot of renewables cheerleaders who don't really understand many of the problems renewable energy causes.

  6. Sorry but it's disgusting that we are subsidizing solar just as the government gives oil companies subsidies.

  7. Here in the UK if you own your home you can get a grant from the government to install solar panels and the repayments are less than what the electrical companies pay back to you for having the solar panel installed. So just about every home has a solar panel on it as long as they own the home.

  8. Economic theory of demand and supply also suggest the price of solar will fall further when the government incentives are cut. Demand will stabilise, production facilities for the solar panels continue to churn out more solar panels cheaply, price will fall.

  9. Like all Americans who live overseas, I have to file taxes. Will I get a Federal tax credit for installing solar on my home (which is Ireland)?

  10. As a US citizen who lives overseas but still has to file US taxes, can I avail of this tax credit for installing solar panels on my home – which is in Ireland? Will it offset the US taxes I might end up owing on grants I get from the Irish government for installing solar panels?

  11. An 300w solar panel cost about 150$, an 5000w inverter will cost 1300$ (check wholesalesolar USA). So the whole system cost 3800 $ in parts.

  12. My family are farmers in Ireland and we have two 14kw systems. We used to profit much more from electricity incentives but the panels have paid for themselves and then some

  13. These tax credits are in USA only.

    Can you move this video to a seperate channel? Verge USA or something?

  14. Also, depending on where you live. You have to be on the grid before Tesla or some companies will even install. Almost all states have a waiting list or don't support paying you for giving back to the grid. Most utilities will still charge you for a connection fee (give or take 100) even if you use ZERO power. Some Unties charge you a different way if you have solar. Basically they are trying to deter people from getting solar or make sure they get their money one way or another. People need to start fighting these practices, even if you don't have solar. Otherwise you may never get it. Or the way you want it.

  15. Yeah but by 2022, solar panel costs will keep decreasing in cost and increasing in efficiency, thus replacing the federal rebate

  16. When the power goes out you have no power without batteries. Your inverter shuts down when Ac power is not detected.
    Dan the Solarman

  17. My complete off grid system at my camp cost less than my wife's summer wine bill for 3 years. I haven't pissed my money away.

  18. 16k? Cheap Car? What's the obsession with brand new cars? 16k can get you a nice, low mileage 3-4 year old BMW for cryin' out loud.

  19. hahah I haven't even looked into it but one hundred percent the tax breaks are going away for residential properties and companies solely being battery banks

  20. I work in solar if anyone who owns a home wants to see if what their home solar potential is. Let me know!

  21. "tax credit" Theft from your neighbors…. All tax credits should be eliminated other than for first 3 kids.

  22. $16000 for a 6kW system? Here in Australia, 18 months ago I paid 6500 in Australian dollars ( $4500 in US) for what is almost a 6 kW set up, everything included. If I didn't have the rebate, it would have cost me 8800 AUD (or 6200 USD). From what I've seen, virtually everything is cheaper in the US than in Australia. Where's all that extra costs coming from?

  23. When doing your calculations, you need to include the loss of interest on savings if you spent them on solar. Or, include interest if you remortgaged to pay for it.

  24. Tax credits only benefit people that need the deduction… if solar is dropping as rapidly as he states here, the credit doesnt outweigh just waiting for solar to drop more.

  25. I’ve an idea about the battery. Anker do make battery pack with power socket. Charge them during day and night use it for heater

  26. The reason solar is still too expensive for most Americans in 2019 is because 2/3 of installation costs are installer overhead and profit and the maximum tax credits can only be claimed when using a professional installer. If I could get the same amount of tax credits for a DIY installation I would already have solar.

  27. Good, clear, concise video, but where did you get the $200 per month figure at 1:59? Around here, a good assumption is three hours per day at peak rated solar power output on average. If you live someplace like Arizona it might be twice that. Even at five hours per day with your 5 KW solar panels, you'd need to be paying your local electric company 27 cents per Kwatt hour. The national average is 13 cents per KW hour. It's 20 cents in California. June is typically a peak solar month in the US. Are your pre-purchase estimates viable in this peak solar month? What about six months from now at a solar minimum?

  28. The largest source of energy on Earth is solar energy so of course this is the future. Only greedy fossil fuel companies and those corrupt politicians paid by them are fighting this progress that will actually help save the world.

  29. Forgot to include annual loss per year in cell production. Also cost to clean cells to keep peak performance.

    In NJ I spend $500 average per month. My calculated ROi was 8-9 years after all tax breaks. Not worth it. I do better returns in stocks.

    Also I even calculated if panels were free. Still barely worth it. Most of the cost is install and then your annual loss, limited lifespan of cells, annual degradation of performance.

  30. Its DIY doable to go off the grid these days. EV batteries make this all possible now. I`m off the grid for 2 years now and will never look back.

  31. See credits as a bonus only. If you install solar you need to not think about the credit and make sure that the choice is smart regardless. Government credits come and go and are very unstable and you don't know from one day to the next if they'll have it. Same with FIT programs they come and go all the time so you don't want to depend on it. If you have enough space for enough solar panels to go off grid then it's a non brainer. It's lot of work though, because you have to take snow off them every morning.

  32. Why is solar so expensive in the USA?! I got a top quality 6.5kw system installed in Australia for USD$5200.

  33. $16k – you're being ripped off! In Australia a quality 6kW system costs less than half that before rebates, and about $4k USD after them.

  34. Soon I’m afraid we’re going to run out of the rare earth minerals to produce these. Hopefully they don’t go up too much in price or we find a more suitable alternative

  35. My house ain't covered in solar? Hows it within reach bro till you can buy a panel at walmart it ain't within reach.

  36. I bought 7kw of used solar panels for way less from Santan Solar and learned how to make a yard mounted microgrid for pennies on the dollar.

  37. Let’s all quibble about the cushions in the lifeboats of the Titanic. Everything isn’t measured in dollars and cents. We are cooking ourselves with fossil fuels.

  38. WAIT did you confused tax credit with tax refund? Tax credit means you wont pay taxes on that amount, it does not mean you get that amount erased… am I wrong?

  39. That's the government you've elected for yourselves. Removing benefits of taking active steps towards sustainability. Well done.

  40. Should be the first and easiest push to combat climate change. Make solar affordable and offer incentives. Just have to have politicians who are not backed by oil and coal companies.

  41. „Good for the planet“

    Has an electric boiler, one of the most inefficient systems you can get (which is just straight up forbidden in Switzerland for new installations for that reason).

  42. I disagree about not installing the battery. I have a 4.5 KWh battery. On a real sunny day it charges really fast. But if there’s shade in the middle of the day and you put on a high use appliance, you’re not pulling from the grid. But instead from the battery and the solar panels. Same goes for charging my car on a cloudy day, once the battery is charged I can pull say 400 watts from the battery and 1KW from the solar to maintain the minimum amount of power required to charge the car. So for me solar without a storage battery makes no sense. Especially if you work 5 days a week and nobody is at home during the sunniest time of the day.

  43. Also electrical costs go up nation wide by 3-6% every year. Some places will see even higher rate jumps due to local/regional growth, and reduced viability of fossil production options.

  44. Batteries are worth it. You're obviously looking at premium house batteries and you don't need high performance batteries for house power walls as the C rates are so low.

  45. I'm going with batteries. My calculations show, that the levelized cost per kWh of stored electrical energy is about $.10 per kWh, if every bit of energy was coming from batteries. But, the batteries only have to supply about 14 hours of power during summer, and as high as 18 hours during winter. Thus, since the batteries are not supplying the power during the day,(when the AC is on and you're doing laundry), a battery with a capacity equivalent to a full 24 hours with no other supply, is about the right size, to get the lowest cost per kWh. That calculation seems to work with everything from cheap golf cart batteries, all the way up to the super expensive, but super long lasting Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. The fact that the batteries DON'T supply the house during daylight hours, reduces that to about $.08 per kWh. That's on par with our lowest tier billing, and well below our secondary rate,($.114 per kWh), and our tertiary rate.($.144 per kWh) The extra capacity is good for those cloudy days, where I may need to dip a little deeper into my battery capacity. Even though it seems unnecessary to have that much capacity, bear in mind, that batteries will last longer if you can consistently keep them in the upper half of their state of charge. Reserve capacity is always nice, as well. If you install much more than that, particularly with Lead Acid, you can easily reach the point of diminishing returns, because of calendar life. Lead Acid is best sized, for your highest 24 hour day of draw.
    I don't intend to go off grid, the grid will connect to the system in the form of a large harmonic power factor corrected battery charger. It will by a tertiary source, after my panels,(primary source)and battery bank.(secondary source) As a bonus, should I ever need it, I have a selection of portable generators which can also be used for battery charging, in case there's a snow storm, that knocks out grid power, and completely covers my panels. Those generators will come in handy,(if grid power isn't available) because I will have a "defrost" feature, that will back feed the panels, and melt the snow off by heating them up electrically. I've tested the concept, and it works extremely well, but, it uses an enormous amount of energy.(about half what the panels can produce on an overcast day)If I do it early in the morning, the panels will generate back the power I used by the end of the day, and then some. The big benefit would be the panels being fully exposed the following day, where they can bring the batteries back up to full charge again.

  46. This title needs "in the USA" at the back. Sorry but, half of your viewers are international.

    Oh well…

  47. Other countries:
    I see that you are putting solar panel's on your house and we are going to help you cover some cost

  48. the last question, how climate change is going to change all that? some places will be unhabitable because of heatwaves others because sea rising, maybe the whole planet will be unhabitable

  49. Utah averages $26000 for 5kw of solar…. Still way overpriced! That price is from two separate quotes I got last year…. Doubt it changed much this year.

  50. How much does it recoup that cost. This is one way of media bashing Solar Panel by using how long does it take to pay back, instead you could pay the government for rest of your life for cheap, how does that sound? Rest of your life is better than freedom.

  51. I work for solar and I can tell you it is not good for the environment lol. Your solar panels will stop producing as effectively after 25 years making you need to buy new ones! Also none of the parts of the solar panel are recyclable!

  52. Man that is expensive there. I installed a 6.4kw system here in Australia for $5100 AUD. Looking at doubling my capacity now as we run a home business.

  53. Good. The "incentives" are just stolen money anyway. If solar is a good idea, let it stand on it's own -without subsidies.

  54. At least one area of the sustainable future we are ahead on here in Australia. If only we can drop the coal fired power stations and start incentives for EVs.

  55. @The Verge – I suggest adding the time value of money to your financial considerations. Muy importante.

  56. For the cost: you should also estimate the repair cost, it may be more expensive than the power you use in few months if you face any bad weather than damages the panel…

  57. I don’t get the title of the video. Why isn’t it in reach for long? Even with lower tax credits in the future, overall cost per kWh decreases over time. So long term it will become more affordable for even more people, not fewer people.

  58. If it requires a tax credit to be cost effective, then it never was. Its called freeloading. Of course its wealthy people freeloading so we call it responsible investment.

  59. What kind of fuzzy math is this??? You say panel setup cost 12740, and your old electric bill was 200, then divide to find payoff, that implies zero electricity cost going forward – but then later you state you still need to buy electricity at night, and the net metering doesnt cover full amount -so what are you actually still "Net paying" to the utility? Furthermore, the 100–>200 elec cost is nowhere near realistic if you were paying over 100 in gas – gas is way cheaper than electricity on a btu/$ basis.

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