This idea would seem to make sense if you are looking at just how much solar as a power source has grown since its discovery in 1839. Efficiency has skyrocketed and cost has dropped substantially (in 1954 a 10-kilowatt system would cost roughly $3million).
We’re happy to tell you that solar has a very promising future. Even Shell has predicted that solar will overtake fossil fuels as the world’s primary energy source.
But the state of solar is more complex than the above statement makes it out to be, which makes installing solar sooner than later a safer, smarter option.
How much will solar to grow in efficiency?
In 2017, CleanTechnica published their predictions for solar efficiency growth over the next ten years. The author outlines how each part and aspect of a panel will likely improve, and they estimate that solar panel efficiency will rise by 20% by 2027. This parallels what we’ve been hearing from all around the industry.
That’s about 2% per year.
This is great news if you’re planning to wait 20 years to install! But when have you ever been instructed to wait 20 years to make an investment?
How much cheaper will solar become?
Solar prices have been subject to constant fluctuation for as long as it’s been sold commercially, but it has dropped dramatically over time. By the end of 2017, solar was the cheapest it had ever been and prices were estimated to continue falling. Then, in late January 2018, the White House announced a 30% tariff on all imported solar parts.
This has not proven to be life-ending to the solar industry, as many companies and organizations had been preparing for a decision like this for some time, and have been able to adapt fairly well. But the average solar owner, whether their panels are US-assembled or not, will likely pay around $660 more, according to EnergySage.
Incentives are also not immortal. The 50% Washington state production incentive has been a game-changer for solar owners in the state of Washington. But the rates will go down each year until 2021, when the program dissipates entirely.
To add, this incentive is on a first-come first-served basis. When this incentive was established, it came with a fiscal cap. Once this money has run out, even if it does so before 2021, the incentive will no longer be available to future customers. We anticipate this incentive to end much sooner than 2021.
The 30% federal tax credit will also gradually decrease starting in 2019.
The good news is that if you go solar while the incentives and tax credits are still available, you will be locked into those rates until your system is paid off or over 8 years, whichever comes first. Any decreases will not affect you.
The most important takeaway of all of this is that the financial future of solar is multi-faceted and never certain. While the technology itself may become cheaper, it’s difficult to predict solar costs when there are constant changes to incentives, tax credits, and tariffs.
In this moment, costs are low and incentives are high. Waiting to take advantage of these may end up costing you more.
What about other technological advances?
Many potential solar owners have already expressed that they’re willing to wait until the Tesla solar roof tiles are released to go solar. If you’re living in Washington, however, it’s likely that you’re going to be waiting for a long time- and it’s not clear what kind of return you’ll yield.
While the Solar roof technology is exciting, and we’re eager for the day we can install it, this is still very much in its infancy. Waiting on the Tesla Solar Roof to achieve efficiency and price comparable to conventional panels in Washington state could be like waiting for that extra 20% efficiency. It’s going to take a long time.
Solar energy is efficient right now. It’s efficient enough that it can provide you with all the electricity you need if you have the space for it, if not more.
We cannot foresee how political decisions will affect the technological and financial aspects of solar power systems going forward. All we can guarantee is that as long as you install your system before the incentives run out, you are locked into those rates for as long as it takes to pay off your system.
If you wait for a marginal increase in efficiency, you may lose out on the incentives we currently have, which are strong. The longer you wait, the more your system might cost you.