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Yardley Voice – Renewable Energy Becoming Mainstream

Yardley Voice – Going Green Solar Column – September 2014

by Mark Bortman

Something is happening now that I never could have imagined. As recently as a couple of years ago, it seemed that solar panels were the domain of the rich and NASA. That is not the case anymore. Solar panels have become mainstream, so mainstream that there’s now a category for Best Solar Panel Installations in the Best of Philly annual awards.

Prices have dropped considerably (by 50% in under four years) and the number of solar customers continues its upswing… solar power is now a primary source of new electricity capacity, the second-largest in 2013. Installations were up 79% in the first quarter of 2014 over the first quarter of 2013. There’s now enough solar installed in the US to power three million homes!

A look back at our recent customers shows that they represent a wide cross-section of the population: from young singles to retired couples, blue collar construction workers to high-level executives. While they have varied reasons for going solar, the clincher always seems to be the fact that they save money.

Electricity from solar panels now ends up being about half as expensive as the electricity homeowners get from PECO. And rates of return on investment outpace even the S&P 500.

One recent customer is a local financial adviser. “Anyone with a roof that gets sun should definitely consider solar,” he says. “It is a great way to lower your risks and get a great return. All while helping the planet. What could be better?”

Moreover, the benefits of solar energy extend well past the homeowner or business owner that has the panels installed. The solar industry has created more than 3000 jobs in PA and 6500 jobs in NJ. In addition, solar helps lower conventional electric prices by reducing peak demand and avoiding the costs of additional infrastructure from centralized power plants.

At only half of a percent of U.S. electricity capacity, it would be hard for anyone to call solar “mainstream.” However, the benefits of solar are substantial and growing. We should make more people aware of that so that they and the world can benefit from going solar.

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