Moving Solar Forward

Everyone’s heard stories about how long it can take to get your solar array installed. Rare incidents go to the extreme and take months and months, like Bill Maher famously complained about on his show. While some might blame the solar panel companies for slacking off, the unfortunate reality is that it’s often not their fault. Thanks to legislation by state lawmakers and the utility companies that influence them, the solar installation process can take longer than strictly necessary.

At this point, most people are well aware that solar energy is better for the environment than any energy from fossil fuels. However, many still believe that it’s more expensive and takes forever to install. The truth is that depending on the amount of electricity their household uses each month, plus the federal solar rebates and the solar tax credits by state they can take advantage of, they can save a good amount of money by switching to solar. There are just a few things holding them back.

These tend to stem from the pushback that solar gets from utility companies. For example, when approval and connection is needed, the utility company can drag out the process so that both homeowners and solar businesses are left hanging for an extra week or two – or longer! In solar news, this is not a recent development, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating for everyone involved.

Another example is the attack on solar incentives like net metering. Net metering is normally a great benefit for homeowners, as they can earn money when their solar array produces more energy than they use. The extra electricity goes back into the grid, and the utility company pays the homeowner for it. This is beneficial not just for the solar homeowner but for others who haven’t been able to go solar yet, as their homes will be powered by clean energy as well. But between the utility companies and state laws, things can change for the worse in an instant.

When state lawmakers and/or utilities cut the payback rates of net metering, they make solar less affordable for homeowners. That, and utilities trying to instate a monthly fee for solar homes, makes going green much less accessible for the average person. Rather than accepting and joining in on the transition to clean energy, many power companies feel threatened and find ways like these to try to discourage it. They might also be transitioning to using more renewables, but whether or not they are, they still want their customer base to have to fully rely on them.

Why is it so important to save solar from these biased practices? As a solar company, of course we’re partial to our customers getting more benefits. But as fellow citizens, it’s still easy to see how these actions can hurt not just solar businesses but also the greater community. Government solar programs should be working for the benefit of all.

Solar companies getting pushback from power companies on approval of solar arrays makes the installation process longer for both the installer and the customer. The delay only benefits the utility company, letting them squeeze that last bit of money from the customer before the solar system activates. Once it’s all approved and fully connected, the customer won’t be purchasing as much power from the utilities anymore. Their community will be that much better off for having someone go green, and members of the neighborhood will be more likely to follow suit. The whole world benefits from the process that power companies are trying to slow.

Rising energy costs, climate change, and pollution are just a few of the crises that going solar fights against. Households and businesses around the world have gained a significant drop in their monthly electric bills after switching to being powered by the sun. Climate change and pollution are reduced when people use less fossil fuels. Although an individual thinking about embracing renewable energy may feel like they’re barely a drop in the bucket, when the combined effect of all those who have converted is taken into account, they’ll find they’re making waves.

The solar industry continues to create jobs and sustain small businesses. When utility companies and lawmakers add delays to their work and take away incentives, that messes with the livelihoods of many workers, as well as discouraging potential customers. Just because power companies are feeling threatened by the transition to clean energy doesn’t mean everyone else should suffer for it.

Across the country, organizations like Vote Solar are fighting hard every day for the rights of those who want to be part of a clean energy future. Solar companies like us are working tirelessly to provide a quick, smooth process for our customers, no matter how long it might take for a utility company to review the system and its documents. The location can also affect how speedy (or not) a request for approval is. As individuals, it can be hard to overcome the pushback solar gets from all angles. Yet as a community, we can work together and clear a path to 100% clean energy. All we have to do is keep moving forward.

To learn more about the utility approval process, click here.

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