2017’s shaping up to be an interesting year for the solar industry. Predictions show more growth and lowered prices overall, despite expected pressure from utilities and government agencies in the coming months. The technology should also continue to improve, making full-service, independent solar energy systems more efficient and attractive. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for residential solar energy in the next year—and help you assess whether this year will be the right time for you to go solar in your home.
Historically Low Equipment Prices
In 2017, we should see the continuation of one solar trend: lower panel and equipment prices. International average sales prices fell by around 30 percent this year, and in 2017, they will keep going down, albeit a little less dramatically. Panel manufacturers are predicting a price reduction of around 9 percent in 2017. That means this year may be the cheapest year yet to purchase solar.
However, the solar industry as a whole expects shakeups due to the changing political landscape and the uncertain future of residential and commercial government incentives. If you’re thinking of investing in solar in the coming year, you should be able to take advantage of those programs and reduced pricing—but you should also choose your installer carefully. Do your research before you sign a contract. Some solar installers may be going out of business this year due to tightening demand, so you want to choose someone with a pretty solid business.
The Expansion of National Installers
Although this may be a tricky year for the solar industry at large, the growth of national installers like SolarCity should continue. In December, for instance, Tesla’s solar company announced that it would be expanding operations into Florida, making it the 24th state to get a local SolarCity presence.
That move came after Florida voters rejected Amendment 1, a ballot measure that many argued was designed to undermine net metering incentives in the state. The announcement to expand operations into the Sunshine State after that vote was likely no coincidence, so you can expect to see SolarCity moving into more states—at least in those where votes go their way.
More Challenges to Net Metering Incentives
Florida isn’t the only state that was witness to net metering challenges this year. All across the US, this popular incentive program was under fire in 2016, a trend that likely won’t change in 2017. In fact, if residential incentives continue to increase as they have in recent years, we’ll probably see new proposals introduced to scale back these offerings, as utilities start to feel the pinch of paying out.
Net metering can offer some pretty serious savings for residential solar producers since, unlike tax credits, these incentives continue over time, crediting or even paying residents for the energy they produce. Those challenges provide a pretty compelling case for installing solar now, before net metering incentives in your area come into peril. For the most part, where voters have struck down net metering programs, utility commissions have allowed existing net metering customers to continue to receive the benefits they signed up for—so if you want to take advantage of this lucrative offering, you might want to act sooner, rather than later.
New Options that Mimic Organic Roof Surfaces
With the introduction of Tesla’s new solar roof back in October, the face of residential solar has irrevocably changed. Tesla’s goal has been to make solar panels more attractive to image-minded consumers, and—at least in terms of looks—they appear to have succeeded. These molded glass shingles have a solar cell behind each tile, but it’s hidden by colored louvers that give each one the appearance of conventional roofing materials. Their selection of four different shingle styles are made to mimic ceramic barrel tiles, slate shingles, textured wood shakes, or smooth glass panels.
Tesla’s shingles aren’t available yet, but experts are predicting limited release by mid-2017, with wider production to follow in 2018. However, they’ve already unleashed the design on the world, meaning you can expect other solar manufacturers to start following suit tout suite.
The Rise of Home Charging
As solar grows more popular, homeowners are starting to want to claim more of their generated energy for themselves—or even dream of cutting ties to utilities entirely. Of course, that can only be accomplished using a residential solar battery system, and accordingly, these options are slowly but surely becoming more popular among solar homes.
While current battery systems don’t store enough energy to meet the average home’s demand, developers are certainly hard at work perfecting the technology and shoring up inefficiencies. Likewise, with the Tesla Powerwall on the market, you can expect to see a slow adoption of storage, which will give residents more options than ever to control where their energy comes from.
In general, if you’re looking to get the best deal on solar, the wider proliferation of products and incentives makes 2017 a good year to buy. Act fast, though, because these savings may not be around forever!