Pros and Cons of going solar

Pros & Cons of Solar Energy: What’s Best for You?

Solar energy has rapidly grown to be a popular energy source for the average consumer whether for home or business use. It accounts for more than 1/8th of energy produced across the United States. When considering switching to solar energy, what factors should you look at?



  • Lowers electric bill
  • Improves the value of your home
  • Reduces your carbon footprint
  • Solar is cheaper than ever
  • Provides energy independence


  • Initial investment can be high
  • May not work for all roof types
  • Manufacturing panels has pollution risk
  • The transition can require navigating red tape
  • Weather and climate dependent


So, what are the pros of solar energy?


1. Switching to solar energy will lower your electric bill

When installing solar panels, you are in control of the energy generated within your home, making you less reliant on utility providers. Therefore, your monthly bill could be reduced, if not eliminated entirely. Depending on your state, size of your home, and how much electricity you typically use, you could save anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 over a 20-year-period by switching to solar. The installation of your solar energy system is an investment. Use this estimate tool by to calculate a customized estimate of how much you could save on your electricity bill.

2. A solar energy system improves the value of your home

Recent studies have shown that having a solar energy system installed increases the value of your property. Even if you plan to move before the life of your solar system is over, the increased value to your property will still provide a return on your initial investment. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, found that on average, across 8 different states, a solar system added $15,000 in value to the home. This is especially important if you’re ever planning on moving.

3. Solar energy is a clean energy source, reducing your carbon footprint

Solar radiation is captured in solar panels from the sun. The energy produced from these solar systems is free of pollutants and emits no greenhouse gasses. The Environmental Protection Agency states that greenhouse gases emitted from non-renewable energy like gas, coal, and oil energy are trapped on Earth and thus warm the planet. The average American home that uses typical non-renewable energy pushes out an estimated 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. With solar panels, that footprint is reduced by over 3,000 pounds, making it a much cleaner option.

4. Solar is cheaper than ever

The price of solar energy systems has continued to decrease, leading to a large increase in the use of solar technology. According to figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency, the cost of solar energy has dropped by 82% since 2010. This is due to many factors, including improved technology, and the cost will continue to decline as technology improves and more licensed installers become available. In 2010, solar cost roughly $0.378 per kilowatt and as of 2020, is now $0.068 per kilowatt—equating to an 82% difference. 13.1% of that drop happened between 2018 and 2019 alone. Not only has the price of the actual system dropped, but there are financial incentives set in place to help families and businesses afford solar energy. For example, purchasing a solar power system in the U.S. means you may be eligible for a 30% federal income tax credit.

5. Solar provides energy independence

Solar power is always available to us, unlike non-renewable energy that must be created from resources that are not unlimited. Solar is the most abundant source of energy that we have available to us on Earth, meaning that we’ll never run out of it. With the transition to the use of solar panels, the average consumer can trust that they’ll never run out of the sunlight that powers their home. As solar technology has improved, even climates with little sun can still generate energy.


So, what are the cons of solar energy?


1. Initial investment can be high

Though you may save money over time on your electric bill, the initial investment when installing a solar power system can be significant. The more energy you need to fuel your home or business, the more panels you’ll have to buy upfront. Installing panels can be tens of thousands of dollars in the beginning, but fortunately that can be reduced with federal incentives for making the transition to clean energy. Depending on your state, costs of a residential solar system after federal tax credits can range from an estimate of $11,000 to $20,000. 

Though not everyone has the cash to pay for a solar energy system outright, there are a number of financing options to help you get started. The Investment Tax credit (ITC) has helped fund many solar panel investments since 2006—as of 2020, you can have 26% of your solar panel cost deducted through it. There are also federal grant and loan programs that offer incentives for installing solar panel systems—this enables homeowners to either receive a grant or take a loan to assist in their solar investment and get their system set up as soon as possible. Despite the initial investment cost being high, the savings on your monthly bill will allow you to recoup that investment in just a few years. The sooner you make the transition to solar energy, the sooner you can start saving money.

2. Solar panels may not work for your roof type

Solar panels are installed on the rooftop of homes and businesses through a mounting system. It can be difficult to install panels on some roofing materials used on older homes, making it difficult to include everyone in the transition to so

lar power. While installing solar on a home that you don’t own may make going solar for renters more difficult, it’s not impossible. You may be able to install solar panels on your roof with your landlord’s permission or use a portable solar panel system. 

It can also be difficult to install on apartment buildings or businesses that have rooftop decks of skylights, making the installation process and transition to solar power much more difficult and costly. However, rooftop installation is not the only option when it comes to using a solar power system, as there are other options such as ground-mounted panels and community solar panel gardens.

If you live in an apartment, you can still go solar with portable solar panel systems —it can go on your balcony, banisters, or even your window. A portable system generates between 1.3 kWh and 1.5 kWh of electricity per day—enough to charge your devices and run small appliances—giving you the ability to use less non-renewable energy. These portable systems also qualify for the same federal tax credit that regular PV systems qualify for, continuing to save you money. While some roof types may make solar more difficult, as you can see it’s not impossible in the U.S.–even with the use of the smaller portable solar panel systems, both you and the environment benefit when the use of non-renewable energy declines.

And if you don’t have access to a community solar program, make sure your utility company hears that you want one!

3. Manufacturing solar panels has pollution risks

A solar energy system does not cause pollution during its working life, but it can during the initial manufacturing process. There are chemicals used during the making of the panels and the transportation of them—but it’s still one of the least-polluting energy sources available to us. In addition to the toxic chemicals used when making them, the manufacturing processes can produce gas emissions, but there is still considerably less pollution than what is produced by non-renewable energy sources. Manufacturers are continuing to improve their efforts in sustainability—including making sure that toxic chemicals are disposed of properly and that options for recycling solar panels are available. While there are pollution risks, making the transition to clean energy with minimal pollution outweighs the use of dirty energy and maximum pollution risk.

4. The transition require navigating red tape

Though solar is one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S., the market is still very small. It can be  stressful and confusing to get started when you want to make the transition, and this can be due to the lack of qualified sales representatives that are honest or available. Don’t fall for aggressive companies trying to sell their products to the average consumer, which can make the transition to clean energy frustrating instead of enjoyable. With the growing of the industry, it’s becoming easier to find installers in your area that won’t leave you stressed about the transition. Mission: Net Zero is a project of Energy Alabama to install more than 310 megawatts of solar energy in North Alabama. Whether you are looking to install solar on your home or business, we have resources to connect you with qualified (and reputable!) solar installers throughout Alabama.

5. Solar is weather and climate dependent

Solar panels are dependent on the sun. In lesser-than-sunny areas, solar energy may not be as efficient despite technology improvements but luckily that isn’t a problem in Alabama. Solar energy also cannot be collected at night when the sun isn’t out, which is why external batteries are used to store energy during the day to power your home at night. These batteries are not essential for every solar system owner, but companies are steadily working towards increased availability for those who would benefit.

The technology of the batteries has greatly improved in recent years. Battery prices have dropped almost 90% in the past 10 years, with another expected 50% drop by 2023. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. household consumes an estimate of 30 kilowatt-hours (kW) of energy per day while a standard battery has a capacity of 10 kWh.


Key takeaway

These pros and cons are what determine whether you choose to make the transition to clean solar energy—but it’s important to remember there’s a tradeoff. The technology of solar energy is continually improving and  the pros still outweigh the cons. 

While the initial investment can be expensive, you still save thousands compared to traditional non-renewable energy sources. Solar is also cheaper than ever and continues to decline in price. Despite installation difficulties and whether or not your roof type works, there are always alternative options such as portable panel systems or community solar programs. While solar may also be entirely dependent on the weather, batteries can make sure your home stays powered even when the sun is down. We will eventually run out of the non-renewable energy sources we use now, but we will never run out of sunlight. While there is some pollution in the creation of solar panels, there is much less pollution from solar than from the use of nuclear, coal, and gas, making solar energy one of the most advantageous option for our future.

The U.S. is successfully transitioning to clean energy—it’s our cheapest and cleanest option for our futures.The transition to solar energy in your home could encourage your neighbors, leading to more and more people using clean energy. Small steps lead to a big change, a change that could be made in your home and life. While it may not be the best and most available option for everyone right now, there is plenty of hope that one day it will as the solar energy market continues to improve.

Learn more about how to go solar in North Alabama.



Solar 101: Frequently asked questions about solar

Solar 101: Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Solar Energy

Solar energy is the future of energy, allowing you as an energy consumer to not only be energy efficient but also save money. Solar energy is one of the main clean and sustainable energy sources that benefits both the consumer and world we inhabit.


So, what should you know?


What is solar energy?

Solar is the most abundant source of energy we have available to us on Earth. The energy from the sun is more than 10,000 times what the world needs in terms of energy, at any given time of day. It is a form of “renewable energy” or “clean energy” which is energy that comes from natural sources that are always available. In recent years, scientists have studied solar energy as a power source for homes and businesses–it now accounts for more than one-eighth of the energy sources used across the United States. 

This 1/8th includes the energy that has been used to grow our crops, dry foods, and keep us warm, but now it can be used to warm your water and power your homes and businesses.

How does solar energy work?

The US government’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy states that “the amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year.” Solar energy is derived from the sun. Solar energy comes from the light emitted by the sun—electromagnetic radiation—that reaches the Earth’s surface. Through the installation and use of solar panels, sunlight and solar radiation is converted into power that our technology can use. The heat radiation from the sun triggers a reaction that produces electricity for use.

Does solar radiation have any negative affects to our Earth?

There are no negative effects from the sun’s radiation with the use of renewable energy. On average, 70% of the radiation emitted by the sun is absorbed into the Earth while the other 30% is reflected back into space. However, greenhouse gasses emitted from burning fossil fuels (a non-renewable energy source) trap the sun’s radiation, causing the temperature of the Earth to rise. Earth’s average global temperature that covers the entire surface depends on how much energy we receive from the Sun and how much returns into space, and as a result of non-renewable energy, Earth has experienced an approximate 1℃ global change in temperature.

How is solar power produced?

Solar radiation is captured through photovoltaic (PV) cells in solar panels where it is then converted into electric energy. Solar panels used to capture sunlight and radiation consist of 60 or more solar cells, and comes in two main types—monocrystalline or polycrystalline—with a marginal difference in wattage. Both cell types serve the same purpose for the solar system, but monocrystalline solar panel cells are made from a single crystal of silicon while polycrystalline solar panel cells are made from many melted silicon fragments. Monocrystalline panels -considered the premium of the two- have higher conversion efficiencies and are sleeker looking. Polycrystalline cells are the cheaper option, but they have slightly lower efficiencies and look less aesthetically pleasing to some.

In order for the conversion of sun radiation to electric energy through the solar panels to successfully occur there is a complex process that consists of the following elements—solar panels, PV module, wiring, inverters, etc. The PV module is the core of the solar cells, when light from the sun hits the conversion module, each cell produces direct current (DC) voltage. DC and alternating current (AC) wiring are responsible for switching the power on/off and from the inverter. The inverter is responsible for taking the DC from the solar and/or batteries and turning it into AC for use in a building or on the grid. Batteries are sometimes installed to store the electric energy chemically to be used when the sun is not hitting the panels, like during the night-time. Finally, solar controllers are used to regulate the energy current into the batteries. Solar energy is made possible through the work of each of these components.

How much does solar power cost?

The prices of solar panels are ever dropping. What you should expect depends on the system size and federal solar tax credit, with a 10-kilowatt ranging from $17,650 to $23,828 and the average price per watt ranging from $2.40 to $3.22. The cost depends on how much energy you want to generate, depending on whether you’re planning on fueling solar electricity through your home or business. The below chart depicts the average cost for solar panels depending on the size of the system:

System sizeAverage solar panel system cost before tax creditsAverage solar panel system cost after tax credits
2 kW$5,620$4,159
3 kW$8,430$6,238
4 kW$11,240$8,318
5 kW$14,050$10,397
6 kW$16,860$12,476
7 kW$19,670$14,556
8 kW$22,480$16,635
9 kW$25,290$18,715
10 kW$28,100$20,794
12 kW$33,720$24,953
15 kW$42,150$41,588
20 kW$56,200$41,588
25 kW$70,250$51,985

The solar tax credit reduces your cost by 26% simply for installing a solar energy system, saving you thousands of dollars for going solar. Costs can depend on your state, so it’s best to compare prices with various providers in your area to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

What can solar energy be used for?

The sun makes plants grow, causes the wind to blow, and affects the temperature across the globe. It can also power your household appliances, your cell phone, and your air conditioning. Solar can be used to:

  1. Provide electricity for homes and businesses – a solar system installed on rooftops can power the entire establishment.
  2. Heat your water – solar panels absorb heat and then transfer it into a water tank. This can be your home water or even your swimming pool.
  3. Heat your home or business – solar space heating systems paired with forced hot air systems can heat homes.
  4. Provide light within your home or business (one of the most common uses) solar lighting is present in homes, streetlights, and road signs.
  5. Charge portable batteries – portable solar PV chargers can be used for charging your portable electronics such as your cell phone.
  6. Power your method of transportation – solar power has been used to power buses, trains, and airplanes. Though not widely available, solar-powered cars are in the works. In 2015, we worked with UAH to solar power some of their golf carts.

With the potential to power your everyday necessities, solar energy has the potential to power your future.

Why isn’t solar power more widely used?

Solar energy is not a new concept, but even just a few years ago, it could be expensive to implement and not readily available to many people. However, now, many families across the U.S. and the rest of the world have converted to using solar energy as their primary source of energy. Solar energy is becoming more widely used as time progresses and prices continue to drop.

The advantages that come with using solar energy include:

  • We can’t run out of solar energy, making it a renewable source that we will always have available.
  • What you pay for energy will drop, how much depends on the size of your solar system.
  • You can generate electricity and heat, making its uses diverse.
  • Maintenance is cheap and easy. It’s as simple as cleaning the panels a few times a year.
  • Improvements are consistently being made to current solar energy systems in the industry.
  • Solar panels typically last for about 25 to 30 years, or even more.
  • Solar energy is more optimal for the environment.
  • While solar energy may cost more starting out, there are tax credits that lower the prices.

The disadvantages that come with using solar energy include:

  • The upfront or initial cost can be high—paying for the panels, inverter, batteries, wiring, and installation.
  • Solar energy is dependent on the weather, and you may need batteries to smooth out your production or save it for later.
  • Adding battery storage makes a system more expensive.
  • You may need more solar panels than you have available space.
  • There is some pollution that comes with the initial manufacturing process of the solar panels.

Who can benefit from solar energy?

Everyone can benefit from the use of solar energy. You don’t have to live on a sunny beach to benefit from the energy that the sun provides for us, nor will you be without if you live in a cloudy region. As long as solar energy systems are properly manufactured and placed, the risks fall far below that of the non-renewable energy the world uses now.

What is the reality of solar energy?

Solar energy has proved to be abundant and is becoming more popular as years progress. Solar pollutes far less, is energy efficient, and saves money. There are many misconceptions about using a solar energy system that have caused people to avoid it, but with our help and determination to teach you about renewable energy, we can move past those misconceptions and implement a clean energy future.



Electric lines in the ice and snow

Alabama’s Lessons From Texas

This article by our Chief Operating Officer, Daniel Tait, was originally published in Business Alabama.

What happened in Texas in February was a tragedy, with millions left without power amid freezing temperatures for days.  A recent opinion piece by Mr. George Clark of Manufacture Alabama discussed what a similar situation could mean for Alabama. While it’s true that better energy planning is needed, Mr. Clark missed the mark on the right solution for Alabama and left out key tools (cleaner and cheaper tools) to address Alabama’s energy needs.

As Mr. Clark noted, almost all energy sources had troubles in Texas, although not all suffered equally. Some government officials and other vested interests (mainly fossil fuel advocates) immediately jumped to conclusions, blaming the power outages on renewable energy sources, namely frozen wind turbines. It has since come to light that the main cause was actually frozen gas pipelines and instruments.  Gas and other fossil fuels like coal were especially hit hard with supply issues. Upwards of 40% of the Texas’s gas, coal, and nuclear fleet went offline at times. At its peak, about 30 gigawatts of mostly gas generation in Texas failed because of the cold temperatures. Wind power also had some outages, but not nearly on the same scale. In fact, ERCOT, Texas’ grid operator, reported that wind power was “the least significant factor” in the blackout. Furthermore, wind turbines can and do operate reliably in sub-zero temperatures if they are properly winterized, and wind turbines operate fine in much colder places, such as the northern Plains.

Texas relies heavily on gas for its energy supply, just like Alabama. Unfortunately, the recent disaster highlights the inherent risks associated with gas plants, gas supply, and an overreliance on gas. Many of the gas plants that went offline in Texas could not receive the gas they were promised, even if they had firm delivery gas contracts. And, as this goes to press, Alabama Power is currently proposing a massive expansion of their electric generation capacity with mostly gas. But gas, as we are seeing in Texas, is not the panacea many utilities claim it to be.

So, what can Alabama do to help protect us from a similar catastrophe? While we won’t know the full story until Texas authorities investigate further, Alabama can and should take immediate steps to prepare. While electricity outages are always a possibility, we can reduce the likelihood of occurrences and impacts by investing in more energy efficiency, having more robust demand response programs and reducing barriers to renewable energy in our state.  Alabama is woefully behind in deploying these lower cost resources that do not require the massive expenditures (and accompanying rate hikes) that a new gas plant requires.

As the least cost energy resource for customers, ramping up energy efficiency would lower bills for customers across the board. Energy efficiency is especially important to reduce peak stress on the grid in Southern states where much of our home heating comes from electricity–more efficient homes and businesses hold on to heating and cooling for longer periods and save energy and money year-round. But energy efficiency is also a public safety issue. If power goes out for a prolonged amount of time as it did in Texas, Alabama needs buildings that can keep people warm and safe. Unfortunately, Alabama Power ranks last in the nation in energy efficiency offerings among utilities. Utilities often oppose stringent energy efficiency standards and building codes in an attempt to sell more electricity and build more centralized power plants. While that may be good for utility profits, it’s not good for Alabamians or our businesses.

Furthermore, stronger and more robust demand response programs – which reduce or shift your energy usage – can help utilities manage load to keep the grid running when power plants go down and demand for electricity is still rising. Demand response programs can compensate residents for things like dialing back the temperature on their thermostat or shutting down a water heater during an emergency.

Finally, Alabama utilities and regulators have gone out of their way to block renewable energy sources in this state.  Look no further than the Alabama PSC’s recent decision, and Alabama Power’s increase in a “standby charge”, to keep taxing the sun for small scale solar producers in the state. Or the Alabama PSC’s recent decision to not allow 400 MW of solar plus battery storage. Smaller scale solar and energy storage projects can help us mitigate energy usage in record-breaking storms. These local sources of reliable and cost-effective energy are almost nowhere to be found in Alabama, even when compared to our Southeastern neighbors, and it’s critical to bring these sources online and scale them as quickly as possible. Neighboring states like Georgia are doing it, and they are creating jobs and stimulating the economy in the meantime. Utilities often oppose renewable energy resources, despite the myriad benefits for customers, because of the threat to their business model.

Preventing a disaster like Texas from happening in Alabama will require better planning and investing in lower cost resources such as energy efficiency, demand response, and renewable energy resources. Alabama should take heed of the tough lessons Texas learned: more gas plants are not a failsafe solution and banking on last century’s technology for a historic weather event can result in unprecedented failure.

Energy Efficiency: Georgia Power vs. Alabama Power

You might think that there isn’t much difference between the utilities within each state’s borders (I know I didn’t). We give them money, and in return they make sure we have working electricity. Seems simple enough, right? How much more could there be?

As you may have guessed since this is an article and not a single paragraph, there’s a lot more to it than that. But, rather than compare every single utility within each state, we’ll focus on the differences between Georgia Power and Alabama Power which are both owned by Southern Company.

Specifically, we want to examine the differences in terms of how much money each company spent on energy efficiency compared to how much energy they are saving through those programs. But first, a little background information.

Each year, most utilities spend money that is supposed to go towards incentive programs that help customers save energy.¹ Most utilities channel a portion of the money that we pay them into energy efficiency programs, often being forced to do so by regulators because they don’t normally like selling less of their product. These programs exist to incentivize consumers to make upgrades on their homes and businesses, which is much cheaper than building a new power plant.

But not all utility energy efficiency is created equal and we have to take a look at the reality on the ground.

As of 2019, Georgia Power spent $16.5 million dollars, through various programs, on residential customers if they invested in cleaner energy efficiency for their homes. For commercial customers, Georgia Power spent $24.8 million dollars on energy efficiency. With that money, residential customers saved 95,124 megawatt hours (MWh), while commercial customers saved 295,968 MWh. That’s a total of 391,092 MWhs saved in 2019 alone! For comparison’s sake, the average Alabama home uses between 1 and 2 MWh per month.

Since Georgia Power and Alabama Power are owned by the same parent company, wouldn’t it make sense for Alabama Power to offer similar opportunities to their customers? Sadly, neither Alabama Power, nor Alabama regulators, seem to think so.

Unlike Georgia Power, Alabama Power only spent about $3.3 million dollars (of which just ~$5,000 were for incentives) on residential energy efficiency, and $84,000 for commercial customers. With that paltry sum, residential customers only saved 5,486 MWh and commercial customers just 192 MWh.

Why does Georgia Power spend so much more than Alabama Power? The price that consumers pay each company is fairly similar. So what’s going on here?

It comes down to monopoly control. Utilities do not want you to save energy, they want you to buy energy from them. It is the job of the regulators at the public service commission to protect consumers from monopoly abuses. Some regulators force utilities to invest in lower-cost energy efficiency since a monopoly would not do so on its own. Some regulators have even gone so far as to change the way utilities are paid in order to give the utilities a financial incentive to promote energy efficiency. Neither of those things happen in Alabama.

Part of it is that Alabama Power wants to build power plants, because they earn profit from how much new construction they do, regardless of if the construction is needed. In order to justify new construction, they need you to use more energy, not less. Don’t forget that Alabama Power customers are now on the hook for more than $1 billion in new gas plants…

I digress. The point is that we are giving utilities an arm and a leg, but we aren’t getting out what we put in. We’re already paying enough on our utilities bills to work towards the future and switch over to clean energy. Georgia, though they’ve just begun, has the right idea, and even they are behind the curve compared to many other areas of the country. So why is Alabama Power falling further behind? And why are we letting them get away with it?

Alabama PSC Should Release Analysis on Alabama Power’s Excessive Profit Formula

Today, Energy Alabama sent a letter to the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) asking it to commit fully to transparency and fairness by allowing regular Alabamians to review and submit questions about an overdue report examining Alabama Power’s Rate Stabilization and Equalization (RSE), a key factor in how the utility’s excessive profits are determined.

Read the letter here

Alabama Power’s RSE utilizes a formula that over-rewards the company at the expense of its customers. Hard-working Alabama Power customers deserve to know why they pay some of the highest electric bills in the country. The Alabama PSC owes an explanation to the people of Alabama and should find a way to virtually open this meeting to the general public.

There are major questions about the workings and results of the RSE formula which should be answered by a report required by a 2013 PSC order authorizing the rate. Publicly available data shows that Alabama customers are overburdened by the PSC’s formula, which hides the usual measure of return on equity (ROE) used by other utility regulators.

However, the “hidden” ROE can still be calculated from other sources. Such a comparison from 2014 through 2018 shows that Alabama Power customers paid more than $1 billion in excess profits than they would have if the PSC had instead awarded Alabama Power the national average ROE.

COVID-19, and the economic hardships it created, have further exacerbated the excess profit Alabama Power has pocketed. Instead, the PSC continues to over-reward Alabama Power at the expense of its customers.

Allowing a monopoly utility to retain profits that are far above those necessary to provide mandated services is not equitable nor economical for customers. The long overdue RSE report should provide the important information necessary for all stakeholders to discuss the unique formula and the profits it supports­­.

“If this Commission cares about creating jobs, it should put Alabama Power’s excessive profits back into the hands of regular folks and small businesses,” said Daniel Tait, Energy Alabama’s Chief Operating Officer. “The time for monopoly handouts is over.”

By any objective standard, the case is clear. The Alabama PSC must support transparency and #ReleaseTheRSE.