Project in Nieuwland Amersfoort consists of solar panels on over 500 homes and utility buildings. Photo: flickr/enecomedia
Project in Nieuwland Amersfoort consists of solar panels on over 500 homes and utility buildings. Photo: flickr/enecomedia

Homeowners looking to lower their utility bill and environmental footprint are finding a bright idea in solar power generation.  According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Americans added more solar power generating capacity during the third quarter of 2013 than ever before – 186 megawatts, up almost 50% year over year!  Increased consumer demand and advancements in technology are leading homeowners to strongly consider installation.

For some homeowners, solar panels are still simply too expensive.  However, you shouldn’t let initial sticker shock scare you off.  Some retailers and utility companies offer lease (vs. buy) options, lessening the upfront investment costs.  According to a recent FoxBusiness personal finance article, ‘Experts say the leasing process of a solar panel system is similar to leasing a car or even getting cable service.  Most don’t require a down payment, but will lock in a rate homeowners will pay each month for as long as 20 years. The rate may be fixed over the contract period or it may rise on an annualized basis. Either way, experts say the savings compared to consumers’ current and future electricity rates will be greater during the life of the contract.  The solar panel company or installer is responsible for any panel maintenance or repairs.’

DSIRE, the Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency, offers comprehensive information about federal and state incentive programs for implementing solar and other renewable energy projects at home.  Tax credits, rebates and other incentives may be available in your area so check out this important resource.

Some utility providers even allow homeowners to sell unused solar power generation back to the grid, also helping offset costs of implementation.

CNNMoney Editor-at-large David Whitford recently installed a 15-panel, 3.75 kilowatt system on the roof of his Boston home.  He shares that the system replaces about 80% of his family’s grid draw.  And, over the promised 25 year life span of the equipment, the system will cut his household’s footprint by 62 tons of CO2 – not to mention the $25,000 in utility bill savings.  Whitford’s total upfront cost was just under $13,000.  But, thanks to state and federal incentives, his ROI will be less than five years.

In a newly formed partnership, Phoenix homebuilder Taylor Morrison and retailer SolarCity announced a solar option on all new Phoenix-area homes.  The partners outline that homeowners can reap the benefits of solar power generation for little to no upfront costs.  The partnership will make it possible for home buyers to save up to thousands on their utility bills, and will also enable them to lock in their solar electricity costs for decades into the future. Taylor Morison is the first national homebuilder in Arizona to offer SolarCity’s solar systems to homebuyers without increasing the purchase price of their homes.

By Chase Ezell

Chase has served in various public relations, communications and sustainability roles. He is a former managing editor for