Should I Wait Until the Technology Improves to Go Solar?

As a long-time advocate of solar energy – and an employee at one of the longest established solar design and installation companies, Independent Power Systems, I often talk to people about the benefits of getting a solar electric system installed to power their home. And a typical question I encounter is:

“Shouldn’t I wait until the technology improves?”

My answer: No doubt that solar panel technology will continue to improve. Research is ongoing and the industry is constantly coming up with things like thinner silicon wafers (silicon is the main raw material in a solar cell), frameless solar panels, microinverters – all of which contribute to broadening the menu of solar power options.

However, it is true that most changes in design and efficiency are minute. Research and development take time, and any innovations need to be properly field-tested and then brought to market. This process takes years. Unlike the rapid changes in IT technology such as smartphones – where bells and whistles are constantly being tweaked – solar panels (and the other components of a solar electricity system) are already evolved to a high degree. Where there will continue to be significant changes in solar is in decreasing costs of installation and the permitting process – as communities adopt more solar-friendly policies. Over the next few years, solar-generated electricity will come to be closer in cost and even cheaper than coal and gas-generated electricity.

Solar PV (photovoltaic) technology is simple, effective, and efficient. Silicon-based solar PV panels are a tried and true technology. As a solid-state technology, there are no moving parts to a solar panel! Your solar panels will perform reliably for up to forty years. (Better quality panels will offer higher performance for a longer time.)

Your rooftop solar power plant can be designed to power your entire home – depending on the size of the system and choice of the panel. (There are panels — specifically those made by SunPower – with efficiencies as high as 23%.) In some cases, your system will even produce excess power, which will supplement the grid (and you may receive a check from your power company). You may even be thinking about getting an electric car in the future – and sunshine can be your fuel.

Yes, you can wait for the technology to improve. But meanwhile, you’re beholden to your polluting fossil fuel-based power company with its steadily escalating electricity prices. On average, electricity prices in the U.S. are increasing at 5% per year. Why not start your savings now? Today. There really is no better time.

Everyone I know who has had a solar PV system installed at their home is pleased with their decision. Solar panels – correctly installed – integrate aesthetically with a house. The homeowner has a high-performance and clean power plant atop their house with a boundless supply of fuel. The system is essentially maintenance-free. Electricity is now free. (There are, however, line and delivery charges.) With a solar PV system, your house has a greater resale value. Your choice to go solar will quickly prove to be a great return on investment. Who wouldn’t be happy?