This year for Earth Hour, we teamed up with Mike Holmes to help educate homeowners on the many benefits of adopting solar energy. Mike Holmes created an “I Will if You Will” video, stating that “If 5,000 people sign up to learn more about solar, I will donate $5,000” to an environmental protection fund. The campaign began in early March and continued until April 22nd, Earth Day. We launched this campaign with the hope of educating homeowners on how they can do their part this Earth Hourand make a change that can not only benefit the environment, but also benefit themselves in the form of significant savings.
We had a strong response to the campaign, with hundreds upon hundreds of people signing up to learn more about solar — but unfortunately we fell short of our 5,000-person goal. While it is too bad that we didn’t achieve this goal, we are continuing to educate homeowners about the many benefits of going solar, and it’s becoming clear that a lack of awareness and education for homeowners who may be interested in going solar is one of the biggest obstacles we face on our path to a clean energy future.
Below is a list of common misconceptions people have about solar energy, which we present as a way to help educate homeowners and the public at large.
Misconception #1: Solar leasing options aren’t actually no-cost.
There are many solar leasing options available that require homeowners to put no money down. Solar providers like PURE will install a solar system on a homeowner’s roof for zero cost to the homeowner. In most cases, the maintenance to the panels will be taken care of by the solar provider, so the homeowner doesn’t have to worry about any costs associated with upkeep to the panels. Methods of payment or usage of the energy varies from country to country. Some states in America allow homeowners to directly offset their electricity bill, while in certain areas in Canada, homeowners are sent a yearly check.
Misconception #2: Solar panels are too expensive.
The cost of solar panels has dropped dramatically over the past 40 years, especially in the past 10 years. There has been more than a 99% reduction in solar panels since 1977. Today, a solar panel system usually costs between $15,000 to $40,000, before rebates, tax credits, and other incentives. If purchased outright, the return on investment is quite strong and is actually more beneficial than a number of typically “good” investments, such as the stock market and some bonds. The numbers change across North America, but solar energy is widely recognized as a very strong investment with a healthy ROI.
Misconception #3: Solar Energy increases electricity costs.
A common misconception, typically in Ontario, Canada, is the idea that the Feed-In Tariff program is increasing Ontario homeowner’s electricity bills. Numbers from the Environment Commissioner directly dispel this myth. In Ontario, 43% of the total electricity bill is made up of power from generators such as Bruce Power. The wind and solar portion make up 3% of the monthly electricity bill. The Feed-In Tariff program (FIT), which includes all types of renewable energy in Ontario, increases the average homeowner’s monthly electricity bill by less than $1.50. The solar energy portion of the FIT program adds less than a fraction of a cent to the average Ontario homeowner’s monthly electricity bill.
Misconception #4: Solar can only be installed on new roofs.
Many homeowners believe that they can only go solar if they have recently had their roof re-done. If a homeowner is in need of a new roof, it is always recommended that they get their roof re-done prior to installing the panels. However, a roof does not need to be brand new in order to install solar panels. Many solar providers will remove and re-install the panels if a roof repair is needed down the line, or alternatively, a homeowner can hire a contractor to take care this.
Misconception #5: Solar is highly subsidized compared to other energy production.
Another strong misconception is that solar is being subsidized by the government more than other types of energy production. This belief is so far removed from reality as to be laughable, except that it’s such a serious mistake. The government subsidizes coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear through tax dollars, and when the construction of energy plants are delayed, tax payers directly absorb these costs. A number of studies have compared how the U.S. government has subsidized different methods of energy production over the decades, finding that fossil fuels and nuclear receive much greater levels of support than solar.
Misconception #6: Solar energy is at a standstill.
The solar energy industry is expanding and shows no signs of slowing down across North America. 2013 alone brought a 41% increase in America’s solar energy output. Canada is no different: By 2025, Canada hopes to have more than 35,000 jobs created in the solar sector and to displace 15 to 31 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
Misconception #7: Solar only makes sense in areas that receive constant sunshine.
Many people believe that solar energy is only efficient in places that are constantly getting direct sunlight. Germany, the trailblazer of solar energy, produces more than double the energy that America and Canada produce, with less sunlight. For example, on a sunny day in late August 2013, 59.1% of Germany’s electricity was produced through renewable energy, 11.2% of this came from solar.
See the rest: What if Solar Power had Fossil-Fuel-like Subsidies?
Misconception #8: The savings aren’t worth it.
We conducted a report in 2011 looking at the average homeowner who went solar in America in 2011. During this time, when solar was more expensive, the average homeowner could most likely save $20,080 off their net electricity costs over 20 years. This figure reflects the full savings that homeowners will realize after their panel system is paid off.