New Jersey has proven itself to be a solar power stalwart, taking the initiative several years ago to establish itself as the east coast leader in solar panel uptake. Trenton, NJ, which this article focuses on, is accordingly a great place to install solar panels. Trenton residents benefit both themselves as well as the environment by going solar, and having a system installed is easier than ever before thanks to the falling price of solar panel technology and government incentives combined with the broad availability of solar panel leasing programs.
Why should you consider installing solar panels in Trenton?
The 2 main motivations (often complementary) for going solar in Trenton and elsewhere in the US are 1) the broader environmental benefits, and 2) the desire to save money on power bills.
Contribute to NJ’s transition to clean energy
Unless signed up for a green power program, the typical Trenton household’s electricity comes from a mix of generation technologies that most environmentally conscious people would prefer to avoid if at all possible.
Namely, just over half of the electricity delivered to the average Trenton home comes from nuclear power. Another 35% comes from coal power, with about 17% coming from gas-fired power plants. Combined, these 3 sources supply 95% of the typical Trenton home’s electricity.
All of these technologies have their issues. Nuclear power, while largely carbon emissions-free when generating electricity, is associated with a slew of potential hazards–with the question of the safe disposal of spent fuel topping the list. Coal is the most common and most CO2-intensive fuel usually used in electricity generation; globally it is managing to devour a huge part of the world’s greenhouse gas budget. Meanwhile, gas, while less carbon-intensive than coal, cannot be deemed truly ‘clean ‘– especially in light of the fact that it is increasingly composed of shale gas, whose extraction methods heap further questionability on its use as a fuel source.
At the moment, only about 3% of the electricity delivered to Trenton homes comes from renewable energy, and that is mostly hydropower. By switching to solar energy, however, households can help nudge their region’s–and their country’s–electricity mix in the direction that they want it to go.
Going solar can reduce your power bills
The main motivation for most people considering going solar in Trenton is economic: if solar power is cheap, those who have a system can actually save money. Were solar panels free, of course, it is reasonable to think that everyone would have them. But at the moment they’re outside of the budgetary reach of most households, and bringing them to their current state of investment-worthiness has required some assistance. Thanks in great part to government incentives, which were introduced to bridge the gap between the economics and the good intentions associated with going solar, it is now possible for solar power to be cheaper than electricity from the grid.
Solar panels: To lease or to purchase?
What is a solar lease? What are the benefits?
The introduction of solar leasing programs into the US solar market has changed the economics of going solar completely, and has made solar power accessible to more people than would ever have been possible otherwise.
A solar lease (similar to a power purchase agreement) is essentially an agreement between a household and a system financier in which the customer can have a solar system installed on their roof at no upfront cost to them. The contracts in these arrangements are usually 20 years.
Instead of the homeowner paying for the system, the financier installs, owns, and maintains the system, and the customer pays them for the solar electricity that it produces–usually at set rates that are lower than standard electricity that they would otherwise purchase from the power grid. As per the chart above, a portion of the home’s electricity will still come from the utility, but the end result of having a system is overall lower net electricity costs.
What about purchasing a solar system?
Thanks to generous incentives from the federal and NJ state governments, purchasing a system is also a smart option for those who have the resources and are looking for a high-yield investment. Payback periods for a solar system are as low as 5-7 years, compared to solar power system lifespans of 25+. This could mean 18+ years of cost-free, fuel-free, clean electricity for those who opt into buying a system.