The popularity of renewable energy has increased significantly within the United States in recent years. This is apparent when you drive through neighbourhoods and see large, shiny solar panels lining the roofs of an increasing number of homes. In the past, renewable energy systems were a “luxury” reserved for the wealthy. Today, the lower cost of supplies and financial incentives allow the masses to install their own solar power systems. However, there’s another significant and more apparent reason for solar panel installations. In addition to the eco-friendly benefits, solar panels also protect against rising energy prices.
The United States has a wide range of energy sources and uses varying technology to generate electricity. Over time, the energy sources have narrowed down into the following three main categories:
However, despite the changes in energy production, fossil fuels remain the largest energy source. In fact, in 2020, natural gas alone provided about forty percent of the electricity in the United States.
This is because natural gas is used to power the steam and gas turbines that generate usable electricity for the grid. This also means that households connected to the grid without an independent energy system are susceptible to consistently rising electricity prices.
There are various reasons why the cost of electricity fluctuates. It could be due to natural events like severe winter storms that restrict the flow of natural gas. There are also other world events like wars that involve natural gas exporters.
For example, Russia going to war can contribute to any rising electricity prices. This is because Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter and has the largest reserves.
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As briefly stated earlier, fossil fuels are the largest source of energy for electricity production in the United States. The only way to protect yourself from the variables that affect the electricity price is to install your own renewable energy system.
This can include utilizing wind power, biomass, hydropower and high-efficiency solar panels.
Out of all the options, the most efficient and affordable are solar power systems. However, the amount of protection from rising prices you receive depends on the type of solar power system you decide to install.
A grid-tied solar system is one of the most popular solar panel systems because it allows homeowners to save money in two ways. The first is through generating their own electricity to use throughout the day, and the second is through net metering.
Net metering is a powerful incentive that drove many to install solar panels. It’s a process that involves “selling” excess electricity to the local utility company at the same rate the company sells it for. Essentially, you turn the tables and become the provider when you have excess electricity available.
Having a grid-tied system is excellent for when it’s in full production and provides an excess amount of electricity. However, you won’t be protected in the event you need to pull electricity from the grid at the market rate. The only way to be entirely independent is to use an off-grid solar system.
Off-grid or standalone solar systems provide the most insulation out of all the options. However, they are much more expensive than grid-tied systems because they require additional equipment.
You must purchase battery storage and potentially an optional generator to have an off-grid system. This helps to ensure a household has electricity access at any given moment. The benefit of an off-grid system is, of course, the ability to become entirely energy self-sufficient. It’s a form of security and can mean you’re never prone to blackouts from being connected to the grid.
The third type of solar panel system that provides insulation against rising electricity prices is a hybrid solar system. You can consider a hybrid as either a grid-tied system with additional battery storage or an off-grid system with the grid as backup power. These are a less expensive option compared to off-grid systems but provide all the same benefits. It’s not as expensive because it removes the need for an optional generator.
Often, pulling from the grid during off-peak hours can be much cheaper than the diesel required for generators. Hybrid systems are also the subject of many innovations in the industry.
For example, consider the smart solar technology developed for hybrid systems. It’s a technology that helps homeowners get the most savings from their solar system. The tech will use the energy produced during peak hours for the most effective savings. It will then pull electricity from the grid or the solar panels during off-peak hours. It effectively allows homeowners to take advantage of the fluctuating electricity rate.
Hybrid systems also allow homeowners two other options. They can store their excess electricity during peak hours or sell it back to the local utility company when it’s the most expensive.
Installing a solar panel system is becoming more important as fossil fuel costs are trending higher. They help insulate homeowners from rising fossil fuel electricity prices in several ways.
Homeowners can sell back their excess during peak hours when the rate is at its highest or become 100 percent independent from the grid. Having a solar system means you’re no longer dependent on the grid and less susceptible to the varying factors that affect electricity prices.
At the end of the day, you have control and, in uncertain times with rising prices, having control is a worthwhile investment.