In the first quarter of this year, the United States installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity. And it has become increasingly popular in Florida. However, President Trump’s trade war might change things a little bit as the year concludes.
Living in Florida, going solar was a no-brainer for Carol Lopez-Bethel. After installing solar panels on the roof of her home, the sun powers her refrigerator, washing machine, air conditioner and more.
“The lights that are on right now are free”, says Lopez-Bethel. “They are coming from the sun and we are not creating any pollution. We are not imposing ourselves in any negative way.”
Lopez-Bethel likes that she is helping the environment while saving on her electric bill. Prior to solar it was between $150 to $200 dollars per month. But after installing solar panels, she is now paying $28 on average.
The average cost for a solar energy system is around $30,000. When considering Lopez-Bethel’s average savings, the system will pay for itself in about 7 years.
To some, the future of solar it looks a bit cloudy. President Trump has slapped tariffs on imported solar equipment driving up costs. Florida-based solar company Blue Chip Energy went under recently after selling 100s of customers solar panels that did not work and may have been unsafe.
It pays to do your research and homework before deciding on a solar provider. There are many companies doing business today that have a slew of complaints and have been penalized numerous times for licensing violations.
Lopez-Bethel says she did her research before choosing a contractor. It was a leap of faith. She went with Miami-based Goldin Solar.
“I guarantee you that you will use energy,” says Darin Goldin, the owner and founder of Goldin Energy. “But the question is, are you going to buy it from your local utility or are you going to benefit from the sunshine hitting your rooftop?”
Utility companies like Florida, Power and Light (FPL) view solar energy as a threat and backed a 2016 amendment to limit rooftop solar expansion. The measure failed and solar advocates cheered.
Goldin encourages his customers to shop around using the price of dollars per watt as a comparison. He said homeowners interested in solar should be planning to stay in their house for the next least 7 to 8 years and should have a large flat roof surface with direct exposure to the sun. He also says homeowners should make sure they are working with a licensed contractor and get plenty of references.
Lopez-Bethel can monitor her system online charting the production of each panel on her roof. Her panels often generate more power than she actually needs. “You are actually returning power to the grid and FPL has to rebate that back to you,” she says.
In this specific example, FPL is required to deduct the amount of energy she sells back from her monthly bill or credit her future bills in the same calendar year. This is known as “net metering”.