Is Solar Energy An Overlooked Opportunity?
Solar energy has turned a corner and is here to stay. Why aren't more people (and companies) capitalizing on it?
If you were to have asked the experts 10 years ago about solar energy, many would have said that the odds were completely stacked against it: It was too expensive to implement, too niche to create any sort of market share, and though it might play a small part in the energy mix, it would certainly never become a main source of future energy.
Fast forward to 2021 and things are looking quite a bit different than the world would have presumed. Over the last decade, renewable energy (such as wind and solar) has become the cheapest energy source available. It is more affordable to build and operate than coal, natural gas, nuclear and even hydro-power generation facilities. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. utilities generated almost 18% of their total power production in 2019 from renewable sources. This doesn't account for the 35-billion-kilowatt hours of generation that came from small scale solar installations, such as those found on homes and businesses.
I've been in the entrepreneur world for quite some time now, and I've seen many opportunities crop up — but not a single one quite as lucrative or conscientious as this one. Solar energy is not only an incredible green energy alternative, but it may be an overlooked opportunity in our market today.
How did this happen so quickly?
There are many factors that have contributed to solar energy's growth — government policies, incentives, pressure on utility providers to cut carbon emissions, and a growing demand on the part of businesses and homeowners to save money on power. Interestingly enough, its increased demand has led to clever innovations, which has dropped paneling prices significantly and allowed this once-niche industry to become a booming source of income and market share.
This has opened up new opportunities for many entrepreneurs interested in the future of energy as a small business. If you live on the East Coast or West Coast, rooftop solar is nothing new — it's been around for decades. But there are many areas across the country that are just now beginning to recognize and understand the benefits of solar technology. This equates to some enticing opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Consider Rogers, Arkansas based Shine Solar. They are the typical solar installation company you might find anywhere in the U.S. The company serves a four-state region that consists of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee. These are areas that some may have not considered to be solar-friendly. Yet, after only five years in business, Shine is on track to make $100 million.
I had the chance to sit down and speak with Shine Solar's CEO about what makes this such a great model.
"What makes rooftop solar such a good business model is that it offers something for everyone," Nick Gorden explained. "Whether you are looking to become more environmentally responsible, or if your main goal is to save money and live more independently, solar helps you achieve that. So regardless of your politics or beliefs about the environment, solar is a win-win for everyone. That's why it can be successful anywhere, and many people are just now beginning to realize that."
This recent uptick in awareness may mean a corresponding uptick in solar's successful future. Here's what it may mean for you.
Related: Going Solar at Home
What is the future outlook for rooftop solar?
Shine is just one example of the many untapped opportunities that solar offers. There are millions of homes and businesses around the country in areas like Arkansas that may have rarely considered the benefits of solar technology. That's a lot of potential that has yet to be taken advantage of.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association's (SEIA) most recent Q4 2020 report, the solar industry as a whole is forecast to continue exponential growth. SEIA notes that the Covid-19 pandemic had a smaller impact on residential installations than expected, with this growth trajectory continuing. In fact, SEIA points out that sales had returned to pre-pandemic levels by mid-summer, with many installers experiencing record-breaking sales months in the latter half of 2020. This alone is good news for the industry, and when you also consider that the United States now has a solar-friendly president in Joe Biden, the future of solar gets even brighter.
Biden has promised to make renewable energy a cornerstone of his administration and has proposed a plan to put the U.S. on a course to net zero emissions by 2050. This will undoubtedly include rooftop solar and utility-scale solar as major components. Already, Biden has extended the 26% federal tax credit for solar installations, and it remains to be seen how much more will be done to promote the use of solar technology nationwide.
Solar energy has turned a corner and is here to stay. Home and business owners are waking up to the money saving and environmental advantages of rooftop solar energy in growing numbers. That means there are many opportunities available that weren't there before.
As utility companies continue installing more and more solar farms, the price of solar panels for homes and businesses will get even more affordable — making solar available to even more people. And with a strong government emphasis on renewables, the industry is set to continue its rapid expansion.
All things considered, the solar industry is positioned for success, making solar installation a great entrepreneurial and investment opportunity. Watch for much more innovation in this space as the decade continues.
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