Top Residential Solar Trends for 2016

by Bryn HuntpalmerMarch 28, 2016

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As the solar market expands, so do the possibilities for homeowners who want to convert to sustainable energy. Since the implementation of the solar tax credit in 2006, the cost of installing a solar energy system has dropped 73 percent. And in the past few years, new technology and designs have emerged to bring solar more within reach for the average U.S. homeowner. As we make our way through 2016, many more people will be taking advantage of the extended tax credit to install solar in their homes. Here are a few rising trends we’re likely to see this year.

Storage

When solar energy first emerged, tying into the grid wasn’t an option; solar users stored the energy they produced in batteries. But the growth of the industry has brought about regulations and incentives for tying to the grid. Currently, batteries are pricey, and the result is that systems with storage batteries comprise only about 1 percent of U.S. solar installations. But the popularity of grid-tied solar presents a few major problems, like a gap in electricity supply and demand and reliance on fossil fuels to supplement a home’s energy use at times when sunlight isn’t accessible.

Thankfully, innovation in storage battery solutions is bringing batteries back into the picture. The Energy Department announced in January that it will invest $18 million in storage solution development. SolarCity already carries Tesla batteries, which cost 60 percent less than previous storage products. We predict that 2016 will bring about a swell of storage-based systems, and thereby a decrease of dependence on utility companies.

Shared Solar

Even with tax incentives and lowering prices, not every homeowner interested in going solar can afford the upfront costs of solar system. Others living in apartments, condos, or historic neighborhoods may be limited by their situation. Thankfully, a new model for implementing residential solar is arising: community and shared solar. These models allow people to invest in solar together to share some of the financial burden as well as the benefits. Depending on what works best for the community, the PV modules can be located on several buildings, on an off-site free-standing structure, or on top of a multi-unit building. Over the next five years, the U.S. is expected to add 1.8 gigawatts of community solar.

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics

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As technology improves, design options expand. Solar-lovers who just don’t like the clunky look of traditional PV cells don’t have to settle for an aesthetic that doesn’t work for their home. Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are solar cells that mimic the look—and take the place of—traditional building materials. For example, solar shingles function like roof-mounted solar panels and roof shingles. Just like traditional asphalt shingles, solar shingles are sturdy and weather-resistant. Since they combine the functions of providing shelter and producing energy into one product, they can be more cost-effective than regular roofing materials when it comes to new construction or replacing a worn-out roof.

Passive Solar Design

Sustainable energy isn’t the only green trend that’s blowing up in the home design world. Green home design is gaining traction, and many builders and homeowners are prioritizing energy efficiency, waste reduction, and using fewer resources. Passive solar is an element of green design that first makes use of the home’s location, position, climate, and available materials to minimize energy use. The home’s position and materials are optimized to collect heat from the sun in the heating season, while nighttime ventilation provides comfort during the cooling season. A passive solar home needs properly oriented windows, materials that absorb heat, fans and blowers to transfer collected heat, and control strategies for the cooling season, such as awnings, blinds, fans, shutters, and low-emissivity film for the windows.

In 2016, rising trends and breakthroughs will make solar energy systems and storage more attainable to homeowners of various incomes, living situations, and design preferences.


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About The Author
Bryn Huntpalmer
Bryn Huntpalmer is a mother of two young children living in Austin, Texas where she currently works as an editor for Modernize. In addition to regularly contributing to Home Remodeling and Design websites around the web, her writing can be found on Lifehacker and About.com.