Solar Power - Coming Soon to a Home Near You Favored by the eco-conscious, solar power is clean, renewable, occurs during the time of greatest power usage, and eliminates the need for an expensive power grid. Until recently, however, the cost of the panels and their installation have made it prohibitive for most energy consumers. This is changing. According to Jonathan Fahey, writing for the Associated Press, the plummeting price of solar panels suggests that it will be competitively priced with fossil fuels as early as 2016. Currently, combined federal and state subsidies can cover as much as 75 percent of the cost of a solar system. However, some homeowners still find the installation financially out of reach. Responding to this need, a few solar firms have entered the energy market , creating what amounts to a solar miniutility company. These companies install, own, and maintain solar systems on homes and charge customers a monthly fee for the power the panels produce. Over time, it would be less expensive for homeowner to purchase and install the system. However, many homeowners cannot afford the "up front" expense, and are more comfortable with paying a monthly fee. The price of polycrystalline silicon, the main component of solar panels, is in sharp decline and largescale manufacturers have entered the market. The cost of solar panels is based on the wattage they produce in full sunshine. Panels costing $4 per watt in 2008 are now selling for $1.90 per watt. All this is good news for consumers. With General Electric and Samsung entering the market, costs should tumble even further. Still a very small portion of the energy market, solar powers only 600,000homes nationwide. Clearly, there is room for growth and large corporations are taking heed. It is only a matter of time before solar power comes to a home or businessnear you.
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