Solar Power in U.S. Homes Saves Money in the Short Term, Too

Solar power is inching closer to the mainstream, with more U.S. households replacing conventional electric service with home-based solar electricity systems. The American Solar Energy Society and the society's magazine, Solar Today, say that solar energy is becoming more of a presence in single-family homes, and beginning to challenge fossil-fuel-generated power, especially on the basis of cost.

The ASES' stats show that in 2009, residential-grid-connected photovoltaic, or PV, installations grew 40 percent in the U.S. to 435 megawatts (or MWs as they are referred to in the solar energy world). Doing some quick math here, the typical size for a residential installation is about 2.5 kilowatts. Divide that into 435 MW and the result is 170,000 homes now equipped with solar arrays.

"International markets for solar energy have saturated and plateaued, which has brought the market more to the U.S.," Seth Masia, editor of Solar Today, told HousingWatch. "Solar power installations have averaged about 35 percent to 40 percent annual growth over the past five years [in the U.S.]."