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As the price of solar panels continues to drop–they’re already 80% lower then in 2008–more commercial companies are finding several reasons to switch over. Actually, make that several billion reasons. The commercial sector consumes more than 1.3 trillion kWh each year, and since the average electricity rates for commercial users have inched up more than 20% in the past 10 years—from $0.08/kWh to more than $0.10/kWh—that adds up to an increase of tens of billions of dollars in utility bills. So it definitely makes sense for companies to generate their own electricity. So much so, that it could become the top source of electricity by 2050.
But while the benefits are promising, there are still some challenges. For starters, there’s always a possibility that Congress won’t extend a 30% tax credit for solar power beyond 2016. That would deliver a financial blow to commercial and utility scale projects. Meanwhile, smaller commercial companies are already facing the hurdle of high upfront costs. Fortunately, solutions like third-party ownership—where a third-party takes on the initial costs of designing, constructing and owning the solar system, then sells the electricity to the customer at lower rates—help mitigate that problem. Then there’s the issue of land. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that a 100% solar America would require solar installations on up to about 0.6% of the country’s total land area. Or roughly the size of West Virginia.
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