Ranking fifth in the United States for worst air quality, Maryland is sure to benefit from increased use of solar energy. In addition to providing an environmentally friendly alternative to coal power, an increase in solar energy would create new jobs and help homeowners save money on their utility bills. California-based company Solar City has created a $750 million fund to be used to help families fund residential solar installations in the District of Columbia and 14 other states.
One of the most significant ways Solar City will be making residential solar power more affordable is by enabling homeowners to lease the panels from Solar City or to pay for the energy they produce, similar to traditional utility set ups. Leasing solar panels is more advantageous to homeowners who can’t afford the upfront costs of installing permanent panels, or who plan to move to a new home before the panels pay for themselves.
Over the past 15 years, solar energy use has increased 20%, and in Maryland, jobs in the solar energy field increased 29% in 2014 alone. That number is expected to grow 26% in the coming year. Encouraging the use of solar panels benefits the community as well as the environment. Jobs in the solar industry increased almost 20 times faster than the national average in 2014. Solar energy is one of the few industries that is accessible to people without advanced degrees and people of color, and the average solar panel installer makes between $20 and $24 per hour.
Solar City has announced that it expects to have one million clients by mid-2018, and that 90% of customers renew their lease when the original 20-year contract is up. This is their second collaboration with Google, who provided $300 million of the current project’s funding. In 2011, Google provided $280 million to a similar program. Currently, solar energy service is available in Washington, D.C., Delaware, and Maryland.