Comparing Costs: Solar Energy vs Other Energy Sources

solar energy cost
Table of Contents

As someone who’s been exploring the energy sector for years, I’ve seen a major shift towards renewable energy. Solar energy, in particular, has become a hot topic. It’s not just about being eco-friendly anymore—it’s also about cost-effectiveness.

Comparing the cost of solar energy to other forms can be a real eye-opener. Traditional energy sources like coal and gas have been our mainstay for years, but they’re not exactly easy on the wallet. On the flip side, solar energy, once considered a costly alternative, is becoming increasingly affordable.

So, let’s dive in and explore the cost dynamics of solar energy versus other energy forms. I’ll be sharing insights based on years of research and experience, aiming to give you a clear picture of the financial implications of your energy choices.

Overview of Solar Energy

Being cost-effective isn’t the only factor that’s been pulling folks towards solar energy. This renewable energy source is also a clean and sustainable alternative, decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

Harnessing power from the sun involves two main technologies: photovoltaic and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP). Photovoltaic technology is the most commonly used, converting sunlight directly to electricity using photovoltaic cells. CSP, on the other hand, concentrates solar energy from the sun to drive traditional steam turbines or engines which create electricity.

When considering the cost of solar energy, we have to look beyond the upfront costs. Debate persists: yes, the initial installation costs can be higher than traditional energy sources, but the long-term savings are tangible and significant. The exact cost of solar power depends upon numerous factors including size of the system, location, and amount of sun hours the site receives.

Moreover, solar panels could potentially add value to your property. According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, solar panels can increase a home’s value by up to $15,000 on average, backing up solar energy not just as a cost-saving energy source, but also an investment.

Importantly, changes in government policies and incentives significantly influence solar power’s attractiveness. In the US, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) allows users to deduct 26% of the cost of a solar energy system from federal taxes. This federal tax credit is an enormous incentive that can mean thousands of dollars in savings for homeowners and businesses.

Solar energy’s growth, however, isn’t without drawbacks. For instance, intermittency is a significant issue. As the sun isn’t always shining, storage technologies are needed to save produced energy for cloudy days and nighttime use, driving the overall cost up.

But solar energy’s path forward looks promising with rapid technological advancements and falling costs. As we’ll see in the next section, when we contrast solar power’s costs with those of traditional energy sources, the savings potential becomes even more evident.

Cost of Traditional Energy Sources

Switching gears, let’s delve into the world of traditional energy sources. It’s critical to compare solar energy costs with those of its fossil fuel counterparts. By doing so, we can better understand the financial dynamics at play in the energy market.

When we speak of traditional energy, we’re generally referring to coal, oil, and natural gas. These three have long dominated the energy scene, but they come with considerable costs that extend beyond just financial implications.

To start with, there’re extraction costs. This includes mining, drilling, or fracking to access these energy sources hidden deep within the earth. There’s also the transportation cost of these resources, which increases the further they have to travel.

Another factor to consider is the cost of infrastructure to produce power from these resources. Power plants, whether coal-fired or natural gas, come with hefty price tags. Not to mention, they take years to build and have a finite lifespan, after which they become obsolete and need to be replaced.

However, it’s not just the upfront costs that pile up. Traditional energy sources bear a heavy environmental cost. Carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels contribute significantly to global warming. They also result in public health problems such as respiratory disorders due to air pollution.

Government subsidies play a substantial role in reducing the prices of tradition energy, potentially making them seem cheaper.

In actual dollar terms, as per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2019, the levelized cost (the total lifetime cost divided by total energy output) of new generation resources for natural gas stood at approximately $41.98/MWh, and for coal, it was $65.71/MWh.

Source Cost (U.S. $/MWh)
Natural Gas $41.98
Coal $65.71

By comparison, on the next section, we’re going to look into the cost of solar energy outlining its decreasing costs and improving efficiencies.

Rising Affordability of Solar Energy

The conversation about the cost of solar energy is changing rapidly as innovations in technology continue to drive prices down. Unlike traditional energy sources, the main cost of solar energy isn’t resource extraction or transportation. It’s the upfront cost of the solar panels themselves. But here’s the incredible thing – the price of solar panels has dropped dramatically over the past few decades.

In the 1970s, solar panel costs were astronomical, at around $76.67 per watt. Fast forward to 2019, solar panels cost a mere $0.38 per watt. That’s a staggering decrease of 99.5%. This exemplifies the power of technological advancements, making solar energy increasingly affordable for the average consumer. Below is a markdown table that lays out the cost comparison.

Year Cost per Watt
1970s $76.67
2019 $0.38

While the sheer drop in price surely grabs our attention, we can’t forget the improvements in efficiency. Modern solar panels are more efficient than ever. They’re converting sunlight into electricity at unparalleled rates, resulting in more power production for every dollar spent. For instance, the efficiency of solar panels has doubled since 2000, that’s quite the stride forward.

It’s also noteworthy to mention that in many parts of the U.S., solar energy is already cost-competitive with traditional energy sources, even without government subsidies. And it’s not just the sunny states like California or Arizona – the crisp, clear light of New England winters can produce ample solar energy too.

The dropping prices couple with increased efficiency – it’s clear that solar energy is on a promising trend upward. But let’s not stop here, it’s vital to delve deeper into the broader economic implications including job creation. Jobs in the solar sector have increased by 167% since 2010 – that’s nearly triple the rate. Talking about triple, let’s explore triple bottom-line benefits in the next section.

Financial Implications of Energy Choices

When it comes to energy choices, the financial aspect can’t be overlooked. Both for individuals making decisions regarding their homes, and for cities and countries determining their future energy infrastructure, it’s crucial to be aware of the long-term financial implications.

Solar energy’s drastically reduced cost has made it a compelling choice. Technological advancements have decreased the cost of solar panels by 99.5% since 1970.

Years Cost per Watt
1970s $76.67
2019 $0.38

This price drop, coupled with the increased efficiency – it’s doubled since 2000 – means more power for less money. Wherever it’s financially viable, we should be capitalizing on this affordable and sustainable energy source.

But, let’s not forget about the economic implications. Investing in solar energy isn’t just a great choice for sustainable living, it’s also boosting job growth. Since 2010, the solar sector’s job growth has spiked by 167%. This is a significant contribution to the economy that can’t fail to grab our attention.

Enhancing the availability of solar energy will not only help in reducing our carbon footprint, but it’s also going to play a significant role in job creation. Moreover, with prices expected to keep going down further, it seems there’s no better time than now to consider the shift to solar.

Enabling feasible financial platforms and incentives for individuals and businesses who are eager to make the switch to solar energy can transform the energy landscape. It would require a concerted effort on the part of government, financial institutions, and the population at large, but the results could be profoundly beneficial. After all, the future of energy isn’t just about sustainability – it’s also about accessibility and affordability.

While the financial factors make solar energy an appealing choice, we must also consider the overall energy portfolio. Balancing renewable sources with more traditional forms of energy will require strategic planning and execution. As we move towards a more sustainable future, let’s remember that the energy transition isn’t about replacing one source with another – it’s about creating a diverse, robust, and resilient energy system.


As we’ve seen, solar energy’s cost-effectiveness has significantly improved over the years. It’s become a compelling choice for those seeking an affordable, sustainable energy solution. The surge in solar job growth further underscores its economic benefits. However, it’s crucial to remember that a balanced energy mix is key to a resilient future. While solar shines bright in the energy landscape, we must continue to leverage all energy forms wisely. The future of energy is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a diverse, integrated, and sustainable system. Solar energy is undoubtedly a vital piece of this puzzle. The challenge now lies in creating the right financial platforms and incentives to make solar energy more accessible. The sun may be setting on traditional energy forms, but it’s certainly rising for solar.


Abraham Quiros Villalba
Abraham Quiros Villalba

A writer and editor for XCV Panel, Abraham Quiros Villalba is passionate about topics like Finance and Renewable Energy. With a deep understanding of solar energy, and his immense work renewable energy sector, he loves to share his knowledge and ideas with his readers.