Solar Energy Solutions 1

5 Types of Solar Energy Solutions

Back when solar was brand new, solar energy solutions were limited and expensive.

The only option then was to purchase a multi-thousand-dollar array outright and install them on the roof of your house or somewhere on your property. Of course, that only worked if your house was “solar-ready,” and you could afford it.

Today, solar power is actually much more accessible than ever before.

Not only are the panels themselves less expensive, but there are also more options for homeowners and renters looking to go solar. Here are some of the different types of solar energy solutions available in today’s market.

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1. Purchase a Solar Panel System

The first, and most obvious, type of solar energy solution is to just buy solar panels outright and install them on the roof of your home. This is the way it has been done for decades.

It’s effective, can power your entire home, and might even earn you some extra income from net metering. The main downside is that it’s super expensive.

Before tax credits and incentives, the average cost of materials and installation for a 5-kW residential solar system is between $15,000 and $25,000.

While that is certainly a hefty up-front cost, there are some benefits to owning your own solar panels.

First off, you own the solar panels. This could qualify you for a significant tax credit (20-30% the cost of panels), and you own all the energy that you produce.

Plus, if you make more energy than you consume, you can even sell the power back to the utility company if your area allows net metering. That’s right, negative energy bills! 

Unfortunately, not every home is suitable for solar panels. The roof needs to have the right angle and face the correct direction to be considered “solar ready.” If you’re interested in installing solar panels on your home, contact a local solar company to see if your property is suitable for panels.

Just remember, that if you install your own solar panels, you’ll be responsible for any maintenance and repairs. After all, you own them!

Energy rates and state incentives greatly vary the return on investment you’ll get from investing in solar panels, so use our Solar Return on Investment Guide to help you make a confident financial decision.

In fact, some states even have incentives and discounts for low-income residents. See if you qualify!


  • Could have zero or negative energy bills
  • Eligible for federal tax credits
  • Own your equipment


  • Massive upfront cost
  • Not all properties are suitable for solar
  • You’re responsible for maintenance and upkeep

2. Join a Community Solar program

The two main downsides to solar panel installation are the cost and that it’s not suitable for all properties. In fact, around 80% of all homes in the United States aren’t even “solar-ready” because of inadequate roof space or angle, tree shading, or because they’re rented. 

If you either find the cost of solar installation entirely too high or your home isn’t suitable for panels, community solar might be the ideal solar energy solution for you. 

With community solar, you are choosing to receive energy for your home from a shared solar farm in your state! Nothing changes about your utility experience, except your rate going down!

Most community solar members save 10% on their energy bills on average. And you’re supporting climate security for the future of those you care about most.

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Before Community Solar, there was no way to get solar energy for your apartment

This eliminates the need to have a solar-ready home, keeps the cost of entry low, and means you don’t have to maintain anything. There is no cost to join, and you can cancel any time!

Like solar panel installation, community solar isn’t available everywhere, but it is available for more homes across the United States. Plus, you don’t even have to own your home to be part of a community solar project. Since you don’t have to install the panels on your home, even people who rent or live in apartments can benefit from this innovative solar energy solution.


  • Available to more homeowners, renters and apartments
  • Low cost of entry
  • No maintenance required


  • Must share power generated
  • Won’t be self-sufficient
  • Can get locked into contracts

3. Lease a Solar System

If your property is perfect for solar panel installation, but you’re not entirely sure about the massive upfront cost, a solar lease might be for you.

A solar lease is a type of solar energy solution that works just like a regular lease with an apartment or home, only it’s with solar equipment. A third-party provider installs the solar panels on your home. Then, you pay them a monthly fee over a set period of time to use the panels and the energy they provide. It’s almost like a rent-to-own situation with solar panel installation. 

Although it does involve a monthly fee, it’s generally less expensive than what your energy bill would be without the solar panels. As an added bonus, since you don’t technically own the equipment, you’re not responsible for maintenance! 

Solar leasing is a great solar energy solution for anyone who owns a solar-ready property but doesn’t want to pay the upfront cost of installation or keep up with the regular maintenance.


  • Low upfront cost
  • Can lower your energy bills to zero or get paid for excess energy through net metering
  • Monthly cost is fixed


  • Not eligible for tax credits
  • You don’t own the equipment
  • Monthly fees
  • Must have a suitable property

4. Commit to a Power Purchase Agreement

A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) works similarly to a solar lease. The main difference is what you’re paying for. 

When you enter a PPA, a third-party developer installs solar panels on your home or your property at little to no upfront cost to you. It is one of the lowest upfront cost solar energy solutions, however it does require a longterm commitment.

Instead of paying to lease the equipment like in a solar lease, you pay for the energy generated from the system, much like you would from a utility company—though at a reduced price.

gray concrete house

PPAs are great for homeowners who have solar-ready properties and want to limit their reliance on the grid (or even get paid for excess power through net metering), but don’t want to pay for the upfront cost of installation or ongoing maintenance. However, since you don’t own the equipment, you’re not eligible for any tax credits.  


  • Low to no upfront cost
  • Can lower your energy bills to zero or get paid for excess energy through net metering
  • No monthly fees: you just pay for the energy generated


  • Must have a suitable property
  • Not eligible for federal tax credits
  • You don’t own the equipment

5. Use Portable Solar Panels

If you’re still reeling from just thinking about the cost of a solar installation but can’t fathom not owning your equipment, there is another way to bring solar energy into your home.

Portable solar panels are inexpensive and can work in homes that are unsuitable for rooftop arrays and renters. While they might not be the most powerful of solar energy solutions, they can easily power your devices like cell phones and laptops or even small kitchen appliances like your coffee maker or toaster.

You can even find kits to power more energy-hungry (expensive) appliances like your water heater. 

These portable solar panels are much more affordable than full rooftop systems. You can even buy them online for under $300 for a self-contained system.

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They’ll fit just about anywhere in your home or apartment, like on a windowsill or on your patio. Plus, you can take them with you when you move, which is something you definitely won’t get with a rooftop array.


  • Inexpensive
  • Portable
  • Accessible to all homes and renters


  • Doesn’t generate much power
  • Not eligible for federal tax credits

Choosing the best solar energy solution for you

Don’t let the sticker shock of purchasing panels outright scare you away from ditching dirty energy for a cleaner, cheaper alternative! Installing panels on your home or property isn’t the only option for going solar.

One of the most popular is community solar, which works even if you rent or live in an apartment.

If you’re interested in going solar or joining a community solar project near you, find out what the best option is for your location and see how much you can save!

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