KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- A solar boom in the United States could reach its peak by the end of 2019, due to a combination of improved technology and an expiring federal subsidy.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest-growing profession in the United States is solar panel installer.
In Kansas City, dozens of businesses and residences have installed new panels in the past year, including Kwik Kar Automotive in the Northland.
Tanner Wilkins, part of the family that owns the service shop, said the business saw an opportunity to lower their energy costs in the long run.
"Everything's on computers nowadays," Wilkins said. "We have compressors for our air tools, lights, everything in the shop."
Wilkins provided KCTV5 News with copies of his electric bill from 2018. Last June, Kwik Kar spent $810 on its power service.
This summer, with the help of the solar panels, the business only owed $267, mostly taxes and hookup fees. In terms of actual electrical usage, the business actually put power back into the grid, $16 worth.
"It was a no brainer for us," he said.
Sovereign Solar, the company that installed the panels at Kwik Kar, told KCTV5 News the panels are designed to pay for themselves in less than seven years.
Patrick Khosravani owns the company. He has been installing panels for the past several years, watching technology steadily improve and become more accessible to the average home or business owner.
At a work site in Olathe, Khosravani showed off a 300w solar panel to KCTV5 News.
"19% of the sunlight that hits can be converted to usable electricity," he explained. "This house is going to receive enough sunlight to completely offset their electric bill."
Khosravani said that newer solar panels are more efficient, and more durable. They stand up to hail and falling limbs and can usually be installed with minimal damage to a roof.
At Kwik Kar, which has a flat roof, the panels are not even bolted in. They're weighed down with concrete blocks.
"Renewable energy is becoming more affordable," Khosravani said.
Efficiency is part of the reason solar power is booming in the United States. Another reason is a 30% federal tax credit set to expire at the end of the year. On a $20,000 solar project, the credit would reimburse a homeowner $6,000, bringing the out of pocket cost to $14,000.
According to Reuters, solar companies are buying panels in bulk, hoping to lock them in at lower prices.
Khosravani has seen local property owners in Kansas City make the same bet.
"We've been receiving more calls out of the blue from homeowners saying they want to take advantage of it before it expires," he said.
The tax credit was part of the appeal for Wilkins' business, too. He told KCTV5 News the business already plans to reinvest the money they save from the switch.
"Eventually we can put air conditioning out here in the shop area," he said.