Monday, January 23, 2012
By Kathy Morrison
Early adopters of creating solar energy at and for residential homes are growing. Recently, my mom even had solar panels installed on her roof. Not only does this system generate all the electricity she'll ever need, it will generate a surplus which she gets credit for!
I pay about $250 a month for electricity. When you consider that cost could go away entirely for some number of years, it's a small fortune!
Here are five factors that indicate whether considering this technology now makes sense for you.
First, the cost of buying or leasing a new solar panel system for your roof is a huge factor. Fortunately, the cost here is coming down, fast. There can also be system purchase or lease incentives (price reductions) offered at certain times of the year.
Second, the government rebate program(s) available to you at the time of signing has been a major plus historically as it could reduce the cost substantially. My mother's total rebate was 70% of $40,000. Each year what is available in terms of rebates changes and it also depends on where you live.
Third, what your home gets for southern exposure is a big factor. If your home has little or no southern exposure, this will probably not be something you can pursue now, while at your current home. Some people think that because they have a wide open, unused field right next to their house, this problem goes away. It doesn't. The cost for a photovoltaic system that is stand-alone goes up exponentially, at least at this writing. This is not going to be financially feasible for you given what is currently available here and its current cost.
Fourth, the flanking usable roof surface footage for the portion facing south is another thing that must be considered. If you have dormers, for example, it disrupts the continuity and will drop your usable footage for solar panel installation.
Fifth, the amount of daylight and sunny days your region gets annually on average counts a lot. If you live in Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon, for example, the numbers may not work out for you based on where the technology and cost is at today.
I worked with Solarcity and Sungevity earlier this year. Both are knowledgeable firms. With their help, you'll be able to answer each of these questions.
There is one more thing to consider which is different from the 5 factors I've already covered, but perhaps equally important. It has to do with your electrical consumption. You might think any excess you don't need you'd get credit for, etc. Well, how a credit is handled is not always the same. It depends on your utility and where you live. My mom, for example looses any credit she has accumulated at the end of the calendar year. Contrast that with (I'm told), some utilities in some parts of the country will actually cut you a check and pay you directly for the energy, on a regular basis.
Also, even though I had a south facing house and roof, the usable surface area was not very much. The system would only be able to handle about 30% of my electricity needs. My break-even point would be just 3 years. But, since I wasn't getting much of my bill paid for, I've decided to hold out for more efficient photovoltaic technology that has a smaller footprint. It's a calculated chance I'm taking. The technology may take 10 or 15 years to become available. I hoping it will be just a few! It was a 15 year lease I'd be locked into. I simply want to keep my options open for right now.
Every situation is different. And I know that for many of you, the timing is going to be perfect to pursue this now!
Kathy writes about a variety of topics in addition to green issues in her blog: http://www.wrappedbeautifully.com/scarves-now/wb-in-being-more-green.