Home Solar Power Discounts – One Block Off the Grid

Category: Energy, Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

17 Responses to “How Much Does Solar Cost?”

  1. Sechel says:

    The key is “net cost”. Without tax-payer subsidies(my left pocket paying my right pocket) these things often don’t make sense. This is not just true for solar, but many so called green technologies including solid oxide fuel cells.
    Even the literature tells you it makes sense, but touting the incentives. Without the incentives, this stuff does not generate a positive return for the purchaser.

  2. constantnormal says:

    I’m a bit skeptical about the quoted amounts saved … In my own looking into this, I think it is entirely feasible to completely erase our over-a-hundred-bucks-per-month electric bill by going solar, but that’s not why I’m looking into it. It’s the potential for offsetting the additional usage from recharging an electric vehicle (or two), which might boost our monthly electric bill upwards of double what it is today (or not, admittedly, this is the biggest unknown in my calculations) that is attractive to me. And with that king of savings, the payback period drops to well under a decade, on an investment with a 20-25 year service life … Not a tremendous financial deal, but not nearly as brain-dead as these numbers would make it to be.

    And then, looking ahead a few years, I can easily see a time when gasoline is going to suffer shortages for one reason or other — lack of refinery capacity, demand from a couple of billion Chinese/Indian drivers, war — and then, having an EV will be worth it’s weight in gold oil, especially if the batteries are recharged nightly using electricity that is collected during the day, and was paid for years earlier. It will be the difference between driving and bicycling.

  3. constantnormal says:

    But regardless of the numbers on the payback period, the significant up-front investment means that the real gains in home rooftop solar will come with new housing construction, where the cost of installation can be minimized, and the entire cost folded into the mortgage, and amortized across 30 years or so at piddly rates. But that is going to have to wait on a significant pickup in new home construction, which is currently hobbled by a crushed middle class with no income gains, a huge oversupply in existing housing, and a ruining mortgage infrastructure. It’s going to Be A While before we see any widespread acceptance in rooftop solar …

  4. KJMClark says:

    What we could really use is a bond system for financing solar installations. Higher returns in states with faster payback times, lower returns in states with slower paybacks. I’m in a 17-year return state, and it doesn’t seem to make sense – I can find other investments that will pay off much faster than 17 years. But I’d like to invest in a solar system. If I could buy bonds for solar installations in states with sub-10 year turnarounds, that would be worth doing.

  5. tradylady says:

    Far be it from me to question the above paid for information, but here are some facts in Oregon_ the actual being nothing like the above. We decided last year to put in solar.

    The net result: it would cost us over $21,000 for the installation for a savings of $300 FOR THE YEAR from our utility, about one months bill. The utility even went so far as to say, “if you want to feel green then do it, but it’s not worth it”. Really? Even after the rebates, it would take us TWENTY YEARS to recoup our investment. Considering we will likely be dead prior to having this pencil out, we decided not to do it.

  6. cw says:

    Total bogus #’s related to cost. I live in Oregon. Converting my house to solar is much more that 15K. As often as the sun shines you need holding batteries to store reserve power. To do my house properly is 40-50K. Now factor in how much of solar development is subsidized by taxpayers…see Solyndra(1/2 a billion wasted) and these costs are total BS…take this crap and flush it….

  7. prozach says:

    Maybe I’m missing something but I think the numbers on this map dont really add up.

    I live in VA, so using that as an example they say it costs $16k for me to go solar. Then, it goes on to say I could save $54/month by going solar. Ok, so far. Next step though things start to skew. It says i could save $13,018 over 20 years but $54 * 12months * 20years = $12,960, not $13,018.

    Finally it says the solar system would pay for itself in 19 years, yet this is after the chart already said that i would only save $13,018 (a slightly inflated number i think) over 20years on a $16k system.

  8. dsawy says:

    Another alternative power scheme by people who live on the left coast who clearly don’t get out enough.

    Here’s a little issue that they’re not factoring in: Hail. In the Rocky Mountain states, especially on the eastern side of the ridge, we get hail. Sometimes, this hail is big enough to severely damage a car left out in the open. In some areas of Colorado, there’s a auto hail damage repair shop seemingly on every corner. There’s nothing more unpleasant than being caught out in the open during a large hail event. If you’ve never been hit by quarter-sized hail, lemme tell you something: It hurts like hell.

    Hail can and does wreck solar panels on a roof. It’ll wreck clay tile roofs. It can and does dent the hell out of steel roofs. Solar panels? Just more expensive to be damaged on your roof.

    Then let’s talk about 60+ MPH winds… give the wind a place to get under the panels and there’s going to be issues keeping the panels affixed to the roof.

    Yea, solar panels work and pencil out so nicely on the left coast, where every day is another shitty day in a weather paradise, but in the rest of the country, where we have weather, damage to a solar system can start to become expensive.

  9. howardoark says:

    I had one of the solar installers stop by my house and give me his pitch. Interestingly, every statement of fact he made was an outright lie (I’m an engineer and have studied solar power).

    You can find out how much energy you can produce at your house here:


    Fantastic graphics – they’ll let you draw a solar array on your rooftop and then calculate how much power you can generate and give you a payback period.

    At my house in Oakland California the payback period was 32 years after $6000 in tax credits. So, a pre-inflation return on investment of 3% which isn’t enough to get me to invest. But at some point the cost of solar panels is going to fall far enough that it will become worthwhile. The trick will be to invest before the tax credits disappear.

    The numbers on the maps don’t add up because the payback period they’re calculating probably assumes that the cost of electricity will rise (probably faster than the rate of inflation).

  10. Lyle says:

    Let me second dsawy’s comments on hail, I live in the Texas Hill country, and hail and windstorms, got or would have gotten 3 roofs in 26 years. (I say would have gotten because after #2 a metal roof was put on the house to eliminate the issue). The last storm got all the neighbors roofs. There was a hail storm that went thru Fort Worth that took most of the roofs in the city. So one could figure 8-10 year life in this area, and thus definitely uneconomic.
    Of course here the first thing is to improve the efficiency of the HVAC system with new units, which again may or may not make as much of a difference in CA. (Of course electric rates of .09/kwh do help.)

  11. cyaker says:

    Does anybody have comparable figures on oil subsidies?

  12. victor says:

    From http://www.factcheck.org/
    The Annenberg Public Policy Center:

    Oil Company Tax Breaks?

    Both leading Democratic candidates have referred to tax breaks to oil companies:

    Clinton, July 23, 2007: First of all, I have proposed a strategic energy fund that I would fund by taking away the tax break for the oil companies, which have gotten much greater under Bush and Cheney.

    Obama, June 22, 2007: In the face of furious lobbying, Congress brushed aside incentives for the production of more renewable fuels in favor of more tax breaks for the oil and gas companies.

    Both candidates are referring to H.R. 6, the 2005 energy bill that contained $14.3 billion in subsidies for energy companies. However, as we’ve reported numerous times, a vast majority of those subsidies (all but $2.8 billion) were for nuclear power, energy-efficient cars and buildings, and renewable fuels research. In addition, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the tax changes in the 2005 energy bill produced a net tax increase for the oil and gas companies, as we’ve reported time and time and time again. They did get some breaks, but they had more taken away.

  13. ahzz says:

    It’s entirely possible that the savings is the number of kwh you would pay the utility company and the payoff is the amount you earn in potential excess. Some states require a higher feed-in tariff than you pay as a customer to buy electricity. This would result in a difference between the kwh you don’t buy and the cost of the system not equaling the months to pay off.

    As for the hail, there are panels that aren’t much more expensive that will survive up to baseball sized hail just fine. Granted they are a little more expensive, but worth it in hail country. :)

  14. TacomaHighlands says:

    We investigated a grid tied net metered pole mounted solar array grid for our Pacific Northwest home. Seemed like static mounted roof top panels just wouldn’t do enough to offset the significant overcast days here and movement of the sun over seasons. Couldn’t make the numbers work, the unsightly pole would have needed to be big to offset our electricity needs in any significant way and created significant ill will in our neighborhood. Abandoned the idea. Then turned down the heat in winter, allowed house to get warmer in the summer and invested in high quality LED bulbs and put them in high use can light fixtures in kitchen, dining room and playroom in the basement. Cut 25% off our power bill y-o-y right away. We’ve got 20 more years in this house…then I’m thinking yurt.

  15. DeDude says:

    There is no doubt that solar is close to making sense for individuals. Another 5-10 years of progress and it will be a no-brainer for all new housing to be self sufficient and off the grid. Interesting thing is that the off the grid concept, including producing your own power to run your vehicle, is attractive to both left and right. The left love it for the green environmental benefits. The right wing individualists love sticking it to their public power company and becoming independent.

    Government subsidies make sense when it is in the interest of society to develop something that cannot yet compete in the free market. Oil has huge social cost that the oil companies do not cover (and as such they amount to indirect subsidies). Pollution creates health problems, wars to protect oil supply, paying huge sums to purchase oil from hostile regimes, then paying again to fight wars with them, global warming, etc. etc. There is no doubt that reducing our dependence on oil is a goal worth a few subsidies to green energy.

    It also makes no sense not to invest in something that clearly will become the future technology for something as important as energy needs. After the oil crisis in the 70’ies Denmark had an aggressive strategy to develop wind power with multiple types of subsidies and support. The result was that they were ahead of the curve rather than behind the curve after the technology became commercially viable and competitive in the free market. If we fail to invest in the technologies of the future we will not have competitive companies and be left with the table scraps from countries with more vision and foresight.

  16. Domby says:

    I can only think these replies are from those either ill-advised or predisposed to anti-anything new.

    We installed solar panels with a battery backup that sells back to the utility December 1st 2000.

    It was the best thing we ever did.

    Guaranteed 30 years and 100 mile wind & hail proof, and attached to beams, not the roof surface.

    Though on top of a mountain and subject to constant power outages and last-of-line restoration, we have water (well pump), heat, lights, satellite internet & TV, radio, refrigerator/freezer,&c.

    The installation was painlessly felicitous as the installer was in business before Reagan removed their
    still-workable panels from the white house in 1981.

    It has enabled us octogenarians to enjoy our 100-mile view while the investment pays for itself!

    What’s not to like…?

  17. victor says:

    I’m more partial to thermal solar heating; it works in Israel (90% of homes have it now) and Spain where eventually laws were passed to make solar water heaters mandatory. Hawaii also has passed laws making solar water heaters mandatory for all new home construction. Smaller gas fired or electric back up water heaters are still needed but overall the $ numbers work out well for the individuals as well as for the whole economy of the country.