Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Going Solar

By Wednesday the lights in our home will be powered by the sun!

In our attempt to live as naturally as possible, taking the home we live in solar seemed like the next big step. Solar energy is sustainable and renewable and with our panels we can minimize our carbon footprint without compromising our lifestyle (i.e. I can blow dry my hair by the power of the sun). For us, since we aren't currently living in a wind tunnel,  it is about as natural a source of power as it is possible to generate. For those interested, there are several options today. You can buy, lease, or sign up for a 'power purchase agreement'.

Many people may be waiting to purchase solar panels because, as with televisions and iPods, the cost of technology is dropping so it is safe to assume that in a couple of years the panels will be cheaper. Although this may be the case the incentives being offered at the federal, state, and local level are going away faster than the price is declining. From time to time some cities will offer cash-back incentive programs to encourage the creation of a strong solar community. The more people that sign up, the more money you get back and often times this cash-back can be greater than the state rebate. Plus don't forget that after installation, the energy and heat from the sun is free. Once solar panels are up and running, there are no electrical expenses necessary to power them and they require no maintenance except for the occasional cleaning. It is worth looking into for any homeowner and with all three combined rebates you could save up to 50% of the total cost. After about seven years you save enough energy to pay for the entire system.

If you would rather not buy at the moment many companies offer leasing plans with an optional buyout. The combination of your low monthly lease payment and smaller electricity bill is typically less than what you pay the utility company. Your savings can grow over time as utility rates continue to increase. Historically, utility rates have increased over 5% every year. With the 'power purchase agreement' the solar company fully owns the panels and you agree to pay a set rate for the electricity the home solar system produces. This fixed rate is generally lower than what you are paying your utility company today and because it is fixed, you are protecting yourself from future utility rate increases. You are also protected if something goes wrong with the system. They own it, so they fix it.

If every house had locally generated energy we could get rid of ugly transmitter lines from dirty fossil fuel power plants. Yes, if it were a perfect world!

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