The True Cost Of Solar Still Not Well Known

After years of the cost of solar power being lower than conventional sources of electricity, the truth can still be hard to find.

Case in point is when a local news outfit does a report on solar, the tag line is usually – “Does solar make sense for you?” Now, understandably, news organizations need to remain as impartial as possible regarding any stories they cover (except, of course, when they are getting paid by a company to advertise a product).

However, if the given news organization did some quick math, they’d have to change the question to not if it makes sense but – “Why haven’t you gone solar yet?”

The news example is just one of many that can be used. The bottom line is that there still remains a general lack of awareness of the overall costs involved with going solar and how feasible it actually is.

Here are some basic financial facts about residential solar often not discussed.

  1. The monthly payments on a solar power system are either the same or lower than monthly electric bills for a ten year loan. After the loan is paid off – free electricity.
  2. Solar does in fact add value to a home. Please see this Berkeley Labs report. In fact, its basically a one to one proposition.
  3. Solar actually saves homeowners many thousands of dollars over a long period of time.
Solar Saves $$$

$15,000?!! I don’t have $15,000!!” This is certainly the response from many when they see what a solar panel system costs. Was this their same reaction when they saw the cost of their home?… “$150,000?!! I don’t have $150,000!!! Of course not, everyone knows that you acquire a mortgage to realize the dream of home ownership. In much the same way, a homeowner can acquire a loan to help pay for solar. (Obviously the $150,000 figure is just an example, home values can easily be more or less depending on location.)

Again, the homeownership analogy is the best one to use to better explain the solar value proposition.

Those that have a full appreciation of the value of home ownership should be able to understand the value of solar power. They share many of the same basic advantages that come with simply owning something. Such as, when payments are done being made, that asset is now owned outright. Unfortunately, quite a few homeowners that have gone solar are leasing their solar panel systems. They will never fully realize the financial benefits of going solar.

It needs to be stressed that the true value of solar is only available to homeowners who OWN their systems outright or through non-leased financing.

Now a reasonable objection might be – “I will most likely move in 7 or 8 years. If I do that I won’t get to experience the majority of savings involved with solar.” Again, solar adds value to a home, so homeowners can get their investment back when they sell.

The good news is that more and more people are going solar. The word is certainly spreading about the massive long term savings made possible by acquiring a solar panel system. That word will continue to spread as these new owners of solar power tell their neighbors all about the benefits of going solar. Hopefully solar misinformation will soon be a thing of the past.

Want more information on the costs involved? Just head to the cost of solar page.

The Mayor Of South Miami Goes All In With Solar Plus Storage

Much has been written on this site concerning the considerable potential of solar plus storage possibilities. This post goes into an exciting real life case study.

This post comes by way of a Miami Herald article.

The Mayor of South Miami has decided to showcase the potential of combining solar panels with a home energy storage system.

Philip Stoddard has long been a proponent of renewable energy. He lamented Reagan’s decision to remove the solar panels that Carter put on the White House. “We’re smarter now, aren’t we?”

As anyone who lives in Florida can attest, any given hurricane can knock out power for many days. This was the main impetus for Stoddard’s experiment of seeing if he and his family can be energy self-reliant for 7 days.

Photo credit – Daniel A. Varela DVARELA@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Stoddard, his wife and three kids have a fairly average sized solar panel system of 7.5 kw and two Tesla Powerwalls that can store a total of 27 kWh. The combined continuous power that can be drawn from two powerwalls is 10 kWh.

As this was a first for Stoddard, he was certainly concerned about whether this experiment would deliver positive results. After all, most of us expect reliable and abundant power for the many different appliances that we use. Two specific concerns were air conditioning and their electric clothes dryer, appliances that use significant amounts of electricity.

While it was close, the family’s solar panel system and energy storage systems were able to provide for all of their energy needs for seven days.

There must be a catch, right? They must be paying a fortune for this ability. Actually, no. Stoddard mentioned – “It typcially takes seven or eight years to pay off a system and get free electricity. Depending on how much of your electric bil you want to cover, you figure you get about a 14 percent return on your capital investment. If I could get that same return on investment in my retirement account, I’d put it all in solar. You can’t count on the stock market, but you can count on the sun. Solar provides the one opportunity for the average American homeowner to save money while saving the planet.”

What’s truly exciting about this story out of Florida is not just that the experiment was a success. This is no surprise because the technology has been tested and proven reliable. Instead what is exciting about this is the fact that adding solar plus energy storage is now cost effective, especially in the higher priced electricity areas of the country. The fact of the matter is that no matter how many homeowners would like to do the right thing environmentally and be energy self-sufficient, they won’t unless they can afford it.

It’s great that mayor Philip Stoddard is doing his part in creating awareness for his fellow Floridians about what is possible concerning solar and energy storage.

Toyota To Turn Coal Site Into Solar Site

In another example of corporations starting to see the value in solar, Toyota has announced a plan to develop a large scale solar plant on a coal site in Kentucky.

This post is courtesy of a recent article from

This project is part of the car manufacturer’s larger plan of purchasing 365 MW of solar electricity per year from contractors in the South and Appalachia regions of the country.

Credit: Kenny Stanley via RH Group

The size of the solar panel system comes in at 100 MW and will cost approximately $130 million. A 700 acre reclaimed mining site is where the panels will be set up. This particular project will also create somewhere between 50 and 100 new jobs. It is expected to be completed by 2021.

Adam Edelen, current Democratic candidate for Governor in Kentucky, a coal company – RH Group, and EDF Renewables – a French Renewable Energy company are the three parts of this collaboration.

At first glance, it may seem very strange that a coal company would be involved in a renewable energy project, but their reasoning is sound. “It doesn’t matter whether you care about the environment or not, this is pure economics.” – Ryan Johns (vice president of business development at RH Group. It’s a win-win-win. The land gets put to use again, money is made on cheap solar power, and the local economy gets a boost with job creation.

This partnership with RH Group is part of Toyota’s plan of being carbon negative by 2050. Toyota will now also be considered one of the major corporate players in the wave of companies going green.

Kentucky’s solar capacity would triple when this project is finalized. This should not be surprising to anyone as the state has not exactly been a leader in the adoption of solar power. In fact, the state’s restrictive net metering laws have made payback periods for solar much longer than what is typically available in other states.

Another reason why this project is being considered in Kentucky is the fact that natural gas has all but killed coal companies in the region. While RH Group is not abandoning their coal business, they admit that it makes good financial sense to at least take advantage of the opportunity that solar represents to help diversify their energy portfolio.

Assuming this project is a success, Johns plans on persuading other coal companies to do similar projects on their unused coal sites.

In a way, Toyota is living up to their slogan, “Moving Forward”, by investing in solar power.

We can expect large corporations and many smaller ones to continue to invest heavily into solar power in the coming years.

The Misconception That Solar Is Too Expensive

Amazingly, a common refrain of people who decide not to go solar is that they believe it is too expensive.

In all fairness, this may have been the case for many homeowners 10-15 years ago when prices were quite a bit higher. However, this simply is not the case anymore. Homeowners will now stand to save many thousands of dollars by getting a solar panel system installed on their homes.

There are quite a few ways to explain why solar power is a great investment. Let’s consider one of them now.

The Mortgage Metaphor

A good way to justify paying for a solar panel system is to relate it to paying for a home. They share many of the same characteristics. Those that qualify, and want to purchase a home, do not typically say something like…. “It’s how much?!? I can’t afford that!!!” Instead, they recognize the value of the asset and acquire a mortgage with payments that they can afford.

Savvy homeowners realize that solar is a similarly valueable proposition. They recognize the value of owning their homes, they will attribute the same value to owning the means of production of the electricity that they need.

Much like a home, most people don’t have enough cash savings to pay for a solar panel system outright. That’s ok. What is realized is that both homes and solar are valuable assets over the long term.

In a typical situation, homeowners can acquire a loan for their solar system in which payments are about the same as what they were already paying their local utility. The huge difference, is that after about 7 or 8 years, the solar loan is payed off and the homeowners now benefit from free electricity from their systems for many years into the future.

Another common, and well justified concern from homeowners, is what will happen if they decide to move in a few years after the solar panel system is installed. According to the U.S Department Of Energy sponsored Berkeley Lab study ….“found that buyers were willing to pay $15,000 more for a home with the average-size solar photovoltaic system (3.6 kilowatts), or about four additional dollars per watt of solar power.” So even if the homeowners who had the systems installed will not directly benefit from the solar power, they will at least be financially compensated for their investment when they sell their homes.

Doubt About The Technology

It’s very likely that many of those that say that solar is too expensive are really just doubting solar power technology. Maybe they don’t really think it can be a substitute to what their local utility is providing them. Who can blame them? The process of solar electricity generation does seem a little like magic. While it may be beneficial to be slightly skeptical in life, the solar electric effect was discovered more than 100 years ago. It’s proven technology.

Unfortunately, most people will wait until their neighbors have gone solar. That built-in neighborly trust is what is needed for many to finally become educated on the inherent value involved with solar.

The Bottom Line

There are still, unfortunately, many irrational reasons that people give for not going solar. Hopefully, as word continues to spread about the affordability of solar and how it can be financed, the whole “it’s too expensive” argument will fall to the wayside. This will likely make the other excuses seem pointless as well.

The American residential solar power industry is still in its infancy. The majority of homeowners still have yet to take advantage of the savings involved with the world’s cheapest source of electricity.

This will soon change, without a doubt.