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Purchase Solar Power this summer

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Many have misconceptions regarding the purchase of solar power. Often, I’m asked…

Why shouldn’t I wait another year or two to purchase solar?  Prices have been coming down, haven’t they?

This is so wrong in so many ways.  Here are just a few of the ways:

  1. First of all, every year that you wait to buy solar is another year of sending your hard-earned money straight to the coffers of the utilities.  You will never get that money back.  If you are an average California homeowner and you had bought a PV system in 2007 when the CSI rebate began it would have already paid for itself with cash to spare and you would now be enjoying free energy for at least another 25 years.  And even if you had been really nuts and bought your system long before that, say, in 2001, you would have banked twice as much by now.  One thing that you can bet on – fossil fuel energy is going to keep getting more and more expensive.
  2. Second, although module prices have dropped a lot over the past few years, that decline has levelled off, and prices could well rebound, as demand for solar modules increases.  Once manufacturers are building modules at close to the cost of the materials that go into them (and they are), there is little room to drop prices.  On top of that, the PV market is a world-wide market, and demand in other states and other countries will likely continue to keep the pressure on supplies as more and more countries adopt carbon-reducing solar programs of their own.  On the installation side, solar industry wages are not dropping, copper wire and steel conduit are not getting cheaper, and we have now even started to see building departments raise their permit fees to attempt to cash in on the solar building boom.  The fact is, PV installation prices are levelling off and are not likely to decline much more in the future.
  3. Third, the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) is scheduled to end on 1/1/2017 for residential solar systems.  Although our industry is working hard to maintain or renew that credit, the fossil fuel industry is working just as hard (and with a lot more resources) to defeat the ITC.  If I were you, I wouldn’t gamble that the little solar industry will defeat Big Oil and save the ITC.  If you miss the ITC window you are saying goodbye to a 30% tax CREDIT (not a deduction, but a full-value credit).  For many residential systems this credit is worth over $5,000 after tax, and for commercial systems the value can easily be in the $$HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS.
  4. Fourth, there are few things that you can do at your home or in your business that will have a greater impact on your carbon footprint than installing a PV system.  A typical 5 kW PV system will offset over 53 tons of CO2 over a 30-year period.  That is enough energy to provide 100% of the power for most homes in California, or enough power to run 2 electric cars for 12,000 miles per year each.
  5. Fifth, installing a PV system is just plain the right thing to do.  Unless you believe that you have the right to squander the beautiful world that we inherited from our parents.  The least we can do is to conserve the environment that nature has created, to our huge benefit, over billions of years.  How will we explain to our children how we had this great opportunity to save a lot of money (their inheritance too!) and preserve the ecosystems that support all life on the planet, and do our part to stem global warming… but we decided we would rather do nothing and leave the problem for them to solve.

Bottom line: waiting is not the correct choice.  The correct choice is to act.  You will never regret it.

Gary Gerber