Is Solar energy really viable?

By
Real Estate Services with Homes and Land of Lancaster County

As reports come in on another government subsidized solar company's bankruptcy, I wonder is solar and wind energy really viable today? I want to take a trip off my usual path for just one day. I have a brother-in-law who is extremely bright and a born entrepreneur. Back in the mid 70's he started his own solar business. It was mostly water heaters at that time. They were bulky, huge and really didn't make as much hot water as was needed by a family. It might have been viable for just 2 people in a household, but that wasn't the case of his first sale... his parents. They still had 4 children living there too. Bonnie has always laughed that her dad would shut off the hot water in the middle of her showers leaving her to finish in cold water. There just wasn't enough to finish and have some for others.

Today, the solar systems are much improved for sure. If I were constructing a new home, I'm sure I would include some solar panels into the mix. With all the tax credits and advertisement, we looked into solar and wind for ourselves in an existing home. Here's what we discovered.

Wind was totally out of the question. It takes very windy conditions to make that viable at all. We thought we had a good windy spot on top of our 66' TV antenna tower. But no good. Still not enough wind and then there is the generator motor rebuild every other year and the other yearly maintenance that made it un-affordable and good for nothing.

We do have lots of space for solar panels though. After getting all the estimates we sat down with the expert and started asking questions. The cost was really high and when pushed he finally told us that we would start breaking even sometime in year 17. That wasn't including any interest from that money over that 17 years either. So then we asked how long are these panels good for? He said about 20 years they think. Now I have Lifetime windows in place that some are in need of replacement after only 10 years. I also have 50 year caulking that I have to replace every 5 years... So I am skeptical that these things will last 20 years. So then I said what is the cost of replacing them in 20 years.... he said about the same as the cost of putting them in new with a small savings since the brackets are already there assuming there is no rusting taking place in them.

Now, why would I spend $80,000 of today's money to save $200 a month on our electric bill and not see the $80K repaid until year 17 and again assuming the panels last that long? That $80,000 was after the tax credit payment by the way. I really don't see other than new construction where it's part of original cost of building, that this is a viable energy source as of yet. I know there is some satisfaction in knowing we are reducing our carbon footprint and all but I believe I will do my part better when I stop breathing out.

I have one friend who found a loophole that makes it all work for him. He raises hogs for a company and they pay for his once enormous electric bill. He put thousands of panels on his hog barns to where the electric company actually pays him back most months plus the hog people pay his agreed amount for electricity every month. I'm wondering how long that contract will last with them knowingly paying for electric he's not using anymore. Time wil tell. Aw.. the price of good bacon! I hope it works out for him because of what it cost him to install all those panels, it was much more than $80,000... about 10x more.

The most viable option I believe available today is still ground source heating and hot water, but then again not for an existing home when you figure out the cost recovery time. So I ask again, is solar really that viable with today's techology?

close

This entry hasn't been re-blogged:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
Spam prevention

Accessibility option: listen to a question and answer it!

To submit the form,
drag the car to the circle on the side.

Type below the answer to what you hear. Numbers or words, lowercase:

Groups:
What's Got Your Goat?
Silent Majority
Tags:
solar energy
homes and land of lancaster county

Comments 50 New Comment

Anonymous
Post a Comment
Spam prevention

Accessibility option: listen to a question and answer it!

To submit the form,
drag the sunglasses to the circle on the side.

Type below the answer to what you hear. Numbers or words, lowercase:

Rainmaker
222,024
Elise Harron
Rural Vacant Land and Development Specialist
Dirt Road Real Estate

Bob and Bonnie,

It sounds to me like you had a "less than honest" contractor pushing way too much solar for your home.  The cost is significantly cheeper than it was even 3 years ago.  If we could get the federal government and thier baloney rebates and incentives OUT of the market, the industry will have a chance to balance out and become viable for everyone.  Right now the only way it pencils is for those few who qualify for additional incentives and of course the rest of us pay for the difference in higher costs. 

Your break even today should be between 9 - 12 years with the 30% federal incentive which is approved thru 2016 for every system installed.  To find out what your system SHOULD cost you - take your monthly power bill, multiply it by 12 months and then multiply it again by 15 years - This should be your out of pocket cost after the federal incentive.  The reason your breakeven is 9 - 12 years is because your power bill will (to quote the POTUS) neccessarily sky-rocket, so even thought you multiplied your current cost by 15 years, your payback WILL be MUCH MUCH less.

Call around and find a contractor who is reputable and have him give you and honest estimate - you might be suprised.

I LOVE to see SOLAR power generate conversations and excitement - even when it seems negative, at least the conversations are happening!

January 27, 2013 09:57 PM
Rainer
149,004
Edward Gilmartin
Boston Homes

Not sure why the government put punitive tariffs on chinese solar panels...to protect higher cost US panelm makers who donated to his campaign...let china subsidize our energy independence efforts.

January 28, 2013 07:14 AM
Rainmaker
174,932
Bob & Bonnie Horning
Homes and Land of Lancaster County

Elise, I don't think I'd find anyone more reliable than the energy company I've been dealing with for the past 12 years. Our home is just too complicated to expect a cheap deal. This system was for enough power to bring us to break even on a monthly basis. As stated previously, we needed panels out in our pasture with concrete pilings and that would account for the extra. It was also encompassing heat for the inground pool as well. For all that was quoted, $80K didn't sound out of hand... what amazed me was that it would need replaced with only a few years of recovering the costs. If I ever build again which is probably doubtful, I would look for renewable resources. I think this technology is definitely in it's infantile stage and has far to go yet. Thanks for commenting.

Edward, You're way beyond my comprehension of how it all works. 

January 28, 2013 09:14 AM
Rainer
4,649
Kevin Vielbaum
Kevin Vielbaum
Residential Solar Industry

Solar power is definitely viable depending on the state your in and your price of electricity. States like Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Mass., and New York have expensive enough energy to make it economcially viable if your utility bills are high enough.

While purchasing a system may take 10 or more years to see ROI, a lot of homeowners are starting to choose a solar service provider to power their home and see instant ROI. The solar service company takes care of the permitting, installs the panels on the home for little or nothing down, maintains, monitors, insures, guarentees the power from the system, and the homeowner receives clean energy at a price that is cheaper than their traditional utility. Its a win-win.

February 03, 2013 09:43 PM
Rainmaker
174,932
Bob & Bonnie Horning
Homes and Land of Lancaster County

Thanks for your input Kevin, spoken like a solar salesman. It remains invalid for us. Maybe if I bought into the spending future money to maintain for today it would be. Like I stated, if I were to build new or be in the market, I'd probably look for something to help but for retrofitting, it still doesn't make cents. 

February 04, 2013 05:54 AM
Anonymous
Post a Comment
Spam prevention

Accessibility option: listen to a question and answer it!

To submit the form,
drag the tshirt to the circle on the side.

Type below the answer to what you hear. Numbers or words, lowercase:

Rainmaker
174,932

Bob & Bonnie Horning

Ask me a question
*
*
*
Spam prevention

Accessibility option: listen to a question and answer it!

To submit the form,
drag the clip to the circle on the side.

Type below the answer to what you hear. Numbers or words, lowercase:

Additional Information