Friday, March 15, 2013

Do you have free solar panels on your house yet?

Back in the 1990s, Germany embarked upon a national solar power program. After the Fukushima  Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, caused by 2011's Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Japan too has proclaimed a desire to move away from nuclear power.

Diagram on How Does Solar Power Work
(Photo: compliment of SolarCity website at

Now for my readers who are hopping up and down about the statistical safety of nuclear power, I'm not here to argue that it is either good or bad. In fact, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster may well have killed no one. It's true, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 people, but the official estimates of radiation and nuclear plant related deaths range from somewhere between 0 and 100. Japanese health officials further state that the long-term cancer risk to Japanese children in the radiation impact zone has been increased by only one percent. 

The original point is that Germany's advanced solar program has brought them to a point where, at sunlight peak on some days, solar power now provides upwards of 50% of the power they need at any given moment. It is not uncommon for solar power to provide 20% of their energy needs over a 24-hour period. In short, for them solar power is making a huge difference. Japan may soon move in the same direction.

But what about the United States? That's what we're here to talk about.

By now, you're all aware that I'm a novice tech buff...or a geek in many circles. Some of you might also know that I spent three years in a failed battle with a northeast utility company fighting the installation of HIGHER voltage power lines through some residential neighborhoods and beside a school in my area. Throughout that fight, I presented legal briefs, made technical arguments, spoke at legislative hearings and conducted cross-examinations of witnesses, including a certain utility-tied, preeminent electromagnetic expert. I'm thinking he found that session quite grueling if not a little embarrassing. I was able to do all of that simply by researching not just electromagnetic fields but also the U.S. electrical production and distribution system, which is expensive, antiquated, inefficient and in some cases just plain dangerous.

Of course, this all leads to a simple pitch for solar power. Why? Because, contrary to many beliefs, solar voltaic technology is already advanced, stable and has proven itself to effectively provide power to both large commercial sites as well as to single-family homes. It is also affordable (free to install in many parts of the country through solar leasing companies). Let's talk about specifics.

So what do these systems cost? That answer varies tremendously from home to home, and of course is largely determined by the features installed. SolarCity's installations average $27,000-ish. Some homeowners claim to have purchased all the parts needed for a full self-installation for somewhere in the low teens.

But the option I wanted to focus on is leasing. If you live in a state where SolarCity, SunRun, Sungevity or other companies install leased solar panels, you can save money while also having a full solar voltaic system installed on your home...for nothing down. Literally, you invest zero but your savings begin as soon as the panels are installed. With these leases, you simply make a lower energy payment than before to the solar leasing company instead of to your previous electrical provider. Your lease includes maintenance and can be extended indefinitely as well as passed from homeowner to homeowner. In most markets, that would be a sales advantage.

I don't know the average homeowner's energy cost savings, but any amount would be a good amount. SolarCity says that if you pay at least $115 in electricity, there will be a savings through them. 

So how do you find a solar energy leasing company? Here are the websites for the three largest in the country:

SolarCity, SunRun, Sungevity

You could probably find others in your area simply by doing an internet search for "solar energy lease providers." Home Depot, Lowe's and probably other home improvement chains have arrangements with many providers, so you might start by asking your local store how to get a savings and installation estimate.

Of course, you can also purchase a solar energy system outright, and you might even choose to install it yourself. That means shouldering the entire cost up front or arranging for financing, but with the federal solar tax credit, it would certainly be the most cost-effective method in the long run. However, it is a little daunting for most homeowners and would require you to maintain the equipment, which is pretty good but sometimes can fail.   

To wrap things up, we have all been walking the slow-step when it comes to technology change. But the new techtrepreneurs are quickly changing that, and maybe it's time we stepped into the revolutionary currents sweeping across our world. Space exploration, virtual reality, jetpacks, electric cars and, yes, solar energy to power our homes are all becoming mainstream. Support these new industries...especially when they can improve your life and save you money.

Why not pick up the phone and call a solar energy company now?
The Pheesching Sector


1 comment:

  1. I'm starting to make the switch over to solar energy. It was tough finding affordable solar energy resources, but it was worth looking into!


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