Guest Post: Solar Panels and You – Do They Really Make a Difference?

This guest post about solar panels has been written by Kurt Dowdle at Hayden Homes. Thanks much for adding your perspective.

solar panels being installed shutterstock_90943538

If you ever want to jump into an argument so heated it could turn into a bar fight, start talking about solar energy. If you want to skip the brawl however, just go to the Internet and be amazed at the diversity of opinion between seeming equally intelligent sources.

Is it only about money?

Not surprisingly, most of the arguments begin by talking about money. The opponents focus on immediate costs while proponents focus on the long-term savings and benefits.

Solar energy does have some significant up-front cost for the average homeowner. The cost of solar panels and other necessary equipment does pose some upfront cost issues. However, in contrast to the development of hydroelectric energy, coal, and nuclear power, each homeowner is essentially creating his or her own power infrastructure rather than relying on large-scale facilities that carry drastic environmental change (hydroelectric), risk (nuclear), and damage (fossil fuels).

Strange that so many conservatives who champion independence would be opposed to government support of solar power.

Opponents to solar power also claim that the savings over the long term never balance out; making solar power’s cost not only prohibitive up front but well into the future. But solar power opponents never tell the whole story.

The rest of the story

Solar power opponents smugly claim that without government subsidies, solar power would die a sudden death. Yet, fossil fuels after 100+ years still depend on government subsidies to stay competitive. If however, solar power were to receive commensurate subsidies as other energy sources, solar energy would be a financial no-brainer.

The costs associated with solar power, like any new technology, continue to plummet as new processes and materials are developed. MIT Technology Review recently reported on a silicone alternative. According to the article by Kevin Bullis, “perovskites have been known for over a century, but no one thought to try them in solar cells until relatively recently.” He claims that the material is more efficient than silicone and significantly less expensive to manufacture into solar panels.

Another method that helps homeowners avoid the upfront costs is to lease the equipment and then pay the owner of the equipment for the electricity generated. Electricity costs are usually 10% less for the homeowner and upfront costs can be as low as $200.00.

Why the debate?

Do we really need to ask this question? Unlike nuclear power plants, coal-fired plants, and power generated by large dams, the sun belongs to everyone. Besides air, it is the only necessity not taxed by government.

Who is really against solar power? The owners of our current infrastructure won’t go down without a fight. Not pointing fingers here, but the amount of scientifically and economically based misinformation against solar power is astounding to say the least.

Surprisingly, home-based solar panels offer the best option for solar power in the future, since the amount of real estate necessary for large commercial solar energy cuts into the feasibility of making solar power the dominant energy source for large-scale power companies.

One man’s story opposing solar panels

On August 14, USA Today reported on one man’s experiment with home-based solar power and concluded that solar panels were not cost-effective. Jeffrey Punton, however, admits that his experiment was biased from the beginning since he was trying to prove that solar panels were a big waste of money for consumers and the government.

Without going into all the details of his incredibly shallow data, no study would ever be considered valid with that much admitted prejudice at the onset, yet USA Today reported on it and then posted their conclusion in the headline. Strange.

One man’s story in support of Solar Panels

In contrast, Kevin C. Tofel described in detail his upfront costs and savings for his solar-panel array on his house. In all fairness, he may have been equally biased since he is an avid recycler, composter, and uses CFL or LED bulbs in his entire home. His energy consciousness was in place long before his transition to solar panels, which he saw as a logical progression toward living a greener life and leaving a smaller environmental footprint.

Kevin’s unobtrusive array in southeastern Pennsylvania produced, in a 12-month period, 13.8 megawatt hours of electricity while using only 7.59 megawatt hours. At the end of the year, the electric company wrote him a check for the difference. He admitted that his upfront costs weren’t insignificant but is happy with the decision since it conforms with his lifestyle. Additionally, costs on his system have and will continue to drop in the near future. His prediction for home-based solar power is, “Mostly Sunny.”

Author: This article was written by Kurt Dowdle at Hayden Homes, a northwest home builder.

Photo: Solar panels being installed from Shutterstock

About the Author

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.
  • Daniel Ferra

    The Southwest is in the midst of a record drought, some 14 years in the making, which means the water supply for many Western states – California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada – is drying up. Last month the Bureau of Reclamation announced they’re cutting the flow of water into Lake Mead, which has already lost 100 feet of water since the drought began.

    What happens if the Southwest drought does not end soon?

    Will we keep using 3 to 6 million gallons of Clean Water per Fracked well, to extract natural gas?

    This petition will ask the California Regulators and Law makers to allocate Renewable Portfolio Standards to Ca. home owners, the RPS is the allocation method that is used to set aside a certain percentage of electrical generation for Renewable Energy in the the State.

    The State of California has mandated that 33% of its Energy come from Renewable Energy by 2020.

    The state currently produces about 71% of the electricity it consumes, while it imports 8% from the Pacific Northwest and 21% from the Southwest.

    This is how we generate our electricity in 2011, natural gas was burned to make 45.3% of electrical power generated in-state. Nuclear power from Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County accounted for 9.15%, large hydropower 18.3%, Renewable 16.6% and coal 1.6%.

    There is 9% missing from San Onofre and with the current South Western drought, how long before the 18.3% hydro will be effected?

    Another generator of power that jumps out is natural gas, 45.3%, that is a lot of Fracked Wells poisoning our ground water, 3 to 6 million gallons of water are used per well. If Fracking is safe why did Vice Pres Cheney lobby and win Executive, Congressional, and Judicial exemptions from:

    Clean Water Act.

    Safe Drinking Water.

    Act Clean Air Act.

    Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

    Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act.

    National Environmental Policy Act.

    “Americans should not have to accept unsafe drinking water just because natural gas is cheaper than Coal. the Industry has used its political power to escape accountability, leaving the American people unprotected, and no Industry can claim to be part of the solution if it supports exemptions from the basic Laws designed to ensure that we have Clean Water and Clean Air” Natural Resources Defense Council.

    We have to change how we generate our electricity, with are current drought conditions and using our pure clean water for Fracking, there has to be a better way to generate electricity, and there is, a proven stimulating policy.

    The Feed in Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in Renewable Energy, the California FiT allows eligible customers generators to enter into 10- 15- 20- year contracts with their utility company to sell the electricity produced by renewable energy, and guarantees that anyone who generates electricity from R E source, whether Homeowner, small business, or large utility, is able to sell that electricity. It is mandated by the State to produce 33% R E by 2020.

    FIT policies can be implemented to support all renewable technologies including:
    Photovoltaics (PV)
    Solar thermal
    Fuel cells
    Tidal and wave power.

    There is currently 3 utilities using a Commercial Feed in Tariff in California Counties, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and Sacramento, are paying their businesses 17 cents per kilowatt hour for the Renewable Energy they generate. We can get our Law makers and Regulators to implement a Residential Feed in Tariff, to help us weather Global Warming, insulate our communities from grid failures, generate a fair revenue stream for the Homeowners and protect our Water.

    Why it is better to own your own Renewable Energy System.

    “The benefits of owning a renewable energy system far outweigh the benefits of a lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA). Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, homeowners are eligible for a federal personal income tax credit up to 30% of the purchase cost of their renewable energy system, without a maximum limit.** Homeowners can utilize the incentive money in any way they choose. But homeowners that choose to lease their systems turn over their rebates and incentives to the third party lease or PPA companies associated with the solar systems installed on their homes.”

    “The owner of a renewable energy system is also sheltered from rising electricity costs, which have historically increased on average of 3-5% each year. This presents homeowners with opportunities to save money each month on energy and also reduces their reliance on third-party utility companies. By purchasing a renewable energy system with cash or through a loan, a homeowner can completely pay off his or her system and then independently produce clean energy.

    By choosing a lease or a PPA option homeowners are essentially substituting their utility companies with third-party leasing companies. Additionally, homeowners will likely be required to purchase their systems, renew their leases, or have the systems removed from their roof and revert to paying utility rates once their leases have ended.” Charlie Angione.

    “There’s absolutely no such thing as a $0 down solar lease or PPA and here’s why. A requirement of both of these financing programs is that you agree upfront to give the leasing or PPA company your 30% federal tax credit which is worth thousands of dollars as well as any other financial incentives.

    At $5.57 per Watt. a 6 kW solar system would yield a federal tax credit of $10,026!

    With a $0 down loan instead of a lease, you’ll get to keep the 30% federal tax credit as well as all other applicable financial incentives for yourself and you’ll own your solar system instead of renting it, for a much greater return on investment.

    And if you do decide to lease instead of own, good luck ever selling your home with a lease attached to it. What homebuyer will want to purchase your home and assume your remaining lease payments on a used solar system on your roof, when they can buy and own a brand new system for thousands less.” Ray Boggs.

    We also need to change a current law, California law does not allow Homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems.

    Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

    Individuals and farmers own 46% of renewable energy production in Germany. Are you in control of your energy future?