Cambrian: Opinion

Crunching the numbers in Cambria: Is solar a good investment?

The arguments for having a home solar electric system are increasingly persuasive.

And yet, I’ve worked with PV power for more than two decades and still don’t have a large-scale, whole-house system.

What gives?

Certainly costs have come way, way down.  Options are myriad (eight that I know of including leasing, getting a loan, buying outright, even folding the cost into your home mortgage.)

I own enough panels (purchased a few years ago for about $1 a watt) to put up a whole-house system for probably less than $10,000.  But my electric bill is only around $100 a month. Maybe it’s just laziness.

But what I do have is a small emergency power backup system that uses only one 

180-watt panel, inverters and  three deep cycle batteries that can supply up to 2,000 continuous watts — for hours if not a few days.

Most of you will look hard at the numbers, and if you do, you may conclude solar is worth it — especially if your electric bills are way over $100 month. With leasing programs, for example, you could be paying only the monthly lease cost — considerably or somewhat lower than your power bill from PG&E. You could, sort of like me, put a partial system up and expand as you can afford to (however, mine isn’t grid-tied —which has pluses and minuses).

With loans or buying outright, you are eligible for federal tax credits worth 30 percent of the system. (As a DIY-er, you might not get the above credits or rebates.)

Having solar power is certainly a feel-good but also practical way to reduce global climate change — though your individual contribution remains minimal. It could well be cost effective, though. It is a good “independent home” strategy along with rainwater harvesting, growing your own vegetables, etc.

For a free photocopy of the eight “solar financing options for homeowners” from RMI’s Solutions Journal, send a Forever stamp to P.O. Box 1681, Cambria CA 93428.

And if you’re interested in my backup solar electric system, go to powerfrom  I haven’t really commercialized it yet (as you’ll see), but I have a couple of prototype kits available if you’re interested.

The next Green Savings subject: green burial.