I promised to update you after the seminar on solar installations and costs last Friday.
As I said in the last post, solar energy has long been interesting to Joe and I, but we don't do things because they are interesting and neat. We do them because they make economic sense. It appears that solar may now do that for us. You may want to look onto it, too.
First, there is a federal credit of 30% of costs of solar PV (photovoltaic--turns sunlight into usable electricity) or solar thermal (uses sunlight to heat water directly) installations. There are no monetary limits, though only certain types of installations will qualify.
In addition, a number of states have similar credits (or rebates) available. For example, in PA, where we live, there is a credit available for one solar PV and one solar thermal installation. Again, certain limitations apply. For example, you must use a state approved installer, and systems to heat spas or swimming pools ar specifically excluded. Systems have to be pre-approved, first come first served, up to the budget set-aside.
Finally, utility companies are beginning to roll out rebates for customers who install solar systems, and to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). Why? Utilities have stringent new regulations that require them to have a certain portion of their energy production through renewable energy sources. "Grid-tied" solar systems (the norm) will feed excess energy from you to the utility, helping them to meet those requirements. These are at very early stages and our utility company has not yet finalized its program.
The bottom line is that Joe and I, using fairly conservative assumptions, found that the payback on the system was 7 to 9 years, and the 25 year cost per KWH of electricity was at least 30% lower (and with less conservative but still not aggressive assumptions 70% less) than the current price from our supplier. I didn't do NPV's because I don't trust the assumptions to be dependable over the 25 year life of such a system.