14 June 2011

The (Solar) Power of Fifty Cents

Let's talk solar panels.

Back when we were planning and starting to build the house, we were definitely going to go solar. Then, as we began trying to rein in our construction costs, we weren't sure. We had conduit run from the attic to the area where the electric service comes into the house so it would be easy to tie in later, and we were careful not to have any roof penetrations (other than the kitchen's solar tubes) on the main area of the backside of the roof.

(I was shocked that we didn't seem to have any other pictures of the back of the roof. I thought I had construction pictures from every possible angle.)

Then we got our first electric bill and realized that our house is already so energy-efficient that we probably couldn't justify spending thousands and thousands of dollars for solar panels. And so we've been merrily rolling along since last summer, spending no more than about $70 (and usually a lot less) on actual electric usage each month.

And then I learned that the city's rebate on solar panels has been temporarily increased from $2.50 to $3.00 per watt. (I assume they had a certain amount budgeted for solar rebates for this fiscal year, which is winding down, and they haven't had as many takers as anticipated, so they're trying to use the remainder to entice folks who are on the fence -- like us -- to go for it.) As we're likely looking at a 5-6 kilowatt system, that amounts to a rebate of $15,000-18,000, or about $3,000 more than the rebate was just a few months ago. Definitely enough to get us interested. And since we saved a ton by doing most of the landscaping ourselves, it might make sense to invest that savings in energy-efficiency. (Or, as I read on a local solar company's website, stop renting energy production and start owning it.) So maybe our house will soon be looking a little more like this one (from the Cool House Tour earlier this month):

(Fortunately, our house is situated so that the panels will go on the back. I always love seeing houses proudly wearing their solar panels facing the street, but we went to great lengths to keep the front of our roof pristine -- including extraordinary measures to ensure that the fireplace would exhaust on the backside -- and are glad solar panels won't be visible from the front.)

We have just (re-) started our solar research, and it isn't at all certain that we're going to go for it (even with the rebate, and the federal tax credit, it will still be a huge outlay), but I'm excited about the possibility. After all, we opted for an electric dryer and an electric water heater -- both of which are more expensive to power than their gas counterparts -- with the intention that solar panels would make them free to operate.

Anyway, yesterday we took the first step toward making solar energy a reality at our green house. I'll update as we learn more and make the big decision.

1 comment:

  1. Certainly looking forward to reading/seeing and learning more about the process of solar heating if you decide to go ahead with it.
    - Joy