Archive for the ‘Solar Policy & Incentives’ Category

Do Home Solar Panels Add to the Value of Your Home?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

If you have a home with solar panels and next door you have a home without solar panels, you would expect that there should be a premium for the home with solar panels. So you have just sunk $20,000 for your solar panel system—and you will get some of that back from incentives, but will you be able to recoup any of your out of pocket cost if you move in a year. If the useful life of the solar energy on the home is 25 years, and we use a discount rate of 5% per year, then the economic value of the solar panel system you have on your home is $11,000. All things being equal, and assuming that the market is rational, a purchaser of your home should pay an additional $11,000 over what the house next door is selling for without solar panels on the roof. You would expect that you would recoup at least the present value of the energy savings over the next 25 years if you go sell your home. There is scant evidence out there and we at SolarTown wanted to see if this assumption was correct. Accordingly, we are now completing a study to see whether homeowners do indeed receive a premium for the “solar savings” of having a solar energy system on the home. We are about to release the results of a study on this issue. Stay tuned to the SolarTown Learning Center to see the results.

Has US Surrendered on Comprehensive Energy Policy?

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

A business school professor gloomily forecast that the US will not have a comprehensive energy policy even in the next ten years. The President and CEO of the Siemens Corporation was less pessimistic, but still did not think it was possible to pass an energy policy at the national level until after the next presidential election. Business school professor predicted that eventually the US will follow the European Union and there is “no doubt that there will be a price on carbon.” He cited a study that there may have been a positive effect on GDP from the cap and trade policy in Europe. “China and India will shame the US into cap and trade.” With the global appetite for energy to burgeon over the coming years, a national policy on energy couldn’t come too soon.

SolarTown Customer Loves His SRECs

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Our solar energy system certified in Pennsylvania and Maryland. We are now already over 8 MWh total generation, so we’re expecting to see 1-2 SRECs for each of the summer months. Through the generation and SREC sales alone, we’ve already generated about $2,700; and factoring in the tax credits for this year, we’ve already paid off over $10,500 for the installed system. At this rate, with our conservation efforts, in the summer months we may get to the point where we’re actually generating a credit.

Japanese Disaster Changes Renewable Energy Calculus

Monday, March 14th, 2011

For those who want to move more quickly with renewable energy and energy efficiency, the prospect of a nuclear energy disaster spells a clear path to a renewable energy clean solution. Solar farms and solar panels on homes are not going to spell disaster in the event of an earthquake in California. But the calculus for renewable energy just got a lot more complicated as the tradeoffs that Obama can offer have now significantly narrowed.

Sexy Solar Panels: The Branding Gap

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I was glad to hear that solar made it into Obama’s speech earlier this week, but solar is finding itself lumped in with some strange bedfellows, nuclear and now even natural gas. How did that happen? Sometimes the story of a product or technology is all in the marketing. The success or failure of a product may depend less on the ultimate merits or utility of a product but more on the consumer’s perceptions of that product. In other words, it depends on what consumers think they see, not what they actually see. To get solar into the mainstream, then, we need to come up with a new branding effort. “New and improved solar” is not going to get us very far, but we need you to weigh in helping the solar industry to adopt a new nomenclature that will attract the masses. Think cheap solar, or eco-solar, or simply superb solar. The one that I like the best is sexy solar as in I just put some sexy solar panels on my roof this week.

SolarTown Honors Victims of Tucson Tragedy

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Solar Champion Felled by Would-Be Assassin. Like many others, I was riveted by the news over the weekend that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot at close range at a meeting with her constituents. My initial reaction was that this was news you would expect to come from Kabul, not Tucson. But as the news came in, it became clear that the senseless violence commonplace in war zones had invaded the quiet streets of one shopping center in Arizona and almost claimed the life of solar champion Gabrielle Giffords.

The Year for Solar In 2010—and Looking Ahead

Friday, December 17th, 2010

These are some of the highlights of the year gone by and an outlook of things to come for 2011. The solar industry has waited to find out what would be the fate of the Treasury Grant program. If you haven’t tuned in for this debate, this development is very good news for the renewable energy industry. The solar industry had another stellar growth year. A recent report predicted that the industry will grow as much as 22% in 2010, when all of the numbers (modules) have been counted. The one gnawing issue is that the solar industry is quickly becoming a Chinese industry, as even today the Chinese own 66% of world production. It was a better year to put home solar panels on your roof than investing in solar stocks. Morningstar says that solar investors “could be in for a rude awakening come 2011.” The biggest change in the industry came with the micro-inverter. Sure, solar panel efficiencies improved, which means more output for the buck, and the price of PV came down, but the biggest change in the industry came with the industry acceptance for residential PV installation of the micro-inverter. Enphase is no doubt the market leader, but there are many, many wanabees and the competition for micro-inverters will heat up in 2011. The other major shift we saw in the industry is that regardless of whether the homeowner gets a micro-inverter, the homeowner almost invariably wants to get monitoring of the solar energy system.

The Day After Solar Hangover

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

The sea change that occurred yesterday in the elections has the solar industry abuzz in speculation and trepidation. There is much analysis and a lot more guess work at play, but the political developments should focus the mind on what can be done. The first clue is what the lame duck Congress will try to do. We already know that cap and trade is a nonstarter, but some remnants of an energy bill may be pushed forward before the new Congress convenes in January. Many solar industry analysts are watching for a particular piece of legislation known as the Treasury Grant program.

Utilities Double Dipping into Net Metering

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The solar homeowner has enough challenges at his or her doorstep without yet another obstacle. Some utilities have welcomed solar as a growing part of their energy portfolio—and yet still others see solar as a threat, to be stopped at any cost. This blog entry is about the latter sort. You probably have a hard enough time in reading your electricity bill—do the utilities do that on purpose? Try finding the average rate utility customers are paying in your region. You may be lucky and the utility may provide good access to that data—or not. If they can obscure the information and get away with it, who wants to sift through all of the arcane data? And that is the backdrop to the new net metering battles playing out throughout the country.

Clean Energy Advocates Regrouping and Waiting for the Election Results

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

We went to a reception by the Clean Economy Network last night—we had a chance to meet with lawyers and lobbyists, financial analysts, and even a few solar energy installers. We got a good review of industry trends and some of the upcoming challenges from Reed Hundt, CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital and Ethan Zindler, Head of Research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. There is obviously keen interest in renewable energy these days. Take a look at the news article we posted today on some of the latest optimistic trends in the solar industry. Support for solar energy is up—right across the board, regardless of party affiliation or geography. Some want to reduce the threat of global warming, and some want to create jobs, and still others simply want to do their part to save energy. The solar energy industry is optimistic that the residential PV market will continue to expand. At the reception, despite some of the hopeful signs, there were some long faces in the room.