July 23, 2009
By: Daniel Maysick
By now every American citizen is aware of the nation's drive towards a renewable and green energy future. The push for energy independence has been tied to national security and environmental preservation, making it imperative that as citizens we change our habits now. Rhetoric motivates the populace beginning the process of reversing decades of energy waste. But rhetoric doesn't solve the greatest barrier to conversion to renewable energy; the cost.
Advances have been made into cost cutting. Production capacity of silicon is increasing, leading to oversupply, which lowers cost. New production methods have lowered the cost of refining silicon. Currently federal tax credits are in place to provide cheaper solar installation. Furthermore, states are matching federal tax credits and adding their own benefits. Yet, installation costs remain high.
What is needed are new creative ventures to help pay for costs. To meet this need business, entrepreneurs, and communities are stepping in to fill the void.
SunRun, a company based in San Francisco, is paying customers to install solar panels on their rooftops. Aaron Crowe writer for WalletPop blog has the story on how SunRun will profit and you can enjoy solar energy use in your home.
"For about $1000 down, SunRun will put solar panels on a customer's house and then sell the homeowner electricity generated by the panels just like a utility would.
"The result, according to SunRun, is the new solar customers will be buying electricity at about half the average utility rate - 13 cents per kilowatt vs. 30 cents a kilowatt.
"That's it. No need to buy the solar panels. You don't buy the nuclear power plant or coal plant that your electric company uses to deliver power to your home. Why do people think they have to own the sun?"
With this agreement, a contract is signed locking rates in for 18 years. SunRun covers all maintenance and repairs leaving consumers with one less thing to worry about. There is an option in which customers can buy the panels from SunRun.
Just as SunRun is reinventing the definition of what a utility might become for consumers, cities themselves are offering to finance citizen's solar systems. San Francisco's mayor introduced legislation allowing San Francisco to pay for homeowners solar arrays and have homeowners repay the costs through their yearly property taxes. Brent Begin from the San Francisco Examiner has the story.
"The idea mimics a similar Berkeley program in which homeowners can install electric and thermal solar systems and make energy-efficiency improvements to their buildings, then pay for the cost through 20 years with an annual tax. The special tax is voluntary and allowed by state law. In Berkeley, a homeowner who buys a $12,000 solar panel pays approximately $900 per year, or $75 per month.
"Both residential and commercial buildings are eligible for the loans, and the San Francisco model would apply not only to energy-saving equipment such as solar panels, but also for water-saving fixtures."
The loan is attached to the property and not the homeowner.
Of course traditional financing options are available. There are even new "green banks" opening doors to provide specific financing for solar improvements. Before building, explore all of your options. It might also be possible build your system in time to take advantage of new feed in tariffs.
The picture is slowly beginning to change in America. Previously large utilities providing large sources of renewable energy were the way to go. The old fossil fuel system required large infrastructure but new solar energy initiatives are changing the way that we view energy--you do not need to dig up your backyard to meet your energy needs, all you need is to put a solar array on your roof.