Thursday, August 21, 2008

Residential Solar Power

My sister-in-law asked me to look into the realities of residential solar power after her disgusting $360 power bill and I am grateful for the request. As with most hot, green topics, when you google it you get a bunch of advertising. Since you can find that on your own, I'll first point to something I trust, PBS.
Nova did a fantastic program on the viability of solar power on both residential and commercial scale. Here is the link to their website and at the bottom of the page on the right you can click a link to watch the show online (maybe you can get it at your local library?). They feature an older home in California that was retro-fit with solar panels and is truly inspiring. The upfront cost was substantial (they paid for it with a home equity loan) but the panels will pay for themselves in only seven years, after which their home electricity, as well as the electricity for their electric car, will be free. It is worth checking out their page to see the steps they took for installation.
The website has a listing of tax incentives by state as well as listings for online retailers of home solar kits, all of which seemed to be in the 10K region. They say, "These kits offer a great supplemental source of power, but not a primary source of power...some consumers report op to a 50 % decrease in their energy bills when using solar home kits to supplement their energy consumption."
Not net-zero, but 50% off of a $360 bill would be nice.
GE has a great FAQ site for residential solar power.
National Geographic published an article on the rapidly growing advancements in the field but sites that, "At a current cost of 25 to 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, solar power is significantly more expensive than conventional electrical power for residences. Average U.S. residential power prices are less than ten cents per kilowatt-hour, according to experts. But that could change with the new material."
The bottom line seems to be that the technology is advancing more than ever due to outrageous gas prices, but it is currently at a point where the upfront cost for installation is high. It is a long term commitment for residents to reap the pay-off several years down the road, though the pay-off can be great. In addition, there are state tax incentives for citizens who make the switch.


Andrea said...

Thank you! I'm going to check out the links. You got back to me fast! I'll let you know how it goes. It might have to be an investment in a more perminent house ... I don't know if we'll be here for seven years. The home kits sound great - 50% of the cost isn't bad. Anything would help. It seems like power companies, here, would invest in solar fields to generate power. From what I've heard it doesn't take much to power a lot with solar panels.
Thanks again!
(Check out my blog in a couple of days and I will have posted some pics of delicious Seattle Farmer's Market peaches!)

Andrea said...

T. Boone Picken was on 60 minutes last night. He has launched a campaign to try to builds wind fields to generate power! You should check out his website.