Putting a solar array on your home can be quite an expensive up front cost. This is why people like me and groups like the Nevada Clean Energy Project (CEP) are working to get Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and our representatives in Carson City and Washington DC to provide more incentives and possibly even low or no interest loans for home and business owners who would like to have an array installed.
Until such time as that happens there are still plenty of incentives to install solar and wind power etc., let me give you some examples of what is available at this time:
- Federal 30% tax credit for the cost of any renewable energy system installation or major energy saving upgrade on a home, business, etc until the end of 2016. This means if for example you spend $40,000 (the average amount for a system here in Nevada) you will get $12,000 of it back from the taxes you pay to the federal govt.
- If you install a $40K system you will have added $40K in value to your home, etc. but you will not see an increase in property taxes which can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars per year.
- At certain times (though it is rare) NV energy will offer to buy your Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for up to 20 years at a time which can be up to $8K for the average home. Or you can (more likely the case) donate your RECs to an environmental group that collects them and sells them in large quantities to corporations or organizations that need them help offset their carbon footprint or improve their public image. Your reward for doing so is that you can deduct the going market rate for the RECs from your taxes every year you do so (the life of your array basically) as a charitable contribution.
- Presently businesses can depreciate 100% of the cost (after all applicable credits and deduction etc) of a renewable energy system in the first year it is in stalled (check wwwdsireusa.org to make sure this incentive is still in force at this time).
- Also there is an organization here in Nevada called Nevada Solar Solutions, which helps non-profit organizations get a system installed for very little cost. I don’t have all the details yet but it sounds like an exciting program for those that qualify.
- At certain times solar module and inverter manufacturers offer rebates and incentives for the purchase of their products (though when demand is high this doesn’t normally occur).
OK, here’s a plan B if this is still too much money to shell out all at once (like me) or you can’t get a home equity loan presently like most of us here in Las Vegas due to the presently low home values/no equity to borrow on situation: There is a product called a Micro Inverter (by Enphase) that comes with each individual solar module (an inverter converts DC power to AC power, like we use in our homes and businesses etc.).
Here’s the upside you can install only one Module or a hundred or more at a time as you can afford them. Which can significantly decrease the upfront costs and you can still get the tax breaks etc. each time you install more until tax credits run out in 2016.
The downside is that you will still need to spend a fair amount ($8K to $12K range before tax breaks etc.) on the ability to expand the system for future modules you install (called the balance of system BOS in the industry) and the cost to tie the system into the utility grid, permits and inspections etc., and it will cost somewhat more in labor each time you add a module later, than if you did it all at once. These inverter module combinations are showing promising results especially applications where shading could be an issue, a common problem for string/module arrays.
Another option we are working on getting legislated is Community Solar Farms where you can buy into the “co-op” at whatever level you can (one module or more) and purchase all or part of your needs with other members at a somewhat reduced cost relative to what you would pay if you did it by yourself. It’s still being fought for with the PUC and Carson City (many States already have this legalized) but we are making progress, we need more voices if you are interested in helping in some way let me know or attend a Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to voice your opinion.
So have you all kinds of hope of having an array on your home now, Right? Remember to that once you get a system installed you start seeing the benefits immediately, reduced or almost no electric bill, added home value, and possible charitable tax deductions for RECs. and best of all the pride of knowing your doing the right thing for the environment, you and your fellow inhabitants of Earth.
One other word of caution, be sure to hire a licensed C2 electrical contractor who has several satisfied solar PV customers or can show proof of higher education in the solar industry from NABCEP or another accreditation organization (I’m one and I know several other very good ones). This is not a do it yourself project like some of the home improvement outfits and internet sites would lead you to believe. Look at the solar radiation data you can find on the www.dsireusa.org website, it can be quite involved and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Now you know a lot more about the solar game . But a well informed client is a happy client. I’m not going to paint a bunch of rainbows just to get your business especially since an unhappy client is a non-client. Call me if you have any other questions I can help with solar or otherwise.
A typical system might run $40K (actually $28K with the tax credit, still a lot). It’s because each module runs in the range $600 or more just for a module, the average home needs around 20 give or take 5 or so. That’s why I work with clients to help them reduce their electricity use first (upgraded lights, appliances and better ducting and insulation etc) and then we can help put together a system that will be less expensive. It is an investment in a home like a pool or a new kitchen, but the ROI is much better dollar for dollar, owners get free power or reduced power bills while they live in the home, when they sell they can, at a minimum, prorate the value of the system over 30 years of expected life, after 15 years the average system is still worth around $20K, sell a house with a new pool or kitchen they just paid $40K for and the next day they would be lucky if it increased the selling price by $20K and no 30% tax credits or RECs to donate, etc. It really boils down to what the home owner can afford at the time and what their priorities are. Some more good news: China is getting into the game so prices for modules are dropping a lot, unfortunately so is quality to some degree, but for home use they should be fine.
My goal is to make sure you fully understand the costs, discounts, benefits, alternatives and everything else before you decide yes or no. I offer no hard sell, I just want to make sure everyone involved is as informed as possible. Ultimately it is up to you (and your family?) whether or not now or ever is the time to put a Solar PV system on your home.