The cost of solar energy is like the proverbial elephant in the corner.
We’d all like to take advantage of solar power and do our part for the planet, but in the back of our mind is that unspoken thought we try to ignore…
Just how much are these solar panels going to cost?
Don’t feel guilty if this seemingly crass financial concern runs through your head as you listen to some idealistic young guy or gal tell you all about how coal-fired electrical plants are destroying the environment. After all, the best idea in the world isn’t worth much if buying into it will put you in the poorhouse.
For instance, I would like to go green in style with a new Tesla Roadster.
Unfortunately, the $125,000 price tag would necessitate my family and I having to live in my stylish new electric car since we would no longer be able to afford our home.
Since having a home outweighs the benefits of an electric roadster, I’ve put the Tesla on the back burner. I’m sure it’s a great car, but I’ve got everyday responsibilities to think about too.
Although this example might seem a little over the top, I think it illustrates the way many people think about installing solar panels.
“Sure it’s a great technology and we all want to do our part for the environment,” says John Q. Public, “but solar panels are just too expensive.”
And then Mr. Public delivers the knock-out blow with this dismissive gem: “Maybe in a few years the price will come down.”
Pow! Solar power is out for the count.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that the cost of solar energy doesn’t sometimes represent a hefty investment. It does. I’m also not going to tell you that solar panels are a good idea for everyone.
They’re not. I would suggest, however, that many people’s assumptions about the cost of solar panels are based on some very outdated notions.
For one thing, the price of solar panels has really come down lately. In fact, according to Bloomberg, global prices for solar modules have fallen by about 50 percent in two years.
This means that if your opinions on the cost of solar energy are based on information from 2007, you’ll have to tweak your figures to bring them up to date. It’s a whole new world out there, baby!
Another thing to keep in mind is that the cost of solar power can be reduced with some of the new solar financing options now available. This means that even though putting solar panels on your roof might cost tens of thousands of dollars, you don’t necessarily have to foot the bill.
That’s right, solar leases and power purchase agreements through companies like SolarCity and SunRun allow you to take advantage of the sun’s bountiful energy without paying a cent.
These agreements are structured in a variety of ways and are not available in all areas, but for many people they are a great way to go solar without breaking the bank.
Also, cities like Berkeley offer an interesting financing option to make solar panels more affordable. Here’s how it works: The city provides the financing for your solar panel installation and you pay it back through an increase in your property taxes over twenty years.
If you sell your home, the new owner takes over the property tax increase and the lower electric bill.
Now I know what you’re saying: “Do all these incredible options mean that I should install solar panels on my roof today?”
To which I must reply: “How should I know, we practically just met.”
I would add, however, that lower solar panel prices and new financing options mean that it could be the perfect time to install solar panels on your roof. To find out for sure, you’ll have to stop ignoring that elephant in the corner and find out more about the real cost of solar energy.