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Solar for Homes: An Easy Way to Decide if You Should Buy or Lease Your Panels

Only about 8 years ago, solar panels were hardly in anybody’s radar. The interested homeowners were mostly a part of special interest groups: For early adapters, solar panels were the new cool gadget. For environmentally conscious homeowner, they were a way of contributing to sustainability. For many others, they were just expensive with paybacks stretching over 7+ years.

Today, many homeowners have come to know more about solar panels and how much they can lower their electricity bills, thanks to the massive marketing campaigns by many solar companies that popped in the marketplace in just the last few years. Yet, the information they have is still murky since many companies drum up what they would like to sell, rather than what is the right solution for each homeowner. This creates a confusion among the homeowners in addition to a lack of trust towards the solar companies. Our role as solar providers should not be imposing what we want to sell, but rather understand the homeowners’ needs and what benefits them most for their individual goals.

One of the questions that arise is if a homeowner should buy or lease the panels. The answer depends on the goal of the homeowner and her personal circumstances.

Here is a simple set of qualifiers for each option:

Buy The Panels If This is You:

You own your home and you have pretty high bills (over $250/month). You have access to cash or low-interest loans. You pay Federal Income Taxes every year and using your own tax dollars to get a solar system sounds like a great way of using your hard-earned cash. You love the idea of getting rid of more than 80% of your power bills and you like a high return on your investment (over 15%) and you are fine with a 4-year payback, because you intend to stay at your house for 10+ years. You like the simplicity of owning the system, in case you do have to sell the house, there are no solar contracts you need to worry about passing onto the new buyer. You don’t mind keeping an eye on your monitoring system to make sure the system is producing the amount of power it is supposed to. You also don’t mind washing you panels with a power hose every now and then.

Lease The Panels If This is You:

You own your home or you rent and your electricity bills are over $150/month. You don’t plan to stay for a long time at your current home, or maybe you have no idea when you would sell the house. You don’t have access to cash or a loan or you are unwilling to get into debt.  Even if you do have access to cash, you’d rather use it for a cool vacation or the college tuition for your kids rather than home renovation. You might be paying very little or no Federal Income Taxes. You like the idea of paying nothing upfront and just saving 20-30% on your bills on monthly basis. You also like being able to lock the rate increase on a big part of your power bill (the part that you pay to the solar leasing company).  You’d love it if someone else monitored and maintained the system and paid you for the discrepancy if your system does not produce what it is supposed to.

You don’t fall into any of these categories and would like to know what might be best for you? No problem. We are here to help.

 

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3 Reasons You Need Solar Energy Right Now

1 – The Future

Newsweek 1995 - The Internet? Bah!
Newsweek 1995 – The Internet? Bah!

In 1995, Newsweek published an article, in a magazine, because people didn’t publish articles on the internet yet. The article actually mocked the internet by predicting its failure. Yes that’s right, Clifford Stoll wrote an article about how the internet would fail and one of my favourite points was for you Kindle readers: “Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.”

So here we are, 20 years later laughing all the way to the bank over that prediction. But now Tony Seba of Stanford University is predicting that all of our energy will be provided by solar or wind.

Tony Seba
Tony Seba

You don’t have to be a professor to know where all of the government’s resources are being invested. Take a look around and see the energy of the future on our rooftops.

Solar is the main energy source being invested into and has the most viability for defeating the fossil fuels of the future, so much so that your public utility has already invested into solar power.

2 – Cost

It’s redundant. Everyone’s heard it by now,”Get solar and save money!” Solar companies are shouting it from the rooftops and your neighbour just got his solar system installed.

Many don’t understand why it saves money. The government is investing in it. They’re offering you 30% of your money back when you invest in solar energy. Most businesses are seeing 3 year returns on their investment.

Solar System
Solar System

Burning fossil fuels isn’t just dirty, it’s expensive. Think of running your operation with gas-powered generators. You can instantly see why investing into a non-moving, stationary solar array would be beneficial.

3 – Independence

We’ve gone to great lengths to be a free people. You started a business to be free from a boss dictating your every move. It’s time to make the same move for your electricity.

Solar is a unique opportunity to detach yourself from the dependence on fossil fuels and produce your own energy which allows you to rely on your own equipment for years without being captive to the demands of monopolistic power companies.

The grid is ageing. Power stations and substations require maintenance or renewal. Those costs will come from the power company’s customers. With solar power, you can put yourself in control of upgrading your own infrastructure and decide for yourself where to spend your hard-earned cash.

Power Station
Power Station

Solar energy is here to stay and is backed by billions of dollars in various initiatives from electric cars to climate change resolutions worldwide. The best way to save money and disconnect yourself from an outdated infrastructure is to invest in creating your own power.

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Climate Change vs. Paris, Obama and Bill Gates

Paris Climate Change Conference

Paris has had a lot going on lately with terrorist attacks at concerts and climate change conferences. The COP21 is the official name of the Paris Climate Conference 2015 and is held in Le Bourget, France (near Paris) from November 30 to December 11.

The majority of Americans say that the United States should join an international treaty to limit global warming consequences. Two-thirds of americans support an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Temperature Rise in Climate Change
Temperature Rise in Climate Change

More and more Americans are becoming aware of the effects of climate change. 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are due to human activity with greenhouse gas emissions as the primary reason.

Americans have had difficulty coming to terms with scientific findings because of the political stances their political parties have taken. When surveyed however, the majority (regardless of political party) was strongly opposed to increasing taxes on electricity and gasoline as a means of fighting global warming.

Obama’s Climate Change Plan

The United States has the largest budget in the world for researching clean energy technology. As part of a public sector program, Mission Innovation, the budget would increase from $5 billion per year to $10 billion per year by 2020. This increase in spending will help increase new clean energy technologies and provide solutions more quickly.

Non-Defence Budget Trends regarding Climate Change
Non-Defence Budget Trends regarding Climate Change

Mission Innovation represents another 20 countries including Denmark, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea.

The Mission Innovation group is providing companies with he funding they need in order to research new methods of producing energy while also funding new projects that couldn’t otherwise develop technologies because of the long return on investment timeframe.

Bill Gates Heads Up Private Investment

A group of 28 high-profile investors are being led by Bill Gates to to provide support for early-stage clean technology projects in the private sector. Gates had already committed to spending $1 billion of his own funds on clean energy research over the next 5 years.

This group is know as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition and is being backed by Richard Branson of Virgin Group, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, John Doerr, Mark Benioff, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Jack Ma of Alibaba and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn.

Together, they hope to speed along new technologies with promise to reduce greenhouse gases. Flow batteries and solar paint are examples of early-stage startups and the kind of projects that require such funding due to the long time to receive a return on investment.

A multi-trillion dollar market is expected to develop from the emission cuts being discussed in Paris alongside these other developments. This would not only help in a time of recession but also provide the means to stabilising the worldwide climate changes.

So far $65 billion per year has been pledged from the various countries with a 5 year timeline. Both of these initiatives were announced at the Paris conference and will add momentum to the idea of a treaty with the US to reduce greenhouse gases.

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7 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar

Solar Satellite
Solar Satellite

The Becquerel Effect

Alexandre Edmonde Becquerel
Alexandre Edmonde Becquerel

It began 176 years ago when Alexandre Becquerel, a French physicist at age 19, was experimenting in his father’s laboratory. He created the first photovoltaic cell: silver chloride in an acidic solution was connected to platinum electrodes and then illuminated which generated voltage and current. Having discovered the photovoltaic effect, it has also been known as the “Becquerel Effect”. In other news, his son discovered radiation so we owe almost all of our renewable energy today to the 1800s in France.

It’s changed!

Solar energy was really expensive in 1955 when Western Electric solar cells were going for $1,785/watt. That would be like paying $10.7 million dollars for a 6 kW (kilowatt) array typical of residential systems today. But wait! Those panels were only 2% efficient which means you would actually have needed 667 panels on your roof to generate the same amount of energy as today’s typical 18% efficient panels. Your investment would have been $1.2 billion dollars just to run your house. Today, solar photovoltaic panels are available for around $3-5/watt installed. That’s more than 446 times less in just 60 years. Solar panels today are also very affordable at efficiencies of 18-20%, meaning you need less of them for the same amount of energy.

The Governator

Terminator
Terminator

That’s right, Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed the Solar Roofs Initiative in 2004. As governor, he implemented this initiative to have 1 million solar roofs in California by 2017. There have been further efforts to accomplish this more recently such as the California Solar Initiative (CSI) which was implemented in 2006. This $2.8 billion dollar programme provides incentives for solar development for over 11 years. The programme ran out of funds for California Solar Rebates in 2013 but is still providing services facilitating solar projects today.

The Vatican & The White House

White House
White House

Both have solar projects in order to become sustainable. In 2003, George Bush had a 9 kW photovoltaic system along with a solar thermal system installed on the grounds keeping building at the White House. Alternately, in 2010, Barack Obama ordered the installation of additional solar panels and a solar water heater for the White House which were installed 3 years later. The Vatican announced in 2007 that they would install solar panels on some buildings in order to conserve Earth’s resources.

Vatican City
Vatican City

 

3D Solar Panels

It’s a thing. Dr. Changwan Son, Director of Technology for Solar3D, says, “When measured relative to a conventional solar cell design, our working prototype produces electricity beyond our previous expectations…at least 2.5 times the amount of electricity [as the control cell].” This makes 3D solar panels at lease 250% more efficient than regular silicon basic solar cells.

You’re using solar power right now

If you live in California, you’re getting solar power from Ivanpah in California’s Mojave Desert. 50 miles northwest of Needles and about 5 miles from the border of Nevada, the facility is comprised of 3 separate plants and uses solar thermal technology. It uses mirrors to direct light to the top of a tower which boils water and produces steam to turn a turbine, very similar to the way aircraft carriers were propelled in WWII.

India is greener

The largest photovoltaic power station is currently located in India and has a capacity of 600 megawatts. For those of you thinking in terms of 100 watt light bulbs, that’s 6 million of them. Don’t feel too left out, California comes in next at 579 megawatts from the Solar Star project which was connected to the grid on June 19, 2015. So India isn’t necessarily greener but they do have the largest system to date.

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Solar Access for all Americans

Obama Solar Initiative
Obama Solar Initiative

Didn’t think solar was for you because you’re:

  • Renting your home?
  • Without capital to invest in solar energy?
  • Don’t have adequate information on the transition to solar energy?

All of that is about to change for commercial and residential. Between the private sector commitments and the executive actions being made, solar will even be accessible to you.

Here are the announcements:

  1. A National Community Solar Partnership – this will unlock solar access to nearly 50% of households and businesses currently renting or without enough roof space for a solar installation
  2. A goal of 300 MW (megawatts) of renewable energy installed in federally subsidised housing as well as providing help on using the federal funding and technical assistance
  3. Power companies, housing authorities and other organisations across 20+ states are committed to solar projects benefitting low to moderate income communities by putting 260 solar projects in place
  4. States, cities and communities coupled with philanthropists and investors have committed over $520 million USD to scale up solar energy and increase energy efficiency for low to moderate income households

In the market for a new job?

President Obama’s goal is to train 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020. The Solar Ready Vets program will train military personnel of careers in the solar industry at 10 military bases.

Solar jobs are not limited to military however, the Administration is announcing more employment opportunities for all Americans in the solar industry:

  • Expanding solar energy education and job training
  • AmeriCorps funding that will help create jobs in underserved communities

Whether you need solar or want to build a career in it, Obama’s Solar Initiative will help you do that.

Making solar accessible

The FHA is providing an easy way to borrow up to $25,000 for solar and energy efficient improvements with a second mortgage program.

The National Community Solar Partnership unlocking solar access to nearly 50% of businesses and houses that are renting or do not have enough roof space for solar energy systems through community solar projects in low to moderate income communities.

California is announcing a pilot program to help multi-family homes with $3 million USD for energy improvements as well as their current New Solar Homes Partnership which encourages solar energy installation on new construction. So far the program has awarded $23 million USD in incentives for over 883 affordable housing communities.

What it means for businesses

Solar has been deployed at such a high rate in the last year that it might look like it’s coming to a halt. These programs that have just recently been put into place focus much more on an affordable end product and yield higher returns for the involved parties than ever before.

From an investment standpoint, it has never been a better time to transition to renewable energy and claim the federal incentives currently available. Although some incentives are coming to a close (30% tax credit ends in 2016), they are overlapping other initiatives and creating a great investment opportunity for business owners who act quickly.