Create Wealth: One More Reason to Go Solar

Solar PV SystemLooking to make a solid financial investment? According to the most up-to-date Geostellar Quarterly Index, investing in a solar photovoltaic (PV) system for your rooftop is highly profitable and tops many other investment strategies. Couple this information with the fact that the majority of people today who install solar on their homes are primarily doing it for the purpose of saving money, and you’ve got a winning combination.

Investment Comparisons – Solar vs. Cars and Home Improvements

The major investments people usually make are in their home and their car. Cars are assets, but they continually depreciate. Investing in home improvements has not proven to produce a high rate of return; renovating only gives a home’s value a boost some of the time. And neither cars nor homes actually generate income.

Compare cars and homes to the profitability potential of solar, which:

  • Immediately yields dividends,
  • Increases the value of your home, and
  • Produces no-maintenance dividends.

Residents in Massachusetts have apparently come to realize the investment benefits of solar. In a recent survey by a clean-energy company, it was discovered that 7 out of 10 people in the state recognize that solar is the best investment, when the other choices were buying a new car or renovating your home. Their reasons included the long-term value of solar, lower energy costs, and benefits to the environment.

Investment Comparisons – Rooftop Solar vs. S&P 500

In 13 states, installing a rooftop solar system has been found to be among the best investments that can be made, including producing a better return on investment than investing in the S&P 500. The states and their return on investment in solar over a 25-year lifespan of the solar panels include:

  • Hawaii at 24%
  • Colorado at 15%
  • New Mexico at 13%
  • California at 12%

The 2012 states which installed the greatest amount of solar capacity were California, Arizona, and New Jersey; none of these three states made the top 5 states in which return on investment is greatest. Incentives such as tax credits in Connecticut and New York propelled those states to the top 5 of the Geostellar Solar Index.

In calculating rooftop solar profitability, some factors that were considered were:

  • The amount of solar radiation produced throughout a year.
  • Tax credits, renewable energy credits, rebates, and other variables computed on a county-by-county basis.
  • Local utility costs.
  • Costs of installation for a rooftop solar system.

Besides the 13 states which offered a higher return on investment than the S&P-500, about 33 states offered a better ROI for solar than when purchasing a 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond, which yields a 3.7% return.

Solar Energy StoresCEO David Levine, Geostellar Founder, put the news in clear terms: If homeowners install a rooftop solar system, they will generate more wealth than with CDs, stocks, bonds, or other investments. He says that residential solar power has moved beyond being practical to being a wise, solid investment.

In the top states on the Geostellar index, the investment that a homeowner makes in a rooftop solar system would be paid back in full within just four to six years; after that, they would receive energy free of charge worth another five times the amount of the initial investment.

Contact any of our NASS stores for professional installation of solar panels and to ask any questions you may have about the feasibility of solar where you live.

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Finally, Installation of Solar Panels at the White House is a Reality

Solar Panels on White House

As of August 2013, solar panels have been installed on the White House

In 2010, President Barack Obama’s then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that a demonstration of a commitment to increasing renewable power would take place in the form of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and solar hot water being installed on the roof of the White House. Fast forward to now, August of 2013, and it has happened. It took 40 months, but solar panels are now installed on the White House roof. And, incidentally, business owners and homeowners across the U.S. have also installed solar on their rooftops since 2010 to the extent that solar power has quadrupled during Obama’s administration.

Advocates of solar energy, to a large extent, are more frustrated than congratulatory about the new White House solar panels. After all, as many see it, Obama has not provided an example of leadership to Americans by the way the solar project has been delayed. There are also many initiatives he could have implemented as President which would have made much more significant advancements to solar, many argue. And there is no denying that Obama is far more famous for the failure of Solyndra, a bankrupt solar manufacturing company which received a $535 million federal loan guarantee, than he is for an increase in U.S. solar installations.

While they can’t all be attributed to Obama, let’s look at various solar advancements which have taken place during his Presidential term:

  • The capacity for electricity generation with solar technologies is close to four times what it was when President Obama took office.
  • In 2012 alone, solar power capacity in the U.S. was increased by 3.3 gigawatts, which is a stunning amount. New solar power capacity that was added last year was greater than the previous three years combined – and they also marked great solar strides.
  • President George Bush signed an 8 year Investment Tax Credit into law in 2008, but few utilized the tax credit during his tenure due to the global recession that was underway at the time. The Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program (TGP) took the 30% investment tax credit and allowed the credit to be claimed as a grant for renewable energy project developers. In short, developers which did not have tax equity access were able to claim the tax credit at the startup of construction, which benefited the solar industry tremendously. In fact, in solar projects encompassing all 50 states, awards were made to about 44,000 domestic solar projects which leveraged over $7.17 billion in private sector investments as of September 2012.
  • Solar IncentivesIn spite of serious economic downturns in the U.S., the solar industry has grown enormously, due to the TGP, in large part.
  • It is estimated that the TGP has supported approximately 60,000 jobs in recent years.
  • Stimulus funding in the amount of $16 billion went to fund the pre-existing Loan Guarantee Programs of the U.S. Department of Energy. A full 87% of this huge sum of money backed loans mostly to solar and wind power generation projects. Only a small part of the funds funded technology start-ups such as Solyndra.

The story of solar power being installed at the White House has previously been a dismal one. For example, President Carter installed solar panels and President Reagan had them removed. Let’s hope the panels now installed are there to stay and that the current and future administrations will take a stronger lead in advancing a switch to solar power and other renewable energy sources.

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Nine Cities Join Forces to Streamline Solar Permits, and Project Permit Provides Help for All

Solar Energy System InstallationThere have been many hurdles to jump in the quest to switch to renewable sources of energy, and great strides have been made in the U.S. One challenge that remains in many regions is clearing the red tape involved with acquiring proper permits for the installation of solar panels. Nine cities in California have joined together for the express purpose of streamlining solar permits. There is also help available to everyone, thanks to a website and initiative called Project Permit devoted to the same purpose.

The solar industry has registered complaints for years about large disparities in the cost of solar permitting fees charged by California cities, whether for schools, businesses, churches, or homes. In addition to the cost issue, the amount of time required to maneuver through the bureaucracy of getting permits processed has been an obstruction and a source of frustration.

The good news is that nine East Bay cities have collaborated to make solar permitting a simpler process, an effort that is projected to save homeowners and contractors anywhere from $850 to $3,500 per solar installation. The strategy involves reducing the need to acquire outside engineering assistance in the cities of San Leandro, Richmond, Oakland, Hayward, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Albany, Alameda, and Berkeley. This team effort could have an even more widespread effect by serving as a blueprint for how to streamline the processing of energy permits related to other sustainable energy projects.

In pursuing a switch to solar power, it is not unusual for a homeowner or business owner to have to wait as long as four months simply for the solar permit. By standardizing the permitting process, the time delay should be reduced by at least 25%. When the entire process of getting solar energy systems installed is quicker and easier, the likelihood of customers recommending the experience to others will be much greater.

These cooperative East Bay cities aren’t the only ones to recognize the significance of improving the permitting system. Project Permit is a very helpful website providing valuable resources to help anyone in any community to put the wheels in motion to reduce the amount of red tape.

Project Permit provides a scoring system for solar permitting practices in municipalities throughout the U.S. and shares steps with local leaders and permitting offices for putting best practices in place.

For anyone who wants to help improve the solar permitting process in their town, Project Permit provides three easy steps to follow:

  1. Expanding Solar PV System InstallationsStart by checking to see whether or not the city/county where you live measures up to best practices. There is an interactive map on the website which will reveal their score.
  2. Download a “Simplifying Solar Permitting” packet, personalize it with your name and address, and add the mayor’s address. Send the packet to the mayor along with a fact sheet that’s also on the Project Permit website.
  3. Send the packet to the mayor. The website even provides email addresses for mayors across the U.S. Also email Project Permit, and your action will be followed up on with the mayor’s office.

The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly in recent years, but sometimes progress toward increasing solar installations is hindered by other factors. Complex and time-consuming permitting trips a lot of people up, and it’s great news for solar that many are working to cut the red tape.

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Going Green is Fine, but will Solar Save me Money?

Cut Utility BillsGone are the days when homeowners installed solar panels on their homes only because they (A) lived in a remote location or (B) wanted to help save the planet. With the soaring costs of electricity, many homeowners are installing solar panels on their rooftops because it is a good financial investment that saves them a lot of green. For example, when solar systems are correctly installed for maximum output, many homeowners have immediately experienced a significant cut in electricity costs. In some cases savvy homeowners  actually turn the table on their utility company and get monthly payments back from their utility for the excess electricity their solar systems feed into the utility’s power lines. Check out the following factors which will help determine how much money you could potentially save on electricity costs by tapping into the power of the sun.

Factor #1: The value of rebates and other incentives where you live.

There may be great state and local incentives to purchase solar panels where you live, or federal incentives may be your only help from the government, as far as reducing your cost to install solar panels. Doing some homework on these opportunities is necessary, but it’s also a fairly simple assignment. If you go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency at dsireusa.org, you’ll find all of the information you need about government incentives. For example, Pennsylvania has a state rebate program for solar panels which, together with federal incentives, can help with your bottom line on investing in solar.

Three programs which can help to make a solar system a profitable investment are net metering, feed-in tariff (FIT), and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs):

  • Net metering is available in most states. This program involves the utility grid taking your extra energy production and crediting it at retail electricity rates. The inputs and draws from the grid are monitored by electric meter monitors. If you use more electricity than your solar system produces, you use credits to “buy back” those kilowatt hours.
  • With feed-in tariff (FIT) programs, the production of your solar system is monitored separately from the electricity consumption for your household. Based on a specified contract, you are paid a high price for solar-produced electricity over a course of years.
  • In states where they are allowed, solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) produce income because environmental attributes, such as avoiding the carbon emissions caused by fossil-fueled electricity sources, can be sold.

Expanding Solar PV System InstallationsFactor #2: Getting the right system installed by professionals.

A little homework is also recommended when choosing a solar installer. A professional installer will be able to accurately evaluate such details as the shading and orientation of your roof. You want to get the most out of a solar system, and smart system design is important to the success of your investment.

Factor #3: The warranty on your solar system.

When working with reputable solar manufacturers, it is typical to get a warranty that is a minimum of 20 years. Because your solar panels will last for decades, you can look forward to savings for many years to come.

Factor #4: Your payment source for purchasing a solar PV system.

The interest rate that you pay on your solar system, of course, will be a factor in determining how much money you ultimately save on electricity costs. Possible sources are vendor financing, a credit union loan, and a loan backed by the government. Whatever your loan source, as long as your system is properly installed, you can count on cutting your electricity costs.

No matter where you live in the U.S., there is enough sun to justify the installation of a solar system. Contact one of our professionals with North American Solar Stores (NASS) for help in determining the feasibility and potential profitability of a solar PV system on your rooftop or property. The sooner you contact us, the sooner you could start saving some green.

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