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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Race to the Rooftops is a Contest Aimed at Reducing Solar Installation Costs, in Michigan and the other 49 states

Rooftop Solar Energy System InstallationWhile solar panels have dropped in price significantly, rooftop installations can still be too big of an expense for homeowners due to non-hardware costs such as interconnection, inspection, and permitting. The federal government has recognized this as being a hindrance to greater solar growth. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently sponsoring a competition called SunShot Prize: Race to the Rooftops which awards up to $10 million in cash for the first three teams that consistently demonstrate that they can make solar installations with an average cost of $1 per watt (W) for non-hardware costs, such as those mentioned above.

In spite of the recent, unprecedented, and substantial cost reductions for solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, the price to get solar plugged in can be as much as half of the total cost for residential as well as small commercial PV systems. The greatest challenge to achieving competitiveness for solar installations by 2020 is enabling dramatic reductions in “soft costs” or non-hardware costs of solar systems.

The SunShot Prize aims to direct the attention and efforts of solar inventors and innovators at solving this challenge of steep soft costs. The winning teams will achieve non-hardware costs averaging $1 per watt in the installation of 2 to 15 kilowatt rooftop PV systems during Phase 1 of the competition. The second phase of the competition aims to assess business sustainability of the winning teams and calls for an additional 1,000 qualifying systems to be installed.

Among the solar panel manufacturers interested in winning the $10 million prize are some in Michigan, where making a profit on the installation of panels remains a challenge. Some of the hindrances they are trying to overcome include:

  • Many people in Michigan don’t seem to realize that there is enough sunshine in the state to make solar power a worthwhile investment.
  • The utility companies in Michigan provide sharp limits to how much power can be bought back from solar power systems that are privately owned.
  • No state solar tax incentives are offered.
  • Permitting standards for solar technology are frequently unknown to local officials.
  • Being a winner of the SunShot Prize will mean charging no more than $2,000 for soft costs for a $2,000-watt (2 kW) solar PV system, no more than $10,000 for a 10-kw system, and so on.

Expanding Solar PV System InstallationsWhat the Department of Energy is hoping will come of this competition is that new subsidy-free ways will be found to cut the following costs related to the installation of a solar PV system:

  • Labor
  • Permitting
  • Local inspection
  • Utility connection
  • System design
  • Marketing costs
  • Sales commission

Contestants are encouraged to work with utility companies, communities, local agencies, and installers to make installation, permitting, and interconnection a more streamlined process.

An overarching goal of the SunShot Initiative is ultimately to make solar power a competitive form of electricity by 2020. When the contest is over in late 2015, the plan is to discover, adopt, and broadcast the best methods for reducing by more than 65% the soft costs associated with installing solar PV systems.

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A Plane Fueled Only by Solar Energy Flies Across the U.S.

In a quest reminiscent of the Wright brothers’ achievements in aviation, an airplane fueled 100% by solar power made an across-country journey that ended in Washington DC this week, though it has a bit further to travel.  The name of the spindly aircraft is Solar Impulse, and it’s the first solar-powered airplane to fly both day and night.  This privately funded feat – the culmination of 10 years of planning at a cost of about $150 million – was designed to showcase the possibilities for clean energy

The Solar Impulse is an ultra-light aircraft which seats one pilot in a cramped cockpit; there is no room for passengers.  The approximately 11,000 photovoltaic cells gather solar power which fuels the plane’s four engines, and solar energy is also stored in batteries on the aircraft.  The airplane’s wingspan is 208 feet, which is the same as a jumbo jet; 10,746 of the solar cells are on the wings.  The solar-powered plane weighs 3,500 pounds, the same as a small car.

The nearly two-month journey of the Solar Impulse began in San Francisco with stops in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Washington DC.  The aircraft travels at a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour; with help from the wind, it can go as fast as 100 mph.  Obviously, speed wasn’t the purpose of the undertaking.  The hope of those who worked on the project was to demonstrate that efficient technologies are possible without the aid of fossil fuels.  And more specifically, it’s possible to fly an airplane long distances in both the daytime and nighttime with solar energy as the sole power source.

In spite of the futuristic technology used on the Solar Impulse, the cross-country flight was similar to the earliest years of aviation.  The lone pilot had to rely on improvisation in numerous tricky situations that came up.  The air travel was easiest on clear, calm days, when the pilot took the plane to a maximum altitude of 28,000 feet, turned off the engines to preserve power, and then began a gradual, gliding descent.  This process was repeated many times throughout the journey, which made riding in the Solar Impulse comparable to riding an airborne rollercoaster in slow motion.

The solar-powered airplane was forced to land at night, after commercial flights had landed, because of the aircraft’s slow panels

The two adventurers who took turns piloting the plane, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, discovered that the plane’s huge wingspan combined with its light weight made a terrible combination with turbulence.  In Dallas, Borschberg said, the plane travelled backwards for a while when facing 40mph headwinds.  An extra overnight stop in Cincinnati was necessary due to strong headwinds.

The most difficult part of the mission across the U.S., Piccard said, was siphoning moisture from the plane after early-morning fog inundated the mechanisms.

The next stop for the Solar Impulse is to go on display at the Smithsonian’s Steven F Udvar-Hazy air and space museum, where a much wider audience can get a close look at the innovative plane.  Lofty future plans for the aircraft include a possible around-the-world flight, possibly as soon as 2015.

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