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Solar PV installation of 3.8 kW in Tinmouth, VT. Installed by Power Guru, LLC. of North Bennington, VT

Solar PV installation of 3.8 kW in Tinmouth, VT. Installed by Power Guru, LLC. of North Bennington, VT

Solar PV has never cost less!

Solar module prices continue their free fall, largely driven by global market fundamentals – high installed capacity, Chinese government subsidies on their domestic manufacturing, and global recessionary pressures.

Top-of-the-line modules, which were at $2.25/watt as recently as in 2010, are now closer to $0.75/watt! Consequently, total installed price for roof-mount PV is in the $3-$4/watt range, and about a $1/watt more for ground/pole mount PV. It is not necessary to have a prime site for installation either, because it is possible to buy membership in solar cooperatives for $4/watt.

Checking with local installers proves the point. We got this from Power Guru in North Bennington, Vermont: “Roof-mount grid-tied PV is now as low as $3.50/watt for systems in the 3-5kW size range and $3/watt for larger systems. Lifetime Cost of Electricity with PV is now in the $0.12-$0.15/kWh range, even before incentives – i.e. grid parity is now a reality!”

What does this mean for you?

As a rough rule of thumb for solar PV output in the Northeast, 1kW of solar (4 modules of roughly 3’x5′ each) generates 1,000kWh of electricity per year. Since modules are warranted for 25 years, over their warranted lifetime they would produce 25,000 kWh at a total upfront cost of $3,500 or less, before incentives and tax credits. This means you would be paying 14¢/kWh for your own solar electric generator, which is almost certainly less than you currently pay for grid electricity from your utility.

You ARE already at below grid parity even before incentives! Add in incentives and the cost of solar electricity is typically under 10¢/kWh for clean, renewable, locally generated solar electricity! Even with financing, at today’s low interest rates and long terms, your monthly payments should be lower than grid electricity would cost. The solar PV will replace your electric bill — you will not have two bills.

Solar PVs can provide a fixed rate for power until they are paid off, for wich utilities cannot offer. It gets even better after they are paid off, because that is when the electricity becomes free. Also, the warranted period is probably just a portion of the actual life of the solar systems. There is no real clear idea of how long they last because so far, nearly all of them just keep working. Normally, they simply do not wear out.

Should you act now, or later?

The SunShot Initiative, part of the US DOE, is aiming to reduce the installed costs of solar to $1/watt by 2020. There is reason to believe they could succeed. The current problem with the price of solar power is the so-called soft costs, including permits, licenses, and such business costs as advertising. Reduce these, and there is a substantial reduction in the cost of solar.

This brings up the question of whether it would not be better to wait until costs go down even more. The answer is simple. Since you start reducing your costs immediately, waiting until later involves buying grid power, probably at increasing rates, for years before you act. The longer you wait, the more you will have paid into the grid.

So the bottom line is that there may be no better time than right now to buy solar PVs. There may not ever be a better time than NOW to go solar. If you can afford to buy electricity, you CAN afford solar power! Is there a better investment that you can make – for yourself or for our future?


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