With the availability of more efficient and affordable solar photovoltaic technology, building owners now have an easier means of participating in that transition. Not only will your decision to go solar deliver some degree of energy independence, it will:
1. Reduce your electric bill
2. Increase the value of your real estate
3. Deliver more sustained and secure returns than the stock market
4. Support environmental health and social equity.
The concept behind solar technology is that of harnessing sunlight and converting it into usable forms of energy to perform work. Given that the sun is predicted to shine for the next 4.5 billion years, we have an essentially endless supply of it, which makes solar power an attractive source of clean, renewable energy. One of the increasingly popular ways to harness sunlight is via photovoltaic (PV) cells located on a roof or free-standing over open spaces such as parking lots, yards, farm fields, etc. Following is a brief “Solar 101″ on how it works:
1. Sunlight hits the solar PV cells and creates DC (direct current) power. Typical panels are made of crystalline silicon and convert energy from the sun into electricity. They are mounted on the roof of your building or otherwise on your property in a grid of panels called an ‘array’, the size of which is determined by the desired electrical output.
2. The DC (direct current) power then flows to an inverter which converts it into AC (alternating current) power, which is the form that is typically used in buildings. The inverter is usually installed at ground level and converts the electricity generated by the solar panels from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) so that it can be used in the facility.
3. The AC power flows from the inverter through the building’s distribution panel (aka “panel board”). When the sun is shining, power from the solar array is used to power a building’s electrical loads (lights, appliances, equipment, etc.), and any excess power generated from the system is sent back to the grid, which actually causes the electric meter to turn in reverse. However, at night, when the sun is down and the panels are not producing energy, the house draws energy from the grid and the energy meter then spins forward.
National electricity prices have been increasing at an annual rate of 6.7% since 1970. By installing a solar electric system you will see an immediate reduction in your electric bill and protect yourself from future price increases.
In most cases, the value that a solar system adds to your facility exceeds the cost of installation. At least one study has concluded that every $1,000 saved in annual operating costs through having a solar energy system will result in a $20,000 increase in appraised home value (Nevin, Appraisal Institute, 1998). The rationale behind this position is that the money saved on electricity costs is available to service a larger mortgage payment at no net change in the cost of living.
The best way to determine the ultimate value of an investment in solar is to look at the return on investment (ROI). The “investment” is the amount you pay to have your solar system installed and your “return” is the electricity savings that you realize, in addition to any applicable incentives. Solar investment returns can range from 10-20%. If you consider that the stock market has returned about 9.3% and governments bonds less that 5% annually over the past 100 years then you can see that it makes financial sense to invest in solar. On top of that you should also consider that you do not pay taxes on the electricity savings but you do pay capital gains on the returns that you realize from most other investments.
Clean & Renewable Energy
By choosing to generate your own solar energy you will be reducing your dependence on power generation that causes destruction of mountain landscapes, air and water pollution, persistent toxification, social and political strife.