Originally Posted by BoblK
So what is the return on investment in that "electricity generator thingy" you have? I haven't seen anything solar or wind that will have a reasonable payback where I live in Michigan.
Sure, let me tell you my system just had its 6th birthday. Solar is significantly
cheaper now. We got state rebates that no longer exist, but the federal tax credit that does
exist for consumers is superior and -- more importantly -- panel prices (which comprise the bulk of system costs) are actually something like 1/2 of what we paid.
OK, with those caveats in mind, we paid around $16000 for a system that (a) saves us $1200 per year and (b) would apparently add about more than what we paid to the value of our house. The latter is based on a set of figures from groups like the National Association of Realtors and others who have studied the value per watt of having solar. A system in place is highly prized by homeowners because there is still a lot of mystery around getting it done and people feel like they don't understand it. But when it's there, they just get the benefit of it.
So basically, our system is like a 7.5% after tax return
on our investment. I doubt many investments have outdone that over the past 6 years. Better still, it's (a) guaranteed since the sun will shine very approximately the same amount year after year and (b) it's an increasing return over time because electric rates are guaranteed to go only one direction over time, while my cost of making that power is fixed by the original investment. (Note: There is some chance we'll need to replace the inverter at a cost of about $2000 at some point in the future. It might not last "forever". The panels, on the other hand, are expected to last at least another 25 years -- if not longer.)
It should be apparent than in markets where the incentives and/or the sunshine allow it to make sense
(e.g. yes: New Jersey, Hawaii, Arizona, California, Florida, et al.; no: Washington, Alaska, et al.), the reasons to do this can be purely economic
. It's nice to do it for the environment too. Sometime in year two, our panels "paid back" their initial energy cost of manufacturing. It's been gravy since.
Also, we sell back almost all of our "peak power", 12-6, M-F, May-October, when the grid needs it most. People like us help the grid stay stable when demand is at its highest.
I can't speak to Michigan, per se. In the more northern climates, your summer days are even longer than ours, which actually is nice because overall, the summer is when the bulk of power is generated. But that's especially true here because our rain is seasonal, with most falling in winter and therefore knocking out only our short, low-sun days. Wind tends to make sense only in certain markets and with certain kinds of terrain.
Here, solar is the kind of thing that almost every homeowner should actually have. Lack of knowledge or inability to cover the upfront costs are the only reasons why it's not more ubiquitous. But there are things about California that make that especially true (the seasonal rain, the relatively high electricity costs with the tiered-rates in particular, and so forth). In other places, it might make sense someday. And in some places, it will never make sense, which is fine -- we don't need or want a world where we use only one type of energy.
Sorry to ramble off topic but people have asked before and I figured I'd answer since this thread is a bit slow moving until several months go by and we get some more info from Panasonic.