I chose rooftop solar for two good reasons: to save money and help fight climate change. Apex Solar, the installers of my four kilowatt system, told me I’d save $72/month in electricity bills at current power rates with a 30 year lifetime savings of $35,000. Better yet, the system will be producing 85% of the electricity it is generating now in 30 years. In other words, sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency lasts a long time. I also chose to go solar for the environment. I calculated the moderate four kilowatt system located on my garage will annually reduce carbon emissions by three tons (6,000 pounds). The whole system costs $54/month (15 year loan), well below the $72/month in savings.
Solar energy is cheap relative to other electricity sources, which wasn’t always the case. During the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter installed panels on the White House at a module cost of $100 per watt. Today, solar panels are $.50 per watt. Solar energy is less expensive than fossil fuels, and thanks to Moore’s Law, costs will continue decreasing as the technology improves. What’s not to love about solar? It’s inexpensive, reduces carbon emissions, and creates jobs.
I own my solar system thanks to the ITC Solar Tax Credit and New York State Tax Credit which reduced the price by 55%. Incentivizing renewable energy solutions through tax credits is evidence of good political leadership–which is why I’m urging my elected officials to extend the ITC Solar Tax Credit beyond its 2016 expiration date. The investments have led to thousands of solar installation jobs around the state, reductions in carbon emissions, and a general sense of good will as people grapple with ways to fight climate change. I’m also feeling good about the legacy I’m leaving for my daughter’s generation and those that follow. As my colleague at work commented after recently having a solar rooftop installed at his home, “Someone asked me, ‘At my age why would I do it. Isn’t the payback too long?’ I’m thinking, “At the planet’s age, why wouldn’t we do it? Aren’t the costs of not acting too great?” He then added, “This one is for Cylas (his grandson). Every little bit helps.” Indeed.