I attended the last of three classes at Champlain Valley Union High School last night for a short course on solar photovoltaic installation. Overall the whole thing was worthwhile. I know much more than I did before the class. I am ready to make it happen. Oh, but that huge price tag. Ouch.
Would it pay off? If you look at just the financial pay back it is hard to judge just how long it would take to break even. It is easy to do the math with some assumptions. If you keep the cost of electricity static, it would take maybe 20 years to balance the initial investment with monthly savings. That is a long time. If the cost were a little lower, then maybe it would be a no brainer. But the cake is big.
If we invested in a solar system it might cost as much as $40,000 to install a system that would generate all the power we use now, before any incentives. A system might cost less, given some other assumptions, and we might invest in a smaller system. There are lots of variables. Even a $20,ooo price tag would be huge, however. If we figure in interest, since we would have to finance a system, the cost grows. It is the right thing to do, but it is hard to swallow such a huge investment, especially when it means saving maybe 60 bucks a month.
We just started the refinancing process. We will save more than $60/month just by getting a lower interest rate on our mortage (4.5%!) but that is a bigger loan. The scale thing just makes such a big difference. If incentives were high enough that we could reduce the initial cost and the time to breaking even, I would be ready to make it happen. We just can’t afford to do it right now.
I will keep my finger on the pulse of what might change with alternative energy (What’s up with “alternative” for wind and solar, anyway? Shouldn’t coal be considered alternative?). Until the cost goes down, or we get a big influx of cash, however, it ain’t happenin’. I could use a little of that stimulus over my way.