Maybe you’re going solar. Maybe you’ve started the process of installation and are hoping you made a timely choice. Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea but can’t decide if now is the right time.
We have a story for you.
Frank Lepine of Easthampton, Massachusetts, couldn’t be happier with his newly installed solar technology. The installations may be new, but his plans to go solar aren’t. In fact, Frank waited for 30 years.
When residential solar installations crept into the U.S. scene several years ago, Frank knew that harnessing the sun’s energy fit perfectly with his environmentalism and desire to live more independently.
But at the time, solar installation just wasn’t possible for a young professional with a family. Though he had desires to protect the green land around Easthampton, going solar would have cost him around $40,000. It was a great idea, but just wasn’t an option.
Several years later, in 1996, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that the average American electricity rate was 6.86 cents per kilowatt-hour, and that Massachusetts was paying nearly one-and-a-half times that.
In 2009, the EIA reported that the national rate had risen—and that statewide rates had spiked even more—to 15.45 cents per kilowatt-hour. This only solidified Frank’s intention to go solar.
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In addition, the state uses fossil fuels for most of its energy. The EIA reported that in 2009 Massachusetts obtained over 90% of its energy from natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. Although Massachusetts is largely considered an eco-friendly state, this energy sourcing revealed supersized corporate interest and inefficiency.
Frank was frustrated. He turned once again to look seriously at residential solar for his energy source. Frank found SunRun, a company offering an innovative model for purchasing solar energy installations.
The resident agrees to either sign a traditional lease to let solar contractors install panels at little or no cost, or purchase the electricity produced by a solar power system at a fixed price. (Check out our recent discussion about innovative solar gardening, and the many ways that the industry is beginning to see how solar can be used.)
The new approach to solar panels has led to a boom in the industry, creating more affordable solar power. In fact, as many as one-third of the installations in California now use the solar leasing model.
Frank decided on a 22-panel installation using panels from a local company. The 4.51 kilowatts was smaller than Frank had hoped for, but he was limited by local solar incentives. For the rebates, including a federal tax credit, Frank had to limit his system size to under 5 kilowatts.
Still, Frank’s installation now produces 50 percent of his electricity needs. Since 2009, utility bills have dropped from around $150 per month to as low as $33 per month in the summer.
Talk about patient shopping. After years—decades—of waiting for the right time to go solar, Frank would attest that now is the best time, and it will save you wads and wads of cash. Especially since the solar market has become even friendlier to residential buyers since 2009, now is the perfect time to go solar.
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