The Big Solar Double Cross

January/28/2015 5:44AM
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No place in this country has a greater incentive to put solar panels on your roof than the state of Arizona. Residents of the state have done so in droves. With federal, state, and utility company incentives it seemed like a good investment.

You generate excess power during daylight hours and sell it back to the utility company. You buy back the power you need at night when the solar panels are dormant.

You buy or lease panels and you assume levels of power with and without solar and with assumed future  power costs. From this you calculate the years it will take to recover your investment. If it makes sense, up goes the unsightly crap on your roof. The average investment will run from $10-20 thousand dollars.

Lo and behold, power generation costs have gone down, not up. Cheap natural gas is being used to put power on the Grid. So the cost a solar investor put in the decision formula is too low stretching the payback period. But, that’s not the biggest issue. The power companies can buy power on the grid far cheaper that the contract price they pay solar customers for the day-time power they purchase from the roof-top solar they the are obligated to buy. They want relief, lot’s of relief, claiming they must eat the cost or pass it on to non-solar customers. Salt River Power in Arizona wants to charge solar customers an average of $500 a year more or pay them that much less for purchased daytime power.

When you get in bed with politicians and utility companies you have become part of an unholy threesome. You will be screwed by the utility company while the politician watches and cheers for the other guy.

The lesson. Before you put unsightly crap on you roof, think twice. If you care enough about Al Gore to lose money, go for it. If not, don’t do it. First, you will be wrong about forecasting future prices. Second, the utility company will not lose money. If it’s your ass the hide must be taken from to insure the utility company stays whole, your elected officials will provide the knife.

Not one homeowner in Arizona, the state with the most sunlight in a calendar year, will meet their investment projections for installing solar panels. Ten year paybacks will stretch to twenty or longer. The maintence and need for replacement parts will create a replace or scrap decision long before the investment is recovered.

Scrap will be the final decision with a tax loss write-off. The utility company will be out nothing and the politicians will move on and take their campaign contributions from the utility companies and be re-elected.

Life goes on and solar panels pile up in junkyards next to Edsel carcasses.

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