In considering solar power as an option to help save on electricity costs at your home or business, there are no shortage of proponents for “going green.” The problem with this is that all energy is green energy, as federal law requires that a percentage of all energy be produced by “green” efforts. In addition to this lesser known fact, there are several other considerations you may want to take into account before shelling out thousands of dollars to equip your home or business with those large solar panels.
- Cost – Beginning with perhaps the deciding factor in most cases as to why people would opt against solar power at this point in time is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing the panels. These panels are said to begin paying for themselves in future years, but what happens if they need repairs for weather related reasons or become less efficient with age (because what doesn’t)? Or even worse, a panel malfunction which would lead to a purchase of a replacement. If there are issues with the unit who pays for the unpredictable maintenance and repair costs? What happens if the unit causes damage to the consumer’s property? Will you be expected to pay these costs, or will the financier or solar company cover the bill?
- Life Span – Speaking of durability, the lifespan of solar panels can typically range from 25-40 years. The sun, as well as weather, dirt, and other elemental factors can shorten this life span without any error on your part.
- Location/Area – The panels require a location that will get plenty of sun, where trees and other shade providers will not interfere. If you live in an area that frequently gets snow, you may need to clear the panels of this depending on how thick the snow is. They also require a large area to provide enough energy for an average home. This can be difficult depending on your location. Once these units are setup, can the owner still operate freely, or does the financier/solar company include clauses within their agreement that restricts or prevents you from things such as getting a new roof installed, changing or remodeling the location, or doing landscaping. In other words, does the consumer’s location become seized and controlled?
- Nightfall – Obviously the panels aren’t collecting the required amount of solar power at night to keep your energy running in your home. This is why the solar panels have batteries that store the power that is collected during the day, but these batteries can carry a hefty price, and not last as long as the solar panels themselves.
- Profits and Hidden Costs – If you produce more than you use and sell it back to the utility company, who profits from this, yourself or the financier/solar company? What happens if there are unpredictable additional costs in the market, for things like delivery/transmission? These costs are VERY volatile and they can easily consume projected and promised savings based on a locked/fixed rate and drown them out with hidden back-end costs/fees associated with today’s energy market. In other words is the electric rate you are promised truly all-inclusive or does it have hidden costs and back-end fees that don’t have to be included?
- Other Sources – If you must choose a green mode for mediating your energy, there are a handful of other options you could consider, each with their own pros and cons.
While alternative energy sources are heading in the right direction, you can see that currently they still have some questions that should be addressed before you can be sure that this is a great investment of your hard earned money. As we said above, no matter who you get your energy supply from, you are participating in “going green,” because of federal laws requiring that a percentage be drawn through green reserves. If you’d like to learn more or have additional questions, the consultants at UEA can help you ask the right questions when it comes to considering solar power. The can give you plenty of considerations not even mentioned in this blog, such as whether these solar panels will increase a consumers peak demand profile or create a more expensive energy usage profile, thus rendering their standard metering costs and cause you to fall into a more expensive consumer bracket or rate class?
Update 12/16 -
A great example of some of the issues comes today from Hawaii. A Hawaii resident runs into issues and a much higher cost when she signs a contract to install rooftop solar panels. She faces the possibility of paying for upgrades to her neighbors electrical circuits to handle the extra load. Read more on the Huffington Post.