The Sunny Side of Power

By Marty Hornick

Let’s get straight to the point. Now is a great time to install solar panels at your home! Okay, I realize that there may be certain obstacles for some folks, but trust me – if you are a home or business owner, there are so many great reasons to install solar. And the sooner the better. Here’s why.

Do you like saving money? Do you want to look forward to your electric bill arriving each month—so you can revel in how low it is again? Do you want to know that turning on a light, running your fridge, cooking your food, heating your home and your water isn’t costing you anything? Even better, that you are not pumping carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere for any of your power?

Installing photovoltaic panels on your roof or in your backyard has become easier and cheaper during the past few decades. Each year solar power gets cheaper and more efficient. Meanwhile, the cost of electricity has increased 75% in the past 20 years, and is expected to continue that trend. In California, the base rate is around 20-25 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), but can be much higher during certain daily periods (typically 4-9 pm), or if you are using more than certain thresholds each month.

The upfront investment in home solar may seem daunting at first, but it pays for itself quickly—especially if you size your system large enough to convert existing gas appliances, such as water heaters and stoves to electric, or for using electric space heaters instead of gas heat, or even charging your new electric vehicle. The federal government currently provides a substantial solar tax credit off the cost of your system. The credit is 26% through 2022, then continues dropping after that until it goes away in a couple years. So, get your solar soon, while you can still get a 26% discount! 

Artwork by Susan Greenleaf

In my case, I worked with a local installer to figure out my annual electricity use, then upped my system size a bit so I could convert away from some propane use. My entire system cost less than $14,000 to install including all materials and labor. At tax time, the IRS insisted on giving me $4,000 back! So, for $10,000 I have free (and carbon-free) electricity for the rest of my life. Factoring my small monthly fee (around $10) for being hooked up to the grid plus my savings in propane (I’ve only used 15 gallons in 3 months), plus rising electric costs, I expect that this system will pay for itself in about six to eight years. It’s all free after that! 

Still wondering if it’ll pay off—especially if you don’t know how long you’ll be in your house? Believe me, you will not lose a dime on your panels when you sell your home. Any homebuyer will be thrilled to have solar panels already installed, getting free energy the minute they move in! Solar increases the value of your home, business and any property, and appraisers add that into your home’s appraised value, meaning more money in your pocket when you sell it.

So, how does billing work? I’m still hooked up to the grid (so I don’t need the expensive batteries that would make me energy independent), and I’m feeding into it during most days, offsetting the times that I use more than I produce. It’s called “Net Metering” and averages out over the course of a year. During high-demand periods, I’m credited more (or pay more if I’m using it). I get a small monthly bill for being on the grid, but only one bill a year for electricity use. And this year Southern California Edison wrote me a check! Now, that’s the kind of mail I like to see!

In terms of carbon, greenhouse gases and other pollution, remember power companies start turning on dirtier and more expensive power sources (coal, oil, natural gas) as demand goes up, so the more solar you produce (and the less electricity you use during those times), the cleaner and cheaper is your electricity! In summer high-demand periods, your solar feeds back into the grid, helping keep all electricity a bit cleaner. Since demand and cost for electricity peaks in the evenings, it benefits you to collect sun power during those times. So, in Bishop, southerly and westerly facing panels rack up more dollars for you (especially in early-summer, when you collect power until after 8pm), while reducing the need for the dirtiest sources of power.

Still not convinced? Let’s run a few numbers:

  • One hour of the sun’s energy that hits earth can power the entire planet for an entire year!
  • Today’s solar panels convert about a fifth of the sun’s energy that hits them into electricity (20% efficiency).
  • When producing energy, solar causes zero pollution or greenhouse gases.
  • Using one kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy with traditional sources creates 1.4 pounds of carbon.
  • The average household uses approximately 30 kWh per day.
  • In 30 years, the average home solar system can reduce 100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Solar energy is the cheapest form of energy, having surpassed fossil fuels in 2019.
  • In the US, over two million solar systems have already been installed.
  • Typically, a home solar system can pay for itself within 7-10 years.
  • California generates the most solar energy of any state in the US. We live in the ideal climate for solar power.

There’s much more information out there:

When you are ready, find a local solar installer. We have a large handful of highly skilled, reputable installers here. Please start with our local Yellow Pages. Searching online will bring up many providers who don’t even know where Bishop or Mammoth are.

One little tidbit—just a little secret between you and me–whether or not you have solar, if you want to help reduce carbon and other emissions and make some money at the same time, check this out (you’ll thank me later!):

Typically, doing something that makes a positive difference in the world requires making at least a small sacrifice. Installing solar at your home is one major exception. This time you don’t need to choose. You can be purely selfish benefitting from your investment, and at the same time be doing what’s right for the earth and for future generations!  

Please join in the discussion and share your experiences and thoughts about solar power by replying to this article at the bottom of the page!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *