Monday, March 26, 2007

Practical Solar Electric Power for Your Home?

I wrote, in my Who Killed the Electric Car? post that I have always been interested in environmentalism . . . to a point. Specifically, I'm not interested if it "doesn't make sense" economically.

Last Friday I saw an ad for solar electric power:
"If you can afford to pay your current electric bill, you can afford solar power."
Intrigued, I followed the link the guy provided and watched a short video.

"Why hasn’t solar power been a viable option in the past?" the speaker asked.

  1. Because of the enormous up-front investment required: $40,000 worth of equipment, on average.
  2. You have to put this complex system together and maintain it yourself.
  3. When all is said and done, you wind up paying more--significantly more--than you would if you "just" used the power generated by a standard power facility.
"You've got that right!" I said to myself.

I've looked into going "off grid." I've looked at solar heating. I've looked at hybrid cars. But none of these options has looked good. For these kinds of reasons. But most especially because of the costs.

I'm willing to spend a little to "do the right thing," as it were, for the environment. But not so much that I'm put at a major disadvantage compared to "everyone else."

Imagine, the speaker suggested, if the mobile phone industry required you to pay $10,000 in equipment costs up-front, and it was your responsibility to maintain the network: would you own a cell phone?

What transformed the cell phone industry? The "free phone with a two-year service commitment" offers.

So this company is proposing to provide the solar energy equipment equivalent of the free phone . . . as long as you're willing to pay them for the energy you consume at the same rate you paid your electric utility last year.

For how long?

More or less: "For as long as you want . . . up to 25 years." [Actual options: 1 year, 5 years, or 25 years. But if you sign up for a one- or five-year plan, they get to recalculate your rates to match your local utility's current prices at those times. . . . Hey! What am I thinking? When was the last time I heard of electric energy prices actually going down on any long-term basis? (But even if that happened, the company has an awfully nice answer. . . .)]

My head was snapped around!
  • No upfront costs?
  • No maintenance costs ('cause they take care of it for you)? And,
  • Up to a twenty-five year fixed-price guarantee at your current (non-solar) price?

But they've got me believing enough that I've signed up to be "one of the first" potential customers when they come online in 2008.

(More later.)
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