Solar Power: Is It All That?

These days, solar panels are everywhere. You see them powering homes, businesses, roadside signs, and even your walkway lights.

So maybe you're thinking about installing solar on your home. Will it be worth it?

The Good News

The good news is solar has many benefits. Here are just a few:

  • Solar power is free. As long as the sun is shining, your power bill is reduced or eliminated.

  • Solar is green. You'll be helping reduce greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels, and saving the environment.

  • The equipment is generally maintenance-free. Wipe off your panels a few times a year and you're done.

  • You can usually sell your excess power back to the power company.

Not to mention, tax breaks, incentive grants, and energy credits you can sell on the open market, which can all vary greatly depending on where you live.

In general though, there are lots of reasons to go solar.

The Bad News

The biggest disappointment you'll run into is the installation cost. While the panels themselves are becoming relatively cheap, some of the auxiliary equipment is still pricey.

Mounting hardware can cost as much as the panels, and converters can be many times more. So between panels, converters, wiring and other hardware, you can expect to spend upwards of a year's pay on just the hardware.

There are other considerations too. Local ordinances, for one.

Many places have started limiting solar projects in various ways. By saying how many panels you can install, or where you can put them on your property, the newer laws could affect the viability of your project.

There may even be bond requirements. Some local governments have started requiring up-front money in case they're left to dispose of unwanted equipment.

Many of those laws are pointed directly at the large farms going up everywhere, but their wording is usually a little less than clear. In coming years, those same laws could be interpreted to mean something entirely different.

Keep in mind, your new solar project won't break even for 10 or 15 years.

The Ugly Truth

As much as they hate to say so publicly, your power company is probably the biggest opponent of solar energy.

As more solar power comes on line, it represents a huge variable in the power company's daily goal. Which is, of course, to provide for the constant flow of electricity for everyone.

Every time a cloud rolls over, they have to throttle up their already idling fossil-fueled stations. Or they have to find ways of disposing of all that "free" energy they're required to buy back from consumers when it's sunny.

Is solar power worth it to you?

If you're installing a large enough system, and your subsidies are large enough, then from a financial point of view at least, the answer could be yes.

Will you be saving the planet? Not really. Not unless you're completely off the grid. The power company still has a job to do, no matter what the political correctness of the moment dictates.