What holds homeowners back from using solar to reduce outrageous electrical bills? Most property owners know solar is good for the environment, good for local U.S. economies and good for lowering their electric bills, which they also know from experience will keep climbing higher.
Here are three things they also should know: (1) The price of solar is truly at an all-time low; (2) Cost-per-watt comparisons ensure the best value, and (3) There is plenty of funding available to assist them. If homeowners knew these compelling facts, how could they not go solar now?
American Homeowners Overestimate True Cost of Going Solar
The No. 1 reason stopping most homeowners from even investigating solar is the misperception that it is expensive. A recent Harris Interactive survey found that 97 percent of homeowners polled overestimated the cost of installing solar; just 3 percent of respondents knew that the upfront cost to install solar could be less than $1,000, and in some cases, nothing at all.
Beyond that, the cost of a solar power system is lower than ever before. Just last month, Forbes magazine carried the headline: Solar Power More Competitive than Decision-Makers or Consumers Realize. Based on a Bloomberg New Energy Finance study, the reporting revealed the price of solar has hit new lows, making it competitive with utility providers, whose rates keep rising.
An excerpt: Are the decision-makers entrusted with determining the future of energy infrastructure operating under an outdated understanding of the cost-competitiveness of solar power? In many cases, the answer is yes, according to a paper released last week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
In “Reconsidering the Economics of Photovoltaic Power,” (PDF) BNEF CEO Michael Liebreich and nine collaborators document the precipitous decline in the price of solar power since 2009. “Average PV module prices have fallen by nearly 75 percent in the past three years,” they write, “to the point where solar power is now competitive with daytime retail power prices in a number of countries.”
Use Price per Watt to Get Best Value
When homeowners use an “apples to apples” comparison of price per watt they can get the best price on today’s low solar opportunities.
“Comparing price per watt is one of the most effective ways of determining the efficiency and return on investment of any home solar installation,” said Scott Gordon, senior vice president of sales for HelioPower, a California-based solar installer with nearly 3,000 completed installations.
“Real value is about getting the lowest price per watt for the highest quality system installed as quickly as possible,” Gordon said.
“Anyone who is serious about going solar will use these criteria to save thousands of dollars on a solar purchase or lease and enjoy a faster return on their investment."
HelioPower delivers the highest value in home solar in California, according to an independent consumer study of all major solar power installers in the state.
Figures released by PV Solar Report, a daily digest for California’s solar power industry, found HelioPower ranked highest in the state for offering the best value to its clients, with a price per watt at $5.55, compared to the state average of $7.82 per watt as of March 14, 2012.
Overall, HelioPower provides more than twice the value of the worst-performing large installer’s rate of $12.57 per watt for that date, the study reported.
Price-per-watt value measuring is important in ensuring a consumer gets a fair deal. Prices quoted March 14 by PV Solar Report indicate the cost for an average 5 kilowatt home solar system at between $27,750 for HelioPower (at $5.55 per watt) and $62,850 for the highest-priced competitor (at $12.57).
That’s a difference of $35,100 saved on an average-sized solar power system by choosing HelioPower: a value leader in the industry.
PV Solar has also found HelioPower to be among the quickest in terms of getting the job done.
“Our data shows HelioPower consistently delivers one of the lowest prices per watt of the state’s solar installation firms and one of the shortest installation times,” said Stephen Torres, founder and managing director of PV Solar Report.
Plenty of Funding to Go Solar Now
Millions and millions of dollars are available to go solar in most cases with little or no money upfront. HelioPower works with Sunrun, a finance company that an estimated $150 million to help homeowners buy solar energy from systems installed on their homes. This type of third-party financing for solar power systems now makes up the majority of system installs in the U.S. According to Greentech Media’s Q1 2012 market report, “the overarching trend in the residential market is the shift from host-owned systems to third-party ownership through power-purchase agreements (PPA) or lease structures. At least 16 companies offer residential leases/PPAs, either in their own installations or through partner installers.”
In western Riverside County, the WRCOG program has $325 million in a private/public partnership called HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity) to help property owners go solar through tax-deductible property tax loans. WRCOG has established the HERO program to help homeowners pay for a solar power system and other home improvement products with low-interest financing, no money down, and payments tied to the home’s property tax, which means they don’t have to continue paying if they end up selling their home. The program is available to homeowners in 17 cities and the unincorporated areas of western Riverside County.