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Switching To Solar Power, One Year Later

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the breakeven-curve dept.

Power 541

ThinSkin writes "Slashdot readers may recall Loyd Case's series of articles illustrating his experiences after switching to solar power for his family home. Loyd shared his one month update, a six month update, and now finally concludes his series after one year of solar power. Despite the $38,000 initial cost for the setup, Loyd is very optimistic after a $3,000 savings in one year, meaning that in about 12 years he will break even — though he suspects ten years is a better estimate considering other factors. Other reasons such as feeling 'green,' increasing the property value of his house, and the 'spousal acceptance factor' all support Loyd's decision on why he'd do it all over again if he had to." The article is spread annoyingly over multiple pages, like everything at the site, and the print version omits the graphs.

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541 comments

Return on investment (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444317)

Three thousand dollar savings per year on a 38000 investment is a 7.8 percent rate of return on investment-- not bad, as long as the investment itself dosn't depreciate in value.

ROE is a much better way of calculating economics than "payback time," by the way

Re:Return on investment (2, Insightful)

dk90406 (797452) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444391)

Assuming the man had the money in his pocket to start with. If a loan was required for the initial investment, that has to be taken into account.
A little off topic: If I went to any business today and promised them a 10 year ROI, they would laugh. In this economic climate 1-2 year ROI seems to what they are willing to risk.

A ten year ROI? (2, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444533)

I don't think return on investment is measured in the units you think it is measured in.

Re:A ten year ROI? (0, Offtopic)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444699)

> Stupid git

Why are you insulting a version control system?

Re:A ten year ROI? (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444757)

I would respectfully disagree with you. There are a LOT of large companies who think of ROI in exactly the terms that the parent used. Moreover, I too have been subjected to the "2 to 3 year payback" threshold in recent years, and I can tell you from personal experience that this is exactly the determining factor in many "green" projects. One can definitely argue as to whether excluding the other aspects of the Total Cost of Ownership should/should not come into play, but I must defend the parent, as he is correct.

Re:Return on investment (4, Insightful)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444869)

If he'd gotten a loan and the loan payments were near $3,000/yr (which is pretty unlikely) or his average electricity savings increased over the life of the loan (more likely) he could offset his loan with his electricity savings and have a cost of little to nothing. I don't think solar is the best energy saving home improvement most people could make for their dollar but it's starting to get competitive.

Re:Return on investment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28445053)

"I don't think solar is the best energy saving home improvement most people could make for their dollar"

Good, because Solar is energy PRODUCING improvement.

Re:Return on investment (2, Insightful)

hansraj (458504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444427)

...as long as the investment itself dosn't depreciate in value.

which in this case it surely will. In fact the way technological things change in general I would assume that his solar-power setting would have pretty much depreciated to some small fraction of 38k.

PS: I don't disapprove of this guy spending 38k on solar powering of his house even a tiny bit, but I think it is quite interesting to evaluate this stuff as parent suggested-

Re:Return on investment (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444663)

Ah, what? He's not reselling the damn thing, he is making money off of it every month. So what if it depreciates, we were never measuring the value of the thing over time anyway. Though I'm guessing many of the components will not depreciate much, just the batteries and photovoltaics. Having his house set up to run off of photovoltaics will let him easily take advantage of whatever advances come along in module and energy storage. The power modules will last at least 30 years. See, he would never be reselling the thing independent of his house. The thing is a part of the house now, and the entire house will continue to appreciate. As people become more interested in solar, a house with solar already in place will appreciate faster.

Funny how so many people seem to want to find fault with solar energy, and use incomplete reasoning to look at only the possible negative consequences without looking at all the positives. Why do you think some people have such an irrational hatred of solar energy? I think the hippies are to blame. Nobody likes them, and they never fight back when you blame them, so I am going to go with definitely the hippies fault.

Re:Return on investment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444771)

I'm a hippy, you insensitive clod!

Re:Return on investment (1, Offtopic)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444943)

And apparently it's all your fault. You should feel ashamed.

Re:Return on investment (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445059)

depreciation value measures what you would be able to sell your asset for because that is the best source of available data.

however the measurement sees more use than just its nominal one which you tunneled down on to criticize the GP for using.

instead, it is common to also use depreciation value and horizon (timeframe) to estimate the life of the capital investment.

the trollish contradiction to you would have been along the lines of, "what, do you expect his solar system to last forever without repair or part obsolescence?"

rather than troll you as you've done to the GP (naively or willfully), i've pointed out that equipment does age and need further investment, both incrementally for repairs and in bursts for system replacement. i've also pointed out that the GP was correct in using depreciation as a rough measure of how much to expect to pay to keep the system happy over time.

to use a less green emotionally charged example, i spend $10,000 to replace my business' roof. My roof has a warranty, but more importantly i can look up the depreciation of roofing in actuarial tables because i also have machinery, computers, and a whole slew of disparate things to track the longevity of. I need to track the longevity of every capital asset outlay in order to maintain cognizance of my fixed costs of doing business. I need to know this in order to know whether i am bringing in enough money to meet those costs and stay in business long term. So, since i've got so mush different stuff to track valuation of, i use depreciation values and timeframes as an abstraction. It turns out that my roof depreciates to $1000 in 10 years and $0 in 15 years. Conservatively I then estimate that I will need to spend $10000 in inflation adjusted money in 10 years to replace the roof again. This makes my cost $1000 per year of operation.

So, tl;dr is so far everyone assumes that because the person in the story saves $3000 a year that somehow his solar system will last for 10-12 years to repay itself without repair. This is fallacious logic. Depreciation is a way of measuring whether and how much it will cost to repair/replace the system in what time frame. From that one can estimate whether return of investment is possible.

Re:Return on investment (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444737)

But by how much will it depreciate? According to it's decreased output overtime? What's the warranty on the system? Most new solar panel/film systems provide at least a 50 year warranty, so if his system cost him $38K and you expect zero output after 50 years, the system loses $760 of value each year. Still not a bad deal.

I am not so sure... (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444559)

Because the money spent needs to be factored as, how much could he have made investing it and provided he didn't take a loan to get it all change the equation.

Throw in, what is the change in insurance cost, maintenance of said units, and then determine true savings. I think he will find it will not pay for itself within ten to fifteen years.

I also think that to speed up his return he needs an energy audit to find out how he is wasting electricity. Perhaps 4k to 5k power bills are the norm, but it seems excessive. I power a nearly 4000 square foot home in Georgia and through purposeful management of electricity and gas I might peak at 3600 if I get silly but tend to be below 3k for the year. My expensive months are winter months where I have to heat the place as gas cost me more than electricity I need to cool the home. Think, ceiling fans, zoned heating/cooling, and tolerance for 78 for summer temperature inside and 68 during winter. I also exploit cool nights with a box fan or two.

Re:I am not so sure... (1)

maeka (518272) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444613)

Aye.
I have a wife who won't turn off lights, use window ACs, and still only spend $900 a year on power. $1200 a year on natural gas. 1300 sq feet.

Re:I am not so sure... (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445041)

IIRC from the 6 month update, he has a small army of PC's turned servers running in his basement at all times. That'll increase the need for air conditioning, as well as the large amount of power they draw all day long. He does have unusually high energy bills, but I'm sure they aren't unreasonable for some /. members with similarly aggressive power requirements.

Re:Return on investment (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444703)

If that ROE is reasonable, why aren't zillions of commercial solar farms popping up everywhere? Or at least co-located with the wind farms that are being installed?

Re:Return on investment (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444863)

Because the short term cost is extremely high, and most people would rather buy a new Porsche then lay that amount of money out up front...regardless of ROI.

Uh! UH! UH! Can I?! (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444991)

High start-up costs, VERY specific location prerequisites and 10 year ROE window?

Plus, it is not a commercial-sized solution, but a family home solution. No one said you can just scale it up.

Re:Return on investment (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445123)

Because this sort of thing doesn't scale in a linear fashion. It's a lot easier to do this sort of thing for a couple of houses, assuming a reasonable amount of light and willingness to cut back on consumption. It gets a lot more complicated when you start having to pay for extra land, land use studies and worry about transmission wires.

Re:Return on investment (1)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444715)

My wife and I are looking at building our house to be Solar in about 5 years. We are in the planning phases right now, found a good neighborhood built around ponds for heat pumps. But, not everything can be measured by the ROE (although your point is taken). The intangable benefits really work for you. Also considering the advances in solar cells this last year and the fact that I live in Nebraska, I should be able to get a really good system by the time we build.

Re:Return on investment (3, Informative)

rs79 (71822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444809)

" Despite the $38,000 initial cost for the setup, Loyd is very optimistic after a $3,000 savings in one year, meaning that in about 12 years"

Might want to look up the lifespan of solar cells.

"Cost of Solar Panels
Solar panels have an effective lifespan of about 20 to 25 years, and their value and wattage output decrease steadily over time. The solar cell that has ...
www.solarpanelinfo.com/solar-panels/solar-panel-cost.php "

I have them too, but to be rigorous one needs to take their lifespan into consideration.

Re:Return on investment (4, Informative)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445069)

IIRC from the 6 month write up, he splurged and got the pricier (i.e. longer lasting) panels because he was getting either a grant or tax break from California for putting the panels in.

Re:Return on investment (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444833)

You beat me to it. A year ago he probably could have locked in a %3 rate on a CD, and I would say that on average that is a pretty reasonable number to assume for a no-risk investment. If we further assume that electricity prices will go up by about the same amount (3% annually) his break even point is about 15.5 years.

Of course, there's no telling what those rates are going to do over that kind of timeframe. Its also difficult to say what the performance of his solar panels will be over the entire lifecycle. I thought I remember reading that new panels will deteriorate by 50% over 25 years which is about 2.5% annually, assuming the degredation is linear. That is going to eat into his ROI quite a bit, and that doesn't take into account any costs to insure the panels against damage or the risk of damage if you leave them uninsured.

All that being said, the most important variable is also the one you have the least control over, the cost of electricity in your area. If they go up at 5%, you catch up with a no-risk CD in 12.5 years; at 1% it would take nearly 20.

Re:Return on investment (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445001)

Of course that doesn't take in account resale value. Think about it, in ten years they may add 10 or 20 thousand dollars to the value of the home.

Re:Return on investment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28445081)

Gee, I wonder whether or not 12-year-old solar panels will have depreciated.

Re:Return on investment (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445103)

Yeah, there's zero maintenance on solar panels, they never blow off, or break, or lose efficiency over time. And as for future value, that $38K system will hopefully be able to be purchased for far less 10 years in the future, so it's inherent value also drops as technology improves.

Having said all that, I'd like to have a system on my house, too... not sure if I'd rather have a Tesla Roadster, though, roughly twice the price and it does a bit more for you than save money on the electric bill.

8==C=O=C=K==S=L=A=P==D ~~-_ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444345)

thunk.

Solar panel longevity (4, Insightful)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444355)

So maybe it'll pay for itself in 12 years, but how long before those panels need to be replaced? That's what we really need to know in order to decide if he's actually saving money.

Re:Solar panel longevity (2, Interesting)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444389)

They lose efficiency over time, and will never offset his initial costs before needing to be replaced.

Oh, and don't forget maintenance (they get dusty).

Re:Solar panel longevity (0, Flamebait)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444415)

bullshit.
The panels will last 25+ years and though they will lose capacity they will offset his costs in ~10 years.

Re:Solar panel longevity (2, Interesting)

Scutter (18425) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444461)

I believe the $38,000 cost was for the entire conversion. I doubt replacement panels would cost that much. I think you're right that it would significantly extend the ROI, though. I think 12 years is optimistic.

Re:Solar panel longevity (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444787)

Most panels carry 25-50 year warranties (at least). If the system lasts 50 years, and outputs zero power after those 50 years, it depreciates at the rate of $760 a year. And hopefully, the price of solar panels/film will decrease every year (NanoSolar hitting the $1/watt price point within the last 12 months doesn't hurt).

Re:Solar panel longevity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444859)

Most panels carry 25-50 year warranties (at least)

Do you expect the companies that put these out to be around for 50 years?

Re:Solar panel longevity (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444965)

They probably will be. Some companies have been doing for decades already and they're only getting more popular.

Re:Solar panel longevity (1)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444851)

Unless your living on Mars or in the Sahara, dust isn't a problem.

Re:Solar panel longevity (1)

32771 (906153) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445071)

Ever thought about pollen, and the plain old dirt (i.e. soot) that falls with the rain.

Re:Solar panel longevity (2, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444437)

So maybe it'll pay for itself in 12 years, but how long before those panels need to be replaced? That's what we really need to know in order to decide if he's actually saving money.

Well if you want to be a financial stickler, you might want to factor in the standard rate of inflation if it's going to be 12 years. The funny thing is that inflation has been going down in the past three months according to this site [inflationdata.com] . But you need to remember the pert formula and assume that most of the time you're looking at an average of what about 3% inflation per year? On your original investment of $3800, right? So that's like a 42% increase in the value of that 2008 money assuming inflation continues at an expected yearly rate and a bank will give you that return.

Industy Standard Warranties (5, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444457)

Most manufacturers guarantee that their panels will give at least 90% of peak power at ten years, and 80% of power at 25 years. Yes, he's saving money.

Re:Industy Standard Warranties (2, Insightful)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444547)

He might be saving money, but in part because he is getting raped for electricity. His rates were 11 cents to 30 cents+ per kWh. I pay 7 cents per kWh all the time.

Re:Industy Standard Warranties (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444571)

Which is why solar is a good investment in those areas and not where you live.

No, he's NOT saving money (3, Interesting)

chatgris (735079) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444751)

Why people still routinely neglect compound interesting I'll never know. If he took that $38,000 and put it in a long term investment at a mere 5%, he'd had 68242.54 at the end of 12 years. Yes, it's green, yes, it's cool, but no, he's not saving money.

Re:No, he's NOT saving money (5, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444815)

And what long term investment would that be that reliably makes 5%? If he had invested that $38k in just about any stock or mutual fund in the past year, he'd have lost at least 30% of its value.

Re:No, he's NOT saving money (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444961)

Also factor in taxes. If you invest and make $1000, you owe taxes on it. If you save $1000 there's no additional taxes as it was already your money.

Re:No, he's NOT saving money (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445115)

Don't forget a second factor in taxes: complexity. If you save $1000, not only are there no additional taxes, but there's nothing to fill out on your IRS tax forms. Whereas if you invest and make $1000, that's yet more paperwork for you to fill out on April 14. The exception is if you get a big tax credit for buying solar equipment, in which case you probably won't mind the extra paperwork so much.

Re:No, he's NOT saving money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444959)

Why people still routinely neglect compound interesting I'll never know.

If he took that $38,000 and put it in a long term investment at a mere 5%, he'd had 68242.54 at the end of 12 years.

Yes, it's green, yes, it's cool, but no, he's not saving money.

Except you're forgetting that if he did that he'd still have to pay the electrical bill or at least apparently 3.000 more a year...which he doesn't have to now..
I'll leave it to you to conclude if 68.000 - 12*3.000 is more or less than 38.000

Re:No, he's NOT saving money (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445029)

And tax on the interest on top of that.

Re:No, he's NOT saving money (1)

CubeRootOf (849787) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445035)

I invested $22,000 two years ago, and know I have $19,000, and I think I'm doing pretty damn good. Compound interest? Doesn't interest me. I should have paid off my car and student loans.

Re:Industy Standard Warranties (1, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445131)

Most manufacturers guarantee that their panels will give at least 90% of peak power at ten years, and 80% of power at 25 years. Yes, he's saving money.

These same manufacturers have guarantees that they will be in business in 25 years?

Re:Solar panel longevity (1)

hack slash (1064002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444637)

I have a 1983 Kyocera 30 watt panel which still gives me an accurately measured 24 watts in mid summer, mid day sunlight, 80% of it's original rating after 25+ years is pretty good I think.

Re:Solar panel longevity (1)

ID000001 (753578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445109)

If a 25 year old technology still get us 80% after 25 years, then it would be safe to assume his set up will have less deprecation.

RTFA (4, Insightful)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444681)

If you had RTFA you would see that the panels are quoted as having a 30 year warranty. So in 30 years. If they break down before that, he gets freebies, and I imagine those will produce more electricity. All in all, it's worth it.

Futhermore, Wikipedia has this to say about Solar Panels and how efficient they are at a certain time frame:

Solar panels must withstand heat, cold, rain and hail for many years. Many Crystalline silicon module manufacturers offer warranties that guarantee electrical production for 10 years at 90% of rated power output and 25 years at 80%.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_module [wikipedia.org]

Re:Solar panel longevity (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444957)

I had neighbour that had solar panels back since at least the late 80's and he had them up until the turn of the century (I moved, he may still have the originals) and aside from washing them, I don't think I've ever seen him do anything to them. I can only imagine the technology has gotten better and no doubt take up much less room than his did.

Panel Degradation (0, Redundant)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444373)

Doesn't the panels degrade over time, and produces less electricity as they age?

Re:Panel Degradation (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444397)

Personally, I'm guessing his total savings will asymptotically approach the $38,000 that he initially sunk into the project...

Re:Panel Degradation (0, Flamebait)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444401)

Yup. Joke's on him.
And the taxpayers who subsidized whatever government rebates/discounts/tax credits he got for "going green".

Yes, But Not Necessarily By A Lot (1)

Kneo24 (688412) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444783)

Many Crystalline silicon module manufacturers offer warranties that guarantee electrical production for 10 years at 90% of rated power output and 25 years at 80%.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_module [wikipedia.org]

Now I read his initial article close to a year ago, so I don't remember what type he got, or if it even specifically mentions it. However his panels are rated to last 30 years. I imagine the warranty specifically mentions how much they will output as their life increases. It should be fairly obvious to see if it's putting out what it should be in those 30 years. If they don't, well, his warranty will cover that.

A lot of good that warranty is going to do... (4, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444913)

Now I read his initial article close to a year ago, so I don't remember what type he got, or if it even specifically mentions it. However his panels are rated to last 30 years. I imagine the warranty specifically mentions how much they will output as their life increases. It should be fairly obvious to see if it's putting out what it should be in those 30 years. If they don't, well, his warranty will cover that.

... if the company in question is still around to stand behind it. I get a laugh out of roofers that offer 50 year guarantee on roofs when they know full well they themselves are unlike to be around by then. A lot can happen in 30 years.

Time value of money (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444407)

The whole solar argument still has to grapple with its high up front costs. Doing calculations on money savings with such a long time to "break even" means that you need to take into account the time value of money. Even using a small interest rate such as 4.5% as an example (which is the cost of capital of a bank's home equity loan that I saw advertised recently near my house) means that he won't break even in over 19 years. Over 50% longer than the statistic the summary uses.

Re:Time value of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444635)

Not only that but solar panels degrade over time. So every day you are saving a little less. Eventually they fail altogether which is what I imagine will happen in this case. I seriously doubt he will get close to breaking even.

With that said, I'm happy that some people are willing to waste money so that the technology can be improved. Eventually it may be cheap enough and reliable enough for us poor peons.

Re:Time value of money (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444779)

Panels these days put out 80% of rated power at 25 years, so I bet he will break even just fine.

Re:Time value of money (1)

syphax (189065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444829)

Problem solved. [sunrunhome.com]

And your calculation doesn't take into account increases in energy prices. How much will electricity prices increase over the next 20 years? Who knows? There are lots of reasons to expect higher prices, though. But solar avoids that- if one finances solar with fixed interest on your loan, congratulations, it's a great hedge on energy price variability.

Re:Time value of money (5, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445083)

At the moment, though, you have to factor in the fact that we're about to hit some mondo inflation due to the money Obama's been printing. So, it's actually a good idea right now to get into things that aren't pegged to the actual dollars. This guy is basically buying his electricity up front before his $40k is worthless.

The real benefit (1)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444441)

not getting a higher bill when you forget to turn off the lights every time you leave a room.

Re:The real benefit (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444611)

Or using those lights to grow pot. Hmmm... he's funding terrorism!

The real loss (1)

digitalsolo (1175321) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444641)

Not being able to get online because you used up all the power by forgetting to turn off the lights every time you left a room.

Bad Math (4, Insightful)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444451)

He sums the article up by claiming that his return will be sooner than 12 years based on changes in his electricity usage (like his daughter leaving for college). This is bad math. He would have changed his usage either way, so he can't really count those watts as impacted by his investment in the solar panels. Overall though it seems like he's getting a decent return on his investment.

Re:Bad Math (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444525)

If he had invested $38k in the stock market how much would he have after 12 years?

I'm guessing even in these harsh economic times the result would be more than the initial $38k. :)

Re:Bad Math (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444603)

or he could have $0.

This is guaranteed money, that always pays less than risky money.

Re:Bad Math (4, Interesting)

maeka (518272) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444793)

This is guaranteed money, that always pays less than risky money.

Not it isn't.
The risks are different, but this is not without risks.
Panels could prematurely fail, and the provider go out of business leaving him with no warranty.
Price of electricity could fall, greatly extending his ROI.
Interest rates could climb, increasing the opportunity cost of his investment.
Far superior panels could be released next year.
Poor installation could lead to water damage to his house.

The possible risks are numerous, far from a guaranteed ROI.

Re:Bad Math (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444905)

All of those things are very unlikely or mitigated by insurance. A poor installation could lead to damage but that for instance would be the installers problem not his.

This is as close to a guaranteed ROI as it gets.

Re:Bad Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444825)

The stock market isn't nearly as lucrative as you might expect.

Hint: Increases in Dow Average is NOT an accurate reflection on average stock return, because the DJIA does NOT work the same way investing in the stock market works.

Hint on Hint: Both components and their coefficients of the Dow Average change over the years by committee. Components are carefully chosen in hopes the DJIA to continually increase, but of course that's not always a given.

Re:Bad Math (4, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444589)

His return will be sooner than 12 years based on changes in his electricity usage (like his daughter leaving for college). This is bad math.

He installs big ugly solar panels on his roof, making his daughter decide to go away for college to get away from her dorky dad, which reduces electricity usage. I don't see what the problem is.

Re:Bad Math (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444901)

I actually like the look of the solar panels on the roof...then again, I'm also the same person who thinks that the giant wind turbines actually improve the landscape of the Midwest.

Re:Bad Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444621)

I didn't rtfa, ofc, but I would assume he's talking about the ever-rising cost of electricity.

Re:Bad Math (2, Insightful)

xlotlu (1395639) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445051)

He sums the article up by claiming that his return will be sooner than 12 years based on changes in his electricity usage (like his daughter leaving for college). This is bad math. He would have changed his usage either way, so he can't really count those watts as impacted by his investment in the solar panels.

Or he'll pump the surplus electricity into the grid, and get paid for it. That's ignoring the increasing cost of electricity.

Energy prices are unstable (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444557)

Given the instability of electricity prices I'm not sure that his experiences are going to be very representative for the next few years. Most people suspect that electricity prices will increase and if that occurs then solar power will make even more sense. But there's no hard guarantee. If the economy remains stagnant then electricity cost from the normal grid will likely remain near in cost to where it is now.

Re:Energy prices are unstable (0)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444649)

But there's no hard guarantee.

Sure there is. Go read up on Peak Oil.

Then go read what anybody's doing about it. (Hint: Apart from mostly singular projects like the one in TFA, mostly jack shit.)

Electricity prices will go up.

Re:Energy prices are unstable (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444835)

Electricity prices will almost certainly go up in the long term. But whether investing in solar right now makes sense depends om much shorter term costs.

Price of certainty. (5, Insightful)

GammaStream (1472247) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444567)

To all the people mocking his investment, your missing one thing. You do not know what the price of energy is going to do in the next few years. The guy in the article however is guaranteed a minimum amount of power each year from his solar panels at a rate he knows. (His initial investment / Life time of the panels). If the companies decide to hike the prices in two years time due a deterioration in Gulf politics for example, he is sheltered from its effects and lets be honest it's very unlikely the price is going to go down per kwh. He is also sheltered to a certain extent from the failure of the power network so if a situation does arise where there are rolling blackouts again, he knows he will a least have some electricity each day. One of the things that people constantly underestimate the price of is certainty.

Re:Price of certainty. (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444969)

If the companies decide to hike the prices in two years time due a deterioration in Gulf politics for example, he is sheltered from its effects and lets be honest it's very unlikely the price is going to go down per kwh.

While I like the idea and evaluate it myself every few years, I have to mention that during a major credit crunch deflation is always a real possibility.

Re:Price of certainty. (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444977)

The guy in the article however is guaranteed a minimum amount of power each year from his solar panels at a rate he knows.

Guaranteed by who and for how much? If the panels fail prematurely what are his real chances of recovery?

Re:Price of certainty. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445073)

If the panels fail the warranty covers that.

Re:Price of certainty. (4, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445003)

The big cost looming for electrical generation has nothing to do with the Gulf, it has to do with a Carbon tax/cap. Unless we go crazy building nuclear plants there WILL be a significant increase in electric rates if we are at all serious about stopping CO2 buildup.

Re:Price of certainty. (2, Informative)

jimbogun (869443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445101)

Electric companies shouldn't be directly linked to Gulf politics. Most of the electricity in the U.S. is produced by coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric energy sources according to the Department of Energy. Petroleum makes up only 1.3% of U.S. electricity production. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/epm_sum.html [doe.gov]

Your point is a good one though, that energy prices will most likely go up per kWh.

12 year payback? (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444573)

Sorry, the payback needs to be under 3 years to have any chance at wide spread acceptance. Here's the cold hard reality: until we tax the living shit out of fossil fuel consumption, alternative energy sources will never gain traction.

Re:12 year payback? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444665)

Sorry, the payback needs to be under 3 years to have any chance at wide spread acceptance. Here's the cold hard reality: until we tax the living shit out of fossil fuel consumption, alternative energy sources will never gain traction.

Or, you could find a way to make the sun shine all the time.

Re:12 year payback? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28444889)

Actually, rather than taxing the living shit out of fossil fuel consumption, you could simply let the alternative energy developers continue to work on refining their tech until it is cheap enough to make sense. I think that's a much better solution than artificially jacking up prices for the competition thereby giving alternative energy sources absolutely NO incentive to improve cost of efficiency.

Re:12 year payback? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28445013)

Whew. Glad my energy company is providing me with clean and efficient nuclear power.

And unless those taxes actually go directly and accountably TOWARD building those alternatives, count me out. This country has no proven track record for "sin" type taxes going toward anything solving the "sin" they are supposed to solve in the first place.

Re:12 year payback? (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445125)

I don't know if it is unique to Texas, but our realtor told us about a program where the state will finance a solar panel installation. Apart from the hefty incentives, it's a great program because it basically rolls the cost of the panels into your property taxes. It isn't exactly property taxes, but it is a fee that stays with the house. So, if you sell the house, the new owner takes over the payments. True, there are going to be people who aren't interested in solar panels, but there are plenty of people who are and it definitely eases the concern of taking on a big investment when statistically you are likely to move before you reach the point of a positive return.

As soon as my house finishes construction, I'm looking into it. There's way too much sunshine here for me to not consider it.

ac

Summer months most important (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444683)

Looking back at the 6-month summary and seeing how drastic the difference is, I think that's all that's worth it, isn't it? Summer is when we run our air conditions (sigh) most and therefore, is typically the season when power grids are under their greatest stress. So even if the price goes up a great deal in the winter (and still considerably less than without the panels), I would think that this is still a great resolution to the problem.

Now the issue is just getting out the $$$ to pay for it up front and waiting for the investment to come back. You're not earning interest on that money....

"Spousal acceptance factor" (3, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444719)

Most of the time, if you care for your family, that's the #1 factor in your decisions. Unless your ambition is one of those short-lived, Hollywood marriages.

SunRun (2, Informative)

syphax (189065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444731)

Affordable solar for little money down [sunrunhome.com]

If you live in CA, MA, or AZ, and have a roof with decent sun exposure, please check SunRun out.

I've got nothing to do with them; I just think they have a winning method of making the cash flow of solar very attractive.

Solar is not competitive (1)

rockytopchip (1398125) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444811)

If solar technology and price were close to being competitive with conventional energy (coal in my case) then you would see many small solar deployments by consumers as well as large solar deployments by businesses and even power utilities themselves.

And thanks, too (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444837)

By being an early adopter, Loyd also helps the technology to gain acceptance, which helps everybody who chooses solar later on. Acceptance = economies of scale = lower price. Assuming energy prices stay roughly where they are or rise, people who come after Loyd will reach their break even point much sooner, even assuming further innovation doesn't cut the price of solar even more.

10 years to get an ROI? (1)

Meor (711208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444867)

This guy is happy his wife doesn't understand numbers and is pleased with a 10 year ROI?

Re:10 years to get an ROI? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445117)

Please tell us what investments you use that have a nearly guaranteed 7%+ ROE.

Cost of Equipment now (1)

jj00 (599158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28444933)

There always seems to be new breakthroughs in solar technology all the time. I wonder how much the cost of his original equipment is going to go down over the new few years. How much his original setup cost today?

He is obviously an early adopter, so I also wonder if he'll continue to just upgrade his equipment before getting a return from his investment. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but the person who might best benefit from this experiment is his neighbor (assuming they get any old equipment).

Going green takes some green. (1)

CHK6 (583097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28445005)

I've looked into going more green and doing more green-like things. The #1 thing I found out is it takes a whole lot of money to go green and takes a lot of cash to do so. Sure my electric bills is high, but I can't convince a bank to loan me the cash to put in all solar power source on my house and then pay them back for 10 years. I spec'ed out solar and that was $30K and wind turbine would be $40K. I mean come on! These articles are great, but their either about how a) a starving art student at some liberal college gets donations to make a solar shed and live like an urban troll or B) some guy has the upfront means to cover the total costs. While this is a great pat on the back for in part to a small percentage of a small minority of folks. I hope a bird poops on your solar panel!

Breakeven is longer than 12 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28445121)

The system would need to be 100% maintenance free to have a 12 year break-even. And, no on-the-grid based innovation can show up that provides less expensive power in those 12 years for the case to be valid. Still, the feel-good, do-good and be proud of what you accomplished factor make this interesting and satisfying.

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