Why You Should Go Solar Now

The Right Thing To Do

My wife and I installed solar panels on our condo in Rossmoor back in 2003. Our main objective wasn’t to save money. We simply thought it was the right thing to do. Our system cost us about 12 cents a watt after rebates and tax incentives. I am told that today I could replace the system at somewhere around four cents a watt.

Energy experts say that by 2016 power from solar will be cheaper than power generated by coal or natural gas in all but three states. It’s not hard to imagine that California isn’t one of those three states. Solar has never been cheaper. The average California homeowner going solar saves $1,560 a year on his electric bill.

But here’s the catch: Like most government programs, the tax rebate is temporary. PG&E is also mandated by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to use a percentage of renewable energy in its mix. I understand that PG&E is getting close to that cap now, and sometime soon it will start discouraging solar.

Residential solar has been increasing at about 30 percent a year. It isn’t exactly a new idea. There are about 200 different companies that have installed panels on one or more Walnut Creek homes. It’s a highly competitive business. That competitive atmosphere is good for you. If you don’t have any cash on hand to pay for the installations, there are companies out there that will install them for no money down and guarantee a savings on your electric bill. How can you lose on that? However, if you can pay cash, you are probably better off to go that route, so that when you sell your unit the lease won’t complicate the sale.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which is approved by the city of Walnut Creek. A PACE loan pays for the installation and your payments are made through your yearly property tax. The additional tax payments will be lower than your savings on the electricity bill. This, of course, won’t be an option if you live in a co-op.

December 2016 is a date to remember. That is when the 30 percent federal tax credit expires and your net cost will take a bump. If you do the installation now you will be much better off.

If the south- and west-facing roofs on your building are shaded by large trees, solar probably isn’t for you. If your building is scheduled to have its roof replaced in a year or two, it would probably be smart to wait. You will be responsible for paying for the panels to be removed and then re-installed. Otherwise, it is to your financial well-being to make your move now.

Some of our Rossmoor Mutuals are welcoming solar and moving ahead with plans to solve the potential problem of two or more homeowners in a building vying for the same sunny roof space. This will need to be ironed out. In the meantime, my advice is to call two or three solar companies for bids and let your Mutual know you are ready to move. It will save you money on your electric bills, give you a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that you are doing something to reduce carbon emissions and increase the value of your home.

This article first appeared in the Rossmoor News on August 19, 2015. Author: Bob Hanson 

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