sun dollarThis article, which was published last week in the Tampa Tribune, really caught my eye.  I have been monitoring the prices, specs, and lease options on rooftop solar for a while.  I haven't pulled the trigger on an install yet for several reasons, but highest among them is that next year I need to replace my roof.  There is no point to installing panels over a roof that will soon be replaced.  I would prefer something like the shingles described in this article over traditional panels, but there are several factors I would like answers to first.. That said, here are my issues:

  • Not to sound negative towards an obviously happy customer, but I'm not sure the woman written about researched this as thoroughly as she could have before making a "$30,000 to $40,000" investment.  There are several manufacturers (or at least experienced installers) of this type of solar shingle in Florida, and they have been doing it for some time now.
  • The cost is still pretty high, and in my opinion, is teetering on the edge of reasonable payback.  Let's go with the $30K price tag to be fair.  For a twenty year lease, that is $125 a month before fees (the leasing company needs to make some money off of this too).  I am assuming (based on the attached photos of the control system) that there is no storage system for dark or cloudy periods, which means she will only be getting the benefit of the peak sunny times times on cloudless days - or about eight hours a day of usage.  In Florida, the average electric bill is generally above $300 per month.  Her savings therefore, would come much closer to 33% rather than the 60% she is hoping for.  Also, keep in mind that solar panels efficiency tends to degrade over time, further depressing the formula.
  • If she paid out of pocket for this system, her payback will be closer to the industry claimed 16-20 years.  It is also reasonable to assume the panels and associated electronics will require maintenance over the payback period, making it stretch out a little more.
  • If she leased the system, it can be written into the lease that all maintenance costs would be borne by the leasing company,  This seems like a good way to go for most homeowners.

Don't get me wrong; I sincerely hope that this happy homeowner gets everything out of the system that she anticipates, but I remain skeptical.  When I make the move, I prefer it to be a sure bet.

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