Rooftop solar for the masses

Long-time solar power supporters share much in common with Seattle Seahawks fans, who patiently waited since 1976 to enjoy their recent moment in the sun. Now that it has arrived, the fan base has exploded.

In regards to solar energy, there’s never been a better time to jump on the bandwagon!

In our last blog about solar, we listed how people evaluate their options. But who, exactly, are these new fans? Let’s start with the fact that the number of homeowners with solar would completely fill Seattle’s professional football stadium five times over (360,000+, with 31,000 new fans added in Q3 2013 alone).

Who is filling those seats? If you think it’s the equivalent of NFL’s die-hard fans (dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists) or corporate luxury suite owners (wealthy homeowners), a recent trend in solar adoption may surprise you:

A study by the Center for American Progress found that solar installations in 3 leading solar states  (CA, AZ and NJ) were overwhelmingly occurring in middle-class neighborhoods with median incomes ranging from $40,000 – $90,000.  In addition, the fastest growing segment of households installing solar from 2011-2012 had median income ranges between $30,000-50,000.

This is one of many encouraging signs that residential solar has moved beyond the fringe.

Who’s winning the renewable resource popularity contest?

Unofficially, we’d be surprised if solar didn’t win in a landslide (ahem, we still love all the candidates). If you own a home and get plenty of unobstructed sun, solar is probably the easiest renewable energy source to access and utilize to generate electricity for your home. Equipment prices and installation costs continue to fall, and solar is cost competitive in some states even without rebates and incentives.

The availability of solar financing also has been a major force in lowering the barrier to going solar. The ability to lease a system has provided peace of mind to customers who only want to pay for the power from a solar system and not worry about system maintenance or a big upfront cost.

All these developments have served to make solar the most popular kid in renewable school – or at least that’s what we think. We’d love to hear from you to confirm our suspicions!

Note: Green Mountain Energy is not a johnny-come-lately in support of residential solar. Whereas some electric companies see rooftop solar as a threat, we’ve embraced the idea that a lot of our customers will buy less grid electricity from us because they’re getting power production from their solar panels. That’s why we’re offering a buy-back program specifically for rooftop solar owners in Texas.

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  • Jeffrey Kern

    About 1500 sg ft of south facing no obstruction roof on 3200 sq ft of home. Currently heat with open loop geothermal . Electricity bills average 3 to 4k per year.

    749 e McCormick ave
    State college pa. 16801

    • Nick

      Hi Jeffrey, from your description, it sounds like you’d be a candidate for rooftop solar.

  • Bev

    Do you install these on mobile homes?

    • Nick

      Hi Bev, that’s a good question. We do not install on mobile homes right now.

      • theresa

        Sun Power does, must have a composition roof top. it does get noisy in high winds. Tell them theresa v from texas sent you.

  • Javier

    How do I know where to get a solar residential products and contractors in my area I live in Chicago.

    • Nick

      Hi Javier, we currently do not have any solar installers in Chicago. If you do a Google search, you should be able to find some local installers.

    • Nick

      Javier, reach out to Kacie Peters at Renewable Energy Alternatives:
      kpeters@renewableenergyalt.com

  • Audrey McMurray

    We called for an evaluation a couple of years ago. The fellow who called us had our house up on his computer screen and asked us if we still had the hackberry tree in our backyard. We said yes, and he abruptly cut off the call, saying it provided too much shade.

    I would like to chat with someone about this. We have the garage roof in almost full-day sun to consider, and even if we couldn’t get as much sun as this man had hoped for, could we not get at least some of our electricity generated via solar panels?

    • Nick

      Hi Audrey, that’s a great question. We’ll have someone reach out to you about this shortly. Thanks!

    • Nick

      Hi Audrey, our solar sales team emailed you. Please let us know if you have any other questions. Thanks!

  • Rick

    We have both an old barn and a detached garage on the property with southern exposure. Can someone survey the outbuildings to see if we’re a good candidate for solar?

    • Nick

      Hi Rick, we sent you an email earlier today. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

  • Alan Levin

    I’d like someone to actually look at our place to evaluate, not from Google Earth. Perhaps we can use land next the house for panels if trees obstruct the roof.

    • Nick

      Hi Alan, we sent you an email today to get in touch.

  • Eric

    how much does it run to get it installed, and do you have one in Tx. ?

    • Nick

      Hi Eric, please let us know if you didn’t receive our email. Thanks.

  • Walentin Kostenko

    I can’t find prices anywhere. What does a solar system for say a 1800 sq ft home cost including installation? How about cost of leasing? Do these costs depend on who does the work? Wally, McAllen, Texas

    • Nick

      Hello Walentin, we sent you an email so please let us know if you need anything else.

    • bill

      WK- I built a 2700 watt system (12 panels/micro inverters) in 2011. It produces 430 kWh on average per month over a year (560kWh high in summer, 360 kWh low in winter). It cost $18,000 or $6.67 a watt. This include building a new electric service to the property and the panels were pole mounted rather than mounted on a south facing building. The system is never shaded. I do not change the tilt of the arrays, they are left at 15 degrees, If I changed 4 times a year I could increase production by about 10%. NET COST of the system after a local wires company rebate of $6000 and the 30% federal tax credit was approximately $8400. So net cash into system is $8400 to produce 5160kWh a year. Say that is worth 13 cents a kWh. That is $670/year in electricity. That’s a 12.5 year payback on equipment that should produce for 25 years or longer. Fast forward 3 years. Panels are half the cost they were in 2011. Micro inverters are 20% cheaper. If you have a roof to mount the panels on you could save $3-4000 of the cost above depending on the cost of your racking (the structure your panels are affixed to). So TODAY say the system costs you $12000 gross and you get $4000 from your local wires company and you get $2400 30% tax credit. Your net CASH OUT OF POCKET cost of your system is $5600. now the payback is 8.4 years assuming same value of the electricity. Is this a good deal? 670/8400=7.9% return. Can you make that on a CD in the bank? 670/5600=11.9% return. There are other ways to look at this, but you have to have the cash available (don’t go get a loan to make this happen) and you have to wait to get any rebate available locally until the project is operational and the next tax year to get your 30% tax credit. Can you do this yourself? Not unless you are an electrician and are certified as a provider of these kinds of services (in the state of Texas). You can be the general contractor if you are good at projects and can read enough to really understand the details of putting one of these systems together. Most people are going to go to a turn-key provider (like Lighthouse Solar as an example) who will design the system and basically do everything but obviously the price will be higher than my example (I contracted this myself, hired the electrical work out). It is a COOL think to have/do, but don’t undertake unless you really want to jack with the details or you will be in over you head quickly. I’m glad I did it, but I could do it much more cheaply today and I’d get a much better payback because prices are lower (thought rebates from local wires companies are lower too). Good luck.

      • Nick

        Thanks for the insight.

  • Kemone Rodgers

    Can I pay you all to install a solar panel on the roof of my apartment building, if not now maybe in the future?

    • Nick

      Sorry, you must be a homeowner to have a solar lease with us.

  • Joseph

    Please send me general information on suitable installation and costs. I am in McAllen also. Thanks

    • Nick

      Hello, we sent you an email. Please let us know if you need any more info. Thanks.

  • Boyd King

    Would be interested in an evaluation. Live in Abilene, TX.

    • Nick

      Hi Boyd, we’ll have a rep send you an email. Thanks!

  • Lindsey

    I am interested in solar panel installation. I live in Houston Texas and my roof receives full sun.

  • Carrie

    I would like an evaluation. I live in Dallas, TX. Thank you!

  • Vicki McNally

    I would like an estimate on rooftop solar power.
    We live in Victoria, Tx. Our house is 1456sf and the roof
    has full sun. Also, who installs them in this area?

    • Nick

      Hi Vicki, we’ll be in touch with you via e-mail. Let us know if you need anything else. Thanks!

  • Nina

    can you tell me how to contact one of your nest installers? thanks