Why should you buy a Renewable Energy system?
People decide to buy renewable energy systems for a variety of reasons. Some people want to help preserve resources and reduce pollution. Others want to invest in an energy-producing improvement to their property. Some people want to reduce the amount of electricity they buy due to the rising costs of electricity. If you plan to build a home away from an established utility service, inquire about the cost of installing a utility line. Often, the cost of extending conventional power to your residence is higher than the cost of a renewable energy system.
Before you consider a system (either solar or wind);
Can you locate your system so it works well?
A well-designed system needs clear and unobstructed access to the sun's rays or the wind for most of the day, throughout the year.
Is your site free from shading by trees, nearby buildings, or other obstructions?
To make the best use of your system, renewable energy systems must have a clear “path” to the sun or wind for most of the day—unobstructed by trees, roof gables, chimneys, buildings, and other features of your home and the surrounding landscape.
Does your roof or property contain a large enough area for a Renewable Energy system?
The amount of space that a renewable energy system needs depends on the size of the system you purchase. Some residential systems require as little as 50 square feet (for a small “starter” system), but others could need as much as 1,000 square feet. Commercial systems are typically even larger.
What kind of roof do you have, and what is its condition?
Some types of roofs are simpler and cheaper to work with, but a PV system can be installed on any type. Typically, roofs with shingles are the easiest to work with and those with slate are the most difficult.
How big should your system be, and what features should it have?
To begin, consider what portion of your current electricity needs you would like your system to meet. For example, suppose that you would like to meet 50% of your electricity needs with your renewable energy system. We can work with you to examine past electric bills and determine the size of the system needed to achieve that goal. You can contact your utility and request the total electricity usage, measured in kilowatt-hours, for your household or business over the past 12 months (or consult your electric bills if you save them). Determine how much your renewable energy system will produce per year (also measured in kilowatt-hours) and compare that number to your annual electricity usage (called demand) to get an idea of how much you will save. Also, utilities have different provisions for buying excess electricity produced by your system on an annual basis (net metering). Finally, customers eligiblefor net metering vary from utility to utility; for example, net metering could be allowed for residential customers only, commercial customers only, or both. One optional feature to consider is a battery system to provide energy storage (for stand-alone systems) or backup power in case of a utility power outage (for grid-connected systems). Batteries add value to your system, but at an increased price. Labor costs for a small system may be nearly as much as those for a large system.
How much will you save with your system?
The value of your system's electricity depends on how much you pay for electricity now and how much your utility will pay you for any excess power that you generate. If your utility offers net metering (and so pays the full retail price for your excess electricity), you and your utility will pay the same price for each other's electricity, you may not get full retail value for excess electricity produced by your system on an annual basis, even if your utility does offer net metering. If your utility does not offer net metering, you may want to size your system to avoid generating electricity significantly beyond your actual needs.
How much does a system cost?
No single answer applies in every case. The size of your system may be the most significant factor in any measurement of costs versus benefits. Small, PV systems with built-in inverters that produce about 75 watts may cost around $900 installed, or $12 per watt. These small systems offset only a small fraction of your electricity bill. A 2-kilowatt system that meets about half the needs of a very energy efficient home could cost $20,000 to $22,000 installed, or $10 to $12 per watt. At the high end, a 5-kilowatt system that completely meets the energy needs of many conventional homes can cost $50,000 to $60,000 installed. Custom designed systems can cost up to $17 to $20 per watt installed. These prices are rough estimates; your costs depend on your system's configuration, your equipment options, and other factors.
How can you finance the cost of your system?
When it comes to financing the cost of purchasing and installing your system, the best way to finance systems for homes is through a mortgage loan. Mortgage financing options include your primary mortgage; a second mortgage, or a home-equity loan that is secured by your property. There are two advantages to mortgage financing. First, mortgage financing usually provides longer terms and lower interest rates than other loans, such as conventional bank loans. If you buy the system for your home at the same time that you build, buy, or refinance the home, adding the cost of the system to your mortgage loan is likely to be relatively simple. If mortgage financing is not available, look for other sources of financing, such as conventional bank loans or leasing. Seek the best possible combination of low rate and long term. This allows you to amortize your system as inexpensively as possible. Because your renewable energy system is a longterm investment, the terms and conditions of your financing are likely to be the most important factor in determining the effective price of your renewable energy generated power.