More and more reasons to go Solar Now.
This story is about a choice that can make you, and the world, more secure. You can install a solar photovoltaic roof, which will generate your electricity from the free, unlimited supply of sunshine. With your very own solar-electric roof, you’ll be protected from rising electricity prices. You’ll also take a major step away from our national dependence on polluting, unsustainable fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear reactors.
A new kind of PV panel, called thin-film amorphous silicon, is dramatically bringing costs down. Government rebate programs are also cutting homeowners’ costs by as much as 60 percent in some states. And in some cases your solar roof can generate excess power during peak daylight hours that you can sell back to your utility company (or use to recharge an electric car or bike). Regarding aesthetics, the thin-film PV panels are now being produced as shingles and standing-seam roofing panels that closely resemble regular roofing materials, so you don’t even realize the home’s roof is actually a solar-electric power plant!
These new solar-electric systems are called building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), because the photovoltaic panels become the roof itself. BIPV installations eliminate the need for expensive racks and trackers, as well as the additional labor costs associated with them.
Ready to sign up? To get started, all you need is a few hundred square feet of south-facing roof that receives full sun all day. You can start small if you want and add more panels later. A solar roof system is actually simple – the right number of panels to produce the number of watts you want, wired to an instrument called an inverter. The in verter changes the solar direct current (DC) into the alternating current (AC) used by most household appliances.
Heckeroth says a basic PV system in a net-metered grid-connected system (see ” PV System Types,” left), costs about $8 to $12 per installed watt, so a two kw system would come to $16,000 to $24,000. But if you are lucky enough to live in a state that offers rebates (see below) that cost can be cut in half to just $8,000 to $12,000.
So there it is: Right now it can cost as little as $8,000 to install enough solar roofing to meet the long-term electricity needs of a small, efficient home. (By the way, “long-term” means a 20- to 25-year warranty; there are no moving parts and these solar PV panels are very durable.) And the great thing is, the more of us who buy solar roofs, the faster the costs of production and prices will come down. All new technologies become less expensive as demand grows and production costs improve. Within the next two to three years, Heckeroth predicts the installed costs of thin-film BIPV roofs (see “Advantages of Thin-Film “) will drop to as little as $6 per installed watt for reroofing projects, and costs could fall to $5 or less per watt in new homes designed specifically to maximize the advantages of this exciting new technology.
By Terri Suess and Cheryl Long