How much does it cost?
By far this is the most frequently asked question!
And, the most frequent answer is... It depends...
Well, yes - it depends, and we'll identify that list, but let's skip the sales and technical detail talk for a moment. The following discussion focuses on residential and small business customers in Northern Virginia.
In Virginia, Solar systems cannot be leased or owned by a third party, like they can be in Maryland. This is not a negative for a number of reasons, mostly due to the now higher cost to lease or just pay for the power that these systems produce compared to just a few years ago.
Today, home and business outright ownership of grid-tied solar systems offer, by far, the best value. Ownership of a grid-tied solar system is like home ownership vs. renting. There are reasons why you want to own your home. A key one, I'm sure you'll agree, is to benefit in the home's value increase over time. The situation is very similar with solar.
So, how much does it cost? Every system comes down to a price-per-watt and in Northern Virginia this ranges from $2.45 to as high as $7 per watt, before taking into account the current 26% Federal Tax Credit (FTC). A good rule-of-thumb is about $3 per watt. So, for an average size residential system, lets say 7.04kW (7040 watts, comprised of (22) 320 watt panels), the gross cost is about $21,120 before the FTC of $5,491 for a net cost of $15,629.
Why such a variance? Ok, it depends on:
The Solar Company & their cost structure - maybe they are bundling in additional attic insulation or a Nest thermostat
The quality of the components and design
Size of the system; as the smaller systems still have the fixed costs of permitting and basic electrical cabling and required disconnect switches
Type of roof to include height, pitch and complexity
Permit costs and requirements (solar arrays mounted on an agricultural building do not require permitting, for example)
The bottom line to determining if solar makes sense for you usually comes down to sun exposure. In Northern Virginia, if you have a roof section that has a direct south unobstructed sun exposure, that roof will receive on average 1350 direct sun hours per year. If your roof is oriented more towards East/West, then the amount of direct sun hours drops down to about 800-850 per year. East-West roofs then represent about a 25% more expensive cost, requiring additional solar panels over their southerly-oriented neighbors, in order to produce the same amount of electricity.
On a 10 year financed system, the power output from solar systems mounted on southerly facing roofs without tree obstructions results in less cost per month for your power, when compared to the power your currently paying for from the power companies. And, it's a fixed cost loan payment, not escalating every year upwards like the utility company. You are essentially paying yourself, rather than the utility company.
You now not only have a choice, but can pay less for power than you're presently paying, increase your home equity and marketability, take advantage of the 26% Federal Tax Credit (FTC) and set yourself up for "free" power for many years to come.
Let's do the numbers...
Each home and power needs are different. What we believe works best is to provide a one-page assessment sheet for each home. Here's an example:
How much does my electric bill go up over time?
The US government EIA site and the Virginia Poverty Law Center have compiled overall rates for Virginia that show the average state utility bill has risen 30% in the period from 2006 to 2016. This is 3% per year. These studies also show that Virginia now has the 10th highest state in the US!