The Price of Green: Is It Worth It?
State and local rebates make solar, wind and geothermal systems more appealing.
Ken Erdmann (pictured, right) of Utah-based Erdmann Electric typically installs about 12 to 14 PV panels that generate between 9kW and 11kW of power, along with a 6kW inverter.
November 23, 2009 by Julie Jacobson

Some of us can get a little too passionate about alternative energy: all those tempting rebates, all that feel-goodliness, all that social prestige. But looking simply at the monetary side, is it really worth it to install a photovoltaic (solar) system to power your home?

Tax considerations, rebates and other incentives are being offered from every corner: utilities, manufacturers, and the government, down to the city level.

Is it worth it? Some home technology pros break it down for us:
Phoenix-based One Way Electric prices its fully installed systems at $7 per watt. So for a typical 10-kilowatt system for a larger home, the average installation is $70,000. Company principal Kevin Pozo says the utility rebates are one of his strongest selling points. In his locale, Arizona Public Service (APS) offers a $3-per-watt rebate of up to $75,000 or 50 percent of the installation cost.

Residential Technologies in Charlotte, N.C., has varying price ranges. The company charges up to $8.50 per watt for small residential jobs and as low as $6 per watt for large installations, excluding labor charges.

For labor, the Residential Technologies charges between $50 and $65 per hour for photovoltaic (solar) jobs. It takes the company about one hour per panel for an installation and about 15 hours to install and program the inverter and run the connections.

In all, a typical 10-kw project takes about 70 to 75 hours. With product and labor, that amounts to about $80,000.

There are some modest maintenance fees. Residential Technologies charges a $150 annual fee to clean and scrub the panels. He charges more for steep roofs.

DIY? HelioPower sells an all-inclusive 5.9-kw kit for about $36,600. The company estimates that a Californian could recoup roughly half that amount.

ROI on Going Green
You hear a lot about generous incentives for going green, but wading through the various offers from utilities and all levels of government can be cumbersome.
Pozo of One Way Electric says it typically takes two to three months to process the paperwork for clients.

“We do all the paperwork on behalf of the client, including pulling the permits,” he says. “We have to.”

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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