That’s not a comment in the form of a question—we really want to know. Over the years, Home Power has tried to figure out what it would take for home-scale rooftop solar to “explode” into use—becoming so commonplace among homeowners that seeing PV modules would no longer result in pointing a finger at the rare rooftop array and saying, “Wow, how cool.”
In the early ‘90s, we naively thought that point would be when PV modules reached $5 per watt. But some of us had the minds of early adopters, and I mistakenly believed that the general population would, like us, jump at the opportunity when solar would appear even remotely affordable.
We’ve been below that not-as-magical-as-we-thought $5 per watt point for awhile. In fact, entire installed systems—not just the PV modules themselves—are below that point in many cases. Assuming there is some perceived value in coolness and greenness, rooftop solar has been theoretically affordable for many years—even though it was costing a little more money than grid energy. But still no “explosion.”
Grid parity has been reached in many markets throughout the Western world. For the home-scale solar market, grid parity is the point at which the cost of electricity from a rooftop PV system is equal to or cheaper than what you would pay for utility electricity. According to a recent report from Deutsche Bank, grid parity has been reached in 11 out of the 25 countries they analyzed (including several energy markets in the United States) and is very close in others.
Yet the explosion still has not happened. It turns out that even though nearly everyone likes rooftop solar, it takes more than low cost to decide to implement it. I still think that most important is the desire—how much you really want solar. With enough desire, nearly any impediment to PV can be overcome.
Of course, along with desire and cost is access to funds. Solar could be half the cost of utility service, yet many still feel they cannot afford the upfront cost of installation. It is a lot gentler on the wallet to pay a monthly utility bill than come up with several thousand dollars to install a PV system. But in nearly all cases, that should no longer be an obstruction. Financing is available through second mortgages or refinancing a home to get improvement money. Financing is available from many solar installation companies too. And for those who cannot qualify for financing, there are leasing programs offered by some installers that can put a company-owned system on your roof.
So back to the original question. Now that PV-generated electricity is, in many places, cheaper than grid energy; and now that financing is readily available; and since the coolness factor has not decreased, and environmental situations have increased the value of the green factor—please let us know what you are waiting for. And if you already have a PV system, we’d love to hear what it was that helped you decide to “go solar.”
—Michael Welch, for the Home Power crew