Barry Jacobson: Solar a good investment, reduces greenhouse gasses


Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 3:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 3:50 p.m.

A September 26th letter to the editor discusses the UF/Progress Energy Solar Project. As the solar designer and installer for this project, I took special interest in what was being said. The letter states that solar “cannot be justified as a green source or a reasonable investment.” In 2006, I actually agreed with these sentiments that solar was a poor financial investment. In fact, my wife and I started Solar Impact in 2007 with the expressed mandate of “making solar affordable” because we felt strongly that this was needed for solar to flourish.

In 2006, a typical 5kW home system cost around $50,000 for $1,000 in annual electricity savings. Today, the same 5kW home solar system in Gainesville has a net cost under $12,300 for over $1,150 of annual electricity savings. That’s over a 75 percent decrease in cost. Using a modest 3 percent annual electricity inflation rate, today’s solar

investment is returning over 13 percent annually for the next 25 years. Additionally, if you roll the cost of the solar system into a 30-year fixed mortgage at today’s historically low interest rates, your additional annual mortgage will increase around $640. With over $1,150 in electricity savings, you are earning more than $500 in savings the first year. Your savings increase every time the cost of electricity rises. For small businesses in Gainesville, the return on investment is even stronger, commonly returning over 20 percent annually for over 25 years. What other safe investment makes this type of return?

The letter to the editor also states that utility electrical plants “produce greenhouse gases at a steady rate day and night.” This is incorrect because emissions are dependent on electrical demand. Consequently, producing more solar electricity results in less coal being burned. The solar electric systems that we have designed and installed reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to eliminating over 2 million miles of driving cars.

Solar also creates much-needed work in the local contracting industry that has been decimated by the recession. Solar Impact has created over $4 million in local work for solar, electrical, and roofing contractors plus architects, engineers, day laborers, etc. Many people have jobs today because of solar.

The decrease in the cost of solar and the increase in installations are due to several factors. One of the biggest factors is the decrease in the cost of solar panels thanks to increased production quantities and efficiencies. GRU and the City of Gainesville also deserve a lot of credit for kicking the local solar market into high gear. This has lead to more competition, which drives down the cost to the customer. These factors have combined to move solar from a niche market to the mainstream.

Solar is clean, green, and affordable! GRU is opening its residential rebate program on October 1st on a first-come/first-served basis. This program further reduces the cost by up to $5,000. Additionally, the Gainesville Feed-in Tariff program will be opening in early January for homes and businesses. This internationally recognized program is great for homes, businesses, and non-profits “going solar”.

Barry Jacobson,

President, Solar Impact, Inc.

Gainesville

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