Confessions of a Solar Pirate
energywhiz | On 16, Aug 2013
Stealing the Sun?
Ok, so maybe Greg Graham is not a full-on pirate, but he’s close: he doesn’t ask, he takes. He takes what he sees as his divine right– the opportunity to innovate around renewable energy and save bucks doing it.
Alex Lightman, a friend of EGW, recently posted on Facebook on the subject of a recent EGW post– The Solar Vector.
Predictably, it generated some active discussion. The Dread Pirate Greg contributed provocatively to the thread:
$16,000 for a 10kW+ system? Piracy! For those of you unfamiliar with the price of solar, it has indeed dropped extraordinarily in cost in the last couple years (as much as 75% and more), making it affordable and increasingly economically compelling for vastly more homeowners; but what Greg was quoting was around $1.60 per-watt-installed (10kw = 10,000 watts) when most folks are seeing quotes in the $4.00 to $5.00 per-watt-installed range. Mind you he’s quoting “net”, which means after tax credits (which are real and tangible, so valid) and the $4.00-$5.00 is “gross” (before tax credits). Apples to apples though, Greg is talking about nearly half of what typical customers pay for similar systems. Sounds too good to be true, but we’ll get back to install costs in a sec.
He said the magic words: a performing class asset. Today.
That means it pays annuities on money invested. That means you get more money out than you put in. And as traditional energy costs from gas, coal and oil fired energy sources (like centralized power power plants), the better that solar asset will perform for him economically. The numbers do not lie.
He sums it up with:
It is economic (not to mention political and environmental) lunacy for anyone that owns a roof in the Southwestern U.S. NOT to have Solar panels co-generating today. Not having Solar makes about as much sense as getting a payday loan from a corner check cashing service at 300% interest.
Not “do it, it’s affordable”, but instead “if you don’t do it you’re flushing money down the toilet.” That’s how much solar makes practical, good-investment sense today, even at twice the price Greg paid, and particularly in the Southwestern US, but also in most places in the mid to lower latitudes of the planet.
So I had to ask him how he got 10,000 watts of energy producing capacity for $16,000. His answer: eBay!
Separate the hardware from the labor. Duh. I didn’t know one could do that, frankly, though in retrospect it makes perfect sense for those willing to do it. Mind you, solar is still a good investment even if you don’t follow Greg’s methods, it just takes a bit longer for return-on-investment; but Greg’s way is waaay better for those able to do wrangle the logistics.
I summarized the thread with a bit of my experience and some cost points-of-reference.
Even though solar is intrinsically altruistic, and the economics vectors are accelerating exponentially, there are lurkers out there looking to take advantage of those that don’t do their homework. As always, buyer beware… and be well prepared.