Letters to the Editor, CHH

Feb. 01, 2014 @ 03:18 PM

Solar makes sense

Michelle Gardner’s letter (Jan. 26) discussed solar energy investment on the grounds of sustainability.  Some simple math shows that investment in solar energy need not be solely about the environment.

Last May, Dave Strenski gave a TED talk discussing solar energy in Michigan.  During his talk, he discussed the huge opportunities of solar investment.  I’ve applied his formula to North Carolina.

According to the Advanced Energy Group, North Carolina averages five hours of sunlight a day each year.  In terms of power needed, the average North Carolina household uses 20,000 watt hours a day.

So, to end up at a net zero power level, you need to generate roughly 4,000 WH/day. 

The average solar panel has a capacity of 250 watts, so you’d need 16 panels.  Installation costs are roughly $4 a watt.  Multiply that by 4,000 watts and you have a total installation cost of $16,000.  Ouch. 

Luckily, the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit for solar energy. When you file your taxes, you can get up to $4,800 back.  North Carolina offers an additional 35 percent tax credit, returning $5,600 for a total tax credit of $10,400.  

After these credits, the overall cost for solar energy could be as low as $5,600.  Will it pay off?

Well, the average household electricity bill is $1,152 a year.  That means your investment could be returned in as little as five years. Given that solar panels last 30 years, that means you’re getting 25 years of clean, free energy!

Emma Kelley