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Solar PV is Cool Now!

In my 23 year career estimating construction projects, I have priced hundreds of photovoltaic panel systems for buildings ranging from warehouses, residences, corporate headquarters, schools etc. Until recently, nearly every proposed system wound up on the value engineering list and didn’t make it into the construction contract.

I’ve researched solar for my home almost every time that I did an estimate for a client. I have never seen it make financial sense, without substantial government subsidy, or other actions that don’t fit my life in Pennsylvania. This has always been understood by the installers and sales teams who started every design guide with “first, analyze your usage and see where you can cut back”.

Today I’m doing the same, thing, estimating a solar system for a project and looking at the costs for my own home. The admonition to use less as part of your solar PV install is nowhere to be found. This, more than anything else, tells me that the game has changed, and solar is a viable product.

And so it is. For residential homes, solar install costs have steadily declined over the last 25 years. I think the first install I priced for my home was over $10 per watt (a common metric). A typical home might need 6,000 watts, so $60,000. That’s a big chunk of money, and anyway that you looked at it in 1998, didn’t make any sense. Today, that same 6,000 watts could be as low as $18,000 and if you finance it, you will probably save in comparison with your current electrical bill.

There are other benefits: For an up-charge, you can include a battery backup systems in your PV installation. Given the increasing rate of electrical blackouts – it is quite common to lose power, at least here in eastern PA. Having some electrical backup to run your refrigerator, heat/cooling, and maybe charge your phones is very attractive. Particularly versus the option of pulling out a diesel or gas generator every time the power goes out.

Of course if you agree that global warming is occurring, and we have some control over it, there are these benefits as well.

And, not that Wall Street is the final arbiter of anything, but solar stocks are on a joyride as we speak, with top performers up over 100% from their highs before the virus induced crash in April.

Solar PV looks more real every day. It is time to stop cutting these features and considering them to be essential elements for every construction project.

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