Kelly Bullis: Solar power: Are we there yet?

My first choice for this month’s topic had to do with April Fool’s jokes. You know? My warped mind went crazy with all the things I could say... Then Harry announced his retirement. If he had announced it on April 1, this month’s column probably would have been devoted to having as much fun with that as possible. Oh well, now Harry is “old news,” so time to go to the other topic that has been bouncing around the cobwebs of my brain.

It’s time I updated myself on a column I wrote a couple of years ago. Back then, I took quite a bit of heat from the Solar Energy Industry for doing nothing more than telling the truth. What I wrote back then? “Don’t waste your money buying solar power yet! It’s too expensive!”

Now, I would like to change my statement to, “Even though solar power is still too expensive, it’s time to start thinking about looking at solar power as something to at least consider buying within the next 1.5 years, before the 30 percent credit expires, but no rush!” There! Was that weasel worded enough?

As I predicted, the price of this technology has been dropping almost as fast as the price of oil (and oil has dropped pretty fast recently). Remember when the first flat screen TVs were going for $7,000? Now you can buy one for $500. Anybody out there proud to admit they paid $7,000 for a flat screen TV when their neighbor only paid $500? That was my point back then about solar power.

A couple of years ago, it would have cost more than $30,000 (net of any credits) to fully install a system for a single residence. The current price to install such a system, net of the current tax credit and energy company subsidies is hovering just above $15,000. That’s about half what it was a couple of years ago. (I still believe someday it’s going to cost less than $10,000 to install such a system).

Problem is, most folks’ monthly electric bill is about $50-75. Assuming you pay nothing to the power company now and all your power needs come from your solar system (which I believe is a false assumption, but let’s pretend we live in a “simple” world), it would take you 17-25 years to recover your cost to install the system. Currently some folks are actually being paid by the power company for putting energy back on the grid. I don’t count that because I believe the power company is going to eventually stop paying for extra energy put back on the grid.

All you parents out there will recognize this — “Are we there yet?” And your answer was —“No, but we’re getting closer.”

Did you know? Proverbs 24:27 says, “Prepare your work outside and make it ready for yourself in the field; Afterward, then, build your house.”

Kelly Bullis is a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City. Contact him at 882-4459. On the web at Also on Facebook.


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