Vail Valley solar power makes dollars, and sense |

Vail Valley solar power makes dollars, and sense

Matthew Charles and Bill Sepmeier
Vail, CO, Colorado

Eagle County residents in pursuit of solar energy are eligible for a wealth of incentives and rebates from various local and federal organizations.

These incentives combine to make residential and commercial solar photovoltaic systems less expensive than almost anywhere else in the country. Colorado also happens to be the sixth sunniest state in the United States, which means that a smaller array goes farther in terms of electricity production.

Unfortunately, some of these incentives might expire at the end of the year which means one thing – if you’ve been considering a solar photovoltaic system for your home or business, now is the time to buy.

Consider this case study:

Location: Vail.

Expected system energy production: 13.32 kilowatt hours per six-hour sunny day, 333 kilowatt hours per month (25 days sunny per month), 3,996 kilowatt hours per year (300 sunny days, average per year).

System cost before rebates: $19,450.

Holy Cross rebate at $2 per watt: $4,440

Eagle County rebate at $2 per watt: $4,000

Federal tax credit: $2,000

Total installed system cost after rebates: $9,010

Cost per kilowatt hour over 25 years: 9 cents

By taking advantage of the rebates and incentives available, this home owner was able to purchase his photovoltaic system for less than half of its retail cost. But the most important figure here is the photovoltaic system cost per kilowatt hour over 25 years.

When a customer buys a photovoltaic system, they are essentially buying the energy it produces. In this case, the system will make power for at least 25 years because the manufacturer has guaranteed the modules. By comparing the out-of-pocket expense of the system to the amount of energy it will produce over 25 years, we come to a cost per kilowatt hour that is fixed and completely independent of any rate increases by the utility.

This customer, is actually paying less per kilowatt hour from the photovoltaic system than the utility would charge for the same power generated from burning coal. Ten years down the road, if Holy Cross is selling a kilowatt hour of electricity for 50 cents this homeowner is still paying only 9 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity generated by his system.

How much energy costs rise in the future will dictate how quickly a photovoltaic system will pay for itself. Historically, rates have increased by about 5 percent annually, but Xcel Energy, for example, will raise rates by 38 percent before December of this year according to its recent PUC filings. The quicker utility rates increase, the faster the system will pay for itself.

It is clear that there has never been a better time to purchase a photovoltaic system.

Bill Sepmeier is chief technical officer and Matthew Charles is the design and sales manager for Grid Feeders in Eagle-Vail. Contact them at 970- 688- 4347.

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