Solar panels: boon or boondoggle?

Solar cells reduce your electric bill, but they are also very expensive to buy and install.  Are they worth it?: Photo by clownfish from www.flickr.com
Solar cells reduce your electric bill, but they are also very expensive to buy and install. Are they worth it?: Photo by clownfish from www.flickr.com

Some people are installing solar panels on their homes. These panels generate electricity from sunlight. Using the panels will lower your electric bill, and reduce demand from power plants (which often burn coal).
But, are they worth it?

On April 15, the San Francisco Chronicle said yes. They looked at the costs of buying and installing the panels, and weighed it against the benefits (which include getting a tax rebate). They found that, over 25 to 30 years, the average home would save about $33,000.

So, solar panels are a good idea, right? Not so fast! On April 14, the NY Times reported that solar panels never pay for themselves. Even accounting for electrical savings and tax rebates, they are so expensive that you never make your money back.

Well, the two articles can’t both be right. Right? Well, actually, they both seem correct -- but they are based on two very different scenarios:

  1. Different tax rebates in the two states.
  2. More sunshine in California, making the panels more useful.
  3. The panels are almost twice as expensive in NY than in SF.
  4. The NY Times assumed that, if you didn’t spend the money on panels, you’d put it in the bank or otherwise invest it, where it can earn money for you. The SF Chronicle did not take this into account.

So, whether or not solar panels are a good financial investment depends on a lot of factors. Whether they are good for the environment is much easier to answer – they produce electricity without pollution.

In the future, the debate may be moot – scientists are working on new types of solar cells that use nanotechnology, which may bring the costs way down.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Futureman's picture
Futureman says:

Just like so many advances in technology, uniformity of application is not possible. Solar panel work best where there is plenty of sun. If 50% of the new homes builit in Las Vegas in the last 10 years had solar panels for hot water and electrical power the savings would be in shorter years and go directly to the homeowner. In New England they would be questionable. Automobile hybrid technology is for the crowded cities and not suitable for high speed highway driving of if you live in mountainous terrain. Regardless, government influence and help is always needed in the early stages. Remember electrical power or the telephone? Imagine if the trains had had consistent help from the government like in Europe. There would be more options today to use these trains around the nation. Solar panel work as well as hybrid cars on specific situations. What works everywhere is for all of us to cooperate and use less gasoline, electricity and to stay home on Sundays rather than go shopping, shopping, shopping.

posted on Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

this is so cool

posted on Sat, 04/21/2007 - 8:38am
John David's picture
John David says:

The installation of home solar power systems is indeed a great way to save money on the cost of energy production. It works absolutely well on heating your home, powering your electrical appliances, or even heating up your water. Solar energy is free and renewable. Panels are so expensive. If the cost is reduced by improvising the technology it would be a great relief to all kind of electric power users.

For More Solar energy updates of we can check here http://www.BuildEnergy.org

posted on Thu, 07/30/2009 - 11:58pm

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