Marin County is now offering an excellent solar leasing program through the combined efforts of GoSolarMarin (a nonprofit dedicated to advancing solar in Marin County) and SolarCity (solar design and financing). This is GoSolarMarin's second effort to push solar in the county. Their first effort resulted in 100 new solar installations, an achievement they hope to surpass this time around. By bringing the benefits of community or essentially "bulk" pricing to the no-money-down solar leasing program, the program is able to price systems at $6.56/watt DC. Compare that to national averages that range between $8-9/watt DC, add the newly uncapped federal ITC of 30%, and you can see this is one sweet solar deal.
While we're all keeping an eye on the economy, I thought I'd review again a few of the main factors that go into the pricing of a solar energy system. How do things look for 2009? Whether solar makes financial sense for you will depend largely on the following:
These are unstable times and the recent performance of solar stocks seems to have everyone suddenly concerned about the future of the industry that mere weeks ago seemed to be on a spectacular rise. So I wish everyone with these doubts could have wandered the halls of San Diego's convention center last week: over 400 exhibitors and 23,000 visitors jammed the halls for three days. Seriously, standing room only. Considering that the attendance at SPI 2007 was just shy of 10,000, this is proof of the much-vaunted boom in the solar marketplace.
Ah, what a difference a few weeks can make... For solar energy enthusiasts like us, there has been both good and bad news. Massive volatility in the market has left no sector of the economy untouched. Banks put the kybosh on lending. Otherwise-healthy companies found it harder and harder to raise funds by issuing debt. And, when panic hit the stock market, the value of companies' equity dropped like a rock. Combined with a worsening outlook for the U.S. economy, these events clearly constitute the bad news.
Whether it's the fact that Congress finally passed the solar ITC extension, or just a happy coincidence, the news this past week has been chock-full of advances in solar technology and new solar panel installations.
After being voted down no fewer than seven times by the House of Representatives (and ten in the Senate), the bill to extend renewable energy tax credits past 2008 has finally passed. President Bush has said he will sign the bill, so the future looks--well, sunny.
The bill maintains the 30% tax credit for commercial installations of eligible renewable energy technologies, like solar and wind, and does something of momentous importance to the average citizen: it continues to extend that 30% credit to residential customers while removing the cap of $2,000 the previous legislation had imposed. Up until now, if you wanted to install solar in your home and spent $40k on a system, you could only claim a $2k tax credit federally; now, you'll be able to claim the full $12k. It's a huge stride forward in encouraging residential adoption of renewables.
And it's amazing news for utilities, which under the 2005 legislation were not able to benefit from this credit but now can. This will hopefully lead to utility-scale renewables finally finding purchase in states where the finances simply were not appealing when compared to tax breaks the utilities could get for developing coal, oil and gas. The news isn't quite as good for wind, whose ITC's were only extended for one year, as opposed to solar's remarkable eight.
What changed the fate of this legislation, whose future looked so bleak not even a week ago? It got bundled into the emergency bailout legislation intended to alleviate our current financial crisis. It seems that the urgency of the bailout plan, along with its expectation that the parties would be doing everything in their power to find common ground, gave it just the push it needed to finally move forward. Divided along party lines as recently as Monday, Congress decided to go through with the $700 billion bailout due to the prevailing sense that the economy had no other effective route to recovery. On Monday, the vote was 228-205; today, it was 263-171. The Senate, after rewriting the bill to include the renewable energy legislation, passed it on Wednesday night by a wider margin of 74-25.
Visit the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to learn more about what this means for the solar industry in America. What we've been handed is the ability to maintain our competitive edge in the global solar market, and to pursue strategies of energy independence here at home.
If you've been following the renewable energy tax credit's epic journey through this nation's two legislative chambers, you'll know the industry's hopes for an extension were dashed for the sixth time on Monday. If you're just tuning in--bored of the financial mayhem elsewhere, perhaps?--take a look at Adam's great recap from earlier this week.