Jul 25

When we look at where we were just a decade ago, Solar Power has come a long way. The little solar voltaic cells were enough to power a calculator, and I thought of it as saving me $5 every year or two for as long as owned it. In hindsight, it was less about the $5 and more about having a dead calculator when it mattered most.

We’ve come a long way and solar now seems to be hitting the mainstream, getting close to the point where it’s economical to power one’s home from these panels during the day. I specify day as there’s still a bit of an issue with storage of excess power that can bridge the gap until the next day. For now, the excess power you can produce is pushed back to the grid, driving your meter backwards. If solar continues to drop in cost, we will reach a point where the grid can’t absorb this power and local storage, either by home or neighborhood will be needed.

The math isn’t too tough. A 1KW panel enjoying 1500 hours of strong sun each year is going to produce 1500KWHs of power each year, and at 12 cents per KWH, the US average, save the consumer about $180 per year. Many electric companies are also charging for the peak demand, i.e. the top usage during a 15 minute period of time. This is the amount of generating power they need to service you, even though your average usage is far less over the full month. It varies by company, but I’ve seen a demand charge as high as $28 per kW of demand. That solar panel generating 1KW will save you $336 in demand charges over the year, this is in addition to the savings all ready mentioned.

There are a number of variables that come into play for when the tipping point will be reached. Panel cost, cost of financing (i.e. current interest rates), average number of sun-hours per year, cost per kilowatt-hour, and demand charges. Once these are all taken into account, a clever analyst will be able to product a map of the US identifying what areas are currently candidates for profitable solar installations, and which are in line as the price of solar drops.  The cost to produce electricity and natural gas will only continue to rise, and the technology driving solar panels continues to improve.

I hope to hear my grandkids ask me, “they burned stuff to produce power? Why? The sunshine is free!”

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Sep 18

Let’s start this week with a guest post at Out Of Your Rut. Written by Rob Bennett, This Is the Best Time in History to Be a Stock Investor is an excellent look at P/E10 (price to earnings , but using an average of the prior 10 years earnings) and why Rob concludes we are in a positive buying environment. While I think there’s always  risk in investing, some times appear to be better than others and Rob makes a compelling case.

As we wind down the year, just over three months remaining, it’s time to think about How NOT to Lose Your FSA Money. This article was published some time ago, but came to my attention this week through a tweet. Keep in mind, starting in 2011, over the counter medicine is no longer permitted to be reimbursed without a prescription. Check out your records for the past few years and after you use up your current account balance, start planning for next year.

My favorite Tax Tweep Kay Bell, wrote Solar tax breaks in the wake of Solyndra. I’m a believer in solar power, not that I’m a tree hugger, I just think that there’s a compelling economic case to be made for solar to play a greater role in the mix of power sources we use in this country and especially in third word countries. Time for me to write an article looking at this topic from a dollars and sense standpoint.

At Five Cent Nickel, Is the Home Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction a Good Deal? For many, not so much. The standard deduction may result in your mortgage interest having a smaller effect than you’d think. Check out Nickel’s article, do the math and decide.

At My Money Blog, Jack Bogle Makes Market Prediction For Next Decade. The father of index investing is looking for 7%/yr this decade. Not quite the 12.5% we saw this past 25, but not too shabby for those of us looking to retire 7-10 years from now. Time will tell.

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Apr 02

The recent tragic situation in Japan may make us rethink just how safe nuclear is. Is the risk really worth it?

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Jun 19

I know this political cartoon is meant as satire, but I think the artist is misguided. Many inventions are created not with people encouraging each other, but by people who believe they do something despite what others tell them. As I discussed some time back, in More Thoughts on Solar, nearly 6000 times the energy we currently use hits the Earth each day in the form of solar energy. It will take a bit more than wishful thinking, I know, but I believe that investing in solar as an alternate energy has the potential to change the world for the better. Avoiding just one disaster as we’ve just seen in the gulf will be return enough.


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Oct 06

The allusions to pork in every bill congress votes on often makes me want to swear off bacon for good. I’m sure that Friday’s bailout was no different. 451 pages? That right or was I reading an article that tried to make reference to Farenheight 451? One bit of tastey pork that someone slipped into the $700 Billion Bailout package was an extension of the solar energy credit. Back in June in my post Bad Energy Mojo, I complained that congress let the credits for wind and solar expire. Now it’s back and better than ever, a 30% credit with no limit. More details available from the SanFrancisco Business Times article Massive Solar credit Ok’d with Bailout.
I talked some numbers in April’s Waiting for the Sun, where I offered that a 1KW system would cost about $9500 installed, and give the user $360 worth of power each year. Now, with a 30% credit, the cost is down to $6650, and that $360 of electricity is a 5.4% return, an attractive rate given the alternatives. I remain optimistic that this snowballs into a competitive alternate energy source, ultimately offering the US energy independence.


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