Go solar? Or wait?
In good times and bad, it’s always smart to reduce expenses and save money. These days, one of the best ways to do that is to “go green” by reducing your energy and water costs. Everyone agrees that going green is smart economics and good for the environment. The big question is: How does one go green?
There are a multitude of technologies in the marketplace—new and old—for saving energy and water. Which one is right for you and your budget? There is no magic silver bullet or one size fits all method. Every property has its own problems and needs. It’s hard to be a discriminating and informed buyer when you are dealing with a market that is technical in nature and rapidly evolving.
Here is your Golden Rule
Whether you have a commercial or residential property, the bottom line on any green improvement is—how long is your return on investment? When do your savings exceed your costs? If you cannot get a payback on your investment within 24 months or less, either wait for that technology to get less expensive, or find a more affordable solution. There are many ways to save energy and water. Don’t get sold into buying a solution that takes you so long to recoup your costs that a new and better technology has come to market by the time that you finally break even.
And that’s the problem with solar energy today. The payback on your investment is too many years. That makes no sense because by the time that you recover your costs and start to really “save” money, new solar technology will make your solar obsolete. Today’s solar is not powerful enough to get your property off the grid and become truly sustainable. Also factor in the fact that the State of Florida has presently run out of money for its solar rebate program. Don’t expect the State of Florida to send you a solar tax credit rebate check anytime soon, if ever. Common sense is your guide.
Whether it’s cell phones, computer monitors or plasma televisions, technology always get better, cheaper, faster. Wait for the next generation of solar technology. Wait for the Florida legislature to replenish the funds in its solar rebate program. And wait for creative new solar financing and leasing options to come to market. Be patient—the solar marketplace will improve and expand as it matures.
The current solar technology of silicon is continually getting better. The commodities involved in silicon solar are also getting cheaper in price. Installing solar today is at least 15 percent less expensive than just a year ago. Future solar will involve nano-technology, miniaturization, and revolutionary new technologies called meta-materials and graphene. Do an internet search on “meta- materials ” and “graphene” and you will be amazed at the technology in the pipeline.
Graphene is the thinnest and strongest material ever measured in the Universe. Graphene is a carbon sheet that’s only one atom thick, but is stronger than diamond and conducts electricity 100 times faster than the silicon in computer chips and today’s solar. A few grams of graphene could cover an entire football field. Today’s clunky PV panels are a 1960s technology.
Want proof of tomorrow’s solar technology? Check out a company called Konarka (http://konarka.com. ) Konarka is a leader in OPV (organic photovoltaic) technology—a third generation solar technology that is rapidly emerging to compete with silicon-based first and second generation solar technologies. Also, do a search on “Amorphous Solar,” a special type of silicon solar cell. The unique microscopic manufacturing process makes amorphous solar highly versatile yet inexpensive.
The best analogy is that today’s solar technology is similar to the best airplane propeller technology, just before the jet engine was introduced. Try and imagine an IPhone being described to you ten years ago. It would have boggled your mind. Today’s solar is where the cell phone was ten years ago.
And as private and government financing propels solar research, all of us will live to see and use solar technology that marvels as a truly sustainable source of energy.
Wait. Solar technology will only get better, cheaper and more efficient. Solar will be as thin as a stick of gum, and substantially out-perform today’s clunky PV panels. Future roofing materials will have super-light and wafer-thin solar panels already embedded in the roofing product itself. And future solar will not have the permitting and safety problems associated with heavy PV panels flying around in high winds. Emerging energy and water saving technologies are just around the corner. Soon enough, your cell phone will be solar-powered, and your solar roof will have the ability to collect rainwater and generate wind-power. The “Wow Factor” in sustainable green technologies is just over the horizon—unseen, but near-term.
If you want to save energy today, then think of this mantra – Reduce Before You Produce. It makes no common sense, and you will make/save no money, converting your property into an energy-producing facility. Start by simply reducing your consumption of energy. It’s far less expensive today to reduce your energy consumption than to produce new energy through solar. There are many other affordable technologies presently in the marketplace instead of solar for reducing your energy consumption, while you wait for the next generation of solar. And you won’t have long to wait. Solar and small wind will take a quantum leap forward in the next five years or so. Patience is a virtue, and smart economics. If you want to save energy and reduce your electric bills today, then there are effective and economical solutions on the market now other than solar that will enable you to Reduce before you Produce.
Fraser Allport is the owner of Energy, Water and Taxes, a green company that focuses on helping businesses lower their bills through the use of green technologies. To learn more about Fraser, visit his Web site or click here to read more about Fraser on BrowardNETOnline.com.
Photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com
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The writing is already on the wall…it’s best to go solar while the incentives are there, especially in South Florida. This is a resource that should have caught on years ago. It will come to the point FPL will effectively stranglehold the common energy user, just as SFWM is doing with the water. Utilize the incentives and rebates because in the not so distant future, they won’t offer them and homeowners will be back peddaling to install these and cysterns just to function…and it will take many more years to see a return on investment..
The main point of the story though, is that there are no incentives available right now. Anyone who applies for a rebate will be sent to the black hole of Florida government until our state Congress returns the money to the fund for rebates. And considering the current economic climate at the state level, with most of our trust funds raided, this is highly unlikely.
Check this link out
Yes, they can still apply, but this from the Palm Beach Post: “Though this summer Florida received $14.4 million in federal stimulus money to provide rebates for solar electrical systems and water heaters, the fund was quickly depleted because of a backup of applications. There’s nothing left.” This was backed up to Dec. 2008.
That’s as of Jan. 3, 2010.
They are out of money like every other irresponsible government entity we know.
My son is in the Solar business, not that I was trying to plug anything, but he is busy and his company helps homeowners and business’s file for rebates and credits..from the manufacturers etc. The state fund (thats broke) isnt the only way to recieve these incentives..
The “Florida State fund” is not the only well to recieve these rebates and incentives from. Solar companies will be happy to help homeowners and business’s file from every avenue that is available..
amorphous type solar cells are the cheapest option that we cant get if we want solar power~~*
even with the price drop, solar cells are still quite expensive if you want to get more than 500 Watts .