US SOLAR INSTITUTE,
US Solar Institute
November 16, 2012
Ft. Lauderdale, FL When we ask people why they don't have solar installed on their properties, we receive any number of reasons, ranging from inefficiency to reliability to storage (all of which we've debunked in previous posts). But the number one reason we receive is "cost." Or rather, perceived cost.
Because fossil fuel prices are on the rise and solar PV prices are in decline, the gap between grid electricity and solar energy makes the latter increasingly more affordable by comparison.
Solar installations are actually incredibly affordable. But you wouldn’t know this by asking the average person on the street. In a recent survey, 97% of homeowners grossly overestimated the actual cost of installing solar PV panels, some placing their guesses nearly $20K above the true price.
It’s also worth noting that homeowners typically assess their solar PV options in relation to grid electricity (i.e. the energy you buy from your utility company). Because fossil fuel prices are on the rise and solar PV prices are in decline, the gap between grid electricity and solar energy makes the latter increasingly more affordable by comparison.
But even still, we’d like to see these costs (both perceived and real) come down even further. After all, our mandate at US Solar Institute is to equip every rooftop in Florida with solar panels.
It’s a daunting task, but we’ve made some excellent progress in the past year. And we’re not talking about something that is unattainable. Germany is able to install residential solar PV panels for 60% less than what you typically receive Stateside. And this is in a region of the world not particularly well known for sunshine. There’s no reason why Florida can’t duplicate, if not exceed, Germany’s track record.
But much remains to be done.
Broward County’s Go SOLAR Challenge as a First Important Step
In previous posts, we covered an exciting new program called the Go SOLAR Rooftop Challenge – a joint initiative between the Department of Energy, Broward County, and US Solar Institute to help boost solar PV adoption throughout the Fort Lauderdale region.
There have been countless initiatives over the years with similar goals, but the Broward County Go SOLAR Rooftop Challenge differs in 2 important aspects.
Aspect #1 – The Go SOLAR Challenge removes much of the red tape involved with solar PV installations. This is a critical first step in lowering solar costs throughout Florida since “red tape” or “soft costs” account for the overwhelming majority of a solar installation’s price tag.
Broward County’s Go SOLAR initiative removes red tape by making the application and approval process more streamlined. Instead of submitting volumes of paperwork (which is terrible for the environment, expensive, and time-consuming), homeowners can now use an online permitting platform.
It’s actually worth dwelling on the time aspect of the old application system. In some regions of the country (like New York), approval for new installations can take anywhere from 100 days to a full year.
We’re proud to have been a part of the design process for this new online permitting system.
Aspect #2 – The Go SOLAR Challenge ensures that homeowners receive the right equipment for Florida’s hurricane climate. An often overlooked cost is repair and maintenance. In a region that routinely experiences 170mph winds, homeowners are often frustrated by poorly installed PV panels that simply aren’t up to the task.
As part of the Go SOLAR program, we’ve provided pre-approved solar PV systems specifically designed to withstand the hurricane winds that batter Broward County every year. This will dramatically reduce lifetime solar PV costs since homeowners don’t have to worry as much about maintenance.
In addition, we’ve launched a special promotion that helps bring the cost of new installations down even further… much further.
How Florida Can Build on the Go SOLAR Rooftop Challenge’s Success?
Although Broward County’s Go SOLAR program is a very important first step, more remains to be done. But what can Florida do exactly? It’s too small a market to have any major influence on global PV pricing.
This is true, but we can influence costs in other important ways.
For example, by graduating an endless stream of students who take our solar PV installation courses, we create a more competitive labor market. As competition rises, the quality of installs improves while the labor costs of those installs go down.
The benefits to homeowners is obvious – better quality and lower costs. But why in the world would we want to create a more competitive market for ourselves (since we’re also installers in addition to being a Department of Education-licensed solar PV training school)?
The answer is simple.
In our quest to outfit all of Fort Lauderdale with solar PV panels, we have a vested interest in making sure the jobs are done correctly.
By raising the bar for everyone, we reduce shoddy workmanship and actually create more demand for the very PV certification that our school routinely provides. It also creates more residential demand for solar PV installations, which in turn, fuels demand for our installation services.
Doing the right thing can actually be profitable.
To learn more about our approach to lowering solar PV installation costs throughout Florida, check out our blog post on the Go SOLAR Rooftop Challenge.
If you’re interested in securing solar PV installation training, contact us today.
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