Saturday, November 19, 2005

Why solar is not "too expensive" and is getting popular. . .

Message to future solardwellers/readers, Day 2 of SolarDweller's life:

Just ran across a really good article in the Albany Times Union about how solar energy HAS been rediscovered and reborn to a growing number of solardwellers!!! The title of the article could be my own motto: "Turning solar power into any everyday affair." Let's take a look at the article's opening:

Nov. 16, 2005 12:00 AM
CHARLTON, N.Y. - If solar power is going to become commonplace in the United States, more people like Aaron Dyer are going to have to buy it. Dyer, 34, is a firefighter in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He has a truck and a motorcycle. He's a big-time snowmobiler. He's an average guy. The only thing unusual with Dyer is that he has installed 32 solar panels on the roof of his garage. They generate about 500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month for his newly built home here. He turned on the system Sept. 16. It generates enough electricity to supply 90 percent to 100 percent of his electricity needs, saving him roughly $60 a month. "I couldn't wait to turn it on," Dyer said. "It was pretty awesome really. It still is."

My "takeaway" from this opening is not so much the financial calculations Dyer went through to make the purchase, but the "pretty awesome" feeling he got from making that solar choice. Once we reach that threshold of "positive feeling" received from any kind of purchase, we're talking about the emotional/psychological factors that drive our behavior.

Another important section speaks to solar power's "rebirth" and the new financial realities:

Dyer is part of a new breed of solar energy user. Many of the initial adopters of the technology are people in their 50s and 60s who lived through the 1970s oil crisis. But Michael Stangl, co-owner of Renewable Power, said Dyer is part of a new generation that is not only interested in conservation but is alsoextremely savvy when it comes to their finances and combating rising energy costs. "Somehow they picked up on the fact that energy is an important issue in our lives," Stangl said. "He's kind of like the second generation."

Here's where it gets interesting and where the pieces come together. Now we have the positive emotional feeling of doing a cool, good thing, combined with the economic reality of a technology which was super expensive during that '70's oil crisis, but is much lower in price now in the 21st century era of "peak-oil."

People's perception about how "expensive" solar power is is based on the expensive solar technology of 30 YEARS AGO. (We'll save the discussion on the subsidized price of solar for a future discussion, which causes me no problems, but I digress). Now the (green) energy consumer can rationalize this tech purchase by putting it into an everyday economic perspective. "Hey! I can finance a solar, clean energy system ($20,000 in Dyer's case, a larger system than many would need), for less than the amount at which many, many people finance their cars without a thought. It's just a matter of time before more and more people make this "rationalization": "I pay $250/month for a car for the power and freedom to transport myself easily, so why can't I pay $100/month on my mortgage loan for a solar energy supply which is much cleaner (higher quality electricity) than my utility's fossil fuel-generated and more polluting power, while having a much lower utility bill???".

Of course, right now, solar power is more expensive than gas or coal electricity. But thinking of my car example above, why is a Mercedes more expensive than a Honda, or a Toyota Prius more than a Toyota Corolla?? The answer is: people make rational decisions to pay MORE money for things of better quality. And I say solar power is therefore worth MUCH MORE than gas or coal electric power. And we must remember the proven trend of solar pricing is DOWN and gas and coal electricity pricing is UP. It won't take too long for those gas/coal electricity bills to be more expensive than the $$$ you put into a solar power system.

So, future solardwellers, solar power has been reborn and it is easier than many imagine to choose the better, cleaner, higher quality energy solar power provides. Until next time, Go Solar!
--the solarDweller
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