I recently had just such a chat with a neighboring farmer, Joe, during a chance meeting in his soybean field on a Sunday afternoon. “How‘s that thing working out for you? What does it cost to put one of them up? I’ve been thinking about looking into one of those for my place,” are typical opening lines.
I’m always glad to share the ups and downs of our experience since we installed our turbine 6 years ago. At that time solar photovoltaic (PV) panels (that directly convert solar energy into electricity as opposed to solar hot water systems for example) couldn’t compete with residential wind turbine systems for cost per kilowatt (KW). So with our hilltop location, capturing some of that free wind whistling past us was the obvious choice.
But when Joe related his concerns about future costs and availability of fossil fuels my suggestion was that he investigate solar PV. Why? The rapid spread of solar photovoltaics has made it a bargain. Since 1998 the cost has dropped about 7% each year so that now the installed cost for PV is about 1/3 of what it was in 1998. Not only that, in Wisconsin the Focus on Energy program offers home owners cash back incentives of $600/KW up to $2,400 for a 4KW system – large enough for most typical homes. And a federal 30% tax credit (not just a deduction) further sweetens the deal. Focus on Energy has a listing of reputable local solar installers.
So when folks like Joe tell me, “I’ve been thinking about…” my response is, “Now’s the time to take the solar plunge!” The federal tax credit is set to expire after 2016 and while current funding from Focus on Energy seems stable, one never knows.
Beyond the monetary practicality, who can resist being part of an energy renaissance that’s creating a cleaner, healthier, more secure world? There’s ample evidence that the extraction, transportation and burning of fossil fuels is harming our environment. We can do better than that, and your family can take part because this is the only place we’ll ever call home. We’re here forever…Earthbound.