Making Solar Energy an Easy and Affordable Choice

2013-10-06T07:45:00Z Making Solar Energy an Easy and Affordable ChoiceMichelle Krueger Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 06, 2013 7:45 am  • 

To date, five countries have achieved 10 gigawatts of installed solar photovoltaic capacity.

Germany was the first to achieve the milestone, followed by Italy and then, in just the last few months, China, the U.S. and now Japan were added to the list.

While Japan was the first country to install 1 gigawatt of combined solar power capacity in 2004, claiming the largest capacity of installed PV power in 2005, the country switched its focus to nuclear power until the tsunami/earthquake of 2011 hit the Fukushima Dailchi nuclear power plant. As a result, generous feed-in-tariffs were introduced to encourage investment in renewable energy in June 2012 resulting in tremendous growth.

Look for that same effect to take place in the UK.

It was recently announced that Swedish retailer IKEA is adding solar panels to its line of affordable home goods in all 18 UK locations within the next 10 months.

Following a successful two-store trial in July, which showed the market for solar panels in the UK is expanding due to price drops and increased government subsidies, the company, which has installed more than half a million solar panels in its own locations across the globe, believes the timing is right to provide consumers with easy access to this renewable energy source. Plans for expansion to other countries are currently in the works as well.

Already a demonstrated leader in the use of renewable energy, IKEA hopes to generate at least 70 percent of its energy needs from solar power and wind (with 83 turbines installed to date) within the next two years. A little further down the road, IKEA hopes to generate 100 percent of its power from green sources by 2020.

In a move that differs from its popular lines of ready-to-assemble furniture, IKEA has partnered with Chinese energy giant Hanergy to offer solar packages that start at $9,200 for 18 panels (a 3.36 kilowatt system) and include installation.

With solar panel owners receiving subsidies for generating solar-sourced electricity as well as exporting excess power into the local grid, IKEA estimates that an average semi-detached house with a south-facing roof would earn as much as $1,200 a year through subsidies and savings on energy bills. That means the panels would pay for themselves within seven years.

“At Ikea we’re excited to be able to help customers take positive actions at home for both the environment and their wallets. We know that our customers want to live more sustainably, and we hope working with Hanergy to make solar panels affordable and easily available helps them do just that,” IKEA Head of Sustainability Joanna Yarrow said. “We want to make a greener, more sustainable way of life attractive and easy for as many people as possible, so in addition we’re dedicated to expanding our range of sustainable products that help customers save energy, water and sort waste fourfold by 2020.”

Until it becomes clear whether IKEA will expand its solar-panel business in the US, homeowners in search of sustainable energy do have other options.

According to Kevin Moore of Midwest Wind and Solar, which is based in Merrillville and serves the entire Midwest, solar is not a DIY system, as IKEA found out.

“You must have an electrician install the system,” he said. “If not installed by a licensed electrician and inspected by the local building inspector, you will not be able to get credit from your electric company for the energy that you produce.”

With that being said, Moore outlined a few options comparable to the IKEA UK offering for consumers in our area.

“When a consumer compares quotes from different installers, they should look at price per watt,” Moore explained. “By doing comparisons using price per watt, the consumer is able to compare a quote or system ‘apples to apples.’”

IKEA’s turnkey system is priced at $9,200 or $2.36 per watt at 3900 watts.

The installed cost of a comparable system from Home Depot (solar panel cost $9,144 plus racking cost $2,199 plus installation cost $1,900) would run approximately $13,243 or $3.40 per watt at 3900 watts.

Shop for the same thing at Cosco (3750 solar system cost $11,299 plus an extra panel/inverter cost $346 and installation cost $1,900) and you’ll pay about $13,545 or $3.47 per watt at 3900 watts.

A local installer like Midwest Wind and Solar can install the same system for $11,000 or $2.82 per watt at 3900 watts.

In the US, we now have a Federal tax credit of 30 percent that will bring these totals down by nearly a third, making all three options competitive with IKEA and the local installer cost significantly less expensive at $1.97 per watt after the tax credit.

“Local experts are trained specifically in renewable energy systems, can tailor the system specifically for your particular installation versus buying ‘one size fits all,’ add a warranty – typically five years – on the installation to go along with the manufacturers 25-year warranty on the panels themselves and also provide a local resource for system maintenance if required,” Moore, who was attending yet another training class to bring the very latest solutions in renewable energy to the Midwest, added.

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