With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Arizona is an ideal place to utilize solar electricity. But the decision to invest in a solar installation on your home can be complicated.
First, determine the amount of energy usage you would like to offset with solar. Take a look at your 12-month usage history to help you gain understanding about what you are using now. A solar system typically will not offset 100 percent of your electricity usage. Seasonal air conditioning loads and energy consumption when the sun is not shining will require that you continue to purchase electricity from SRP. The typical cost for a purchased solar system ranges from $3,600 to $6,300 per kilowatt. Most SRP customers install a 5-kilowatt system, which will offset up to 60 percent of their annual energy usage.
Next, consider your rooftop. A 5-kilowatt system typically requires about 800 square feet of roof space and, ideally, the panels should face south and there should be no obstructions. Shading from trees, including the trees on neighboring lots, can significantly diminish the generation of your solar system.
Once you decide you’d like to consider solar, it’s important to review your financing options. Today, in addition to purchasing the system, leasing options are also available. Each option has different implications for both your out-of-pocket costs and monthly costs. SRP will provide an incentive of 40 cents/watt and state and federal tax credits may also be available to you. How long you plan on staying in your home is also an important consideration. Some leasing contracts require homebuyers to qualify for your lease or you may be required to pay off the lease’s value at the time of the sale if the purchaser cannot.
Your next step is to find a qualified solar contractor. Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured, and verify the license status of a contractor with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (www.azroc.gov). An estimate from at least three contractors is recommended. Ask for all estimates in writing and read all documentation carefully before signing. Additional information about local solar contractors can be found on the website for the Arizona Solar Energy Industry Association (www.arizonasolarindustry.org) or Arizona Solar Center at www.azsolarcenter.org.
If you decide that installing a system on your home is not an option for you but would still like to support solar energy, there is another option – SRP’s Community Solar program. Community Solar allows SRP customers to purchase energy from the Copper Crossing Solar Ranch, a solar power plant located in Florence. The Pinal County plant generates 20 megawatts of solar energy. Today, more than 1,200 residential customers are purchasing nearly 3 megawatts of energy while an additional 8 megawatts are being purchased by Valley schools. Together these customers are helping to accelerate the growth of solar energy in the Valley. Adopting the residential portion of 3 megawatts of solar energy is equivalent to avoiding 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the air or planting an additional 4,000 acres of trees.
At the time they sign up, Community Solar residential customers are guaranteed the solar energy portion of their bill will not increase for five years, and can offset up to 50 percent of their annual energy usage with solar. The net impact on bills is higher in some months and lower in others – averaging $3 to $4 more per month per solar block. Interested SRP residential customers can receive more information by visiting www.SRPCommunitySolar.com or by calling (602) 236-4448.
• Lori Singleton is manager of SRP sustainability initiatives and technologies