Is Rooftop Solar Right for You?
Dream of dropping your utility bill to zero? The often cloud-covered reality of the Pacific Northwest unfortunately makes it harder to go “off the grid,” but there are ways solar energy makes sense here.
While dropping your environmental footprint to zero can be tough, renewable resources can still help foot part of the bill. Increasingly, Clark County residents are taking advantage of available federal tax incentives, and net metering production credits to make solar energy work for them.
To decrease energy bills, after customers put solar panels on their homes, they can connect to the utility grid and become a net metering customer. The net metering program connects the customer’s power producing system directly into the electric grid so the homeowner receives credit when the power generated exceeds the energy used from the utility. This mostly happens during the summer, but it’s sometimes enough to help offset utility bills for the rest of the year.
Some customers want solar energy saying it’s the right thing to do; others see it as a helpful long-range environmental or financial choice. In the past decade, the utility installed hundreds of “net meters” for customers. Most of these were solar, but a few local residents chose wind-generation or micro-hydro renewable systems.
While costs are coming down, getting started with rooftop solar is still costly, as much as $40,000. A renewable power system means expensive equipment — an energy generator, inverters to create alternating current, supporting rooftop brackets and a sometimes a battery. So it isn’t cost-effective if you just want to lower your utility bill.
That’s why when homeowners ask about renewable energy projects, energy counselors ask if they’ve considered completing energy-efficiency measures first. They want to know if the customer has upgraded to an energy efficient heating system, installed LED or CFL light bulbs, switched to energy-efficient appliances, checked insulation levels, invested in weatherization measures and evaluated the home’s existing windows. All are things that give you quicker return on your dollar than solar.