Bankers are inherently cautious people. When something “new” comes along in the housing market, they get nervous. They are leery of making loans for newfangled technology (such as solar electric power that’s only been around for 50 years). This makes it harder for home owners who want to save money on utilities, improve their bottom line, and save the planet to cover the up-front costs of installing solar electric panels.
California to the Rescue!
Well, luckily, California has the most installed residential solar electric systems in the country, making it the ideal place to study the effect of solar installations on the resale value of houses. The Department of Energy just had its Lawrence Berkley Laboratories take a look at the numbers – and boy do they look good for solar!
The research finds that homes with PV in California have sold for a premium, expressed in dollars per watt of installed PV, of approximately $3.90 to $6.40/watt.
That is a very interesting tidbit of information! Since the installed cost for solar PV is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5/watt, this means you’re getting back 80% to 128% of your installed cost at the time of sale.
Since most incentives and rebates offset at least 20% of the cost of a system, you’re looking at somewhere between a 100% return, to a profit of 48% when the home is sold, even if it’s sold in the first year!
Every year you remain in the home after that is gravy – the money you save on electricity is all yours, from day one. If your state has a “feed-in tariff”, then all the money you earn from selling into the grid is also all yours.
In the past, when looking at “payback period,” people generally look only at the cost of the system, minus the cost of the utilities offset by the system and any rebates or incentives offered in one’s state. In those terms, a typical system has roughly a 10 – 20 year payback (aka: 5% to 10% per year return on investment), depending on the incentives available. This is scary to people, because they have a hard time imagining being in the home long enough to get back all of the investment.
BUT, it turns out, if you add in the increased resale value, you are getting 100% return on investment in the first year, followed by additional profit in the form of money saved on electricity (and possibly additional earnings from selling your excess capacity into the grid)!
With this new study data, it’s hard … even for a banker … to argue against an investment in solar PV.
Definition of Feed in Tariff:
Money the utility company pays you for the excess electricity you produce, when your solar electrical system or wind system is tied into the electrical grid. If you have an electric meter on your house, you are being paid by the electric company for the times it spins backwards if you live in a state with a feed in tariff.