Green energy has moved to the forefront of the national conversation on energy production even as oil prices sit near decade lows. The simple fact that solar power and wind power now command so much attention speaks to how the country’s views on energy have changed. But now some people are going one step further and actually looking to install enough solar panels on their homes to become energy positive – that is to generate more energy than they actually consume. Britain’s Guardian newspaper ran a recent story about this , but that story skipped over a few obvious issues. Issues that became clear to me after I recently talked to a solar company about making my home energy producing.
Producing more energy than a house consumes is very easy for some homes and essentially impossible for others. Most obviously, people in climates without a lot of sunlight will have a much more difficult time producing energy than people in sunnier climates. Even forgetting about that fact, the direction a house is facing, trees in the area, and angle of the roofline all dramatically impact the level of solar production that can be expected from a house. Related: Saudi Price War Strategy May Blow Up In Their Face
Energy producing homes rely on creating large amounts of solar energy, while consuming relatively little energy. The consumption side of that equation is fairly straightforward and uncontroversial – having thick insulation and energy saving light bulbs are not generally a major inconvenience for most people. Unfortunately, producing solar energy requires a trade-off. For example, an individual could always produce more solar power by filling not only their roof with solar panels, but also their front yard, yet very few people want to give up their lawn for solar arrays. Related: Do Biofuels Still Have A Place In The Global Energy Mix?
In my personal experience, I talked to a major national solar company about putting solar panels on the roof of my house after getting a letter telling me I was a prime candidate for energy production. The standard offer from solar companies today is as follows: the company agrees to install solar panels at no cost to the homeowner. In exchange, the homeowner agrees to buy energy from the solar company for a long period of time – frequently twenty years. This energy bought from the company is actually produced on the owners own roof, and the homeowner gets the energy at a discounted rate. In my case, my utility company was charging $0.25 per kwh (peak) for electricity, while the solar company would charge me $0.13 per kwh. This equates to savings of about $1,000 a year based on the kwh usage of the average US household. Related: These Major Players Could Make Or Break The EV Market
In my case, the direction of my house, and the angle of the roof meant that I would actually be able to generate about $50 a month in excess energy which I could automatically sell back to my local electricity company. There was a catch though – of my $0.25 rate for electricity, $0.11 are “distribution” costs while $0.14 are generation costs. Hence, I was not going to be able to earn the same amount that I had to pay for electricity. Solar companies are able to sell solar power at low rates and fund the solar panels at no cost to the consumer because of the increased popularity of solar bonds which gives the solar company a low cost financing source.
In my personal case, while I could have had an energy producing home, doing so would have required putting solar panels on the front of the roof marring the attractiveness of the property. It also would have meant that anyone who wanted to buy the house from me in the future would have had to sign on to buy energy from the solar company as well. In light of these intangible costs, I ultimately chose not to install solar panels. This perhaps highlights the limitations of energy producing houses – they require a life-long commitment to a very special kind of lifestyle by either the present homeowner or future occupants of the house. In light of that, I’m skeptical about energy producing houses becoming a widespread phenomenon.
By Michael McDonald of Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
- The Latest Media Attempts To Suppress Oil Prices
- The Inconvenient Truth About A Green Revolution
- How Much Money Can You Really Save With A Smart Home?