How to go solar

By Sandrine Gaillard, Northern New Mexico Group

Switch to Solar NOW has been the message carried through by our dedicated Solar Summer 2015 team, a joint effort among Sierra Club members, officials and residents of Santa Fe County, the City of Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico.

It is time to focus our efforts for another 14 months to Solarize Santa Fe while state and federal tax credits remain in effect, allowing every homeowner in New Mexico who pays thousands of dollars in taxes to install solar panels on their roofs at a very reasonable cost. And what better place than New Mexico to install solar panels, given our 300 sunny days a year?

Here’s how the math works:

1. Start by finding out your monthly electricity consumption. A PNM bill shows how much you’ve used over the last 12 months.

2. Think about all the places in your home where you can reduce your electricity consumption. Make sure you’ve switched all your lightbulbs to CFL or LEDs. I found a few incandescent 100-watt bulbs in my house when I did that, and CFLs or LEDS use about 10 watts!

3. A good example is electricity usage of 450 kWh per month. Over a year, that’s 5,400 kWh, requiring a 3-kW system. Depending on the company and types of solar panels, this will cost between $10,000 and $13,000.

A $12,000 system will end up costing you $7,200, given the 40 percent in tax credits available until the end of 2016 (30 percent federal and 10 percent state). Solar panels are getting cheaper every year, so you may think you can wait, but since these tax credits reduce the cost by 40 percent, you can cut years off your wait now.

4. If you are connected to the grid and are a PNM customer, on the months where you use less, your system will send electricity back to the grid, and you will get a check from PNM. On months when you use more, you will have to pay PNM a few dollars.

5. If your house needs a new roof, do it before getting your system installed. Most roof systems will not require that any holes be drilled, as these may cause leaks. Also, any part of the roof that you have to fix to install your system is tax-deductible as part of the installation cost!

Here’s how you can get started:

1. For personalized information, contact Santa Fe County Energy Programs Specialist Craig O’Hare (see article at right).

2. Keep in mind that a one- to two-month window is necessary from the time you start investigating to the time the panels are providing you with the electricity you need to run your home.

3. Get a few quotes from solar companies.

4. Solar companies will help you with the tax paperwork. If you can’t pay out of pocket, or can only pay a portion, they will help you with financing.

And finally, here’s how you can help get the word out:

1. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of solar systems to start spreading the word! All you have to do is share this information with your family, friends and anyone you know who might want a system installed.

2. Don’t forget to mention Craig O’Hare’s contact info!

3. If you want to give a presentation to your homeowner’s association or neighborhood, contact me and I will pass on a great presentation by 350.org’s Tom Solomon called “The Low Cost of Going Solar.”

So Switch to Solar NOW!

Contact: sandrine.sierraclub@gmail.com

How to go solar

2 thoughts on “How to go solar

  • October 21, 2015 at 9:51 pm
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    If you are thinking about getting a solar system, start the process NOW. The state tax credit is most likely fully subscribed for 2015, and the prediction for 2016 is that it will be subscribed by May of 2016. Don’t wait and miss out on the tax credit.

    Also call the governor and tell her to put the extension of the solar tax credit on her call list for the up coming session.

  • November 8, 2015 at 3:36 am
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    That’s the first I heard that there was a limit on the Tax Credit each year. We did ours in November a few years ago, and that never came up.

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