Think you can’t afford solar? Think again

By Craig O’Hare

If you’re a PNM customer, around 90 percent of your electricity is coming from coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants hundreds of miles away. Why not have most of your electricity come via the clean, renewable sun from panels a few feet above your head on your roof?

Getting off of fossil fuels has always been the right thing to do with respect to the environment, public health and preventing global climate disruption. In the past, however, going solar was a pricey proposition viable, for the most part, only for the well-to-do.

That’s no longer true! Solar electric (photovoltaic – “PV”) systems are about 60 percent less expensive than they were just 5 to 6 years ago. In addition, there’s a 40 percent (30 percent federal, 10 percent state) income-tax credit that makes PV totally cost-effective and viable for even middle-income households.

The finances work out such that you’re basically trading your usual monthly electric utility payment for a monthly loan payment of about the same amount. If you live in Santa Fe County and your gross household income is less than $104,000 per year, look into a loan from Homewise (983-9473, www.Homewise.org) — a low- and moderate-income lender. In other counties, check with a credit union or your local bank. Many solar companies also offer attractive financing.

There are two additional financial benefits of PV to consider: 1) You’re immune to future electric utility rate increases. That means that your financial benefit continues to increase over time. 2) The resale value of your home is higher now that you have a solar electric power plant on your property.

There’s something satisfying about not paying to bring fossil-fuel-derived power into your home every day. I haven’t paid an electric bill in the 4 years I’ve had my system on my roof.

I can’t overemphasize the point that the biggest myth I continue to encounter is that solar remains cost-prohibitive. In addition to being a lifelong Sierra Club member, I work for Santa Fe County installing solar on county facilities and letting the public know how cost-effective solar has become. The most common comment I receive is “I had no idea that solar was so affordable. I’ve wanted to go solar for a while now but thought it was still just for the wealthy.”

Even if you don’t live in Santa Fe County, feel free to access my website to learn more: santafecountynm.gov/public_works/sustainability/solar. While the list of solar businesses is meant for Santa Fe County, most of them also install in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties. If you live in Santa Fe County, contact me for free solar advice and technical assistance (992-3044, cohare@santafecountynm.gov). The time to go solar is now!

Think you can’t afford solar? Think again