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Alternative Energy Financing :
Making Solar Make Sense

Fed up with paying in to a private monopoly which is still holding us hostage with pollution-generating power plants? Tired of talking about the energy crisis and ready to invest in a future off the grid? Good for you.

Now that you’ve decided to go solar, you face some tough choices about finances. The power generated by the Sun is 100% free, but the photovoltaic collectors which convert this energy still represent a substantial investment. A little sticker shock is common among homeowners who have estimated the household electricity use, and found that their planned solar array will cost as much as a new vehicle.

The average home practicing energy-conscious conservation is using 5-7 Kwh/ day. In order to depend entirely on solar power, this home might need about 2 or 3 KW of PV module, at a jaw-dropping cost of at least $5,000 per kilowatt. Grid-tie installation can often cost up to one-third of the total, and a state-of the-art inverter, backup generator, and storage battery cells can bring the total into the stratosphere.

The math may be daunting, but through a little creative conservation, applicable tax credits, and financing from lenders friendly to environmental projects, most residential solar installations become a practical reality. Some homeowners are pleased to discover that their home can be solarized for even less than their current electricity bill.

Most homeowners are aware of Federal alternative energy tax incentives of $2,000 and 0% interest bonds which may offset part of the cost, as well as various state programs. These can bring down the total cost of the project, but most middle-class homeowners will still be tempted to balk at committing a year’s salary to a single purchase.

The answer is the same mechanism which made it possible for you to own your home in the first place: a loan. While the notion of going even further in debt may not appeal at first, it bears pointing out that a solar or wind system begins paying for itself from the moment of installation, by reducing or eliminating the monthly energy bill.

By distributing the cost of PV modules, invetrters, and grid-tie installation across 15-30 years, the monthly cost of home electricity is locked in near the current rates, until the loan is paid and the energy becomes entirely free. Another key consideration is that the investment in a solar or wind electrical syatem adds value to your property-an added 20/watt, according to current assessment guidelines.

In addition to hedging against likely hikes in local energy prices, adding solar power is a wise investment in home improvement. Since solar homes are still reasonably rare on the market, and increasingly in demand, alternative energy amentities may also help a home sell more quickly…an important consideration in a sluggish real estate market.

Of course, your bank may not be cutting-edge enough to recognize this. The lending market is quickly growing conservative in the wake of recent foreclosure fiascoes, and some agents may fear risking the primary mortgage by adding a second one.

Fortunately, the green movement is spreading into all corners of the economy, and by choosing a lender such as Cal Green Lending who specializes in financing environmental projects, you can be sure that your application will be reviewed by lenders who comprehend the viability of alternative energy.

Cal Green Lending arranges loans to qualified alternative energy installation projects for both residential and commercial properties nationwide. Visit them to see if they can help make your solar dream a reality.

Cal Green Lending has been awarded the “Green Leap Award” from Holy Solar for making an innovative leap in the approach to alternative energy.

Photovoltaic Rooftop Solar Array photo by Pink Dispatcher courtesy of Creative Commons

Nanosolar: Thin is In for Renewable Energy

Enough sunlight falls on the Earth in two hours to support all of civilization’s power needs for an entire year. This compelling statistic ought to have mobs unplugging from the grid and off to the solar store for some PV modules and wires. When we see how energy is free, that it literally falls from the sky and all we have to do is collect it, why should we live under the whim of a heartless energy monopoly, in dread of their threatening pink notices?

At some level, however, we all know that unless the grid itself is powered by renewable energy, the economic, social, and environmental plague of fossil fuels and nuclear power will go on to pollute the world regardless of how tiny our individual footprints may be.

So the best news, lately, has been about the solar we can’t have: industrial-strength adaptations for large-scale solar power that are beginning to answer some of the shortcomings of our favorite energy source. Traditional mono-and-polycrystalline panels are a technological wonder, but mass-producing them presents some economic and environmental problems of their own. Many people worry about the long “energy debt” these panels have, often three to five years before the energy to manufacture such panels is recovered.

The focus in solar equipment manufacture has shifted from the watt to the megawatt, and the entire premise of solar collection is rapidly evolving. Since solar panels obviously need to cover the maximum surface area, engineers have been hard at work on that third dimension, reducing the thickness of each module.

They haven’t stopped there. A company called Nanosolar is now producing solar cells so thin that they are literally painted on, collecting charge by means of a special ink. Want some? You can’t have any; despite enormous investments from giants like IBM and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as reports that the company’s new plants have the ability to produce 1 billion watts to wholesale at about $1 a piece, Nanosolar says it is sold out for at least a year in advance. Try again in 2009.

Boasting an impressive 14.5% efficiency and the lowest cost yet for photovoltaic cells, we can’t wait until this technology makes it to the consumer level. Unfortunately, since the technology is patented and proprietary, and Nanosolar shows no interest in the residential sector, it will be some time before microsolar makes its way to the open market.

Nanosolar has been awarded the Green Leap Award from Holy Solar for innovative advancement in the approach to alternative energy.

Until then, we’ll have to get by with the next-best thing, solar cells which are merely thin, available from Global Solar and UniSolar. See these thin-film solar cells available from Real Goods.

Nanosolar Thin Film Production-100 ft per minute Solar Printing Capacity


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