Solar Powering Your Building Here Comes the Sun

Sobering studies published last month by the International Energy Association and the National Petroleum Center suggest that the supply of traditional energy sources may not meet demand by 2015, strong evidence yet again that electric costs will continue to climb.

Members of co-op and condo associations have seen their maintenance fees rise as a result of utility increases. Builders as well are realizing that utility and associated maintenance costs can greatly impact the salability of apartments and condos.

Alternative energies like solar are increasingly recognized as a viable energy source. Recently Wal-Mart announced their plan to install solar energy systems at 22 of their store locations. Solar has gone mainstream.

When viewed over a seven to ten-year term, solar's economics are compelling. Investing in a system will produce electricity at a fraction of today's rates for in excess of thirty years, resulting in considerable energy savings and environmental benefits.

Incentives for Solar

Both New York and New Jersey have rebate incentive programs to substantially reduce the cost of installing solar electric systems. A combination of state and federal programs can cover up to 50 percent of the cost of the system.


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  • Nuclear power is the way to go!
  • If we used nuclear power and it became wide spread than nuclear weapons would follow. Do we really want our waring countries to have that type of technology? We also need to find places to dump all the radio active waste which can stay active for thousands of years. I know i don't want my children to grow up in an radioactive environment.
  • Cheese has the right idea
  • I'm looking into a lease for a solar system that would provide power for the common electricity in my condo complex. It's been challenging to find the best option, and even financing isn't necessarily feasible, so a lease seems our best bet right now. Any advice and tips are appreciated, though!
  • Given that we will run out of oil, and that under the best of the studies onle about half of power requirment can be generated from sun/wind. Would you go dark or would you use nuclear?
  • Here in Massachusetts, they have been telling condominiums that the breakeven for a solar project could be about 5-7 years for an outright purchase, but it would be closer to 15 years in a lease arrangement. I know not everyone can obtain financing, but it is worth it if you can.
  • As some folks point out, it is not sunny all the time. So you'll need to store some of the solar energy you enegrate during those sunny days. There are two ways to do this. First, you can install battery banks in your basement. You'll need to buy a lot of batteries, so that if you get several days of overcast weather, you still have electricity. You get to be completely separate from the electric utility, but you need to purchase and maintain and periodically replace a whole bunch of batteries.Second, in some places, you can effectively "spin the meter backwards." While this doesn't actually store the electricity, the electric company will, in some places, credit you for any extra electricity that you produce, allowing you to use it at night and during cloudy days. You'll not need to mess with the batteries, but you'll still be connected to the utility. For more info on this, you should do a search on "net metering."Unless you are very very committed to being off-grid, it is challenging (and expensive) to completely severe yourself from the electric company.
  • Solar (PV) is not as "green" as it seems. Substantial amount of energy is required in manufacturing and lot's of nasty chemicals used in the production of the panels. The panels retain a percentage of these chemicals. Disposal of the panels is an issue not yet widely addressed or acknowledged. It's the industries "dirty little secret". For those considering (PV) solar, suggest you consider collateral costs (after installation). Besides the "regular costs" (maintenance, service, repairs, upgrades, etc.). Need to take into consideration costs for removal/replacement of the panels to accommodate a roofing project. A cost that could equal 10-25% or more of the original installation. "Useful life" projections of 20-30 years are a bit optimistic. 15 year average would be more realistic and a good base to calculate simple, net return on investment (ROI). My advise, run ALL the numbers and don't get caught up in marketing hype. If you can recover your investment in 5-7 years and enjoy 10+ years of "income" (savings), less collateral costs and your ROI is reasonable, then you've come out ahead. But then again, could the resources have been used for other projects? (elevator modernization, exterior renovations, plumbing system upgrades, etc.). Capital improvements that would enhance the value of the property and increase enjoyment for the owners/residents. It's a great technology, but like all things, it has its limitations.