The climate news is scary, and getting scarier all the time. But while our leaders argue about what to do (or whether to do anything at all), homeowners in the U.S. are taking advantage of the last big federal tax credit for solar.
I’m happy to count myself among them.
Two years ago, I saw a post on Nextdoor about a solar co-op coming to Broward County. The co-op, run through Solar United Neighbors, was one of dozens launched in the U.S. each year. Through the co-op, we learned that we could install solar panels while taking advantage of competitive group pricing and without having to deal directly with multiple contractors.
You can participate in a Co-op for free and there’s no obligation to go solar. We received unbiased technical support through the process and they made everything easy to understand. Thanks to the 30-percent federal tax credit (officially called the Solar Investment Tax Credit), we could save even more money.
It felt like a no-brainer.
This year, the Solar United Neighbors Co-op has returned to Broward in hopes of bringing even more of our neighbors affordable, sustainable solar energy. And they’re doing it just in time for Broward homeowners to take advantage of the tax credit, which is set to “step down” next year.
What it Means to “Go Solar”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Florida homeowners spend nearly $2,000 per year on electricity alone. This is 40-percent more than the average household expenditure in the U.S.
Lucky for us, the sun shines year-round. According to 30 years of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Broward County receives an average of 19,083 kilojoules of solar radiation per square meter per day.
By installing rooftop solar panels, homeowners are able to harness the power of the great nuclear reactor in the sky to power their homes and charge their electric vehicles. At night, because we’re still connected to the grid through the power of net metering, our home hums along uninterrupted.
This might sound expensive and futuristic, but not if you consider that we’re already living in the future. And futuristic technologies are already here, powering your friends’ and neighbors’ coffee pots and vacuum cleaners and daily commutes. These technologies are getting cheaper all the time.
Saving Money through Solar
The cost of installing rooftop solar has decreased dramatically. If your neighbor installed panels in 2010, they may have paid $40,000. Today, your cost would be considerably less ($18,000 according to the Solar Energy Industries Association), thanks to the federal tax credit and a decrease in material, permitting and installation costs.
My husband and I paid $17,735 for the eight kilowatt system we installed through Solar United Neighbors in 2017. We received $5,321 of that back the following year, thanks to the tax credit for solar investment. This brought our total out-of-pocket expense to $12,414.
Because we had already taken measures to reduce our energy usage, and didn’t have a high energy bill to begin with, we estimate that we’ll reach a 100 percent return on investment in 7.7 years. (We pay FPL $9.53 monthly for use of the grid.)
The federal tax credit helped make our solar system obtainable. But it is gradually going away. Next year, the credit will “step down” to 26 percent. In 2021, it will be 22 percent and in 2022, it won’t be available for homeowners at all.
So homeowners who want to invest in solar need to do it now, while the tax credit is still in effect and Solar United Neighbors is making it even easier to go solar in Broward.
The final two information sessions for this co-op season are May 21 in Pompano Beach and May 22 in Miramar. You can learn more at www.solarunitedneighbors.org/broward and sign up for free today. I hope to see you there.
Lauren Doyle Owens is a novelist and freelance writer living in Plantation.
“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.