Are solar panels on your roof worth the expense?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – SolarCity’s investment of $5 billion in Buffalo and creation of thousands of jobs raises the question of how much it costs the average homeowner in western New York to install a set of solar panels at home.

The fledgling solar industry deals both with the residential and commercial markets. Due to the initial cost of installing a solar power system – the solar panels, wiring, and electronic controls – the commercial market is the leader now, but the residential market seems to be slowly catching up.

At Uncle Bob’s Self Storage on Union Road in Cheektowaga, Allegro Power is installing solar panels on the roof. Once the full array of solar panels is in place, they will generate about 75 percent of the power needed to run the facility, which will decrease their electric costs.

“This past year has been the most growth that we have seen as a company, but also the industry as a whole,” said Nathan Rizzo, Vice President of SolarCity of Williamsville, which is supplying the solar power system.

Once the solar array is up and running, Rizzo says that the general rule for commercial solar panels is that it will begin to pay for itself in three-to-five years. “So you are hedging against future rate increases, and it is giving you the power to really take control of your overall electric usage,” he added.

Diane Piegza, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Uncle Bob’s, said the company is installing solar panels at 15 of its New York properties, and 30 in other states. “The incentives do play a role at this point in time, as far as the installation, but the savings that we are seeing on the back side have been tremendous,” Piegza said.

Residential solar electric systems on average, cost about $20,000, but Dave Stapleton, President of David Homes, said in western New York, state and federal subsidies cover about half the cost, bringing it down to about $10,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

“Right now, it’s about the consumer making a choice. Do you spend a little bit more on granite counter tops or something else as a finish on your home? Or do you spend it on something that is really going to pay for itself in the long run?” Stapleton said.

The solar package includes a new electric meter, installed by the electric utility, that registers credits for the homeowner, when the solar panels produce more power than is needed, and it deducts credits when the electric usage exceeds the electricity being produced by the panels.

Stapleton said, “We are already getting people asking about them. So we are getting some renewed interest already, and customers asking, ‘How do we go about getting solar panels on our home, and what does it cost, and what is the benefit?’”

He said when you do the math, the solar electric systems do add value to the home. So when weighing the cost of installing solar panels, Stapleton said homeowners have to also include the value it adds to your property in addition to the savings on their utility bill.


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