“If you’ve been on the fence about buying solar panels, now is the time to act,” said Lucas Godshalk, a member of Solarize Goshen.
Northern Indiana residents can receive a discount by utilizing Solarize Goshen’s “group purchasing initiative,” explained Leah Thill, environmental planner for the Michiana Area Council of Governments.
Thill added homeowners can also receive 30 years of future energy credit through net metering if their systems are installed and connected by Dec. 31. Because the installation process takes time, she warned, homeowners who want the 30 years of net metering should sign their contract with a pre-selected installer by Sept. 30.
SOLAR SYSTEM COSTS
Thill estimated that the average Indiana resident would require a solar system that costs $14,00 to $21,000; but a 30 percent federal tax credit would help to assuage the expenditure.
Though the steep up-front price might have some homeowners cringing, Thill pointed out that just five years ago, the cost could have been close to $42,000.
“I think the most interesting thing to emphasize is how dramatically the cost has fallen in recent years … (but) they’re expected to plateau close to this level,” she added.
However, Solarize Goshen’s push to go solar before 2018 is not only about saving money on the panels themselves, but also about future savings through net metering.
“When a solar system produces electricity that is not immediately consumed in the home, that excess is sent back out onto the grid. It turns the meter backwards and the homeowner gets credit in kWh on (their) bill,” explained Thill. “You never get a paycheck, but you get credit.”
The electricity credit works to homeowners’ advantage during the darker, colder winter months. In a way, explained Thill, July’s sunshine pays for November’s lighting and heat.
She added that net metering won't go away completely after Dec. 31. Homeowners who go solar between Jan. 1, 2018, and June 30, 2022, will still be able to receive kWh credit at the retail rate, but only until July 1, 2032, instead of for 30 years.
A word of warning from Thill: “The net metering status stays with the property, not the homeowner.” However, she said, the solar system still adds significant value to the home.
Larry Rupp, of Goshen, has had a 3.5 kW solar system on his roof since May 2014. The experience has been completely positive so far, he said.
The solar panels have covered his entire household’s electric usage since the beginning, leaving him with only a $14 monthly bill from NIPSCO for staying connected to their system.
“(We generate) about a quarter to one-third more per year than what we’re actually using,” he said. “Whatever extra we generate per month just shows up on our bill as a credit. What I haven’t figured out yet is how I’m going to use that extra credit.” He said he is considering buying an electric car, since he could charge it for free at home.
Rupp added that having solar panels has made him more “use-conscious” in general, and that he has added insulation to his home, and switched all incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs to LED. He has enjoyed tracking his energy usage with the computer program available for monitoring the solar panels.
Rupp said he has not been involved with Solarize Goshen meetings, but he is in favor of the initiative.
Thill commented that even those who plan to build a home in the future can participate by learning about prices and savings opportunities.
“I would urge everyone to consider at least making a small investment in a solar installation,” Godshalk said. “It is our children and grandchildren who will pay the price if we choose not to act.”
To attend the final Solarize Goshen webinar, RSVP at solarizeni.org/goshen.
Leandra Beabout can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 314.