Why Do Homeowners Go Solar? An Iowa Accountant Crunches the PV Solar Numbers

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Homeowner Profiles: A PV Solar Report Exclusive Series

In this series, we profile homeowners around the country who have gone solar. We interview a range of homeowners to gain insights about their motivations for going solar, what factors they weighed in their decision, and how they went about choosing a solar provider. 

If you know homeowners who have gone solar and would like to share their experience, email us at admin@pvsolarreport.com.

Dennis Bower is an accountant who is particularly mindful of his money flow. As soon as solar energy costs dropped sufficiently and promised high yield paybacks, he moved quickly to install a photovoltaic system that would offset his home’s yearlong electricity usage and pay for itself in the first few years of use.

 

A tax client provided Dennis and his wife their first introduction to the cost-effectiveness of solar electricity. “That’s the first that I really became familiar with them. In July of 2013 another client asked me to look over the Federal and Iowa income tax credits for solar panels. That’s when I started to think about a solar system for ourselves,” remarked the Iowa CPA.

 

After speaking with two potential suppliers, the choice was easy. He and his wife went with Jason Gideon of Energy Consultants Group, who was “very knowledgeable and easy to work with.” Jason also teaches renewable energy at the local college, and his sense of passion for the technology showed when he met with the Bowers and eagerly explained the technology and a number of system designs during multiple visits.

 

After evaluating several options, the couple chose a system that would provide 100% of their home’s annual electricity usage. In January of 2014, they installed 48 Powertec Plus 250/6 AC panels from Mage Solar powered by SolarBridge microinverters. The system offers 11 kW of solar electric capacity and is expected to generate 14,700 kWh. Despite the light blanket of snow that covered the panels every few days in January and February, the house still used 4 kWh less than what was generated by the sun. In March the panels banked an additional 518 kWh.

 

The local utility, Alliant Energy, offers standard net-metering to its solar customers (as opposed to market net metering, where customers must sell monthly excess energy to the utility at its low, wholesale rate). In the first few months of 2014 Dennis has generated kWh credits that are being rolled over to subsequent bills, similar to how many cell phone companies let customers roll over minutes and apply them to heavy use months.

 

The raw initial cost for the PV system was $46,414. After a 30% utility rebate, 30% federal tax credit, and another $3000 check from the state of Iowa, the Bowers’ final cost was $19,790. The net installed price per watt DC was $1.46. Operating at its rated capacity in the Anamosa, Iowa location, the system is expected to save about $1800 the first year increasing an estimated 4% per year based on utility inflation rates. Energy Consultants Group estimated a 5 to 6 year payback and a savings of over $104,000 for the warranteed lifetime of the system.

 

As an accountant and advisor to many clients’ finances, Dennis is looked upon for investment guidance. When asked if he would recommend similar PV systems, despite Dennis’s high satisfaction with the functionality of the panels, their 30-year warranty, and the personalized response from Jason Gideon, he suggests that each individual must decide if the payback period is satisfactory. The entire system is built to the highest standards and is guaranteed to provide free electricity for decades, but the initial outlay of cash is something that each potential solar investor must consider. The utility rebates have now expired and raise the effective price and extend the payback period compared to just a few months ago.

 

 

“It is tougher to justify now that the Alliant credit is no longer available,” Dennis explained. “But I would recommend solar panels to others, as so far for me they’ve worked out very well. Since January when I went online, I’ve generated an excess of 1,148 kWh.  So I’m happy and would encourage other people to look into solar power.  They just have to determine if the payback period is good for them.”