Have you seen the ads for zero cost solar panels?
Zero cost solar panel installation is being pushed hard at consumers in this ‘net-zero’ energy transition economy.
If you let a solar leasing salesman contact you, you will be told the following story: 1)using solar panels will save the planet,2) you can have them installed for free,3) you will save money on energy costs.
Only one of these claims is verifiable, the free installation. The other purported benefits and long-term forecast is much harder to prove and even dubious.
The truth about solar leasing
- Solar panels are not carbon free and must be recycled. They do not last forever. The very costly batteries you need to store the solar power are made from minerals that must be mined and transported from third world countries. These problems are still being worked out.
- You may indeed save money on electricity generated by solar panels, but it won’t necessarily be immediate and it depends on how much sun you get and other factors, such as the whether the price of solar-generated electricity remains free. There could easily be new fees and taxes attached to any type of energy in the future.
- Solar leasing means that you do not own the solar panels. This also reduces the amount of money that you save in the long term. And solar energy is all about the long-term. You could even have to pay to have them removed if you sell the house. (Be sure to read the fine print.)
- A solar lease is actually YOU leasing your roof to the solar panel owner. Then you buy the energy generated by the panels from them.
Are solar panels going to save the planet? That remains to be seen. Are solar panels and batteries expensive up front? Yes they are definitely more expensive than the average American can afford to pay without some type of financing.
Solar panel leasing is actually a financing scheme.
Compare it to buying a used car from a corner lot that will finance your loan with little money down and a very high interest rate. They are making their money off your loan, not the car they sold you.
Solar companies often advertise on YouTube that people are missing out on tax credits . However, if you go the leasing route, the company will actually receive tax credits for the panels, not you, because you don’t own the panels even though they are on your house.
“The solar company installs the panels and you immediately enjoy the energy savings. However, you do not receive tax credits and will never own the panels outright. You’ll also miss out on solar incentives, including tax savings.” https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/personal-loans/how-to-finance/solar-panels/
As you can see, there are possible benefits of solar panels, also called PV, or photovoltaic energy, but the actual costs can be high. There’s no such thing as free.
With today’s strong political drive to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy clashing with the reluctance and/or inability of the average consumer to pay for it, we must expect to see tons of misleading information.
The energy transition is a powerful and very disruptive plan. Most people will not be convinced to “spend money now to save the future world” by scare tactics or moralizing. The machines are going to be cranking out a constant flow of media to attempt to do that, but in the end, money will be the controlling mechanism.
In other words, the energy transition will require legislated, taxpayer-funded investment in ‘sustainable, renewable, green’ products, such as solar and wind and electric vehicles. We will also see the end of investment in current ‘less sustainable’ products we now use. Hey taxpayers, we want you to fund our private business!
If you want to have solar to reduce your electric bill (eventually), or maybe to get off the grid completely, your best option is to pay cash or take out a personal loan. You will start actually saving money in about 7-11 years after you pay off your loan. Just remember that battery storage cost even more than the panels, and they don’t last as long as the panels.
What can we do as individuals to help the planet?
If saving the planet is your goal, you might want to consider the actual long-term impact of solar versus natural gas, nuclear, hydrogen, and good old coal. Let the energy companies sort it out. They can afford it and they will be the ones making the profits.
You can find ways to use less electricity and fossil fuels such as: buy energy efficient appliances, and use the internet less since data centers use immense amounts of electricity. You can drive less, ride a bike, share rides, go to bed when the sun goes down. Buy less stuff and don’t have things shipped if you can buy them locally.
Grow a garden. Be careful not to waste food as this is a big factor in planet depletion. Support other people’s efforts to reduce emissions by spending a little more on locally grown produce and meat or find local people to trade your stuff with. Build or join a network of local businesses who produce local goods and provide local services.
And remember, the best way to save the planet is to reduce what you buy, reuse what you have, and recycle the things you don’t need. Buying solar panels for your home is probably not going to fit into that plan.