The Green from Going Green

There are very few things better than the first warm day of spring after a cold winter. Walking outside and feeling the sun is great, and it can be even sweeter if that same sun is powering everything from the lights in the second floor bathroom to the dryer in the basement. More and more, people across Long Island are turning to solar energy to help power homes and reduce electric bills. And going solar becomes more affordable all the time. The state and federal governments keep offering rebates and tax incentives for people who convert to solar. What was once the domain of the wealthy and large companies can now be installed on almost any home.

Homeowners need to answer two main questions to find out if solar power is right for them: Is the roof sturdy? Does it receive a good amount of direct, non-shaded sunlight during the year? These characteristics determine if a solar photovoltaic (PV) system would work on the roof. PV systems convert the light from the sun into electricity and because Governor Andrew Cuomo is a proponent of solar power, his administration has worked to increase the number of PV systems in the state.

To help facilitate the expansion of solar, the governor has pledged upwards of a billion dollars to the initiatives, including incentivizing the installation of PV systems for homeowners (for example, rebates). PSEG Long Island, the area’s new power company, has a calculator on its website that determines how much it would cost to purchase a PV system for a home, as well as how much money the home could save every year. A standard 3,500-watt system, which is enough to help power a typical two-story home, would cost a little under $20,000 to purchase. But with all of the incentives from the state and federal governments, that system would only cost a hair over $8,000. Based on an annual usage electric bill of about $2,300 the savings would be nearly $810 each year, but the ROI would be somewhere around year 10 (longer if leased).

“We’ve been installing solar systems for almost 10 years now,” said David Schieren, CEO of the Island Park-based EmPower Solar. “I think, cumulatively, we’ve saved our commercial and residential clients $3 million so far. For a homeowner, a lot of times we cover a majority if not all of the electricity needs of a home.”

Of course, those prices are estimates based on which panels are selected. The cost of installation can still make “going green” unreachable for some. That’s why PSEG offers the option for homeowners and businesses to lease PV systems. Like leasing a car, the PV system is installed and paid with a monthly fee. PSEG Long Island admits the fee is less than what it would cost to buy electricity from them. And homeowners would still see savings over time, but without incurring the higher up-front cost of purchasing a PV system.

Unfortunately, a PV system installation isn’t a DIY proposition. But there are numerous companies on Long Island that specialize in it and some will even help file paperwork to get all those rebates and tax breaks.

As the green starts to come back to the lawns and the trees this spring, solar power can put some green in homeowners’ wallets, too.