Solar: No Longer Just for Idealists

[Originally published April 14, 2015]

The Idealist and the Pragmatist; two sides of the same behavioral coin. For idealists, repowering a home with solar creates a playground for exploration, discovery, bragging rights, and the “cool factor.” The idealists can afford to do the “right” thing. Pragmatists, while also excited about doing new things, are a bit more cautious. Decision-making is driven by doing the “smart” thing.

What does it take for solar to become commonplace? To shift from the “cool” thing to do, to the “smart” thing to do?

With any emerging, high-growth market, potential customers can be segmented into Idealists and Pragmatists, and few markets better exemplify this dichotomy than solar power. The idealists are the likes of James Tennant Baldwin, who in 1977, 138 years after the discovery of the photovoltaic effect, built the world’s first building to be completely powered by wind and solar energy. Idealists are visionaries like President Jimmy Carter, who installed solar panels on the white house in 1977 and created the first federal incentives for solar energy systems.

The answer to my question above, is time. For technologies to become ready for the mass market, it takes time. And that time, that shift, is now. When President Carter repowered the White House with solar, the systems cost in the area of $20/watt. Alternative energy sources used to be too cost prohibitive for the average homeowner, and were limited to wealthy environmentalists and early adopters, the “I’m cool, but I’m not mainstream” group; a fairly small demographic. The high cost was worth the “cool factor.”

Fast forward to today. In 2013, more solar was installed in California than the prior 30 years... Combined. And, in 2013, the average cost of residential solar systems in Yolo County was $4.90 per watt. Today, homeowners who take advantage of the RepowerYolo group discount are enjoying even more significant savings, purchasing solar for $3.30-$4.00/watt. Instead of paying PG&E every month, Yolo County homeowners are profiting from the sun, earning a 10-18% annual investment return while increasing the value of their homes.

What does this mean? It means that solar energy is no longer reserved for the idealists. Repowering a home is now affordable, feasible, and profitable for the average homeowner. And the best part about solar energy? It is now the smart thing to do, while remaining the right and cool thing to do. Solar power reduces or even eliminates your electric bill, it helps the environment, and it’s easy.

The key to successfully repowering your home is to understand and leverage opportunities. Community-centered programs like RepowerYolo help eliminate the guesswork, and assure the best possible price. When a community leverages its purchasing power, homeowners can secure an even greater price reduction than before.

So what is the breakdown? This is the year to repower your home. Solar is easy and affordable, it’s the right thing to do, it is the cool thing to do, and now, it is the smart thing to do.