Photo from geograph.org.
We’ve written about net zero design and construction before. A net zero home is designed for hyper efficient energy consumption and uses a renewable power system, typically wind or solar, to produce the power it needs.
Let’s take a look at the trade-offs between 3 to put a solar renewable energy system on your cottage.
Buy Solar Panels
You purchase enough solar panels for your energy needs, a mounting system, an inverter to direct the electricity into your home and pay a solar contractor to install it.
The Upside – You pay upfront for your cottage energy needs for the next 10-15 years, benefit from an increase in home value and benefit from tax credits offered on owned systems
The Downside – It’s a large upfront expenditure, (on avg $10k-$15k for a small home) and you are responsible for maintenance and upkeep.
You pay a fixed lease amount per month for a 3rd party owned solar system to be installed on the roof.
The Upside – It’s much more approachable cost – typically in the neighborhood of $200. You pay a low fixed amount per month for the panels to provide energy to your cottage and can save 10-20% on your monthly energy bill.
The Downside – You will not get the same increase to property value with a 3rd party owned system and the lease agreements 10-20 year contracts. If the price of solar systems or the price per kilowatt of energy goes down dramatically during that time, you may end up paying a premium instead of realizing a savings.
Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
You pay a fixed rate per kilowatt of electricity produced by a 3rd party owned system installed on your roof. Effectively you enter into a 15-20 year power contract with a solar provider acting as a utility company.
The Upside – With a PPA you are able to fix an electricity rate that is equal to or less than your local utility provider’s rates. The primary benefit is that you fix an electricity rate for 15-20 years and are protected against any volatility in energy prices without any upfront expenditure.
The Downside – As with a solar lease you will not receive the tax benefits of owning a solar system or see the same increase to property value with a 3rd party owned system. The contract is long and you are betting that the utility price of energy will continue to rise. If it does not then you may end up paying a premium for power.
The right choice for new cottage owners is a personal matrix between available financing, desired responsibility for maintaining a system, plans to keep or sell the home and opinions on where the price of energy is going to move. Each of the three choices above maybe the right one for you depending on your situation.
Below are couple videos from CEO’s of the solar companies Sunrun, SolarCity and Sungevity explaining more about solar and what their companies can offer.