Going Solar

I’ve been living in a gated community now for almost 7 years. I’ve enjoyed it but there are disadvantages – close in living, homeowners associations, traffic and tourists, and a lack of space / seclusion. One of the options I’m considering for a real estate investment is to rent out my current house and buy another place I’ll enjoy more. My current place fits perfect as a long term rental property based on the research I’ve done so far, and a new house will give me the opportunity to do some things I can’t do in a covenant based community.

One of the things I’d really like to do is go solar for electric power. In the community I current live, I can’t install panels on the roof as it’s a violation of rules and regulations, and I don’t have a large enough back yard to install the more advanced stand-alone photovoltaic tracking systems. A new house on a plot of land would allow me to do so. I also think it would make for a really cool technology experiment in green living.

So I’m looking at good property I can build on and existing homes on nice chunks of acreage (1-10 acres would be nice). As far as solar goes, it’s actually pretty easy to do, there are various different types of residential system to choose from, each providing different levels of energy output. The more energy out, the higher the cost and space requirements. Initial investments range from 10K to 50K, with a return that should pay for the investment over a period of 10-15 years. After that you’re making money off it. Plus, heck, going green feels good, and hopefully drops your carbon footprint into negative digits.

If you’re curious here are some links to companies and sites that provide information on the technology and systems. It’s a basic list at this point, but I’ll be updating it with more information as I continue the research.

General Information –

Florida Solar Energy Center

Provider Directories –

Florida Solar Energy Industry Association

National Solar Provider Directory

Example Systems and Cost –

Home Solar Solutions

Silicon Solar

Full Circle Solar

Government Programs –

State of Florida $20K installation rebate – This program has been so popular the initial budget was met, there’s now a waiting list to receive it.

Federal Solar Tax Credit – Enacted by Bush 2005, and extended recently through 2008, a 30% tax credit on the purchase of solar voltaic systems.

Green Just Got A Little Less Fugly

GM – Hummer nixed, four North American truck plants to close, and the Volt is a go for 2010. More on the Volt on Wikipedia. I believe this will be the first commercial plug-in electric hybrid available, and a fairly well styled one at that. Sweet. The batteries will be Lithium Ion and are designed by a private company called A123 Systems. They have some pretty smart people and a lot of good backing, including Sequoia. I’m a little paranoid of LiO since they can be explosive, but hey, so is gasoline. We’ll have to wait and see.

Bio vs. Electric

Let’s do some basic math. In 2006, Americans used about 7.5 billion barrels of oil. By 2030, that could increase about 30 percent to 9.8 billion barrels, projects the Energy Information Administration. Much of that rise would reflect higher gasoline demand. In 2030, there will be more people (an estimated 365 million vs. 300 million in 2006) and more vehicles (316 million vs. 225 million). At most, biofuels would address part of the increase in oil demand; it wouldn’t reduce our oil use or import dependence from current levels.

Suppose we reach the administration’s ultimate target of 60 billion gallons in 2030. That would offset less than half of the projected increase in annual oil use. Here’s why. First, it’s necessary to convert the 60 billion gallons into barrels. Because there are 42 gallons in a barrel, that means dividing by 42. Further: Ethanol has only about two-thirds of the energy value of an equal volume of gasoline. When you do all the arithmetic, 60 billion gallons of ethanol displace just under 1 billion barrels of gasoline. If that merely offsets increases in oil use, it won’t cut existing import dependence or greenhouse gases.

WaPo OpEd by Robert J. Samuelson (free reg required)

Electric cars and trucks and a major ramp up in the number nuclear power plants seems like a better solution over the long term.