HONESDALE, PA — Jack Barnett, president of the Clean Energy Co-op and board member of local organization Sustainable, Energy, Education and Development System (SEEDS) presented a crash course …
HONESDALE, PA — Jack Barnett, president of the Clean Energy Co-op and board member of local organization Sustainable, Energy, Education and Development System (SEEDS) presented a crash course on solar energy for Honesdale residents last week at Here & Now Brewing Company.
Pennsylvania gets an average of four hours of sunlight each day, accounting for weather. That may sound like a negligible amount, but Barnett said it’s actually 25 percent higher than the average sunlight in Germany, one of the world leaders in solar energy. Even so, PA has done little to substantially make the switch to alternative energy sources like solar. About 67 percent of the commonwealth’s electricity supply comes from fossil fuels.
Barnett outlined three primary solar technologies:
Passive: This collects and stores heat from the sun as it shines through a home’s windows, taking care of homeowners’ heating and cooling needs more sustainably.
Thermal: This collector is used to produce domestic hot water, pool heating and space heating. It’s the most efficient method to get energy from sunlight, but can only produce about 50 percent of hot water needs during the winter. The price for solar thermal collectors has not gone down much in recent years.
Photovoltaic (PV): This is the most common form; it converts sunlight into electricity. Prices have dropped significantly over the years. A local installer will generally charge around $2.75 per watt to install a system on your home.
Barnett warned the audience to be wary of any solar installers that give homeowners an estimate without actually coming to assess the house in person. He also recommended getting quotes from more than one installer, and to make sure they are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practicioners.
While prices have dropped dramatically since the early days of solar technology, it is still an expensive undertaking at the offset. Barnett said there are three main ways that solar will you save homeowners money over time:
Lower electricity bills: During the summer, solar panels will likely produce more electricity than an owner needs. That excess electricity gets used as a credit for the winter months, when there is less sunlight every day.
Federal tax credit: This subtracts up to 26 percent of the solar installation cost off a homeowner’s next income tax bill. However, this perk will go away after 2021 for residential systems in PA.
Selling solar renewable energy credits: These credits sell for about $35 per every megawatt hour (1,000 kilowatts of electricity used continuously for one hour) the solar system produces. The program is scheduled to end in June 2021, unless state legislators are successfully lobbied to keep the program in place.
Wrapping up, Barnett left the residents with some key takeaways:
The less energy you use, the less you’ll need to generate. Those interested in making the switch should actively research available incentives (NYS residents will find far more than PA residents), and get a solar-site assessment and multiple contractor quotes on your property. If your home is not suited for solar technology, consider finding a clean energy supplier via www.papowerswitch.com, or by joining the Clean Energy Co-op to support and invest in community solar projects.