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Independence Day (As originally published in The Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today Newspaper, July 2012)

Read Original Newspaper Article PDF here

July 4th is a proud and very celebrated day in our nation’s history. In Connecticut, down the street on which I grew up, marches the Stony Creek Fife and Drum Corps. One of the songs they play, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was written by the British before the Revolutionary War. The lyrics mock the American soldier as unsophisticated simpletons. It also essentially summarizes their disdain of “their” American colony. A collection of signatures on the Declaration of Independence precipitated our successful War of Independence. It’s a bit ironic that years after our liberation, a Brit, Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”  Happy 236th Birthday USA!

After college I left Connecticut and went on an “all expenses paid world tour” courtesy of the US Marine Corps, most of which I thouroughly enjoyed. The Middle East, the Far East, various ships, and Europe were “internship locations” for “foreign policy training.” During my Mid-East tour, I concluded that our foreign policy is tied to our energy policy. Those of you, who differ in opinion, please contemplate the relationship you think we would have with these nations if it weren’t for the oil we are purchasing from them.

FireShot Screen Capture #070 oil
Oil well fires. The day I realized there had to be a better way.

Energy independence is a worthy goal. The toll of energy dependence, and our resulting foreign policy, is costing America a lot of strife and money. It would be ideal to achieve energy independence solely via alternative energy. Realistically, we must strive to become independent via domestic natural gas and oil production combined with renewable energy sources. Homeowners and business owners can achieve energy independence via solar power. However, it will take many years before the American economy can solely rely on renewable energy. There is good news concerning energy policy – domestic natural gas and oil production is increasing and there is greater solar and wind penetration into our grid.

Solar: Lease or Buy?
One of the most common and understandable questions we’re asked at our showroom is whether a customer should lease or purchase solar panels. After I describe each program, you’ll be able to answer that question based on how each program may fit into your budget or goals.

Solar leasing has become very popular for numerous reasons. A zero-cost solar electric system can be installed at no cost to the homeowner. The big bank investor who owns the system makes a good return on the purchase of the solar electric system by the savings the system generates. Some of those savings are passed to the homeowner/host of the system. The homeowner saves money without putting any money down; the investor makes money on their investment.

A solar electric system purchased by a home or business owner has an initial cost, a better term is “initial investment.” The home or business owner redirects the monies that would have been paid to PGE to pay off the solar system. This is commonly known as “payback time.” Once the system is “paid back,” the home or business owner has free power and is not subject to ever increasing utility rates (historically 6.7% year). Had you bought a lifetime supply of fuel for your car 10 years ago, you would have paid $1.35/gallon for the gas you are using today vs. today’s price. Ten years from now, your electric bill will be more than double what it is now. With a solar system, you’ll pay a levelized kilowatt cost much less than today’s rates for the 25+ year life of the solar system.

I purchased solar for my home and now my average kilowatt-hour (kWh) cost is $.05. The lowest PGE cost for non-solar customers is $.12/kWh and the cost can reach $.33/kWh. When you buy solar, you buy 25+ years of electricity in advance, at today’s prices or less.

In summary, a leased system saves the homeowner some cash every month; an owned system will generate much greater savings for the home or business owner (typically in the 11-13% range). The biggest reason leased systems are popular is the big bank owners/investors of the solar systems realize that solar is a safe and strong investment. Homeowners can “go solar” via a lease, or “go solar” via a system purchase. A solar system requires virtually no maintenance, will have a 25 year warranty, and will pay for itself up to 10 times over. Doing nothing is the most costly alternative.

By Mark Becker,GoSimpleSolar

Mark Becker is the President of GoSimpleSolar , by Semper Fidelis Construction, a Danville based Solar Installation Firm. Mark can be reached at 925.915.9252. Come visit GoSimpleSolar’s new showroom at 114 WestProspect Ave. in Danville to see, touch, and discuss solar and energy efficiencyproducts. For more details, see www.GoSimpleSolar.com or email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com.