Rooftop solar energy is becoming a mainstream technology, with installed systems increasing 60 times faster now than in 2006 and the price of solar installations falling to about half what they were in 2009. But this bright picture is clouded by policy issues complicated by politics.
Technological progress and political roadblocks is the theme of the second program in the Academy Village’s annual Sustainability Seminars, to be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 22) in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room.
Virtually everyone agrees that harnessing solar energy makes economic sense. Solar energy is free, requiring only a collection system and a connection to the electricity grid. It makes sustainability sense, substituting pollution-free solar energy and eliminating climate-warming gases from burning fossil fuels.
But now electric utilities assert that more solar energy means less fossil-fuel energy used, allegedly leading to lower profits. Rebates and tax credits have largely been eliminated. Even so, systems now cost about the same as systems in 2009 and still “pay back” in 7-9 years.
The financial aspects of solar photovoltaic systems are also in flux. Purchasing solar PV appears more financially attractive now, though leasing was more attractive two or three years ago.
Three expert speakers will address the solar PV picture.
Kevin Koch, president of Technicians for Sustainability (TFS), will outline changes in the solar PV marketplace, including purchasing compared to leasing. TFS installed two-thirds of the rooftop systems at Academy Village since 2009 (GeoInnovations installed the other third).
Ardeth Barnhart, director for Renewable Energy at the University of Arizona, will address the politics and policies for solar energy in Arizona.
Norman R. Scott, an emeritus professor at Cornell University and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, will facilitate the discussion and give a brief update on solar PV systems at Academy Village.
Submitted by Ted Hullar, Academy Village Volunteer