electricity: seeing returns on solar
Ed Begley, Jr.
say just two words and have your immediate attention: money and
Mostly you see these two words together with another
word—'save.' Money-saving tips always include
reducing electricity use. You see these same tips in both business- and
home-focused financial advice columns. If followed, you get to keep
more of your money. We can all agree that we are interested in having
Electricity has always interested me since I was a child. We have
become increasingly reliant upon it for life's functions as we adopt
newer, exciting technology. While cutting-edge technology uses it more
efficiently, we really can't get along without it, at least not for
very long (Just ask my wife!). With our growing needs, electricity
costs are rising—because we are still using limited energy
sources like coal and oil, meaning the law of supply and demand turns
Sustainable living and business isn't about the warm and fuzzy feeling
you have as you suffer extreme temperatures inside because you are
afraid of adjusting the thermostat; if you make the right sustainable
decisions, money will be put back in your pocket. Of course, these
types of choices have to make financial sense before we push "Go."
Solar photovoltaic energy makes financial sense. The concept of
harnessing endless, renewable energy from the sun to provide energy to
run the lights, refrigerator, and other electronics resonated with me.
I believe that solar is the cleanest form of energy generation, and
from my own experience, also one of the most reliable.
I moved away from home at the age of 18, and I was really excited to be
on my own…until my utility bills started to come in. I found
myself longing for a future home where I could install solar panels and
generate my own energy. Now, I know firsthand that solar
works—I have been running my house and charging my electric
cars with solar power since 1990. In fact, it has been an incredibly
good investment for me.
Speaking of investments, there is hope on the horizon for an economic
recovery in the United States. One of the most important investments
should be in an energy strategy. Energy is a fixed cost dealt with by
asking others in the shared space to turn off the lights when not in
use or to keep the thermostat at the cusp of being uncomfortable to
save money. These are good tactics to save money, but they don't
address the root of the issue—where the energy comes from.
You see, companies and people are afraid of their electricity bills,
just like I was at 18. Rates are volatile and rising; for example, as I
write this in January 2013, the U.S. Energy Information Administration
expects retail residential electricity prices to grow another 1.9
percent in 2013 and by as much as 2.6 percent in 2014.
These rising rates cut into potential profits and household savings.
Having a stable, consistent rate is more helpful to forecast profits
But before going solar, there are a few pieces of low-hanging fruit I
always advise people to consider to make their investment in solar more
effective. Some simple things to do include: using compact fluorescent
or LED bulbs, installing energy-saving thermostats, and adding extra
insulation. I always remind people that for every $1 you spend on the
front-end, you will save $5 on the cost of your solar system.
The next step is choosing a solar panel and installer that will help
you accomplish your goals. You don't want too big of a system, or you
might just be generating energy that isn't used. Also, there is enough
variation in the types of panels available on the market that it can be
quite confusing. Looking at your overall energy usage and what would be
an acceptable amount of reduction to your monthly bill is a smart
One panel manufacturer, Panasonic, has some of the world's most
efficient solar panels. Highly efficient panels produce the same amount
of energy with fewer modules being installed. This means less rooftop
space is required, great for residential customers. The company also
offers solar solutions for business customers. These customers are
often looking for large-scale systems at lower costs. Panasonic offers
more than manufacturing; they have their own engineering, procurement,
construction, operations, and maintenance teams to guide the process.
The teams help evaluate a site, propose a system to meet your energy
needs and even possibly make you extra cash, and operate and maintain
it to ensure longevity. They even help out with financing packages. As
a 100-year-old global company, Panasonic understands the returns and
profits that investors and business leaders demand.
While it may not be right for everyone, taking the time to explore
energy options like solar that will provide free, unlimited energy for
years beyond the breakeven point just makes sense. With the right
system, lowering fixed costs is not only easier, but hey, let's be
honest, it helps pad that wallet or bottom line with more cash,
something we can all agree is a good thing.