Letter Re: Solar Power Subsidies

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HJL,
The author of the article on Solar titled Cost Of Defecting From The Grid is a mistaken. It only affects people who are on the grid. It is an economic subsidy problem and should not affect prepping directly. What was happening is that the utilities were forced to buy solar energy at retail, whether they wanted it or not. If you were charged (for example) $0.15/kWh, the utility would have to pay you the same if your meter ran backward. This caused too many people to install solar systems not because they were worried about the grid going down (some don’t even have batteries to store for cloudy days or nights), but because they could finance it easily with the very low interest rates, and be guaranteed an income [and tax breaks] that would pay off the installations. They installed huge systems, more than they ever could use themselves. As I recall one provider was even selling “free” systems because they could pocket the money. But the utilities themselves had sunk costs and can only exist by making a profit on energy, e.g. their costs are $0.12/kWh to sell at $0.15. So what is ending – and many predicted this – is the huge subsidy and payment for anything you can generate over your own needs.

I have a solar power system, and my state has it so the utility doesn’t pay me for any extra, so at best I can pay nothing for the kilowatt-hours (my utility bill would just have infrastructure charges). My system is inexpensive and sized for my usage (and even portable!), but even my small system would take a decade or more to pay for itself just in utility bill savings. But the true purpose is as a backup to the grid if it goes down, not for income. So those considering a solar power system should do so to be independent of the grid, not make income from it. Also, depending on the regulations, right now electricity is very inexpensive, but it might triple if the EPA continues on its track. So a system sized for your own use might still be worth it if/when that happens, but the opposite might happen as well making it even less sense for non-emergencies. I even have a big battery charger and would use that to recharge my battery banks quickly instead of waiting for the PV panels to do the job in full sunlight. – T.Z.

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