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solar calculator - flickr Derek Gavey
Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 3 Comments | Updated on Sep 4, 2014

Ultimate Solar Calculator “App” Helps You Choose: To Own or Lease?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/ultimate-solar-calculator/

A few weeks ago I wrote about the comeback of solar ownership relative to leasing, as the cost of rooftop solar PV continues to fall and new financing options make ownership easier than ever.

Is owning a solar panel right for you? Find out now!

The calculator below lets you compare (leasing) apples to (ownership) apples, and the chart below the calculator shows the value of your solar investment over 15, 25, and 30 years.

The default inputs are good estimates based on ILSR’s research, but you can customize the comparison extensively. The key elements in the ownership v. leasing comparison are in orange, but other options (like nearest city) will make the actual numbers accurate to your location.

Scroll below the calculator for explanations of the inputs.

Keep in mind that solar panels typically carry a 20-year warranty, but most panels are expected to continue producing electricity for 30 years or more.

The Ultimate Solar Calculator from ILSR


Embed this calculator on your website

Calculator Terms

Solar project size, cost, and electricity production

  • Annual kWh – the estimated amount of kilowatt-hours of electricity produced by the solar array each year.
  • Nearest city – (used to estimate the solar production)
  • Annual output degrade – the annual decrease in the solar production of the solar array, typically 0.5%
  • System size – the size of the solar array in kilowatts
  • Cost per Watt – the cost, including hardware and labor, to install the solar array per Watt of capacity
  • Total installed cost – self-evident, I hope
  • 30% federal tax credit – the cash value of the 30% federal tax credit (available through 2016)
  • State tax credit – state tax credit, if applicable
  • Utility/State rebate – utility or state rebate, if applicable

Economic Assumptions

  • General price inflation – estimated inflation in prices, for estimating the long-term investment value
  • Discount rate – an economists calculation of the time value of money. Default of 8% suggests that you’d value 92¢ today as much as $1.00 next year
  • Real discount rate – discount rate minus inflation rate
  • Net metering rate per kWh – the price for solar energy produced, in dollars per kilowatt-hour. Typically the same rate as is paid for electricity from the utility.

Financing Terms

Leasing Terms

  • Down payment (leasing terms) – the down payment on the lease
  • Lease price inflation – the annual increase in the lease payment
  • 1st monthly payment – the initial monthly payment for the lease
  • Electricity. price inflation – the expected annual increase in electricity prices (historically 3%, but higher in many areas in the past 5-10 years)
  • 15-year buyout price – the price, in dollars, for a leasing customer to buy the solar array after the lease expires (if available)

Embed Code:
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Photo credit:  Derek Gavey

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Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 8 Comments | Updated on Aug 18, 2014

Why Aren’t Rural Electric Cooperatives Champions of Local Clean Power?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/rural-electric-cooperatives-champions-local-clean-power/

When it comes to ownership, there are few better structures for keeping a community’s wealth local than a cooperative. So why is it that America’s rural electric cooperatives are tethered to dirty, old coal-fired power plants instead of local-wealth generating renewable power? There are a lot of answers to this question, but it might start… Continue reading

solar and flag - flickr Deval Patrick
Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jul 2, 2014

Celebrate Independence with 3 Steps Toward Energy Self-Reliance

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/celebrate-independence-3-steps-energy-self-reliance/

Being from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I’m often asked, “You want everyone off-grid and independent with their own solar array and a battery, right?” In a word, no. But our mission of economic and energy self-reliance has several similarities to the kind of (economic) independence being sought by England’s American colonists in the 1770s and… Continue reading

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Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Aug 13, 2014

A Solar Ownership Comeback? John Farrell Talks with Arnie Arnesen on WNHN

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/solar-ownership-comeback-john-farrell-talks-arnie-arnesen-wnhn/

A month ago I wrote about the potential for a comeback for solar ownership (instead of leasing) as the economics and options for ownership continue to improve. Yesterday I discussed this trend in depth on “The Attitude” with Arnie Arnesen on WNHN. Subscribe to the podcast here, or listen by clicking the player below:   Continue reading

800px-US_Navy_110803-N-UN340-067_A_view_of_solar_panels_recently_installed_on_the_roof_of_Space_and_Naval_Warfare_Systems_Command_Headquarters,_Old_Town
Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jun 5, 2014

Same Price, More Renewables. San Diego’s Fight for Community Choice – Episode 23 of Local Energy Rules

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/price-renewables-san-diegos-fight-community-choice-episode-23-local-energy-rules/

“San Diego and its community choice energy district would be able to offer a diverse energy mix with all of the solar, biodiesel, biogas, and energy storage resources that we have in San Diego.  A product that is price competitive and yet at the same time would strive for and achieve a higher level of… Continue reading