Maple Hill Farm Owner, Scott Cowger Photo Credit: Amber WatermanAt Maple Hill, Cowger and his partner, Vince Hannan, took advantage of federal and state grants, as well as a low-interest loan, to install a combined solar hot water/solar electric system in 2007. The system today generates about half of the establishment’s electricity and most of the heat for hot water, as well as some radiant heating in the winter.

Seven years in, Cowger has watched the cost of solar panels drop and the technology’s efficiency skyrocket — “good news for other people,” he said.
As it turns out, those other people, including increasing numbers of business owners, are enthusiastically embracing “behind-the-meter” solar installations, in part to remediate high energy costs.

Today, solar leads the uptick in behind-the-meter renewables, largely due to a 75% drop in the initial capital investment, said Phil Coupe, owner of ReVision Energy, a leading installer of solar systems. The payback period has fallen from 20 years to nine years.

“The steep drop in costs for solar electric systems has really caused a huge shift in the return on investment that homeowners and business owners can get,” Coupe says. “Today, a business owner can get a 9% annual return on investment from a solar array. That return is greatly helped by the 30% federal tax credit. The business owner can also use an accelerated depreciation schedule, similar to a tax credit, on solar equipment. That results in an additional 18% off what the project costs.”

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