Freeport Maine Solar ElectricThis low fossil energy home in Freeport has a 3 kilowatt grid-tied solar electric array that produces roughly 340 kwhrs of clean electricity per month. The solar thermal collectors at upper right produce enough domestic hot water for a family of four. You can see ReVision Energy’s workmanship up close on October 3rd when the home will be open for the Solar Open House Tour.

The price of solar electric panels in the global marketplace is dropping, and systems that were once out of reach are now a more affordable opportunity.

For solar electricity, the most costly component of the system is the photovoltaic panels. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year. The price drops – coupled with recently expanded federal incentives – could shrink the time it takes solar panels to pay for themselves to 16 years, from 22 years”.

The cost reduction is due to two key factors: increased production of polysilicon, the raw material that enables solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity and a panel glut due to a decrease in worldwide demand as a result of the economic downturn.

Although many manufacturers are continuing to see profit losses in 2009, according to the New York Times, some “say that cheaper panels could be a good thing in the long term, spurring enthusiasm among customers and expanding the market”.

What does this mean for people in Maine and New Hampshire who want to invest in a grid-tied photovoltaic system for their home? The timing is perfect because you have the advantage of an all-time low installed cost combined with generous state and federal financial incentives. It is important to remember that grid-tied PV is the most reliable renewable energy technology (no moving parts anywhere in the system) that comes with a 25-year warranty and expected lifespan of 40 years. This means you can lock in your own electric rate for decades and reduce your CO2 emissions.

In Maine there is a $2,000 rebate for solar electricity. In New Hampshire there is a $6,000 rebate through the NH Public Utilities Commission and a $3,500 incentive if you are a NH Electric Co-op member. The federal tax credit improved in 2009, lifting the cap for solar electric (and solar thermal) installations. The federal tax credit now totals 30% of the total system cost.