June 2015

OP-Ed: Get Coal Power Out of Your Home –> Go Solar Now!


Craig O’Hare


Are you tired of dirty, coal-fired electricity and radioactive nuclear power coming into your living room every day? Then, go solar now! If you’re a PNM customer, about 90 percent of your electricity is coming from coal, nuclear and natural-gas power plants hundreds of miles away. Why not have most of your electricity come via the clean, renewable sun from panels a few feet above your head on your roof?

Getting off of fossil fuels has always been “the right thing to do” with respect to the environment, public health and preventing further global climate disruption. In the past, however, going solar was a pricey proposition viable, for the most part, only for the well-to-do. That’s no longer true. Solar electric, as in photovoltaics (PV), is about 60 percent less expensive than it was just five to six years ago. In addition, there’s a 40 percent—30 percent federal, 10 percent state—income-tax credit that makes PV generally cost-effective and viable for even middle-income households.

When you combine how inexpensive solar has become, along with the tax credits and the favorable financing that is available, solar can be cash-neutral or even cash-positive from the first month of having the system on your property. How so? The finances work out so that you’re basically trading your usual monthly electric utility bill payment for a monthly loan payment of about the same amount. For example, instead of making an average payment of $80 per month to your electric utility, you’re making a $70-to-$80 per month loan payment. If your gross household income is less than $104,000 per year, look into a loan from Homewise (505.983.9473, www.Homewise.org), a low- and moderate-income lender. Many solar companies also offer attractive financing.

There are two additional financial benefits of PV to consider: 1) You’re immune to future electric-utility rate increases, which means that your financial benefit continues to increase over time; and 2) The resale value of your home is higher, now that you have a solar electric power plant on your property. Both appraisers and the housing market have caught up to the fact that solar systems add true value to developed property. There’s something satisfying about not paying to bring fossil fuel-derived power into your home every day. I haven’t paid an electric bill in the four years that I’ve had my system on my roof. In fact, I get a small check from PNM every other month!

I can’t overemphasize the point that the biggest myth I continue to encounter is that solar remains cost-prohibitive. On behalf of Santa Fe County, I’ve been promoting solar power to the public for over four years. The most common comment I continue to receive is, “I had no idea that solar was so affordable. I’ve wanted to go solar for a while now, but I thought it was still just for the wealthy.”

As Green Fire Times readers and advertisers, I’m sure all of us are deeply concerned about the need to prevent catastrophic global climate disruption. It’s therefore important for all of us to “walk our talk” by lowering our carbon footprint in a variety of ways. Financially attractive solar power allows you to reduce your carbon emissions and make a smart investment. If you’re a two-car household, consider making one of your vehicles electric in the coming years. That way, you can have near-carbon-neutral, solar-powered transportation!

This is the perfect time to pursue a solar system because the 40 percent income-tax credits—not a Schedule A deduction, but a full, dollar-for-dollar credit—expire at the end of 2016. Santa Fe County and the city of Santa Fe joined forces by resolution last year to create the “Solarize Santa Fe!” outreach and marketing campaign. Solar information and a list of solar businesses operating within the county are on the county website. Part of my job for the county is to provide free solar advice and technical assistance to businesses and homeowners, so feel free to contact me. It’s time to “Solarize Santa Fe!” To learn more, go to www.santafecountynm.gov/public_works/energy


Craig O’Hare is Energy Programs specialist with Santa Fe County. 505.992.3044, cohare@santafecountynm.gov


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