Myth; Home or Off-grid Cabin Solar is Too Expensive To Bother With

There is a public misconception that home grid-tied or off-grid cabin solar energy is simply too expensive to bother with. The reality is that, both on and off-grid, solar energy is cost effective in many applications. Right out of the gate, it’s important to understand that on-grid electricity, a substantial amount of “smoke and mirrors” is going on behind the scenes, making true energy cost comparisons unfair at best.

The historical trend shows U.S. federal energy subsidies favoring mature energy sources like coal and nuclear over renewable sources by a factor of one hundred to one. A report based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) states, “Because the great bulk of incentives support mature fossil and nuclear equipment, the existing subsidy structure markedly distorts the marketplace for energy in a direction away from solar and other renewables products.”

The bottom line is that home solar and other renewable energy appears to be more expensive than traditional electricity generation sources, but the reality is that you pay the difference every year come tax time. If you include the costs of increased pollution, habitat destruction, health care costs, etc., then solar looks even better. Fortunately, many individual states are doing what the feds refuse to do, and have implemented solar rebate programs for renewables that serve to even out the financial playing field a bit.

Off-grid cabin solar, people have been realizing the financial advantages of solar energy for more than a decade. Property beyond the reach of the utility grid is typically undervalued, and a great investment. We’re not necessarily talking about living “out in the sticks.”

A good rule of thumb is that a off-grid solar electric system costs less than a utility line extension of a quarter mile (0.4 km) or more. I had the local utility provide me with an estimate for running a line to my off-grid home site (though I was never going to take them up on it!). They came up with a cost figure of $32,000.

I used this estimate as leverage when I purchased the property, which substantially lowered the seller’s asking price. From day one, renewable energy technology saved me over $10,000 compared to bringing grid electricity in. How’s that for an incentive! Printed with Permission; Home Power by Joe Schwartz