Analyzing whether Las Vegans should add rooftop solar to their homes


If you’re wondering whether you should add rooftop solar to your home or business, the answer is yes. According to NASA, climate change is both real and devastating, causing increased global temperatures, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, extreme weather events and ocean acidification.

By installing rooftop solar, you can become part of the solution. You’ll be helping to achieve Nevada’s commitment to reach 50% renewables by 2030, which Governor Steve Sisolak signed into law on Earth Day 2019. Additionally, rooftop solar is easier on the environment than building giant solar fields in the desert.

If saving the planet isn’t motivation enough, perhaps saving money is more appealing? According to NVEnergy, rooftop solar can provide a 7 percent to 10 percent return on investment.

Cost & savings

Sadly, rooftop solar is not yet cheap to install. The upfront investment can be “in the tens of thousands of dollars,” according to NVEnergy. And it can take five to 10 years to recoup the cost.

Even if you don’t have a pot of gold, however, you can still make solar happen. One option is to lease the solar panels rather than directly purchasing them. Leasing allows you to get in the solar game without the upfront costs.

The Federal Solar Tax Credit can also smooth your entry into solar, but it only applies to buyers, not leasers. Residential buyers only have a few years to benefit, as the credit will be eliminated in 2024. Until then, expect to receive a credit worth 22%-26% of the installed cost of solar applied to the current tax year.

Sunny money

Wondering what happened to NVEnergy’s incentive program for solar? It ended in 2019. But rooftop owners still benefit from net metering, which means NVEnergy will pay you for your excess energy produced.

How much you’re credited depends on when you signed up, as NVEnergy has been decreasing credit rates over time. Tier 4 customers, for example, receive 75% of the retail volumetric electricity rate.

By the Numbers

Average Initial Cost (post tax credit): $8,992-$10,991

Federal Solar Tax Credit: 26% through 2022

Average payback period: 7.4-9.1 years

Average 25-year savings: $25,523-$31,195

As to exactly how much money you’ll earn over time, that depends. To calculate your specific costs and savings, use NVEnergy’s rooftop solar calculator at nvenergy.com/cleanenergy/solar.

Solar might also increase your home’s resale value. According to a 2019 study by real estate website Zillow, homes with solar go for about 4.1% more than homes without.

Access for all

One downside of rooftop solar in its current form is that it’s really only available to landowners. But activists are working to make it accessible to all.

“I’ve been fighting for rooftop solar access, especially in communities of color,” says Rudy Zamora, program director for Chispa Nevada. “A lot of [people in] our community don’t own their roof, so we can’t put rooftop solar on or make that decision ourselves, because we’re renting. So we’re looking at other ways to make solar more accessible to communities.”

Created by NVEnergy and the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy, the Lower Income Solar Energy Program (LISEP) offers incentives to business customers for solar systems that serve low-income populations. Additionally, NV Assembly Bill 465, passed in 2019, requires electric utilities to “offer an expanded solar access program to certain customers.”

Zamora says more should be done. He mentions how his 6-year-old child, who has asthma, would benefit from the cleaner air provided by rooftop solar power. “In my ideal world, equitable solar would be something that everyone would have access to.”

Tags: Featured, solar
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