One year with solar energy at home: Mostly sunny!

A year ago, we took the solar plunge and installed 41 panels on our back roof. How much did it cost; what’s the benefit; would I do it again? Read on for the answers to these questions and more because there’s little I’d do differently.

Today in Green IT: Growing pains for solar PV

The tale of Evergreen Solar — which recently filed for bankruptcy — matters because the company fell victim to shifting forces that are redefining the solar industry. Adam Lesser, our GigaOM Pro Green IT curator, lays out the growing pains for the PV industry.

Solar Costs Dropped 30% Over Last Decade

solar image 1A new report published this week by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab offers valuable insight culled from a decade’s worth of data into perhaps the most important metric in the PV industry: installed system costs before financial incentives. Because these incentives, like government tax rebates, can’t be counted on forever, installed costs — or the total cost of a PV system including panels, inverters, labor and more — will have to fall over time if the industry hopes to be a significant, long-term player in the U.S. energy mix.

The study, summarized in a 50-page document titled “Tracking the Sun II,” found that that the average installed cost in the U.S. has declined in the last decade (no surprise there), but the pace of that decline and other findings, such as the impact of economies of scale, might be surprising to some readers. Average U.S. installed system costs declined to $7.50 per watt in 2008 from $10.80 per watt in 1998, a 30 percent drop over the 10-year period, according to the report. That translates into a 3.6 percent, or 30 cents per watt, per year decline, on average, during that time.
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Top 5 Misconceptions About Home Energy Performance

As recently as two years ago, home energy retrofits might have been called esoteric territory best left to well-off eco-enthusiasts. But today, with increased attention and funding from the federal government and growing  consumer interest, energy retrofits will soon become more common as people look to reduce energy bills and shrink their carbon footprints. The residential sector — through space heating, plug loads and more — accounts for about 21 percent of total energy use in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But this drive to reduce energy consumption in homes in some cases has led to the marketing of “silver bullets” in the industry, from rooftop solar PV systems to tankless water heaters.
The truth is that no one solution is right for every house, under all circumstances. If someone tells you any differently, they’re selling you snake oil, says Matt Golden, president of Sustainable Spaces, a San Francisco-based home energy auditor and retrofitter. In the hope of dispelling some of these myths, below are our top five misconceptions about making your home more energy efficient:
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