Solar power economically viable here

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From a letter to the editor of The Capital Times by the UW-Madison Environmental Studies 112 Honors Group:

Dear Editor: There's a common misconception that being green is the same as being economically impractical. Seen as nothing more than a conscience pleaser for the rich, renewable energy has long been perceived as expensive and beyond the reach of the average American. However, when it comes to solar power, this really isn't the case. Through a large number of economic incentives and buyback programs, solar power can pay for itself and then some within years and simultaneously help in the fight against global warming.

Although there is an initial expenditure, state, federal and industrial help abounds. Companies such as We Energies and programs like Wisconsin Focus on Energy offer cash-back rewards for up to a quarter of the installation price, and electric companies like Alliant Energy and Madison Gas & Electric also offer 10-year contracts in which a solar panel keeper can sell energy back to the grid at about $1 a kilowatt per day for a small system. This extra source of income can hit $6,000 a year for a medium-sized system alone. Between the tax exemptions, rebates, grants and buybacks, solar panel systems pay for themselves in a matter of years and are a wise investment for any savvy consumer. And, with a life of 30 to 50 years, they become a long-term moneymaker.

The economic benefits extend to the entire economy as well. Solar energy is a fast-growing field, and the numbers speak for themselves: For each megawatt installed, 36 jobs are created . . . .

Environmental Studies 112 Honors Group

Editor's note: UW-Madison's Environmental Studies 112 Honors Group spent the spring semester researching the feasibility of solar power.