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Massachusetts landfill gets solar panels

By “Waste Today” Staff

July 3, 2017

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A capped landfill in Brockton, Massachusetts, has become a solar energy producer. According to the local CBS affiliate WBZ-TV, the landfill, once nicknamed Mount Trashmore because of the odors it produced is now doing something positive for the environment.
A new solar power system opened on top of the old Thatcher Street landfill in late June. Officials from the city claim the energy produced from the panels is equivalent to offsetting the carbon emissions of 12,000 cars annually. The report adds, the city officials estimate more than $300,000 in revenues generated from the project annually.

 

 

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India launches first solar-panelled train in bid to cut down diesel use

By Loulla-May Eleftheriou-Smith

July 19, 2017

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India has launched its first solar-powered train, which it is hoped will save around 21,000 litres of diesel a year, as the government attempts to make the country’s vast rail network more environmentally friendly.

The new 1,600 horsepower Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains are fitted with 16 solar panels on each carriage as well as battery back-ups, UNTV News and Rescue reports.

The first train, which is pulled by a diesel-powered locomotive, has been launched on New Delhi’s suburban commuter railway system, with the routes for the rest of the new trains to be decided soon.

The 7,200kw of energy created each year by the solar panels will be used to power internal lights, fans and other electrical systems on the train coaches.

Each solar-panelled coach will reportedly offset carbon emissions by nine tonnes a year, which is expected to save around 21,000 litres of diesel.

Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu told The Hindu the trains are a “path-breaking leap” towards the goal of making India’s trains more environmentally friendly.

The department of railways is also increasing its use of alternative energy sources as part of its commitment to using cleaner fuels, he added.

The solar panels last for up to 25 years and will be inspected regularly.

“It is not an easy task to fit solar panels on the roof of train coaches that run at a speed of 80km per hour,” Sundeep Gupta, vice chairman and managing director of Jackson Engineers, which worked on the project, told Business Standard.

“Our engineering skills were put to a real test during the execution of this rooftop solar project for Indian Railways.”

 

 

Want more solar news? Check out SGE Solar’s News Feed or follow our forays into social media on Twitter!

NIU staff member’s new children’s book explores the science of solar energy

By Northern Illinois University

July 11, 2017

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On July 5, Gillian King-Cargile, director of NIU’s STEM Read program in the P-20 Center, released her new children’s book, The Toy and the Test Drive. The book is the third installment in the Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series published by NIU Press. It explores concepts of solar power and potential and kinetic energy in a fast-paced children’s narrative designed to engage young readers.

“If we can create fun, exciting picture books that will get kids interested in the characters and the pictures, then science is exciting for kids who don’t necessarily see themselves as scientists or engineers,” King-Cargile says. “The fiction books might spark their interest in a way that more traditional non-fiction books might not.”

The book includes an interview with Seth Darling, a Nanoscientist working at Argonne National Laboratory whose work focuses on next-generation solar energy devices and solar energy systems, among other topics. Darling was a science consultant on the book.

King-Cargile is excited to release a book that addresses solar energy right now. “In a time when green energy is under attack, it’s important to keep ideas about alternative energies alive in our education system,” she says.

The Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series arose as a partnership between King-Cargile and the P-20 Center’s STEM Read program. The series is designed to teach science, technology, engineering, and math concepts aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)..

The STEM Read website (stemread.com) provides free lesson plans, video games and other activities for each book that parents and teachers can use to further engage children in the science behind the stories. Hands-on activities, such as building a solar oven and making s’mores, bring the science of solar energy alive for children.

Jeffrey R. S. Brownson, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering at Pennsylvania State University, praises the book: “This is a fun story that provides a good introduction to the science and engineering concepts surrounding solar energy.”

King-Cargile will be presenting readings and activities for children at the following times and locations.

  • 4:30 PM on Wednesday, July 12 at the Maple Park Public Library
  • 10:00 AM on Thursday, July 13 at the Cortland Community Library
  • 10:30 AM on Monday, July 17 at the DeKalb Public Library

The readings are free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase. Proceeds from the book sales benefit STEM Read’s programs for readers of all ages.

For more information, contact Gillian King Cargile at 815-753-6784 or gkingcargile@niu.edu.

Colby’s 5,300-Panel Solar Field Ready to Generate Power – and Academic Opportunity

By Caitlin Rogers

July 6, 2017

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Colby will flip the switch on a nine-acre solar field this fall, the latest step in the College’s commitment to sustainable and climate-friendly practices. The new 1.9-megawatt photovoltaic energy project, announced last May, will supply about 16 percent of the College’s electricity.

Colby declared carbon neutrality in 2013 and continues to work to reduce carbon emissions.

“Colby takes a holistic approach,” said Mina Amundsen, assistant vice president for facilities and campus planning. “We are always looking for the next way to promote sustainable practices.”

The project, undertaken in collaboration with NRG Energy, Inc., is located less than one mile from campus on a large, easily accessible, south-facing space to maximize the project’s capacity for power production. Approximately 5,300 solar panels will be installed to produce 2.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

This solar array is the latest in a series of sustainable energy projects implemented by the College. Colby already has a photovoltaic energy system on the roof of the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center that generates around 10 percent of its electricity from a steam plant on campus.

The biomass plant, booted up in 2012, saves a million gallons of oil annually by burning locally sourced forestry scraps to produce heat. Additionally, 15 of Colby’s spaces are LEED certified, and Colby is committed to seeking LEED certification—which indicates commitment to human and environmental health in its design and construction—on all new building projects.

Amundsen said Colby’s commitment to the environment includes not only sustainable energy, but also sustainable water, materials, waste, and consumption. Colby was only the fourth college or university in the country to become carbon neutral when it reached that milestone about two years ahead of schedule.

For more than a decade, Colby students have intensively studied environmental practices on campus and participated in sustainability projects; the campus’ first greenhouse gas inventory became an honors thesis in 2007.

The solar array provides another valuable learning opportunity for students, who will be able to study the system itself and the environment around it.

Californians take a shine to solar power

By Jocelyne Zablit

July 2, 2017

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Jacquie Barnbrook had grown tired of the high electricity bills and her gas-guzzling luxury car when she finally decided to take the plunge last year.

The 52-year-old Los Angeles resident joined an ever-growing number of Californians who are switching to for their energy needs in a bid to not only save money but to also do their part for the environment in a state setting the pace for the rest of the country in that sector.

“At this time of year, my power and water bills usually were around $400 a month,” Barnbrook said. “Right now, it’s $150 a month.”

As for her vehicle, Barnbrook said she ditched it in favor of a hybrid one that she now plugs in and charges at her house.

“I was previously spending $80 dollars on gas every three or four days and now I haven’t put gas in my new car since the beginning of March,” she noted.

“That’s four months ago!”

Nearly 4.9 million homes are powered by solar energy in California—the nation’s green trailblazer and the most populous state—and that number is expected to continue to grow, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a non-profit trade association.

Even President Donald Trump, an avowed sceptic on climate change, is considering putting on the wall he plans to build on the Mexican border.

Snake oil

Although solar installations have slowed this year due, in part, to a record number of people rushing to sign up in 2016 for fear of losing a tax incentive, the market is expected to continue to grow, especially in places like California which has a plethora of sunny days, experts say.

Driving this expansion is the plummeting cost of solar panels—which were traditionally limited to relatively affluent homeowners—and improving technology on batteries to store energy, they add.

“Right now, we’re in throes of rapid change in the solar industry,” said Rajit Gadh, director of the UCLA Smart Grid Energy Research Center. “As people process all the information out there and report their success stories and it starts to become mainstream … the momentum will grow.”

He said apart from cost, another reason average consumers have gingerly adopted solar power in recent years was the dizzying number of regulatory hoops they had to go through to get approval from utility companies and a lot of complicated information to process.

Moreover, as demand for the product has surged in the last decade, so have the number of companies—both serious and shady—jostling for a piece of the pie.

“Solar power is confusing and for a long time it really didn’t make a lot of economic sense,” said Ryan Willemsen, CEO and founder of the San Diego-based start-up Solar to the People.

“In California, solar is really getting a reputation because of some of the unscrupulous folks involved who are pushing solar super hard,” he added. “In San Diego alone, for example, there are over 200 solar operations.”

Ara Petrosyan, CEO and founder of LA Solar Group, a consulting firm, said he believes that once the dust settles and shady companies inevitably go out of business, consumers will be able to make more informed and affordable choices and the sector will take off like “a rocket ship.”

“In five years, so many rules and regulations have been added that you have to be a really good expert to stay in the business,” he said.

He added that a clear sign of where the industry is going is the number of installations—which cost between $15,000 and $20,000 for an average size house—his company is handling.

“When we started in 2012, we did about 10 installations a month,” Petrosyan said. “Today, we do about 120 a month … and it will definitely keep increasing.”

Such projections are good news for a state that has mandated that 50 percent of its electricity come from , including solar, by 2030.

Solar power is also growing fast in other states, including New York, which look to California as an example.

“The overall industry trend is that the cost of solar panels and other components is going down,” said Willemsen.

“And more and more standard folks are hearing it’s a good idea and once one person in the neighborhood goes solar, more and more follow.”

Exciting new material uses solar energy to remove man-made dye pollutants from water

By Phys.org

June 29, 2017

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A novel composite material has been developed by scientists in the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University which shows promise as a catalyst for the degradation of environmentally-harmful synthetic dye pollutants, which are released at a rate of nearly 300,000 tonnes a year into the world’s water.

This novel, non-hazardous photocatalytic material effectively removes dye pollutants from water, adsorbing more than 90 % of the dye and enhancing the rate of dye breakdown by almost ten times using visible light.

The researchers, led by Dr. Charles W. Dunnill and Dr. Daniel Jones at the Energy Safety Research Institute in Swansea University, reported their discovery in the Nature open access journal Scientific Reports.

By heating the reaction mixture at high pressures inside a sealed container, the composite is synthesized by growing ultra-thin “nanowires” of tungsten oxide on the surface of tiny particles of tantalum nitride. As a result of the incredibly small size of the two material components – both the tantalum nitride and tungsten oxide are typically less than 40 billionths of a metre in diameter – the composite provides a huge surface area for dye capture.

The material then proceeds to break the dye down into smaller, harmless molecules using the provided by sunlight, in a process known as “photocatalytic degradation”. Having removed the harmful dyes, the catalyst may simply be filtered from the cleaned water and reused.

While the photocatalytic degradation of dyes has been investigated for several decades, it is only relatively recently that researchers have developed materials capable of absorbing the visible part of the solar spectrum – other materials, such as titanium dioxide, are also able to break down dyes using solar energy, but their efficiency is limited as they only absorb higher energy, ultra-violet light. By making use of a much greater range of the spectrum, materials such as those used by the ESRI team at Swansea University team are able to remove pollutants at a far superior rate.

Both of the materials used in the study have attracted significant interest in recent years. Tungsten oxide, in particular, is considered one of the most promising materials for a range of photocatalytic applications, owing to its high electrical conductivity, chemical stability and surface activity, in addition to its strong light absorbance. As a low band-gap semiconductor, tantalum nitride is red in colour due to its ability to absorb almost the entire spectrum of , and therefore extracts a high amount of energy from sunlight to power the degradation processes.

However, the true potential of the two materials was only realised once they were combined into a single composite. Due to the exchange of electrons between the two materials, the test dye used within the study was broken down by the composite at around double the rate achieved by tantalum nitride on its own, while alone was shown to be incapable of dye degradation. In contrast to other leading photocatalytic materials, many of which are toxic to both humans and aquatic life, both parts of the composite are classed as non-hazardous .

The scientists responsible for the study believe that their research provides just a taster of the material’s potential. “Now that we’ve demonstrated the capabilities of our composite, we aim to not just improve on the material further, but to also begin work on scaling up the synthesis for real-world application.” said Dr. Jones. “We’re also exploring its viability in other areas, such as the photocatalysed splitting of water to generate hydrogen.”

Solar energy is taking off

By Skye Borden

June 26, 2017

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Last week in the Northern Hemisphere, we experienced the longest day of the year, when the sun showers our half of the world with bright and powerful rays of light.

Here in Missoula, that means more sunny hours to run up Rattlesnake, paddle the big wave or lounge outside with a cold local brew. It also serves as a reminder that today, and every day, we should soak up more of those rays of sunlight to power our communities with inexhaustible, pollution-free, solar energy.

It’s no secret that solar energy is taking off faster than ever before. Just in the United States, we have 43 times more solar today than we did 10 years ago — enough to meet the power needs of 8.7 million households.

So, we’re making progress. But of course it hasn’t always been this way. For so long — since the Industrial Revolution, really — we’ve relied on the extraction of old and dirty forms of technically sun-powered energy; long-dead plants and organic materials, pushed back into the earth and later pumped out as oil, gas, coal, and other fossil fuels.

We know now that extracting and burning these fuels for energy not only harms our environment and our health, but threatens the climate and the stability of the planet.

The time has come to move past such finite, dirty and increasingly expensive resources. Certainly we have the technical potential to directly use clean sunlight for nearly all of our energy needs.

In fact, the United States alone could power itself 100 times over just with the solar power that shines within our borders. Studies show that just around 2 percent of our land mass could power the entire country with solar; panels on American rooftops alone could power nearly 40 percent of the country’s energy needs.

The good news is, we’re reaching a tipping point for renewable energy in the U.S and across the world like we’ve never seen before. Ramping up our renewable goals is not a question of resources, science or technology. It is a question of political will. As more and more leaders in cities, companies, institutions and states commit to goals of using 100 percent renewable energy, we’ll only get there sooner and realize more of the benefits to Montana and our society.

Here in Missoula, we applaud Mayor John Engen for pledging committing to implement the Paris Accord. But, we can do even more. We urge leaders like Engen to commit to a 100 percent renewable energy future; a goal we can and must achieve.

So, on the longest day of the year, we should remember this: every minute of sunlight can be harnessed to create renewable energy to power our lives. We can and must meet this challenge. As we continue to use energy more efficiently, ramp up storage of renewable power and scale up our use of clean energy resources, we’ll make our air and water cleaner, and we’ll leave a legacy that we can be proud of.

Malaysia a world leader in manufacturing of solar power technology, says minister

By Wani Muthiah

June 26, 2017

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ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN: Malaysia is a world leader when it comes to solar power, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau.

“Malaysia is the second largest manufacturer of photovoltaic modules and the third largest producer of photovoltaic cells in the world,” said Tangau in his speech at the Astana Expo 2017 here on Monday.

He added that four of the world’s top five photovoltaic cell manufacturers are located in Malaysia and said that solar energy is a key contributor to national economic growth due to the nation’s strategic location on the world’s sun belt.

“We recognize that this natural resource is important if we are to be a leader of innovation in green technology,” said Tangau.

Meanwhile, Bioindustrial Bioeconomy Corporation senior vice president Zainal Azman Abu Kassim said in his speech that green innovations were one of the catalysts of sustainability in bio-based industries and the bio-economy.

“Our presence here at the Astana Expo 2017 illustrates how seriously we take green innovations in driving our bio-economy forward while finding solutions for global sustainability issues through cooperation with international players,” he said.

Zainal Azman added that Malaysian companies participating in the Expo were there to foster economic growth through the sharing of innovative technologies, supporting biodiversity and environmental sustainability.

Astana Expo 2017 kicked off on June 10 with the participation of some 100 nations and more than 10 international organisations in various events.

The main theme of the 93-day expo is “Energy of the Future”, which addresses the global problem of energy consumption.

Syrian Refugees Help Install Free Solar Panels For Low-Income Family

By Samantha Tatro

June 20, 2017

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Dozens of Syrian refugees spent their Tuesday morning installing free solar panels for a low-income family in San Diego’s Oak Park neighborhood.

The refugees, in partnership with GRID Alternatives and Get Charged Up, worked through the rising temperatures to learn new skills and help the family in need.

The installation falls on World Refugee Day and Ramadan, organizers said, a challenge for some volunteers.

“We know it is tough working outdoors on any given day, but, some of the people working today are fasting,” said Faisal Elazzouzi, founder of Get Charged Up, a non-profit focused on providing energy education while protecting the environment.

The event hit home for Elazzouzi – he was a Lebanese refugee whose family fled the country in 1982.

“It’s very personal to me, myself, because I was a refugee at a young age myself and I know that a lot of people in our situations are extremely motivated,” he said. “We know we can contribute, we know we can change the world, we know we can change our situation by working very hard. And I know by experience and we see it here live today, that with a little bit of organization, a little bit of support, we can really turn things around, we can really provide jobs, and bring a brighter future to a whole family.”

Elazzouzi said as he grew up as a refugee, he met people along the way that helped him out and gave him opportunities, leading him to give back later in his life.

“There’s always been a helping hand,” he said. “So it just makes sense for me to do the same.”

The solar panels installed Tuesday will help homeowner Dexter, who lives on 55th Street with his wife. Lately, he said, he has been struggling to make ends meet as he takes care of his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I try to be as positive as possible…but there are moments where you have to deal with what is in my terms, reality,” he said.

Seeing the refugees work on his house all morning and into the afternoon, through the blazing sun, moved him.

“It’s a great thing to witness this to see it first hand. I was here when they started to arrive and I listened to them speaking their own dialect and to me that’s very moving, to see people from a different country, who have come from some difficult times, have an opportunity to get hands-on training,” Dexter said.

The solar panels will lower the cost of energy bills at the home and lower the family’s carbon footprint. In turn, the refugees will get hands-on training in solar installation.

“We never get tired of, we’re always eager to provide opportunities to people who want to seize those opportunities, help themselves, and build their skills and get a job in the industry,” said a representative with GRID Alternative. “We’ve seen many stories like that, people who come out here on their free time. They’re just trying to build a life, whether they’re coming from another country as a refugee or whether they’re in this country and want to change.”

How Long Does It Take to Break Even With Solar Panels?

By Mikey Rox

June 15, 2017

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Solar power has advanced leaps and bounds over the past couple decades, and those grid panels that harness the power of the sun and turn it into energy are everywhere. It’s not uncommon to find at least one house in your neighborhood that has panels covering every square inch of its roof.

You may have also been approached by a solar company rep about outfitting your home with panels. (These guys and gals are almost as ubiquitous as the product they’re selling.) And maybe you don’t understand the mechanics of solar home power — or its benefit to your wallet — which may make you hesitant to explore the option.

Well, you’re not alone. Those of us who haven’t adopted solar energy yet still have a lot of questions — namely, what’s this going to cost? And when will I break even?

The cost of solar panels

First, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of just how much solar panels will set you back. It’s not cheap to save the planet, even though the sun has been free of charge for billions of years.

The easiest way to calculate the average cost of solar panels, according to New England-based solar-installation company EnergySage, is to look at its price in dollars per watt, and those numbers are fairly consistent across the country.

This year, “most homeowners are paying between $2.87 and $3.85 per watt to install solar, and the average gross cost of solar panels before tax credits is $16,800,” says EnergySage’s data. Figure in tax credits and the price comes down to $10,000 to $13,500, based on the average 5kW (5,000 watts) system that’s typically installed in the United States. EnergySage also says these numbers are about 9 percent lower than last year, but recommends comparing prices quoted to other homeowners in your area.

Now that we know how much the system will set us back, the next reasonable question is how long will it take to break even. (See also: 10 Ways Anyone Can Go Solar and Save on Energy)

When you’ll break even

Sarah Hancock is a digital marketing strategist who manages the solar coverage at BestCompany.com, an online review site that ranks companies in different industries. She says the amount of time it takes to break even depends on three main factors.

1. Current utility price

The higher the current electricity price is in your area, the more money you will save by going solar, which results in a faster break even time, Hancock says.

“For example, an individual who lives in California, where the price of electricity currently sits at about 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, will break even quicker than an individual who lives in Washington, where the electricity price is only 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, because the Californian will be saving more on his electricity bill each month,” Hancock says.

2. Available incentives

These vary from state to state. There are a number of different incentives to take into consideration, including tax credits, rebates, performance payments, and tax exemptions. The more incentives available to you, the quicker your break-even time will be.

“One of those incentives is the 30 percent federal tax credit,” says Andy Schell, marketing manager at Paradise Energy Solutions. “This credit allows solar owners to recoup 30 percent of the project’s cost. If you aren’t able to recoup all 30 percent in year one, the remaining amount can be carried forward for 20 years until the full credit is expended. In addition, USDA grants and accelerated depreciation schedules are available for qualifying businesses and farms.”

This is a good resource to find solar-energy incentives available in your state.

3. Method of payment

According to Hancock, you can purchase the panels outright, or get them on loan, lease, or PPA (power purchase agreement — which is a financial agreement that allows a developer to arrange the design, permits, financing, and installation of a solar energy system, and lasts anywhere from 10 to 25 years).

However, there are fewer studies supporting the increased home value when you upgrade your home through a PPA or a lease. The reason is simple: With an upfront purchase or loan, the new buyer will not have to pay for any of the electricity produced by the panels because you would have already paid for it. With a PPA, the new buyer will still pay for electricity, simply at a lower rate than what other neighbors will pay to the utility company. Those agreements are easily transferable and can also be bought out by either seller or buyer if necessary.

The payment method that will result in the quickest break-even time varies from state to state depending on the two other factors mentioned above — utility price and available incentives. If you live in a state with high electricity prices and several incentives, you will probably break even quicker with a loan because your energy savings will be higher than your loan payment. However, if you live in a state with low electricity prices and few incentives, you’ll most likely break even faster with an outright purchase.

“To provide a general range,” Hancock says, “most individuals who go solar will break even in 15 to 25 years.”

Leasing versus buying a solar system outright

“We guide homeowners with what we’ve seen is the question that is most likely to help them decide what route to take: How much is your tax liability?” says Julio Daniel Hernandez, a representative of renewable energy company EnLight.Energy.

If your tax liability is big enough right now to able to take full advantage of the Federal and possible state tax incentives, he says, then you should take advantage of the available loans and tax credits. If you don’t have the tax liability, then a PPA/Lease makes more sense. You’ll get access to all of the energy your solar system can provide at a cheaper rate than your utility company (usually around 20% savings) and will not ever have to pay a dime out of pocket.

As far as break-even calculations cost go, Hernandez’s estimate is much more liberal than Hancock’s.

“Break-even with a PPA/lease is zero because you don’t pay anything; you just start saving right away similar to a third party electric company in a deregulated market,” he says. “If you buy a system, depending on the incentives available to you, break-even point should be around eight years or less.”

How incentives and pricing have evolved

As an early adopter of solar power a decade ago, you would have made out like a bandit with incentives, but that’s not the case now that so many people are switching over to the energy solution. But as with all technology, the longer it’s been around, the cheaper it becomes on the front end.

“Unfortunately, there are fewer incentives available now than there were 10 years ago due to the increased popularity of solar power,” explains Hancock. “However, the good news is that the price of solar panels has dropped by more than 60 percent over the past 10 years. So, while fewer federal and state solar incentives are up for grabs, solar power is still more affordable than ever for consumers.”

Is it a good investment?

In most states, solar power is a solid investment that will result in a significant return over the next 20 to 30 years.

“For example, an individual in California who purchases a solar system outright can probably expect to see a return between $30,000 and $40,000 over the next 25 years, while an individual in Washington could expect a return of about $10,000 for the same scenario,” Hancock says.

Although the dollar-for-dollar return isn’t as high for the Washingtonian as it is for the Californian, both individuals are still saving money with solar power.

Says Hernandez, “Your home value is estimated to go up $15,000-plus by upgrading to solar energy. Some of this depends on the size of the system, but studies are showing that the bulk of the increase comes from simply putting panels on and then there’s only a slight additional shift upward based on how big the system is.”