Yorkers discuss problems and myths of the solar-electric revolution
Solar energy is the future of worldwide electricity production, according to an international report, but the local future of the renewable energy source remains in doubt.
The Bloomberg New Energy Finance report predicted the price of solar production will continue to drop until it is the cheapest form of power in most national markets.
Sun in York: Bob Astor, spokesman for Shipley Energy, sees the potential for solar energy to become the cheapest form of generated electricity, but he notes that the upfront cost for installation is significant.
He also wonders whether it will be able to produce enough energy, pointing to Pennsylvania's lack of sun compared to more southern states and trees that shade many homeowners' roofs, including his own.
Jeff Georg, president of electrical contracting company Ascom Inc., said it's a common misconception that certain places don't have enough sun.
With such long warranties, solar panels are cost-effective all across the United States, and even in the North Pole, he said, because the technology works off UV radiation, not light.
The difference, Georg said, comes down to efficiency. A solar customer in Arizona will see his upfront costs paid for much more quickly than a Pennsylvania customer.
Shade from trees factors into the unit's efficiency, but Georg still says it would be able to pay for itself before the warranty expires.
Low rates: Pennsylvania residents might be even less likely to turn to solar, Georg said, because the state houses so many electricity producers and rates are low compared to other states.
But as rates currently stand, Georg estimated local customers would see their investments in solar paid back within eight to 10 years.
One very real problem solar faces is aesthetic preferences of customers, Georg said.
"I've talked to millionaires that think they're ugly and will never put it on their roof," he said. "They can afford it, they have the (financial) incentive to do it, but they don't like the look of them, so they're not going to put it on their house."
Rooftop technology: Jackson Township resident Annalisa Gojmerac had solar panels installed on her farmhouse roof through the federal tax-credit program that runs through 2016.
She's hoping more York homeowners follow her lead.
"I have to say when it's all said and done it is an energetic and deeply rewarding experience and one of the best decisions I have ever made," Gojmerac said in a blog post about her experience.
Bloomberg's report predicts the small-scale rooftop solar trend will continue.
The report states that by 2040, rooftop solar will be cheaper than grid-produced electricity in every major economy and small-scale solar systems will produce nearly 13 percent of electricity worldwide.
—Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org.