Last Thursday, I went to a workshop on solar energy. Kudos to our rural cowboy town for putting together a great program to give residents incentives to put in solar energy, the goal is to get 100 residents to put solar panels on their roofs and become the most solarized small town in America. I don't know if they will get 100, but judging from the interest at the workshop it could be close.
I had been looking at solar panels for a while, we get lots of sunshine in the summer (like July through Novemeber) and we have a nice SW facing roof. But I had always been intimidated by the costs, knowing if it really would "pay off", and the costs. The program addresses at least two of the issues, providing resources to help with the learning curve and assistance with the costs (by getting a city wide deal from a contractor) and maximizing all the incentives out there. My only real complaint so far is that most of the cost offsets come as tax credits over the next 4 years. That still means an initial capital outlay that is fairly big, but by the end of those 4 years we should break even, and a 4-5 year payback for alternative energy is pretty amazing.
So we had the contractor come out and look at our house, we have 93% solar resource and with a 2kw system should be able to generate over 2000 kwatts a year. We are also looking at solar hot water even though that is not part of the City incentive program. We still have to see if the costs work out, and how to generate the sizable upfront capital to do this, but I am excited about the possibility, and will take video of the electric meter spinning backwards if it goes that far.