Homeowners Recoup Their Investment in PV Systems in California

Michael Giberson

A study by Ben Hoen, Ryan Wiser and Peter Cappers of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Mark Thayer at San Diego State University finds that, on average, the sales price of homes with PV systems is boosted enough to cover the homeowner’s own investment in the solar power system.

One might, as the Berkeley Labs’ press release does, style this as good news for PV systems (“homes with solar photovoltaic systems sell for a premium over homes without solar systems”). I guess as home improvement projects go, an investment in which homeowners on average get all their money back is pretty good — much better than the return on building a swimming pool, not as good as a minor kitchen makeover.

On the other hand, as another Berkeley Lab reports, average total installed costs of home PV systems have ranged between $7 and $10 per DC watt of capacity installed over the 2001-2009 period included in the first study’s dataset and yet the home price premium is estimated to be about $5.5 per DC watt of capacity. One might expect that taxpayer/ratepayer subsidies for home improvements would on net add to the subsidized homeowner’s value, but apparently that is not the case.

3 thoughts on “Homeowners Recoup Their Investment in PV Systems in California

  1. I certainly am glad that the homeowners recoup their investments. I wonder if the taxpayers also recoup theirs.

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  2. Ed, you’re asking the harder question.* I think if you ask the Berkeley Lab they will tell you that it is all for a good cause. My opinion is that taxpayers can be tapped for research, but should not be on the hook for commercial deployment. Of course, opinion < analysis.

    *Also, you're asking the right question.

  3. Taxpayers certainly should not be “tapped” (shaken down?) to fund early commercialization of products which have no potential to be competitive in the market, even with reasonable production volume.

    Taxpayers also should not be “tapped” by increasing their costs for some forms of energy to make other, higher cost forms of energy more competitive. (Carbon tax, anyone?)

    The US federal government has no unique, broadly accepted, clearly enunciated “wish” regarding the US energy future. Therefore, there is no plan to achieve the “wish”; and, thus, no goal. (“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”, Antoine de St. Exupery) The Administration continues to flit from “83% by 2050” to “80% by 2035” to “X mpg by Y year”. The fact that they have no goal and plan is probably a good thing. However, their “flitting around” is probably discouraging long term investment in energy infrastructure because of the uncertainty.

    “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.”

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