photovoltaic solar resource

Solar in Maine? Really?

March 23, 2017

If a friend in Phoenix was going to buy solar for their home, a pretty common response might be, "They sure get a lot of sun in Phoenix. That sounds like a pretty good investment." A friend in Bangor, Maine buying solar? That same line of thinking might lead to a response of "Pffffffffffttttttt! Nice waste of money." Guess what? The friend in Bangor is likely getting the better deal. This may seem counterintuitive for many, especially in February when Mainers are unfriending family and friends with the gaul to post photos from exotic vacations or the winter landing spot for their annual snowbird migration. Here's a chart showing the thing most people are thinking about when they consider solar - the sun:

Not surprisingly, some of those warmer destinations receive significantly more solar energy than we do in Maine. During an average year, a kilowatt (DC) of solar capacity generates about 10% more energy in Houston, 20% more in Miami, and 40% more in Phoenix. (For those of you Mainers now considering putting your house on the market, remember how good camp feels in the summer when it's 120F in Phoenix. Also, Phoenix is a lot like Los Angeles but without the ocean.*) *Note: The one redeeming quality about Los Angeles is the ocean. OK, I'll concede that a solar module in Phoenix is going to generate more electricity than one in Bangor. I'll also offer some good Yankee wisdom - given the choice, I'd rather have more dollars in my pockets than more electrons. Shocking, I know. Let's look at what those moving electrons are worth on the utility bills in each of these locations:

Ayuh. If you live in Bangor, your residential rates are significantly higher than all of these other locations. When it comes to value, that matters. With standard net metering policy (trading kilowatt-hours for kilowatt-hours), each kilowatt-hour avoided by a solar photovoltaic system is like a kilowatt-hour's worth of money that can stay in your pocket. When we take the annual output of a kilowatt (DC) of solar capacity - roughly 3-4 modules worth - and multiply it by the cost to buy each kilowatt-hour, this is what we get:

Hard to believe, ain't it? If you think solar makes sense in Phoenix and throw a check in the mail every month to Emera Maine, it's high time to start thinking about some solar. Even those of you sending checks to Massachusetts to pay CMP (where 1kW of solar output is worth about $168 per year) would have better benefit than those in Houston and be on par with Phoenix and Miami. It's not just about the sun. It's about dollars in your pockets.      

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