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September 18, 2008

Is it time for solar power?

Many people think the next great energy source is obvious; it's solar power. Certainly, interest in solar power has been increasing with the rise in conventional energy prices. What's holding solar power back? Listen

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"I think one word: cost. Certainly, I think you're right that probably 50 years from now, solar power will be, perhaps, much more dominant and maybe the dominant energy source in the country, but right now, the problem is cost. And it's really the up-front cost. For an average house, right now, it costs about $20,000 to $30,000 to equip that house with solar panels, and to set up a solar system. And at that cost, even with, therefore, your monthly reductions in electric bills, it'll take about 10 to 15 years for those costs to be recouped in savings. Now, that's really what's deterring people. Now, granted, some states are offsetting some of those costs by incentives, by tax credits, but they do vary from state to state. Another problem is solar, of course, isn't as effective in all parts of the country. It's clearly best suited for the Southwest, obviously not as well suited for the North and Midwest, where there are not as many sunny days. But we can be optimistic and say as we move forward, if the cost of solar panels drops - and many people think that will happen as well as the prices of conventional energy rising - then the equation for solar power will probably look much more positive down the road."

Posted by Dave at September 18, 2008 08:00 AM