The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting article on your return on investment should you decide to have solar panels installed. While their numbers apply to California homeowners, similar programs and initiatives apply to residents of other states, so your mileage may vary.
The article brings out a number of interesting points. One is that California has had a very successful energy conservation program in place over the last couple of decades. According to the author, per capita electricity use in California has not changed over the last 30 years, while it has increased 50 percent in the rest of the US. Also, a consumer who pays $12,000 today for a 2 kilowatt system can expect to get about 60,000 kilowatt-hours of solar generated power over 20 years – this works out ot about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. While this cost is higher than today’s average California electric rate of 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, utility generated electric rates have risen 4 percent per year over the last 25 years, so within a couple of years, the economics will tilt even more in solar’s favor, especially since solar power costs have been dropping 4 percent per year over the last 15 years and are expected to continue to drop.