PV Home Solar Panels — Are They Worth It?

As technology advances in the realms of alternative energy generation, we can see a gradual shifting in the perspective of consumers as well. It’s pretty safe to say that up until very recently, the return on the cost of solar panels was almost certainly going to be minus. Solar panels were just too expensive to purchase, install, and maintain, that it was a gamble as to whether you would even break even in 20 or 25 years of use.

However, starting on July 1st of 2012, the Japanese government implemented a new feed-in tariff (FiT) system that guaranteed a fixed price on solar generated power for a fixed period of time. This tariff drops in price annually to reflect the advances in solar PV technology and the associated costs. The tariff varies slightly depending on the system output, as does the number of guaranteed insured years (see link above).

Solar Rich House

I was recently introduced to a company called Yamato Juuken (ヤマト住建), that deals in custom homes — among others — built and paid for by their solar panels. Their slogan — “Zero yen homes”. An example simulation would be this:

– Land = 3.8 million yen
– House construction plus solar panel installation = 15.1 million yen

equals 18.9 million yen. This would be a relatively simple house, 25 tsubos (83m2), single bathroom, etc, but custom-built nonetheless, and best of all, brand spankin’ new. A simulated loan scenario with a 35 year payment period with a 1% interest rate gives us a monthly loan payment of 53,351 yen.

The solar panel system they use in this scenario generates 1,542 kWh of electricity per month, equaling an FiT of 53,415 yen. Granted, this would have to be a fairly large solar array with a nameplate capacity of about 14 to 20 kWs, as the above figure is averaged throughout the entire year. They also specify roof angle, shape, and direction, as well as the absence of any surrounding objects that would cast shade on the solar panels.

Solar Rich House 2

If their various conditions are met, then as they say, numbers don’t lie. 53,415>53,351. As long as the sun keeps shining, you will be looking at a house that will be bought and paid for by the sweet fruit of science and Mother Nature. — Well, and the schmucks that don’t install renewable energy systems. Basically, the government passes the bill to the energy companies, and they in turn pass it on to their customers.

For those who are interested I’ll list some links for additional reading that might fill in some of the blanks:

Who Pays the FiTs?
Japan’s Feed-in Tariff Scheme and Its Grid Connection Issues, in Comparison with Germany’s
5 Reasons Solar is Beating Fossil Fuels
Solar Power Vs. Fossil Fuels

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