Solarize Anchorage is about to enter its second summer. Basically, this program facilitates a match up between a solar installer and a neighborhood to get a bunch of solar on neighborhood roofs in one season, generally with price incentives for high participation. Last year it was wildly successful in the Airport Heights neighborhood of Anchorage, this year it will be implemented in 4 Anchorage neighborhoods, including my stomping grounds of Spenard! How exciting! Here I need to make a full disclosure before I continue. I recently started working for Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP), which along with the Alaska Center is shepherding the program forward. I have helped with some tech support to the neighborhoods who are currently choosing which installer to work with on the program. What follows is all from my own point of view of how I would best take advantage of this or a similar program and doesn’t reflect ACEP positions or, indeed, what might be best for you!
So, first of all, as a 4-plex, the Ecoplex is officially a commercial building, code-wise, since it is not a duplex or single family home, so my installation rates will probably be a bit higher (the municipality will require an engineering stamp for code approval, for instance). The Solarize program is aimed at residential, but installers have the final say on who can participate, and I have verbal assurance that I can. Not having posted here in 2 years, my big news is that I have another possibility for a home to participate in the program: I moved in with my partner this year, a mile south of the Ecoplex. I am a bit sad to not live on site for now, but family and friends (and my fruit trees) live there so I visit nearly every day, and there is a good chance we’ll end up living back at the ‘plex someday. So, while the roofs of what I will call the Newcastle House are not as well situated and shade free (and need a good re-shingling first), there might be a second option for the program this year!
But back to the known quantity of the roof of the Ecoplex – does it make economic sense to go solar this year? One push is that a 30% federal tax credit will start to phase out after 2019. For the last few years I have had to keep a somewhat large savings account since I had very high deductible marketplace health plans for my son and I, and needed that security. Now that I have a much lower deductible employer health plan, I’ve got a bit of money I could spend. I can probably handle the $10,000+ outlay for professionally installed grid-tie solar, as long as there aren’t any surprises in my life or installation costs. The other big things I would consider spending my money on this summer would be paying down my property loan or getting a high efficiency boiler to replace my 82%-ish efficient cast iron one. Maybe I’ll reproduce the math in another, nerdier post, but a quick back of the envelope gave me a barely over zero internal rate of return for the boiler replacement (given that my current boiler aint broke). The ‘plex has a sub-4% interest rate, and some of that is tax deductible as an expense on the rental property. Surprisingly, putting up solar, correctly sized and with the 30% tax credit, came out to a 6% rate of return! The best deal of those I’m considering.
In my next post, I am going to talk about how I would size my own roof solar photovoltaic system, and my assumptions behind the rate of return.