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While adding PV panels is a noble endeavor, it is unlikely to produce more than about one third of your annual electrical requirements. Less than that, if you have air conditioning, even in a newly built, energy efficient home. The financial savings, though, will continue to climb over time, as more dams and coal power are elliminated, and the cost of generation climbs steeply. The payback time will shorten, and the lifecycle of the panels will net a return toward the rest of the power you use.
There are options available to go solar and be completely independent of you local utility provider. However, this type of set-up (solar+storage) is much more costly than the traditional "grid-tied" system mentioned by Mr. Cook. There are significant developments in the works for the energy storage industry and speculation suggests that batteries will become more reasonably priced in the next 3-5 years or so.
Until then, many folks are opting to install a grid-tied solar panel system, which can often offset 100% of your utility bill (minus a nominal monthly interconnection fee of $5 or so). In some cases, fully offsetting your electric bill isn't possible because of shading or roof complexity. When battery storage becomes more affordable, you can add storage and truly become energy independent!
Here's the scoop:
It all depends on your usage and how much room you have for panels, but we routinely knock out 100% of our clients' electricity bills.
However, the system will almost certainly be what we call "grid-tied", meaning that you will still be connected to your utility. This is important as solar tends not to work so well at night. So what will happen is you will produce more during the day than you need, pouring the extra power back into your utility and running up a credit, essentially using the utility like a "power bank". You then pull power from the "bank" at night. Note that this may happen on a daily level, or over the year, with your system producing a net surplus some months, and using that surplus in months where production is less.
The upshot is that, while your net consumption of power from your utility over the year may be zero (or close to zero), you will still "need...power from your local power company" in order to compensate for variances in solar production.
In addition, different financing methods may work best with different production goals, due to the way your utility prices the power you use, i.e. in a tier structure, versus how your solar is financed. This is a bit more complicated, but I'd be happy to walk you through it if you want to give me a call - John Cook, (888) 603-4255.
I hope that wasn't too technical or convoluted, but I wanted to make sure you had the facts. Good luck!
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