Monday, August 13, 2012

Solar farm fails to attract buyers in St. George

Myron Porter is proud to show off his three-bedroom home. He does what he can to save electricity. And he happily bought into his city's ambitious solar energy farm, built three years ago at a cost of $1 million. 

But Porter's decision to spend a sizable amount of money to support the city's solar energy project makes him a striking exception in St. George. Most residents have chosen not to participate in the solar farm, providing a snapshot into the collision between energy and pollution solutions, and a user's willingness to pay more for cleaner energy.

The reticence of St. George residents stems from the probability that buyers won't ever recover their initial investment through lower utility bills — unless other sources of electricity get far more expensive.

The unsold solar panels still generate electricity for the region's utility grid, so the city doesn't consider it a waste of money.

Porter believes he's doing his part to get a clean energy source off the ground, even if it's not cost-effective today. "With any new industry, it's never practical, because they have to buck the established systems," he said.

The price for solar photovoltaic — installed solar PV, — has decreased in the past year about 50 percent, according to Baldwin. "That's a precipitous decline that obviously translates to better economics for everybody. That trend we expect to continue."

 "As more people go solar, the price per installed kilowatt will continue to decrease and be more cost effective."

Sara Baldwin, senior policy and regulatory associate at Utah Clean Energy, said there will be a point the the future when solar energy is competitive with utility grid prices.  That price point is what ultimately may attract users to cleaner energy. Deseret News