Now, imagine this happening in an emerging industry. Solar technology is not new, having been used for over 60 years. But it is new and exotic to most people that have never even seen a solar module in person. Most people think that solar can not supply their energy needs unless they spend $20,000 and up. The kicker is that if you use a heat pump, electric cooking stove and clothes dryer, and waste at least 20% of what you use, like most people, you will spend $100,000 easily. Promotion of wild optimism is everywhere.
A prime example of this is a recent story in our local newspaper about a home building project in the next county, financed with grant money from HUD (housing & urban development). This home will have an over 2.5 kilowatt solar array and a solar water heating system. All of this is great, don't get me wrong. The problems began early.
Apparently, the contractors bidding on the project were responsible for the design of the solar systems. Solar systems are not framing, plumbing, or even conventional electrical systems. They are highly specialized and require unique knowledge. With no precise specifications, how did the contractors know what they were bidding on? And how did the agency in charge know if the bid included all of the pertinent equipment and techniques?
The misinformation concerns the local utility. Their representative stated that the home would include a standard electrical use meter, and a generation meter. The generation would be credited every month, and at the end of the year if generation exceeded use, a check would be issued. All of this is true. What the rep failed to mention is that the utility reads both meters monthly, charges you for the total, then reimburses you for the generation. This action removes any hedge against future rate increases!
The news article spoke of the percentage of utility costs the solar system would offset, somewhere in the 80% range. These numbers, in my opinion, were heavily optimistic. After the family moves in, the solar system will help with utility costs, but I don't believe the offset will approach even 50%. I will be pleasantly surprised to learn otherwise.
The first thing the solar industry needs is reliable, true, and accurate information. Charlatans and fly-by-nights will set the entire industry back at a time when we desperately need an alternative, SUSTAINABLE energy source. What we do NOT need is a sounds good, pretty window dressing, will do everything but make love to you, project that will encourage unrealistic expectations, but creates a lot of "buzz" because it includes "SOLAR".