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Solar Case Study – Tim Edmonson

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Written by
Published on 11/04/2014
Updated 11/05/2014


Tim Edmonson knew that rocking solar panels on his roof would be a perfect combination with his electric car, so when they built his house in 2014, he asked them to make it solar ready. No matter what calculations you’d like to use (and Tim knows several different ways to tally the investment return), he’s happy with how much he stands to save using solar power.

As part of our conversation with anyone taking part in our solar power stories, we regularly ask if there have been any issues. One of our favorite replies came from Tim, who said, enthusiastically, “It’s doing awesome.” Granted, his array is only a few months old, but it came as no surprise to us that someone who drives an electric car felt so strongly about getting to reduce his dependence on fossil fuels.

“If you look at it from the environmental perspective, I’d rather be using clean energy that’s produced locally rather than supporting coal or natural gas,” he told us. You can’t get much more local than drawing power from your roof!

There was no doubt for Tim that once he moved from Minnesota, where going solar requires a much larger array (and therefore higher costs) he wanted to have solar panels on his roof. In the process of going solar, Tim’s main obstacle was that he could not bundle the costs into his mortgage and had to finance it separately. Part of this was due to the fact that his builder was not set up to include panels on the initial installation–only to provide prep work for later panels. We asked Tim why he thought they lacked this option, and, unsurprisingly, he told us it was lack of interest. With Colorado not having any state subsidies, and with local credits/rebates scarce (if they exist at all), there are far less people going solar than in a state such as California, with aggressive rebate programs.

When looking at Tim’s situation, the electric car definitely plays a factor in things. (Even his choice of installer, whom he selected after requesting information from a Colorado-based solar website, was partially influenced by the installer’s understanding of how an electric car factored into his plans.) While it offers an alternative to using gasoline, there’s still a cost involved. Having solar power allows Tim to reduce his transportation costs. “When we have it plugged in, between ten am and three pm, it’s almost one hundred percent solar going into it.”

Tim described having a solar power array and an electric car as a “perfect combination,” and based on his multiple perspectives on breaking even and reaching “free energy” as he termed it, it’s hard to argue the point. Here’s are the breakdowns Tim provided us as part of our conversation. All of these are based on his cost after factoring in the Federal tax credit.

1) Today’s electric rate is about 13 cents per KWh, assuming no increase in rates – about 10 years.

2) Assuming rates increase moderately each year or every few, about 7 to 8 years.

3) I drive a 100% electric car (Nissan Leaf) about 1000 miles a month, this uses about 250 KWh to drive 1000 miles and saves us from using about $135 of gas a month – making the savings come faster, 72 months of driving an electric car on sunshine power saves us $9700 – our other car gets 26 MPG on a good day if lucky, at $3.50 a gallon that 72,000 miles would cost us $9700. The rest of our home and appliances use around 900 KWh a month, at today’s rates for 72 months is about $8500, so about 6.5 years between the car and the house to “break even” before I live and drive completely free for the rest of my life!

4) By just using the car calculation assuming 26 MPG at $3.50 a gallon, driving my electric car 143,000 miles saves me the entire purchase price of the panels and then I drive my electric car and future electric cars all using FREE “fuel” there-after, emissions free!

We include them at length here because it shows how determining when installing solar panels turns a profit can change when other parts of the equation are factored in. Even those without an electric car may do well to look at energy cost trends to see how that changes the repayment length, as outlined by Tim in example 2. For the record, he told us that he leans towards example 3 when factoring his own repayment. “Overall, I estimate the break-even from savings point around 7 years, and consider it one of my best investment decisions, especially when accompanied by the electric ‘sunshine powered’ car.” While it may not be putting money in the bank to grow interest, at the break-even point, Tim will gain close to $300 a month to his budget by around 2021.

Tim clearly took a ton of time to look at this from every angle. But for him, the best reason had nothing to do with economics, but instead trying to leave the planet in better shape than when he found it. “Reduction in pollution and eliminating the need for gas and oil based wars is priceless, supporting the U.S. Economy by purchasing panels made in the U.S.A., and making the world a better place for my kids is priceless – therefore break-even point is IMMEDIATE! This is a purchase I should have made years ago!” The excitement and enthusiasm for going solar is clear, and with a few more houses going up in Tim’s community at the time we spoke, it seems his positive outlook is catching.

Last modified: November 5, 2014

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