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Solar Case Study – Jessica Morgan

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Written by
Published on 12/15/2014
Updated 12/21/2014

Jessica Morgan likes to be independent, and avoids going into debt whenever possible. Converting to solar power, a move which allowed her control over her energy costs, made sense for her once she was financially able to do so. Jessica’s monthly savings aren’t currently as high as they were projected to be at the time of her installation, but overall she’s very happy with her choice.

When Jessica installed solar power on her home in 2009, which is pretty early compared to most of the people we’ve spoken with, she was a solar educator. Going solar herself was a pretty easy choice. “I was confident in my decision, even if some of the promised state incentives didn’t go through.” She saved up and looked at it as an investment in her home, and a move to a cleaner energy source. Not content to merely use solar electricity, she also has a thermal system for her hot water.

It turned out that the savings were necessary, because in its zeal to offer significant incentives to those going solar back at the end of the aughts, the state of Florida failed to budget properly (and now they offer exactly bupkis) Instead of giving those who purchased solar panels an (admittedly amazing) $4 per watt, they were only able to provide $2 per watt.

That left Jessica with a rebate of only $4200 instead of the expected $8400. She was still able to take the full federal tax credit, however. “I knew it was a risk, so I don’t regret it.” In terms of the money, Jessica figures she will break even after about ten years. The combination of Florida slashing the rebate and energy costs that did not rise as quickly as projected combined to extend the time period from her original guess of seven years.

That’s delayed the return on her investment, but she still feels confident about her decision. “I took the risk, because any investment can lose.” Jessica won’t lose per se, but it will take longer for her array to be profitable.

Jessica’s situation in terms of her installer was quite different from others that we’ve spoken to. She was actually working for MGI, the company that handled her installation. Unfortunately, they did not offer her an employee discount. The installer is no longer in business, showing that the solar business is still very much in flux.

After five years, Jessica hasn’t had any issues with her solar array. “There are no problems so far, no roof leaks, everything works fine. I have SolarWorld Modules, so they are well-made and producing well.” She is the only one in her neighborhood who has gone solar so far, and Jessica believes that expense is a major factor. “Nobody wants to spend that kind of money, understandably. I realize costs have come way down, but in this economy, I think there is little incentive for people to go solar unless they are like I was and simply are in a good financial position and have money to play with.”

That may be true in Florida, where financial incentives to go solar are further in the future, but zero-down solar is a reality in about half the United States. In fact, there are many different kinds of solar financing options to look at.

And if you can make it work, you don’t have to have a fancy house or live in an upscale community. Jessica’s final words show that anyone can have solar power, if they’re able to afford it: “I live in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood that is nothing fancy. I’m not living an affluent lifestyle. I’m just fond of wise financial decisions and living simply.” Solar power worked for Jessica. Perhaps it can work for you, too.

Last modified: December 21, 2014

3 thoughts on “Solar Case Study – Jessica Morgan

  1. Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

    Can a condo association install solar on their buildings?

    1. Avatar for Ben Zientara Ben Zientara says:

      They can, though it might not be clear who gets the tax credits and other benefits. I’ll look into it and get back to you.

    2. Avatar for Ben Zientara Ben Zientara says:

      Here’s what I’ve been able to find, from a 2009 Solar Energy Industry of America (SEIA) guidebook:

      2.2.2 Condominiums
      Owners of condominiums contribute to the upkeep of the condominiums by paying money to a condominium
      management association. Where such a management association spends money on installing qualified solar
      property, each member of the association can claim the residential solar tax credits on his or her share of that
      spending. However, the association must qualify as a “homeowners’ association” under section 528(c)(1) of
      the tax code, and “substantially all” of the units in the condominium project must be used as residences.

      Your best bet is probably to speak with an installer and a tax professional to get the ball rolling.

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