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Solar Case Study – Stefan Lanker

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

Stefan Lanker was just waiting for the price to be right to go solar, which he thinks is “fantastic” tech. Despite living in a city that’s perceived as being cloudy all the time, Stefan not only installed one set of solar panels on his home, he went back for more, adding additional panels in 2014.

When you are at Thanksgiving dinner with your family, the best compliment you can give your grandmother (or aunt or mother-in-law) is to go back for seconds. Stefan Lanker was so happy with his first solar power array that he contracted for a second set of panels, utilizing roof space that was initially thought to be unsuitable for solar, but has a solar capture rate nearly identical to his first installation.

Stefan originally went solar back in January of 2010, after watching the price for solar slowly go down. While he notes that solar is good for the environment, Stefan also felt that installing the panels had to be cost effective and provide a return on his investment. After factoring in the federal tax credit, an Oregon Energy Trust credit, and an Oregon tax credit (which staggers over four years), combined with the reduced cost, he realized it was time to go for his first solar install. He estimates it will be paid off in six years, giving him about two more years before the 2010 set-up is net positive.

For the first unit, Stefan used GreenStump, a local company that he selected after researching a few others in the area. “They had the best bid, so we selected them.” The installer suggested they put their panels on the southwest portion of their roof, noting that the southeastern section would not generate enough power to qualify for the Oregon tax credits.

There was only one problem: The nature of Stefan’s roof.

Oregon, like other states, has a list of requirements in order to get their tax credits. One of those is the type of shingles on the roof. Stefan’s house had wooden shingles, which were aging. They had about another five years left, per his estimation, but in order to go solar right away they had to switch to asphalt shingles. “It changed the look of our home a bit,” said Stefan, but notes that the fantastic nature of the tech and the ability to generate solar energy make up for the difference.

But the story of the roof isn’t done quite yet. We asked Stefan about why he got more panels, and the answer is one that will appeal to bargain hunters everywhere: They were on sale.

The online coupon site Groupon had an offer on solar panels from installer Solar City, along with a free evaluation. Stefan had another section of his roof, the southeast, and despite what the first installer had said, other neighbors whose roofs were at a similar angle to his had solar power. “Why not check it out?”

After meeting with Solar City and getting their opinion and costs, Stefan was able to add panels to his southwest side as well. They capture nearly as well as his first set (.8 on the southwest, .78 on the southeast) and should begin showing a net savings for Stefan in only four years. Unlike the first set of panels, which Stefan purchased outright, the ones from Solar City are on a prepaid lease. This means that Solar City is responsible for maintenance and repair, while Stefan is able to use the power generated without incurring any further costs.

Not surprisingly, in progressive Portland, Oregon, Stefan’s neighbors are now asking him about his installation and the process of going solar, which he describes as “fantastic.” All he does now, besides pay less to PGE, his local power company, is rinse the panels periodically to keep them clean from grime. For Stefan, going solar was worth a second helping, and when the cost savings kick in, there’ll be plenty of money to pay for dessert.

Last modified: November 5, 2014

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