Op Ed: What If U.S. Gas Remained $2/gal For 25 Years?

2 years ago by Mark Hovis 65

2017 Chevrolet Bolt At NAIAS: Image Credit - InsideEVs / Tom Moloughney

2017 Chevrolet Bolt At NAIAS: Image Credit – InsideEVs / Tom Moloughney

Average installed solar costs

Average installed solar costs

The average 2 vehicle US household could easily spend $40,000 more over 25 years by continuing to fuel with $2/gallon gasoline opposed to switching to EVs powered by a photovoltaic (PV) solar array.

This article will address the following issues.

  • Though the variables vary greatly, $2/gal gas remains the more expensive source of energy.
  • The switch to PV can be made even for a mobile society.

Range and cost are the top reasons given today for postponing the purchase of an EV, and the $2/gallon gas argument is given as conclusive evidence that it is not fiscally responsible. While in a handful of states this can be true when buying electricity from utilities, it will rarely be the case when the consumer makes their own solar connection.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) combined with an electric vehicle (EV) is a winning combination both environmentally as well as economically. While the idea of going solar is intriguing, the vast majority dismiss the notion due to their lack of available roof, real estate, or personal mobility.

BMW Brought Some Sweet "Loaner" Cars To PGA Tour Professionals To Use At Their Flagship Event In September (via J Phillips)

BMW Brought Some Sweet “Loaner” Cars To PGA Tour Professionals To Use At Their Flagship Event In September (via J Phillips)

Peder Norby, recently made the fiscal case here on InsideEVs.  He built his model around $3.5 per gallon gasoline with a 3.5% annual increase in cost. Though Peder’s estimate for picking an average value for gasoline over the next 25 years seems reasonable, there are some who would still point to the weather of the current price per gallon rate as a reason to wait, opposed to the long term climate of cost. Peder made a detailed case for sizing the solar array of which will be followed in the following example.

So what if the effective price of gas remained $2/gal for 25 years? There are a number of variables to be considered, and they vary by region, person, and a host of others.  I will attempt not to cheery pick either the best or worst case scenarios, but rather make a single case built around US national averages. The reader can make their own adjustments accordingly for their situation.

Here are my parameters:

  • The mean number of vehicles per US household is 1.8, so I have selected 2 autos per household. here
  • The annual miles driven are set to the national average of 13,476 miles per vehicle. here
  • The average miles per gallon (MPG) is currently 24.1 . This number also includes SUVs and trucks, so I have chosen to increase the MPG to that of most compacts, coups, and sedans at 32 MPG. This number can be raised or lowered. The primary reason for setting this in my example is to match the available EV market and to tighten the size of the solar array for this example.
  • The size of the solar array will vary based on available location, regional climate, and energy required to power the size of your vehicle as mentioned above. PVWATTS  calculator is one resource to help calculate your specific requirements. By focusing on compacts and midsize sedans, I have set the average array size for two vehicles to 5 kW array.
  • The average cost for solar is set to $3.5 per watt. here
  • 25 years is the normal warranty life of the solar array. This becomes the time baseline.
  • An annual growth rate is set to 3.0%


13,476 miles / 32 MPG * $2 per gallon * 2 vehicles  = $1,685 annual household cost. At 3.0% annual increase over 25 years = $61,416

A 5 kW solar array * $3.5 per watt = $17,500 less 30% federal incentive that extends through 2020 = $12,250. Additional funds are required based on the interest and terms of the loan.  A 60 month loan at 6.5% could add $2,131 for a total of $14,381.

$61,416 for gas vs $14,381 for a 5kW solar array leaves a $47,038 delta in the given example.

There are other variables to consider that both add or subtract, though $2 gas never converges as the cheaper energy source.

The EV-PV connection is not only environmentally sound, it is fiscally responsible. So how low would gas have to go to equal the EV-PV duo?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty cent/gal …. for 25 years….

50 Cents Per Gallon?

50 Cents Per Gallon?

Some DIY adopters like myself have cut this number in half by doing the labor and filings themselves reducing the cost  to roughly $2/watt here.  For those like myself who installed their own system, it now forces gasoline to nearly 25 cents/gal…. for 25 years….. Though few are capable of taking this frugal option, I think it is worth mentioning, for there is no equal option with gasoline, natural gas, or hydrogen.

At this point, someone will want to point at the tax credits supporting the system. I want to take on that argument in this article other than to say I call their renewable tax credit subsidy and see them our medical subsidy for death and lung disease caused by the particulate matter of burning fossil fuel. Most get lost in the CO2 warming our climate, that they totally disregard the cost of particulate matter. Not to mention the trillions of dollars spent in foreign occupations. So as for subsidies? You don’t want to go there.

Back to $2/gal. If you are anywhere near the national averages, you will spend on average $47,000 extra which could go toward paying a premium for the EVs purchased over the 25 year period. You may choose to lease your first or second EV as prices drop. You may choose to enter the EV waters slowly by purchasing a used Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt. If that route is of interest, you will find some of the best notes right here from InsideEVs contributor David Murray.

That covers the EV. So what is holding up some EV drivers from making the PV switch to solar as their energy source?

While upfront cost and length of return on investment have stymied solar growth, so have the following. Over half of the population does not have a roof of their own, and of those that do, half of those have trees or other sunlight blockers, or simply have the wrong orientation.  To add to that, we live in a mobile society that simply can’t or want commit to a 25 year solution. Here are some real solutions to those problems.

community solar

Community Solar :

In the U.S., there are three primary models: owning your solar array, leasing the solar panels, or subscribing to the solar energy output. Each arrangement offers different advantages, from convenience to long-term payback. here

Community solar is an option for those who do not have the roof or real estate of their own to construct a solar array.

Owning Community Solar panels: For those who can afford the upfront cost, and are in a position to transfer ownership of the panels if they move, this is the most lucrative option for those without a roof.

Leasing Community Solar Panels: Requires less upfront money, but will allow you to enjoy the offset of renewable energy. The downside, being that your energy is limited to the length of the lease, not the life of the panels. You also have the problem of transferring the lease if one moves.

Subscribing to Clean Energy: Not to be confused with power purchasing , where the customer pays a premium for renewable generated energy. This subscription model offers immediate savings with no upfront fees to join, and also allowing customers to leave on short notice without penality. While these plans are less financially rewarding, they are gaining popularity with millennials and the rest of our ever mobile society. The benefits of the subscription model are always subject to change, but with no exit penalties, there is little risk.

Check with both your utility and congressman to find out where your state stands on this rapidly growing option that is being offered by both utility companies and third party suppliers.

You Can’t Take it With You

In our mobility society, most feel there is no way to own their own solar array. While a solar subscription offers one strong solution, there is still a road map for owning your own panels, and it is the EV-PV combination use of solar as the offset to transportation energy that holds the key. For millennials and others who are on the move, here is one such tool for marketing your solar panels when you move.

Once again, there are many variables involved, but PVValue is a great resource to place a fair value of your system for the future home owner.  If your annual usage matches the tables of PVValue, it will be a reasonable tool.  Most of all, it is a fundamental business tactic to negotiate with tangibles, like a solar array in this case, opposed to simply shaving a few percentage points off the sale of your home.

solar carport

What if you move after only a few years of usage? By using tools to place a future value on your array, you can minimize your risk to a few thousand dollars.  In the EV-PV combination, you have also reduced your fuel cost by a thousand dollars or more annually per EV, as well as enjoying many true zero emission miles.

All parameters have not been discussed here. You can argue factors that add and subtract cost to the EV-PV combination, but the final result is always superior to driving an ICE on $2/gal gas for 25 years. You may pay more for your first EV, though most have chosen to lease during the introduction of the now 27 available models. Some have chosen from the emerging used EV market with available models now in the mid $teens.

If you insist on buying  vs lease, with the $47,000 saved over the life of your array, there is quite some margin to pay more for your first EVs. Move a decade down the road, and it is almost certain that the margin between EVs and the ICE narrows.

A note on job creation

Currently a third of US electricity comes from coal, a third from natural gas, and less than one percent from solar. Yet in 2014, US solar jobs passed coal jobs 2-to-1. In 2015, solar jobs surpassed oil. This largely happened due to the volatility in the US oil market, but it happened all the same. Congress has passed legislation extending the  30% federal energy credits through 2020. With this legislation, studies show that solar power should reach 5% of the US energy mix through 2020. The impact on job creation for all countries adopting solar is staggering. The 5% increase is noteworthy to the EV community, for more and more drivers are making the EV-PV connection. These two industries fuel each other.

From the rise of hydraulic fracturing, to the slow increase of EVs and PV power, to a plethora of other factors, the oil industry struggles as the US consumer enjoys $2/gal gas and less. Still, the idea that $2/gal gas is cheaper than driving electric just doesn’t hold up. Pick the renewable option that best fits your lifestyle, and  start the savings both environmentally and financially while enjoying zero emission miles. Here are two strong closing statements.

Today, $2/gal gas is not the cheaper solution, and, it’s unlikely that gasoline will remain $2/gal for 25 years ……

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65 responses to "Op Ed: What If U.S. Gas Remained $2/gal For 25 Years?"

  1. TAP says:

    The showstopper here is up-front cost. Buying an EV costs more up front, and the insurance costs are higher, than an equivalent sized ICE vehicle. Financing a PV array also has up front costs (down payments, fees, etc.).

    Gas may be more expensive over the long haul, but it is convenient, and the cost is more back-loaded.

    1. Ken says:

      I disagree. My 2015 Leaf was $17698 out the door after $7500 credit. No sales tax in NJ. And my insurance on it is cheaper because it is electric. I also received 0% for 72 months. Much cheaper than a gas car. Maybe your logic is right for a Tesla because they are so much more.

    2. BraveLilToaster says:

      I definitely agree. Not everyone has a huge tax break that lets them get an EV for a lot less than the sticker price. Here in Canada, there’s only 3 provinces that offer incentives at all, and while that represents a significant majority of Canadians, it doesn’t necessarily help a lot either.

      We got a whopping $13000 off our Leaf, but that was because we were able to take advantage of both the tax credit and we leased the car when Nissan was trying to get rid of their 2012 stock to sell their new-and-improved 2013s. Not only is this not for everyone, but it’s hardly sustainable for Nissan either.

      Unless they were to suddenly come up with an EV that only cost $25k to begin with. Currently, the base model Leaf goes for $32k in Canada, so that would mean a starting price that’s at least $7,000 less than what it is now.

      Until that time, people shopping for a car will look at that sticker price and say “No thanks, $10,000 buys a lot of gas”.

    3. jerryd says:

      lots of nice EV’s off lease for $10k-14k TAP so anyone that can afford a decent car can afford an EV.
      If the EV is where the solar is you can charge directly from the panels to the DC Fast charging port, cutting various
      PV string inverters work on the same voltages as EV’s, about 350vdc.
      On solar prices are much lower now like sunelec, others of similar prices a 7kw system is around $1.20/wt for parts grid tied and less offgrid.
      EV’s in the future will be part of the home, even office grid that 200 mile range EV’s for most can use the top 100 miles worth other things than transport.
      I build custom EV’s and my next one will be designed to work both ways at home, powering the EV or home as needed offgrid, charged by solar.

      1. McKemie says:

        Can you point to any available hardware that supports DC charging a car from PV?

        1. jerryd says:

          You’d need to get the cord to match your car outlet and the handshake circuit or just wire it straight to the battery pack terminals with your choice of plugs.
          About the only thing need is a voltage limit to keep the battery from overcharging and disconnect it.
          Other than the amperage no different than a DC/fast charger.

  2. David Murray says:

    People still buy inkjet printers due to their lower cost than laser printers despite the fact they’ll spend more in the long run. People often care more about today than tomorrow.

    1. It’s a matter of education. Show most people how to be financially secure and they’ll readily take the steps necessary, especially if they’re just shifting payments from one account to another.

      Unfortunately, they don’t usually teach that in high school.

  3. Lindsay Patten says:

    Some mention of the issue of solar generation hours vs hours of the day when the car is parked at home could have preempted a large discussion in the comments…

    1. jerryd says:

      Lindsay, since most solar is grid tied it makes little difference, even makes a great profit from the utility that gets expensive peak power but pays back with cheap offpeak power.
      Or just have the panels at work. Parking in their shade is nice in the south too.
      Just being DC direct to the battery through the DC fast charge port means the only cost is panels and charge cord. It could be installed for $1/wt and only 2kw needed for 40 miles/day.
      And you could take it with you to the next job or home.

  4. Omar Sultan says:

    I am not sure about insurance costs–going from my Infiniti to my Model S was an extra $30/mo.

    1. RexxSee says:

      In Québec we have a 15-20% insurance rebate with a green car.

  5. Omar Sultan says:

    I think it’s safe to say the cost of PV will go down over time and the cost of gas will go up over that same period of time, but the buying public has amnesia, so every time the price of gas drops, people run out and buy monster SUVs, then, when the price of gas goes up, those same folks get interviewed on the local news complaining that it costs $100 to fill their tank. Car buying is an emotional process, so reasoned arguments like this are only going to work on a small portion of the buying public. At the end of the day, EVs need to be desirable and the price of gasoline unaffordable.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      I believe Mark is talking installed. The bulk of the cost is in the “getting it done” stage, (=

      1. Brian says:

        Indeed. It’s the fact that most of the cost is labor that drives the whole job creation; we need local people to install and maintain these systems.

      2. Alaa says:

        It sounds much to install something for 10 times the price of the thing itself!
        Besides if you just put these solar panels flat on the ground any where in the world they will work. Not the most efficient way but still they will produce power.
        At any rate there is no comparison between solar and oil in the world of EV. 1 kWh of solar here in Egypt will give you 3000 kWh per year. Multiply that by 25 years and you will get more electricity to drive your electric car for 25 years! And the cost is $3500 according to your calculation and $350 according to mine. So in either case,it is a no brainier as they say in the USA.

      3. Seth says:

        Still, even then the 3,5$ is way too much. You can buy a complete installation for DIY installation between 1 and 1.20 euro per Watt (Panels, mounting, inverter), or fully installed for about 1,5-1,8 euro per watt.

        The US is definitely getting shafted here, probably because of the nice incentives.

  6. Orygun EV driver says:

    I like the numbers, but how many people stay in the same house for 25 years?
    Until the bubble collapse, the average was 6 years. In 2011 it increased to 9, but the numbers are sure to be falling again.
    Re-investing in solar every 8 years changes the numbers significantly.

    1. dRanger says:

      “Reinvesting in solar every 8 years changes the numbers significantly”. That depends entirely on how much the solar array adds to the value of the house. Ironically, here in Northern California the resale value of the PV can be more than you paid, as it is appraised at the original cost without the 30% Federal rebate subtracted. The array could depreciate 30% and you would still break even on the initial investment. As an aside, State law forbids adding the value of the array to your property taxes.

    2. Stephen says:

      Use the extra value the PV system added to your old house to pay for the install of a new system on your new house. Once installed it as integral to the house as bedroom addition.

    3. jerryd says:

      You could make the solar mobile by putting it on a boat like trailer as the mounting. Even use the axle to make a 1 axis tracking system.
      Or as a carport, shed, patio you take with you though likely will increase your home value more than it is worth, make your home sell faster if you leave it.
      Or if you rent.

  7. SparkEV says:

    The assumption made is that utilities will allow people to pay less. With changes to net metering even at today’s level, I doubt the cost projection will hold up other than those grandfathered in. Unfortunately, it’ll be playing dice in the future if PV / EV become popular. I also wonder if they’ll leave you alone if you try to get off grid.

    Well, I guess that’s one reason to get on ASAP before they change the rules again.

  8. Foo says:

    Damn yo, everybody know it’s “Fiddy Cent per gallon”.

  9. Someone out there says:

    There is a significant flaw in the scenario though, it assumes that your car is at home all day charging from the solar array which is not very likely. On workdays you take your car to work in the morning and get home late in the day, on weekends you often go somewhere. And you can’t charge your car at night for obvious reasons.

    In other words, you need one of two solutions: either a pretty large home battery (which will increase your calculation quite a lot for the EV case) or you have to connect your array to the electricity grid with all the overhead costs that will incur, if you are allowed to do that at all.

    1. Brian says:

      That or net metering like many of us have. The focus of this article is on cost, not on which electrons are used to propel the vehicle.

      1. Someone out there says:

        Yes net metering is my second alternative but that is not without overhead costs. These costs need to be added to the calculus.

    2. ffbj says:

      Just stay out there, where ever somewhere out there is. Apparently pretty close to left field.

      1. Someone out there says:

        Uh, what? How is that a reply to what I wrote?

        1. Brian got it right. Net metering is the solution. Not available everywhere (I’m lookin at you, Nevada!)

          But if it isn’t available – organize and agitate!

          California didn’t happen by accident.

          1. Someone out there says:

            Yes I already answered that, net metering isn’t free. Or at least it won’t be forever as the grid network needs maintenance and somebody have to pay for that.

            1. jerryd says:

              Someone, they do pay it in the monthly fee.

  10. ffbj says:

    Gas at $2.00 for 25 years? Gas has never stayed anywhere for 25 years, though it could stay low for a time until the Saudi’s have had enough of low prices.

    1. Seth says:

      Not as much middle east as demand will be steered by regulations and taxes.

      Those will be what drives us away from the oil, not neccesarily the price of a barrel directly.

      We can clearly see where the emssions regulations are going and that it requires a significant change. In Europe the general pricing is more in the region of 5$ per gallon (1.30 euro/liter) of which most is taxes.

      I would not be at all surprised if at some point the petrol prices in the US will hike of a tax of some form or another. The infrastructure is rapidly painting itself into the corner without a budget.

      If higher mpg cars are required by law (which is not unthinkable) it would lower the consumption to such a degree over a 10 year period that there isn’t a valid alternative left for the government at some point.

      Taxes are never popular, but they are required to get people to make a choice that ends up being better for the vast majority of us. Cities and smog come to mind here.

      China gets it, although not quite the way how we do it, but they make some of the “hard” choices for the people.

      In the EU we’ve got this already through the sheer taxes over the years, so there’s that 🙂

      Change is hard m’kay 😉

  11. William says:

    My 24 kWh 2013 leaf battery will have a useable service life of 80k miles to accommodate my need for more than a 60 mile range capacity until replacement. In a total of 6-7 years of use, I will need to replace it at a cost of approximately $ 1,000./ Per year = $6,000. There currently is a large additional cost, due to degradation and wear, in storing electricity via a Li-ion battery in EVs. Those costs are rapidly dropping, thankfully faster than Photovoltaic rooftop installations.

    By 2020 when solar loses some or all of its subsidies from the Feds, Li-ion batteries will be hopefully under $100.00/kWh installed. That will help in recovering some of that up front cost of rooftop solar more quickly.

    1. hangtime10 says:

      At a minimum, if you’re factoring in the cost to replace the batteries, you should at least consider the costs associated with ICEs.
      I know the costs vary, but at least add regular maintenance over that period. I know my old impreza cost me over $600 for the type 4 service (every 60,000 miles or ~96,000 km)

    2. jerryd says:

      Or William buy a used one or have yours fixed just like they do for hybrids out of warranty.
      As EV’s come out of warranty they will be fixing them.
      Another thing is they will be cheaper from the OEM too as 24kwhrs will only cost them $2400 by the time you need a battery so more like a $4k price.
      But by then EV’s will have advanced so much rebattering a Leaf other than a repair isn’t likely to be worth it.
      If you don’t fast charge it in the heat, just charge to 95% most times and only just before you’ll use it, likely you’ll lose little capacity anyway.
      Don’t let it set at full charge. Run the heater, etc for a minute or 2 if you full charge and it is going to sit to knock down the voltage.

  12. Michael Will says:

    Who cares where gas goes, the real cost of an ICE, besides global warming that we don’t even know how to fix with money, are in maintenance, oil changes, smog checks and service appointments. And convenience wise its over for ICE also, because I can’t let those run in my garage to warm up in the winter because of the poisonous exhaust fumes, they shake and make noise, you have to stop at gas stations every so often because you can’t just charge them in the garage over night. Really the only reason to want an ICE car is when you have to go far in range and off the beaten track with chargers, like way in the mountains or something. it’s game over for gas cars. The only reason why I still drive one is because I have the shorter commute and so my wife takes the VW e-Golf all the time because it is just so much more fun and convenient to drive. The real issue of the land slide electric driving revolution is that we need to also build out solar power generation. Any house with a roof that is not shaded by trees should have one.

    1. ffbj says:

      Preaching to the choir, but hey, fine with me.
      My plan is and was all along to get solar, eventually. I am about 2/3 of the way there, to realize a solar dream house that I envisioned 2 decades ago.

  13. Darth says:

    According to Peder’s article, you should use a 6kW solar array (3kW per vehicle). Adds $3,500 to the cost.

  14. Peder says:

    Well done and I concur $0.50 cents a gallon equivalent is a good mark.

    I’m doing a large 400kw system for a client right now with a 6 year ppa at 16 cents per kwh. This compares favorably to the market of 25 cents per kwh.

    But here is where it gets really fun. My client (a government entity) will buy the system after year 6 when the PPA has used all the depreciation and fed tax credit.

    They will buy it at 55% of the original price and amortized over the next 19 years (total of 25 year life span) they will have a cost of energy of $0.05 per kwh.

    Compared to a fleet average of 24mpg, A BMW i3 would need 6 kwhs of electricity, in this case at $0.05 per kwh,

    $0.30 cents a gallon equivalent fixed for 19 years.

    1. ffbj says:

      I currently use around 300 kwh a month. I am not a daily driving say 100 miles a week. Would a 3kw system suffice for me? I have a solar contractor coming in so I want have an idea of what I really need. We have net-metering here too.

      1. jerryd says:

        ffbj, that would be 10kwhrs/day and US average is 5kwhr/day/kw of PV.
        100 miles/wk is say 30kwhrs or 4.5kwhr/day so 2kw for the home and 1kw for the EV should do it.
        check out sunelec, other sources and get 3 quotes and get the parts and labor
        Buying parts and having a local electrician to permit, install what you don’t want to can come in well under $2k/kw.

  15. sven says:

    The cost analysis is flawed as it leaves out some expenses for the solar system.

    The inverter would have to be replaced twice (inverter life = 10 years???) during the 25-year period.

    New roof shingles would have to installed either earlier than needed before the PV panels go up, or sometime during the 25 year period, which would require removing and re-installing the PV panels at an additional expense. Although the PV system will slowing down the aging/weathering of the shade covered shingles, the exposed shingles will age/weather faster and need to be replaced sooner. Depending on the age of the roof shingles, it might make financial sense to replace the roof earlier (before the PV system is installed), rather than having to remove the PV system to install a new roof during the 25-year period.

    Federal, state, and local gasoline tax is included in the price of gasoline. In the future EV owner will be paying these taxes one way or another. States that haven’t done so already will charge EV drivers a fixed fee during annual registration to recoup lost fuel taxes ala Georgia and Washington. The Federal government hasn’t yet tried to collect its lost fuel-tax revenue from EV drivers, but I fear its only a matter of time before the Federal government imposes a road-use fee on EV drivers.

    A 3% annual growth rate (cost of money) was counted for the annual cash outlays to purchase gasoline, but was not counted for the annual payments on the loan for the PV system totaling $14,381 with interest, and then 3% on 14,381 for years 11 to 25.

    The loan for the PV system would be $17,500, not $12,250, since the tax credit would be received later (up to 16.5 months), after taxes are filed on April 15. The reduction in tax due could be used to pay down the loan at that time.

    Monthly additonal solar-hookup fees and charges by utilities are not factored into the calculation.

    Net metering cannot be counted on to continue as is when more people get home solar panels, ala the elimination of net metering in Nevada with no grandfather clause. Some states have regulations that eliminate the requirement for net metering after a certain percentage of customers install PV solar systems.

    Also, using the same MPG rating over 25 years without an increase over time results in an overestimated gasoline cost. Using a 32 MPG for compacts, coupes, and sedans over the next 25 years, fails to factor in the significant increase fuel economy required under CAFE over the next 25 years. The MPG figure should increase over 25 years, and not stay at the 2016 MPG average for compacts, coupes, and sedans. If the car is leased then the MPG should be increased every 3 years, whereas if the car is purchased it should be changed as often as purchaser trades in the car for a new one.

    You probably should have also used the average MPG figure for hybrid compacts, coupes, and sedans, as the automobile manufacturers will be moving away from conventional ICE engines to hybrid drivetrains to meet tougher CAFE MPG requirements, and most eco-minded car buyers would choose a hybrid over a conventional ICE if for whatever reason they couldn’t/wouldn’t purchase an EV.

    1. sven says:

      Also, wouldn’t the home insurance premium increase to provide coverage of the solar PV panels.

      1. ffbj says:

        Well most home improvements will usually add to taxes and insurance, as it adds to the value of the home. The flip side is now the home is worth more. A few years from now a well equipped solar house could actually be a selling point, especially if the person owned an ev.

      2. M Hovis says:

        Hi sven
        Actually no. The four evils of solar are wind, lightning, hail,and theft. Most providers like Allstate for instance, covers all four with no premium to your policy.

        The ever popular Enphase inverters carry a 25 year warranty. Even the old style central inverters carry 15 years.

        As you surmised below, the 3% was for inflation.

        Roofing issues apply only to asphalt shingles and this is easily remedied by replacing the relatively small space under the panels if required.

        Most of the rest are speculation. This is an Op Ed, not an analysis. On average, there are no additional fees for solar generators, though there is little doubt that other states will go the way of Arizona, Nevada, and Florida before a correction happens. Though oil will be around for 100 years, we are in the beginning of the end of its dominance.

    2. ffbj says:

      You present a worst case scenario, on every point down the line, as per usual. I will not bother with specific details since most of it is just guessing about what could happen, suffice to say, if everything went as badly as you project you could still be better off going solar.

      Regarding roofing: I agree totally as I had to get mine done anyway without even considering putting panels up there until it was a new roof. Sort of just obvious and if you plan to live in a house for any length of time you will need a new roof anyway, so that expense cannot be factored in as only related to solar.
      Better roofing can last much longer if well maintained, no ice dams, for 30+. Like I said another instance of worst case scenario arguments which are a common theme with solar power system detractors.

      1. sven says:

        Worst case scenario?

        Umm…I’m a proponent of solar power. I just think the the cost analysis is flawed because it excludes some solar expenses/costs and uses an MPG figure that doesn’t increase over 25 years.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but inverters last only ten years on average and aren’t covered by a 25 year warranty like the solar panels. They cost $4,000 to $5,000 for the inverter, plus the cost of removal and installation. That would add over $10,000+ to the cost of the PV system over its 25-year life, since the inverter would have to be replaced twice during that time span. How is that worst case scenario?

        With regard to the roof, what do you do if your roof still has 15 years of life and you want to install a 25-year life solar PV system? Do you pay $10,000 to install a new roof 15 years earlier than its end of life, or do install a new roof in 15 years and pay an additional cost to remove and reinstall the solar system at that time. Either you pay for a new roof 15 years early, or you pay a higher cost 15 years later.

        Additional home insurance premiums to cover the solar system is an annual expense that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t install the solar system.

        The loan amount would be the amount due and paid to the installer, not the net amount after the tax credit.

        I thought the 3% applied to the cost of fueling the ICE car, but not to the solar system, was the cost of money (opportunity cost) of not taking that money and investing it. Thus it should be applied to both the gasoline calculation and the solar calculation. But now I’m not sure if the 3% wasn’t meant to be the cost of inflation to be applied to the $2 cost of gasoline. ???

        The MPG figure used in the calculations should increase over 25 years since replacement cars will have higher MPG figures than cars from 2016.

        How is that worse case scenario?

  16. jmac says:

    Who says you can’t take your solar panels with you ?


  17. scott franco says:

    “it’s unlikely that gasoline will remain $2/gal for 25 years”

    Agree. Far more likely it will go down to $1.

  18. Mxs says:

    Why te author cannot understand that not everyone …. A) can install PV
    B) lives in area where actually the weather patterns make sense
    C) want to drive cars like LEAF (don’t tell me it’s a driver’s car)

    I would love to have BEV, but I simply cannot, not with current offerings, where I’d either pay through the nose, or ended up with LEAF …..

    1. Michael Will says:

      VW e-golf definitely is a drivers car.

  19. GeorgeS says:

    Good article Mark.

    I read it this AM and thought about it during the day. Here’s my useless 2 cents worth:

    I think to do it like you are saying you need to be independent of the utility company….ie have your own 60-90 kwh battery in the system.

    Maybe smaller depending. One Nissan leaf surplus might be 2000$

    It would be fun to build a system by yourself. Power walls are too much money.

  20. Jake Brake says:

    I played around with designing my own solar system last year. You can get the panels and inverter for under $1/kwh. Solaredge was the best bang for the buck and sun elec has the best panel prices when you buy in bulk.

  21. pjwood1 says:

    Being on grid, with the complexity of utility billing and state incentives, is tough to get ones arms around. The only language we all hopefully become fluent in, someday, is off-grid. There, the avoided per kwh costs, cost per kwh, and cost per kw PV, all become easier to talk about.

    Net Metering caps, $20 monthly base rate “solar taxes”, demand charges, the end of SRECs (just happened for >25kw, in MA), net metering reduced to <$.05 for peak watts you supply vs. $.10-15/kwh for watts you need, are all the next hostile chapter in on-grid solar. You mention community solar (solar farms). Virtual net metering, if legal, is also under attack as a bargaining chip to allow more commercial systems to sign onto the grid. That can kill solar gardens, before they ever really got started (very few exist, of this awesome idea). So, yes, there's even large-solar, on small-solar, battles being waged.

    The headwinds are local politics, and rate design that gets, well, complicated. And I wouldn't rule out what they did in Spain, which is fine solar users where they found panels. Frankly, I think being politically active is more constructive than hoping the math will work if you sit down, and let others change the game against you.

  22. Bevo says:

    Things change dramatically when factoring in situations like we have here in Nevada, with the all brand new rates the PUC just gouged solar owners with. That changes the entire calcs in this article completely…

  23. jmac says:

    Oil geologists have known about tight oil plays in the U.S. for decades, such as the Bakken in North Dakota or the Eagle Ford in Texas. (and about 2 dozen similar fields scattered around the U.S.)

    These are not new discoveries, but are actually old, well known oil fields that are just now becoming economical because of higher oil prices and enhanced recovery technology. I should say that these new tight oil plays WERE economical until the Saudis started playing “let’s shut down the U.S. oil revival.”

    Leaving aside all the environmental concerns for just a moment, we realize that low oil prices may actually help the U.S. and World economies according to Bloomberg News:

    “There will also be winners — millions of them. For every $10 drop in the price of a barrel of oil, world economic output increases by almost half a percentage point. Prices at the gasoline pump have already dropped about 50 cents a gallon. That translates to about $500 a year in savings for the average gas-guzzling U.S. household.”


    Petroleum use is so pervasive in the present world economy that drastic price increases send huge inflationary shocks throughout the system and the price of everything goes up, including essentials like food.

    That’s why I don’t favor artificially inflating gas prices by slapping a huge gas tax on every gallon. It would cut down on driving for sure, but at the cost of everything in the grocery store going outta sight and big price jumps in other consumer goods.

    There are some that think if we only make gas artificially high in price e.g. $10 a gallon, that everyone will automatically flock to electric cars. In Europe petrol is at $6-10 gal. and electric cars are still just at about 2% in Europe. If the EV revolution hasn’t happened in the EU with artificially high gas prices caused by taxation, then why would outrageously high gas taxes necessarily make electric cars suddenly happen in the U.S.?

    EV shortcomings like range and refueling will not be solved by instituting a draconian gas tax. Electric car inadequacies will be solved by developing better batteries at a cheaper price, faster charging and larger charging infrastructure, electric motor improvements, light-weighting and stuff like that. Fortunately, many of these EV issues are well on their way to being solved.

    Today, I filled up my lawn mower gas can for $2.00. I must admit, I really like gas at two bucks a gallon because outrageous oil prices and/or gas taxes will not usher in the Electric Age. Only when EVs start pulling the big tractor trailer rigs across the U.S., can we seamlessly switch energy sources without causing painful economic turmoil.

    1. Mister G says:

      According to Bloomberg line graph crude oil prices have dropped due to increased US oil production and flat worldwide oil demand…the Saudis are not to blame, we can blame DRILL BABY DRILL LOL

  24. Bill Howland says:

    As was mentioned, gas will not be $2/U.S. Gallon for 5 years let alone 25. The solution for Low gas prices, is Low gas prices, and vice-versa.

    Geopolitically, this was partway done to give Russia the business. But now, Iran is exporting, so that should keep the price down a bit longer. But its giving the Neoconservatives (that’s the old Lyndon Baynes Johnson warmonger liberals – Now there’s a real humanitarian – he had his own sister murdered) fits since Russia is Rising to the challenge, and the threat.

    Interestingly Henry Kissinger (I’m no fan of him, but he) stated that “this is not my policy, you’re pushing the Russians way too hard”. ZBigniev Brezinski essentially agreed.

    In any event the oil patch is hurting currently world wide, the us’s gasoline storage is almost used up, and companies should be going bankrupt as well as the banks that made foolish loans to them.

    As far as technologies go, PV’s are convenient for small scale to medium scale installations, but are still uneconomic for large – scale solar generation, which uses either thermal storage during cloudy days/night times or else switches to Bio-Mass during those times, and makes good use of an otherwise heretofor discarded resource.

    Wind power, especially very large machines, seemed to have won the cost effectiveness horse race. But they face the NIMBY and Banana problem –

    Not in my back yard. Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.

    The price of food has gone up faster than the price of gasoline has come down, so John Q. Public hasn’t been getting any benefit, especially when looking at his medical insurance bills.

    Many industrial parts of the country, such as southern Illinois, are really hurting since ALL the jobs have been offshored. Its getting to the point where many towns no longer have any point in being there, everyone is getting so poor. Thank Providence for Food Stamps.

    People are saying there’s going to be much more fun trying to pay bills later on this year. Stay tuned.

  25. Loboc says:

    25-year projections for either gas or solar are iffy at best.

    Personally, I cannot do projections beyond a 5-to-8 year horizon. Never have. Only 9 years ago, Volt was a concept/show car.

    Current disruptions in both transport and energy sectors make long term thinking very difficult. More like impossible.

    9c/kWh grid energy for the last decade make any home-grown power plant a non-starter in Texas.

  26. Steven says:

    I don’t think this has been commented on yet…

    Oil companies are in the business of making money. Even now, they get subsidies from the government, and they pull in massive profits. Lower their profits, and they’ll hit up the government for even more subsidies. They are addicted to profit like our culture is addicted to motor vehicles.
    Even as their costs naturally increase, their income will remain flat. This will also cause ripples throughout the economy. And when they remove their self administered cap, they will go profit mad and raise prices to whatever the market will bear at that time ($10+/gal?)… Causing immediate hardships for whomever still has an ICEmobile. And don’t forget those subsidies, rolling out year after year…


    The better course is for oil companies to keep their present pricing model, the people will slowly adapt to, and convert to BEV’s, and as demand for gas decreases, the oil companies can shutter surplus refineries and maintain their profit per square foot. If they want more, then they will have to diversify into other fields of energy generation.

    Someday, you might see a Mobile/Exxon windmill, or a Shell PV panel.

    That is when we have won.

  27. jimstack007 says:

    What if the USA stopped subsidies and Fracking so they charged the real price of gas? ($8-12) a gallon.
    There would be very long wait lists for all Electric cars. But some like FORD and Chevy would up production as their big truck lines would be idle.