I was reading this article about a solar-powered home in New Jersey. Solar panels gather electricity. Excess electricity is stored as hydrogen, which is consumed by a fuel cell when home electric needs exceed the electricity produced by the solar panels. The expected cost is $100,000, or $4,000 a year factored over 25 years.
That, the article says, is too expensive:
Caminiti argues that the cost of the hydrogen/solar setup works out at about $4,000 a year when its $100,000 cost is spread over the anticipated 25-year lifespan of the equipment. That's still a lot higher than the $1,500 a year the average U.S. homeowner spends on energy, according to the federal government. Even if gasoline costs averaging about $1,000 per car annually are included in the energy mix, the renewables option is still more expensive than the grid/gasoline combination.
I have an older home, which is not as well insulated as I would like, but is much smaller than new construction. I spend nearly a $1,000 on electricity a year. Usually about $70/month, but up to double that in the Summer. $140 for August, 2006. About half our lights are compact fluorescents. We have at least 1 computer running almost all day, plus other major electrical appliances: stove, fridge, dryer, dishwasher, space heater for the basement bathroom.
I've also got to heat the air and water I use. That's natural gas. $20 a month off-season, up to $140 a month for January of this year. $750 total for 2006. In other words, despite my best efforts -- using the CFL bulbs, turning the heat down at night, keeping the water heater low, adding insulation to the attic and windows -- and living in a relatively small house, I'm still spending more than the average American homeowner on energy?
What am I doing wrong?
Partial answer to my question -- the $1,500 figure seems to come from 2001. As I recall, we've seen a rise in energy costs over the last 5 years.
Those numbers don't make sense ot me either. Especially when I think of my friends in Florida who have to run the A/C almost full time for a good part of the year. A friend in the Orlando area has just put in a solar panel unit and I'll check with him on the numbers but I recall he said something about several hundred dollars a month for A/C alone. He is a researcher in Disney's Wildlife Conservation program (they're not just theme parks you know, even if his office is at Epcot) and the good news is that he is working on getting the company to go solar in a big way and it sounds like he is getting some pretty positive results.
Rising energy costs are huge. According to the Washington Post, energy costs increased by 10.4% in 2005 alone.
From the BLS. Rate of increase in energy costs, as measured in CPI since 1999:
So we've seen double-digit increase in energy costs 3 of the last 5 years. I don't know whether the 2001 estimate included the rapid decrease in energy costs reported by the BLS or not.