This was originally published on Monday, July 6, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
Recently, a friend contacted me to discuss his options in obtaining a solar panel system for his home. I also was involved in conversations around barbecues that centered on solar panels. In both situations, I was brought into the discussions to shed light on financing the systems. I learned from these discussions and thought that information on this subject might interest Money Matters readers. It is a relatively new industry to Guam. I hope you find the next few articles informative and helpful. I am no expert in this industry, so your comments are welcome.
Question: I have noticed that several people on island are starting to use solar power. I like the idea of “going green” but wonder if I will be actually saving money. I have heard that alternative power is rather expensive.
Answer: In the past five years or so we have seen an increase in solar panels lining the roofs around Guam. And why not? Guam receives an abundance of sun on a daily basis. Guam’s location makes it perfect for those who want to utilize solar power. Yes, solar technology can be expensive, but in the long run solar energy will pay for itself.
Solar energy has come a long way over the years. As it becomes more popular, the price to pay for the technology becomes more affordable. Over the past five years the price for solar technology has decreased tremendously. If you were to completely own your system there is a sizable cost to purchasing, installing and maintaining the system. Before you purchase your very own system take a few things into consideration:
Guam is located in Typhoon Alley and typhoons are common here. Although not as strong as other typhoons in the past, Typhoon Dolphin recently wreaked havoc on us. Technology has improved and now solar panels are able withstand a good amount of wind but they may not be rated to withstand the gale force winds associated with category four or five typhoons. If the winds do not cause damage, flying debris that travels at very high speed could. It will be very time consuming to remove and replace solar panels before and after a storm.
To generate electrical power the sun must be shining. On days that are rainy or overcast, or during the night, the solar power system is not converting the sun’s energy into usable power. To overcome this you will either have to tie into the power grid or use a storage battery. By tying into the power grid you will not be solely dependent on solar power. You will still incur a power bill, although it will be less expensive than your regular power bill. One drawback to solar technology is finding a way to store energy that is not being used. During the hours that the sun is shining the electrical power that is converted is usually much more than what is needed. It would be great to be able to store the excess energy. To do so, a battery system is needed. This battery can be very costly and rather large. Improvements are being worked on and solutions are probably very near.
The traditional solar panels are quite large and bulky and not very attractive. If you live in an apartment building or condo you may not have enough real estate/roof space to install a solar system. Scientists are working on a number of solutions such as panels that are flush with the building that look like tiles, a flexible thin film of solar cells that could be rolled up when needed and recently a Japanese company created solar cell windows. For those who live in areas where there is little to no room for a solar system, some communities have created solar gardens. Community solar gardens allow more than one home to utilize the system without having panels on their rooftops.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. To contact Michael, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read the Money Matters blog at http://www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.