According to Parmanandam, solar is on the verge of hitting its “early majority,” when it becomes mainstream due to increased efficiency, better manufacturing, greater ability to meet demand and modernization of the electric grid.
“The early adopters are done, the ones who buy the newest technology – they were the ones who bought Tesla before it even was actually available for people to test drive,” Parmanandam said. “It’s not just technology that’s for the rich. It’s not just technology that is for large utilities. It is really technology that can be used by just about everybody. It’s cheaper to put solar on your home or business than it is to pay your monthly electric bill.”
According to Parmanandam, the cost of solar has “plummeted” in the past seven years.
“When I first started in this business, on an average home using not an excessive amount of electricity, maybe 650 to 700 kilowatt hours a month, it would cost upwards of $35,000 to install,” Parmanandam said. “And that’s in a house that had up-to-date electrical, perfect roof, perfect solar access, great structural.”
Parmanandam compared that to a 2.1 kilowatt installation for a Los Alamos homeowner that cost under $10,000 after tax credits were applied. She noted that most homeowners who install solar are cash positive in 10 years. Most businesses are able to retrieve costs much more quickly.
Parmanandam acknowledged that both Los Alamos and New Mexico have extremely low electric rates compared to the rest of the country, so photovoltaic systems will not pay for themselves as quickly as in most states, especially those where electric rates are abnormally high, such as New Jersey or Hawaii (where diesel must be shipped in to power generating stations).
“But what about stability?” Parmanandam asked, noting that Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities rates are artificially lowered by having Los Alamos National Laboratory as the utility’s largest customer. “What happens if the lab decides that they don’t want to purchase power with the county?”
According to Parmanandam, electric rates across the country are projected to continue to rise.