One thing Jennifer Wolford learned after about 10 years in the construction industry was if you’re not selling solar, you’re losing out. While putting together proposals for a construction company, she noticed more and more requests for solar-panel installation, a service her company didn’t offer.
Solar panels used to be too expensive for most consumers – except those willing to pay extra to spare the environment -- to justify. At least, that’s what Wolford’s friend, Julie Jones, told her. Jones worked for an alternative-energy department at Cinergy (which was later bought out by Duke Energy), where she figured out ways to use power more efficiently and sustainably.
Wolford and Jones launched Solar Earth LLC
last November to address the growing demand to retrofit homes and businesses with solar panels. The pair is planning their first installations as this article goes online.
Today, plummeting upfront costs and increasingly efficient panels have made solar a worthy option for consumers. Government tax credits have helped, as has the fact that local energy companies are required to support or generate green and renewable power; if they don’t meet their requirements, they pay a penalty. One way to avoid this? Buying solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs, from local solar consumers. There are even websites that have sprung up to help solar users sell their credits as soon as they accumulate them.
In Ohio, buying solar panels will also net you a 30 percent government tax credit. By combining tax benefits, SREC sales and other savings, Jones estimates that her customers will earn a 6 to 8 percent return over the panels’ lifespan (they’re usually guaranteed for 25 years and last up to 40 years). A self-proclaimed “tree-hugger,” Jones couldn’t be happier: “I’ve always been a solar geek and always thought it was the right way to go.”