Use a Solar Calculator to Calculate Renewable Energy Costs

A solar calculator gives a cost estimate for a solar set-up based on location, climate and electric bills.

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“Find Solar Power Professionals” brings together more than 400 solar professionals and manufacturers from across the country and offers a solar calculator to determine the cost of adding solar energy to a home.

PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ HIMMELSSTURM

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A new Web site promises to make solar power more accessible.

Find Solar Power Professionals brings together more than 400 solar professionals and manufacturers from across the country and offers a solar calculator to determine the cost of adding solar energy to a home.

Launched in October 2005, the site is a partnership between the American Solar Energy Society, Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), Energy Matters and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Julia Judd, executive director of SEPA, says they began working on the site a year and a half ago.

“We were always getting calls about the cost of solar power and how to find someone locally,” she says. “We really saw a need to have one single tool that answered those primary questions for consumers.”

The calculator gives a cost estimate based on location, climate and electric bills. Currently, the Web site calculates costs for solar electricity and solar water heating for pools, spas and domestic hot water. More options will be available as the site grows. By 2008, the site will have about 10 sections including solar thermal heating and cooling, daylighting and ground-source heat pumps.

Brad Collins, executive director of the American Solar Energy Society, says solar energy has become more practical. Warranties and certifications have made solar installations more reliable, and advances in technology have made it more cost-efficient.

“It’s cheaper in the long run,” he says. “Who knows what the price of heating oil will be in 15 years, but we know the price of sunshine.”

Collins hopes the site will make the use of solar power more common. “Half of the buildings that will exist in 2030 haven’t been built yet,” he says. “That means we have a chance to affect all of them.”