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Solar-Powered Poverty Machines


Would covering our roofs with solar panels save us money? MaxedOutMama runs the numbers:

The result, according to the figures of the organization selling the equipment, would be to reduce the annual utility bill to $0.00. In other words, I'd spend $16,500 to save $780 annually, so it would take about the life of the equipment to break even.

But actually, I'd be costing myself money. The next "Alternative" block figures the return of taking that $16,500, investing it, and using the proceeds to pay the utility bill. At 5% return, I'd be doing better on my utility bill than with the solar power. At 3% return (3.22% is the last reported yield on 20-year Treasury bills), I'd be paying less than $25 a month for power. Plus, at the end of the 20 years, I'd still have my $16,500.

Since the solar panels won't last forever (20-25 years is the expected life), the third block looks at what would happen if I took $16,500 and used it as a 254 month (21.15 years) annuity with a residual value of about $500. This is most comparable to the alternative of investing in the solar panels. Needless to say, I would do far, far better at reducing my utility bill this way.

You compare any way of investing money not just on expected returns, but against other ways of investing that money.

She argues that wind is no winner, either. Implementing grand green visions will leave more people poorer. The environment cannot benefit from us wasting resources on ill-thought attempts to preserve it.