Wouldn't it be nice if we could afford to save money on the energy we use? That question sounds like an oxymoron, but in terms of the bottom line, that's the dilemma we face when we think about how we can cut our non-renewable energy use and save money on our monthly utility bills.

Solar power has always seemed like a great idea—for somebody else. As consumers, we want to be environmentally conscious, but despite our best intentions, green power like solar has always been a financial impracticality for most of us—it has been beyond our reach.


What if there were a way to bring solar within your financial reach?

If you look at national energy maps, it's not surprising to see that the highest numbers of green-conscious energy consumers are found in locations where energy costs are among the highest. For most of us, nothing speaks louder than cost.

Today, environmentally-conscious entrepreneurs are working together with prominent green energy engineers to bring about a new way to lower the cost of solar: group buying. Like food cooperatives that are comprised of individuals who come together so they can buy at volume discounts, solar power group purchases lower the cost of installing this zero-emission energy source in your home.

Within the last five years, the group approach to going solar has really taken off, successfully lowering the cost of solar, and enabling more and more people to get involved and go green

How does group buying really help the cause for solar?

  • Group purchases reduce the cost of purchasing and installation through volume discounts.
  • In addition to simple volume discounts available for big orders, group purchases can also attract interest from both the solar manufacturers and the installers, giving you the option of submitting your project for competitive bidding.
  • When many people have the same or similar equipment and installation, the results are simpler maintenance and troubleshooting for everyone who participates in the group buy. System support is simpler when the solar systems are the same from installation to installation.
  • The larger the group size, the greater the visibility in your community. The more people who become aware of this opportunity, the more people will join, increasing the group size and its influence and purchasing power.
  • Large groups can act like political lobbyists that help influence legislation and tax codes in positive ways to provide even more incentives for installing clean energy sources like solar.

How do you know group purchasing really works when it comes to solar?

Initiatives like One Block Off the Grid, a plan in 2008 with localized intentions for making solar accessible in the San Francisco Bay Area, have been so successful, the movement has splintered into dozens of additional local group buy options and even into national-scale efforts like One Nation Off the Grid. Now, over 30 states have solar group buy initiatives available now. With more people becoming aware and contacting their legislation, even more areas become candidates for solar power group purchasing.

One prominent example is the solar group buy that took place in Portland, Oregon, called Solarize Portland. In 2009, the Solarize Portland program led to 130 solar installations in 6 months. After seeing the program's success, Portland municipal agencies became actively involved, spreading the program to other communities.

To underline the power of solar group purchasing programs take a look at the Solarize Portland project two years after it started. In 2011, the average cost of solar purchase and installation through the Solarize Portland group purchase was $18,000. Energy incentives provided an instant rebate of $5,250, making the upfront cost $12,750. Then, backend tax incentives kicked in. A Federal 30% tax credit kicked back $3,825, and the State of Oregon kicked back another $6,000. Over four years, the total price of going solar was an incredibly low $2,925! And that's not including the monthly savings on electric bills.

Nicole is a writer for the green industry. She has spent years researching the best ways for homeowners to live more energy efficient lifestyles. In her opinion, Infinite Energy offers some of the best residential solar options she could fine.