Lina Panza (left), a Montclair resident and agent with Keller-Williams Realty, built her business on “green” values. Now, she’s upped her commitment to sustainable living by putting solar panels on her house, and is happily walking the photovoltaic walk.

This morning, at 9:00 sharp, Trinity Solar arrived at her house and began installation of her new eco-friendly renovation, which will not only save her energy, but money too.

“I did this for two reasons. First, I believe in the cause of not depending on foreign oil, and secondly it will make me money,” Panza said. She explained that the three “R’s” (reduce, reuse and recycle) aren’t only beneficial for the environment but for her finances as well. “”We have such high property taxes, we need to find savings we can control—such as our utility bills,” she said.

“It’s a little complicated. It takes me 16 thousand kilowatts to run my house per year and I will be making, on my solar panels, about 6 thousand kilowatts. I’m making a little more than a 3rd of the energy that I need, so that will save me about a thousand dollars a year.”

With federal tax credits, solar renewable energy credits, and other savings, conservative estimates project to Panza earning out installation cost after four years, and $4,000- $5,000 annual return in the years after that, depending on the value of federally mandated solar energy credits. Based on a conservative appraisal, solar panels also add over $7,500 to the value of the Panza home.

“Solar installation should be part of today’s math for reselling your home,” Panza said. “You can recoup around half the cost of your solar panels if you were to sell your home immediately after installation. Though kitchen and bath renovations are sexier than solar panels, they don’t pay your power bills and provide an annual cash flow for the next 15 years. It’s like having a little rental income that helps you pay your taxes every year. ”

In general, the upfront installation costs for solar panels range from $20,000 to $40,000, according to the State of New Jersey and federal sources. Panza said that while this upfront cost deters many homeowners from seriously considering solar conversion, federal and state laws lock in enormous cost advantages that eventually make solar a profitable investment. Most residential solar panel systems pay for themselves in 5 years or less. Incentives for installing a solar panel system include federal tax credits and solar energy credits that consumers can sell to utilities. Further, 100% of the value of a solar panel or renewable energy system is exempt from property taxes.

Panza explained that the state of NJ’s laws that require utility companies to generate a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources.

“PSE&G doesn’t have enough solar panels around, so I’m essentially selling them the credit I have from my solar panels. That’s what’s really valuable.”

When asked why she used Trinity Solar to do the installation, Panza answered with an analogy. “It’s kind of like Botox. My gynecologist does Botox, my dentist does Botox but if I wanted Botox, I would go to my dermatologist or plastic surgeon because that’s their field of expertise. Trinity doesn’t do anything else besides solar panels and energy related things. In other word I wouldn’t go to someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with them because I’ve seen some really ugly installations.”

Although there is a certain aesthetic component that’s involved with solar panels, Panza believes that the design is just a small price to pay for the benefits given to the environment and economy.

To learn more about how solar panels work, what to expect from installation, and additional financial incentives from NJ’s Clean Energy Program, click here.

12 replies on “Local Realtor Walks the Solar Walk”

  1. According to the cost of of a kilowatt hour (kWh) in this area is $0.193. If these panels contribute 6,000 kWh of power a year, that is worth $1,158. If the unsubsidized cost of these panels are between 20,000 and 40,000, the breakeven is between 17 and 34 years.

    Subsides hide the true cost things and public money should not be used to do something that no one would do with their own money.

    Solar panel appear to be money – and therefore energy – losers.

  2. That’s right. I’ll be saving about $1100/year off my PSEG bill. And thanks to government I expect to sell my 6 SRECs for about $650 a piece this year netting me almost $4000. BTW, I also take a $37,000/year tax deduction for my mortgage interest and property taxes. Life is good in the land of subsidies.

  3. Smartrealtor, Remarkable that you haven’t been hit with the AMT. You know, that little bugaboo that prevents lots of people from capturing anything close to full deductibility of mtg interest, etc., especially in high tax areas like NJ. But you’re a realtor, and realtors are trained to never, ever discuss alternative minimum tax. As for the rest of your subsidy bonanza, I find it distasteful at best. First, absent such lavish subsidies, I would venture that the cost of these systems would be significantly lower. In the real world, mmmm’s analysis is spot on. In the meantime, take a nice hot’s on me, the taxpayer.

  4. I always wondered — what happens when you need to repair or replace your roof? Do you void your roof warranty if you put one of these on it?

  5. I would assume, Cary, that these things are affixed with braces that mount underneath the existing roofing shingles, and that you wouldn’t need to cut a hole in the roof and install flashing etc around it, which would be a gigantic operation and be very prone to leaks. But I don’t really know. In any case, even braces would increase the possibility of leaks, and we all know that roofing companies look for any excuse to blame a leak on the work of other contractors, in this case the solar panel installers. So practically speaking, yes, I would think it would effectively void the warranty. But I am just guessing, I’m not well informed.

  6. smartrealtor,

    So to be clear, solar panels are about personal gain brought about by poorly conceived public policy not any altruistic attempt to save the environment.

    I thought the “green” values referred to the environment, not money.

  7. Wally,
    Ok, just that no one should pretend it’s about saving the environment.

    Remember that this is public money paying for this.

  8. Regarding all this talk of public money.

    Do not think for an instant that the government doesn’t have its hands in every type of energy; from oil to coal to natural gas to nuclear, tax dollars are spent or waived.

    Alternate forms of energy, particularly decentralized ones, are no different. There has been for many years a push to get utilities to generate increasing percentages of their power from renewable sources. A large number of exchanges have cropped up to wheel and deal in a new currency, that which is created by the fact of generating solar or wind or hydropower. So Lina’s bill will drop PLUS she’ll get to sell the fact that she is generating solar power. The utilities are all customers of these exchanges, as they need to get their numbers up. For them it is cheaper than building their own installations.

    All the subsidy in this case comes from PSE&G. The argument that this will just be passed onto the consumer is weak, as it is balanced by the absence of a capital costs.

    Look elsewhere for agenda-driven government waste.

  9. Cary,

    Because the roof is shielded by the panels it does not get exposed to the elements and therefore ceases to age. You can actually prolong the life of your roof by installing solar panels. As for leaks, Trinity Solar assumes responsibility for any leaks associated with the panels and will repair for no charge.


    To be clear, solar panels are about providing for my family and my community. I choose to devote my energy dollars to New Jersey businesses and jobs instead of to West Virginia to import coal or overseas to import oil.

    My solar panels will:
    – raise property values which is good for the whole neighborhood
    – cut back on the air pollution my children breathe
    – keep my neighbors employed

    Good energy policy makes these things possible.

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