The Cost Of Solar - From An Engineer Client

Commercial Real Estate Agent with Next Wave RE Investments LLC Bullhead City AZ Commercial RE Broker AZ BR 528507000

This particular client used to run the Davis Dam up here, with his wife, both hydro engineers. They run another in the Pacific Northwest.

He sent me a very thought-provoking note, not at all anti-renewable energy, which I too see a place for in our world (NOT THE BE ALL AND END ALL, but a place). 

Here is the unedited entirety of the note:


Hi Folks;
Seems like everyone (and rightfully so) is very concerned about the future of our power grid.  More and more folks are turning to solar thinking this is the answer to keep their home (And now car) powered up during the up and coming power outages.  (I won't even go into the government mandating homes be equipped with solar panels) Also many feel they can generate enough power to be totally off the grid during these outages yet still have all the comforts of "free" energy.  After all the sales person told them so.
Well, as it turns out, the sales person all too often forgets to inform the buyer of a number of facts.  Those are, 1) Only the top of the line solar panels will produce the stated value of energy for a period of 20 years.  After that period of time, the generation ability falls off drastically and the panel/s must be replaced. 

And 2)  Not only do the panels need replacing, but the inverter is recommended to be replaced every 10 years.  Looking up what a small 8K inverter will cost I found a quality unit, with a 5-year warranty for around $6,000.00 plus installation. Larger units are considerably higher. So, over the life expectancy of your system, $12,000.00 additional dollars must be added to the cost, not to mention that now you will need to begin replacing failing solar panels.  Not quite what you were expecting, ehhh????

In closing, I have seen advertisements and have had quotes for solar systems, installed for some $70,000.00 with a return on investment arriving in 20 - 25 years, or just in time to begin replacing the old worn-out system you just finished paying off.
Cowboy logic:  If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
Better yet:  Get all the facts before you even pick up the shovel!  Lots of con artists out there just waiting to make a quick buck off some un-suspecting or non-informed individuals.
Hope this helps.
Keep'n The Faith
Again, this is just information, from someone smart enough to transmit it. YMMV, do your homework and make wise choices!


Comments (29)

Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Having to replace solar panels after just paying them off means this is a lifelong financial commitment. No thank you!

Jul 10, 2022 04:42 AM
Candice A. Donofrio


Jul 10, 2022 10:58 AM
faye schubert
Retired - Branson, MO
Living the Branson Lake Life

I was in the oil industry almost 30 years with 2 major energy companies. The reserves of oil and gas are SIGNIFICANT , 

Energy companies are always looking to build their reserves and discovering alternative energy sources such as hydrogen, wind power,  when ECONOMICALLY available.


I will leave it there......

Jul 10, 2022 04:56 AM
Candice A. Donofrio

🎯 THANK YOU for making a great point with experience to back it up!

Jul 10, 2022 10:59 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Candice. Reminds me of a line from Jack Nicholson in a movie: "The truth! You can't handle the truth" Then again John Kerry is polluting the earth spreading the message in his jet. And India and China are laughing their A$$eS off. Enjoy your day.

Jul 10, 2022 05:29 AM
Candice A. Donofrio

We are sending 'clean oil' to the BIGGEST POLLUTER on the planet! 

Jul 10, 2022 11:00 AM
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Raleigh, NC
Carolina Life RealEstate & Relocation 919-602-8489

Great information Candice. I've wondered about the cost and timing to replace panels. Homeowners are also told it will add to the value of their home and unfortunately, it doesn't. Some get a rude surprise when they find out not only do they not add to the value but they have to pay off loans for the panels. 

I have some clients who like them and find value in them. They like knowing they're doing something good for the environment. You have to take them for what they are.

Jul 10, 2022 05:40 AM
Candice A. Donofrio

Individual choices are good, informed choice is great! 

Jul 10, 2022 11:00 AM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

He seems knowledgeable but I am going to trust more in what my boy Elon says, haha.

Jul 10, 2022 06:02 AM
Candice A. Donofrio

Well both he and my client are engineers . . . that is way above my blonde brain! 

Jul 10, 2022 11:01 AM
Ray Henson
eXp Realty of California, Inc. (lic. #01878277) - Elk Grove, CA

I purchased a system last year.  I am having a little buyer's remorse.  I will not be adding a system to any other property for some time.

Jul 10, 2022 07:07 AM
Candice A. Donofrio


Jul 10, 2022 11:01 AM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Candice,

That cost seems higher than leases were with SolarCity & companies like it more than a decade ago. Prices have come down much lower in this area. If you buy outright, they are less than half. Regarding panels, there are good companies in the US that build them. They may be a little more expensive, but like much in construction, the cost is in the skilled labor, not the materials.

Jul 10, 2022 10:09 AM
Candice A. Donofrio

That's good to know!

Jul 10, 2022 11:02 AM
Edward Gilmartin
CRE - Boston, MA

It might be wiser for investments in modern safe nuclear plants, and tidal turbines as well as heat pumps

Jul 10, 2022 10:16 AM
Candice A. Donofrio


Jul 10, 2022 11:02 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Candice - I fear that people are falling for this and I see solar people coming and going.  Sort of the same as electric vehicles as Nina mentions.

Jul 10, 2022 01:26 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

I agree, when the 'forced transition' fails and some folks quit VSing (NOT YOU I know you truly love yours! Brian England 🧠) and the proof isn't in pudding or bank balance . . . the pendulum always swings to a golden mean, seems far off these days but it's science . . . LOL

Jul 11, 2022 10:06 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


Being well informed about the costs and issues with solar is smart. Some of this was news to me, so thank you for helping us be MORE informed. I bet lots of people are unaware of some of these issues. I had no idea about the inverter issue!


Jul 10, 2022 05:32 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

Yeah I have some super smart clients and engineers are my top favorite! 

Jul 11, 2022 10:06 AM
Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

     Until they can bring down the costs, "Solar" is a novelty for the wealthy and affluent.  Or, it's a money pit for the unsuspecting!

Jul 10, 2022 06:44 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

Couldn't have said it better! 

Jul 11, 2022 10:06 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

So gals to see this post featured! I read it when you first posted..excellent information..good to have all the facts..knowledge is power! Congratulations on a well written informative post!

Jul 11, 2022 02:24 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

Thank you, and thanks to Kathy Streib  and Carol Williams for noticing it!

Jul 11, 2022 04:00 PM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

A most informative post on the solar panels that people are so enamored with and fail to really hear the sales pitch, which in itself is flawed.

Not very practical to try and live off the grid, unless it's completely off the grid in the mountains

Jul 11, 2022 02:56 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

Off-grid's been being done out here in some areas for decades - there are some areas you can have a well and septic tank, have a water tank and haul water or have it delivered (there are services). As for power, I've seen MANY RVs up in the outskirts with panels! They can get renewable permits for the RV, and as long as they have a wastewater system, our County will let them do it (again in certain areas) . . . 

Jul 11, 2022 04:03 PM
Margaret Goss
@Properties - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

Wow. I know a lot of people (personally) who are pushing solar in this area (Chicago!)

It's good to know that the panels must be replaced. But I also read something (sorry, can't remember which app) that another problem with solar and wind is that they can't be stored for any length of time. I remember the maximum time being minutes, not weeks or months!

Apparently, billions were spent in a town in India where a huge solar plant was set up. The locals abandoned it when they had their first blackout because the power was used up. They went back to oil and gas. 

I am also very much in favor of these alternative sources to be developed - but they're simply not there yet.


Jul 12, 2022 08:26 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ

Read my comments Margaret Goss .  I own solar and am an instructor on this topic. 

Jul 17, 2022 02:33 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

Wow, THAT is a wild story (india) ugh!

Jul 12, 2022 08:28 AM
Jim Paulson
Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) - Boise, ID

I had a home listed that the seller was paying for their solar panels on a contract.  They still owed $16k and the buyer didn't want to assume the contract since it was going to be a rental and the tenants typically pay for power here in Idaho.  I ended up paying a huge discount for them and to relocate them to my house.  I didn't realize that since we are on a "net meter" (if they generate more than I use, my meter spins backwards giving me credits), that if the grid goes down (power outage) I don't have power from them available on a clear blue sky day.  Think of having a brand new car with a full battery, tank of gas, etc., but no starter. Some day, I will get a battery backup or generator attached to fix that.

Jul 12, 2022 01:48 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

'Unintended consequences' ugh! 

Jul 13, 2022 04:59 AM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate (435) 632-9374 - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

For cripes sake, stop digging! The best advice in today's world...Just because today is challenging, strength and motivation is gained by looking up to a higher place for inspiration. Or just get busy and create your own happy success! 💯BB!

Jul 12, 2022 05:27 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

You got it BB! 💖

Jul 13, 2022 05:00 AM
Doug Dawes
Keller Williams Evolution - 447 Boston Street Topsfield, MA - Georgetown, MA
Your Personal Realtor®

Good Morning Candice A. Donofrio 

What an informative post. Most people would never even know the hidden costs of solar panels. So does it really save the consumer $$$? AND THEN there are storage batteries

Jul 16, 2022 09:38 AM
Candice A. Donofrio

Yep and how earth-friendly are they actually? 

Jul 16, 2022 10:35 AM
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Alliance 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Alliance Cincinnati & Dayton suburbs

We have plans for solar power for our new place, but there are some intangibles your engineer doesn't mention that offset some of the concerns.
How reliable is the power grid for the location?  Where we're moving I know there are frequent outages.  Our portable generator consumes about 18 gallons of gas a day and it's nowhere near a whole house replacement.  We'll boost our capability at the next place with a whole house generator that works off of propane.  But even with that, the generator is good for about a week and then the tank is empty.

If there's a real SHTF type event, that propane tank isn't going to get refilled, so solar panels with storage batteries give us capability for years.

The panels don't magically fail at 20-25 years, they just lose efficiency.  So add more panels to account for that?  Who knows what the cost/efficiency of panels, inverters, etc. will be in 20-25 years vs. where they are now.

I'm comfortable with our plan and the potential expenses.  And fyi, we'll go ground mounted so we will have easier access to panels and no issues with roofing penetrations.

Now as for the ability to recycle (or not), that does seem to be a big gap in old solar panels.

Fyi, a quick search on ebay and plenty of panels available with lots of years left on them for a pretty reasonable cost. vs. brand new.

Jul 16, 2022 07:40 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

And this is why I love engineers! Thank you for all this and I hope everybody reads it.❤

Jul 17, 2022 06:10 AM
Liz and Bill Spear

The perk of the internet, there's a lot of great information out there and just like any topic, it's key to look at the pros and cons.  I've been down the rabbit hole on solar panels, water reclamation, greenhouses, wells and gardening (among other topics) to get us ready for our new place.

Jul 17, 2022 02:26 PM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Interesting read.  I differ on some points thought.  Power grids vary be region.  Arizona's power grid is very reliable,  nuclear power  contributes about 30%, so I'm told by people at that plant.   The grids back East are the ones to worry about as they are older and less reliable.  I've spoken with people in various states about this. 


What he doesn't mention is that new to newer panels degrade about 1/2 to 1% a year, so after 20 years, the degradation is 10  - 20%.  My panels are the best cost, best production panels so I speak from experience.


Inverters wear out anywhere from 7 - 10 years, it's not a  recommendation a they simply stop working.  I've seen solar companies install them on the hot west side of a house before!  That drastically reduces their lifespan in our hot Arizona heat.   Inverters vary in cost and it depends if they are single inverters or micro-inverters, which are installed under each panel.  Single inverters range in price from $1500 on up.  I would defer to the solar companies as to size and compatability but his price seems TOO high.  


There are companies that are working on recycling solar panels.  That is on the horizon.  

His ROI is wrong, simply put.  The ROI on my solar panels is about 7 years.  It cost $20,000 and I haven't had a bill this year until now, $24.57.  I disagree entirely with his assessments.  His statements are vague and he doesn't talk about energy savings or the value of the panels at all.    He is NOT the source of information that knows every facet of solar from what I see.  



Jul 17, 2022 02:31 PM
Candice A. Donofrio

I deliberately mentioned his location understanding that localities and regions will be variables.

Jul 17, 2022 02:38 PM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Candace - it is important to look at the at the all the energy sources.  One does not solve all.

Aug 20, 2022 06:31 AM
Candice A. Donofrio

Just passing along information . . . I'm not at all knowledgeable in this area and rely on my local experts.

Aug 20, 2022 07:19 AM