RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Solar panels have been lowering power bills for decades. But the price tag of the system itself put solar energy out of reach for many consumers.
This is the very first home Katherine Hill could ever call her own.
"I bought a new home in the city and one of the things about buying a new house is they're typically going to be older," she said.
Katherine's was built in 1932. Her biggest concern? The power bill. She wants solar power, but that's not a done deal.
"How much is it going to cost and who's going to do it," Katherine said.
She discovered "Solarize RVA". The program takes bids for groups of installations. The Richmond Region Energy Alliance vets the chosen companies. Bulk buying drops the price 10 to 15%.
"You're paying for your electricity all up front and then it's not going to cost you anything after that. You're kind of guarding against energy inflation," said Bill Greenleaf with the Richmond Region Energy Alliance.
Solar costs about half of what it did 4 years ago because of overseas competition and new technology. Panels are sturdier and last longer. Many of the reasons Tyrone Murray is looking to invest.
"Anything I can do to be more environmentally friendly and demonstrate good stewardship is a good thing," Murray said.
He's going with a smaller system. His solar setup will generate 15-20% of the energy needed to power his 7000 square foot home.
"You're seeing a cash on cash return in less than ten years...over the 25 to 27 year life of the system, you could usually see 4 times the return in what you originally invested in solar," Sean Ingles with Integrated Power Sources of Virginia told us.
There's a 30% tax credit from the federal government. Plus, solar users can sell carbon credits amassed through their system.
"Pricing seems to have bottled out at the bottom. We're getting to the point in the near future the tax incentives will go away so now's the optimal time," Ingles added.
With all the things new homeowners have to worry about, Katherine's power bill won't be one of them.
"By the time I perhaps sell my home, solar will have even greater traction and will be a great asset to have in resale," Katherine said.