Photovoltaics (PV), also known as solar panels, become increasingly competitive with electric utilities as electricity rates continue to rise. PV becomes cheaper over time while retail electricity (like the kind from your local utility company) becomes more expensive. By 2015, even the cheapest electricity rates in the US will likely be comparable to the cost of renewable solar power.
In the tables below, the orange boxes show the range of costs for solar power, and the colored bars show the current utility rates in various cities across the country.
Here in Hawaii, solar power is already far cheaper than electricity from the local utility. My house runs entirely on solar power, and I estimate a pay back for the initial investment in the PV system of $11,000 to happen within three years of installation. So for the rest of life of the solar power system, which could be another 10 or 15 years, my power is free. In other words, I’ll keep over $2,000 per year in my pocket to invest elsewhere.