A carefully shopped 1kW solar electric system with an easy installation can be as low as 8 thousand dollars. The more carefully you shop, the more money your system will earn for you. In Seattle a 1kW system should produce about 1000 kW hours per year. Remember, after it has paid itself off it will continue to produce power for many years. A solar electric system is not a cost, it is an investment, it is more like buying stocks and bonds than paying an electric bill.
1) No, the price of other energy sources don't reflect the environmental damage they cause. Solar has few of the hidden subsidies that are associated with other energy sources. Unlike conventional power, solar electicity provides a return on investment. Utility power can never "payback", as it is an expense. A solar electric system costs about the same as a hot tub or a mid-range automobile. (neither of which will provide a "payback")
2)Yes, It is the sun that makes Seattle the "Emerald City". When the long days of summer are making our trees grow, we have a great solar resource. Net metering allows us to "store" that summer sun for the rains of winter by spinning our meters backwards. During the three summer months Seattle gets 97% as much sun as San Diego. On an annual basis, Seattle gets about 1/3 less than San Diego. Seattle recieves about 3.5 average peak sun hours per year. so a 1Kw solar array will generate about 1000 kWh's per year.
One of the reasons solar and other sources of renewable power have not made much headway in the United States has been our historically low power prices. The United States covers an enormous area, and in that land mass reside some of the world’s largest natural resource reserves.
Not so for the United Kingdom. With an area of roughly 94,500 square miles versus the United States at 3,719,000 square miles, the UK is only about one-third the size of the US. England and its environs have some fossil fuel reserves, but they are smaller and harder to withdraw.
Because of these and other factors, electricity in the UK costs much more than in the United States. US power costs an average of just over $9.53 per kilowatt hour, and in the United Kingdom it's more like $13.00 per kilowatt hour. While solar power is still more expensive that electricity generated from fossil fuels in both locations, it's much closer to the norm in the UK.
The UK also has some very densely-populated cities, and the clean-air benefits from solar electricity generation will pay off for generations to come. Anyone who has seen the centuries of pollution in cities like London and Edinburgh will quickly realize that the ancillary benefits to solar power may well be worth their weight in gold Or oil.
With energy prices already much higher than in the United States and expected to rise, the benefits of investing now in renewable energy for the future is abundantly clear.