We’ve been wondering if installing solar panels on our house would be worth it. Then we found RoofRay, a clever website that lets you accurately determine the solar potential of your roof using Google Maps. You zoom in on your roof, select the areas (preferably facing south) where solar panels might be placed, and the site calculates how many watts you could expect to extract from the sun.
This is great fun to play with. It not only tells you how well solar power would work for your region and roof, it lets you know precisely how much it would cost to install those panels and how many years it would take to get a return on your investment. It even takes into account government rebates and inflated energy prices in the future.
Although the site is geared toward California users, we were still able to figure that it would take $50K to install enough solar panels for us to go off the grid here in Wisconsin. Sounds expensive, but that’s not so bad considering our system would pay for itself in 13 years, help save our beloved green earth, and reduce our dependence on oil and energy weasels, both foreign and domestic. So should I go solar? Maybe we'll wait — in five years it’ll cost half as much and deliver twice the wattage.