(Note: This post is a departure from the regularly-scheduled content of this blog.)
Here's the present we got ourselves this year.
It's not quite active yet, as we're waiting on the county to inspect it (hopefully next week), Xcel Energy to come out and switch out our meter with a net meter, and then Standard Renewable Energy can come out and flip the switch. With the rebate offered by our utility, and the Federal Tax Credit, SRE predicts we'll break even in about three years. (I think that's a little optimistic, as they assume a 10% increase in rates each year which I think is a little high, so I'm guessing it will be closer to four-and-a-half years.)
It's sized to provide between 95% and 100% of our electricity needs, although SRE says that most folks start reducing their usage once they have the real-time usage monitor in place (plus we installed a solar attic fan, which should reduce our air conditioning use, which will reduce our electric use further). We anticipate that as Abby gets older we'll start using a little more electricity, but we were shooting for about 100% of our needs. (Unless and until plug-in cars come along, in which case we could possibly add on to the system.)
If you live outside of Colorado, considering check with your local utility to see what incentives they might have (or contact SRE if they operate in your area). If you live in Colorado I'd suggest you contact SRE and they can provide you with information (whether your utility is Xcel or someone else). Xcel is currently in the process of reducing their level of rebates, but that is partially offset by the cost of the panels themselves continuing to decrease. The sooner you start, the higher your rebate and the sooner your break-even point is likely to be.
And, yes, we have one of these as well.
We've had it since April of 2006 and our lifetime miles per gallon is approximately 47.8.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Update 12-23-09 (from 31,000+ feet - free wifi on the plane!): @ScottElias asked for some charts and graphs in the comments. Here you go (click on the images for a larger view). Once my system is up and running, I'll see if I can track historical info on usage and periodically post that as well. Note some of the assumptions they build in - like a 10% per year increase in electricity costs - which as I said previously I think is a little high, but this still gives you an idea.