Running the Numbers on Solar and EVs

October 8, 2015

Author: Dave Gardner

Solar electric systems and electric cars are a compelling option for those who want greater energy efficiency and to reduce their carbon footprint.  Now there is a limited time program for local residents to purchase electric vehicles and a solar energy system for a pre-negotiated, competitive pricing.  We’ll run through the specifics so you can determine whether it makes sense for you.

Solar Benefits Colorado is a group purchase program ( formed in partnership with Boulder County and the cities of Boulder, Louisville, and Lafayette, among other municipalities.  They have evaluated vendors and negotiated pricing on your behalf.   They’ve done much of the due diligence for you, saving you time comparison shopping.  Of course you should still check references, get competitive bids, and otherwise evaluate these offers on your own.

First let’s look at the electric vehicle deal.  Solar Benefits offers low pricing with Boulder Nissan on multiple trims of Nissan Leaf.  A 2015 Nissan Leaf S with Quick Charge package is available through the program for $23,461 plus taxes and fees.  You need to qualify for and use Nissan zero percent financing to get this deal.  If you want to do a quick comparison check for pricing, consider using or emailing a few local Nissan dealers.

While under $24,000 may seem like a good price on an EV, it’s the federal and state income tax incentives that make this option really attractive.  The federal credit is claimed using Form 8936 – the Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit.   Purchasing a Leaf could qualify you for $7,500 in tax credits, but keep in mind you must pay at least this much in federal tax for 2015 to get the full credit.  It cannot be carried forward to future years.  Colorado also has an Innovative Motor Vehicle Credit worth an additional $5,000 in state tax credits, which are refundable.  This means you’ll get the cash regardless of your Colorado tax bill.   This could put your net price on a new EV close to the $12,000 range.

The solar electric system discounts are offered through Sunrun, a national solar electric lease and installation company.  The set price is $3,500 per kilowatt for a fully installed system with Sunrun.  If you buy a 5.5 kilowatt system, the cost would be $19,250.  Until the end of 2016, there is a 30 percent federal income tax credit on solar systems.  If you don’t pay enough federal tax to use the $5,775 credit (30 percent of system cost in this example), you can carry it forward to future years.  Plus you get a $750 rebate from Sunrun through this program.

A 5.5 kilowatt system may generate enough energy to offset a $100/month electric bill, depending on your roof and the orientation of your home.  A net cost of $12,725 after credits could generate in essence $1,200 a year tax-free of energy revenue.  A 9.4 percent tax-free return on investment is hard to beat, not including any future increases in electricity costs that you’re avoiding with a solar system.

If you’re interested in a solar system, irrespective of this program I would purchase one by spring of next year as it needs to be installed and certified by the end of 2016 to qualify for the 30 percent credit.  There are local solar energy installers that may offer pricing that’s competitive with Sunrun.  Consider well regarded companies including Namaste and others.  There are also solar system lease options, which in general are less favorable than a purchase.  Financing for a purchase is often available through the installer and local credit unions such as Elevations.

One last important note: you need to register by October 31st on for both programs, and there are deadlines for purchasing a solar system and electric car.  With the help of this program, being green can contribute your financial well-being

About Dave Gardner

David Gardner is a certified financial planner with a practice in Boulder County and can be reached at and at