From an article by Randy Hanson in the Hudson Star-Observer:

Craig Tarr has grown mildly impatient with people who ask what the payback is on the solar energy systems he designs.

“I don’t like to discuss things in terms of payback,” he says. “My question to that is, when you bought your plasma TV was there a payback? Or did you do it because you wanted to, and it brought comfort to your life?”

For the people who buy his solar energy systems, part of the payback is knowing that they have reduced their carbon footprint.

Craig Tarr, a professional engineer, earns about half of his income by designing renewable energy systems. His goal is to make renewable energy 100 percent of his business within two or three years.

Tarr is the founder of Energy Concepts, a two-year-old renewable energy business located at 2349 Willis Miller Drive in Hudson’s St. Croix Business Park. He’s formed a partnership with Paul Steiner of Steiner Plumbing, Electric & Heating of River Falls, which installs the solar and wind energy systems that Tarr custom designs for homes and businesses.

Solar energy systems are still quite pricey, but a cash-back reward from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program and a $2,000 tax credit from the federal government help reduce the sticker shock.

According to Tarr, a solar hot-water system for a family of four at a price of $11,000 to $12,000 is the best buy for residential customers.

Focus on Energy provides a 20 percent cash-back reward on renewable energy systems, which reduces the price of a $12,000 system by $2,400. The $2,000 federal tax reduction further lowers the price of a $12,000 system to $7,600.

Area Xcel Energy and St. Croix Gas customers are eligible for the Focus on Energy rebate. St. Croix Electric Cooperative doesn’t participate in the program and its customers aren’t eligible for the rebate.