Solar Installation Costs
Thanks for posting the link to the solar co-op, I think it's called SEAREI now (that story's from 2008) but they're still around.
As a professional solar installer, I thought it would be worth chiming in about the cost of solar.
First, to be clear there are two types of solar systems you can install on your house - solar hot water and grid tied solar electric systems.
Solar hot water (also called solar thermal) works by using the sun to heat up a storage tank which is then tied into solar hot water collectors and also an oil boiler, or as a preheat to a propane or electric backup unit.
When there's enough sun you don't need to run the backup at all. Even in Maine and New Hampshire, that means you're using no fossil fuels to heat your water from roughly May to September (little known fact: we have more sun in New England than Germany, the world leader in solar, in fact we're about as sunny as the south of France...)
One of these systems is between $10-11k depending on the size of your household, before rebates, which get it down to around $6,500 (30% fed tax credit and $1,000 - $1,500 state rebate depending on if you're in Maine or NH).
If you're heating water on oil, you can save you roughly 200-300 gallons of oil a year (since your oil boiler is ridiculously inefficient when heating in the summer). At today's prices, that's roughly $650/yr of oil saved, so your payback is at 10 years or less.
Solar electric is a whole different thing, and what people are more familiar with (panels absorb sunlight and turn it into electricity). Costs HAVE gone down a lot, so if it's been since 2008 or earlier that you looked into it, you might be surprised.
Typically payback is 15 years or less (7-8 in NH where there's a $6,000 rebate right no), for a system which will last up to 50 years. Not a bad way to lock in your electric prices nowadays!
Anyways, hope that's helpful. Just want to debunk the "expensive" myths where they crop up. It's a serious investment, no doubt, but the economics of solar are solid and are worthy of consideration even in New England (and I suspect Wisconsin, too!).