I'm not even a novice when it comes to solar options, but you don't have to buy. There are other methods such as leasing and power purchase agreement (PPA). I've always known of SolarCity (Elon Musk's company) for leasing. I've seen http://www.recsolar.com/
" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; guys at Costco and spoken to them briefly.
Some people have the attitude that they want to have the biggest array they can so that their net usage is near 0 or even negative. Others only want to keep themselves out of the higher electric tiers. At least that's what the REC Solar guys have recommended, to keep costs down.
My situation is goofy and my usage is pretty low. for now. When I mentioned to the REC Solar guy that I'm usually within Tier 1 and only go into Tier 2 in winter months (this is w/PG&E's joke baselines), he looked very surprised. Essentially he said to me that it wouldn't even make sense until I started getting into Tier 3 (which a BEV could push me into).
You need more than just panels. You also need an inverter + other parts.
I'm sure that are folks here that know WAY more than I do.