Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our year in the sun... with solar power...

This month marks our one year solar power anniversary and am I still a happy solar camper? You betcha! 


Based on my calc's for the last year, we generated -555 KWH. Yes, we generated an extra 1/2 megawatt. In the previous year we consumed 8,561 KWH. The year before that, 9,260 and before that, 9,779 (so year over year our consumption was decreasing as we became more energy conscious)

Enough KWH... How much money did I save?

Annual Cycle KWH Bill Savings
2010-2011 -555 $17.86 -$1,356.92
2009-2010 8561 $1,374.78 -$59.32
2008-2009 9260 $1,434.10 -$157.86
2007-2008 9779 $1,591.96  

Yep, we saved $1,357 dollars in the last year on electricity. Yes, we "paid" less than 20 bucks for electricity for the entire year. ("Paid" because our last bill ended up becoming a credit so we've been working off that credit. We're now down to -$117, ie at 2 bucks or less we might not be paying a bill for a long while... :)

And guess what? The California Assembly passed a bill which was signed in 2009 (AB920) where we're going to be paid BACK by the Electric company for that extra 555 KWH we generated. Yep, we're going to bill the electric company! (Once they figure out just how they are going to do it. Just got a letter this week saying they are trying to figure this out... so we're not running off to Vegas with our extra cash just

Problems? In the end it looks like we may have over previsioned (i.e. got too many panels). Our installer, SunPacific Solar Electric, offered a number of options (14, 16, 18 panels, etc) and great guidance, but in the end it was up  to me and I errored on the side of over vs under and picked 18.

The goal is not not generate more. Or even 100%. The goal is to generate 80-90%. To generate enough to keep you in Tier 1, or worse case, Tier 2. Look at my bills below. You can see that I actually was charged less during months when we didn't over generate (by a dollar... but still). And fewer panels means much faster ROI.

What else happened this past year, relating to our panels?

  • We got a recall notice from SunPower (the Solar Panel manufacture/provider) for an inverter. Which freaked me out and so I contacted our installer, SunPacific Solar Electric, These guys were Johnny-on the-spot and replied right back that it wasn't actually my invertor, that SunPower sent a blanket letter to everyone of their customers, no matter what inverter they had. And they gave me the tips to prove that to my own satisfaction.
  • We continued to have a great relationship with our installer (see above for just once example). These guys kept in touch, checking in every so often and responding very quickly to any questions I had. And their work has so far stood the test of time.
  • We filed for our energy tax credit, which went smooth as silk. A 30% credit on the cost of the panels and installation (after the rebate from SCE).
  • After a session of some heavy rain and serious winds, there's no leaks, drips or roof issues. (Yeah! :)
  • Keeping the panels clean is a little bit of a chore. Given our semi-arid environment, with constant winds, the panels get dusty during the summer/fall. All it takes is a quick spray every couple weeks to clean them, but still a little bit of pain. (Lucky they are uber-easy for us to get at)
  • Even with all the credits, savings, rebates, etc, payback is still 7-10 years. So they are not a short term investment. BUT if you plan on keep the property (and who's selling now if they don't absolutely have too) in the long term they will pay off nicely. Think about what how great they would be when on a fixed income/retirement?

Now some eye candy. This is from the solar panel company for the past year. Kind of neat that you can watch how much you generate over the day/week/year. If you're a new solar panel owner, you hit this site about every 10 minutes or so... lol. But once the blush wears off, we've been checking it out every couple weeks. And what's nice is that if "something happens" like a sudden drop off in generation, they will send an email to our installers (SunPacific Solar Electric, to let them know something is up. Like a tree grows and begins to shadow the panels, etc.


Here's our electric bill from the year before our panels (2009-2010);


And this past year (2010-2011);


(See where the months we didn't over generate we were actually charged less? I had to laugh at that...)


So in the end would I do it again? In a minute. We've been nothing but happy and the future is looking even brighter...


More of our Solar Posts


Andy The said...

How much was the upfront cost? Also, how much does it cost to maintain each year?

Greg said...

There's no annual cost. Nada. The only future project cost is that the inverter (which converts the DC from the panels into AC for the house) will need to be replaced in 10 years or so. Currently those run a couple grand. Who knows how much in 10 years (hopefully less given that there should be a high volumn)

Upfront total, $29K. Then there was a $6.5k rebate from SoCal Edison that went direct to the installer. So $23k out of pocket. Then this year we got a 30% (on the 23k) federal tax credit.

And the important point is we own these panels. They are ours forever. We move, we can take them with us, etc. Also since we own them they are officially an asset and increase the value of the house a good deal (either when sold or if we ever rent it out)

There's a number of "0 down" lease solar deals, but with those you don't own the panels. They are not your asset, but an asset of the lease holder...

Bradley Kronson said...

Are you using any batteries for energy storage ? If so, surely at some point, these will also need to be replaced ?

If not, how are you getting energy during peak times at night when no sun is around ? :)

Greg said...

@Bradley Kronson:
No. In order to qualify for the rebate from my Utility, the panels have to feed the grid.

So in the day I generate a surplus, spinning my meter backward, and supporting the Grid when it needs it most, and at night I feed off the Grid, spinning the meter forward, but also when there's less demand (both on the Grid and in my house)