Author Topic: solar panel installation  (Read 65277 times)

Roland of Gilead

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2455
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #50 on: April 07, 2015, 08:27:29 AM »
Horrible deal.   You can buy a government E-bond that is guaranteed to double in value ($750 to $1500) in 20 years.  No fee and essentially zero risk (if you believe the USA will still be around in 20 years)

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #51 on: April 07, 2015, 08:40:40 AM »
Quote
Came across this yesterday and thought it sounded interesting:

http://www.gocloudsolar.com/

It's a start-up that basically allows you to purchase one or more solar panels (or a fractional interest in a single solar panel), then let the company install and maintain your panel(s) in their solar farm and, on your behalf, sell the electricity generated by your panel(s).
Horrible deal.   You can buy a government E-bond that is guaranteed to double in value ($750 to $1500) in 20 years.  No fee and essentially zero risk (if you believe the USA will still be around in 20 years)

It may not be a great investment idea, but I dont' think that's the market they are going after.  Seems this company is trying to appeal to people who want to use solar power but can't install them where they live.  Depending on whether you view it cynically or optimistically their customers are engaging in a simple 'feel-good' exercise in green living or they are legitimately offsetting their energy use with increased solar-capacity to the grid.

Is it a smart investment strategy?  I doubt it.  Is it doing the planet a net-good?  maybe.  Does it make certain people feel better about themselves?  Probably.

Roland of Gilead

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2455
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #52 on: April 07, 2015, 08:45:09 AM »
True.  I sometimes forget that people are idiots and it is very easy to take advantage of them.

Patrick A

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 134
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #53 on: April 07, 2015, 09:03:13 AM »
Awesome thread - I am also in PNW and considering doing this when I get a house.  Thanks for all of the interesting information.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 10:38:05 AM by MAnton »

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #54 on: April 07, 2015, 09:03:33 AM »
True.  I sometimes forget that people are idiots and it is very easy to take advantage of them.
wow.  I mean, just... wow.   Of all the things to call people idiots on, why this?  Seems to me there are worse ways of blowing your money, and if solar power is something you are passionate about but you live in an apartment building, why is this company so awful? 

I agree with you that from an economic standpoint it's a bad economic investment.  Then again, it's about on par with the returns for a 30 year treasury bond (currently 2.57%).  More risk for certain, but again, I don't think the point of this is total economic return.

frugalnacho

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5013
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Metro Detroit
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #55 on: April 07, 2015, 09:27:46 AM »
True.  I sometimes forget that people are idiots and it is very easy to take advantage of them.
wow.  I mean, just... wow.   Of all the things to call people idiots on, why this?  Seems to me there are worse ways of blowing your money, and if solar power is something you are passionate about but you live in an apartment building, why is this company so awful? 

I agree with you that from an economic standpoint it's a bad economic investment.  Then again, it's about on par with the returns for a 30 year treasury bond (currently 2.57%).  More risk for certain, but again, I don't think the point of this is total economic return.

How is this any different than MMM paying an inflated price for his renewable electricity?  It's all connected to the same grid, and he voluntarily pays more to know his electricity is coming from a renewable resource.  We have a similar program in michigan.  You don't buy a solar panel, but you pay the utility company an inflated price and they use that to increase their renewable (wind, solar) energy production.

Roland of Gilead

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2455
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #56 on: April 07, 2015, 09:37:23 AM »
All of these feel good programs assume zero emissions to create, install, and maintain the solar panels.   I do not think that is the case, so you are not "saving" the earth from 10,000 pounds of added CO2 per panel.

If the company folds after a few years (likely), you will probably have actually added to the global CO2 emissions unless someone else steps in to maintain the farm.


Why not have a crowd funding company that buys rain forest land and places it in a trust so it will not be clear cut.   That would be a long term gain on CO2 levels.

*I should point out that this solar company would not be viable without government subsidy, which is essentially taking resources from one pocket and putting them in another, then pointing out how great a deal this is.   Those resources are then not available for other programs, some of which could also be green.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 09:44:00 AM by Roland of Gilead »

KiloRomeo

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 97
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #57 on: April 07, 2015, 09:57:06 AM »
All of these feel good programs assume zero emissions to create, install, and maintain the solar panels.   I do not think that is the case, so you are not "saving" the earth from 10,000 pounds of added CO2 per panel.

If the company folds after a few years (likely), you will probably have actually added to the global CO2 emissions unless someone else steps in to maintain the farm.


Why not have a crowd funding company that buys rain forest land and places it in a trust so it will not be clear cut.   That would be a long term gain on CO2 levels.

*I should point out that this solar company would not be viable without government subsidy, which is essentially taking resources from one pocket and putting them in another, then pointing out how great a deal this is.   Those resources are then not available for other programs, some of which could also be green.

Why AREN'T there options like this (or are there?). I've always thought that if I won the lottery I would just start buying land and starting parks.

MrFancypants

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 565
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #58 on: April 07, 2015, 10:04:25 AM »
All of these feel good programs assume zero emissions to create, install, and maintain the solar panels.   I do not think that is the case, so you are not "saving" the earth from 10,000 pounds of added CO2 per panel.

Usually the emissions cost to create/install/maintain is assumed, because it's a cost that all forms of energy production have to pay.  It's not like coal power plants just spring up out of the ground.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #59 on: April 07, 2015, 10:42:49 AM »
All of these feel good programs assume zero emissions to create, install, and maintain the solar panels.   I do not think that is the case, so you are not "saving" the earth from 10,000 pounds of added CO2 per panel.

If the company folds after a few years (likely), you will probably have actually added to the global CO2 emissions unless someone else steps in to maintain the farm.
If the program does fold (and I agree that's a possibility), why wouldn't someone else step in?  The vast majority of the cost is in the construction of the farm (including purchasing the panels).  Once it's up and running the annual costs are negligible.  It would seem to be the perfect business to buy up if the original (cloudsolar) becomes insolvent) - all the profit, almost none of the expenses.  Even better if the takeover company has no financial obligation to pay quarterly checks to the original investors...

Quote
Why not have a crowd funding company that buys rain forest land and places it in a trust so it will not be clear cut.   That would be a long term gain on CO2 levels.
There are companies that attempt to do this - main problem is questions of national sovereignty.    It's hard (if not impossible) for a foreign entity to prevent a government from utilizing its own resource.  Also, not cutting rain-forests wouldn't result in a long term gain on CO2 levels (which I interpret to mean a reduction in atmospheric CO2).  Rainforests aren't carbon sinks... in most cases they actually are a small carbon source.  However, clear-cutting them would release a lot of the stored carbon, perhaps that's what you meant?
All said, I still don't understand why you would support a company that buys rain forests for conservation (and presumably returns nothing to the donors), yet oppose one that creates solar panels with the aim of giving a small subsidy back.

Quote
*I should point out that this solar company would not be viable without government subsidy, which is essentially taking resources from one pocket and putting them in another, then pointing out how great a deal this is.   Those resources are then not available for other programs, some of which could also be green.
Which government subsidy?  There's a lot out there, all designed to help out different projects.  Government dollars also build schools, roads and parks, all of which generate jobs and (ideally) generate more revenue.  How is this any different?
Again, I don't understand your logic that we shouldn't support one project that aims to increase total solar energy output and is green because it might take money away from another project that might also be green.  It's like a small hospital with one surgeon saying we shouldn't operate on one patient because a second one might come along "sometime".

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8465
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #60 on: April 07, 2015, 12:30:41 PM »
The stated expected return (which, according to the website's FAQ, seems to include anticipated government tax credits and incentives) falls short of sol's anticipated return (as outlined earlier in this thread), even before reduction for the company's 20% fee. 

I also have a really good roof for solar panels.  Most homes at my location will generate slightly less power than I do due to shading or angle issues, and I've learned that all the profit is in that last few percent of production.

My bimonthly power bill includes an $11 grid connection fee.  In periods when we use more power than we produce, we pay that fee plus we buy power at 8.5 cents/kWh.  In periods when we make more than we use, they pay us 8.5 cents/kWh and apply the surplus against that $11 fee or our water bill.  So the dollar difference between being a little bit under vs a little bit over turns out to be pretty significant.

Solar update: we're on track to max out the $5k state subsidy this year in only 11 months of production.  We already got the $9720 federal tax credit, and will bank another $900 in direct power costs from either reduced purchases or direct per kwh payments.  So total return in year one is looking like about 48% of my outlay, with years two through six returning 18% of my outlay, and then 2.7% return (just the power costs, no subsidies) every year after that as long as the panels last.  Or more than 2.7% if power costs continue to rise.

brooklynguy

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2204
  • Age: 41
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #61 on: April 07, 2015, 01:24:54 PM »
My bimonthly power bill includes an $11 grid connection fee.

This is a material tidbit of new information.  $5.50 per month represents a meaningful percentage of the average mustachian's total electric bill.  It barely makes a dent in your sweet financial payback, but for those of us without access to comparably generous state incentive programs a fee like that could nickel and dime us right into the red.

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8465
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #62 on: April 07, 2015, 01:34:45 PM »
My bimonthly power bill includes an $11 grid connection fee.

This is a material tidbit of new information.  $5.50 per month represents a meaningful percentage of the average mustachian's total electric bill.  It barely makes a dent in your sweet financial payback, but for those of us without access to comparably generous state incentive programs a fee like that could nickel and dime us right into the red.

I'm not clear on why it's relevant to the payback schedule calculation.  I pay it because of where I live, no matter how much power I use or produce.  It might as well be a property tax.

brooklynguy

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2204
  • Age: 41
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #63 on: April 07, 2015, 02:14:50 PM »
I'm not clear on why it's relevant to the payback schedule calculation.  I pay it because of where I live, no matter how much power I use or produce.  It might as well be a property tax.

Oh, I thought you meant it was a fee specifically charged to you as a solar power producer who is connected to the grid (which would not otherwise be charged).  My bad.

Uncle Scrooge

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 53
  • Age: 38
  • Location: USA
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #64 on: May 26, 2015, 11:30:58 AM »
I have a couple questions I'm hoping someone could answer for me:

1. Someone mentioned early on that you won't get a check for 30% of the solar panels come tax time. I've always had a refund each year of my working life (I know, I know..I should change my withholdings). If I were to get solar panels (which I'm considering) how would I make sure I get my rebate?

2. Does your homeowner's insurance rate go up? I would guess yes because it's more that could break on your house in the event of a storm. If so, did you factor the increase in rate into your breakeven point?

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8465
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #65 on: May 26, 2015, 12:15:43 PM »
The federal tax rebate for our solar panels was claimed on line 53 of our 1040, residential energy credits. You work through form 5695 to figure the amount, and it includes a provision for carrying forward amounts into future years.

We did not adjust our insurance for solar panels.  Didn't even occur to me.  Not sure they would be covered anyway, I suspect they are viewed more like a water heater or furnace than an addition to your house.

p.s.  Our combined water and power bill for the past two months was $2.25, even after the $70 in combined bullshit customer charges and flat fees.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2015, 12:23:42 PM by sol »

Uncle Scrooge

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 53
  • Age: 38
  • Location: USA
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #66 on: May 26, 2015, 12:27:13 PM »
Man, I am so jealous of that water/electricity bill!

We have an electric stove, water heater, and air conditioner. We would really benefit from solar! Hopefully I can join you guys soon.

For tax purposes, let's say I get 2k a year refund normally and I am due to get 8k in solar rebates. Would I get 10k back next year at tax time? Or would it work differently? I am getting mixed answers when reading different articles online.

Thanks!


Uncle Scrooge

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 53
  • Age: 38
  • Location: USA
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #67 on: May 26, 2015, 12:29:34 PM »
Oh wait...I read your response incorrectly. You said you could carry it forward in future years.

Sorry about that!

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #68 on: May 26, 2015, 12:30:25 PM »

Our combined water and power bill for the past two months was $2.25, even after the $70 in combined bullshit customer charges and flat fees.
Love hearing your updates Sol!   You are coming up on the year mark now - I'd love to see a breakdown of energy production over that timeframe if you care to share it...

One question I've had is whether you've had to do any cleaning/maintenance on the panels yet? Do dirt/leaves/pollen accumulate on and in between the panels?

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8465
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #69 on: May 26, 2015, 01:41:08 PM »
Love hearing your updates Sol!   You are coming up on the year mark now - I'd love to see a breakdown of energy production over that timeframe if you care to share it...

Bimonthly billing means my full year won't be available until September.  If you think you're impatient, imagine how I feel.

Quote
One question I've had is whether you've had to do any cleaning/maintenance on the panels yet? Do dirt/leaves/pollen accumulate on and in between the panels?

No maintenance yet, but I have my first panel inspection penciled in for July.  My house is on a hill so my roof has no trees above it. I'm expecting to find just windblown pollen and dust, and will just hose everything off.  The rain should be doing a fine job of that in the winters.

forummm

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7379
  • Senior Mustachian
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #70 on: May 26, 2015, 03:11:48 PM »
I'm super jealous, Sol. This is really cool. Unfortunately, GA doesn't have any solar incentives, so the math isn't quite as good. And I have a east-west roof, so it wouldn't be ideal anyway.

Mrs. PoP

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 421
    • Planting Our Pennies
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #71 on: May 27, 2015, 05:29:59 PM »
With homeowner's insurance, we called to make sure that we didn't need any riders on the policy.  But we've decided to up our coverage level to include replacement value of the solar system at our next renewal. 

Also, is the refund because you paid $0 in taxes or because you overpaid your taxes?  If it's the latter, then you should just get a bigger refund up until you have a $0 tax bill for the year and carry forward beyond that, I think. 

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8465
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #72 on: May 27, 2015, 07:37:08 PM »
Also, is the refund because you paid $0 in taxes or because you overpaid your taxes?  If it's the latter, then you should just get a bigger refund up until you have a $0 tax bill for the year and carry forward beyond that, I think.

I'm in the opposite situation from some people here, in that our annual federal tax liability far exceeds the solar panel rebate amount.  We don't have to worry about carrying forward, because the rebate just wipes out part of this year's tax bill.

When I say "refund" I really mean "reduced tax liability".  We're pretty careful about adjusting our W2 withholding throughout the year to zero out our refund in Feb/March, but how much we pay throughout the year as payroll deductions has absolutely no bearing on what our actual tax liability for the year will be, unless we were to overpay and be due a refund.  We never overpay.

But in general, I think your advice is sound for people who don't normally pay much tax.  Take enough of the refund to wipe out any tax liablity for the year, and carry the rest forward for future years.  In my case it all fit into one year.

medinaj2160

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 168
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #73 on: May 27, 2015, 08:13:40 PM »
Is there any good forums that I can read to see if is worth getting a Solar System?

I live in South Carolina and I am looking for a system to cover my monthly usage of 600 kWh which will cover our electricity 100% (the average usage per year was 400 kWh and the highest usage was 800 kWh). I saw a couple of systems at Costco but they do not come with batteries; I was thinking about maybe using the Tesla Powerwall to cover my night consumption. 

I am a complete noob at this and I am just doing some research to see if is worth it.

Axecleaver

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4064
  • Location: Columbia, SC
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #74 on: May 28, 2015, 08:12:10 AM »
Quote
Why AREN'T there options like this (or are there?). I've always thought that if I won the lottery I would just start buying land and starting parks.
Google "land conservancy." It's very popular here in the rural areas where city folks are encroaching. Under land conservancy rules, you sign a permanent agreement that the land will never be improved, in exchange for property tax benefits. The rider follows the property during sale, and is (mostly) irrevocable. So, if you're a city slicker looking for 100 acres of prime farm land to gaze at on the weekends, you execute this and take it permanently off the tax rolls. The problem is, that shifts the tax burden to the working families in the district. It's a big deal in New York with its high tax rates.

Quote
We did not adjust our insurance for solar panels.  Didn't even occur to me.  Not sure they would be covered anyway
It should be covered as a capital improvement, just like an addition to the house would be. You should probably check your policy though and see if you have replacement coverage or actual cash value coverage (depreciated coverage).

Quote
For tax purposes, let's say I get 2k a year refund normally and I am due to get 8k in solar rebates. Would I get 10k back next year at tax time?
Depends on the rebate and your tax liability. Most solar incentives are structured as tax credits. A tax credit allows you to reduce your taxes to zero, and may be carried forward into future years until it's all used up. A tax rebate can give you money back after your taxes are reduced to zero (like the incorrectly named "earned income tax credit" which is actually a rebate). What you get back at tax time is a function of: how much you owe (tax liability) - how much you paid (withholding).

Here's a page that talks about the various federal solar credits available: http://energy.gov/savings and another for state and local incentives: http://www.dsireusa.org/

RoadLessTravelled

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 35
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #75 on: May 28, 2015, 08:41:54 AM »
A program in Ontario, Canada is doing well with a no cost to the homeowner installation setup.  It is government backed and there is no question that it is legit and all as advertised.
http://pureenergies.com/ca/free-solar-panels-program/

Uncle Scrooge

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 53
  • Age: 38
  • Location: USA
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #76 on: May 28, 2015, 08:48:50 AM »
With homeowner's insurance, we called to make sure that we didn't need any riders on the policy.  But we've decided to up our coverage level to include replacement value of the solar system at our next renewal. 

Also, is the refund because you paid $0 in taxes or because you overpaid your taxes?  If it's the latter, then you should just get a bigger refund up until you have a $0 tax bill for the year and carry forward beyond that, I think.

That's good advice for homeowner's!

As for our taxes, both my wife and I claim 0 dependents. We overpay each year and then get it back at tax time. I know we should change our withholdings, but I'm so used to the way we've been doing it and it's nice to get that big check each year.

NaturallyHappier

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 130
  • Age: 56
  • Location: Near Philadelphia, PA
  • FIRED 3/10/2017
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #77 on: May 28, 2015, 07:11:47 PM »
Regarding insurance for solar...I checked withmy insurance company when I had the panels installed and the confirmed that they were covereed with no increase in the rate even with the panels being located 250 feet behind the house on pole mounts.  I had a lightning strike on the panels two years ago and my insurance paid to replace 3 panels and one inverter.

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8465
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #78 on: August 26, 2015, 03:29:42 AM »
Checking back into this thread...

It's been just about one year since my solar panels went up.  Over that time, our system has generated more power than we have used by an average of $56 per month.  So in addition to reducing our power bills to zero, we're actually selling $56/month worth of power to the utility company after connection charges.  That's on top of the $5000/year incentive payments.

In the chart below you see our total utility spending by category.  The blue line is our monthly gas bill, which peaks in the winter because we have gas heat.  The red line and the blue stars are fixed costs for sewer and garbage service.  Power (green triangles) and water (purple circles) are billed together bimonthly, and are roughly offsetting each other, as we use more water in the summers when our solar panels are making more power, and we use less water in the rainy winters when our panels make less power. 

The orange line is our total utility bill spending for my family of five in a 2300 sqft house, and averaged $151/month.

The solar panels generates a little over 9200 kWh in 50 weeks of the annual cycle, since they weren't online for the first two weeks.  That's significiantly more than the 7500 kWh we were expecting.  They went live July 30th and our billing cycle starts on the 14th of each month, so that first month of data shown in the graph includes two weeks of an 8 week billing cycle without solar panels.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the performance.  We're just about exactly maxing out our $5000/year state production incentives with our 28 panels.  The system has been entirely maintenance free, other than hosing it off once this summer when it hadn't rained for a while.  The neighbors ask about it periodically, but so far no one else has installed them.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #79 on: August 26, 2015, 06:35:50 AM »

It's been just about one year since my solar panels went up.  Over that time, our system has generated more power than we have used by an average of $56 per month.  So in addition to reducing our power bills to zero, we're actually selling $56/month worth of power to the utility company after connection charges.  That's on top of the $5000/year incentive payments.
...
The solar panels generates a little over 9200 kWh in 50 weeks of the annual cycle, since they weren't online for the first two weeks.  That's significiantly more than the 7500 kWh we were expecting. 
...but, but, but... solar is just too inefficient in the cloudy PNW!  It can't be done!

seriously, thanks for this thread.  I'm curious if you have a graph of power output vs time. 
I do have one question though:  when the panels are rated at 270W each, is that the maximum amount of power one panel can produce on a very sunny day, or an average, or what....?  Can a panel ever produce more than it's rated power output?

Perhaps after a full year's data some of your neighbors will be sold on installing their own solar. 

nawhite

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1079
  • Location: Golden, CO
    • The Reckless Choice
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #80 on: August 26, 2015, 07:37:59 AM »
... 
I do have one question though:  when the panels are rated at 270W each, is that the maximum amount of power one panel can produce on a very sunny day, or an average, or what....?  Can a panel ever produce more than it's rated power output?


That number is the amount it would generate if the panels are kept cool (usually cooler than they get on top of your roof in the sun) and the sunlight is uniformly intense and and sun is directly overhead of the panels. Generally it is the absolute max you'll ever see but theoretically, if you're at a high elevation (so there is less air to get in the way of the sun), a low latitude (so you're closer to the sun) and your panels track the sun on a pole (so the sun is directly overhead) in a windy area (so the panels stay cool) with brand new panels, then yes you may see a couple percentage points greater than the rated capacity. Generally on a roof, I'd expect to see right around 100% of rated capacity for only a couple minutes a day on the sunniest days.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #81 on: August 26, 2015, 08:08:16 AM »
... 
I do have one question though:  when the panels are rated at 270W each, is that the maximum amount of power one panel can produce on a very sunny day, or an average, or what....?  Can a panel ever produce more than it's rated power output?


That number is the amount it would generate if the panels are kept cool (usually cooler than they get on top of your roof in the sun) and the sunlight is uniformly intense and and sun is directly overhead of the panels. Generally it is the absolute max you'll ever see but theoretically, if you're at a high elevation (so there is less air to get in the way of the sun), a low latitude (so you're closer to the sun) and your panels track the sun on a pole (so the sun is directly overhead) in a windy area (so the panels stay cool) with brand new panels, then yes you may see a couple percentage points greater than the rated capacity. Generally on a roof, I'd expect to see right around 100% of rated capacity for only a couple minutes a day on the sunniest days.
thanks for that explanation.  exactly what i was looking for.

b4u2

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 637
  • Age: 44
  • Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #82 on: August 26, 2015, 08:56:31 AM »
If Iowa had incentives I would consider it but we don't. How ever I heard a person I kinda know has them installed on his house so I need to make time to go and check them out. He only lives about a mile from me but he's retired and 5 minutes won't give either of us enough time to talk about them lol

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #83 on: August 26, 2015, 09:08:42 AM »
If Iowa had incentives I would consider it but we don't. How ever I heard a person I kinda know has them installed on his house so I need to make time to go and check them out.
Well one thing that you do have in Iowa over Sol's PNW is much better solar radiance levels.  You will be able to harness more power with fewer panels.  The average cost of electricity in Iowa is about 10% more than in Washington, which helps too. 
The lack of incentives is a major blow against, but you still may want to price out the ROI for various-sized solar installations in your area.

b4u2

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 637
  • Age: 44
  • Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #84 on: August 26, 2015, 10:27:05 AM »
If Iowa had incentives I would consider it but we don't. How ever I heard a person I kinda know has them installed on his house so I need to make time to go and check them out.
Well one thing that you do have in Iowa over Sol's PNW is much better solar radiance levels.  You will be able to harness more power with fewer panels.  The average cost of electricity in Iowa is about 10% more than in Washington, which helps too. 
The lack of incentives is a major blow against, but you still may want to price out the ROI for various-sized solar installations in your area.

I'm hoping the other guy near me already did the leg work so that I can pick his brain.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #85 on: August 26, 2015, 11:28:48 AM »
If Iowa had incentives I would consider it but we don't. How ever I heard a person I kinda know has them installed on his house so I need to make time to go and check them out.
Well one thing that you do have in Iowa over Sol's PNW is much better solar radiance levels.  You will be able to harness more power with fewer panels.  The average cost of electricity in Iowa is about 10% more than in Washington, which helps too. 
The lack of incentives is a major blow against, but you still may want to price out the ROI for various-sized solar installations in your area.

I'm hoping the other guy near me already did the leg work so that I can pick his brain.
lol, i hope he did - would be interested in hearing what you learn, if only because i'm curious how the equation changes state-to-state.  We don't know where we'll be living next.
We wanted to install solar PVs when we re-did our roof, but since we're living in Quebec presently the math was against us.  We have some of the cheapest electricity rates (as low as 5.68/kwh), poor solar radiance (about 40% of what the coastal PNW gets, and 1/3 what Cedar Rapids receives), very high sales tax (15%) plus no good incentives and no way of getting money back for overproduction (only credits at 5.68/kwh).  Our most optimistic payback period was still ~15 years.

monarda

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1188
  • Age: 62
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #86 on: August 26, 2015, 04:08:42 PM »
nereo,  FYI
this web site summarizes solar-friendliness in various states
solarpowerrocks.com

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #87 on: August 26, 2015, 04:16:46 PM »
nereo,  FYI
this web site summarizes solar-friendliness in various states
solarpowerrocks.com
thanks for the link!

PatronWizard11

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 113
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #88 on: August 26, 2015, 04:39:38 PM »
I am almost in the exact same situation as you are except my state doesn't have any laws to prevent HOA's to stop home owners from installing solar.  They denied my first application but I do admit, it wasn't turned in with everything I should have turned out in with, like the cad drawings, very detailed explanation of the project, the panel specs, etc.  So we waited a week and took a very good attempt to submit an application they couldn't deny. 

If they deny me again... I quit lol

Abe

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2465
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #89 on: August 26, 2015, 04:43:52 PM »
What is your all's opinion of home battery systems (like Tesla's product, but also conventional battery arrays)? I'm considering installing a solar system in 3-4 years when we finally settle down. Money / return on investment doesn't matter to me as much as reliability. Other than maintenance costs, is there any downside to having a battery array?

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #90 on: August 26, 2015, 05:02:10 PM »
What is your all's opinion of home battery systems (like Tesla's product, but also conventional battery arrays)? I'm considering installing a solar system in 3-4 years when we finally settle down. Money / return on investment doesn't matter to me as much as reliability. Other than maintenance costs, is there any downside to having a battery array?
As I understand it, there are almost no maintenance costs except swapping out the cells every decade or so (at least for the Tesla-style build-for-end-consumers)
The major drawback is that they're incredibly expensive for something that will be used only sporadically.  Typically when you are on-the-grid you have a surplus of energy during the daytime which you sell back to the power company, and then you draw power from the grid during the evening or when it is overcast/rainy and you have a large power draw.
If you want to go completely off-grid, then a battery pack is very useful.  There are also many DIY methods that rely on golf-cart battery arrays (or similar), but those tend to require a high level of expertise and can be very cumbersome to have in your home, and require swapping out the batteries more frequently than (supposedly) what Tesla is offering up.

The cheapest solution for the occasional black-out remains a gas-powered portable generator.  For ~$1k you can buy a generator that will put out 5kw-9kw and consume roughly a gallon per hour of gasoline.  Sadly, unless you need to use the generator every week for several hours it's unlikely you will ever recoup the cost of a whole-home battery storage system.  But... on the plus side, battery storage systems are silent.

nawhite

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1079
  • Location: Golden, CO
    • The Reckless Choice
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #91 on: August 27, 2015, 07:16:54 AM »
What is your all's opinion of home battery systems (like Tesla's product, but also conventional battery arrays)? I'm considering installing a solar system in 3-4 years when we finally settle down. Money / return on investment doesn't matter to me as much as reliability. Other than maintenance costs, is there any downside to having a battery array?
As I understand it, there are almost no maintenance costs except swapping out the cells every decade or so (at least for the Tesla-style build-for-end-consumers)
The major drawback is that they're incredibly expensive for something that will be used only sporadically.  Typically when you are on-the-grid you have a surplus of energy during the daytime which you sell back to the power company, and then you draw power from the grid during the evening or when it is overcast/rainy and you have a large power draw.
If you want to go completely off-grid, then a battery pack is very useful.  There are also many DIY methods that rely on golf-cart battery arrays (or similar), but those tend to require a high level of expertise and can be very cumbersome to have in your home, and require swapping out the batteries more frequently than (supposedly) what Tesla is offering up.

The cheapest solution for the occasional black-out remains a gas-powered portable generator.  For ~$1k you can buy a generator that will put out 5kw-9kw and consume roughly a gallon per hour of gasoline.  Sadly, unless you need to use the generator every week for several hours it's unlikely you will ever recoup the cost of a whole-home battery storage system.  But... on the plus side, battery storage systems are silent.

I've been doing a lot of planning for an off grid RV solar setup and all of what you said is true. One of the biggest issues with home battery systems for off grid use is sizing the home inverter. The inverter is the piece of equipment which converts the DC energy you get out of the battery bank (or out of your solar panels in a grid tied setup) into AC energy for your outlets. As inverters go up in maximum output, the cost goes up exponentially. So if you expect to use your house normally, you might be running the air conditioner, the electric clothes dryer, a vacuum cleaner and all the normal household things. All of a sudden you need an inverter sized for >7KW which approach being as expensive as the battery bank. With grid tie systems, you only need to size the inverter for the maximum output of your solar panels, for an off grid/battery backup system, you need to size the inverter for the maximum usage of the house which is usually much higher; especially if you need to run AC (1.5-4kw) and any other major electric appliances like a water heater(2kw), clothes dryer(2-5kw), stove 1.5-3kw), microwave (1.5kw), hair dryer (1.8kw), vacuum cleaner (0.8-1.8kw) etc.

For instance, I have a grid tie solar system with a 3.0 KW inverter that cost about $1200. My maximum instantaneous home usage is up around 10 KW (AC, clothes dryer, electric stove, fridge cycled on, a couple computers and lights). A similar quality 8KW inverter costs around $4,500.

b4u2

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 637
  • Age: 44
  • Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #92 on: August 31, 2015, 01:55:39 PM »
I got to talk with the guy a little bit while at my kids football game. His Grandson and mine go to school and are both on the same football team. Apparently Iowa does have a solar rebate. I'll get with him again to find out more details. I thought he said Iowa has $5000 in rebates and a federal rebate of $9000. The only thing I don't like is it is net free metering. So if he over produces he doesn't get a kick back the electric company gets to keep it for free. So he said he installed enough to make him 85% efficient. He also used the micro inverters which I had researched a ton before I gave up my pursuit of solar.

dragoncar

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9762
  • Registered member
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #93 on: August 31, 2015, 03:59:12 PM »
A lot of utilities are changing up their rate schedules and metering agreements.  Hopefully Sol gets grandfathered in, but it's not a sustainable model for utilities and non-solar users to bear the entire grid cost.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 15876
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #94 on: August 31, 2015, 07:58:15 PM »
Ok, follow up question....
Is the conversion efficiency more or less the same regardless of the current solar irradiance? For example, in optimal conditions Sol's panels will produce ~270w each.  If the irradiance drops by 50% because a cloud goes y, does the efficiency drop by an equivalent amount?  Or is it non-linear?

Abe

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2465
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #95 on: September 01, 2015, 01:52:03 PM »
The efficiency (energy output / energy input) should not vary with the amount of input within normal parameters. However, it does decrease with high input levels (i.e. using mirrors to concentrate incoming sunlight), mostly due to increased thermal energy affecting the efficiency of the cell. You may be asking if the energy output drops in a linear fashion, and that is generally true within normal operating conditions.


Concerns about the the utilities' price gouging for grid maintenance is one of the reasons I would consider an off-grid system. Grid maintenance fees should already be considered in the baseline utility cost and it's not clear to me how solar power producers are resulting in increased capital costs. However it seems that most public utility commissions are not allowing it (Nevada is a recent example), mostly because the utilities cannot answer my question clearly.

dragoncar

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9762
  • Registered member
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #96 on: September 01, 2015, 02:16:44 PM »


Concerns about the the utilities' price gouging for grid maintenance is one of the reasons I would consider an off-grid system. Grid maintenance fees should already be considered in the baseline utility cost and it's not clear to me how solar power producers are resulting in increased capital costs. However it seems that most public utility commissions are not allowing it (Nevada is a recent example), mostly because the utilities cannot answer my question clearly.

You generate 5 excess kWh during the day and put it on the grid.  You draw 5kwh from the grid at night.  Net usage is zero, no bill.  You used the grid for free, but the grid needs to be maintained.  You don't see why that is a problem in the long run?  I don't have a problem with this arrangement when they were trying to incentivize solar power and 10 people did it.  It will be a major problem if 50% of people do it...

Abe

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2465
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #97 on: September 03, 2015, 02:44:29 PM »
I'm not sure how your electricity bill is itemized, but mine separates the cost of maintenance (baseline carriage fee everyone pays) from the electricity used (energy fee, which may be billed from a different utility than the one providing the actual grid connection). In this scenario, paying more just for having a solar array isn't fair.

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8465
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #98 on: September 03, 2015, 08:39:36 PM »
Agreed, I pay the same flat fee for having a grid connection as every other user.  In my case, the panels produce so much that the utility's purchase price of my surplus wipes out my grid connection fee too, but it still shows up on every bill.  They're getting more free power from me than the cost of my grid usage.

dragoncar

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9762
  • Registered member
Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #99 on: September 04, 2015, 03:13:15 AM »
Agreed, I pay the same flat fee for having a grid connection as every other user.  In my case, the panels produce so much that the utility's purchase price of my surplus wipes out my grid connection fee too, but it still shows up on every bill.  They're getting more free power from me than the cost of my grid usage.

That's a good thing, but most states aren't like that.  Do you think your flat fee covers "your portion" of the grid maintenance?  Obviously "your portion" is up for debate -- should the costs be split on a per household basis, per capita, usage based, etc., but I'm curious to know if you think you are a subsidizer, being subsidized, or just right.