Author Topic: Let's talk Solar Panels.  (Read 8866 times)

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #100 on: May 06, 2022, 01:06:28 PM »
Dang, I'm still struggling over the comp out vs tile hook method for our Spanish clay tile roof. So far I have one very competitive quote from a roofing [first] company who also does solar and they are pretty much the only company who would be doing the tile hook method of mounting. Most other installers and roofers I've spoken with has told me to do comp-out though. The company doing the tile/hook method overall has good reviews on Yelp and Google. The comp out portion really raises the price on things though - they'd be removing all the tiles from ridge to bottom edge and comping it, installing the panels, then laying the tiles back over. One installer I spoke with today said this is really the best way to do and he has done a lot of these installs (including tile/hook) and prefers comp.

Go with your gut.  We didn't and had to back out of that contract, which we had to fight to do, and went with our original gut company, which was more expensive but we're so much happier with it.

GuitarStv

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #101 on: May 06, 2022, 01:08:48 PM »
I'd recommend that anyone getting solar panels on their roof make sure that the installation includes something that prevents animals from getting under them.  I had to repair about a thousand dollars damage that squirrels did to the roof (scratching/ripping up shingles) and electrical wiring (chewing through . . . and electrocuting themselves . . . and then more of them chewing through) while nesting under our panels over the winter.  Miserable little bastards.

markbike528CBX

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #102 on: May 06, 2022, 02:01:49 PM »
I'd recommend that anyone getting solar panels on their roof make sure that the installation includes something that prevents animals from getting under them.  I had to repair about a thousand dollars damage that squirrels did to the roof (scratching/ripping up shingles) and electrical wiring (chewing through . . . and electrocuting themselves . . . and then more of them chewing through) while nesting under our panels over the winter.  Miserable little bastards.
... but they are tasty!

Syonyk

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #103 on: May 06, 2022, 09:11:23 PM »
I ended up going with a local installer who gave me a price of $2.85/watt for REC 400 Alpha Black panels along with Enphase IQ8M micro inverters and additional panel upgrade.

If that's pre-incentives, that's borderline acceptable!  I probably would have let someone else do the work at $2.50/W or lower, even if it was roof mount.  But that $1.50/W final pricing I managed is just worth an awful lot of time and effort.

I'd recommend that anyone getting solar panels on their roof make sure that the installation includes something that prevents animals from getting under them.  I had to repair about a thousand dollars damage that squirrels did to the roof (scratching/ripping up shingles) and electrical wiring (chewing through . . . and electrocuting themselves . . . and then more of them chewing through) while nesting under our panels over the winter.  Miserable little bastards.

Try to make sure air can get through it, though.  My ground mount panels are "comically overproducing estimates" to the tune of about 1.5-2MWh/yr, and I think a large part of it is that they're so well cooled by having free airflow around them.  Any decent breeze, and they run at ambient temperature - I can just put my hand on them in the full sun.  If it's a calm day, I'm not quite that stupid, but... compared to rooftop temperatures, my panels run an awful lot cooler.

jeromedawg

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #104 on: May 06, 2022, 10:14:20 PM »
I ended up going with a local installer who gave me a price of $2.85/watt for REC 400 Alpha Black panels along with Enphase IQ8M micro inverters and additional panel upgrade.

If that's pre-incentives, that's borderline acceptable!  I probably would have let someone else do the work at $2.50/W or lower, even if it was roof mount.  But that $1.50/W final pricing I managed is just worth an awful lot of time and effort.

I'd recommend that anyone getting solar panels on their roof make sure that the installation includes something that prevents animals from getting under them.  I had to repair about a thousand dollars damage that squirrels did to the roof (scratching/ripping up shingles) and electrical wiring (chewing through . . . and electrocuting themselves . . . and then more of them chewing through) while nesting under our panels over the winter.  Miserable little bastards.

Try to make sure air can get through it, though.  My ground mount panels are "comically overproducing estimates" to the tune of about 1.5-2MWh/yr, and I think a large part of it is that they're so well cooled by having free airflow around them.  Any decent breeze, and they run at ambient temperature - I can just put my hand on them in the full sun.  If it's a calm day, I'm not quite that stupid, but... compared to rooftop temperatures, my panels run an awful lot cooler.

$1.50/w? Is that even possible these days especially in CA? I don't think I can get less than $2 even with the lowest quote... of course, that's factoring in tile hooks on a delicate roof. And some of the quotes I've received aren't even factoring in the roof work! Are you in CA? If so, did you install your system years ago?

gooki

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #105 on: May 07, 2022, 01:17:08 AM »
I still don't understand why Solar is priced so high in the USA. In little ole New Zealand with no incentives a 5kw system is $1.2 USD / W installed including sales tax. Or $1.04 before sales tax.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2022, 04:54:45 AM by gooki »

NorCal

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #106 on: May 07, 2022, 06:10:48 AM »
I still don't understand why Solar is priced so high in the USA. In little ole New Zealand with no incentives a 5kw system is $1.2 USD / W installed including sales tax. Or $1.04 before sales tax.

We had an orange man that put some sizeable tariffs on solar panels, although these were extended by Biden as well.  Wholesalers are reportedly paying about 55% higher prices than the rest of the world.  Although part of this may be caused by our port backlog on our west coast.

Syonyk

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #107 on: May 07, 2022, 03:40:58 PM »
$1.50/w? Is that even possible these days especially in CA? I don't think I can get less than $2 even with the lowest quote...

Sure, I did it in 2020, and I'm helping with a few installs this year that should ideally sneak in a bit under that.  But you rather misunderstand me.  I don't "get quotes."  I "do the work myself."

You can find my project documentation here: https://www.sevarg.net/tag/solar2020/

If you're under NEC 2017, you should be able to get in around $1.25/W for materials right now, either roof mount or ground mount - assuming no shade on the ground mount.  You don't need per panel electronics for rapid shutdown with a ground mount, so the cost of the ground frames is more or less a wash compared to the roof already being there, though if you can get a good deal on pipe and weld up your own frames, you can probably do a bit better.  Use 72 cell panels and 10 in series (it's electrically identical to 12x 60 cell in series but cheaper in terms of panels and mounting), it should be under 600V almost anywhere for peak open circuit voltage in winter, and you've got about 10A to deal with - so you can do the DC runs on 12AWG without serious losses.  Your area may have some permit fees and such that drive it up a bit, but you should be able to come in under $1.50/W without too much trouble unless you have to do major panel work or something.  May God have mercy on your soul if you have to "prove" you can derate your main breaker to get some backfeed amps freed up in your busbar.  NEC load calculations are a cute variety of nonsense math in a modern home.

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Are you in CA? If so, did you install your system years ago?

I'm where everyone fleeing California is going - Idaho.

And the price of panels dropping means that you'd be quite a bit higher in years past.  I just picked up two trailers of panels (100x 72 cell, and smaller trailers...) this spring for $0.45/W, shipped to a local depot - price was "forklifted onto our trailers."  Some nice 144 half-cell panels, too.  Just can't get the rest of the parts for some of those systems. :(

I still don't understand why Solar is priced so high in the USA. In little ole New Zealand with no incentives a 5kw system is $1.2 USD / W installed including sales tax. Or $1.04 before sales tax.

Materials cost is higher, but a lot of it is the labor costs, and the (in my exceedingly not popular opinion) costs of lead generation/sales, and (apparently) roof mount work insurance.

If I can get the materials at $1.25/W or so, buying at "individual homeowner scale" projects, I would like to think that a large solar install company can get the materials at least somewhat cheaper than I can - if not, I have my questions about who's getting the kickbacks.  But the sale people often enough have a "dial-a-commission" system in which they can more or less pay themselves based on what they can convince other people to pay - a couple grand a project in sales commissions aren't uncommon, and I've heard of far higher numbers that can be a double digit percentage of system cost.

Solar in the US seems to be priced based on what the salesguy thinks the sucker will pay, after federal rebates and such.  Plus, any interest number coming out of a solar salesman's mouth is a lie.  They don't have 0%, 1.99%, 2.5% interest loans.  They have loans with a couple grand worth of interest payments tacked onto the front so they can "sell the low interest rate."  Usually, if you ask for the "cash price," it'll be a couple grand cheaper, at least.  And if they don't admit that, they're almost certainly lying too.  Solar financing is a high interest, "mostly unsecured" loan (nobody is going to come take panels off a roof and patch holes for a 7 year old system someone stopped paying on).

On top of that, you'll find outright lies regarding the "amount you'll save."  The usual quote software lets you "dial-a-power-increase" year over year, so most quotes you see have your "estimated 30 year power cost" at 3%, 4%, 5% year over year increases in power price, regardless of what your local utility has been actually doing - and it's a rare salesdrone that can actually have an honest discussion about that bit of math.  Plus, of course, they assume that whatever net metering you have will continue indefinitely, and don't even mention that the plan may change out from under you if that's an actual risk.

Anyway.  *slaps panel*  This baby's got an Enphase V8 under each hood, and they'll go 0-60hz in under 8 seconds, while split phasing the lane.  Now, listen, I know you only spend $1400/yr on power, but over 25 years, you could be spending $58,000 or more on legacy electricity.  Put this $38k system in, and after incentives, you could be saving $33k or more!  I mean, imagine if power costs go up more, you'd save even more!  Now, listen, my boss is gonna hate this, but if you sign here today, I'll work in some kind of cash back rebate on your system, payable to me, so don't make me call the bad cop in!

Seriously, I've only met one pair of used car salesman I like less than solar salesman.  Still don't know what they wanted for that car, but it was a classic high pressure good cop bad cop routine full of lies and "But how much a month?" questions.

We had an orange man that put some sizeable tariffs on solar panels, although these were extended by Biden as well.

The current tariffs at 30% don't dominate system cost, by any means.  On the panels I got for $0.45/W, the difference would be about $0.14/W - and $4/W minus $0.14/W is still obscene.

gooki

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #108 on: May 07, 2022, 04:13:40 PM »
Thanks for the detailed response.

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Seriously, I've only met one pair of used car salesman I like less than solar salesman.

Some of them are the worst. I had one solar salesman (the franchise owner) trying to spread fud about their competition by showing me pictures of cheap Chinese panels catching on fire, and then proceeded to provide me a quote with cheap Chinese panels.

The company I used were good. No bullshit, just prices and a third party finance offer. Could save 3% paying cash. They we're also happy to install my self provided power inverter. A team of three turn up on the day, electrician gets into the roof space and starts running wires, another employee is up on the roof installing the mounting system, last guy is ferrying panels and equipment to the guy on the roof and communicating with the electrician. Whole job is done in half a day and they move onto the next house.

I had to bug the administration team to get me confirmation of the 10 year inverter warranty instead of the standard 5 year. But other than that it was smooth sailing and still going strong 5 years on.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2022, 04:22:13 PM by gooki »

jeromedawg

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #109 on: May 09, 2022, 08:29:07 PM »
What are your guys' (who didn't DIY your system for whatever reason... oh I don't know, because you didn't want to fall off the roof from 20-30' off the ground perhaps? hahahaha) long-term outlook on the 'viability' of solar in states like CA where we're feeling a HUGE amount of pushback from the utilities via NEMs (well, I guess this is any state where solar is catching on).

I sense a lot of fear from local solar companies, with many of them speculating that the utilities will eventually just buy out and 'own' the solar. The thought is that, eventually, solar is going to become a standard part of the grid that you will be charged for. No more of the ability for you to choose for your home to be "off the grid". And also, not so much of a choice as far as who you are going to have going up on your roof and potentially ruining it while installing a bunch of solar panels if it ever becomes 'mandated.' Kind of a scary thought.
At some point, if you just wait, won't we all be in the same boat? So what's the point of paying for it up front?
I guess the big question is what that timeframe is between now and *then* - it does seem like it would make sense just to get a bunch of panels installed if your ROI/breakeven is anywhere from 8-12 years (depending on the size of the system)... this is of course assuming that NEM 12 is out by then, with you paying monthly premiums to have a solar array on your roof lol.

There are a few guys who seem a bit more "old school" on other forums saying I should abandon the idea of going solar because my Spanish clay tile roof is so delicate: "you're going to break a bunch of tiles! DON'T DO IT!" or "why would you butcher such a beautiful roof? I would never do this"
« Last Edit: May 09, 2022, 08:32:47 PM by jeromedawg »

bryan995

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #110 on: May 09, 2022, 09:08:30 PM »
NEM 3 is disgustingly horrible!

I suspect it will evolve before it goes into effect. But who knows.

I am (supposedly) grandfathered into NEM 2 for the next 20 years. Only 15 years if NEM 3 is passed as is. If somehow things change, or even after my NEM 2 expires and if conditions are unfavorable - then I would explore isolating my solar / powerwalls from the grid and send a big FU to the electric provider.  I don’t think they could ever truly prevent/block this.

They should not be able to charge for solar generation if the panels are not connected to the grid.  Even as things are installed now, I think I could simply flip a breaker and self isolate. Tesla has been tremendously pro consumer along the way. We now have the ability to not only charge the home batteries from the grid (normally disallowed) but we can also now export stored energy into the grid during peak. TOU arbitrage !  The app is already perfectly tuned to maximize the cost benefit of TOU billing. There is a ML model that also learns your daily usage and decided when to start discharging the batteries to optimize cost benefit.  I suspect they can very easily innovate faster than the bureaucratic system can pass law.

So my faith is in “papa elon” that he will do things right if the electric provider tries to pass absurd regulation.

2021 impact
https://imgur.com/a/UlQk8Tk

2022 impact
https://imgur.com/a/WLX75Wy

2022 usage
https://imgur.com/a/CRjo7c8

If I were trying to install solar now, I’d be doing it as fast as possible to ensure you can get into NEM 2! 
« Last Edit: May 09, 2022, 09:15:40 PM by bryan995 »

jeromedawg

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #111 on: May 09, 2022, 10:12:40 PM »
NEM 3 is disgustingly horrible!

I suspect it will evolve before it goes into effect. But who knows.

I am (supposedly) grandfathered into NEM 2 for the next 20 years. Only 15 years if NEM 3 is passed as is. If somehow things change, or even after my NEM 2 expires and if conditions are unfavorable - then I would explore isolating my solar / powerwalls from the grid and send a big FU to the electric provider.  I don’t think they could ever truly prevent/block this.

They should not be able to charge for solar generation if the panels are not connected to the grid.  Even as things are installed now, I think I could simply flip a breaker and self isolate. Tesla has been tremendously pro consumer along the way. We now have the ability to not only charge the home batteries from the grid (normally disallowed) but we can also now export stored energy into the grid during peak. TOU arbitrage !  The app is already perfectly tuned to maximize the cost benefit of TOU billing. There is a ML model that also learns your daily usage and decided when to start discharging the batteries to optimize cost benefit.  I suspect they can very easily innovate faster than the bureaucratic system can pass law.

So my faith is in “papa elon” that he will do things right if the electric provider tries to pass absurd regulation.

2021 impact
https://imgur.com/a/UlQk8Tk

2022 impact
https://imgur.com/a/WLX75Wy

2022 usage
https://imgur.com/a/CRjo7c8

If I were trying to install solar now, I’d be doing it as fast as possible to ensure you can get into NEM 2!

I thought the ability to export/sell energy back to the grid was universal...? Or is that specifically a Powerwall thing that no other batteries out there can do? We are not planning to go with Tesla - I just don't have a lot of faith in how they do things, and I've heard too that they're a mixed bag when it comes to dealing with our type of roofing. I mean, we could probably coordinate having the roof work comp out done IF we were to go that route but I hate the idea of project managing all of that with multiple contractors now.

The other factor right now is that solar pricing has gone up significantly since when you purchased I'm pretty sure (as with everything else I suppose). It's a sucky catch-22 situation to be in where now the ROI/break-even is going to be longer to hit - it's not so much that the difference between say 5 to 8 years ROI is a big deal; it's knowing that I have to put up that much more cash when we already have a ton of other home expenses/upgrades/repairs that we're dealing with. Right now solar doesn't feel like a priority in comparison to the other stuff we need to get taken care of (replacing HVAC system and then upgrading our panel, which is required to even go solar in the first place). By the time we take care of those things, if we do solar we'll be pretty strapped for cash...

On a related note: does anyone have a good solar ROI/breakeven calculator or resource to run the numbers?
« Last Edit: May 09, 2022, 10:24:06 PM by jeromedawg »

Syonyk

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Re: Let's talk Solar Panels.
« Reply #112 on: May 10, 2022, 10:10:53 AM »
What are your guys' (who didn't DIY your system for whatever reason... oh I don't know, because you didn't want to fall off the roof from 20-30' off the ground perhaps? hahahaha) long-term outlook on the 'viability' of solar in states like CA where we're feeling a HUGE amount of pushback from the utilities via NEMs (well, I guess this is any state where solar is catching on).

Why would DIY or not impact that?  You can drive the costs down and have a more cost effective system with DIY, but it's not a fundamentally different system from what's built by most installers.  Just more attention to detail, cheaper, better... ;)  The inspectors all commented on how clean my system was, install-wise - I took the time to do things like making sure the wire routing arcs were smooth and cut to length, instead of just leaving the tangled result of what comes out of the pulls.

However, as you observe, there are reasons roof mount is "radically more expensive" than ground mount if you're not doing your own work, and it's the roof work insurance.  For reference, large ground mount "industrial/commercial solar" (the big solar farms you see every now and then) have been below $1/W for a long while now.  I'm not sure what new solar of that scope is running, but it's cheaper than even DIY ground mount, because you can literally have the shipping containers start showing up at the site filled with endless panels, the trackers, etc.  And you're working at low levels, so you don't have the roof concerns.  Also, with trackers, they tend to be a bit more production-per-panel than fixed angle panels.  They also do a better job of flattening the production curve throughout the day - you get good power morning to evening without the mid-day peak that is more and more an actual problem on the power grid.  My system stretches production power out, but it's still a bit peaky at solar noon.  Of course, that's 2PM out here in the summer because we're in the wrong timezone.

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I sense a lot of fear from local solar companies, with many of them speculating that the utilities will eventually just buy out and 'own' the solar. The thought is that, eventually, solar is going to become a standard part of the grid that you will be charged for.

I would hope so.  In terms of "energy generated per dollar," a larger scale system on trackers will be a 4-6x improvement over a typical residential install.  That drops if you're comparing to my sort of install, but even then, the big local solar farms are almost certainly more effective per dollar (if they don't pull a factor of 2-2.5 over my install, I've no idea what they're doing wrong).  The downside is that they're further out, so make more use of grid resources to transmit their power in, but even if you factor that in, they're going to generate quite a bit more MWh per dollar spent.  Plus, they're a good place to stick batteries, eventually.  You've already got the inverters, so a high side battery on the DC rails doesn't require much additional hardware beyond the batteries to interconnect.  If you've got 50MW nameplate, being able to hold 30MW on a partly cloudy day, and ramp down later in the evening, is more useful to the grid than being a 15-40MW randomly varying source, which is what solar will do on a lot of days.  You can, on a typical day, produce early, charge mid-day (even if you're not pulling from the grid, just reduce your inverter output as the batteries fill), and then help with evening peak as the sun goes down (or, just having your panels pointed west in the evening).  South facing fixed panels tend to be dropping off as demand picks up, which makes the problems worse.

But fundamentally, the grid has to be paid for, somehow.  Electricity from a wide range of sources typically costs in the $0.02-$0.04/kWh range, with the rest of the rate going to pay for the transmission systems, the crews to work on them after storms, etc.  You can get a good sense of the actual kWh vs transmission/distribution system costs in your area by finding a commercial demand based rate schedule, in which you pay separate for kWh and "grid resources required to get them to you."  Residential and light commercial rates are a compromise with the useful property that your bill will be roughly the same if you use roughly the same amount of power, as opposed to measuring peak demand and billing you that way - you could have a bad month if your water heater, oven, and air conditioner were all running at the same time and you're paying for peak power (kW) as well as for each kWh.  You see a bit of the "as you have higher average draw, your cost per kWh goes up" pricing in most of them to price in the increased grid use of a high power demand site, but that $0.14/kWh or so is still mostly the grid costs, not the generation costs.

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No more of the ability for you to choose for your home to be "off the grid".

Please define "off the grid" here, because if you have a power connection, even if you're net exporting over a period of time, you're still very much "on the grid" and using it for things like handling surge current, frequency stability, etc.

My office is "off the grid."  I have solar, batteries, inverters, and quite staggeringly expensive power compared to grid power (even after six years).  I'm around 13MWh on the main array, plus a few from the morning panels, and I'm pretty sure I'm below $0.75/W delivered now, but I've only got a couple years left before I have to replace the batteries.  I'll probably toss another inverter on at that point to do more EV charging, since I've got a small house system out here...

My home is very much not "off the grid," although I'm currently a net producer of energy on an annual basis with my solar.  I still very much rely on the power grid, even though I'm now paying ~nothing for my use of it.  A system capable of running my house indefinitely without grid power would cost quite a bit more than what I installed - probably in the $60-$80k range, just for materials.  Or I'd have to shift thermal loads to propane.

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And also, not so much of a choice as far as who you are going to have going up on your roof and potentially ruining it while installing a bunch of solar panels if it ever becomes 'mandated.' Kind of a scary thought.

Doesn't California require it on new construction now?  But I don't see the utilities ever having the slightest interest in installing rooftop solar on people's homes, because it's quite silly.  They'd get far better cost effectiveness, and far more useful systems, by going with ground mount systems.  The same is true for homeowners if you have some land, and a lot of the installs I've been seeing out here are ground mount (including the ones I'm helping with).

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At some point, if you just wait, won't we all be in the same boat? So what's the point of paying for it up front?
I guess the big question is what that timeframe is between now and *then* - it does seem like it would make sense just to get a bunch of panels installed if your ROI/breakeven is anywhere from 8-12 years (depending on the size of the system)... this is of course assuming that NEM 12 is out by then, with you paying monthly premiums to have a solar array on your roof lol.

I'm able to take advantage of some rather biased subsidies in the meantime to put money in my pocket and reduce my long term power expense quite nicely.  Additionally, it provides long term low carbon energy for the local grid segment.  But I don't pretend it's sustainable if everyone has this.

then I would explore isolating my solar / powerwalls from the grid and send a big FU to the electric provider.  I don’t think they could ever truly prevent/block this.

Probably not.  Cutting your nose off to spite the face generally doesn't bother other people very much.  But I don't think you've got any actual experience with off grid systems if you think that's reasonable to do for large parts of the year.

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They should not be able to charge for solar generation if the panels are not connected to the grid.  Even as things are installed now, I think I could simply flip a breaker and self isolate. Tesla has been tremendously pro consumer along the way. We now have the ability to not only charge the home batteries from the grid (normally disallowed) but we can also now export stored energy into the grid during peak. TOU arbitrage !  The app is already perfectly tuned to maximize the cost benefit of TOU billing. There is a ML model that also learns your daily usage and decided when to start discharging the batteries to optimize cost benefit.  I suspect they can very easily innovate faster than the bureaucratic system can pass law.

The problem here is that it's really not your power grid, unless you've not disclosed a major ownership share in your local utility or something.  If your utility has said that you're not permitted, on their system, to be charging/discharging batteries from the grid, and you are, you're in violation of the various contracts with them, and at least out here, a non-permitted backfeeding system that they can't easily shut off if the come out to poke at things (which they have permission to do in the rate schedules) simply leads to them taking the meter with them and waiting for you to fix the problem before they come back.

And "Disconnecting a breaker" doesn't count as "disconnecting from the grid," as far as they're concerned.  Because you can flip it right back on after they leave.  If the panels are wired such that they can be connected to the grid easily (via switches/disconnects/etc), they're connected to the power grid, per NEC/your local power company/etc.  And, fundamentally, it's their power grid to maintain and keep safe, so what they say goes.

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So my faith is in “papa elon” that he will do things right if the electric provider tries to pass absurd regulation.

Ignore your local utility provider's requirements at the risk of your connection to their grid.  *shrug*

I thought the ability to export/sell energy back to the grid was universal...?

In a lot of areas, behind the meter batteries are prohibited from backfeeding by policy.  There's no technical reason they can't, just the power grid is designed for mostly one way flows.

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Or is that specifically a Powerwall thing that no other batteries out there can do?

If it's capable of inverting to AC and matching frequency, it's capable, at least technically, of backfeeding the grid.  Most installs will have current transformers on the main feed to monitor net power in/out such that they don't, though.

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The other factor right now is that solar pricing has gone up significantly since when you purchased I'm pretty sure (as with everything else I suppose). It's a sucky catch-22 situation to be in where now the ROI/break-even is going to be longer to hit - it's not so much that the difference between say 5 to 8 years ROI is a big deal; it's knowing that I have to put up that much more cash when we already have a ton of other home expenses/upgrades/repairs that we're dealing with. Right now solar doesn't feel like a priority in comparison to the other stuff we need to get taken care of (replacing HVAC system and then upgrading our panel, which is required to even go solar in the first place). By the time we take care of those things, if we do solar we'll be pretty strapped for cash...

Look into the requirements for energy efficiency tax credits.  If you're doing a HVAC system upgrade, and upgrading your panel, it may be advantageous to claim them all as part of residential energy efficiency improvements, and pull the tax credits.  If you have to upgrade your panel as part of installing solar, it's absolutely in scope for the 26% credit, though I think this becomes harder if you start claiming the changes are related in different tax years.  But if you're having a lot of work done, check the tax side of it too.

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On a related note: does anyone have a good solar ROI/breakeven calculator or resource to run the numbers?

There exist plenty, but it's hard to make strong claims about what the future pricing environment will look like.  You can play with them, but I wouldn't expect them to be particularly accurate.  They also don't generally price in the risk of changes to the rate schedules - though as long as you're a behind the meter interconnect, I'd argue for a longer solar day over maximum peak production.

I estimate my system at around $0.04/kWh generated for 30 years, which is enough below my power rates that it makes sense, but I'm also (as part of the system) offsetting a lot of gas use with solar miles on the car, and I've got a pretty sweet grandfathered kWh for kWh net metering deal until 2045.