Author Topic: Installation of Solar System  (Read 8665 times)

ZMonet

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Installation of Solar System
« on: September 11, 2013, 10:32:41 AM »
I'm considering purchasing a solar system because when I run the numbers I see payback in 6-7 years and we plan to stay at our house for at least the next 15.  Can anyone recommend a company that does complete solar installation and you purchase as opposed to lease.  I realize there will be a significant upfront cost, but I'm looking at this as a long-term investment.  I see SolarCity will let you purchase, but it seems like their focus is leasing.  Anyone offer other suggestions for installers?

A few details:

Location is Maryland
Current energy use is large, around 2,000+ kWh/month (yes, I know this is high)

GuitarStv

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2013, 12:53:49 PM »
We went with Pure Energies for our install and were pretty happy.  I think their US division is called 'one block off the grid'.

Most solar providers will have a focus on leasing because few people are willing to front the money for solar panels.

burly

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2013, 12:56:55 PM »
I'm currently working with http://www.mercurysolarsystems.com/. They are expanding.. I'm not sure if they're in MD yet.

ZMonet

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2013, 01:55:51 PM »
Thanks for the responses.  It seems like a lot of the math of the "break even" time-frame is based on payment of solar energy renewable credits (SERC), paid for by companies that need the credits.  But how can anyone know what those credits will go for next month, let alone 15 years from now.  The math is very difficult to follow and it is VERY apparent that you can't even get close to break even unless you factor in the credit/tax breaks.  Can anyone explain to me how a $50k+ investment might not become a horrible investment?  Anyone done the math and decided there is no way to justify solar panels?

ToeInTheWater

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2013, 03:44:08 PM »
from the thread title, i expected to see quotes from Genesis 1 included  :)
b

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2013, 03:52:54 PM »
The wheel in the sky that keeps burning?

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2013, 07:00:34 PM »
From what I've read, solar makes the best sense if you:
1) pre-optimize your energy usage (OP)
2) have a utility that allows a two-way meter so you don't need a battery installation
3) have a decent amount of sun (MD?)
4) have good rebates and tax incentives both federally and locally.
It can work in less than optimal conditions but its a lot harder. If I were OP, I'd first lower that energy usage, then look for a solar solution.

GuitarStv

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2013, 06:42:18 AM »
Thanks for the responses.  It seems like a lot of the math of the "break even" time-frame is based on payment of solar energy renewable credits (SERC), paid for by companies that need the credits.  But how can anyone know what those credits will go for next month, let alone 15 years from now.  The math is very difficult to follow and it is VERY apparent that you can't even get close to break even unless you factor in the credit/tax breaks.  Can anyone explain to me how a $50k+ investment might not become a horrible investment?  Anyone done the math and decided there is no way to justify solar panels?

Our 4 kW system cost us 16,600$ and we expect to break even in 6 years.

In Ontario we have a micro FIT program that guarantees you a particular rate for renewable energy for 20 years.  We will get 54 cents per kWh for the next 19.5 years with our solar panels.  Since we're selling energy from our solar panels, we can also write off depreciation of the equipment for a tax rebate.  We can also get some of the tax paid on the equipment purchase refunded as the purchase was for a business expense.

Vilx-

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2013, 06:54:31 AM »
Psst... wanna get Alpha Centauri real cheap? Real nice neighbourhood, just 4 lightyears from Earth, twin-star setup for maximum illumination, it's a steal! I can set you up with a great deal, just follow this way...

ZMonet

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2013, 07:04:27 AM »
Thanks Crazyfun.  That is very helpful.  Here is what I've determined so far.  I guess what I'm trying to figure out is if it makes sense to take $50,000 (or whatever the system costs) out of Vanguard to pay for the system.  I'm guessing the answer depends on what I think my rate of return would be on the solar system over its life (which heavily depends on things like rebates/tax incentives) versus how I think the stock market will perform over the same time period.

(1)  Unfortunately I don't think I can get my energy bill down any further as we have a very large house and we've already decided that we like having the extra space.  The conversion to solar would be an attempt to try and lower energy costs.

(2) We do have a two-way meter

(3) I think we do have a decent amount of sun in Maryland.  We average, according to charts, about 4.5 hours/day, which puts us about in the middle for the country (range seems to be about 3.5 to 6 when you take out the outliers).

(4) Incentives seem to be good in Maryland/Federal.  The federal incentive is a 30% tax credit and the state exempts sales and property tax, gives a $1000 rebate and a .235/kWh rebate for $10 years, and a tax credit of .0085/kWh for five years.  In addition, there is a local rebate of $2500.

Bill76

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2013, 08:17:46 AM »
Our 4 kW system cost us 16,600$ and we expect to break even in 6 years.

In Ontario we have a micro FIT program that guarantees you a particular rate for renewable energy for 20 years.  We will get 54 cents per kWh for the next 19.5 years with our solar panels.  Since we're selling energy from our solar panels, we can also write off depreciation of the equipment for a tax rebate.  We can also get some of the tax paid on the equipment purchase refunded as the purchase was for a business expense.

54 cents per kWh?  That's one hell of a subsidy on residential solar that you guys have.  It's roughly 5 times the total retail rate for electricity here in Tennessee.  Sweet deal for you... not so sweet for the rest of the utility customers who are paying you every month.

GuitarStv

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2013, 10:27:34 AM »
Our 4 kW system cost us 16,600$ and we expect to break even in 6 years.

In Ontario we have a micro FIT program that guarantees you a particular rate for renewable energy for 20 years.  We will get 54 cents per kWh for the next 19.5 years with our solar panels.  Since we're selling energy from our solar panels, we can also write off depreciation of the equipment for a tax rebate.  We can also get some of the tax paid on the equipment purchase refunded as the purchase was for a business expense.

54 cents per kWh?  That's one hell of a subsidy on residential solar that you guys have.  It's roughly 5 times the total retail rate for electricity here in Tennessee.  Sweet deal for you... not so sweet for the rest of the utility customers who are paying you every month.

The pollution not generated by our solar panels doesn't cause health and environmental problems that the government then has to pay for down the road.  The utility customers will be paying this back end cost for cheap up-front traditional power generation.  It seems to be a fair trade in my mind.

jba302

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2013, 10:43:04 AM »
I'd like to get some solar panels for the home purchase next year, but a nearly 15 year payoff is going to require a hell of a convincing discussion with the missus.

livetogive

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2013, 02:02:37 PM »
I work in a part of the industry.  I would recommend going with the biggest names (such as Solar City) and strongly consider leasing.

Will Solar City maintain the panels for you and/or repair them when they break?  If so then definitely lease.  The installers are financially secure but I wouldn't bet on many of the manufacturers to be around in 15 years to honor a warranty.  Second, the residual value of an installed solar package can't be much, so why would you want the benefit of owning it?  Are you gonna rip up the panels and try to sell them to someone else?  Who buys panels off craigslist?

And to any naysayers on the post, good for you for taking advantage of a different kind of subsidy.  Big oil and coal are ludicrously subsidized and no one bats an eye, but as soon as someone mentions cleantech subsidies people go bananas and eventually bring up Solyndra.  I'm stoked your coal power consuming neighbors are paying you through the nose!  You should lobby to double it then face punch them.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2013, 02:04:12 PM by TurboLT »

daverobev

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2013, 02:06:48 PM »
The Ontario subsidy used to be 85 c/kWh or something like that. But the cost to install has come down.

Actually the pricing is geared to reduce imports from NY, so I heard - when the ON grid was over capacity and everyone had their a/c units going. But, recently, demand in ON as a whole has fallen.

Anyway - one other option is a solar *hot water* system. Payback is often shorter, and the cost is lower. Plus, it's possible to DIY a solar hot water system!

Just think - limitless free hot water. Well, ok... even on a cold day, it can boost the temperature going in to your hot water tank, so the hot water tank does less work (note: only works with a system that has a tank, tankless and solar don't go together).

You can go as simple as taking a radiator and painting it black...

GuitarStv

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2013, 02:15:21 PM »
I work in a part of the industry.  I would recommend going with the biggest names (such as Solar City) and strongly consider leasing.

Will Solar City maintain the panels for you and/or repair them when they break?  If so then definitely lease.  The installers are financially secure but I wouldn't bet on many of the manufacturers to be around in 15 years to honor a warranty.  Second, the residual value of an installed solar package can't be much, so why would you want the benefit of owning it?  Are you gonna rip up the panels and try to sell them to someone else?  Who buys panels off craigslist?

And to any naysayers on the post, good for you for taking advantage of a different kind of subsidy.  Big oil and coal are ludicrously subsidized and no one bats an eye, but as soon as someone mentions cleantech subsidies people go bananas and eventually bring up Solyndra.  I'm stoked your coal power consuming neighbors are paying you through the nose!  You should lobby to double it then face punch them.

We looked seriously at the solar leases.  Around here they're offering a 20 year lease, no installation charge, but you only get about 10-20$ a month for the duration of the lease (depending on how many panels they can fit on your roof).  It didn't seem to make financial sense for us.

livetogive

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2013, 02:16:24 PM »
I'm actually curious about the Ts & Cs of a residential solar lease in Maryland, which seems like a more at risk state than say, Arizona.

1.  Is it hell or high water?  What happens if you don't realize any savings?
2.  Are savings stipulated?  How are they measured?
3.  Who's in charge of maintenance?
4.  How much cushion between expected savings and lease payments?


Wait a sec - how does the cash flow work?  SC pays you?

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2013, 03:25:52 PM »
(1)  Unfortunately I don't think I can get my energy bill down any further as we have a very large house and we've already decided that we like having the extra space.  The conversion to solar would be an attempt to try and lower energy costs.


I have a large house as well, so I can sympathize.  Have you already switched all your lightbulbs to fluorescent or LED?  Do you have energy star appliances?  Do you try to keep lights off as much as possible?  Can you ditch the extra fridge in the garage, etc.?  I have been line-drying a good half of my laundry and that along with cutting A/C usage has cut mine down significantly. 

Matte

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2013, 05:52:04 PM »
I would go with the 2way grid tie system, should not be hard at all to get the transformer tied in.  Could you do the mounting of the panels yourself? That could save tons of money, then just get an electrician to wire it up.  You could buy and import the solar panels online to save money too.  Rv panels sell about $150/ 100 watts, just make sure there ul approved.  And check if your elidgeable for the subsidies if you contract it yourself.  A lot of power companies charge less at night, less load on the system then, sell your excess to the grid during the day, then buy it cheap at night.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #19 on: September 13, 2013, 05:36:13 AM »
Our 4 kW system cost us 16,600$ and we expect to break even in 6 years.

In Ontario we have a micro FIT program that guarantees you a particular rate for renewable energy for 20 years.  We will get 54 cents per kWh for the next 19.5 years with our solar panels.  Since we're selling energy from our solar panels, we can also write off depreciation of the equipment for a tax rebate.  We can also get some of the tax paid on the equipment purchase refunded as the purchase was for a business expense.

54 cents per kWh?  That's one hell of a subsidy on residential solar that you guys have.  It's roughly 5 times the total retail rate for electricity here in Tennessee.  Sweet deal for you... not so sweet for the rest of the utility customers who are paying you every month.

Tennessee has unusually low electricity rates per kWh because of TVA, which is also a subsidy, so comparing Ontario to TN is pretty pointless.  The question is, what is the usual market rate for elec in Ontario?   We can't know how big/ small the solar subsidy is until we know what power companies typically pay for non-solar form of electric.  The FIT is a powerful policy tool for expanding solar use and the rate paid is fully customizable to local market.  I wish we had it here.

daverobev

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #20 on: September 13, 2013, 06:57:43 AM »
On my Ontario 'Hydro One' bill, peak is about 12c, mid-peak 10.5c, off-peak 6.5c I think.

But those numbers are complete nonsense because they add on and subtract a whole range of things. Losses, green energy, debt retirement, etc, etc.

I figure the 'actual cost' is about twice the quoted cost.

Off-peak is 7pm-7am and weekends; mid is currently 7am-11am, 5pm-7pm; and peak 11am-5pm - but in the winter, mid and peak swap places (ugh).

It is, quite simply, a bloody mess.

Insanity

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #21 on: September 13, 2013, 07:09:37 AM »
I work in a part of the industry.  I would recommend going with the biggest names (such as Solar City) and strongly consider leasing.

Will Solar City maintain the panels for you and/or repair them when they break?  If so then definitely lease.  The installers are financially secure but I wouldn't bet on many of the manufacturers to be around in 15 years to honor a warranty.  Second, the residual value of an installed solar package can't be much, so why would you want the benefit of owning it?  Are you gonna rip up the panels and try to sell them to someone else?  Who buys panels off craigslist?

And to any naysayers on the post, good for you for taking advantage of a different kind of subsidy.  Big oil and coal are ludicrously subsidized and no one bats an eye, but as soon as someone mentions cleantech subsidies people go bananas and eventually bring up Solyndra.  I'm stoked your coal power consuming neighbors are paying you through the nose!  You should lobby to double it then face punch them.

How are the integrated shingle systems compared to the panels?  I've been looking at DOW's system, but they don't offer that up in PA.  We plan on being in the house for long time.

Bill76

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #22 on: September 13, 2013, 07:21:12 AM »
Our 4 kW system cost us 16,600$ and we expect to break even in 6 years.

In Ontario we have a micro FIT program that guarantees you a particular rate for renewable energy for 20 years.  We will get 54 cents per kWh for the next 19.5 years with our solar panels.  Since we're selling energy from our solar panels, we can also write off depreciation of the equipment for a tax rebate.  We can also get some of the tax paid on the equipment purchase refunded as the purchase was for a business expense.

54 cents per kWh?  That's one hell of a subsidy on residential solar that you guys have.  It's roughly 5 times the total retail rate for electricity here in Tennessee.  Sweet deal for you... not so sweet for the rest of the utility customers who are paying you every month.

Tennessee has unusually low electricity rates per kWh because of TVA, which is also a subsidy, so comparing Ontario to TN is pretty pointless.  The question is, what is the usual market rate for elec in Ontario?   We can't know how big/ small the solar subsidy is until we know what power companies typically pay for non-solar form of electric.  The FIT is a powerful policy tool for expanding solar use and the rate paid is fully customizable to local market.  I wish we had it here.

TVA is completely funded by electricity sales (i.e., no tax dollars are appropriated to support it) and has been for decades, so there's no direct subsidy.  (This isn't well known, even among Tennesseans, but it's true.)  This includes flood control functions that the Corps of Engineers would otherwise handle at taxpayer expense.   You could call the tax advantages of being a Federally owned corporation a subsidy, but TVA does make payments to state and local governments to make up for at least some of those taxes they don't pay.  In addition, TVA rates aren't quite as good as they used to be (relative to other utilities in the region) due to massive capital outlays over the last decade (emissions controls at coal plants, the Kingston coal ash spill, refurbishment of Browns Ferry Nuclear Unit 1, construction of Watts Bar Nuclear unit 2, etc.).  Plus, other southern utilities are heavier on natural gas generation, which is currently at an artificially low price in the US.  (Can you tell that I work in the utility industry yet?)

My quick research on electricity prices in Ontario shows that their rates are actually pretty close to ours in Tennessee, so I assume production costs are also in the same ballpark.  The rate on my last bill was 9.64 c/kWh.  Rates in Ontario range from 6.7 c/kWh (off-peak) to 12.4 c/kWh (on-peak), with mid-peak rates at 10.4 c/kWh. (Ref. http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/Consumers/Electricity/Electricity+Prices).  The similarity in rates doesn't surprise me, since Ontario is heavy on hydroelectricity with a fair amount of nuclear generation, very similar to TVA, except I think TVA uses more coal than Ontario.

On the topics of subsidies and pollution, just remember there's no free lunch.  I could rant all day about how all forms of energy production are subsidized (some more than others) and how people conveniently ignore some types of pollution when deciding what is "clean" energy.  I'll spare you though, since it's not relevant to the discussion. :)

So my question is, are the externalities of other forms of generation equivalent to a 40-45 cent/kWh subsidy?  I don't even know where to begin on that calculation.

Rollin

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2013, 02:54:33 PM »
2000 kwh is very high IMHO.  I have a 2,600 square foot house with a pool (pump) and 5 people living there and the AC running 24 hours per day.  July was about 1,600 kwh.  Florida = hot 24 hours/day.

I do have solar hot water, foamed attic space, and a variable speed pump for the pool.  This was for a very hot month of August.

Most solar recommendations start with reducing your bill first.  You don't want to provide expensive power capacity to serve an innefficient home.

Then, your costs of panels will be lower.

Solar hot water is very low hanging fruit here in FLA - not sure about MD.  Payback is usually 2-5 years.  Variable speed pump is about 2 years (had to replace the pump anyways).  Foam will be about 5 years.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 02:56:26 PM by Rollin »

chardog

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Re: Installation of Solar System
« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2013, 08:05:36 PM »
Psst... wanna get Alpha Centauri real cheap? Real nice neighbourhood, just 4 lightyears from Earth, twin-star setup for maximum illumination, it's a steal! I can set you up with a great deal, just follow this way...

Right behind ya' Voyager!