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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: theoverlook on May 21, 2020, 09:31:33 AM

Title: Starting a solar power generating site?
Post by: theoverlook on May 21, 2020, 09:31:33 AM
I'm in Ohio. I like to do surplus / liquidation sales as a side gig. I'll buy a small lot of stuff here and resell it over time. Well, I found a pretty massive lot of solar panels for sale (3 megawatts!) and was giving serious thought to buying them and reselling them over time, turning my side gig into a full blown part time job as it would require renting a warehouse and everything. Well, the gears kept turning and I finally thought - what if I bought land and installed the panels and sold the power? Even ignoring the fact that it's solar power, it looks like wholesale electricity sells for about $.05/kwh around here and you get an effective 4.26 hours per day of sunlight. My math shows:

3 mw x 1,000 mw/kw x 4.26 hrs/day = 12,780 kwh/day x $.05/kwh = $639/day x 365 = $233,235.00/year

Now, the panels are probably going to set me back about $400,000+ after shipping and handling. I've found a 15 acre site about 1 mile from a substation with high tension lines on it with an asking price of $150,000. Beyond that I start to get a little hazy. Engineering, permits, installation costs - how do I research that? There's an Ohio Power Siting Board that reviews appropriateness for power generation facilities but it doesn't appear to apply to a project this small. (It applies to wind above 5mw and everything above 50mw.)

Who do I sell the power to, and how do I reach those people? Is it as simple as telling AEP, I'd like to connect my solar panels to your grid, here's some wires? (I assume not!)

This is all obviously very preliminary. I'm just intrigued and would love to find out if anyone has input.
Title: Re: Starting a solar power generating site?
Post by: ctuser1 on May 21, 2020, 10:01:36 AM
I don't know the answers to *all* of your questions. However, I know that you will need to sell to the appropriate Independent Systems Operator (i.e. ISO) in your area.

Ohio is divvied up between PJM and MISO.

I don't know if you can or need to sell to both or just one based on location. PJM is the oldest, most matured ISO in the US and hence are considered the standard bearers by many industry experts.

You can NOT sell directly to the utility company like AEP. Producers *have to* sell to ISO's. Wholesale consumers (a.k.a. your utility) will *have to* buy from ISO's. There are some strong restrictions on common ownership of producers and consumers. I don't know the exact rules, but basically you are not supposed to sit on both ends of the ISO and be able to manipulate the market to your needs.

The ISO's are non-profits, managed by it's members (i.e. utility companies, producers etc). Their primary mandate is grid stability, with fair market operations a secondary goal. In order to maintain grid stability, the ISO can and do often stick both producers and (wholesale) consumers with surprise bills after the fact. Think $1000+/MW electricity price as a consumer, or a -$300 one as a producer. Electricity market is much more volatile than the stock market. Thankfully, prices charged to your and my homes are protected from that crazyness - but bigger, industrial/wholesale consumers have to worry about that. As a producer, you will likely be subject to that volatility in pricing, but solar/renewable would likely have many incentives that will change your equation.

Title: Re: Starting a solar power generating site?
Post by: JLee on May 21, 2020, 10:22:17 AM
Is that cost just panels? You're going to need a significant amount of electronics to go with it - inverters, wiring, etc.

I found a warehouse in Ohio via Google Sunroof and calculated 1333 hours of sunlight per year (3.65/day) -- how are you calculating sunlight? Do you know the efficiency of the panels?
Title: Re: Starting a solar power generating site?
Post by: theoverlook on May 21, 2020, 11:17:50 AM
@ctuser1 : Thank you, that was fascinating information. Surprise bills would be rough, I have resources but I know the kind of bills that utilities can be hit by could quickly bankrupt an individual. It looks like PJM is the ISO in the area I'm considering. I'll do some reading and see if I have more questions for you. (I'm sure I will.)

@JLee : That is the panels and inverters. The wiring and racking and everything else would need purchased separately. I'm calculating sunlight hours based on calculators found online. Several show 4.15 as the average for Ohio but also say that central Ohio has more average hours than other areas of the state. I saw 4.26 specifically for the area where I found land available for a reasonable price. (ZIP 43074) Google Sunroof shows 4.01/hours/day at my house about 20 miles from the site. Even at the 4.01 hours/day the return looks incredible.

I know I'm missing a lot, but I'm hopeful someone can point me in the right directions to learn more.
Title: Re: Starting a solar power generating site?
Post by: BicycleB on May 28, 2020, 09:12:26 PM
For background info, and perhaps leads on people to talk to for understanding, might be a good source.

Try finding some wise advisors by looking at job titles of power generation facility siting experts and executives on LinkedIn, maybe?
Title: Re: Starting a solar power generating site?
Post by: ctuser1 on July 06, 2020, 03:38:30 PM
Reviving an old thread because I now have more information on this as I am going through the process of getting solar panels installed on my roof.

Apparently, the solar panel in my house will just be treated as another generating facility. There is a fast track process for capacity < 20kW, presumably to facilitate rooftop solar. For larger sites, the process will likely be slower.

This is a good guideline for the process that both the utilities serving CT (UI, Eversource) follow: (

The fact that the end-point utilities handle this in CT is a surprise to me. I used to think interconnection for larger generation sites will be handled directly by the ISO (in our case it is NE-ISO). But apparently not.

Maybe the local utility where you want to set this up will offer something similar to you.