Author Topic: Going Solar  (Read 2865 times)

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Offline Desert Fox

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #45 on: October 25, 2018, 10:43:11 PM »
If my roommate could hold onto a job for more than three second, I would try to loom into it myself.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #46 on: November 02, 2018, 08:15:40 PM »
So after one Spring week of having solar, here's the bottom line so far:

Average daily Pre-solar costs $9.79
Average daily Post-solar costs $1.49
Average daily Saving $8.29
Reduction in total power bill of 85%

Note: This is inclusive of off-peak hot water circuit (not linked to solar), the daily grid connection fee, solar feed-in tariff income, grid power cost, Goods and Services Tax and applicable discounts.

Will be interested to see how this evolves over the year and with seasonal changes. A promising start and well on track for a short payback period.

Offline Belgarath

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #47 on: November 03, 2018, 09:05:16 AM »
So after one Spring week of having solar, here's the bottom line so far:

Average daily Pre-solar costs $9.79
Average daily Post-solar costs $1.49
Average daily Saving $8.29
Reduction in total power bill of 85%

Note: This is inclusive of off-peak hot water circuit (not linked to solar), the daily grid connection fee, solar feed-in tariff income, grid power cost, Goods and Services Tax and applicable discounts.

Will be interested to see how this evolves over the year and with seasonal changes. A promising start and well on track for a short payback period.

I'm curious about the payback period. Would you care to say what that looks like?  How long?
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #48 on: November 03, 2018, 11:47:18 AM »
My sister's system is predicted to pay for itself in 8 years, I think, and she's in cloudy New England.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #49 on: November 03, 2018, 04:21:13 PM »
So after one Spring week of having solar, here's the bottom line so far:

Average daily Pre-solar costs $9.79
Average daily Post-solar costs $1.49
Average daily Saving $8.29
Reduction in total power bill of 85%

Note: This is inclusive of off-peak hot water circuit (not linked to solar), the daily grid connection fee, solar feed-in tariff income, grid power cost, Goods and Services Tax and applicable discounts.

Will be interested to see how this evolves over the year and with seasonal changes. A promising start and well on track for a short payback period.

I'm curious about the payback period. Would you care to say what that looks like?  How long?

The model I built originally to assess various system quotes shows a payback in 4.08 years with an annual ROI of ~24-25%.

Given I only have a week of actual data it's a little early to be able to validate my model's assumptions. In reality I need a full year of data to validate with greater confidence. And even then the real future of grid power prices is unknown. Next 2 years we can reasonably predict but beyond that who knows?
« Last Edit: November 03, 2018, 04:26:44 PM by Alex Simmons »

Offline Billzbub

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #50 on: November 05, 2018, 11:57:07 AM »
It seems that there are some not-so-legitimate companies doing solar because I keep getting telemarketers calling me about it.  How can I find a legitimate installer?  Should I contact the power company directly?  I live in central New York.

Also, I'm not sure whether it is better to go solar sooner rather than later.  I'm worried that if a lot of people in the area go solar, the electric company will eventually not be able to support any more.  On the other hand, I haven't seen a house with solar panels in my area at all, an surely solar is going to get cheaper and more reliable as time goes on, and I don't want to be stuck with a dinosaur system for the next 20 years, especially if an amazing system comes out next year.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #51 on: November 05, 2018, 03:53:18 PM »
Also, I'm not sure whether it is better to go solar sooner rather than later.  I'm worried that if a lot of people in the area go solar, the electric company will eventually not be able to support any more.  On the other hand, I haven't seen a house with solar panels in my area at all, an surely solar is going to get cheaper and more reliable as time goes on, and I don't want to be stuck with a dinosaur system for the next 20 years, especially if an amazing system comes out next year.

Model the benefits and see if the return is worth it. Or a payback period that's sensible, e.g. payback period comfortably inside the warrantied life of the system or components (the inverter is the main item to consider here, solar panels will last for a long time).

All it needs is the up front investment (cost) and to forecast the expected change in cash flow compared with doing nothing.

If the IRR or payback period or simple annual ROI is good enough (or inadequate), that's all you really need to know.

Waiting for better technology may produce a better returns from the moment of installation, but a fairer comparison is to calculate both scenarios with the same starting date, IOW the newer tech might perform better but will it make up for the fact you have not been reaping benefits of current tech for several years? Or if current tech doesn't provide an adequate return, then waiting might be sensible (but for how long - no one knows how much better it might get?).

What will help is knowing:

- your current electricity usage, total and where possible some level of seasonal use data (e.g. monthly or quarterly data, should be on your electricity bills). If you have detailed usage data from a smart meter then you are in a good position to know this.

- your current electricity pricing / knowing overall how much you are paying now

- what pricing you would operate under with a grid connected solar PV system

- some quotes from reputable suppliers - and by reputable they should be scaling your system and recommending technology options based on a range of factors including: electricity usage, available roof space for installation, expected output from the system through the year (accounts for orientation of panels, tilt, your latitude, what shadows are cast), any grid connection limitations/requirements, single or multiple phase power and so on. They should also have experience and demonstrate they are likely to be around for years to come and have a good reputation for service and support.

- the system quoted should also provide the expected output for the year (based on the factors mentioned above) and you can then make some assumptions about how much of the PV power you can use directly (and hence reduce your grid power charges) and how much excess is fed back into the grid (and how much you are paid for that). This will depend somewhat on what your daily usage patterns are like (or how they can be modified, e.g. timing use of equipment/appliances to benefit from the solar power).


Using a very simple ROI calculation:

Say a system costs $10,000 and it reduces your annual electricity bill by $1000. That's a 10% ROI, a payback of ~10 years or so.

Obviously one can introduce increasing sophistication into the models but as a first pass, this will do to decide whether to look into it more carefully. IMO a payback of 7-8 years is about the limit for me. Longer and I'm not sure I'd pull the trigger. Shorter and it's worth doing.

Compare it with what else your money could be doing, or the cost of borrowing but a payback of say 10 years is a bit marginal. Solar panels will typically last 20-25 years but inverters have a shorter life span. This is where reputable brands and warranties come into play. I have a Fronius inverter with a 10 year warranty. It should last longer but I would base any model calculations with warranty periods in mind.

Offline Friendly Angel

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #52 on: November 05, 2018, 04:04:10 PM »
It seems that there are some not-so-legitimate companies doing solar because I keep getting telemarketers calling me about it.  How can I find a legitimate installer?  Should I contact the power company directly?  I live in central New York.


I would never give business to a solar telemarketer... they might be totally legit, but they piss me off.

Your power company may have a list of approved installers - that would at least give you some confidence that they know how to work together.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #53 on: November 05, 2018, 05:42:02 PM »
Perhaps look at this site for some information about solar installation in the US and for finding companies local to you.
https://www.solar-estimate.org/

Just been looking at the typical costs on that site.

Damn solar systems are so expensive in the USA! That's nuts. You are paying ~2.5 times what they cost here is Australia, even after rebates/incentives. That's not something that happens often with technology! Usually we pay a lot more for equivalent technology.

My recent install cost US$0.84 per W of installed PV capacity on a three phase system, including all taxes and applicable incentives. Looks like the going rate across the USA is US$1.95 - US$2.31 per W of installed PV capacity. And the US federal rebate is more generous than ours. Wonder what's going on there?

Offline Billzbub

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #54 on: November 06, 2018, 11:29:26 AM »
Perhaps look at this site for some information about solar installation in the US and for finding companies local to you.
https://www.solar-estimate.org/

Wow Alex, thanks for taking the time to answer so thoroughly.  The information is great.

That web site though, like all the other solar websites I can find, seems to be a spammer.  I went through their quiz and gave my info, including my e-mail address at the end, and the last step before they will give you any information at all is to enter your phone number.  There's a disclaimer that says by entering your phone number, you are definitely going to get spammed.  I hate this crap.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #55 on: November 06, 2018, 03:27:17 PM »
Perhaps look at this site for some information about solar installation in the US and for finding companies local to you.
https://www.solar-estimate.org/

Wow Alex, thanks for taking the time to answer so thoroughly.  The information is great.

That web site though, like all the other solar websites I can find, seems to be a spammer.  I went through their quiz and gave my info, including my e-mail address at the end, and the last step before they will give you any information at all is to enter your phone number.  There's a disclaimer that says by entering your phone number, you are definitely going to get spammed.  I hate this crap.
Ugh, yeah I hate that.

There was a quote aggregator site here in Australia I used which is ethical in how it works, and I was only contacted by three companies recommended in my area that they said would contact me. Only companies that meet certain requirements and standards of the Clean Energy Council can quote.

They each did a good job with the quote, each visited my home and I provided them with as much detail as I could to help them come up with a solution. There was never a rush on their part, no hard sell. I had particular requirements and my decision was not solely based on price but on the right solution for us. I had quite a lot of back and forth to gain a better understanding of the merits and issues with each solution, and as we worked through the solutions were adapted accordingly. I needed to do that because 3-phase presents extra challenges (as well as opportunities). Single phase systems are going to be simpler in many ways.

I don't know if such an equivalent site exists where you are. But that site does at least enable you to find some apparently reliable companies to call off your own bat. Have some of the information ready for them (especially electricity use over a full year) and deal with those who bother to come and make a site inspection. In my view this is very important as there are so many variables in play for what system is the right one for your home and for your requirements. Simple things like where will the inverter actually be located, what shadow issues you have, any issues with your roof that might best be sorted out first, what the process is with local energy suppliers etc. Understand the warranties and gain a sense of their customer service. You may also end up with a range of options to consider, things you had perhaps not considered before.

In Australia we have a standard form that each company uses to quote with, which means there is consistency in how the quoted solution is laid out and enables ready comparison.

We are now at the stage where 20% of homes have a PV system. The growth has been astonishing.

For further reading, here's a link to the Clean Energy Council's page for consumers. While it's obviously for Australians, there will still be useful thoughts for anyone considering solar:
http://www.solaraccreditation.com.au/consumers.html

We also have sites like:
https://www.solarchoice.net.au/
https://www.solarquotes.com.au/

I used the former to get my quote process started and there is a lot of useful information on each.

The biggest difference between locations are the local regulations concerning grid connected solar, in particular what you are paid for excess PV production fed back into the grid compared with what you pay to draw power from the grid. Also whether there are time of use tariffs which apply. These two factors will have a big impact on the financial viability of a domestic solar system.

I was amazed to learn that in many locations in the USA you are paid as much to feed into the grid as you pay to draw power from it. In effect the grid operates as a virtual battery. Here our feed in price is more like 1/3 - 1/4 of the grid price.

Offline Billzbub

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #56 on: November 08, 2018, 12:27:35 PM »
Wow thanks again.

So I think I finally figured out why I am so hesitant to actually pull the trigger.  You know how organic farming in your back yard isn't really the most efficient way to grow food?  Economies of scale make it more efficient and better for the environment to produce food on a big farm.  I don't want to be that hipster douche in the neighborhood in 10 years that has his own solar panels when the rest of the neighborhood is running off a much more efficient solar farm.  There's already some talk in my area about solar farms, and NYSEG (my electric company) seems to be very green and very supportive of the idea.

I don't want to use dirty power for the next 10 years (I'm making that number up) until it comes about, but I also don't want to go through the huge effort and commitment of installing solar panels if solar farms are just a couple of years away.  I did find at least one real solar contractor in my area, though: http://www.etmsolar.com/
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gleefully altering one’s beliefs to accommodate new information should be a badge of honor

Offline Friendly Angel

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #57 on: November 08, 2018, 06:59:35 PM »
I heard from people who should know, that my local utility is starting an admin fee for people with solar because they're not making enough money.  If you have to pay $100/month just to be connected to the grid, it makes the payback calc quite a bit longer.
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #58 on: November 10, 2018, 09:20:37 AM »
How is that even legal?
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #59 on: November 11, 2018, 12:13:34 AM »
Are you guys stuck with only one electricity retailer? Here we can choose from many dozens.