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Friday, October 21, 2011

Our Solar Photo Voltaic System

Our solar PV system was finally finished this week, and what a long, ongoing saga that turned out to be.  I'll spare you all the details though.  Really. You want to be spared.

Suffice to say that because the city and the county were involved, as was the local utility, the PV system took a lot longer to get done than the solar water heating system did.  And the two young yokels who installed it had a bit of a problem with understanding what was my property and what was their property - nothing was stolen or anything, but they helped themselves to standing on a garbage can (and crushing the lid) and they helped themselves to my scrap lumber and pallet (which were earmarked for projects) to cover the gigantic hole by the side of the garage that they had to dig, with my shovel, which they neglected to wash off again.  I realized while I was fuming that most people probably wouldn't care, but you can't help your feelings and mine were incensed.  Let's just say the project manager got an earful. So did poor Steve, since it was his project, but all was made right in the end and now we're producing power off the roof.

Half the panels up, sitting on their rails

So there are eighteen 250 watt solar panels up on the roof, each of which has its own micro inverter.  This appears to be the way to go with inverters these days, because the advantage is that if one fails, only that panel fails until you replace the micro inverter.  They also stay cooler so they last longer. And they're also a lot less expensive than one big inverter, which is expensive to replace as well.  The inverter is what wears out the fastest on a solar PV system, so if you have the opportunity to use micro inverters, go for it.

Panels all up; now the fun with the inspections begins

I think I mentioned before that we are grid-tied; Steve didn't want to deal with batteries (or their eventual disposal) so we now have a net meter, which is the meter that runs backward when you're producing power.  Something interesting that I want you to remember if you decide to do solar power is that while we were waiting for the PGE (Portland General Electric) guy to come out and swap out the old meter for the new net meter, Steve couldn't wait and flipped the switch on the solar panels and we were producing power for a day or so.  It turns out that meters from the seventies (and after) when ours was made were made to count the power running into them as well, because back during the so-called Energy Crisis (remember that?) of the seventies, people were messing with their meters, so long story short, we're going to have to pay for the power we were producing those first couple of days.  Pretty funny.

Our panels, on a good, clean (no smog) sunny day, with zero dust on them, and the sun hitting them juuuuust right will produce upwards of 30kW a day, which will probably never happen for a variety of reasons. However, because we average about 13kW in usage a day, we should be able to produce most of our own power, winter weather not withstanding.  Most of it.

The system cost around $27,000, but because of four years of federal income tax credits and four years of state income tax credits that we'll be able to take, plus the rebate from the Energy Trust of Oregon, when we're done, we'll have paid around $11,000 for this system.  At the rate we're currently paying PGE for our electrical usage, it will be a long time before this thing pays for itself, but we don't know how much energy is going to cost in the future, do we?  The important thing to us was to get this system installed while we had the cash and could replenish our savings because we're still working.

If the cost of energy goes through the roof, we'll be glad it's not going through ours.  And if it doesn't go through the roof?

We'll just have a really cool, really expensive toy.


morgaineotm said...

congratulations. I have solar panel envy!!! We didn't go that way as for HIM it was all about $$$. for me, its about not being tied into a system that's not guaranteed for the future, not pumping oil, not using radioactives, not mining coal. And when all around you are in darkness . . . .

Rae said...

Regarding the morons that installed the system, I would have cared. I'm actually a bit pissed off for you. I'm thinly that if they'd pulled something like that on me, I would have given them an earful and made them cry. :)

Anyhoo, congrats on the install!

Paula said...

Thanks Rae. I was kind of embarrassed by how pissed off I got; you made me feel better about that.

Leigh said...

Hi Paula, I wanted to return the blog visit and thank you for your comment!

Very interesting post. We considered solar panels when we first bought our place, but then had close to three months our first winter with no sun. :( Very discouraging on the solar front. I thing though, that electrical costs will only continue to go up, so that you were wise with your investment.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Cool indeed! What a great thing, to produce your own power. If we didn't live on a property covered with trees, I would be next in line. Congratulations!

Jennifer Montero said...

Paula - The PV system is! I can't think of a better word. Producing your own power must feel liberating. I can't wait to hear more about it. And yes, I would have been irritated if the installers "squashed my cans" too.

Anonymous said... that is a big system!..a great deal for $11000 bucks. Every one of the panels you have on the roof is bigger than the total size of my offgrid system..I would love to have that much power!! Sweet setup..I have total solar envy!

Paula said...

Leigh- unless you're living in an area with perpetual night during the winter months, you could still consider solar. We still produce power on cloudy and rainy days, although just not as much.

Paula said...

Tamar- if you cut down the trees on the south side of the house, you could consider solar and have more firewood!

Paula said...

Rachel- that was our sole intent of course- making you (in particular) jealous!! the cool thing about our system is we can add to it, if we want to. Make that if Steve wants to. He has final veto power.

Julia at Home on 129 Acres said...

Thanks for this post. We hope to do solar panels some day ($$$ permitting), so it's helpful to read about your system. We have some incentives where we are (Ontario), but not sure we could get it down to $11,000.