An update on my solar power project – results show why I got solar power for my home (hint: climate change is not a reason)

My home solar

Solar panels on my home in California

UPDATE: I’ve answered questions from commenters below in the FAQs, and added additional diagrams – Anthony

Much to the chagrin of people who are sure I’m evil, in the pocket of big oil, and highly carbon positive, I’m actually an independent and pretty energy efficient guy, and I challenge any of my detractors to show their solar and energy efficiency projects. Put your money where your mouthpiece is, I say. For example, do loud climate campaigners Joe Romm and Bill McKibben have solar power on their homes? Do Jim Hansen and Michael Mann have solar power while telling us we all must cut back our energy usage linked to fossil fuels? Inquiring minds want to know.

Readers may recall last summer that I put up my third solar power project, my first being on my older home, then a large 125KW solar project I started as Trustee for the Chico Unified School District. My third project is doing quite well, and a number of readers have asked for an update on my original article as they are considering doing what I have done. This being the day of the electricity denying “Earth Hour”, I thought it would be a good day to write about how I’m beating my electric bill. You see, while many tout the supposed CO2 saving properties of solar panels, my impetus is entirely different: I’m hedging against California’s exorbitant green-driven utility rates.

For example, see below from my bill last year when temperatures went up in the summer, and tell me if where you live you come anywhere close to paying what I do.

PGE_rate_july22-23-2012

Above: my actual rate and costs from last summer June-July 2012.

Thanks to PG&E’s new smart-meter system, they can now gouge me more efficiently and on schedule, when I need electricity to keep cool the most. I doubt there’s anyone reading this entry that pays 93 cents per kilowatt-hour to keep their home cool in summer.

I (along with millions of others in California) pay what I call a “location tax” due to my living in California’s Sacramento Valley, where summer temperatures regularly hit and exceed 100F. The majority of California’s population, living along the coast, don’t see temperatures anywhere near that, and thus don’t have similar air conditioning issues.

PGE_weather_june-july-2012

And, with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) running amok with cap-and-trade regulation frenzy, with refusal of coal and nuclear energy, relying on green wind power mostly for the future, combined with a looming national Carbon Tax, finding a way to generate your own electricity is in my opinion, the best hedge against future cost increases. Climate concerns don’t even rate with me on this issue, I’m thinking more about my financial future and the health and comfort of my family, and that’s why I got a solar system – it’s a hedge against the green energy and climate madness.

Here’s how I beat the green menace and PG&E.

Remember back in December when climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann was so out of touch that he couldn’t even conceive that I could do calendars for myself (I sent him a  free one), but instead it must have been some nefariously funded production? Well, he probably can’t conceive of how I put up my own solar system either, since like the Josh Calendars, I did it using COSTCO and some sweat equity.

Here’s a few FAQs.

1. Did “big oil” or some other entity pay you to do this?

No.

Did you use government grants to do this? No. Did you get money from the WUWT tip jar or calendar sales to do this? No.

So how did you pay for this? Simple. I took out a low-interest loan against my savings account the contents of which was then converted to a certificate of deposit spanning five years. I’ll have the solar system paid for in five years, and the CD will be free at that time. Then I’ll have a solar system and my savings principal intact plus I’ll get interest on the certificate of deposit. Basically I’m trading my PG&E electric bill for a financing bill for five years.

How much did it cost?  About $25,000 and change, fully installed, plus shipping and tax on the hardware portion.

2. Why didn’t you get one of those “no money down” solar systems being advertised today?

I’m borrowing and adapting a popular credit card slogan to best explain this: “ownership has its advantages”. I looked into several of these other plans, and when I penciled out the entire scheme, it didn’t make much financial sense, and at the end of the lease, I either had to buy the system at “fair market value” (to be determined) or they come and remove the system. And given the number of solar company bankruptcy/failures out there (think Solyndra), I was concerned that I’d be straddled with a system that was orphaned due to the company going out of business and the debt purchased by some holding company, who could then argue that previous contracts were “null and void” due to such bankruptcy and “oh, by the way here’s your new payment schedule”. When you want to control your own destiny, relying on others is not a safe bet.

3. Grid-tied or battery storage?

It is a grid-tied system. Battery storage systems really don’t make any sense for a city dweller, as they are primarily off-the-grid type applications where you need independent power 24/7. This was primarily a financial consideration, not a power security one.

4. Did you get any government rebates?

No, there was a PG&E rebate program, which put about $1200 (based on my system size) back in my pocket, but as I said earlier, I got no government money related to this. There will be some small tax advantages for me.

5. Does it make any noise or heat?

No, the inverters are essentially silent, except for one small fan. The inverters do make some waste heat, but they are mounted outside, and not an issue. The solar panels actually help keep the house a bit cooler, as they absorb sunlight for a good portion of the roof space, which otherwise would have gone to heating the attic.

6. Has it saved you money?

Yes, absolutely. More details follow.

7. How does your power bill work now?

We get a quarterly summary showing our electric use/surplus, and a year-end “true up” bill to balance any difference. We still have to pay for natural gas usage separately.

8. How big is it? How much power?

36 panels, of 250watts each, for a maximum DC output of 9000 watts (9KW). Of course that’s under optimal sun angle and atmospheric conditions, and with DC to AC power conversion loss, the real max is closer to 6500 watts of AC power. Typical days run anywhere from 4500-5500 KW at peak sun. I opted for the better monocrystalline (blue color) panels rather than the polymorphous (brownish) solar panels as they are more efficient and longer lasting.

9. (added) How soon do you expect to be able to pay back your investment?

If I assume a linear payback rate, it would be about 12 years. However, I think it will be closer to 9 years based on my estimates of what the future holds. First, a look at recent rates by state:

us average residential electric rates

Source: http://www.pacificpower.net/about/rr/rpc.html

Now, look at the forecast for residential electricity prices. It isn’t linear.

residential_electric_forecast

Source: US Department of Energy

10. (added) What is your cost of capital?

The way my loan is setup, guaranteed against a certificate of deposit earning interest, the APR works out to 0.8%. Over 5 years, that works out to be $511.66 for the cost of the loan.

11. (added) How does the mounting system affect your roof integrity? Will you get leaks?

The installation was guaranteed to be leak free, and after this winter rains, I can testify to that. The way the roof mount works, the screws used to secure the rack support post are put under a metal “flashing” cone, and screwed in with a sealant applied to the screw threads. This guarantees that there’s no rain penetration because the flashing not only prevents the screws from getting rain in the first place, the flashing acts just like another shingle. Here’s a diagram I prepared showing how it works:

home_solar_UNIRAC1

See a descriptive animation here: http://www.unirac.com/video/animations/solarmount-i/index.html

12. Why didn’t you go with larger panels (like the 300 watt panels of the same size).

Because the volume pricing COSTCO had arranged (at that time) did not offer that size. Adding my 2% COSTCO rebate combined with the lower overall cost made the 250watt panels a no-brainer.

Specs on the panels are here: pdf_icon.png GRAPE SOLAR 250W MONO PDF

13. How was the system shipped?

It arrived by truck as two large pallets, plus a third long package of rails. I stored these in my garage, unpacked them, and hauled the shipping materials to my office dumpster.

14. What about possible hail damage?

The rated impact resistance: hail diameter of 28mm (1.1″) with speed of 86km/h. (53mph)

These panels are really tough. My installer says you can drop them from the roof onto the concrete and they’ll survive just fine (he’s done it by accident more than once). here is a video and a news item that suggests the panels are tougher than the roofing.

News item: 

Surprisingly little damage to rooftop solar panels

The epic hailstorm did surprisingly little damage to the tens of thousands of pricey solar-power arrays built on metro Phoenix rooftops in recent years.

http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/20110930biz-hailstorm1002solar.html

======================

Purchasing the system

As I mentioned, I used COSTCO to buy the entire hardware system. They resell from a  company in Oregon called “Grape Solar“. Here’s their largest package:

COSTCO_Solar5KW

I actually wanted more power than that, so I contacted Grape Solar directly, described my needs, showed my house roof plan and power bills, and they came up with a custom design for me at no charge. Here’s the line item summary of what I bought:

grape_solar_list

I did a lot of research on this system, and found it was well designed and likely to live up to its claims, 8 months in, so far so good.

NOTE: Detailed instructions on how to order your own system from COSTCO follow at the end of this article.

Here’s links to manuals (PDF) on the items above:

I particularly like the Kaco Blue Planet DC to AC PV inverters, which are compact, quiet, efficient, and good-looking to boot. Here they are (5000 watt and 3500 watt models) on the side of my home with the PG&E SmartMeter. DC power comes in at the conduit from the solar panels at top right, AC power exits at bottom left in the curved conduit to junction box to tie into my AC mains breaker box.

solar home grid tie inverters

=======================

Installing the solar system

While I “could” have done the entire installation myself, having mad electric and electronic skills, I opted to have someone experienced in this particular technology do it for me. The Grape Solar company contact gave me a list of certified installers in the area, and I called each of them up and asked them questions. The guy who held up under my intense questioning (A fellow in Redding named Baran Galocy) got the job.  For some of the installers, I knew more than they did, never a good sign. Choose wisely.

Plus, this fellow was willing to work with me to trade some sweat equity for a lower installation cost. Since a good portion of time is spent in transport, unpacking, staging, and disposal of packaging, I opted to perform those tasks in sync with his job schedule to save labor time and thus money. Check with an installer you might choose to see if they will do the same for you.

Permits, of course are required. The first step was getting a city work permit, so that the city could get their “cut”. I say this because their inspection was total BS, the inspector never opened a panel box or climbed on the roof to inspect panels. He was most interested in whether mandated warning labels like this below (to protect the stupid) were properly applied. Your mileage in your city may vary. Fortunately the installer handled getting these, keeping my blood pressure down.

IMAG0283

The next step was to put up the UNIRAC mounting system on the roof:

UNIRAC_install

This took about three partial work days to complete, since only mad dogs and Englishmen work on rooftops in the midday summer sun. Here it is completed:

UNIRAC_completed

The next step was placing and securing panels, while doing base panel wiring:

securing_home_solar_panels

Note the ladder contraption at the right. This is carpet remnants secured to ladder and rooftop. Shown in red to the left of the ladder is a nylon rope hawser with clips I designed that allows the man on top to pull up the panels while I push from below. This saves your back, plus virtually eliminates the possibility of dropping them and/or an injurious fall. The carpet prevents the panels from being scratched or damaged while they are pulled up.

This paneling operation took about two partial work days to complete.

Finally, the last step was to hang the inverters on the outside wall and to finish all the interconnect wiring. which took about another day.

Waiting for the city building inspector and for PG&E to “approve” the installation for grid connect took far longer than the actual installation. Then I discovered that PG&E changed one of their forms in the middle of the process, and we had to re-do the paperwork. While the install was competed in August, we didn’t actually get the final connect and switchover to net metering until December. Ain’t bureaucracy grand? I was just unlucky, you can figure about 2-4 weeks in most cases.

==========================

Results!

Here is a photo of my SmartMeter running today at about 940AM:

home_solar_meter 3-23-13

The 5.01 kW reading is my instantaneous generation, note at the right side it says “Received”. If I am using more power than I generate (or it is nighttime) that will switch to say “Delivered”. So now as I’m writing this, I’m 5kW net positive at my home.

At the top, in the big numbers is the summation of Kilowatt-hours over the lifetime of the meter. When the meter is delivered, it is set to read 00000. If I am using more electricity than I generate, it will show a net positive value (i.e 00234) if I have generated more electricity than I used, it will go backwards from 99999 and as this shows I’m at 99340, leaving a surplus of 660 Kilowatt-hours since the system was switched over in December. most of December and January was fairly overcast here, so my biggest gains have been recent, as shown in my SmartMeter summary online (highlighted in Yellow), I’ve now surpassed energy-efficient homes in my area:

PGE_home_solar_compare

My usage has gone negative:

home_solar_usage_feb2013

home_solar_usage_Mar2013

Nice to see the money flowing to me too, here’s my quarterly bill:

home_solar_PGE_bill_feb2013

Unfortunately, I still have to pay all those taxes and fees amounting to $4.66, even though I’m a net generator rather than a consumer, but I’ll take the deal.

================

How this works

The strategy is simple, generate/save as much electricity as you can during non-summer months, bank it (as shown on the meter) and then draw against that bank of generated energy during the summer or when you need power. Hopefully at the end of the true-up period, I’ll end up with surplus, in which case PG&E is now mandated by state law to send me a check. Amazingly, it didn’t used to be that way, and they were getting free surplus electricity.

If at the end of the true-up period, I used electricity, I pay for that then. Since I’m able to watch usage online and on the SmartMeter, it should be manageable to ensure we come out ahead (unless we have an extended heat wave). No matter what though, we are pretty much free of the tyranny of the 90 cents per kilowatt-hour in the summer when tiered rates kick in to punish us valley dwellers.

More info on the net metering program is here: http://www.pge.com/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/solarenergy/solarupgrade/index.page

=========================

Do you want one for yourself? Here’s how you can help yourself and help me in the process.

Since I’ve done all the work of documenting the process, the Grape Solar Company has agreed to offer me a finders fee for anyone who purchases a similar system through them via COSTCO. Here’s how to do it:

1. Contact Steve Bouton or Garret Towne at Grape Solar via telephone or by email:

Grape Solar, Inc. 1305 South Bertelsen Road, Eugene, Oregon 97402

Tel: 541.349.9000  Fax: 541.343.9000

Email: steven.bouton “at” grapesolar.com or garret.towne “at” grapesolar.com

2. Tell them you read this article, give them my name so they will credit me.

3. Give them your details, they will design a system to suit your needs free of charge. They’ll need your address, description of your view of the sky to the south (sometimes visible on Google Earth) plus your goals for electricity saving, (full replacement, supplemental, add as you go, etc.). Arrange financing if need be – note how I used my local bank to finance a loan against my savings account for a win-win.

4. Grape Solar will set you up with a custom order you can place on COSTCO.com that will include everything you will need. Then contact an installer. They’ll also supply a list of installers in your area if you don’t wish to do the work yourself. As I mentioned, you may be able to do some work yourself to help the installer to save money. Be sure to ask.

5. You’ll make the order with COSTCO, either you’ll need a credit card with a high limit or you’ll have to wire the money to COSTCO (which is what I did). BE SURE TO ASK TO HAVE YOUR COSTCO MEMBERSHIP NUMBER APPLIED TO THE SALE. This will ensure that if you have an account that gives you a rebate for year total purchases, you’ll get that year-end 2% cash back. 2% of a $20K system is $400, well worth the effort!

6. You have your installer get work permits and do the paperwork with your local utility company – this is key. Without these being done right, you are dead in the water. make sure your installer will do these for you.

7. Install the system – get it inspected and turned on. Submit final paperwork to your local utility company for any rebate programs they may have.

8. Keep all your paperwork for tax time – you may be eligible for tax credits – check with your tax preparer.

9. Enjoy a lower or zero power bill

============================

I hope this gives everyone who is interested the path forward. if you have questions about this please ask in comments. – Anthony

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292 Responses to An update on my solar power project – results show why I got solar power for my home (hint: climate change is not a reason)

  1. durango12 says:

    Since the rest of us helped pay for your installation, we wish you the best of luck.

  2. BarryW says:

    One issue I hadn’t thought of before is that of roof replacement. Basically, it would seem that you would have to completely disassemble and reinstall the panels and supports if you need to reshingle the roof. Seems like it would make sense to have a new or reasonably new roof before you start a project like this.

    The other question I have is whether your insurance covers damage to the solar cells. Doesn’t look like you have trees around your place but I’ve wondered about coverage for hail or debris damage to something like this. Extra cost? Rider?

  3. I have been thinking of building a small cabin off grid, and going for the whole PV & battery (with NG back up generator) approach for it.

    A fully off grid system, with a smaller PV footprint for weekends is the goal. Thank you for this update. Please give us another one in August, when the Dog Days of Summer are in effect.

    Your example here is great.

  4. RobRoy says:

    I must say, very impressive operation. In South Florida, FP&L keeps our rates very low. My monthly average is $86.00.(1200 Sq. Ft home) I hope it stays this way, but I doubt it.

  5. A C Osborn says:

    Anthony, that is very worthwhile, what rate do PG&E pay you for your electricity.

    As you have so much sunshine have you considered running any Peltier affect Cooling devices for the house.
    I was thinking in terms of the Apollo cooling systems.

  6. Jeff Alberts says:

    Apart from grammatical errors, very nice and informative post.

  7. nicholasmjames says:

    Very nice.

  8. bernie1815 says:

    Anthony:
    Very interesting. Can you give a sense of your annual electricity bill for the three years before you installed your system?
    I am in the NE with a customer friendly municipal power company and a Kwh all in charge of $0.138 and my annual bill is just over $1000. I have relatively low usage: forced hot air oil heat, no air conditioning but an in-ground pool. I do not see the payback for solar, though that might change if I install a geothermal heat system.

  9. Petrossa says:

    I pay 4.5 eurocents per kw/h low, 8.7 eurocents high tarif. Including all taxes i pay 9 eurocents per kw/h average. No way i’d ever install such system even living in an area with 300 days of sunshine.

  10. GeologyJim says:

    As usual, Anthony, your approach is rational, methodical, and well explained.

    If I said you are more an engineer than a scientist, I trust you’d take that as the compliment I intend. Engineers get stuff done, and they have to pay attention to the bottom-line.

    Maybe the slogan of home-generators like you can be “Speak JUICE to Power” and you can stick it to the PG&E Man!!

    Power from the People is Power to the People.

  11. marchesarosa says:

    Well done Anthony! Thanks for explaining the mysteries of producing ones own electricity from sunshine. If I lived in sunny climes and if I had a big roof facing south I could be tempted! I hope you gets lots of commission!

  12. Ray Hudson says:

    Standing applause from this aerospace engineer in SoCal, Anthony! I like to say “I was green before it was cool to be green.” I installed a 3.5 kW peak power, grid-tied solar PV system on my roof back in NOV of 2003. Much like you, I could care less about CO2 or carbon neutrality and for me it was all about future value of money (or in this case, the future value of my power bill from SoCal Edison). When I ran the numbers, I came up with an ROI buyback period of 10 years, and that was with a highly conservative analysis. My average ANNUAL power bill is now usually less than $100. I generate plenty of excess power during the summer months. And being in Huntington Beach, I do not have the air conditioning problem you have, I do own a pool and pool pumps/filters are notorious power hogs.

    My first project has been so successful, that when I purchased my 35 acre ranch in SW CO in 2006, I decided that my first building I constructed on that project (an engineering lab with a 900 square foot domicile) was going to be completely off-grid. Since I only go there a few times per year, I went with a combined solar and wind turbine generation system with an augmenting propane generator of 6kW. We get decent winds at the high elevations of the Dolores, CO area so wind is quite practical given I designed the total electrical distribution system for the building to work in segments that can be individually powered based on need. My wind turbine is up and keeping my batteries topped off when I am not there, and this summer I will complete the solar panel and propane generator installation. Totally self-sufficient in SoCal and SW CO, and loving it!

  13. Kon Dealer says:

    How long will it be before it pays back your $25,000?

  14. The second chart, “My Energy Use June 23 – July 22, 2012″ is not immediatly obvious that it was BEFORE the installlation. A caption note may be of use.

    I look forward to seeing the same chart and same format for 2013.

    Please explain the “true-up” process.

    If at the end of the true-up period, I used electricity, I pay for that then. Since I’m able to watch usage online and on the SmartMeter, it should be manageable to ensure we come out ahead (unless we have an extended heat wave). No matter what though, we are pretty much free of the tyranny of the 90 cents per kilowatt-hour in the summer when tiered rates kick in to punish us valley dwellers.

    No doubt that you are banking KWh at low pricing tiers. You will be consuming “delivered” electricity likely during periods where other people are paying high tiers. Won’t you be charged at high tier rates? Granted, You are only being a delivered a small fraction of the total power you use.

    I actually wanted more power than that, so I contacted Grape Solar directly, described my needs, showed my house roof plan and power bills, and they came up with a custom design for me at no charge.

    Could you explain the basis of your design size? Why 36 panels, not 30, not 42?

    When you sell back to PG&E, is it at the going rate or the highest rate? Under the “this is how it works”, it seems that all kWh are created equal? Are they under your plan?

  15. Jeff L. says:

    Anthony, if you dont mind me asking, Based on your past bills (pre-system), what do you think your payout period is on the system?

  16. Klench Mychiques says:

    So when are you going to thank all those environmentalists that have pushed for legislation to force breakthroughs in solar PV costs? :-P

    Your system looks great, BTW. What brand are the solar modules? Chinese?

    Another question: Why not use a battery system as a buffer so that you use more of your generated PV-power and dampen peaks on the grid (which unfortunately isn’t ready for the full transition to renewables yet)? There’s some interesting, increasingly affordable and more environmentally friendly technology, like lithium iron phosphate batteries. It would also allow you to use a smaller PV array (again to dampen the peaks). 9 kW is great, but more than enough to power two homes over here in Europe.

  17. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Thanks for all the information Anthony. Very interesting.

    I don’t think I will get a system here in the UK as I suspect they will be under a lot of snow during our winters to come. It’s getting colder each winter now.

  18. TImothy Sorenson says:

    IT would be nice Anthony if you provided us an estimate of how you expect the overall cost savings to occur during the 5 years. THEN in 5 years we can see how well you have predicted the future. Since CO2 shouldn’t affect it too much, and since the weather is the weather it would be fun to see how you faired, say compared to Hansen et al.

  19. Anthony

    Why did you use the 250 watt panels vs the 300 watt panels that Grape solar has that are about the same size?

  20. eco-geek says:

    I pay about $270 per month for my tiny hovel in the UK. Fortunately the government have planned to run out of generating capacity by cutting it so the bills might go down a little then…

  21. RealOldOne2 says:

    Wow, $0.92/kwh for peaks & $0.20-0.30 for most of usage. Pv makes sense at those PRC(People’s Republic of California) rates.

    I pay a flat rate of $0.04/kwh for all usage year-round. Plus a couple cents/kwh for distribution charge, and then a few $/mo for taxes.

  22. Anthony, very interesting, but what is your latitude and summer average temperature? I presume the Winter weather is fairly mild and and all your excess solar power is needed in the Summer to power AC for your home?
    There are a lot of homes here in the North East of England with roof mounted solar panels, the government provideds a grant for them. I have no desire to get one for the following reasons:
    1) Very few houses have AC, our Summers are not well known for being unbearably hot and humid.
    2) Solar Panels would be useful in Winter to generate electricity to warm the house, except for the fact that on 21 December the sun is only 11 degrees above the horizon on the few occasions when it is visible due to lack of cloud cover.
    3) Our central heating is gas powered and our Winter bills are huge compared with the Summer so we pay a fixed monthly charge all year round, for both gas and electricity. This is currently £268 (about $405) but I would imagine it will be higher next year due to the cold Winter/Spring we are having.
    If I was living under similar circumstances as yourself, I would do exactly the same and take exactly the same precautions. The homeowners here with solar panels are paid “rent” by the installation companies who then get the government grant. Too many loopholes for my liking!

  23. David Ball says:

    Anthony, I admire what you have done here, and the environmentally friendly way of life you lead. Unfortunately, you seem to have attracted an extraordinary number of assholes with this post. Sad.

  24. tz says:

    Ah, Califoronimics. Only there would such a setup be profitable. Yet you still have to pay what Taxifornia levys, including last years retroactive taxes. Most people (not getting government checks) runfor the border. Yet I applaud you (and the locality didn’t complain about zoning or some stupid permit!)

  25. Steve C says:

    93 cents per kWh is outrageous – obviously PG&E stands for Pathological Greed & Electricity. But your description of a pretty nice installation makes for an informative read – thanks. Those results look very promising, too – I assume either the smartmeter or you are going to be logging everything to check any long term falloff in panel output, etc. Further reports, please!

    BTW, when you say the inverters are ‘essentially silent’, does that include radio noise? There are a few kW being switched there. Mercifully, as I live in a conservation area, there aren’t any solar installations near me (there are some optimists here in the UK, however), but I’ve read several reports that suggest some of them generate considerable RF interference. I guess you’d have mentioned it if there was much of a problem.

    FWIW, I pay 15.834 UK pence per kWh of electricity, 5.0505p for gas (both including 5% VAT). Hmm. Might investigate gas generators, 32% efficiency to beat … ;-)

  26. jabre says:

    Great post. I have a system that was paid primarily through municipal rebates. At the time they were offering 85% cash rebate (up to $50K) through the municipal utility (Austin Energy) and 30% federal tax credit. Every time I have a new guest to my home that lives in the same billing area I thank them profusely for my free power.

    Interestingly, at the time I had told numerous people about the program (~5 years ago). Only one actually followed through and had it installed. All the others didn’t have the mental energy to think through the benefits even after having it spelled out.

    The program is now long gone and rates have gone up significantly (booyah) although nothing like California..

    My only feedback to others looking for a system is to be very careful of your choice of inverter as it is very expensive and the component most likely to fail. After trolling the forums and speaking to installers at the time I found SMA Sunny Boy inverters to be the most reliable. It’s been a while, so things may have changed. Also, I chose American made panels. I thought that since there is a 20 year warranty on the panels that it is most likely that I would be able to obtain warranty remedy with American vs. Chinese panels.

  27. Sorry I forgot to add, our house is a detached house with 2,700 sq feet and four of us living here.

  28. Willis Eschenbach says:

    durango12 says:
    March 23, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Since the rest of us helped pay for your installation, we wish you the best of luck.

    Durango, it’s not clear what you mean. As I read the article Anthony paid for it himself … except for a PGE rebate of $1,200 which came from ratepayers. I can live with that, and (sadly) I’m a PGE customer.

    Fortunately, we don’t have air conditioning, which is the kiss of death for electric bills. So our monthly bill is usually well under $50, we’re way down on the low end of consumption.

    Anthony, both well done and well described. I hope lots of folks take you up on the work you’ve done.

    w.

  29. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Jeff Alberts says:
    March 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Apart from grammatical errors, very nice and informative post.

    Now that’s just throwing mud and hoping it will stick, and it’s unpleasant behavior. Either tell us what errors, where, or don’t bring it up.

    w.

  30. John F. Hultquist says:

    What an interesting post! Thanks.

    I noticed a house about 10 miles away from me (either new or recently built) where they are in the process of installing a nearly full roof system. This is at 47° N. Lat. Most others around are free standing in the yard with just 6 to 10 panels. I’ll have to stop and see what they are doing. That house is in the town and I don’t know the rates and situation as their provider is not the same as ours.

    Our 2013 electrical rate is $.0875/kWh; up a bit. That seems to be below your lowest rate. We get hydropower from the Columbia Basin dams.
    Next week they are going to come and install a new digital meter but, so far, there has been no information about any price changes.

    So, I don’t think the solar roof is in the near future. I’m very busy with garden/outdoor projects now, but later this year, maybe a weather station with camera, showing data over the image. There is one I like the looks of in NE Ohio but I don’t want to provide a public link here as I don’t know how robust these things are. It is listed on the wunderground pages. Some readers might not approve of a post about such, but I would welcome it.

  31. Matt in Houston says:

    Nice to see you winning against the tyrants Anthony.
    The sad part is the fact that you have to spend $25k in order to protect yourself from the insanity of BAD GOVERNMENT. But I certainly give you 3 cheers for a hard fought victory aginst the slimeballs.
    Have you ever thought about installing a misting system around your AC heat exchanger to increase it’s efficiency?

  32. Sal Minella says:

    Nice installation and documentation, however, I have a problem with the utilities paying for dribs and drabs of intermittent power being generated at tens of thousands of sites. It would seem that most of the power fed back into the grid in this way cannot be relied upon by the utility company and is, therefor, just dissipated making the cost of energy even higher for all ratepayers.

  33. RACookPE1978 says:

    How did you get away with not needing a DC controller? They are almost as expensive as an inverter, and are equally likely to fail/cause system interferences, and “humming” in the area.

    Was this not needed because you did NOT install a battery as a backup power supply?

    2. How did the roof clips get attached through to the rafters (?) without damaging the shingles & causing leaks, flipping up and damaging shingle edges and ends?

  34. Peter says:

    Anthony, that is all well and good in a very warm, sunny place, but I can’t imagine gnerating much solar at 45 degrees north latitude near the ocean where we treat sunshine as an almost mystical phenomenon.

  35. Betapug says:

    Good to see your inverters are made in a wood burning heated plant and are:
    “100% free of nuclear power
    100% CO2-neutral”
    http://www.kaco-newenergy.com/co2-neutral-manufacturing

    Transmission losses for your own production/consumption will be obviously low. I wonder if anyone has calculated the net system benefit or loss of widely distributed feed in generation?
    Would the computing power necessary cause brownouts?

  36. kakatoa says:

    Your rate schedule from PG&E must be an “E-1″ with a Net Meter. PG&E’s “My Energy” web site does not provide any information under the “cost” tab for my E-7 Net Meter. At the moment PG&E’s databases are not capable of providing me information like you receive. It looks like you are on the Smart Rate program as “Event Days” show up on your bill. Have you ever wondered how PG&E figures out how many kwh’s you actually used on an Event Day? What happens in the data base algorithms at PG&E when the Smart Meter has a communication issue and it doesn’t send any information to PG&E’s databases for a few hours. When you are paying 90 cents a kwh lets hope they get the accounting correct.

    Glad the new system is meeting your output and economic expectations!

  37. DR says:

    Where are the data available for hours of sunshine for each state? Anyone? Seems like the last time I looked into this, Michigan is not a good candidate for solar if the goal is to save money.

    Having geo-thermal heating/cooling, our bills are quite low year round.

  38. Stephen Richards says:

    My biggest gripe about solar systems is that it is a method for making the poor poorer and the rich richer. It is an inverted Robin Hood scheme and that really bugs me. However, for all those that want to game the system I say good luck. I chose not to.

    Good post though, Anthony

  39. Bengt Abelsson says:

    Well, when the sun shines, the production is high, and price is low. So the system allows you to swap a low-price kWh (at sunshine hours) for a high-cost kWh at night.
    For the individual using the system – OK, but consider the case if all houses in the area had that kind of installation- who will deliver, at reasonabele cost, in overcast conditions?

  40. Gary Hladik says:

    Aha! Now, Anthony, we learn the real reason you’re against Earth Hour! Besides being in the pocket of Big Oil, you’re now one of the eeeevil power companies sucking the lifeblood from the little electric consumers and [choke sniffle sob] The Children! May the sun never shine again upon your sumptuous capitalist palace! /humor

    Congrats on the new system, Anthony. Can we expect annual updates on performance?

  41. Greg says:

    Thanks for all the details. It’s good to see how this sort of thing weighs up financially. Now the all the feed-in rates and subsidies are subsiding, the market is swinging to people you are interested in energy autonomy.

    If I had a roof that was pointing the right way , I’d do the same.

    I’m sure this article will be help to many (and hopefully you’ll get some spinoff for you efforts).

    Petrossa says:
    March 23, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I pay 4.5 eurocents per kw/h low, 8.7 eurocents high tarif. Including all taxes i pay 9 eurocents per kw/h average. No way i’d ever install such system even living in an area with 300 days of sunshine.

    http://petrossa.me/ says:
    This is one of the key reasons why Germans now pay the second-highest price for electricity in the developed world (exceeded only by Denmark, which aims to be the “world wind-energy champion”). Germans pay three times more than their American counterparts.

    Fairly typical of anti-solar ranters, you pick and chose your “truth” to suit whatever point you are trying to make.

  42. Stephen Richards says:

    Post above, maybe. I refer to the methods used in the UK and Europe, of course.

    Peter says:

    March 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Anthony, that is all well and good in a very warm, sunny place, but I can’t imagine gnerating much solar at 45 degrees north latitude near the ocean where we treat sunshine as an almost mystical phenomenon.

    Peter I’m at 45°N, Sw France. Temp today and yestrday around 20°C. Good sunshine today and about 2500hrs all year and we get 13% reduction on the materials. However, it is still not, IMHO, the solution to the world’s nonexistent problem.

  43. Ric Werme says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 23, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Jeff Alberts says:
    March 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Apart from grammatical errors, very nice and informative post.

    Now that’s just throwing mud and hoping it will stick, ….

    I noticed a minor one (I think Anthony’s blood pressure is still being affected) – Fortunately the installer handling getting these, keeping my blood pressure down.

    Lessee, what else? This is ambiguous: I took out a low-interest loan against my savings account which was then converted to a certificate of deposit. I assume the loan money wasn’t converted to a CD, but I don’t understand what happened to the savings account and how it could be used as collateral once it was converted to a CD. It’s not central to the story, so I just skipped it the first time through. OTOH, people still have savings accounts? I have one at my credit union, but the interest rate is so minuscule that there’s little reason to use it.

    Is “mad” right in having mad electric and electronic skills.

    Some people gripe about since/because, but I’m not one of them.

    English men should be one word. Okay, should be “Englishmen”. “One word” wouldn’t work.

    4. Grape Solar will you up…. They will what?

    6… with you local utility company

    All in all, nothing major.

    REPLY: Rick Thanks. I was up against the gun this morning, as I had to drive a relative 95 miles down to the Sacramento airport to catch a flight. In my haste I missed these. All are fixed now. – Anthony

  44. pottereaton says:

    BarryW says:
    March 23, 2013 at 11:03 am

    One issue I hadn’t thought of before is that of roof replacement.
    _________________________________

    Most roofs in California are cement or clay tile and will long outlast a solar system. But, yes, if you have an old composite shingle or wood shingle roof, or a very old tile roof, it’s something you have to consider.

    I would guess that most houses being built in the sunbelt these days have tile roofs of some kind.

    I’m heating my pool with solar right now, but have not made the leap to a total system mostly because of a huge medical emergency in the family and because I may be leaving northern San Diego County before long. But my neighbor has a system, it’s at least ten years old and working fine.

    The pool heats up regularly to 85-90 degrees in summer, which is okay because we have breezy afternoons.

  45. TRM says:

    “90 cents per kilowatt-hour” – For a second there I thought you had missed typed and you meant 9 cents per Kwh but then I read on and you are in Calfornia. Absolutely unbelievable.

    Since cooling is the major draw in the valley has anyone tried burying 1000 feet of 6 inch pipes 10 feet in the ground and pumping air through it? Supposedly the air goes in at 100 and comes out at 55-60. I’m intrigued by this guys idea for heating/cooling “www.citrusinthesnow.com” and wondering if anyone in the valley has tried it?

  46. Tom in Florida says:

    I did notice the gas grill but did not see the MMS station. They are required to come in pairs aren’t they?

    Love you calling out the “saviors of the Earth” to see if they put their wallets where their mouths are.

  47. HankHenry says:

    Fascinating. What makes more sense? Centralized power production or power production at the place it’s consumed.

    I believe in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” and I think the PG&E’s smart-meter system must be a stupendous aid to getting that job done in a sensible and efficient way.

    Having an older roof I wonder if there is any system yet that does double duty as both energy source and protection from weather.

    Inquiring minds do want to know! … Al Gore, are you turning off those damn lights of yours.

  48. ZT says:

    Thank you for an extremely informative and helpful article.

  49. Klench Mychiques says:

    If we’re going to nitpick:

    Amazingly, it didn’t used to be that way

    Jeez…

  50. arthur4563 says:

    Beware that many of the details here are NOT the same outside of California. “Net metering” is defined various different ways, almost always not like Califorrnia’s definition. And it probably will change in the future in California. Almost always, any juice you feed the grid can only be offset by same type juice (peak demand or non-peak demand). And the books are wiped clean quarterly – no carryover. Generally , solar systems produce non-peak demand power and consume peak demand, which you will have to pay for unless you have fed an equal amount of peak demand juice onto the grid. Last time I looked , the Feds provide a $1000 per kilowatt tax credit , up to $6,000. Inverters are expensive, even the cheap and inefficient centralized inverters used here (instead of microinverters). Micros are guaranteed for 25 years – central inverters don’t harvest all the power possible and usually last about 15 years and cost around $3500 per 6KW.
    There is another (unmentioned) cost item here, and it’s a whopper : that roof will need replacement before the solar panels become deteriorated, which means a total uninstall, re roof and then re-install of the solar panels. That can easily more than double the cost of the system and destroy any savings. Unles you do the install yourself, forget about a rooftop solar array. Also, inversion penalties are 4 to 5 %, deterioration of the panels can be 1% per year, dirty panels produce far less and orientation and elevation of the array will make a significant difference – roof should point due south. Ratings of panels are phoney baloney STC not PTC, ratings – actual max harvest is at least 12% less than STC ratings.
    Check local rules and regs for net metering before doing anything. And remember about the need to replace the roof. For that reason, I wouldn’t buy a house with a solar array if the seller wanted a higher price because of the array.
    Overall, solar panel users are being subsidized by their neighbors – the power an array puts on the grid is uncontrolled power and has very little intrinsic value, since itt has to be backed up constantly by conventional power. In other words, the solar panel user provides the grid with junk and expects expensive, power on demand from the grid when he needs it. That WILL change in the future when the public gets alerted to the situation.

  51. Tony Wakeling says:

    Lots of PV installations here in U.K. Unfortunately the rest of us have to subsidise them through our bills. Have just switched to Spark Energy. They are charging £0.026/kwhr for gas. Am hoping to convert 2.5kvA generator to gas so as to make myself independent of the grid and install a digester to produce my own gas. I can get virtually unlimited quantities of grass mowings and wood chippings. Does anyone know of methods of improving the rate of decomposition so as to reduce volume required.t.wakeling

  52. atarsinc says:

    A smart person using a smart energy solution. Green can be smart. JP

  53. Gunga Din says:

    While I won’t spend a dime based on the “Save the Planet!” hype, I would spend a dime to save a dollar. Good for you, Anthony!

  54. Glenn says:

    I imagine Anthony, that you watch the developments in battery technology closely. That’s really all your system needs to be completely off grid. A quick and easy to charge and not overly expensive (i.e. simple) electricity storage system. The graphene batteries look promising. This article of their commercialization is from today: http://www.bit-tech.net/news/hardware/2012/03/23/graphene-battery-tech/1

  55. clipe says:

    Anthony has been co-opted by Big Wine?

    Grape Solar – according to google translate – is Raisin Solaire in french. Sounds nice.

    If possible, I’ll drink to that.

  56. WTF says:

    I have always thought that subsidies, if they can be justified at all, should be paid for generation on the load side not the supply side. Solar at the load makes sense in a place such as southern california where it helps shave the peak load. Problem is without a suitable storage system if the supply goes down it still doesn’t do you any good with online solar since if there is nothing to syncronize to the inverters will shut down. Also if a substantial number of these installations get installed then the supply authority will rely on them for distribution and also rely on the home owners to properly maintain the systems. After about 5 years or so that could turn into a problem. Still all boils down to needing a safe, reliable and cost effective storage system. Until that time supply authorities will still have to have backup rolling. I can see a time where with the smart meters if you have something like this installed on your home and you don’t maintain it so as not to disrupt the grid at all, the supply authority will cut you off until the system is fixed and to remove your load from the grid. Smart meters already have the capability to limit or shut down loads. It is just not used yet.

  57. DirkH says:

    Klench Mychiques says:
    March 23, 2013 at 11:31 am
    “So when are you going to thank all those environmentalists that have pushed for legislation to force breakthroughs in solar PV costs? :-P”

    Cost of PV panels per Wattpeak halfs about once per decade; since 1980. It has little to do with legislation, but more with the experience curve (as it gets cheaper, volume rises; with a doubling of volume, PV’s experience curve brings a 20% reduction in cost per unit), and with research – which is paid for by my taxes (I’m German, so I’m automatically funding people like Fraunhofer society).

    What was your point about legislation again? Oh you mean the 250 EUR every German is forced to cough up to pay our local wind turbine and solar panel owners? How should that drive down cost? Subsidies work to keep costs UP, not down – as long as owners of solar panels can get huge subsidies they are willing to pay HIGHER prices for a panel.

    Over time the FIT in Germany has been gradually reduced, and that of course creates price pressure… but because of an exponential growth in solar panels (in a very cloudy country with only 800 sunhours) the total subsidy sum has grown exponentially to 20 bn EUR a year anyway.

    One could have bought a lot of research for that. But one didn’t. The “push for legislation” by environmentalists has turned out to be one of the biggest money grabs ever.

  58. Simon says:

    Thanks for the article. I think it makes sense all round. If you can offset the cost of your power and maybe even win financially in the end and reduce CO2, why wouldn’t you? I think most people who genuinely approach the whole GW thing with an open mind, accept that CO2 is causing some warming, it’s just a question of how much that is the debate. I just love the idea of being self sufficient and if you can minimise your impact on the environment at the same time… well it’s a no brainer really. I say well done that man.

  59. Box of Rocks says:

    So what would happen is one installed a simple generator that uses a natural gas powered IC engine to “augment” what you sell?

    What would prevent one from selling excess power back more often then not?

    (fraudulently I might add?)

  60. Ack says:

    couldn’t imagine paying those prices for electricity

  61. DirkH says:

    arthur4563 says:
    March 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm
    “Inverters are expensive, even the cheap and inefficient centralized inverters used here (instead of microinverters). ”

    I still have to see a microinverter that is as efficient as a 5 kW inverter can be, for two reasons, first, with microinverters you have a higher total installation cost, as you have simply way more electronics. Second, the inverters Anthony installed look like they are not the most efficient ones. SMA Solar or Bosch Solar (if they are still available; i’m not sure about whether Bosch keeps on making inverters, they just killed their panel business) should get at least 95%. I’ve seen MPP’s running at 98.5 %.

  62. DirkH says:

    Stephen Richards says:
    March 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm
    “My biggest gripe about solar systems is that it is a method for making the poor poorer and the rich richer. It is an inverted Robin Hood scheme and that really bugs me. However, for all those that want to game the system I say good luck. I chose not to.”

    As long as the prices are not rigged by subsidation/taxation/price fixing it is plain old supply and demand. If solar producers – who all produce at the same time – would sell for spot market prices, they would compete against each other, driving the price to zero as soon as supply exceeds demands, and this would regulate the number of people who actually would want to produce / feed in their electricity.

    As always, the fault is not with the technology but with meddling politicians.

  63. thelastdemocrat says:

    The issue of neighbors subsidizing Anthony. Per economics thinking, they are. Anthony has simply realized the cost of getting electricity in one way, at one cost, versus another.

    I could power a flashlight with 2 fifty cent duracells, or $4 NiMH that wil recharge 100 times. The choice is up to me.

    The low prices on apples have gone, and now grapes are low. I simply opt for the grapes.

    Anthony has a choice.

    What drives the choice? 1 who cares, says Adam Smith. We continue to move toward maximal efficiency when the free market is allowed to work. 2 yes, you can make this into a moral issue if you want. The low income cannot afford to throw down $25K on a home improvement that happens to be a revenue saver, versus granite countertops which might add a bit to resale value.

    Are other Californians subsidizing Anthony? Yes, in a roundabout way. But they ASKED for it by voting / not voting, voting for one person versus another, choosing to advocate or not advocate FOR and AGAINST certain initatives.

    Cali has various power taxes to fund pie-in-the-sky marxist ideas. With the power rate thus artificually driven WAY up – I pay abt 11 cent/KwHr – he unfortunately has to face this choice.

    But that is the hand he is dealt. The avg person, the timid, the vain who choose granite countertops versus solar panels. and the low income are all paying the high power rates while Anthiony is now dodging them by using what, in the economic equation, is called a “substitute.”

    If the liberals of Cali don’t like supporting this self-interest-motivated effort, they can vote and get politically busy.

  64. Innocent says:

    It does not make sense where I live… The going rate in the top tier is $.13 a kw/h so Average cost per year is around $2,000. If that same system was around $12,000 it would make sense for me to do it as the payback would be within the 5 – 6 year time period, whereas right now it is in the 10 – 12 year period. The time value of money at a decade out is such that it is best to not invest. Add to this the pv has dropped over the last 10 year to about half of where ti was and…

  65. Matthew W says:

    I don’t think I saw this in your post:
    When you are sending electricity to PG&E, do they credit you by the value of the peak rates or is it just a flat rate?

  66. DirkH says:

    thelastdemocrat says:
    March 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm
    “The issue of neighbors subsidizing Anthony. Per economics thinking, they are. ”

    Don’t think so. PG&E takes absolutely outrageous prices for their top tier; three times higher even than the ludicrous prices for a German kWh which include the cross subsidy fee.

    It is rather so that the other Californians have tried to steal from Anthony by voting for lunatics; and that Anthony simply refuses to get robbed.

    Don’t tell me PG&E has actual costs of 90 cent producing one kWh.

  67. Berényi Péter says:

    What is the expected lifetime of monocrystalline panels? What are the expected maintenance costs for the entire system (per annum)? What about hail damage resistance?

  68. HenryP says:

    I think it is not going to work out.
    hints: guarantee, short, burning up of the panels, fire etc.
    I will hear you again in 6 years.
    solar geyser works. I have had one for 12 years.
    solar matts also work (for warming up the swimming pool)

  69. Manfred says:

    You are probably payed feed in tariffs well above the wholesale prices (I suspect). If you think that through, that will tranfer a substantial part of the system cost onto your neighbours pockets.

  70. chris y says:

    DR says:
    March 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    “Where are the data available for hours of sunshine for each state? Anyone? ”

    Here are two places, both from NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)-

    http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1961-1990/redbook/sum2/state.html

    This has 30 year averaged solar insolation at many places around the country, actually measured so it includes normal weather conditions. They provide data for fixed tilt, single axis tracking and dual axis tracking designs, as well as data for concentrating solar systems that require direct sun.
    I looked up Lansing, MI for a fixed array tilted at latitude, and found an annual average of 4.2 kWhr/m^2/day. This is equivalent to 4.2 hours/day of full sun. If you installed Anthony’s 9kWDCpk system with an AC output of 6.5kWAC, you could expect an average of about 27 kWhr per day. Multiply by your current utility rate to figure out how much you’ll save per day on average.

    http://maps.nrel.gov/imby

    This is an online tool that allows you to type in your location, specify the array size, local kWh price, costs, and then calculates the system output each month.

    Anthony, very nice installation. Thanks for all of the details.

    It would be really interesting to see how well your total generated energy over a year compares with what NREL claims you should be able to generate at your location.

  71. bw says:

    Life cycle costs.
    Estimate your array should net you around 22kWh per day averaged over a year. Maybe 8000 KWh per year. With average grid at 10 cents per kWh, thats $800/year for similar systems. You have much higher grid costs, say $2000 per year. Essentially, you are paying for 12 years of electrical usage up front. Estimating a 20 year life span for the system, you will be getting 8 years of free electricity. That is, 20 years of grid electric costs you $40000, but you will pay only 25000.
    For most people, grid electric will cost about $16000 for those 20 years. At low interest rates and high grid costs, your array makes sense. That neglects other costs, such as insurance and lower resale value on the house. In most places, solar photovoltaics can’t compete with grid electric, but it now looks like photovoltaics can compete in areas with good solar input and high grid costs.

    For those interested in estimating their solar input, NREL has maps of annual solar insolation.

  72. Joe says:

    Sal Minella says:
    March 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm
    “Nice installation and documentation, however, I have a problem with the utilities paying for dribs and drabs of intermittent power being generated at tens of thousands of sites. It would seem that most of the power fed back into the grid in this way cannot be relied upon by the utility company and is, therefor, just dissipated making the cost of energy even higher for all ratepayers.”

    Sal, think of an AC power grid as a bunch of electron shakers (generators} vibrating the valance electrons in the wires back and forth throughout the grid including the home wiring. The more power that is consumed the more electrons that need to be vibrated and therefore the more generation needed to provide the input power to vibrate more electrons. And the closer the generators are to the load centers the lower will be the heat losses in the wires.

  73. Other_Andy says:

    First of all, great post.
    In your case the return on investment will pay off. I have checked and, economically, it doesn’t make sense for me to install solar panels.

    Now the bigger picture….
    Why do you pay such an extravagant price for your power?
    If market forces were in play, the cost of power generation would be a fraction of the price. However, in California and countless other places the cost of power is determined by:
    1. The insistence of government that power companies use uneconomical, expensive and unreliable, ways to generate power. This is encouraged by subsidising ‘alternative’ generation such as wind and solar.
    2. The insistence of governments that power companies do not use coal, gas and other hydrocarbons for power generation. This is ‘encouraged’ by taxing generation.
    3. Additional taxes on energy at the source, the consumer or both.

    With energy prices artificially high, consumers are forced to look for alternatives.
    Only consumers with enough money will be able to do this.
    What will happen now…?
    As less consumers will make use of centrally generated power, this will become even more expensive as fixed production and maintenance costs will stay the same.
    Governments relying on the extra taxes to pay for the subsidies on alternative energy production and a host of other things (Paying off the unions, party supporters and their voter base) will have to increase taxes.
    At some point the price of electricity will become too much of a burden on consumers that cannot afford alternatives.
    At that stage the government will come knocking on your door Anthony.
    1. First, all those who generate their own power won’t be able to sell their excess power anymore.
    2. After that, connection charges (For those with alternative power but still on the grid) will be increased.
    3. A minimum user charge will be set, no matter if you use the power or not.
    4. And last but not least, additional taxes will be implemented on all tax payers such as ‘development taxes’.
    In the end the government is going to get you, one way or another….

  74. Apoxonbothyourhouses says:

    “Stephen Richards says:
    March 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm
    My biggest gripe about solar systems is that it is a method for making the poor poorer and the rich richer.”
    This is disingenuous talk. What Watts has done wouldn’t be necessary if the morons who run western democracies adopted power generating policies where the interests of the general population were paramount. Contrast and compare the policies of India and China with say the US, UK and Australia. If our cretinous western leaders continue to screw us by, for example, the increased use of wind farms then the only solution is for citizens to protect themselves by whatever ways they can.

  75. MrX says:

    I don’t see how others are subsidizing Anthony’s energy use. He’s now producing his own energy and selling it to the power company. I’m sure he’d had gotten batteries if they did not buy it. And as for the discounts, he isn’t going to intentionally go against savings he can get when it’s what people voted for.

    I think it’s a very conservative project to get someone more independent (energy independent in this case) and it’s somewhat of an irony that conservative principles are better than the liberal view of those who were pushing “green” energy in the first place.

    I wish I could get something like this, but it snows 9 months of the year here, or is very cloudy for that long.

  76. Mike Jonas says:

    The inverters do make some waste heat, but they are mounted outside, and not an issue.

    UHE!

    Simon says “I think it makes sense all round. If you can [..] reduce CO2, why wouldn’t you? I think most people who genuinely approach the whole GW thing with an open mind, accept that CO2 is causing some warming, it’s just a question of how much that is the debate.

    CO2 and Global Warming have been demonised. Warming is beneficial not damaging (think food production, think excess winter deaths).

    DirkH says “As always, the fault is not with the technology but with meddling politicians.

    So true.

  77. Harry says:

    Thanks Anthony, for sharing your experiences with us.

    My personal experiences: we have a household, 3 people, Netherlands.
    We pay 7/9 Eurocents/kWh for the bare energy (high /low tariff). Add Energytax 13 Eurocents/kWh. Transport costs per year: 227 Euro; cost of metering per year: 72 euro.

    I have decided to install a 6.24 kWp solar installation (24 panels @ 260 Wp each), with a Kostal Piko 4.2 3 -phase inverter. This system will go on-line next week, all clearances are in, including the subvention of 625 Euro of the Government.
    It is bizarre. Stealing, legally, from my neighbors via governmental approved schemes.

  78. Ric Werme says:

    > Most roofs in California are cement or clay tile and will long outlast a solar system.

    Yikes. One of several places where I’ve tripped over the alternate meaning for “solar system”. I don’t think Anthony’s roof will make through the Sun’s red giant phase, though plate tectonics will likely recycle the roof long before then.

    Perhaps we can call it a PV system, photovoltaic system, or solar power system.

  79. GoneWithTheWind says:

    I’m lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest where power cost me $.06 kWh. Even though I live in an all electric home I use my woodstove for heat. But with hot water, electric range and lights I still average about $30 a month for electric. But at Latitude 45 PV just isn’t very practical. My estimate is with PV my cost would be about $0.64 kWh with all the tax breaks/subsidies.

  80. Peter says:

    Peter responds to Stephen @ 12:38pm

    Nice for you Stephen, but I am on the east coast of North America @45 north, and trust me, our climates have nothing in common, other than latitude. We still have 45cm of snow on the ground, the lakes are still frozen and will be until late April, and we also get 2500 hours of sunshine but it takes 4 years.

  81. Bloke down the pub says:

    The pv system I have here in the UK is much smaller that Anthony’s at just 1.65Kw peak. The wacky procedure they’ve set up is index linked so the more stupid they get with energy policy, the more I make.

  82. Rosco says:

    I have some Trinasolar 200 watt monocrystalline panels – maximum rated 200 watt. 8 cost me $2800 installed to my existing 6 sharp 190 panels.

    They have a generating area of about 1.18 sq metres per panel. They have a rated efficiency of 15.6% at 1000 w/sq metre insolation.

    How can Trenberth’s claimed insolation of ~170 w/sq metre possibly be correct in any shape or form ??

    At this insolation – 170 w/sq metre – these panels would generate a mere 1.18 sq metres x 170 w/sq metre x 15.6% efficiency or a huge 31.3 watts per hour.

    Assume the same for the Sharp panels and the whole 14 panels would generate less than 440 watts per hour.

    This is complete nonsense as I know I am generating in excess of 5 KW per day over the recent months of completely overcast weather we have had since January. When the sun re-emerged recently this amount doubled. I know because my inverter tells me what I generate.

    I live at 27 degrees South so cannot expect peak insolation to reach 1000 w/sq metre.

  83. Peter says:

    Stephen,

    One other thing, just to know how good you have it, yes I am envious, over the last 2 weeks our high was 5, and our low -12. We will not see 20 before June (if) and on our best day will not have an overnight low higher than 15. We have 8-9 months of winter and 3-4 months of poor snowmobiling.

  84. John Slayton says:

    I am engaged in an ongoing dialogue with my local utility (Azusa Light and Water) over various aspects of net metering and billing. There seem to be many uncertainties. Although KWhrs that I provide to the grid are supposed to offset KWhrs that I draw from the grid at the full retail rate, it is clear that this is not being done. Example, in my monthly bill I am not charged for the basic rate of power that I have returned to the grid. However, I am charged for the fuel surcharge, the state energy tax, the community benefit fee, and the city utility tax, on that power. The fuel surcharge in particular seems to me illegitimate. They collect it from me when I draw power from the grid, and then they collect it from my neighbors when I return the power to the grid. Double dipping, however you look at it.

    I’d be interested to know if you are declaring the PGE rebate as income. I just finished helping my 91 year old mother file her taxes, which included a utility rebate for a solar installation we installed on her Sierra Vista, AZ, home last year. It turns out that where such rebates are conditioned on assigning environmental credits to the utility, the IRS is construing the transaction as a sale, the proceeds of which are taxable income.

  85. SMS says:

    PV manufacturers claim an ERoEi of from 6 to 30 but when independent investigators look at the same equipment, they find the ERoEI is only one. There is no way that PV is economic. Just funny math to make it look good. That funny math usually involves my taxes or an increase in my power bill.

  86. Anthony

    How many hours of sunshine/bright light sufficient for power generation do you get per year? How does that break down monthly? Horses for courses, and I suspect solar power (heavily subsidised, expensive, and sold like double glazing here in the UK) is not cost effective in countries such as ours, especially in the winter months (August to June) when it is most needed.

    tonyb

  87. Rosco says:

    Those PG&E tariffs are horrendous – just where is Erin Brockovich when you need her ???

    Oh that’s right – she works in Maroochydore a few miles up the road.

  88. Paul Hanlon says:

    In a prior life, I installed solar thermal panels, not photovoltaic, but evacuated tube. Very efficient. Generally these were filled with glycol (antifreeze), and an extra large hot water cylinder with two heat exchanger coils also came as part of the package, with the other coil used by the central heating system.

    I can say that these worked. Dublin is at 53° Latitude and on a December day at 4o’clock, the water temperature in the hot water cylinder was 50°C, purely from the panels. Biggest problem is getting rid of the heat in summer. This can usually be done by putting a radiator in the attic, and venting through that, or lots of baths ;-).

  89. RHL says:

    I installed a 3 kW system five years ago for the same reason. I live on the coast of California so I don’t need as large a system as you do, Anthony, since the ocean breezes are my AC. I generate about 90% of my own power over a year. When California’s AB 32, Global Warming Solutions Act, passed, I was convinced I needed to act. I never regretted it.
    I also chose crystalline silicon panels for durability and longevity. The installation was done in conjunction with a re-roofing job which will last as long as the panels.
    Firefighters have two problems with PV panels during a house fire. One is that the firefighters will disconnect the breaker to outside power to avoid electrical shock when fighting a fire. Of course with PV panels, there is still voltage there during daylight hours. The other is that burning PV panels are considered toxic. Firefighters take appropriate precautions.
    The warning on the breaker panel about the PV system is both for electicians and firefighters to take precautions.
    The panels themselves are not a fire risk as long as they are installed properly.

  90. ntesdorf says:

    Thanks for an excellent article. Like Anthony, we have put 10 panels on our terrace house roof. in Sydney (34 degree S.) We have 10 panels and it cost us $8,000 all up with a $8,000 Government subsidy. The work was done by an installer. The panels were put up 4 years ago. Like Anthony, we did it to save money, not the planet as we could already see that CAGW was bullshit, but the Government believed in it and was about to punish the citizenry for its mania.
    We have no A/C as our house was built in 1885 by people who knew that in warm areas you have small windows, verandahs and thick walls. We double insulated the roof and attic and the temperature inside is 20-24 degrees C all year round with no A/C, no matter the temperature outside (annual range 4-40 degree C).
    We save about $500 pa on electricity and do not use gas. This is a return of about 6% pa. We pay about $400 pa for what extra electricity we need.
    A friend of ours in Tasmania has 33 panels on his roof and is totally self-sufficient despite a lower sun-angle there.
    Our house and panels are orientated towards 30 degrees West of North and this shifts peak electricity generation into the Supplier’s peak electricity charge time and interestingly, saves extra money over a pure North facing orientation.

  91. u.k.(us) says:

    Thanks, Anthony.
    The effort has not gone unnoticed.

  92. tobias says:

    @ thelastdemocrate says
    “I could buy a $4dollar MlHM battery and recharge it a 100 times ,

    I do not get PO’d often,
    BUT can you please go back to your basement, do you really, really think re-charching comes FREE! add to that the cost ( in damage to the environment) of manufacturing and re-cycling of said batteries! (besides wearing out your shoes and wall plugs). Until the industry can give a fair balance of those issues I will stick to my 60 watt bulbs, using as little as possible.

  93. rogerknights says:

    In Seattle, there are only 14 days or so of uncomfortably hot weather in a house in the summer. I avoided air conditioning for those days by installing a couple of very large awnings on two sides of the house (cost about $2000 from Sunsetter) and adding a thermostat-controlled exhaust attic fan with a set of gravity-governed louvers in the window frame (cost about $250 from Home Depot).

    (Maybe Anthony could experiment with those as well??)

  94. David Delaney says:

    I am impressed with your setup. Here in the UK we get government subsidies for energy saving. I get cheques for over £500.00 a quarter for my PV installation. As a climate sceptic I also have solar water heating, wood pellet stove and a hybrid car. BTW last week I went on a tour of Drax Power Station, the largest in the UK by far. Thanks to the crazy EU large combustion plant directive and in order to avoid enforced closure it is converting from coal to burning biofuels. They have contracted to get their wood fuel from thousands of acres of US forest and it is building two large pelleting plants on the Mississippi River. The project is costing £500m. I asked if it was viable if the government stopped interfering in the energy market? The answer was NO!

  95. rogerknights says:

    PS: I also had insulation put in the rafters.

  96. Paul Westhaver says:

    What are you monthly savings vs Monthly cost of ownership?

  97. Wyguy says:

    Anthony, you are so right about those living in coastal areas. We lived in San Pedro for 12 years, the only A/C we had was in the car.

  98. Bob says:

    Do we need to invent a new Field Day class for operations like yours? I guess you would still be connected to the commercial mains. Perhaps you could disconnect your house from PG&E during the radio contest.

  99. ferd berple says:

    Hopefully PG&E is required to pay you 93 cents per kilowatt hour for surplus power you create during the peak hours.

    Here in BC we of course are also required to install smart meters by our power monopoly BC Hydro, at a total cost of $2 billion. And does anyone care to guess who owns the company that is supply the smart meters. What a surprise!! The officers of BC Hydro, with close ties to the current government. And this after the government just raided BC Hydro for a couple of hundred million $$ to balance the books immediately ahead of a provincial election.

    As they say, when you vote you have a choice between an incompetent and a crook.

  100. Manfred says:

    MrX says:
    March 23, 2013 at 2:47 pm
    I don’t see how others are subsidizing Anthony’s energy use. He’s now producing his own energy and selling it to the power company.
    ————————————————–

    You have to do an overall cost/benefit computation for the economy to understand this and it is basically very easy to do.

    Those solar cells do not replace any powerplants nor any grid infrastructure, they do not make any services (like meter reading) redunant. so In essence, they only save fuel at conventional power plants, which may come to a saving of about 1 cent /kWh. Compare this to a feed in tariff of 20 cent/kWh or so. The benefit for the economy is less than 10% of the cost and this has to be paid by someone.

    Even if you consume the energy by yourself, above does not change. It does change if you go completely off the grid. But that requires batteries with multi week capacity.

  101. Boblo says:

    HUGE house! Big Oil MUST have paid for it!

  102. DirkH says:

    climatereason says:
    March 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm
    “How many hours of sunshine/bright light sufficient for power generation do you get per year?”
    He should get about 2,500 per year.

    RHL says:
    March 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm
    “The warning on the breaker panel about the PV system is both for electicians and firefighters to take precautions.”
    Even at night 700 to 1000 Volt depending on the number of panels can build up; full moon suffices; very little current but enough voltage to kill. The precaution by the firefighters is to let the building burn down and save the neighbourhood.

  103. MrX says:

    Manfred says:
    March 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    The benefit for the economy is less than 10% of the cost and this has to be paid by someone.
    ————————————————–
    Benefit to the economy? That does not imply subsidy. And what needs to be paid by someone? Anthony is still paying for the energy he uses (whether from the install and purchase cost of his panels or through the energy company).

    So where does the subsidy come into play?

  104. Bruce Courson says:

    The point is Anthony (one of my true heros) seems to have installed the system because CA has made the rates artificially high. The only way liberals can move us into the wind/solar arena is to make conventional power vastly more expensive. Anthony has made the correct personal choice but it was forced upon him. Abundant natural gas production of electricity is so much more economical.

    Sadly, California has made Anthony spend time on his roof instead of at his computer where he works diligently to enlighten us all. A waste of precious talent, in my opinion.

    Anthony, you did the math but the game was rigged from the beginning. Hope you spend more time in the future “going to get em” than “going green.”

  105. Rud Istvan says:

    Anthony, bravo.
    We did a similar thing on my Wisconsin farm back in the early 1980’s, except our cost problem was winter heating fuel (LPG) not air conditioning. We don’t have A/C. On the few hot days, we don’t suck it up. We quit working and spend the day on the nearby Wisconsin River. (The farm is only about 5 miles from Taleisin.)
    Solution was a stove/ firebox/fireplace in the family room, plus a double walled firebox/fan connected directly to the LPG furnace plenum in the basement. Plus about 8 true (not face) cords of split firewood per year, harvested strictly from deadfall in the 100 acres of forest on the place. Totally renewable green. And the best thing about that firewood is, it warms you twice, while avoiding gym fees.
    Of course, for this Energy solution to work, first you have to have a farm…and most don’t. But we don’t get enough winter sun for your PV solution to help, and our electric bills are low (whole farm with everything runs maybe $40/month including 3 well pumps for 3 barns, milking machines…).

    Moral of the story, Mann, McCribben, Gore et. al. lost touch with reality a long time ago.
    Regards

  106. Richard Sharpe says:

    Wouldn’t have been simpler to move to Oregon?

  107. bwdave says:

    Matt in Houston asked:
    “Have you ever thought about installing a misting system around your AC heat exchanger to increase it’s efficiency?”

    Years ago, when I lived in Houston, I remembered something my Thermo Prof showed us one day, which he explained was a trick window A/C manufacturers use, so I routed the stream of cold condensate taken from the air in the house (typically plenty of humidity in Houston) by the evaporator. to drip onto the condenser fan, so that it would be slung through the coils. It seemed to help. Between that, a power vent in the attic and film on windows exposed to direct sun, my electric bills were nearly halved.

    I kept an eye out for corrosion (my biggest concern) or fouling. I didn’t see any, but I sold the house a couple years later, so I don’t know if the condenser coils were short lived. I also planted some shrubs to provide some shade for the condenser, but they had’nt yet matured enough.

    I moved to San Diego, and have not needed A/C. I have thought about solar, but I have a flat roof, and the potential for leaks scares me.

  108. DirkH says:

    Manfred says:
    March 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm
    “Compare this to a feed in tariff of 20 cent/kWh or so. The benefit for the economy is less than 10% of the cost and this has to be paid by someone. ”

    If Anthony gets ripped off by a fantastic price of 90 cent/kWh and claws back some by getting 20cent /kWh (don’t know if he does) it’s a little different in my opinion, we are basically entering the land of Alice-In-Wonderland-economics where a political monopoly provider (PG&E) dictates completely bizarre conditions; the only thing you care for is to Keep Your Head under these conditions. A kind of artificial post-apocalyptic every-man-for-himself against the Red Queen…

    Better not set foot in California if it can at all be avoided… crazier than the EU. And THAT’S crazy.

    Most of Anthony’s savings obviously come from avoiding the punitive tier 3 and 4 tariffs. Not from feeding in.

  109. kakatoa says:

    PG&E has a Demand Response program called the Smart Rate program http://www.pge.com/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/energysavingprograms/smartrate/plandetails/index.page

    When an Event Day occurs Smart Rate pricing occurs:

    “What you’ll pay and where you’ll save.

    With the Summer Pricing Plan, your savings are calculated by combining the discounted rates you pay between June and September, with the surcharge that is in effect between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on SmartDays. Because no more than 15 SmartDays are called each season, you’ll be paying the discounted rate the majority of the time. When you effectively manage your energy use on SmartDays, you can end up with a net discount over the summer season.

    Summer Pricing Credits and Surcharge

    Residential energy charges are calculated by using your previous pricing plan with the following adjustments:

    Summer Pricing Plan customers will receive a credit of $0.02992/kWh for energy usage from June 1 through September 30, with the exception that the credit will not be given for energy usage that occurs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on SmartDays.
    From June 1 through September 30, Summer Pricing Plan participants will receive an extra credit of $0.01/kWh for usage in tiers 3, 4 and 5.
    Summer Pricing Plan participants will be charged a $0.60/kWh surcharge in addition to the regular rate for just five hours (from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.) on each SmartDay.”

  110. Chad Wozniak says:

    @andrewmharding of NE England –

    Like Anthony, I live in Chico, California. Chico is in the northern Sacramento Valley, the northern portion of the Great Valley of California. The latitude here in Chico is about 39 degrees 40 minutes north. We are on the edge of California’s Mediterranean climate zone – a little farther north, past Redding, you enter a high altitude-type climate with much colder winter temperatures, Here in Chico, summer temperatrues can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit (about 49 Celsius). That’s rare, but temps of 105 to 110 do regularly occur in our summers. In winter, temperatures can get down into the teens (minus 10 Celsius), and once every few years we might get a light dusting of snow, but that’s the extent of winter here.

    I have a much older solar system on my house, installed in 2002. Though much smaller and less up to date than Anthony’s, it has nevertheless saved me at least 60 percent on my electric bill, for a 3,000-square-foot (290 square meters) house. While AC is not the issue where you live, Andrew, it still might pay to have the solar panels, from what I understand concerning the carbon-taxed electricd rates in the UK. I’d recommend you look into how much it might save you.

    I’d be real interested to hear if Mann, Hansen, Gore, Obama or any of those other alarmist blatherskites have solar panels on their houses.

  111. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    You are lucky that the regulation and the supplier still accept yearly acounting.
    In Denmark the regulation was the same untill this year. Now the law is that you only count on an hourly basis, so you can not save in the summer to use in the winter or daytime to use nighttime, and that is perhabs more important in Denmark than in Califonia. (Did i mention that the meters are not at all ready yet? But thats a minor detail, besides that EU now has to accept the payment for the surplus, because now it has become a competing case).
    The electricity price for private users are around 2 to 2.2 kroner for a kWh ( ~32c ). If you produce more than you use in each hour you are paid 1.3dKr, but that payment is reduced over 20 years. It is a bit difficult to comprehend, but the raw trading price for electricity without any taxes, grid costs and so on is in Scandinavia around 0.3dKr/kWh. (Nordpol spot prices).
    It means that even coalfired powerplants have hard times to match, and the result is that those surviving are those that also supply district heating.
    The whole energy market in Denmark and most of Scandinavia is so meshed up with regulations, taxes and incentives that hardly any one can figure out what a kWh of energy should cost.

  112. DaveR says:

    Thanks for the update. Some great comments and questions. I’m pretty sure we will be using Costco and Grape Solar panels within a year. I’ll be sure to tell them you sent us.
    Please give us another update when you get through a couple summer months.

  113. Gerald Machnee says:

    This is the first detailed report I have read from a consumer.
    Great job Anthony!.
    Your note about the high end being close to a dollar a kwh reminded me of my son’s time in Japan. I believe that the normal cost is about 75 cents a kwh. They are only now looking to Canada about insulating homes and buildings. He worked in a school near Nagano where the hallways were below freezing in the winter as they were not heated. I do not know how solar would work there – do they get enough sun.

  114. Gareth Phillips says:

    Good to see you walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

  115. George says:

    I haven’t read all the comments above, but I am wondering if anyone is aware of the amount of CO2 emissions your installation generated? You were probably never told, but the production of the silicon metal used in your PV cells involves the release of truly huge quantities of CO2 – probably more by weight than the silicon produced. This factor is never discussed in the promotional literature, and I suspect would be denied by the companies that sold you the panels. If they know themselves.

    I talked to the silicon cell guru for the IPCC, and received a flat denial that CO2 emissions are a problem in silicon production. He understands the process of smelting silicon from quartz, but excuses the CO2 emitted by claiming that the carbon used in the smelter is all from charcoal, and thus is not fossil CO2. This is not, of course, correct. Only one smelter in my experience used hardwood charcoal was in South Africa (don’t know if they still do – they were making a significant dent in the remaining hardwood forest when I was last there). Others use anthracite coal, or some other reduced form of fossil hydrocarbons. The central electrode of the reduction furnace is pure graphite, as fossil as carbon can get, and gets used up in the production. Making silicon releases lots and lots of CO2, should that be a concern to you.

    The CO2 production in silicon smelting is the dirty secret of the PV-generation industry.

  116. Mr Lynn says:

    I see solar installations hereabouts, though how effective they are I don’t know. We’re at 42° 16′ 45″ N in eastern Massachusetts. I’ve got a south-facing side hip roof. Our electric bill (no AC) is about $200 a month. I haven’t done the calculations, but figure with the limited sun (especially in winter, and a fair amount of snow) it would take a long time to amortize the cost of a solar-power supplement.

    As for those who criticize Anthony for taking advantage of ‘green’ policies that may in fact depend on taxpayer or ratepayer subsidies, more power to him, as it were. I don’t approve of Medicare, and I think it’s a looming disaster for the country (especially as it balloons into socialized medicine for everyone), but I take advantage of it, as well as whatever tax advantages the insane IRS rules give me. You have to look our for yourself and your family first.

    Ack says:
    March 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm
    couldn’t imagine paying those prices for electricity

    Just wait until the Obummer administration finishes stomping on the coal industry, killing fracking for gas and oil, and pushing carbon taxes, ‘alternative energy’, and similar eco-nazi insanity on us. As California goes, so goes the nation. Except maybe Texas. I’d like to move to Texas (hey, “Bob Wills is still the king”), but my wife says it’s too far from the grandkids.

    /Mr Lynn

  117. _Jim says:

    Tony Wakeling says March 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Am hoping to convert 2.5kvA generator to gas so as to make myself independent of the grid and install a digester to produce my own gas. …

    Be advised, the starting current of AC induction motors (like a fridge compressor even!) is MANY times normal operating current ‘draw’, and today’s cheapie generators have little reserve to provide these kinds of starting currents! In years gone by, larger cross-section generator wire windings and heavier flywheels (with e=1/mv^2 inertia improvement) were able accommodate these starting currents, but today’s more-often-than-not lightweight Chinese made gens won’t supply those high starting ‘surge’ currents. If in doubt, test first, maybe using a friends already-purchased genny!

    And Anthony, thanks for sharing details on your project; my highest bill is on the order of US $150, achieved through conservation measures with rates in Texas at 33 N Latitude (HOT summers) between 9 and 11 cents per kWH.

    .

  118. Max Hugoson says:

    Wow! Talk about differential economy..(CA versust the midwest, dorkey, seasonal, NOT “perfect” climate…midwest, NOT the “Golden Land” by any means..)

    Even though I do some moderate A/C in my midwest location, and (of course) heat, I’m NO WHERE NEAR THESE COSTS. Being currently an unemployed (late 50’s) Engineer, I have a strategy plotted out to SURVIVE until Nov/Dec, when I must (really, if I don’t want to dive into a DEEP economic hole) sell my house, and move to much cheaper digs (probably a double wide in AZ). SO I have JUST ABOUT THE $ that Anthony is spending on his PV system TO SURVIVE ON until said “drop dead” time.

    Indeed, if I were in Anthony’s situation, I think a FAN and a margarita with a lot of store bought ICE would be my only alternative. OH LOOK another late season Snow Storm is coming! Time to chop down a couple more of my oaks to burn them up. (Joining the PENSIONERS in G.B. in fuel poverty!) I guess ever circumstance is very “relative” isn’t it?

    Max

  119. _Jim says:

    Manfred says March 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Those solar cells do not replace any powerplants nor any grid infrastructure,

    Wait – wait – wait; in the aggregate, that last ‘marginally’ produced MWH would not have to be produced by the PGE generators, ever, if, in the aggregate systems like Anthony’s were in place and able to produce power during peak (i.e. demand) consumption hours … as ‘peak’ demand can occur into the evening hours (at least in Texas) as the sun sets the amount of energy produced will taper off, obviously. And, the energy transferred via high-voltage transmission lines from the generating station to substations (where distribution level voltages are created from the HV lines coming in) would be less as well, since generation is in effect occurring out among the ‘loads’ (i.e. in the ‘load center’) themselves … Of course, this is idealistically speaking, with mileage varying as we are nowhere near this situation at the present (AND we may not get there either, but, that is subject for disc. at another time).

    .

  120. Bill H says:

    Well, this is called the “need” being meet. The need being contrirved by a bunch of eco freeks who think tha man and CO2 are the problem. They forced the pricing so high that this type of system and its cost are financially feasabile when they are really not necessary. I guess that is my “gripe” about this. That being said, awesome project!

    I have a hybrid 3,000 watt PV array / 5 Kw wind geneartor with 15,000 amp/hours of storage. Two twin outback 5,000 watt inverters with charge controllers. Were paying just the 5 dollars a month fee to keep a meter on my home becasue they won’t pay the reverse input to the system out in the boonies.. (if I didnt need the welder and lath I would not have a meter) We have one 6kw generator for emergencies during the winter.

    Being on the great divide (widnzone 5) the wind generator pretty much keeps the battery bank at 90% +. The PV array is there just for the summer when the winds are low and cooling is necessary! The PV array is on a pole and the wind generator is in the air 35 feet. (love the brushless PMA) greese the berings three times a year and watch it go…

    And like you it was done as a practicality issue over 7 years (and the fact living in the boonies the power goes out frequently) the system was paid for out of pocket and is paid off.. Takes a bit of maintencne time each week but well worth the time. We even placed three 600w dump loads in a 200 gallon pre heater tank for the water heater which is propane gas. Very often the preheat tank is at hot water temp. (kids love long hot showers – so do I) Ive been contemplating a sun room and with a little pre planning I would bet a floor liqued heating system would be a good investment.. Still need to do some calcs before we take that one by the horns..

    And all due to necesity… Rural area an all.. I like having power when the neighbors do not..

  121. ironbrian says:

    as a meter reading professonal, i have the following observation:
    does the meter keep rolling back and forth over itsself (the 0.0 anomily line)? think y2k:

    you’re down 2kWhrs (k), now down 1.9 2k, wait down 2.1k. each time you cross the 0.0 anomoly line, how is that handled? when does the 21st century begin? is it 2000 years or the beginning of the 21st century? inquiring customers want to know…

    0.1kWhrs/month error * $0.12/kWhr * 10,000 customers *12 mo/yr could be a tidy error sum over the years.

    meter readings have this problem evey month when meters “turn over” from 999999 to 000000, you add to the problem each time by going back and forth over the 0.0 “anomoly” line. it is possible to mis-aggregate the commodity consumed when you actually do something (invoice / credit) with the data…

    i would ask to audit the calculation to assure you get all the anomoly crossover value you accrue…

    iron brian

  122. ferd berple says:

    Manfred says:
    March 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm
    You have to do an overall cost/benefit computation for the economy to understand this and it is basically very easy to do.
    =============
    nonsense. Anthony is replacing an expensive service with a lower cost one. Normally this would be seen as improving the efficiency of the economy.

    Cost/benefit for the economy? By that measure the state should get rid of everyone over 65.

    Taxpayers are all subsidizing anyone that is costing the economy more than they are providing. This includes politicians that make bad decisions that cost the economy millions, or funnel subsidies to their insider cronies in return for campaign contributions. We are subsidizing them as well. If Anthony improves the quality of political decisions and reduces the mistakes made in the name of “saving the world” he has done a lot more than most.

    Want to know how the government makes something worth $1 million? They start with something worth $10 million…

  123. Bill H says:

    and there is sufficient storage to have power for three-seven days

  124. Catcracking says:

    Anthony,
    Congratulations on compensating your electricity generation costs and beating a horrible government policy that requires people to undertake extraordinary measures to live comfortably based on phony science.
    As I see it you have some advantages ( I sort of hate to use this word) over most homeowners.
    1) One you are smart enough to go through the complex economics to determine how to optimize your home electricity system, Think of the average Joe or a senior citizen trying to figure this out?
    2) You live in and area where there is lots of sun and little impediments such as snow or excessive weather that shields solar collection.
    3) You have been responsible enough to have saved some financial resources to implement the project efficiently.
    I feel sorry for those who due to financial or other reasons such as lack of skills to wade through the complex government regulation/mandates to cut their costs. They become vulnerable to charlatans.
    The government has become the enemy of the people who are being hurt by these mandates while the vultures are making handsome profits having built subsidized generation facilities and selling electricity at guaranteed inflated rates .

    Living in Northern NJ where winters are cold and sun energy considerably less abundant, I have not studied the issue to anywhere near the extent you have. Although NJ regulations are not yet as onerous as California, we may not be too far behind. Due to stupid green energy mandates we do have electricity rates amongst the highest in the Country and it seem as though the payback for solar is much less than California without huge subsidies. The ugly facts are that while NJ has 3 Nuclear plants, NJ high rates are excessive because the power companies are forced to purchase a certain % of “green” energy through a government created exchange. Often the power companies are force to purchase green energy at rates of 0.50 cents a kilowatt hr. and higher . Consequently I pay about 16 cents a KWH including delivery, etc. to subsidize green energy
    http://www.njcleanenergy.com/renewable-energy/project-activity-reports/srec-pricing/srec-pricing

    Thanks again for your informative presentation.
    It appears that the exorbitant rates in Cal (and ultimately NJ) are artificially created to force people into investing into green energy by making conventional energy too expensive, even if it makes no economic or scientific sense and drives business overseas. The connected buddies of the people in power get rich and contribute to the re election of the political machine. “In NJ we call that pay to play” and it ruins the jobs in the State and has converted NJ from one of the richest states to one deeply in debt in 4 short years.

  125. Colonial says:

    Great job, Anthony! Your installation is of similar size as mine (9.55 kW) and cost half as much to purchase and install. Since you’re farther south, it will also generate more power each year. (I’m at 45 degrees latitude. Annual power production is about 9,600 kWh.)

    I have a better deal financially — the neighbors are paying for it. Residential power costs are about 10.5 cents/kWh (monthly bill divided by kWh used that month). I’m paid 58.5 cents per kWh generated (whether I use it or ship it out through the meter) on a 15-year contract with the local power company. At the end of that time, I’ll be able to switch to net metering (what you’re doing now). Payoff will occur in about ten years, so the last five years of the contract will be gravy. After that, I’ll still have about 80% of my power produced by the sun.

    I’m near retirement. After seeing how insane the electricity prices are in California, I installed the system to protect my wife and myself in our old age. It’s nice that so many of my neighbors are willing to bankroll my lifestyle!

  126. ferd berple says:

    Chad Wozniak says:
    March 23, 2013 at 4:59 pm
    I’d be real interested to hear if Mann, Hansen, Gore, Obama or any of those other alarmist blatherskites have solar panels on their houses.
    =============
    Hansen especially with his death trains of coal. How can he be using electricity from the mains knowing that this uses coal and is killing his grandchildren? And what about manufactured goods that were built using power from coal? Certainly Hansen cannot be using any of these knowing that he is killing everyone grandchildren everywhere. Or is he?

    Isn’t it time that everyone that says “We Need To Do Something” actually did something more than talk. Not by trying to force everyone ELSE to do something. But did something themselves so that they don’t produce any CO2, so they have “ZERO EMISSIONS” and don’t use any products that are not “SUSTAINABLE”.

    Forget about symbolic change, or paying poor people in the third world to “OFFSET” your emissions (eat your sins) Al Gore style. What about real change? Or are they all a bunch of well meaning hypocrites? The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Mann, Hansen, Gore, Obama you are being called out. You only talk the talk. Anthony walks the walk.

  127. Eric Dailey says:

    Anthony Watts, it’s just MEAN to tease the poor little dears like this. Just because they’re too busy flying around the world giving speeches and attending meetings doesn’t make it their fault if they haven’t put up any silly solar panels. Honestly I don’t know how you expect them to live up to these kind of standards when they are so busy telling us all how to save the world.

  128. flyfisher says:

    Would aluminum shingles help your roof as well? Got to be damn hot up there with those asphalt ones.

  129. ferd berple says:

    Posted on March 23, 2013 by Anthony Watts
    My home solar
    Put your money where your mouthpiece is, I say. For example, do loud climate campaigners Joe Romm and Bill McKibben have solar power on their homes? Do Jim Hansen and Michael Mann have solar power while telling us we all must cut back our energy usage linked to fossil fuels? Inquiring minds want to know.
    ===============
    Google maps is your answer. I can see my roof from google maps plain as day and have no problem finding neighboring houses with solar panels installed. They stand out without any problem. google these self-proclaimed saviors and see what they have installed.

  130. Colonial says:

    DirkH (March 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm) quoted RHL about the reason for the safety warnings and added:

    Even at night 700 to 1000 Volt depending on the number of panels can build up; full moon suffices; very little current but enough voltage to kill. The precaution by the firefighters is to let the building burn down and save the neighbourhood.

    With respect to voltage out of a solar array: In the U.S., the maximum voltage out of a string of solar panels mounted on a house roof (and thus into the inverter) is limited to 600 volts by the National Electrical Code. The calculation must use the lowest temperature expected in the area, because that’s when the voltage out of the panels is highest.

    My system uses 39 Solar World 245 Watt monocrystalline panels in three stings of 13 panels each. Maximum voltage at zero degrees Fahrenheit (about -18 Celsius) is 585 volts, give or take. That’s still potentially lethal, if the panels are able to supply more than a few milliamperes of current.

    With respect to fire fighting: My system has a disconnect on the roof. If a fire should occur, firemen will pull the roof disconnect to stop it from feeding power into the house wiring. They’ll pull the main meter to shut off grid power. Then, they’ll fight the fire.

    As reference: On cool days and full sun, the panel output of my 9.55 kW system is just under 400 volts with 26 Amperes of current flow (the panels output more than their advertised specifications). A few days ago, power output from the inverter peaked at 9.74 kW. Today, with a few more clouds, the peak was at 8.07 kW. Now (late in the day), it’s producing a bit over 400 watts from an input of 397 volts at 1.1 Amps. (My Fronius inverter’s efficiency is specified to be > 95%.)

  131. Chris G says:

    Anthony, ya lost me. Where I live subsidies for this happy crap are North of 90%. After 10 years the savings don’t pay for the cost of an inverter replacement. Nor do they account for how they screw up t the grid when the clouds pass over, even in your area. Glad you are saving money but after a certain tipping point the grid experiences frequency response to these type of interruptible resources. Who will pay for that? Not you of course or the jack ass behind me who got his system free.

    Go off the grid if you want to impress. Otherwise I and others with utility experience are not buying this.

    Oh and by the way $.93/KWh is only a peak rate. Turn your freakin air off during that time and save your 25k.

  132. Austin says:

    We pay 10.5 cents in TX at my house. Our data centers and offices we pay 4.5-5.5 cents. CA is screwed.

  133. Luther Wu says:

    Good job, Anthony. A few comments:
    1) not cost effective here, yet (OKC)
    2) word has it that local utility nevertheless looked into supplying a part of town experiencing wild growth and found it cheaper to continue super- cooling- type techniques to supply peak watts over existing grid tie.
    3) the VA hospital just spent God only knows how much on a PV parking lot cover
    4) the meters required (like yours) can turn off your power remotely… be 5 minutes late with your bill and get a very nasty- gram warning

  134. Luther Wu says:

    Ps You’ve heard of huge hailstones that destroy cars and punch holes through roofs?
    Welcome to my neck o’ the woods.

  135. Bill H says:

    flyfisher says:
    March 23, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Would aluminum shingles help your roof as well? Got to be damn hot up there with those asphalt ones.
    =======================================

    If your going to place PV’s on your roof, the longer lasting metal ones are the way to go. ( no tearing it up) Just take the time to get a high grade sealant for the roof mount holes. The PV array takes away most of the heat so it is a good win/win. a little planning and long term investment will pay off well..

    Mine are on a pole system and not on the roof due to 100mph wind problems..

  136. Gino says:

    Nice article, but usage numbers for my location show an 11+ yr simple payback (which hasn’t really dropped in the last 5 years). At that level I won’t even bother to consider the realistic discounted period. That’s based on your cost numbers Anthony, not the inflated installation wages here in SoCal. For reference, my annual electricity bill here in Orange County CA (slightly inland) is about $2100/yr (last year). An inland desert community would change this calculation however. If my discounted payback gets under 8yrs with a reasonable cost of capital (8% or so, my company uses 12 for asset purchases), this kind of project would look interesting.

    For those of you who noted that anthony “makes out” by selling during daylight hours and consuming during night, that is exactly when power is required here in Kalifornia. Edison at one point even experimented with offering businesses preferrential rates to close during afternoon hours and shift production to the evenings because generation capability was so low. Coal fired power plants do not shut down. You don’t just turn off or on a boiler, so that generation continues at night regardless. Essentially wasted power. Anthony’s solar actually provides a significant service in that it is power that is generated when it is needed.

    BTW, my low cost of operations come from insulation, LED, spot lighting vs area, ceiling fans and a 15 SEER AC system. Total costs are less than the solar PV materials cost. My next efficiency move is to a gas range rather than electric, then to alternative generation.

    Good job Anthony.

  137. Matthew R Marler says:

    That was a good and informative post. My questions:

    1. How much pay do you receive for your feed-in tariff and is it time/usage weighted like the bills for usage?

    2. Why 8500 watts?

    An a comment: my electricity bill seldom exceeds $40 even in hot months (ca 100F daytime, but windy nights), so I won’t be able to afford a pv system for a long time.

  138. David Jojnes says:

    So, Anthony, you are now OFFICIALLY, a “solar system Climate Change denier.”

    if needed sarc/

  139. OverlookedSavings says:

    One thing over looked in air handling duct work running through a hot (or cold) attic is the crappy R6 duct insulation (R6 ideal, more like R4 as installed). I got a minimum 25% air temp delta improvement by wrap insulating ~280′ of duct and ~80 sq ft of plenum surface with R30 for ~$600 in materials. Since my A/C evaporator is also in the attic I routed the water condensate to drip on the condenser (instead of the sewer) for some additional improvement and also added a water valve tap in case I wanted cheaper distilled water equivalent for batteries, irons, humidifiers etc.
    The pool pump is another large draw @ 2.6KW at a recommended 12 hours minimum per day for algae prevention. After some experimentation I discovered that by keeping the Cl level @ 4-9ppm (instead of 1-2ppm) that the pump only needed to be run as required to clean the pool with the robot. I also discovered that it is easy to keep these levels in the colder pool water off season with a single TriChlor float dispenser under the solar blanket. These levels are needed (apparently) because of the higher Cyanuric Acid levels that occur from constant usage of TriChlor and the only way to get the CYA down is to drain the pool which requires the expense of refilling or in my case using up many hours of water well pump life. Another way to get free turnover of the water is to use rain water from the roof gutters which for my house runs about 5:1 (5 inches of pool height for 1 inch of rain). The pool does require a robot cleanup after wards and sometimes requires small adjustments in acidity etc. but is a much smaller price to pay. Now if I could just find some really cheap energy for off season pool heating……

  140. Grant says:

    California is now the poorest per capita state in the union. As usuall, the every man in the state will freeze in the winter and roast in the summer because they cannot afford a 25000 dollar solar system. It’s one way to get people to leave and not come here. What’s that sound? It’s business leaving .

  141. Anthony Watts says:

    Thanks to everyone for the comments and questions. I’ve been driving all day, since shortly after posting this essay, and I’m a bit burned out. I’ll do my best to answer questions tomorrow. Typos pointed out by Ric Werme have been fixed.

  142. Day By Day says:

    Thanks Anthony! I too use–solar–an off the grid house in Utah and grid tie in Arizona–Hate the grid tie and if I had understood how rigid the rules are (no back up allowed) I would not have taken the subsidy from the power company and I would have done an off the grid system. I’ll never make that mistake again. .

    What I find hilarious is that my mother and brothers who both believe hook line and sinker in GW–have a huge carbon footprint and ridicule me for reading this blog! funny how I walk like they talk!

    @ RACookPE1978 says: How did you get away with not needing a DC controller? They are almost as expensive as an inverter, and are equally likely to fail/cause system interference, and “humming” in the area.

    RA–you are right, you do not need a charge controller when grid tied because you are not controlling the charge to the batterys.

    @ bw says: Essentially, you are paying for 12 years of electrical usage up front. Estimating a 20 year life span for the system, you will be getting 8 years of free electricity. That is, 20 years of grid electric costs you $40000, but you will pay only 25000.

    bw–It is even more than this–actually as electricity skyrockets, you don’t have to worry a lick about it because you trade the current–so it is actually an insurance policy on electrical use, which I think will pay off for Anthony in a big way–it already has for me.

    @ Richard Sharpe says: Wouldn’t have been simpler to move to Oregon?

    You have GOT to be joking! Oregon is as bad if not worse than California in regulations and goofy policies that drive away business, punish the producers, and make you wonder what universe you woke up in.

    They are the ones considering charging every car owner BY THE MILE for a surtax because they aren’t making enough on gas because of the higher MPG cars! No forget Oregon. Bad Bad Bad.

  143. Willis Eschenbach says:
    Jeff Alberts says: “Apart from grammatical errors, very nice and informative post.”
    Now that’s just throwing mud and hoping it will stick, and it’s unpleasant behavior. Either tell us what errors, where, or don’t bring it up. w.

    “I doubt there’s anyone reading this entry that pays 93 cents per kilowatt-hour to keep their home cool in summer.” …who pays 93 cents… …to keep his home…

    “Here’s a few FAQs.” Here are …
    .

    93 cents/kw-hr is criminal. Down here in Houston we just set the thermostat at 86° to keep the bills down.

    We’ve also deregulated power, so the company that generates the juice and owns the lines and meters is not the company that collects the money, and therefore has no incentive to spend the bucks to install smart meters. The company I pay the money to knows I’d jump to one of the other sixteen providers if it tried to jack up rates the way PG&E has. Big win for everyone. Free market competition does that.

    I recall that California tried to deregulate electricity once, but kept some controls in place, so the program was a failure.

  144. The mounting of the panels close to the roof surface limits convective cooling. The “tracks” obstruct convection in the natural direction. Convective cooling becomes important when temperature rise, especially under full sun. Output will be substantially lower at cell temperatures in excess of 60⁰C. The PV cells will get hotter than the shingles on the roof. Not only does efficiency decline, cell life does as well.

    Also, the roof slope looks too shallow to give maximum solar output, even in summer, were that section South-facing.

    I totally understand that the installation was done on a cost-sensitive basis. The necessary Engineering to mount PV optimally onto such a roof is not only technically expensive, but bureaucratically onerous.

    BTW: The effectiveness of refrigerated airconditioning systems can be increased, especially in drier climates, by having the condensor in chilled water instead of hot air; the chilled water being provided via a “cooling tower”. Access to evaporable water is of course essential. (The chilled-water circuit would be sealed and not necessarily even be water.)

  145. P.S.: PV panels are rated under 1-sun … 1kW/m². Depending on location and atmospheric conditions, you could be receiving about 20% more in summer. (TOA insolation is 1.3kW/m² ± a smidgen.) The panels can therefore produce more power than rated, if you manage to keep them cool.

    So don’t think you can’t do any better when the panels are producing only their rated output power. You can turn the dial past 11. ;-)

  146. Paul Milenkovic says:

    I live in Madison, Wisconsin in 1800 sq ft on one level above grade. I air condition the house. I have a Carrier central air unit rated at 13 SEER and 29,000 BTU/Hr nominal capacity (about 2.5 “ton”).

    National Weather Service Green Bay showed July 2012 with a monthly average temperature of 79.4 deg-F with 13 days of average temp above 80 deg-F. Two days had an average over 90 deg-F.

    Monthly electric use — 440 kWHr. Average daily use — 14.2 kWHr. Monthly electric bill — $80.

    I don’t have your peak temps of 110, but you don’t have my high dew point temps (i.e. high summer humidity).

    My secret? My “base electric use” is about 150 kWHr/month. I use a programmable thermostat to try to run the AC more at night to cool the house down. The AC is much more efficient when the outside temps are lower, never mind your peaking rate plan. I use a humidity gauge and allow the inside temp to get as hot as 80 during the late afternoon and early evening, but with 40 percent humidity, a person is comfortable in t-shirt and shorts. I turn the AC up at bedtime so I can sleep.

    Does anyone have experience with “white roof” shingles or coatings? That may be a somewhat cheaper “low-tech” answer to the sun beating down and paying 93 cents/kWHr so as to not melt in your house.

  147. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Arguing to the extreme, if everyone copied your idea in a short time, the power companies would have to raise supply costs or go broke. Part way to that extreme, can’t you expect your prices to rise as more people adopt? This assumes that most people lack your knowledge and most people will buy more than the PV unit produces, thus trowing forward planning by the utility into uncertain territory.

  148. InMD says:

    Anthony
    In Maryland, we just converted to smart meters and the BGE web site has a similar usage graph.

    The graphs show my use, the average use and an energy efficient home use.

    I found a glaring problem with this comparison. According to the web site, the houses that were compared to mine, were not similar.

    My house is 3400 Sq Ft and 4 occupants. The houses they compared mine to were 2400 sq ft.and 3 occupants. That’s a huge difference, especially if the occupants include teens who use a lot of hot water. Also, the site does not take into account daytime occupancy. Stay at home moms or parents that work from home like us.

    The BGE site allowed me to change the size and the occupants. I waited two full billing cycles and no change. The BGE site still compared my 3400sq ft. 4 occupant house to a 2400, 3 occupant house.

    Whats even more strange is that they compared my house to homes 13 miles away, instead of the hundreds of similar homes within 2 miles.

    It would be interesting to come up with a survey to figure out if my experience is unique.

    It begs the question, is the comparison purposely skewed to exaggerate the typical electrical consumption?

    .

  149. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Geoff Sherrington says:
    March 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Arguing to the extreme, if everyone copied your idea in a short time, the power companies would have to raise supply costs or go broke.

    Arguing to the extreme, PGE dang well should go broke, and all of their executives should be sentenced to jail for doing their best to RAISE energy prices and to DISCOURAGE energy use …

    And given that as a background, I fear that there’s no logical argument that makes any sense. When the system itself is crazy, what is a sane response? When the monopolistic powers that be are doing their best to screw the customer in every way possible, what is ethical behavior for the customers?

    w.

  150. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Paul Milenkovic says:
    March 23, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    I live in Madison, Wisconsin in 1800 sq ft on one level above grade. I air condition the house. I have a Carrier central air unit rated at 13 SEER and 29,000 BTU/Hr nominal capacity (about 2.5 “ton”).

    National Weather Service Green Bay showed July 2012 with a monthly average temperature of 79.4 deg-F with 13 days of average temp above 80 deg-F. Two days had an average over 90 deg-F.

    Monthly electric use — 440 kWHr. Average daily use — 14.2 kWHr. Monthly electric bill — $80.

    I don’t have your peak temps of 110, but you don’t have my high dew point temps (i.e. high summer humidity).

    My secret? My “base electric use” is about 150 kWHr/month.

    Your “secret” is actually twofold, Paul.

    First, where you live there is only about 40% of the need for cooling that Anthony has in Chico. CDD in Madison (65°F base) is 568 degree-days/year, whereas in Chico there’s 1,391 cooling degree days per year. With your pitifully small cooling load, it’s no surprise your power use is low.

    Second, you’re not paying gouging outrageous PGE-level prices for your power.

    Since neither of those are the result of your actions, you might dial the crowing back a tad …

    w.

  151. markx says:

    Geez Anthony, I’m a bit surprised that with all the “big oil money” and the “conspiracy funding network” that you don’t have a much grander house!

    Poor old David Suzuki is out there doing the the right thing and telling us not to build huge houses:

    …hear it from green priest David Suzuki, who last year told a Ballarat audience of wildly applauding town planners it was “disgusting” that we live in bigger houses than did our grandparents. “What kind of world is this that regards this as progress?” he shouted.

    But he is struggling a little restraining himself: “not all of us have a house on the water in Point Grey, another property in Toronto, another one in Australia, and another one on Quadra Island, like David Suzuki.” http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/size-does-matter/story-e6frfhqf-1111113559249

    Quadra Island is home to 2,550 people. It is 410 square kilometers in size. That comes out to 6 persons per square kilometer. Not bad if you are looking for some peace and quiet from the raging chaos that is Kitsilano, a neighbourhood in Vancouver: David Suzuki: I love Kitsilano and Vancouver, but there are too many people and too many cars. I think we can have greater density if we made the city much more hostile to cars. The cars have made our city unattractive, and thus I like to spend more of my time in a smaller place at Quanta [ed, Quadra] Island where we also have a home. Kitsilano is home to about 40,000 Vancouverites, living in 6 square kilometers of space. A lot more crowded than Quadra Island. http://stevejanke.com/archives/227584.php

    In spite of all his efforts /sarc he is apparently not loved by all; http://suzukiwatch.wordpress.com/about/

  152. Layne Blanchard says:

    Nice job Anthony. Are you using Radiant barriers? I’ve put this stuff under my house, and planning to do the attic before summer kicks in. Quite Inexpensive.
    http://www.reflectixinc.com/

  153. Truthseeker says:

    Anthony, I asked JoNova resident power usage/consumption expert, TonyfromOz about your solar system, linking my question to this article.

    His very considered response can be read here;

    http://joannenova.com.au/2013/03/what-happened-to-earth-hour-celebrate-its-the-power-hour-tonight/#comment-1257607

  154. Sal Minella said on March 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm:
    “Nice installation and documentation, however, I have a problem with the
    utilities paying for dribs and drabs of intermittent power being generated
    at tens of thousands of sites. It would seem that most of the power fed back
    into the grid in this way cannot be relied upon by the utility company and is,
    therefor, just dissipated making the cost of energy even higher for all
    ratepayers.”

    Most of the “tens of thousands” contributing “dribs and drabs” each will
    be contributing their most when that is most-needed – in summertime at
    higher temperature times of the day.

    These “tens of thousands” have a profit motive to be generating supply,
    especially when it is most needed. I expect most of them to succeed.

  155. Betapug said, on March 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm:
    “Good to see your inverters are made in a wood burning heated plant and are:
    100% free of nuclear power
    100% CO2-neutral”

    What is the bugaboo about nuclear power? Why should the folks concerned
    about CO2 be against nuclear energy? Is not nuclear power as non-CO2-
    producing as solar or wind?

  156. Manfred says:

    _Jim says:
    March 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm
    Manfred says March 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Those solar cells do not replace any powerplants nor any grid infrastructure,

    Wait – wait – wait; in the aggregate, that last ‘marginally’ produced MWH would not have to be produced by the PGE generators, ever, if, in the aggregate systems like Anthony’s were in place and able to produce power during peak (i.e. demand) consumption hours … as ‘peak’ demand can occur into the evening hours (at least in Texas) as the sun sets the amount of energy produced will taper off, obviously. And, the energy transferred via high-voltage transmission lines from the generating station to substations (where distribution level voltages are created from the HV lines coming in) would be less as well, since generation is in effect occurring out among the ‘loads’ (i.e. in the ‘load center’) themselves … Of course, this is idealistically speaking, with mileage varying as we are nowhere near this situation at the present (AND we may not get there either, but, that is subject for disc. at another time).

    ——————————————————–

    Yes, I agree with that. In California with such a demand curve
    http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/assets_c/2012/06/Screen%20shot%202012-06-25%20at%205.04.04%20PM-thumb-600×527-31140.png
    solar energy may replace some power stations.

    And if there is storage available for the few hours until about 22:00 o’clock, quite a significant chunk. Even more, if solar systems are connected across the country and across time zones.Then the benefit is significantly higher than just the saved fuel at about 1 cent/kWh.

    In my comment, I was thinking more about the situation in Germany, with peak demand at Winter evenings often with close to zero contribution from solar systems.

  157. markx says:

    Geoff Sherrington says:March 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    “….Arguing to the extreme, if everyone copied your idea in a short time, the power companies would have to raise supply costs or go broke….”

    Hang on Geoff, isn’t this what the whole dang thing is about?!! Is not the whole dang idea to tax and otherwise raise the price of energy to the point that people go looking for an alternative? No doubt it will result in financial chaos, but at least the world will be saved. /sarc

  158. John Tofflemire says:

    Andy,

    It seems you are right about the summertime cost of electricity in the Central Valley. Here in Tokyo, where electricity rates are overall among the world’s highest, the summertime peak electricity rates per kwh are about two-thirds those that you pay. Like you, our cooling needs in the summer are intense and our AC runs 24/7 80%-90% of the time between June and September.

  159. Bill H says:

    Luther Wu says:
    March 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Ps You’ve heard of huge hailstones that destroy cars and punch holes through roofs?
    Welcome to my neck o’ the woods.
    ============================================

    Be sure that they use Lexan for the PV covers. Same stuff they use in jails and you can hit it with a ball paean hammer and it wont hurt it… little more price but hail wont kill your PV panels..

  160. McComber Boy says:

    Anthony,

    Thanks for the great post. We just got home from a funeral in the north state so I didn’t chime in earlier. We went for a solar instal through Kurios Energy in Modesto, CA for the same reasons that you went with Baran Golacy…you own the system when you are done. The lease and buy back schemes appear to be heavy on scheme and low on value.

    Here in San Joaquin County, California, we have encountered summer electric bills in excess of $500 / month for a 2,000 square foot house. PG&E rate charges are arbitrary, subject to comparison to a mythical efficient household in your area (which may be half the size of your house), and are impossible to decipher or predict. Supposedly we are on a single rate plan…but the single rate plan varies from .12/KWH to .33/KWH plus add ons for heavy use.

    We went with 28 MAGE panels running through Enphase inverters. Total cost of system was $36,000 for parts, labor and permits. The PG&E (Perpetual Graft & Extortion) rebate will be about 1,200 and the tax credit will amount to over 10,000. And before the whiners start, nobody is giving me that money! It is money that will not be stolen from me at the point of many guns by our benevolent overlords in Washington and Sacramento. Theft is theft and anytime you can prevent the B#$&**((^%s from taking some of your hard earned cash, do it! Especially if you can end up with cheaper electricity in the long run. Like Anthony I won’t know for a full year exactly how much we’ll save but we are currently making more than we use. With rates rising perpetually, the savings will only grow over time.

    pbh

  161. Old Ranga from Oz says:

    “Thanks to PG&E’s new smart-meter system, they can now GOUGE me more efficiently and on schedule, when I need electricity to keep cool the most.”

    Anthony – with respect, I think you mean they can GAUGE you rather than GOUGE you. Not much gouging going on at the Watts ranch.

    Great job with your solar system, BTW. Well done.

  162. Jean Parisot says:

    Is there a tool for estimating the effect of the shaded roof?

  163. Kasuha says:

    You may say that it doesn’t have anything to do with climate change, but the fact is, it does. Your investment wouldn’t be worthwhile if it wasn’t for “war with climate” your state is waging which drove electricity prices as high as to 90 cents per kWh.
    $25,000 is more than I and my family spend for electricity in 30 years in my country at current (already elevated) prices. I’m definitely not looking forward the time when spending $25,000 on my own power source will be cheaper than using electricity from the grid…

  164. Ill Tempered Klavier says:

    Hi Anthony, I’m glad your system seems to be working well. It’s a shame that conditions in the World’s Largest Looney Bin have reached the point where it simply makes sense for an ordinary person to do something like that. I’ve considered a serious natural power installation for reasons that have nothing to with “carbon footprint,” “save the whales,” or any of the rest of that a few times myself. So far I’ve always had to conclude, after I worked out the numbers, that much as I would love to tell certain (expletives deleted) to take a flying dive off the Space Needle, it made no economic sense whatever.

    Perhaps it’s time to do the full workup again. I still don’t expect to come up with anything likely to go positive in my lifetime, but I wouldn’t mind being wrong and it might come close enough to be worth it for the egoboo. It might also be worthwhile to see how the actual numbers work out for conditions in different areas.

    For the record, my home is 100 odd years old, about 4200 sq ft. 2 stories plus basement. That I had to crawl out of one that was burning down around me when I was much younger may have something to do with it, but I am nearly phobic about flames. I have no fireplace. I use a heat pump, electric range, and water heater. Even if this configuration was not common where I live, I would still have it. Also I neither smoke nor burn candles. My electric bill covers almost my entire energy use at home. Last year I paid $2980 for electricity, from a high of $407 in December to a low of $156 in September. Some of my neighbors, including my uncle, say they paid more than that for heating oil alone.

    I don’t claim I’m putting much effort into minimizing it. We’re fairly gadget happy with a variety of televisions, computers and other electronic dodads scattered all over. The OM is an avid ham radio operator. I’ve built an elaborate model railroad in the basement. And, oh yeah, in addition to a piano, I have two organs, and a variety of electronic keyboards, guitars, amplifiers and other stuff intended to make music. I spend a fair amount of time trying.

    Peace and gud DX ;)

    Kat

  165. jollygreenwatchman says:

    Questions: Does such an installation affect the cost of your house insurance in terms of making residence a more risky place to be what with sun-generated electricimity happening above one’s head and hard to isolate spark prone high current “more dangerous than AC” DC being piped about the place ? Also, what does your local firebrigade think about such installations and are they equipped and trained to deal with them in the event of failure or disaster or whatever ?

    Would your local firebrigade be more inclined to let your place burn to the ground on a sunny day than put themselves at risk in tackling a DC created roof fire ?

    Don’t get me wrong; I too have a small solar installation and it services batteries and an AC inverter. However, none of is located in or on my actual residence for, as a boaty, I’d rather keep the “engine room” nicely isolated/firewalled away from anywhere I actually sleep. :-)

    Heck, even in “star-trek” there is always provision to “eject the core”, yes ?

    Hard to do that if it is bolted to the roof !

    AFAIC, the only solar that should go on house roof is the kind associated with water heating. (Yeah, I’ve got that too and it keeps an outdoor spa bath nicely heated.)

    If you ask me, putting DC generation upon one’s roof where storms or parrots or the sun itself can destroy cabling, is just asking for trouble.

    One would think that your insurance company would think the same and charge accordingly.

  166. Galane says:

    I’d like to put a row of PV panels across the front of my shop, with a sun tracker to adjust the vertical angle. They’d make quite an effective sun shade awning. Unfortunately this stuff is still way above my affordability level.

    There’s not much sun here in Idaho in winter, overcast nearly constantly, so a PV system wouldn’t be of much use. I have a heat pump which is quite efficient, and it’s not too bad at cooling.

    More government whackiness. I wanted to install a closed loop water to air heat pump, but in Idaho those need a special permit which is a PITA to get. Want to install an open loop water to air heat pump which wastes water? No problem! Just install the thing, same as an air to air heat pump. My water bill is already high enough.

    What’s up with that? I’d thought that the open loop type would’ve been banned for being wasteful. Open loop wasn’t much more than air to air but the closed loop type was *eeeek-spensive*.

    The 16 SEER air to air one I had installed has lowered my power bill, but that month this winter where for three weeks the temperature never got *up to* freezing made the aux resistance heater run nearly constantly, which was as bad or worse than the 1980’s vintage electric furnace the heat pump replaced.

  167. klem says:

    I’ve thought about rooftop solar but the re-shingling cost plus the reduced selling price of my home kills the idea. Where I live alot of home buyers use rooftop panels as an excuse to reduce their purchase price, but then again we don’t pay 90 cents /kwh either.

  168. Petrossa says:

    For those interested you can see UK ‘alternative’ energy contribution here live: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php For the gigantic sums invested, the land destroyed, the ticking time bomb of generators failing it’s pretty obvious it’s a total bust.

  169. Disko Troop says:

    Without wishing to be too much of a devil’s advocate it does seem that you are living proof that the policies of the great leader Kim Jong Jerry Brown of the Soviet Socialist State of California are working exactly as he and his watermelons predicted. He is driving you off fossil fuels onto renewables and thus “saving the planet” for his great,great great, grand So-Cal clone people who I trust will be more compliant towards the revered Agenda 21 than you have been. Either way, he has won this round.

    regards, Ivor Ward

  170. Mike Haseler says:

    “I’ll have the solar system paid for in five years”. That sounds good!

    In the UK around 2000 it was beginning to be around 50 years for payback. So, I look at people in the UK with solar panels and think: “you money grabbing idiot … you’ll be paying out more than get in and … no doubt your roof will leak”.

    In contrast, a DIY solar heating installation (i.e. heating water) could pay back in 2-5 years.

    But by far … the best form of solar heating comes from a device I invented a few years ago which I haven’t got a name for so … perhaps this is the point to call it the Wonderful Ingenious Newage Development originating on Wuwt.

    Basically … you cut a hole through your Sun facing wall, and then fill the gap with sheets of high tech Supercooled Silicon Dioxide. A superior version uses multiple sheets and for the best performance I could put an IR blocking coating. In warmer climes, the system can have a projection of the top surface of the building which projects out to shade the orifice in summer when the higher sun is shaded by the lower winter sun gets through.

    oops … maybe I should have got the patent first before divulging it on WUWT?

  171. eric1skeptic says:

    John Slayton says “Although KWhrs that I provide to the grid are supposed to offset KWhrs that I draw from the grid at the full retail rate, it is clear that this is not being done.”

    Can John or anyone else explain why I as a ratepayer should be buying your unreliable off-peak solar power at full retail prices? My electric company buys reliable power when it is needed for about 4 cents, but people with solar on their roof expect to get 14 cents? That doesn’t make any sense at all. People selling solar should to the grid should be paid what the power is worth, not full retail.

    I have solar panels, but I also sprung for very expensive AGM batteries. I use those to run electronics and emergency power when the grid is down. I do not grid tie because I do not believe in ripping off my fellow rate payers.

  172. It appears that Gavin has noticed that heavy taxation on energy is having the effect he desires:

    Also note the softer term, “dismissives”. Perhaps they are starting to understand that the other D-word has the opposite effect to that which they intend.

  173. Robert F says:

    Anthony,
    Welcome to the solar club! I installed a 5kw system a few years ago,also using Grape
    Solar panels, but with a PV Powered inverter. I have some performance charts at my blog: http://robertchristine.blogspot.com/2010/03/4-kw-solar-electric.html
    I chose a ground mount, which has some advantages over a roof installation, but costs a lot more. It is easy to clean, and I tilt it for the winter months. They also perform somewhat better because they are cooler. I often have my inverter hit its peak of 4830 watts from my 5880 watts of panels. That is 82% efficient vs. 72%. So in time the added cost of the ground mount will be recovered.
    I added additional panels, and posted some performance data here:
    http://robertchristine.blogspot.com/2010/09/solar-electric-upgrade.html
    I heat with coal, and these panels are located on top of my coal bin. That combination would likely make a “Green Weenie’s” head explode.
    My payback will be considerably longer than yours because our electric rates have stayed surprisingly low at 14.9 cents/kwh, all charges included.
    Finally, if you don’t have cheap natural gas available, consider a solar hot water system. That has paid off extremely well for me, since I found a used Reynolds Aluminum hot water system for only $500. I have collected 3 years of performance data. It supplies about 75% of my hot water, and I live in relatively cloudy Pennsylvania. See: http://robertchristine.blogspot.com/2009/09/solar-hot-water.html

  174. BruceC says:

    Has anyone asked ‘Gavin’ if he has solar fitted to his house? And if he has, did he have to get a low-interest (personal) loan to pay for it?

  175. Speed says:

    So, if everybody in California installed one of these and if everybody was a “net generator” paying nothing and receiving a check from the power company, the power company would be out of business. This, therefore, is not a “sustainable” enterprise.

  176. Very interesting. Nice work Mr Watts. Here in South Australia, we pay $0.29 to $0.41 (stepped at fixed consumption levels) all year round. 90c is certainly excessive. Yearly electricity bills here for a family home average out at $800 to $1000. So how does that compare with California? Last years rise (18%) included a portion (4%) purely to finance the feed in tariff paid to the solar panels owners.

    So my direct personal contribution is about $80 a year to help finance the FIT for all of the solar panel owners. Nice huh. What most solar panel owners (in Adelaide) do not know is that a portion in their own bill goes towards the FIT as well!

    As a side note, our wonderful Carbon Tax that is apparently saving the planet, is not listed on our bill, and apparently my energy supplier can’t tell me what it is either. What a scam!

    http://eyesonbrowne.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/how-much-is-the-carbon-tax-on-my-electricity-bill/

  177. tobyw says:

    The sooner solar is perfected, the better, Petroleum is too valuable as a source of chemicals to burn when there is something cheaper to use. The main problem with intermittent power like wind and solar is lack of suitable storage. Batteries have been in development for over 100 years and are still $100 a pop to replace for your cordless drill, despite the appearance that every contractor and hobbyist in the world is using them. The price has been going up, not down, it seems. Supercaps may be the answer. Note, I own no LED or supercap stock, though I did own some CREE stock years ago. Electric motors are ideal for powering transportation, but suffer the same storage problem as power generation.
    .
    LED lighting is about perfected as far as usability, long life, and color are concerned, Its time to stop subsidizing fluorescent, which after many decades of development is still flickery, has poor color, does poorly in cold, and contains mercury which may or may not be present in dangerous quantities. But mainly I’m tired of changing the damn things when they fail prematurely which happens far too often.

    Normally I’m against government interference, but there are some low hanging fruit that need to be picked in the natural interest in order to reduce petroleum imports, and LEDs have a US manufacturer, CREE, which makes the product from fabbing the wafers to producing the lamps. I’m waiting for them to come out with plug-in replacements for 8 foot tubes since I’m tired of replacing ballasts and I’d like them to be dimmable.

  178. beng says:

    Green heads are exploding after reading this.

  179. commieBob says:

    Battery storage for on-grid systems may become viable fairly soon. There is a company called Aquion Energy which has developed a battery technology which is showing great promise.

    The batteries are relatively inexpensive, long-lived and efficient (you get out almost as much energy as you put in). They are also large and heavy so don’t expect to find them in electric cars.

    With the crazy time-of-use pricing in California, these batteries could pay for themselves in a couple of years. You would buy cheap power at night and sell back expensive energy during the day. No solar panels or windmills required! article

    Having said the above, I would still be wary of investing in a scheme that relies on nutso electricity rates. There is always the danger that the government will come to its senses. ;-)

  180. Chad Wozniak.
    Thanks for the information, I have certainly not dismissed the idea of solar panels on our roof. We have a south facing back garden, double glazing, good loft insulation and a brick and breeze (“ash” I think you call it in the US) block construction. Currently (12:45pm it is 1.2 c (about 34f), windy and overcast, so the name of the game is heat conservation. In Summer we can sit outside and enjoy the heat absorbed by the bricks in the patio and house wall, long after the the front of the house has cooled to the low teens.The house is cooled by opening windows front and back to get a breeze through the house
    I don’t plan to do anything until our government has some sort of coherent energy policy. Massive subsidies were available from our last government for surplus energy put back into the national grid. These have been cut (rightly so, in my view) by the present government. Current energy policy is about following illogical dictats from Brussells with it’s obsession with CO2 as opposed to keeping pensioners warm and our industries thriving. If energy becomes even more expensive, then I will have to do something, but if gas fracking and reinstatement of coal fired power stations occurs, then I will probably have wasted my money if I have fitted solar panels.

  181. Speed says:

    tobyw wrote, “The sooner solar is perfected, the better … ”

    What needs to be done for solar to be considered “perfected?” What constitutes “perfect” solar? My view is that when solar is cost competitive (without government support) with alternatives it will be good enough. Nothing is ever perfect.

  182. Tom in Florida says:

    I see many comments about rates, kw usage, house size, location and such. I do not see anyone addressing a couple of simple but important things one can easily do to lower their electric bills. First is the temperature setting you choose. I live in SW Florida and I set my summertime thermostat at 84F; my wintertime setting is 65F. You simply dress appropriately when at home. I also have ceiling fans in every room and I leave windows open at night and in the early morning. Second, because the front of my house faces due west, I have planted plenty of bushes to shade the outside wall from the afternoon sun. I also change the a/c filters every 60 days and keep the water heater at 125F. These were easy things to do and over time have helped keep my bills low.

  183. John Slayton says:

    eric1skeptic: Can John or anyone else explain why I as a ratepayer should be buying your unreliable off-peak solar power at full retail prices? My electric company buys reliable power when it is needed for about 4 cents, but people with solar on their roof expect to get 14 cents?
    Don’t know if I can, but I’ll have a go at it. Your electric company may pay 4 cents, but they’re selling it to you for 14. My production does not pump Colorado River water back up into Lake Meade; it mostly goes directly into my neighbor’s (hypothetically, your) home. And they’re charging you 14 for what I produce, including a surcharge for non-existent fuel costs. The issue here is not what you get charged, you pay 14 no matter the source of the power. The issue is how the 14 is to be fairly divided up. That quickly devolves into questions of avoided cost to the utilities, including transmission losses, infrastructure amortization and maintenance, etc, etc. Rightly or wrongly, current rules call for adjustment at the full retail rate, up to the point at which I return more than I have used. And at that point any further reimbursement is at something like the wholesale cost to the utility. The state has posted on-line responses to submissions made to the Public Utilities Commission by various interested parties (ranging from the major utilties PG&E, Edison, and San Diego, all the way down to Walmart) as they considered how to calculate that net producer reimbursement. It makes for instructive reading, as their task was to find an algorithm that would not penalize other utility customers.

    I think the full retail rule is generally fair, unlike the rebates and tax incentives. In those cases, people of limited means are clearly subsidizing benefits to those who have the capital to install solar. I think there is a case for government to reasonably subsidize this emerging industry, but the subsidies should have gone to public installations, such as the school project that Anthony advanced.

    So why did I apply for and accept both the utility rebate and the federal tax credit? I could put several arguments forward, none of which are completely satisfactory. First, I am a taxpayer and utility ratepayer also, so I am contributing, willingly or unwillingly, to these programs. Secondly, my contribution to the capital formation for these projects (1/3) is not insignificant. Third, I accept a disproportionate share of physical and economic risk in what remains an experimental enterprise. If the panels poop out after 5 years, or I have to make roof repairs that are much more expensive because of the installation, or if the hail does fall…. Finally, the high moral ground of refusing an unfair benefit does not really generalize well in a society headed doggedly in the direction of big government social programs. Consider all the other (special interest) exemptions and deductions we routinely claim on our federal taxes. Refusing to take them begins to make me a victim. I’m afraid we’re stuck with taking unfair advantage until there is a real movement toward general reform.

  184. Physics Major says:

    Anthony,

    That’s a nice installation and it certainly seems to make sense where you live. And I certainly appreciate that you paid for it without any taxpayer subsidies. However, it seems that you depend on the power grid and remote generators to supply your power at night. How does PG&E recover the capital and maintenance costs for the power grid if you are using net zero power?

  185. JamesS says:

    I find it interesting that Gavin thinks government regulation and taxation to artificially raise electricity prices and make renewables competitive are “market mechanisms.”

    In a centrally-planned state-run economy maybe, but not a “free market” by any means.

  186. Robert Wille says:

    Wow, makes me glad I don’t live in California. I pay about $6 per day for electricity during the summer, when temps regularly get up to around 100 degrees (central Utah). My house is about 2000 square feet on the main floor. My wife does not work outside the home, so we run the A/C all the time. If I had rates like yours, I’d probably do the same, but with an electric bill that’s under $200 in the summer and under $100 in the winter, it doesn’t make much sense.

  187. Roger Zimmerman says:

    Eyeballing your graphs and taking into account the P&G load-based charges, I’m guesstimating that you will save about $1K-$2K/year with this, so an ROI of 10-20 years? And, this is at the low end of what is possible in the US, given CA’s sunny weather and ridiculous energy policies. Of course, there is some degree of insurance policy here against major grid outages, so that’s got to be worth something these days. I’m guessing this independence factor is the real win.

  188. kakatoa says:

    Physics Major says:
    March 24, 2013 at 6:46 am
    “How does PG&E recover the capital and maintenance costs for the power grid if you are using net zero power?”

    PG&E is getting a tad worried about how to allocate costs for the items you referenced as well as how to allocate the true costs of providing utility scale RE projects. As the rate schedules don’t reflect what it actually costs to provide power (how the rates are determined is accomplished via a political decision making process) in the residential market in the short term PG&E would like to add a small fee to everyone’s bills ($10.00) to get some revenue for the distribution, transmission and administrative costs to match what a lot of the public utilities charge their customers for some of these fixed costs.

    With the large amount of utility scale RE coming on line in the state (to meet our 33%RES) PG&E would like to cap (make that eliminate) the net metering program. To make their cost recovery more complicated the large number of leased PV systems flooding the market has to be driving the utilities crazy trying to figure out who can/should/will pay for the long term PPA they had to sign to meet the RE standards. Their actual costs to obtain RE kwh generation from the utility scale RE projects is set by the long term PPA contracts that have time of delivery (TOD) factors that cause the price for summer peak time generation to be 2 to 3 times the merchant base price. This summer PG&E will be paying around $.23 for a kwh of generation from the utility scale PV facilities. By the time they can get that kwh to the places it can be used their transmission, distribution and administrative costs will bring their true costs to provide the energy to the $.30 to $.40 level.

    We are in for some interesting times here in CA.

  189. DirkH says:

    Derek Sorensen says:
    March 24, 2013 at 3:30 am

    It appears that Gavin has noticed that heavy taxation on energy is having the effect he desires:

    “Gavin Schmidt @ClimateOfGavin

    Evidence that market mechanisms can boost renewable energy installation even for ‘dismissives’ on climate change”

    It appears to me that Gavin Schmidt does not know what a market is.
    Hint: PG&E is a monopoly provider.

  190. ferd berple says:

    Physics Major says:
    March 24, 2013 at 6:46 am
    How does PG&E recover the capital and maintenance costs for the power grid if you are using net zero power?
    =============
    Isn’t that an issue between PG&E and the regulators? They set the rules. The rest of us are simply players in the game.

    What is likely to happen as more solar plants come online is that there will be a shift in pricing, such that power becomes very cheap when the sun is shining and very expensive when it is not. We see a similar thing in the wholesale price of power today. When there is too much power on the grid the price even goes negative, so that for example if Anthony was selling power back to PG&E at wholesale, he would have to pay them to take his excess. This would ensure PG&E recovers costs.

    The problem is that politicians have stuck their noses in and created a mess by guaranteeing wholesale prices to their campaign backers regardless of supply. As a result solar producers have no incentive to cut back supply when there is too much power on the grid, which is a disaster in the making as more and more solar plants connect to the grid.

  191. metamars says:

    I recently corresponded with Gerard Aitken IV, son of the brilliant inventor Alvin Marks. He expects there to be a prototype for Lumeloid out by the end of the year (thanks in no small part to his efforts, which cost him $300,000, defending himself and Marks’ will against his own, less idealistic family members, who didn’t care about Marks’ beneficent intentions). Unlike the piddling ~23% that you’re probably getting, Lumeloid is expected to get about 80% efficiency; and furthermore, cost only pennies per watt (without a dime of subsidies, I believe; there’s a polymer substrate, which will just get tossed every year or so). I posted a few details here: http://my.firedoglake.com/metamars/2013/03/24/solar-energy-genius-vision-may-become-prototype-reality-by-the-end-of-the-year-lumeloid-35-85-efficiency/ . Perhaps you can convince him to post a diary, here at WUWT.

    Perhaps the most interesting factoid that Gerard communicated to me is that Marks was opposed not just by “other companies” (who played dirty), but also “by our own government”.

  192. Speed says:

    John Slayton wrote, “I think the full retail rule is generally fair … ”

    I disagree.

    The utility’s fixed costs will be unchanged – they must be able to generate and distribute enough power to satisfy the demands of all their customers when the sun isn’t shining. This will come from coal, oil, gas, nuclear and hydro generating plants. The same distribution system will be required as well.

    The utility’s variable cost for generating electricity will be no lower since they are using the same generators and fuel sources. The variable cost to the utility for electricity generated by Anthony will be far higher.

    The amount of electricity sold by the utility will be lower because some customers will get some of their power from their own photovoltaic systems. This means that the utility’s fixed costs will be greater per unit of electricity sold so the regulators will have to allow a rate increase.

    If the regulators require that the utility pay photovoltaic generators like Anthony the full retail price of electricity received (and sell it to retail users at the same price) there will be no margin available to pay the utility’s fixed costs on that power. The regulators will need to further increase rates to users.

    So here we have a case where Anthony and others do the rational thing under current rules and save money by making others pay the capital costs associated with providing power to them (Anthony et al) when the sun doesn’t shine.

    If the above doesn’t convince you of the idiocy of the regulators, think about this. Anthony spent over $25,000 (capital cost) on his system. If everyone in California did this, the total capital invested in electrical generation would be far greater than it is now. PG&E claims 5.2 million electricity customers and a depreciable plant base of over $37 billion. If one quarter of their customers made an investment similar to Anthony’s, that would be a $130 billion investment and the money to pay that would have to come from somewhere. To put that into perspective, PG&E’s 2011 revenue (gas and electric) was just short of $15 billion.

    The only way to make a rational decision (rational for you and all the other users and ratepayers) about installing such a system is to sell excess power to the utility at a market rate and buy power from the utility at a market rate and then do the math as it applies to you.

    http://www.pgecorp.com/investors/financial_reports/annual_report_proxy_statement/ar_html/2011/index.htm
    https://www.pge.com/regulation/FERC-Form1/form1-2011.pdf

  193. eric1skeptic says:

    John Slayton, I appreciate your reply. The most compelling part of your argument is that you are getting full retail up to the point that you are using zero net, then you get some sort of wholesale price, no different than if you simply conserved power. The other part of that argument is that the utility has a smart grid to avoid transmission losses, etc. Obviously if you provided your surplus power directly to me with a dedicated wire from your house to mine, it would be worth less than the 14 cents I pay to my utility due to your unreliability. But a smart grid can alleviate part of that cost by avoiding transmission losses from far-away sources.

    Still, on balance, I don’t think it makes economic sense for people like you and Anthony to be in the power generation business, whether solar or any other power source. Basically power generation should be done by dedicated providers with economies of scale. In Anthony’s case in California the peak in A/C is pretty close to the peak in solar. But that is not the peak of the demand curve (contrary to some posters above), it is basically in the evening.

  194. Robert of Ottawa says:

    93 cents/kWhr … ??? incredibale; it cost $0.02- 0.04 to produce.

  195. Robert of Ottawa says:

    Your energy use graph may be more relavent if it showed energy use versus humidity rather than temperature.

  196. ferd berple says:

    Gavin Schmidt @ClimateOfGavin
    Evidence that market mechanisms can boost renewable energy installation even for ‘dismissives’ on climate change: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/23/an-update-on-my-solar-power-project-results-show-why-i-got-solar-power-for-my-home-hint-climate-change-is-not-a-reason/
    ==============
    Is Gavin also in the “do as I say, not as I do” club? Along with Gore and the rest? Climate Hypocrites. Telling everyone else to have a smaller carbon foot print. And prepared to stomp anyone that doesn’t with their massive carbon footprint.

    How many leaders in the National Acadamey of Sciences or the World Wildlife Foundation have smaller carbon footprints than your average citizen? How about zero?

  197. Interesting, thanks.

    You have not included your capital cost, which you appear to have kept somewhat modest. Your savings have to pay for the cost of capital. (Whether lost opportunity of otherwise investing your savings or cost of a loan, the capital does not come free. At today’s interest rates economics of payback are better.)

    BTW, shouldn’t you be charging PGE the taxes? :o)
    Mind, then you’d have to have a business license as a power producer (well, that’s “producer of power” you are a “power producer” in other fields), and register with the regulation fiefdom. ;-)

    Actually, the “Distribution” amount is probably a per-service-feed charge – common today to have such a charge, it makes sense as costs of the utility’s feed system is substantial (the distinction is fixed costs versus variable costs).

    Your consumption history graph suggests that neighbours were turning on their A/C when the sun was shining early this year – their consumption went up, yours down. If so, should really be a split this summer.

    PS: As an example of localization of WordPress et al’s ad insertions, the one after your article is for a local power company’s power-saving help.

    REPLY: The way my loan is setup, guaranteed against a certificate of deposit earnign interest, the APR works out to 0.8%. Over 5 years, that works out to be $511.66

    – Anthony

  198. ferd berple says:

    Stephen Richards says:
    March 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm
    It is an inverted Robin Hood scheme and that really bugs me. However, for all those that want to game the system I say good luck. I chose not to.
    ===========
    If we all chose to game the system it would collapse and cure the inverted Robin Hood scheme. By choosing not to participate, you are making it less painful to the politicians and their backers that benefit the most, allowing the system to continue.

    Get out there and do your part to grab everything the politicians put in place to reward their friends with money. If there is one thing that bugs the rich most of all, it is when the common person is eating at the same table as they are.

  199. rgbatduke says:

    This is pretty much the way I’ve analyzed it here in NC as well, except that our lower power prices make it a much longer — too long — amortization period. Basically in California they’ve artificially inflated prices to where your payback period is very, very short. In NC it is more like 15 years, some 60% into the (possibly) 25 year lifetime for the system. We also have more humidity and somewhat reduced generation potential, although during the summer we have plenty of hot sun (and need for extra power to run AC).

    In MOST the country — almost certainly the southern half with its high AC bills and relatively good insolation — we’re within a factor of 2 of this sort of investment being a no-brainer, certainly in new construction where the money can be borrowed and rolled right into the cost of the house. It’s at least as good an investment as the one I made in high efficiency AC and heating systems and low-E windows (which cost twice as much as the cheaper ones but which recover their additional cost over 15 or so years).

    Over the next 20 years, the free market is going to make this sort of investment a sensible one for many people, with or without subsidy or tax breaks, with or without artificial bumps in the cost of electricity. Now, if we could just get LFTR off the ground in the US, North Carolina alone has enough Thorium to run the US for a few thousand years, and it’s all mixed in to rare earth metals needed to make high efficiency generators and microelectronics. But for this to happen, the “Greens” who buy into the unproven religion of CAGW caused by CO_2 are going to have to get over their equally religious aversion to any sort of nuclear carbon free power.

    rgb

  200. Robert of Ottawa says:

    OK Anthony, it is clear you are in the pay of Big Sun :-)

    Seriously, keep us informed how the economics, including maintenance, work out for you; how long does it take to get back the $13k ? An occasional follow-up on problems, bonuses and costs and savings would be valuable to others. Here in Canada, not much use. I can imagine in Australia it would be practical. Does the power output remain constant (per solar inpout of course) or does it slowly decline; how much is it affected by dust?

    Clearly you put your money where your mouth is.

  201. Robert of Ottawa says:

    Roger Zimmerman says @ March 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I’m guessing this independence factor is the real win.

    I agree with you;security is worth money.

  202. Actually, you did clearly say in the FAQs what your payback period is and what the system cost in total. My mistake.

    Today’s Google ad is for accepting credit cards.

  203. Robert of Ottawa says:

    The best ways to reduce eneergy consumption in a home is architectural; however, humidity in hot locales necessitates energyconsumtion. Before air conditioning was invented in Syracuse, New York, of all places, Florida was sparsely populated.

  204. ferd berple says:

    For a truly sustainable energy source, one need look no further than an engine that runs on nothing more than air and water – two very common materials.

    What many do not realize is that the reaction 2N2 + 2H20 + 5O2 ==> 4HNO3 + energy.

    In other words, you can burn the atmosphere and oceans and produce energy without the messy complications of fusion. The activation energy is quite high so it is still an engineering problem to make efficient, but in theory it will work. All that is required to make the process efficient is a suitable catalyst. The waste product might be a bit of a problem, but at least it won’t cause global warming.

  205. M Simon says:

    You might want to consider shading the inverters. Keeping them cooler makes them last longer and raises efficiency.

    Physics Major March 24, 2013 at 6:46 am also makes an excellent point. One I have made many times at my ECN column. http://www.ecnmag.com/tags/Blogs/M-Simon/

  206. Matthew R Marler says:

    Tom in Florida: I do not see anyone addressing a couple of simple but important things one can easily do to lower their electric bills. First is the temperature setting you choose. I live in SW Florida and I set my summertime thermostat at 84F; my wintertime setting is 65F. You simply dress appropriately when at home. I also have ceiling fans in every room and I leave windows open at night and in the early morning.

    I do as you do. I should add that even in the San Juaquin and Sacramento valleys you can save a lot of money on summer A/C if you ventilate your house by fans from 3am to 6am. However, I know people who use A/C instead in order to keep down the dust.

  207. Matthew R Marler says:

    ferd berple: What many do not realize is that the reaction 2N2 + 2H20 + 5O2 ==> 4HNO3 + energy.

    And HNO3 is good stuff, eh?

  208. (Hint: Climate Change is not a reason)

    Well, from a different perspective, it is THE reason. Only because those buffoons in Sacramento and Washington D.C. have interfered with the market will this ever pay for itself. It is the hysteria over (catastrophic anthropogenic) climate change that makes it worthwhile economically.

    Regards,

    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  209. RS says:

    93 cents per kw-hr????
    Insanity.

  210. Catcracking says:

    I see no opportunity to install solar panels on the roof of my principal residence, even with subsidies which I hate since the roof is totally shaded in the summer season by trees around the house
    On the other hand I have a summer house at the central NJ shore that has 100 % roof sun exposure. I’m wondering how robust the panels are under heavy wind conditions due to “near” Hurricanes such as Sandy and frequent NE storms. While I had no water intrusion during Sandy, I did have a flagpole blow down and some fencing leaning. Also many roofs did loose the shingles.
    Are Solar panels covered by home insurance if damaged?
    Would leakage a tiedown bolting be a concern after heavy winds.
    What is the impact of salt carried in the atmosphere on the life and efficiency of the panels?
    If these are not subject to property taxed as any other home improvement. NJ has a high Property tax. If not why not?
    As I said before NJ is on the road to hel%, even though we now have a R Governor, since the legislature is very left leaning like California and constantly attempts to override his vetoes. I expect electricity costs will continue escalate especially as the greenies are forcing the shut down of at least on Nuclear reactor and forcing the power companies to purchase green electricity at exorbitant rates that causes everyone else’s rate to rise.
    We may be forced to make decisions such as Anthony has made to survive a repressive government.

  211. John Bromhead says:

    All this is a load of bull. Yes, some can save by installing solar. Here in Australia the savings are made by transferring the costs of running the electricity supply system ( all those costs that are independent of the cost of generating electricity and the losses bringing it to your home) on to those who depend totally on grid electricity. Systems have also be subsidised by up to $600 per megawatthour of electricial energy they will produce over 20 years. Those with solar pay less for the grid they rely on all the time. Few people living where grid power is available will choose to operate independently of the grid because they can parasitize it as Anthony Watts does.
    The question Anthony should ask is what would happen if everyone, households and industry, took the same percentage of supply from their own generation while still relying on the grid that supplements their supply and into which thet sell their excess electricity.

  212. Just another brand of elites talking to other elites with money while “those people” eat the left over cold stale cake.

  213. _Jim says:

    RS says March 24, 2013 at 11:03 am

    93 cents per kw-hr????
    Insanity.

    “Top marginal rate”; the price charged for the last few kWH demanded past some determined ‘cutoff’ or delimiting value.

    This isn’t ‘Kroger’ or Piggly-Wiggly pricing, think ‘income taxes’ with higher *marginal* rates affecting (being applied towards) that last million (not the first million) that you earned …

    .

  214. Charles says:

    I can’t justify Solar, even though I’d love to. My total cost of electricity is averaging about $1400 a year, which means even if I eliminated the cost (and I can’t where I live, there is a fixed service cost built in), it would take me 11 years to make back $25,000.

    I simply don’t use enough electricity to make it worthwhile. Although I could use a smaller system, since my worst month was 2 mw, or about 3kw/hour, and that was with a huge christmas light display that I have since reduced somewhat and modified with LED lights.

    If I went Solar, it would be to store, along with a natural gas generator I can switch to propane, and a large propane tank. Then I will be self-sufficient for a long-haul collapse of the support systems.

  215. _Jim says:

    Robert of Ottawa says March 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

    93 cents/kWhr … ??? incredibale; it cost $0.02- 0.04 to produce.

    The top marginal rate for production can be higher for a discrete ‘standby’ facility, e.g. a gas-fired turbine which sees only brief periods of use during a year (spending the rest of the time “off” but can be in service up and running in say 15 mins) *.

    Think: Buying a new car that still requires insurance and plates and service (6mo/1yr etc. on oil changes and lube regardless of mileage as lubes are prone to age) BUT only gets used twice or 3 times a year *by you* when low-cost mass transit bus service isn’t available …

    What’s your cost per mile in that case?

    * The alternative is “shedding load” (cutting off customers) and/or rolling blackouts. AT SOME POINT when generation CANNOT meet load something has to be done, or the system can (and will!) collapse (generators trip and cease to generate!) Then it’s hell getting the WHOLE system back up and synchronized. References supplied upon request based on “complete blackouts” we’ve seen in the last 70 years with several big ones in just the last 15 yrs!).

    .

  216. DirkH says:

    metamars says:
    March 24, 2013 at 8:21 am
    “I recently corresponded with Gerard Aitken IV, son of the brilliant inventor Alvin Marks. He expects there to be a prototype for Lumeloid out by the end of the year ”

    If they manage to make a rectenna solutioin work such efficiencies of 85 % become possible.
    Some other people try to build rectenna solutions for IR using nanotubes, with similar possible efficiencies.
    http://www.sciencebuzz.org/blog/nanoantennas-change-heat-electricity

  217. _Jim says:

    Physics Major says March 24, 2013 at 6:46 am
    “How does PG&E recover the capital and maintenance costs for the power grid if you are using net zero power?”

    kakatoa says March 24, 2013 at 8:06 am
    PG&E is getting a tad worried about how to allocate costs for …

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Physics Major says March 24, 2013 at 6:46 am
    How does PG&E recover the capital and maintenance costs for the power grid if you are using net zero power?

    ferd berple says March 24, 2013 at 8:20 am
    Isn’t that an issue between PG&E and the regulators? They set the rules. The rest of us are simply players in the game. …

    Asked and answered I believe, in the 19th (or last) exhibit (the document stating in the heading “Net Energy Metering Electric Statement”) holds the clue; note the item labelled “Distribution” with a corresponding value of “$3.71″.

    Ostensibly this would be the charge for infrastructure to perform the function of “electricity distribution” (hence the term often being shortened simply to “distribution”; this would include poles and hardware e.g. transformers, wire, insulators and costs including maintenance personnel and required vehicles and trucks).

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/home_solar_pge_bill_feb2013.jpg?w=640&h=382
    .

  218. Norman Hasty says:

    Do you have any idea how the cost compares to upgrading the structure? Added roof insulation, triple glazed windows, extended eves for shade, more efficient mechanicals, adding wall insulation, etc.? I realize this wasn’t the point of the whole exercise but it seems to me that you could come close to those kinds of savings with careful passive renovations.

  219. Goode 'nuff says:

    To Max Hugoson, “Being currently an unemployed (late 50′s) Engineer, I have a strategy plotted out to SURVIVE until Nov/Dec, when I must (really, if I don’t want to dive into a DEEP economic hole) sell my house, and move to much cheaper digs (probably a double wide in AZ). SO I have JUST ABOUT THE $ that Anthony is spending on his PV system TO SURVIVE ON”

    Hi Max, if you’re still hanging around we’ve been getting snow and a lot of bitter cold wind down here south of Branson, Missouri. Our beautifully bloomed Jonquils (Easter Lilly) are drooping to the snow covered practically frozen ground.

    Max, have you ever thought about being a freight relocation engineer? I mean, personally I used to work in a laboratory doing quality control and have survived and actually prospered in this living hell of dysfunctional government economic policy. Yes, it sucks as a career choice but it pays the bills. I have 1 1/2 million plus miles without any accident charged to my record. I do love the travel and experiencing the big picture of weather on this continent.

    What I offer is to train you after graduating a school if you were to have a need for one. I have trained a few and treated them well.

  220. JG says:

    I agree with this post. About 4 years ago I did a 20-year life cycle cost spreadsheet for PV solar as a power source for an electric car and nearly fell out of my chair: an ROI in a just a few years and the incredible future savings even factoring the costs of something like a Nissan Leaf. The key was replacing expensive gasoline (@ $4/gal) with cheaper electricity for an e-car generated by PV (plus a lot of other hidden savings). Like the author I have grid-tie, net metering, but I don’t live in CA. I live in HI where, at the time of the calculation, the base kWh was $0.20 (it is now $0.30) because almost all HI’s electricity is generated by imported oil (and some Australian coal and waste burning). I purchased a 5-kW system from dmsolar.com and had it installed 3+ years ago, and a Nissan Leaf (2 yrs ago, I now want a Tesla S sedan!) and my calculations of 4 years ago are holding true: I end up each month with money in my pocket. Note that I said nothing about low emissions. It’s all about money: (a) money in my pocket and (b) reducing dependency of HI on foreign oil – Hawaii sends billions (yes, billions!) of dollars out of its economy to someone else (you hear that Alaska?), which means more cash in the local economy. That said 8 of my neighbors (with pool pumps that eat hundreds of dollars out of their monthly budgets) took a look at my calculations, let me do a calculation or two for them, and then immediately bought (or contracted) for PV systems that are bigger yet cheaper than mine — thank you China for falling panel prices (for better or worse)! I am of the opinion that the tax subsidy for PV should be reduced in some regions since the ROI is now competitive with other sources of electricity and will continue to be so. Also, electric cars should be assessed a “road use tax” at yearly registration to offset the loss of the road tax in the cost of a gallon of gas.

  221. Lisa Knobel says:

    The true measure of the effectiveness of any electricity producing installation is capacity factor. While you may be saving on your electricity bill, is it really the most efficient and effective way to produce electricity. Have you been able to calculate your capacity factor yet?

    Additionally, since you are running a commerical operation on your property will you be paying the appropriate property taxes and income taxes? And, certainly those income taxes are not on just the excess income you receive back, but on all of the electricity costs you have offset. Until you have figured these in, your analysis is woefully incomplete.

  222. Paul Milenkovic says:

    Willis Essenbach said:
    “First, where you live there is only about 40% of the need for cooling that Anthony has in Chico. CDD in Madison (65°F base) is 568 degree-days/year, whereas in Chico there’s 1,391 cooling degree days per year. With your pitifully small cooling load, it’s no surprise your power use is low.

    Second, you’re not paying gouging outrageous PGE-level prices for your power.

    Since neither of those are the result of your actions, you might dial the crowing back a tad …”

    My comparison to Anthony Watts situation was for a record-hot July in Madison to a July in Chico. That month had more cooling degree days in Madison than Chico.

    I aircondition and dehumidify against that 568 deg-day/year load with about 900 kWHr yearly. Prorated to Chico, the demand would be 2250 kWHr. The peak demand would be well below where the 93 cents/kWHr cuts in. Estimating 23 cents/kWHr from PG&E at the reduced peak demand, the cost of A/C for a season would be about $500 against $25,000 for the panels or a 50-year payback.

    Or, I could supply the reduced A/C load with a much smaller panel, say $10,000 worth, still a 20 year payback.

    And I will not dial back my crowing as I am attempting to disseminate a solution to high electric rates with high A/C need, that helps in Madison and helps proportionately more in Chico. That solution is based on the thermal energy stored in a house, the A/C efficiency with ambient temps published by Carrier, and the psychometric charts for trade of ambient temp vs humidity for a level of comfort. That solution is low tech but much less capital expensive than solar panels.

  223. Robert in Calgary says:

    Lisa Knobel,

    I guess your view is that the city and the company just “forgot” to tell Anthony he’s a commercial operation?

  224. Wolfgang Flamme says:

    Anthony,

    you’re not becoming as independent as your bill suggests, I presume – and that should hold for a community as a whole, too.

    Take Germany as an example to lay out the principle:
    http://i171.photobucket.com/albums/u304/wflamme/StromverbrauchundWind_PV-Produktionrelativ_zps1bb789f6.png

    Green is the load duration curve for Germany, blue is 10% wind power, orange is 4% photovoltaics production duration curves. There is no way to scale wind or photovoltaics up to match demand even if the hours of highest and lowest demand were to match the hours of highest and lowest production (which they don’t when presenting duration curves).

  225. Stephen Richards says:

    Apoxonbothyourhouses says:

    March 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    “Stephen Richards says:
    March 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm
    My biggest gripe about solar systems is that it is a method for making the poor poorer and the rich richer.”
    This is disingenuous talk.

    Nothing disengenuous at all. If you read on you will see.

  226. Stephen Richards says:

    Peter says:

    March 23, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Peter responds to Stephen @ 12:38pm

    Nice for you Stephen, but I am on the east coast of North America @45 north, and trust me, our climates have nothing in common, other than latitude. We still have 45cm of snow on the ground, the lakes are still frozen and will be until late April, and we also get 2500 hours of sunshine but it takes 4 years.

    Thanks to the N.Atalantic conveyor. heh heh

  227. Stephen Richards says:

    JamesS says:

    March 24, 2013 at 7:26 am
    I find it interesting that Gavin thinks government regulation and taxation to artificially raise electricity prices and make renewables competitive are “market mechanisms.”

    That’s Gavin for you. Hands in air, head up arse.

  228. Jenn Oates says:

    Too bad I rent. :)

  229. ferd berple says:

    ANthony should receive exactly the same amount for the surplus power he produces as does PG&E. If they get $.93/kwh at peak hour, then so should he, as both are selling their power to the same customers – Anthony’s neighbors.

    The grid itself is runs over public land rent free. If PG&E are going to start charging Anthony to use the grid so he can supply power to his neighbors, then it is only fair that PG&E pay property taxes on that portion of the land they use for the grid, thereby reducing the share of property taxes that Anthony and his neighbors are paying. As things are now the taxpayers are subsidizing the power companies by making land available for free to run their power lines, while everyone else must pay for the land they own/rent to run a business.

  230. OssQss says:

    Nice Job Anthony!

    I just received notice of a price increase today for our power. Why is that I wondered, and I found my answer here in the April addition.

    http://www.preco.org/mediaNews/PRECO_florida_currents_magazine.aspx

    Thanks ” EPA” for the avalanche of regulations.

  231. Stephen Richards says:

    ferd berple says:

    March 24, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Stephen Richards says:
    March 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm
    It is an inverted Robin Hood scheme and that really bugs me. However, for all those that want to game the system I say good luck. I chose not to.
    ===========
    If we all chose to game the system it would collapse

    Fred I like your scheme and it had occured to me but the payback time where I live (SW France) would far exceed the amount of time I have left on this planet. A local farmer has found the right idea. He installed €186.000 of panels on his barns and gets a return of about €26.000 per year. In france you cannot use any electricity generated on your roof. In effect, EDF rent your roof and pay a return based on generated electricity. It’s a great investment but it is crippling EDF (electricité de France). Their cashflow is dangerously low (they claim) so they have offered to build a new nuclear station for the brits but only if the brits give them double the tarif for ever. Increased cashflow will result.

  232. Luther Wu says:

    The bottom line is that PG&E rate payers are being pushed into making the capital investments to provide themselves with electricity, which is what the utility was chartered to provide, but isn’t.

  233. Stephen Richards says:

    Lisa Knobel says:

    March 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    The true measure of the effectiveness of any electricity producing installation is capacity factor. While you may be saving on your electricity bill, is it really the most efficient and effective way to produce electricity. Have you been able to calculate your capacity factor yet?

    It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is are your electricity bills lower and by how much. Yes, if PV was more efficient your payback time would be shorter but so what.

  234. Stephen Richards says:

    JG says:

    March 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Have you factored in the cost of replacing the batteries and your likely resale value?

  235. farguard says:

    I installed an 88 panel system for my home in Puerto Rico in the 1990s, using recycled panels from a defunct solar utility plant somewhere is CA or AZ. We were entirely off the grid, until some years later when we became friends with a local utility company executive. And even then, as we were on the top of a mountain near the East coast, wind and other power outages caused frequent interruptions. I used Royce (submarine) lead acid batteries, 2x Trace 4KW inverters, and a LOT of lightning arresting diodes and other preventative electronics.

    After we got utility power, the system really proved itself after hurricane Hortence. 1/3 of the panels were destroyed, and the whole mountain (and all of our neighbors) was without power for 5 weeks. We were the sole source of ice for food preservation for the whole neighborhood. I was overseas on a long-term advisory assignment at the time, but my non-electrical wife was able to use our shoe-box sized cell phone to talk to me and cut the correct wires. No other maintenance (other than topping off the batteries with rainwater and sweeping hurricane blown leaves off of the solar cells) was required until I got back some weeks later.

    So the most value, in my opinion, is that the solar owner is more likely to have power after a large destructive event, where his utility dependent peers will not. And this insurance mostly pays for itself.

    Conrad Clark

  236. Richard deSousa says:

    PG&E = Pacific Graft & Extortion!

  237. u.k.(us) says:

    Lisa Knobel says:

    March 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm
    =======
    It is hard to tell if you are kidding, or not.
    Anthony, is just playing by the rules of the game.

  238. Robert F says:

    Lisa Knobel says:
    March 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm
    “The true measure of the effectiveness of any electricity producing installation is capacity factor. While you may be saving on your electricity bill, is it really the most efficient and effective way to produce electricity. Have you been able to calculate your capacity factor yet?”

    The question of capacity factor is irrelevant. Obviously, the factor for solar is low, and solar is far from the most effective way to produce electricity. The issue here is clearly one of finance, and whether solar provided a higher return on investment than other options available to the homeowner. In Anthony’s case, it was a sound financial investment.

    “Additionally, since you are running a commerical operation on your property will you be paying the appropriate property taxes and income taxes? And, certainly those income taxes are not on just the excess income you receive back, but on all of the electricity costs you have offset. Until you have figured these in, your analysis is woefully incomplete.”

    You are making a lot of false assumptions here. No, it is not “a commercial operation”. And no, there is no tax on electricity not used. In fact, even smart meters cannot distinguish what is being used internally from what is being produced. While there is a production meter, that is not monitored by the utility.
    Finally, your analysis is the one that is “woefully incomplete”. If this were in fact a commercial, taxed operation, one could write off the depreciation and probably make out quite well.

  239. Ian H says:

    With a name like “Watts”, it isn’t surprising that you should be doing clever and interesting things with electrical power. New Scientist calls this “nominative determinism”.

    OK I confess. I do read New Scientist from time to time. I do like the humour section. New Scientist are completely credulous and perpetually alarmed about absolutely everything, not just climate. They are particularly fond of predicting the destruction of the universe (perhaps due to runaway cosmological inflation or a nefarious plot masterminded by Boltzmann brains). I only get it to look at the pictures of pretty girls. Honest!

    (If you don’t get the pretty girls reference I apologise for engaging in overly subtle humour.)

  240. rogerknights says:

    Tom in Florida says:
    March 24, 2013 at 6:10 am
    I see many comments about rates, kw usage, house size, location and such. I do not see anyone addressing a couple of simple but important things one can easily do to lower their electric bills.

    I made three suggestions similar in spirit to yours, at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/23/an-update-on-my-solar-power-project-results-show-why-i-got-solar-power-for-my-home-hint-climate-change-is-not-a-reason/#comment-1255309 and at the comment two items down.

  241. Jimbo says:

    Anthony Watts,
    Are you or have you ever been a recipient of Big Solar Money? Are you a fossil fuel benefit denier? / sarc

  242. Willis Eschenbach says:

    John Bromhead says:
    March 24, 2013 at 11:34 am

    All this is a load of bull.

    Thanks, John. One thing I’m learning by writing for the web is, never, ever make an absolute statement … you like the inherent contradiction in that statement? But it’s true.

    For example, in this case, some of what Anthony has written is just facts and descriptions. So obviously, that’s not bull. As a result, your claim that all of this is bull is automatically false … and that’s not a good thing to open your comment with.

    Yes, some can save by installing solar. Here in Australia the savings are made by transferring the costs of running the electricity supply system ( all those costs that are independent of the cost of generating electricity and the losses bringing it to your home) on to those who depend totally on grid electricity. Systems have also be subsidised by up to $600 per megawatthour of electricial energy they will produce over 20 years. Those with solar pay less for the grid they rely on all the time. Few people living where grid power is available will choose to operate independently of the grid because they can parasitize it as Anthony Watts does.

    Here in California, in what can only be described as a fit of terminal idiocy, the anti-carbon crowd have put in place a law that says that PG&E has to get 33% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Madness. Not only that, but they don’t count hydroelectric power from existing hydroelectric power plants as renewable! Double madness.

    As a result, PGE has been forced to sign all kinds of very, very disadvantageous contracts for the supply of their power. And PGE, of course, then have to pass those costs on to their customers. As a result, the rates for everyone around the state are going up to support the green madness. This is not a result of Anthony. It’s the law. So PGE are forced to look for people like Anthony so that PGE can obey the law and get to 33% by 2020.

    That’s the reality on the ground. The consumer is getting screwed to support the green fantasies of renewable energy.

    Obviously, there’s only two positions a man could play in that game. You can be one of the consumers getting screwed, or you could be one of the suppliers of expensive renewable energy.

    Let me put it to you plainly. Anthony deciding that he’s tired of getting screwed doesn’t make him a parasite.

    The question Anthony should ask is what would happen if everyone, households and industry, took the same percentage of supply from their own generation while still relying on the grid that supplements their supply and into which thet sell their excess electricity.

    It sounds like you think you know the answer to that question … perhaps you could enlighten us.

    All the best,

    w.

  243. Lil Fella from OZ says:

    Here is a different slant on solar. I run about 800 watts of panles, batteries and inverter. Yes, I am on mains. I tinker a bit. Batteries are a huge downfall when it comes to solar. Cost and endurance, efficiency etc. I also turn my panels into the sun three or four times a day, just like moving the garden hose.
    Now the plus side is I have some 240v AC or 12 DC power available if the mains goes off! My reckoning was that the way they were mishandling power there will be some shortfalls in the future. And I don’t live in the UK. Plus big brother has no say on my set up!
    What I try to do is do my washing and run the refrigerator for 12-14 hours a day. In the hot weather that become quite a bit because of the inefficient refrigerators of the modern day.
    I was looking to knock about 10 or 12 % off my power bill. I have achieved that. And I am in control!
    In Australia many grid tie inverters installed are of the cheap variety. There will be replacement costs.
    Remember nothing is free and panels have a used by date. That is going to be interesting for the greens to decide how best to get rid of them!!!
    Rupert

  244. Allencic says:

    I’ve done the numbers for our home in far northern california (near the Oregon border) and there simply is no way that solar makes any sense for me. If it works for you Anthony that’s great. One argument I’ve never heard is from the days in the forties and fifties when it looked like nuclear electricity generation was going to be the future of energy. It wasn’t merely wild speculation when the propopnents of nuclear power would say, “It will be too cheap to bother metering.” That may be a slight exaggeration but it could be close to true. It is one of the the great tragedies of modern life that nuclear was used to make a bomb before it became common to use nuclear for energy. Instead, thanks to Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the movie “The China Syndrome”, we’re wasting time, money an research skills on crap like solar, wind, etc. And the environmentalists are doing they’re best (and suceeding) to convince everyone to hate oil, natural gas, fracking, coal and carbon dioxide. A totally sad and stupid result. I don’t remember who said it, W. C. Fields or P. T. Barnum maybe but “you’ll never go broke underestimating the stupidity and gullibility of the public.”

  245. Doug Badgero says:

    w.e. said:
    “Let me put it to you plainly. Anthony deciding that he’s tired of getting screwed doesn’t make him a parasite.

    The question Anthony should ask is what would happen if everyone, households and industry, took the same percentage of supply from their own generation while still relying on the grid that supplements their supply and into which thet sell their excess electricity.

    It sounds like you think you know the answer to that question … perhaps you could enlighten us.”

    Willis, I agree with most of what you said prior to this section. I take issue with the policies, but I live and make decisions in the real world. I have spent all of my life generating electricity for a living. I work for AEP but speak for myself.

    Under the existing structures, anyone who net meters is using the utilities capital assets but not paying the capital and O&M costs to build and maintain those assets. Even if you generate more energy than you use, you are still using the utilities generation and distribution system as an energy slush fund. It is not an economically sustainable business plan for the owners of the utility assets.

  246. u.k.(us) says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:

    March 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm
    ====
    Umm,
    Ain’t that the truth.
    You get these gifted writers that can turn a sentence/comment anyway they want, it tends to bring out a precise writing style.

  247. Baran Galocy says:

    Greetings Anthony,

    Thank you for a well researched and factual documentary website on photovoltaics. I am pleased that your Grape photovoltaic system has served you so well that you were \motivated to share this information with others. As an installer, my word is sometimes suspect because, clearly, I stand to make a profit from a client who buys a system from me, and even from someone who simply hires me for my installation expertise. Your information will serve a great deal of people in a positive manner.

    Best Regards – Baran Galocy
    HelioElectric

  248. OverlookedSavings says:

    @ Ian H: “I only get it (New Scientist) to look at the pictures of pretty girls. Honest! ”

    I believe you!
    http://www.businessinsider.com/female-physicists?op=1

    And my favorite is:
    http://blog.physicsworld.com/2011/02/18/talking-particle-physics/

  249. markx says:

    John Bromhead says: March 24, 2013 at 11:34 am

    All this is a load of bull. Yes, some can save by installing solar. Here in Australia the savings are made by transferring the costs of running the electricity supply system ( all those costs that are independent of the cost of generating electricity and the losses bringing it to your home) on to those who depend totally on grid electricity. Systems have also be subsidised by up to $600 per megawatthour of electricial energy they will produce over 20 years. Those with solar pay less for the grid they rely on all the time. Few people living where grid power is available will choose to operate independently of the grid because they can parasitize it as Anthony Watts does.
    The question Anthony should ask is what would happen if everyone, households and industry, took the same percentage of supply from their own generation while still relying on the grid that supplements their supply and into which thet sell their excess electricity.

    Well, John, is this not the very result they (think) they want? Less fossil fuel burn, less carbon output, more expensive electricity so we will all use less. And the poor can help by using none at all!

    Anthony is simply managing his own costs to the best of his ability in an ill-thought out, flawed, misguided system. Your “noble” approach to the faulty system is actually very likely more an indication of personal inertia than of someone doing the right thing by his fellow man.

    It sure ain’t bull, and it sure ain’t Anthony’s fault.

  250. Lil Fella from OZ says:

    There are a number of problems in Australia, mostly driven by green propaganda as if renewables are the answer to the world’s electricity. John probably came off the background of this to make a couple of very rash and outlandish statements.
    For example, one I know for a fact was that wind generators had been tied in by governments to contracts stating that wind must have priority over fossil fuel power. This sort of thing has forced power prices up.
    Then there were governments paying solar users up to three times the regular price per kilowatt for feed in tariffs. Again this helped force the average person’s electricity bill skywards. Those who didn’t have solar we feeling a bit done in (a bit cheesed off). Remember, most of the people who could have benefitted from solar panels could least afford them even with government subsidies.
    One argument I have presented in this country is the cost of installation in the past. The interest on that money would make a good contribution to the household power bill. And as I have stated before panels have a use by date and then must be disposed of. Nothing is free!! Or for that matter clean.
    Rupert

  251. markx says:

    Doug Badgero says:
    March 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    It is not an economically sustainable business plan for the owners of the utility assets.

    Not much doubt that statement is true … one of the very good things about this discussion and the comments is that this point has been well explained.

  252. Mr Lynn says:

    commieBob says:
    March 24, 2013 at 5:50 am
    Battery storage for on-grid systems may become viable fairly soon. There is a company called Aquion Energy which has developed a battery technology which is showing great promise.

    The batteries are relatively inexpensive, long-lived and efficient (you get out almost as much energy as you put in). They are also large and heavy so don’t expect to find them in electric cars. . .

    Interesting. I wonder if a combination natural-gas powered generator and one of these stationary batteries would be cheap enough to take us off the electric (but not natural gas) grid. I’m thinking about a NG generator for power outages anyway. . .

    /Mr Lynn

  253. JG says:

    Stephen Richards (March 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm) asks:
    Have you factored in the cost of replacing the batteries and your likely resale value?

    Answer: Yes. Perhaps you do not understand the term “life cycle costs” otherwise you would not have asked that question. BTW, have you accounted for the cost of all your oil, filter, spark plugs/wires, timing belt, PVC valves, emission system, extra brake use, etc.,, etc. in your car? And no fair saying “I do it all myself.” The analysis needs to be done with industry established values. When you go through the analysis you will find an electric car has about equal value in the “end” because of the much lower maintenance costs. However, when combined with a PV system, the next e-car gains by having “free” electricity from the get-go. Also, operating at 80% battery capacity after 8 years is still 80% “gasoline-free” transportation. This works for me, maybe not for you. I’m the one ending up with cash in my pocket each month and a bigger bank account after 20 years.

  254. Caleb says:

    I’m greedy. I don’t want to own the entire town. I don’t want to own the nation. I don’t want to own the whole world. I want to own the solar system. (or at least Anthony’s.)

  255. JG says:

    I’ve seen some comments about California’s renewable energy initiative, most not very savvy. Consider Hawaii. Hawaii has a very aggressive energy initiative (http://www.hawaiicleanenergyinitiative.org/ ): “The Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative is leading the way in relieving our dependence on oil by setting goals and a roadmap to achieve 70% clean energy by 2030 with 30% from efficiency measures, and 40% coming from locally generated renewable sources.”
    The rationale behind this is not global warming but economic: Hawaii generates most of its electricity (and all transportation fuel) from imported oil (Alaskan oil is considered an import). See http://www.helcohi.com/vcmcontent/FileScan/PDFConvert/FuelOil.pdf. Importing oil is a net loss (drain) of about $4B to the Hawaiian economy (HI population is ~ 1M). When you consider that Hawaii is 2,500 miles from anywhere, you will begin to see the sense in trying to keep as much of that $4B circulating in the state.
    I do not know if the same economic thinking is driving the CA renewable energy initiative. When you consider that most of the gas for heating and electricity generation and the gasoline for transportation is imported from out-of-state (consider Hawaii’s view of importing Alaska oil) it may well be based solely on economics: why send money to Venezuela or Indonesia or Texas or North Dakota for your transportation and electricity generation when you can generate it at home (state) and keep the cash in your local economy?

  256. Independence on Bunker Hill says:

    Anthony,

    Do you also have powered venting for your roofing structure? Any decrease in the “delta T” of your attic space is also a great way to reduce your overall electric bill.

  257. _Jim says:

    Doug Badgero says March 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Under the existing structures, anyone who net meters is using the utilities capital assets but not paying the capital and O&M costs to build and maintain those assets.

    Really!!?? What is that $3.71 charge labelled “Distribution” for then (19th item/graphic down in the head post)?

    Okay, fair enough, I’ll give you a break, as you’re in ‘generation’ and not in ‘accounts receivable’ (the billing or ‘business’ side of the house).

    Please note also there is a charge for “Generation.”

    .

  258. _Jim says:

    ferd berple says March 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    The grid itself is runs over public land rent free.

    Easy there ferd; there is a whole field of law devoted to utility easements or “easements in gross for utilities”, wherein the easements are detailed in the title/deed for the piece of property under consideration.

    – Easements in gross are usually for utilities. If your property has overhead or underground utility lines that also serve your neighbors, you’re probably subject to an easement in gross. There is no dominant tenement, but your servient tenement is burdened by the public utility easement in gross. For example, my residence property has an easement in gross sewer line along the northern five feet, which benefits my house, as well as my neighbors’ homes.

    Many homes have electric, phone, water, sewer and cable-TV easements in gross along the back or side of the parcels. These easements in gross benefit the utilities. Most easements in gross were created at the time the parcel was subdivided and are recorded against the title to each property.

    It’s a little late at this stage of the game for making those kinds of claims and furthermore, is against the grain of long-established established case law. If you go back (perhaps you will recall?) at one time, many of these ‘companies’ (power, water and sewer; in many cases water and sewer still are) municipal (city) owned facilities. Dallas Power and Light, Garland Power and Light, Ft Wayne Power and Light are a few that come to mind. Then there are member-owned co-operatives, where using ‘members’ own the company!

    A few resources on easements et al, for further reading:
    Utility Easement Law & Legal Definition

    The legalities of property easements

    Real Estate: Property Easements

    .

  259. Willis Eschenbach says:

    JG says:
    March 24, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    … When you consider that most of the gas for heating and electricity generation and the gasoline for transportation is imported from out-of-state (consider Hawaii’s view of importing Alaska oil) it may well be based solely on economics: why send money to Venezuela or Indonesia or Texas or North Dakota for your transportation and electricity generation when you can generate it at home (state) and keep the cash in your local economy?

    Why buy cheap fossil energy when expensive wind and solar energy is available? Are you truly serious? I guess so. Here’s a few reasons off the top of my head

    • Because charging customers like Anthony $0.92 per kilowatt-hour, which is the result of your brilliant ‘let’s push uneconomic renewables’ plan, is a ripoff.

    • Because expensive energy hurts, impoverishes, and kills the poor.

    • Because expensive energy is the most regressive tax imaginable, with no immunity at the bottom of the economic ladder—the poorer you are, the more it bites.

    • Because expensive energy slows down the entire economy.

    • Because subsidies distort the market and discourage investment in cheap energy sources.

    There’s more reasons, but that will do for now. Your renewables quotas are harming and impoverishing poor people as we speak … you could start there.

    w.

  260. David Cage says:

    It is really sad that it was a big US corporation that dishonestly used environmental and safety issues to kill absorption cooling in favour of compression systems for commercial reasons. The old absorption systems were ideal for solar power and had maximum input at times of maximum demand.

  261. E.M.Smith says:

    Nice system Well thought out and designed.

    As I’m more coastal, didn’t know about those incredible nearly $1 rates. Just crazy. At one time I “did the math” on a Honda 12 kW Diesel generator ( I was managing data centers then, and some of them during “bring up” didn’t have power yet, so we rented generators). Came up with an interesting “rule of thumb”. Cost per gallon of Diesel in dollars, move the decimal point over one, you have cost per kW-hr in cents. So with Diesel at $4.10, you get electricity at $0.41 / kW-hr. While it won’t be exactly that rate for all generators, it will be close. And while that doesn’t include maintenance / overhaul costs, used for “peaking” (i.e. infrequently) at 3000 hours or so MTBO, you can get a long life out of a few hours a day in the summer. Running it the other way, at 93 cents / kW-hr, that’s $9.30 / gallon of Diesel equivalent.

    I think I’d pick up a small Diesel Generator and put in a transfer switch on the AC… ( I’ve seen them as small as 4 kW. Diesels are more efficient than the gasoline ones, and much more durable).

    I’ve take a different approach than solar. Looked at it, but… well, the roof is old. Needs replacing “soon”. Then the neighbor ‘up sun’ planted some redwoods about 25 years ago… Glad to have the shade as I don’t need A/C now hardly at all, but I AM in the shade. So not solar.

    My major use is for cooking. AEK All Electric Kitchen.

    So I’ve been slowly moving cooking out onto the Patio. As I bake bread daily, it adds up in an electric oven. That is ended as of today. I’ve made a lovely loaf of bread in an oven sitting on a Coleman Camp Stove. ( I have a better stove ‘on order’).

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/butterfly-oven-added-feature/

    I’ve also gotten good with the American Camp Oven AKA Dutch Oven.

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/saint-patricks-day-feast/

    So using gasoline and charcoal. Not electricity. Why? Simple. It is far far cheaper.

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/camping-at-home-is-cheaper/

    Charcoal, per BTU (Joule) is roughly the same cost as Gasoline, which here in California is one of the cheaper fuels available. But just in case for some reason those prices go “way high” under some kind of stupid “carbon tax”, it’s also possible to just burn wood from “yard waste”.

    Am I happy about this? No, not really. Slowly moving backwards toward 3rd World cooking methods is not my idea of well thought out economy. But that’s what economics tells me to do. I do have natural gas in the house, and have a natural gas cooktop in hand. It’s planned to install it this summer. So far, natural gas is a bit cheaper than gasoline. (Propane is about the same as gasoline some times, sometimes a bit lower). With any luck, it will stay that way. (But if it doesn’t, I can always slide back down the fuel cost curve).

    How burning fossil fuels or charcoal or wood improves the environment is beyond me. Yet that is what I am being pushed to do. Use PG&E Electricity? No, not interested, thanks…

    During the time of Gov. Grey “out” Davis, we had rolling brown outs, black outs, and generally flakey 3rd world electricity reliabilty. At that time I started a ‘power stabilization’ process. Battery box. Inverter. Charger. The idea then was to just move the house onto a giant UPS. That way the power could come and go and I’d not care. I got most of the parts, then we voted out Grey “out” Davis and power stability returned. I still have those parts…

    So looks like at some point (after the stove is done, and the “patio kitchen” is done being built) I’ll be getting those parts together along with buying a battery (the one part I’d not bought back then). At that point some of the house can be moved over onto the “giant UPS” and I can decide if I want to charge it in the dead of night, or if it is just cheaper to get a natural gas powered generator and turn natural gas into electriciy. Honda makes a very nice commercial cogeneration unit, but last I looked they only sold it in cold parts of the country (thinking California doesn’t need the heat produced… someone needs to tell them about swimming pools ;-)

    At any rate, different solutions for different places. Cold coastal vs hot valley.

    We are anticipating a $1/2 tariff rate “Sometime Soon” for top usage here (not just peak AC times though). At that point, using my own Diesel to charge the battery box is economical. Simple peak clipping with charge / discharge off the grid too if we get TOD charges. (Right now I only get penalty rates for total usage). At that time I’ll make the decision of Nat Gas generator vs Diesel generator vs time shift vs “just say no” and make my own off grid system

    It’s a bother, and I’d really rather not be “In the power business”, but it is what it is. Crazy.

    Odd Sidebar: As I have an old Diesel car, and since Diesels are fairly consistent in efficiency for a variety of loads, I can get an add-on generator installed and just let my Diesel car run at modest speeds to charge a battery box. Don’t need to buy a big new Diesel unit. I would need to intall a ‘socket’ on the car, but not hard. So I could just leave it running in the garage on ‘low” with the battery box plugged into it as desired. Doubt I’ll go that way, but it’s an option. My average use is about 2 kW, and larger generators for ‘under the hood’ are available. After moving the AEK to “something else”, and if I leave the “sporadic peak” demand things like washer / dryer on the Grid, It ought to only take a few hours a day to top up the battery box. I’m sure a Diesel iddling away for 4 to 6 hours a day is not the best for the environment, but it’s cheaper than PG&E…

  262. plwww says:

    heh, couldn’t help but think of this recent article: http://www.orland-press-register.com/news/turbine-10891-miller-butte.html (short of it, taxpayers bought an 11kw wind turbine for ~$300k, simply to be “green”; solar panels were also recently installed, though they gave no info on their size or cost). You’re getting a typical daily peak 5KW for $25k? I’d be very curious to see how your $25k system compares long-term to their $300k system. I’m not sure the numbers you’re using for the 12 year break-even projection, but assuming an average of $0.30/kwh(based on your usage chart above, this is probably a high estimate), it looks like it would take that $300k system at least 10 years to break even assuming the wind blows constantly, generating a steady 11KW(obviously it won’t).

  263. John Law says:

    Nice one Anthony, but since I live in North Wales, I will pass on your advice; air conditioning is not an issue for us and just now it looks like we are well into a Maunder minimum.
    With all the rain we have here, I was thinking more of a roof installed water turbine, do Costco offer any systems?
    Better news on the UK political front, the Chancellor is keen on getting at the massive shale resource in North West England and North Wales and we look like restarting the UK nuclear programme.
    With luck we can start to demolish the forest of rather useless wind turbines off the coast here, and restore the horizon for the joy of future generations.
    Keep up the good work!

  264. Speed says:

    E.M. Smith wrote, ” … if I leave the “sporadic peak” demand things like washer / dryer on the Grid …”

    Maybe you need Lehman’s Own Hand Washer. Not for washing your hands but so you can use your hands to wash your clothes.
    https://www.lehmans.com/p-2398-lehmans-own-hand-washer.aspx
    https://www.lehmans.com/p-4444-breathing-hand-washer.aspx

  265. Dave Hunt says:

    Anthony, you use the phrase ‘location tax’ in your article. Here in the UK we would probably call it a ‘post code tax’ so perhaps you should think about referring to it as a ‘zip code tax’. I think it adds a certain zip to the rip off you are being subjected to.

  266. Steve Hill from Ky says:

    You can’t do this, you need to pay more taxes so the poor can have one. ;-) Nice work!!

  267. c1ue says:

    I would also note that reapers of feed-in solar PV generated electricity are also getting the ability to use the utility company as a free storage. Thus in addition to the outright install subsidies, the distribution/always available cost subsidy, the feedin price subsidy, there is also a significant subsidy in the form of free stored power.
    As was noted previously – it is perfectly rational for an individual to take advantage of these many subsidies, but the net result is an outright attack on poor people. Poor people can’t take out a $25K prepayment on their electricity bills for multiple years, and are the ones left holding the bag when the systemic costs are to be paid (i.e. overhead, transmission/distribution, storage, backup, etc)

  268. otropogo says:

    Up here in the Southern Rocky Mt. Trench, the economics of solar and/or wind-powered residential power generation are much more murky. Although a grid-integrated system is almost certainly uneconomical here, I’m interested in a hybrid system, that would allow some payback from supplying the grid, while enabling use as a standalone power backup when the grid is down.

    The idea is to combine locally stored propane (most commonly used for heating in my area), solar, and wind power generation together with a modest storage battery to weather power outages. But I haven’t been able to find any discussion of such a scheme, let alone an off-the shelf kit for modifying a grid installation.

    Finding an affordable system for monitoring and recording wind and solar potential at the intended site is a serious obstacle as well. I find it very strange, given the amount of verbal “encouragement” government is giving for such home based power generation, that one has to spend many hundreds of dollars just to measure and record wind speed and solar radiation at a point on one’s rooftop.

    I paid $60 (on sale) for a wind gauge that only displays its measurements in real time on an indoor monitor (via a Wifi transmitter connected to the gauge by cable), without any provision for recording. I’ve yet to come across any sort of consumer-oriented sensor for monitoring solar radiation.

    Any pointers on addressing these issues would be appreciated

  269. Matthew R Marler says:

    JG: I do not know if the same economic thinking is driving the CA renewable energy initiative.

    It is not: the CA renewable energy initiative is driven by environmentalists desire to reduce CO2 emissions.

  270. jrwakefield says:

    Posting rather late, just read this now. Couple things. First, if power rates are 40c in 20 years the economy will collapse. Example, here in Ontario power rates have doubled in the last 9 years thanks to green energy projects, mostly wind turbines. Companies who rely heavily on power are leaving like rats from a sinking ship. Other provinces and the US with lower rates are enticing these companies to move out of Ontario. Result is lower GDP grown, lower tax revenue for the province and a grotesque government deficit and debt (Ontario is worse off than California).

    Power rates in Germany are so high now, though less than 15c, there are 500,000 Germans cut off because they can’t afford their power bills.

    Should Thorium reactors gain a significant foothold before then, which is projected in China, India, Norway and Japan, power rates will collapse to below a dime, much below. So ultimately you wont save at all over the long run. Ask people who put in alternative heating systems to get off natural gas when it was skyrocketing in price, now collapsed because of shale gas (the graph before shale gas of future NG rates looked the same as your future power rates).

    Next, as more people decided to go solar, less demand in the summer for 90c power will happen. That will drop the spot price. What will also drop the spot price is companies moving out of California due to high rates.

    So, bottom line is, you are taking a huge risk. Not one I’m willing to do here in Ontario where we have abundant hydro power, abundant nuclear power, and excess power due to too many wind turbines (and counting). The spot price in Ontario around 2-3c, often going negative when we have to dump our wind excess to the US market. (now I said power rates have double, so how can the spot price be 2-3C? It’s doubled because to pay for wind at 15c the government adds a “global adjustment” to all bills. That GA is about 5-6c on top of the spot, bringing our highest rate to 11c in peak demand periods. The lower the spot, the higher the GA).

  271. _Jim says:

    c1ue says March 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I would also note that reapers of feed-in solar PV generated electricity are also getting the ability to use the utility company as a free storage. Thus in addition to the outright install subsidies, the distribution/always available cost subsidy, the feedin price subsidy, there is also a significant subsidy in the form of free stored power.

    Re: the bolded above –

    Clue or no clue? – Am I reading you right or no? There appears to be a charge for this, the amount of which appears in the head post in this thread … in about the 19th exhibit (hint: Look for the term “Distribution”). Are ppl consistently missing this, or am I in error?

    It would then appear that this is rather an accounting ‘exercise’, vs something gained ‘for free’ (although I am not about to do the fine-grained economics analysis on this owing to time constraints on my part.)

    Note also the ERCOT system in Texas shares ‘power’ occasionally with a couple adjacent systems via several DC ‘tie lines'; reimbursement of which is made by “in kind” repayment by way of equal but opposite energy flows for “settlement” (one of the two parties paying back the other what may be owed to other party). This looks to be done to avoid the transfer (payment) of any monies, thereby avoiding certain federal laws that would otherwise come into ‘play’, applicable as “interstate commerce”.

    .

  272. E.M.Smith says:

    @Speed:

    I’d rather have my robot wash the clothes and dishes, thanks… Just need to make some e- food for it at the cheapest rate possible. ;-)

  273. kakatoa says:

    The CPUC is currently evaluating rate designs-
    http://energyathaas.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/marketing-solar-part-two/

    ..”PG&E is using what are called “increasing block rates”: the price per kWh is increasing in the number of kWh we buy – the opposite of a volume discount. Here’s the thing: California regulators are currently considering flattening the increasing block rate structure. This could have a large impact on the savings from solar panels…….”

  274. E.M.Smith says:

    I just “did the math” on a typical Honda gasoline generator (gasoline generators are not nearly as efficient as Diesels) and it gets a 1.56 more consumption than the old Honda Diesel (that I think is no longer made). I used the EU2000i that is max 2 kW and continuous rated 1.6 kW.

    At the present gasoline prices here of $4.10 / gallon for regular, you can “make your own” electricity at 64 cents / kW-hr fuel costs. That means it is economical to put a transfer switch (or even just a large plug…) on your Air Conditioning and during those $1 peaks, swap it onto a gasoline generator. Crazy, I know, but that’s what the costing says.

    As I have a mandatory generator (due to living in Quake Country) it is a sunk cost for me. THE biggest issue I have with it is the gasoline getting “stale” and that the thing may not be run for a couple of years in a row. So doing occasional “use to prove it still works” and “turn over the gasoline” would be a feature, not a detriment.

    As your “peak rate times” are likely just a few hours of the day, and even then, only some days of the year, I’d guess it at about 200 hours / year. Not hard to put that onto a private generator…

    I do like your PV solution better, but for folks in the shade, well, even a gas generator is a win on fuel costs. If, instead of $4 gasoline, you use the (roughly) $1.5 / GGE (gallon of gas equivalent) natural gas (conversion kits for generators are available) that drops it to 24 cents / kW-hr which starts to be something of a ‘no brainer’… It covers everything but your baseline low price tier.

    Golly.

    http://www.generatorsales.com/

    Have a 4 kW w/ Honda engine propane / nat gas unit for about $1k (would need to provide your own sound dampening enclosure) and a portable one using Yamaha and 2 kW (or so) in the $1100 to $1500 price range. (with sound dampening built in)

    At peak, it would save about 70 cents / kW-hr AFTER fuel costs. So 1400 hours run time to pay for the capital cost of the DIY one. I think that’s likely “doable”, though you end up in “overhaul land” somewhere in there. Then again, if you don’t run it flat out at 4 kW it will likely last longer.

    The same folks have Diesels that are small, too, so a 4 kW with enclosure at $1.6 k and one without enclosure for $1.2 k.

    http://www.generatorsales.com/diesel-generators.asp

    No idea what brand or quality. It is possible to put some nat gas into a Diesel, but it takes a certain understanding of some complex stuff. Not for the feint of heart… So likely need to keep it on Diesel for most folks.

    OK, two easy DIY solutions. One on Nat Gas with lower capital appliance life at 24 cents / kW-hr that will show up on your PG&E bill as more nat gas usage. One on Diesel at about 41 cents / kW-hr and you buy fuel wherever you want. (Likely one could get ‘off road’ Diesel for about $3.40 / gallon or 34 cent / kW-hr costs…) Capital cost about $1500.

    Well. Looks like PG&E is pricing themselves out of the market and DIY is being priced in.

    If I lived on a farm, in the country, or anywhere I could run a semi-quiet generator and not wake the neighbors, I’d be exploring it. (And finding out MTBO and overhaul costs).

  275. E.M.Smith says:

    @Kakatoa:

    Maybe PG&E is noticing the impact of “people like me” who are happy to use the patio propane BBQ / grill / oven and tell them to “stuff it” on the AEK at 30 cents / kW-hr between lunch and dinner. I’d certainly not be cooking between noon and night if in Anthony’s zone at nearly $1 a kW-hr. The burner on my AEK stove (All Electric Kitchen) comes in two sizes. 1 kW and 2 kW. So if I’ve got 3 of them going ( main dish, starch, vegetable) at about 1/2 power, call it 2 kW for 1/2 an hour. So they want $1 for me to cook dinner. And another one for lunch. $2 / day. That’s 1/2 gallon of propane… with money to pay for the gas to drive and get it…

    (I grew up near Chico. In summer, it’s hot at 10 am and doesn’t cool down until 9 pm)

    I can easily see a whole lot of folks deciding to just “Hit the patio” and tell PG&E to “stuff it”.

    I have, and my peak rate is “only” 30 something cents… (I bake bread daily and now have a “patio oven” skipping the need for my AEK oven anymore. I’m “flexible” on fuel it can use. Any of Propane, Gasoline, Kerosene, Charcoal, wood from the yard, whatever… ) So starting this month, my PG&E electric consumption will drop about 60 to 90 kw-hrs / month. Doesn’t take too many folks “like me” to start showing up in their numbers… It will show up especially as a big “diner time peak clip”. I’m going “flatline” to basic “lights and entertainment center”. (And once a week washer / dryer). With ideas about how to move the “flatline” onto “other fuels via DIY” over time.)

    “It’s a bad idea to annoy the Geek. -E.M.Smith” and PG&E has annoyed the geek…

  276. Dan in California says:

    Thanks for an update with numbers. I am astounded at the top rate from PG&E. Here the top residential rate charged by SoCal Edison is .35 $/KWhr, which is their Tier 5 rate. I live in the desert and planned a similar system, but the company I work for is moving to Texas. When I was researching panels, amorphous looked better than crystalline panels because the efficiency didn’t matter for my application; that is handled by $/Watt installed. Plus, in hot climates (I’m north of Palmdale in the Mojave desert) the better performance at high temperature slightly favors amorphous panels. As examples, the crystalline Sunmodule SW220 and the Kyocera KD300-80P panels derate at -.45%/K above 46C, compared to the thin film FS series from First Solar at -.25%/K above 40C. UniSolar PVL-144 amorphous panels derate at -.21%/K. If the cells hit 55C, that’s a 2% difference.

  277. Lisa Knobel says:

    How about putting up a clothesline? That is definitely the most cost effective and simplest way to save on your electricity bill. In the summer, a clothesline and in the winter a few drying racks in the house (also helps to add moisture to the house in our dry winters) keep our electricity bill at minimal levels.

    If you have an electric water heater, spending $50 on a timer can save you even more.

    We have a gas water heater so we just turn it down at night before we go to bed.

    Thanks to all of the beetle kill trees in Colorado, we have plenty of fire wood to heat the house.

    Solar panels are the least efficient and cost effective means to lower your energy bills.

  278. Doug Badgero says:

    Jim,
    When you net meter you are using the billions of dollars the utility has invested in generation, transmission, and distribution as your personal “battery pack”. 4 bucks per month doesn’t come close to covering the levelized capital cost + fixed O&M + variable O&M for these assets while you are using them. As one data point, three phase primary distribution line was around 150,000 dollars per mile a few years ago to install. The reality is that if people are going to stay “on the grid” with these installations the method of cost recovery for these costs will have to change if penetration significantly increases.

  279. P J Brennan says:

    Anthony: very nicely described and illustrated, everything well thought out; nice to see solar, for once, as part of what looks like a solid investment; but, I just came across the below-linked order from the California PUC which seems to indicate that they are considering changing electric rate structures…
    http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Efile/G000/M060/K849/60849943.PDF

    Best – PJ

  280. scott says:

    Im glad you did this article. I feel the same way. My carbon footprint is very small and cant stand it when i try to debate someone on the climate issue that is no where close to energy efficient but rants on how the world is in so much trouble.

  281. joe says:

    I think solar electricity is great, however a lot more consideration should be focused on safety. http://remotesolarisolator.com.au/video/

  282. John Bromhead says:

    Lil Fella from OZ says:
    March 24, 2013 at 6:34 pm
    “There are a number of problems in Australia, mostly driven by green propaganda as if renewables are the answer to the world’s electricity. John probably came off the background of this to make a couple of very rash and outlandish statements”.

    In part she was right.
    Rash: Not every comment on solar generation made in the comment section of this post is bull.
    I should not have personalised the issue. It is not only Anthony Watt’s solar system but most grid connected systems that are the problem.

    I didn’t mention wind so I’m not sure how that came up. The details Lil gives are mostly wrong.
    In Australia’s national electricity market, wind gets used first, not because of any contract with the government but because, compared with thermal generation there are no fuel costs and because wind generation receives one large-scale renewable energy certificate for each megawatthour of electricity it supplies. (Renewable energy target scheme). Retailers are required to buy these certificates for approximately $40, about 1 for every 10 megawatthours of electricity they sell.
    Thermal generators are further disadvantaged by paying a “Carbon price”. For a black-coal fired plant it’s about A$20 per MWh. (A$26 per tonne of carbon dioxide)
    Consequently wind can bid low into the market during every bidding period, even a negative price during windy off-peak periods and so when it is available it is used first. It receives the price of the highest bid needed to meet demand.

    $600/MWh solar electricity is not an outlandish claim?
    In the Australian Capital Territory, a one city state of 370 000 people including myself, the vivid green government introduced a feed-in tariff scheme that originally paid solar producers $500/MWh guaranteed for 20 years, that’s $0.50/kWh.
    On top of that, a national scheme produced for a 1KW system a subsidy of 5 x 15 x 1.35 renewable energy certificates worth $40 each – $4050. In 20 years a 1kW system will produce 30MWh of electricity.
    $500 + $135 = $635 for each MWh or 63.5 cents per kilowatthour.
    The retailers pay an average of 6 cents per kilowatthour for its other electricity. The cost of the subsidy is passed onto all electricity consumers.

    markx says at March 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    “Anthony is simply managing his own costs to the best of his ability in an ill-thought out, flawed, misguided system. Your “noble” approach to the faulty system is actually very likely more an indication of personal inertia than of someone doing the right thing by his fellow man”.

    I have been publicly opposing the scheme I described above from before it was legislated until when it was closed down. It wasn’t inertia but a deliberate decision because I saw it as stupid, economically unsustainable and inequitable. At least I criticise people using my own name and not a pseudonym.

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    “It sounds like you think you know the answer to that question … perhaps you could enlighten us”.
    There has been plenty said throughout the comment section about the effect of solar on the grid. I have never regarded you as stupid, Willis. So why not too much solar without storage?

    How about the fact that people still use electricity at night or on a cold rainy morning.
    A family is at work when the home solar is producing a surplus and then they return. It’s a hot sunny late afternoon, the overheated solar system’s output drops away rapidly, even faster than sun and when everyone still wants to run the air-conditioners. So now $0.93/kilowatt hour electricity being used, but banked against electricity sold into the system when it could have been purchased for 7 cents/kilowatthour.

    We have a saying in Australia “I’m in the lifeboat, Jake”
    Well Anthony is not only in the lifeboat, he is helping row it away.

  283. wyatt says:

    Did you hear Algore bought a seaside home?

  284. Torgeir Hansson says:

    Hi guys! If anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area is looking for solar, I would be happy to contribute $500 per install to WUWT. We install SolarWorld panels, 100% made in the U.S., and SolarEdge inverters, the best in the industry. Not sure whether SolarEdge inverters always are 100% U.S. content, but they do much or at least some of their manufacturing in Fremont, CA.
    Is solar the answer for national energy? Absolutely not. It is however great for the individual homeowner. On larger systems we show payback periods down to 5 or 6 years, due to the 30% Federal Tax Credit. I understand the rugged independence of the WUWT audience, but when the guvmint tries to give you back some of your hard-earned money, I say take it.

    torcdwhansson@gmail.com

  285. JG says:

    In reply to Willis Eschenbach (March 24, 2013 at 11:13 pm )

    Well, well Willis. Looks like I hit a sensitive nerve there and made you get a little personal. It would be nice if you noticed that I live in HI not CA. It is not “my” brilliant plan for anything.

    My posit was simply this: “If HI is switching for renewable sources for local economic reason (keeping $ in HI) would it not be the same for CA?” Apparently it is not (I’ve seen no quantitative proof -only statements by commenters on this blog). So be it.

    I suggest you do a little homework about HI energy production (electricity and transportation) – I gave you the links – before attacking me personally about energy issues. If you had read these links you would have found that HI produces almost all of its electricity by (imported) bunker oil (the closest source is Alaska about 2,500 +/- miles away). Other than geothermal, HI is left with wind, solar, wave and biofuels as potential sources. As to the last item, the demise of sugar and pineapple has left large tracts of agricultural land fallow (both in planting and tax base). Part of the state energy initiative is to put those lands back to use as a source of biofuels, tax revenue (property and sales), and jobs (a lot of people with agricultural skills only were thrown out of work – and its tough to load up the truck and drive from Lanai or Kauai to AZ or TX (did I miss the tunnel?). LNG has been considered as a lower-cost fuel stock. I have worked with some folks proposing to import LNG into Maui to generate electricity (currently diesel is main source there). Because of the relatively low volume needed (economy of scale), LNG barely competes with diesel on Maui for generating electricity. You’d think that if Oahu (Honolulu) switched over to LNG there could be cost savings but when HECO did the boiler analysis and huge offshore/onshore LNG infrastructure needed bunker oil was still cheaper. At least for HI, that is. That may change but not because of an oversupply of natural gas in the US.

    Anyway, your arguments and points are exactly the ones HI’s energy initiative wants to offset: Electricity generation costs are based on oil which currently gives a base charge of around $0.30 kWh for those living on Oahu (Honolulu). So let’s start with that:
    – “Because expensive energy hurts, impoverishes, and kills the poor”: Expensive oil-fueled energy IS hurting the poor especially on Molokai, Maui, Lanai, Kauai and the Big Island where the base cost/kWh is closer to $0.40 and $0.50 (diesel-fuel generation). These island economies are the most impoverished. Go to Lanai sometime and see what 3,000 people out of work is like simply because Dole suddenly left lock, stock and barrel. There exist plans by some to use (windy) Lanai as a wind farm to generate electricity and ship it via underwater cable to Oahu. I do not know what Larry Ellison has in mind (he just bought the whole island). The capital costs are very large – I do not know the status today. But, the people of Lanai would benefit greatly from the tax base and the cost of a kWh is predicted to be $0.3/kWh delivered to Oahu (we shall see).
    – “Because expensive energy is the most regressive tax imaginable, with no immunity at the bottom of the economic ladder—the poorer you are, the more it bites”: Everyone in HI knows this and experiences this. That’s why the state started the initiative – to manage future energy costs that are now totally dependent upon imported fuels.
    – “Because expensive energy slows down the entire economy”: Couldn’t say it any better than that about the HI initiative, because that’s what the HI initiative is all about – keeping in-state the $4 billion/yr paid to “foreign entities” . By paying for whatever local energy source we can scrounge up the $4B circulates in the HI economy (sorry Alaska, hmmm, maybe not!)
    – “Because subsidies distort the market and discourage investment in cheap energy sources”: In HI there is no other way to encourage the development of new energy sources other than to jump start them with tax incentives and subsidies. Think about where HI is located. There is absolutely no incentive for the agribusiness to replant for biofuels – their capital is being used elsewhere to what the stockholders – not Hawaii residents – considered better investments. The smaller entrepreneurs needed (and still need) help to change the land over to new types of crops (not sugar), build wind farms, install local (home) PV, etc. Similarly, venture funds will not invest in low $/long-return ventures. Believe me it’s a b(i)eat()ch!
    – “Your renewables quotas are harming and impoverishing poor people as we speak”: Not in HI”. They’re not “my” renewable quoata – they’re Hawaii’s. And these quotas are doing just the opposite. These tax/subsidy programs provide capital and other incentives for local renewable energy sources (either at a home or as a business) which provide immediate relief and will pay off handsomely in the coming decades as the local economy is stimulated with cash-stays-at-home energy initiative and the cost of energy stabilizes.

    Your rant may be applicable elsewhere, but not for Hawaii. You might want to read up on the energy issues and solutions in Hawaii, how the state got together and decided to attach the problem some10 years ago – even before oil hit $130/bbl in 2008 or so, and how well (or not so well) it is doing to reach the 2030 goal. The HI energy initiative serves as a model to be emulated or avoided based upon the local needs. Then maybe you can talk sensibly about the subject.

    I want to add one aspect of energy policy in HI that is a bit skewed: homeowners (& renters) vs. apartment & condo dwellers (& owners). A home owner can put both PV and hot water solar on a roof (large area on a single family dwelling), but an apartment renter on the “15th floor” cannot (some apartment complexes have communal hot water). All new homes build in HI must have solar hot water (it adds very little cost to the purchase price – consider home prices in HI! -and provides immediate savings in about 3 years (instead of heating water at $0.3/kWh). But what are apartment dwellers to do? There has been some talk about co-op PV installations on large warehouses – the apartment dwellers providing the capital cost (in reality a small increase in rent) of the installation and reaping the benefits in a 7 yr payback (and the warehouse owner getting some rent subsidy for the use of the roof). Companies that install PV for lease appear interested because the home installations will eventually saturate. This disparity is yet to be fully addressed, but I see market forces (the installation companies looking for new customers) coming to the rescue eventually. By the way, this house vs. apartment disparity issue is valid everywhere.

    BTW – I do not work for the State of Hawaii nor any energy/related industry in HI or elsewhere.

    Aloha nui loa

  286. Willis Eschenbach says:

    JG says:
    March 26, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    In reply to Willis Eschenbach (March 24, 2013 at 11:13 pm )

    Well, well Willis. Looks like I hit a sensitive nerve there and made you get a little personal. It would be nice if you noticed that I live in HI not CA. It is not “my” brilliant plan for anything.

    My posit was simply this: “If HI is switching for renewable sources for local economic reason (keeping $ in HI) would it not be the same for CA?” Apparently it is not (I’ve seen no quantitative proof -only statements by commenters on this blog). So be it.

    Say what? Your question was this:

    why send money to Venezuela or Indonesia or Texas or North Dakota for your transportation and electricity generation when you can generate it at home (state) and keep the cash in your local economy?

    I gave you a bunch of reasons.

    You don’t like my reasons, so you think I’m getting “a little personal”? My friend, I assure you … if I get “a little personal” with you, you’ll know it, and it won’t look like that in the slightest. You go on to say:

    I suggest you do a little homework about HI energy production (electricity and transportation) – I gave you the links – before attacking me personally about energy issues.

    My friend, I lived in Hawaii and know its situation very, very well. And despite your repeated claims, I haven’t attacked you personally as far as I know. The fact that you feel attacked doesn’t mean someone attacked you, JG. It may just mean you’re uncertain about your claims, I dunno … but if I do attack you, you’ll be under no illusions about it.

    My reply to your question was basically that I’ve never seen a renewable system for Hawaii (where I lived for some years) or just about anywhere else that would be any cheaper than fossil fuel.

    And NEITHER HAVE YOU. As far as I know, not one of the renewable solutions already implemented in Hawaii (OTEC, solar, wind) has lowered the energy cost one penny. You keep waving your hands and claiming it will save Hawaii money in the future … but you still want to jack energy prices now, and you haven’t even shown that your plan will save a cent.

    So yes, JG, your plan does shaft the poor today, and I notice you neither like that nor want to talk about it, but that’s the reality. You are supporting jacking electricity prices today in the hope that it will save money tomorrow … which means you are hurting the poor today in the hope of helping them tomorrrow … and I doubt very much whether anyone asked the poor how they felt about that.

    Next, you foolishly say that we have to subsidize the cost of solar and wind … yes, that’s the ticket. Take expensive fuel, add Hawaiian taxpayer money, and PRESTO—all of Hawaii is now richer …

    Since you obviously believe that adding tax money to expensive fuels is a net savings for Hawaii, I fear that logic and math may not work with you, JG. Taking expensive fuel and adding the cash from Hawaii taxpayers doesn’t reduce the cost of fuel to the residents one dime.

    Think about it, JG. Hawaii is spending exactly the same amount of money for the expensive solar and wind, the subsidy doesn’t reduce that in the slightest. That’s just more BS claims that we can power things with unicorn farts as long as we add taxpayer $$$ … think about that one a while, and PLEASE DON’T POST AGAIN UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND IT.

    Are there places on the planet where wind and solar make sense?

    Sure, lots of them.

    Is Hawaii one of those places?

    It could be … but I haven’t seen it actually work to date. You seem to think that shipping fuel to Hawaii is some huge deal, or that it makes Hawaii unusual. It’s not, I used to be in the business of shipping fuel. Just about every gallon of fuel that anyone burns anywhere has been shipped in as crude oil, refined somewhere, and then distributed and sold.

    Hawaii, however, made a curious choice. Only about 15% of the energy is generated by coal, and a percent and a half via wind and solar. Almost all the rest is generated from diesel …

    So you are paying super-high prices in Hawaii, but it’s because YOU’RE GETTING SCREWED, not because of the high price of fuel in Hawaii. That’s what the utilities would like you to believe … but I’ve lived off of diesel electricity, and it doesn’t cost what your uitilities are charging you. For example, this is from the EIA for Hawaii in 2010:

    Gasoline Price, per gallon $3.47
    Electricity Price, per kWh 21.21¢


    Despite that, as you point out, in many places you guys pay forty cents per KWh, with the fuel prices only slightly higher than last year. Your solution is to replace expensive diesel electricity with expensive solar and wind … gosh, you’re up to 1.5% already, JG, you’re almost there … NOT.

    My solution would be to get the utilities, which these days think their job is to increase energy prices to discourage consumption and replace cheap fossil fuels with expensive renewables, and who are doing a great job of raising prices, back into the business of encouraging consumption and providing cheap energy.

    And then, whenever renewables can actually provide a savings to the customer and not just be a feel-good plan, add them to the mix.

    All the best,

    w.

  287. JG says:

    Willis Eschenbach (March 27, 2013 at 9:39 am)
    Well, Willis, you certainly are entertaining. I will gladly forward your name to Gov. Abercrombie as one of the great minds in economics, especially about the economy of Hawaii, and to HECO and MECO as having found a way to generate electricity using (imported) diesel fuel that is cheaper than what HECO/MECO can do with their imported bunker oil. Currently HECO has the following problem: 1 gal diesel @ $3.50 wholesale converted to kWh @30% efficiency = ~$0.30/kWH … + distribution costs compared to 1 bbl oil @$90 converted to kWh @ 30% efficiency = ~$0.18/kWh … + distribution costs. If you are such an expert in shipping fuel to and fro and know how to move oil to Hawaii cheaper than HECO’s current suppliers can, they would love to hear from you — and you could make a lot of money in the process. I like your use of 2010 statistics. How quaint. The cheapest gas in Honolulu is about $4.12/gal (reg) at Lex Brodie’s on Queen (Lex competes with Costco). For any other island add 50 cents. For current HECO electric rates go to (hint: J/F/M 2013: 31.0; 30.5; 34.3 cents/kWh plus the $9/mo service charge). You can give them a call at 808-548-7311 if you don’t believe me. They’ll give you the same facts. In 2011 HI generated 12% of its electricity from renewable sources and expects that to grow to 15% by 2015 (current buzz is that will happen in 2014). The feed in tariffs (Sep 2012) range from $0.16/kWh for on shore wind to $0.27/kWh for PV — wind is very cost competitive (w.r.t. oil) for generating electricity in Hawaii. if you think OTEC is an example of a prime renewable energy projects in HI you must have been gone for some time – a very long time. I’ve lived here over 30 years and OTEC is, well, passe. Anyway all your shoe pounding does not dispel the economic facts – I guess like a lawyer, if the facts are on your side pound the facts, if the law is on your side pound the law, but if neither facts nor law (in your case neither facts nor economics) is on your side, pound the table. I really do want to hear the details of your grand economic model, replete with facts and based on some modicum of accepted economic theory, on how keeping $4B/yr circulating inside the HI economy, as opposed to sending that $4B/yr to some other outside economy, is bad for Hawaii and its residents. We can call up DEDBT and ask them what they think of your model. Oh, I guess I didn’t mention that the $4B/yr (savings) grows at an additional $4B each year; added in year after year after year. Seems obvious but maybe that slipped by your analysis. That’s a lot of cheddar in just a few years.
    I have never claimed renewable energy sources in HI would be cheaper than oil, gas or coal. That is of little interest. What is of interest, and what everyone in Hawaii understands but you apparently do not, is that keeping that $4B/yr ($7B/yr if you include transportation fuels) currently exported circulating in the state is wise economics – for everyone in the state. Hawaii’s location, economy and lack of natural resources makes this approach imperative (Hawaiians lived a stone-age existence – no metals – none! – until Capt. Cook arrived in 1778 – that’s 2 years after the Declaration of Independence!). Hawaii imports almost everything and produces little of value to export. It is just now trying to produce locally an increasing fraction of its food driven by the same economic sustainability theory – why send $ to Mexico or CA for lettuce or tomatoes when you can grow them yourself and keep the cash circulating in the state? Renewable energy (including geothermal) which is being generated at competitive rates (see tariff schedule) provides one path to keeping a substantial amount of that exported $4B/yr (potentially $7B/yr) in the state, providing cash and capital to expand the whole economy — for everyone in Hawaii, wealthy and disadvantaged alike.

  288. JG says:

    Addendum (missing in my previous comment):
    For current HECO electric rates go to http://www.heco.com
    For information on Hawaii’s energy initiative, a good starting place is:
    http://www.heco.com/portal/site/heco/menuitem.8e4610c1e23714340b4c0610c510b1ca/?vgnextoid=f085fa35fb372310VgnVCM10000005041aacRCRD&vgnextfmt=default#9

  289. You’re quite right that the solar panel can’t be directly connected.. . I sense that you want to start small, but unfortunately, it’s hard enough to make a system with a dozen or more panels pay back. (It can, we have a system…) But with just one panel, maybe a small one, the economy of scale is gone. You need to buy a grid-tie inverter, which watt-for-watt will be more expensive than a regular size one, and for a small panel, the $$/watt value will be poor.. . There are some [illegal in most places] tiny grid-tie inverters that I see advertised on the web from time to time, with an ordinary plug that goes into the wall. Those are generally against electrical codes, and the danger is real.. . There is also a crop of micro-inverters being sold by companies such as Enphase. These are legitimate products, but will still be costly per watt, and ultimately, it will be hard to have a net savings over time with just one panel.. . Have you already taken the conservation steps like LED light bulbs, efficient appliances (especially refrigerator), insulation, and using a power strip to turn off loads that are not being used? That stuff isn’t sexy, but saves money fast. solar panels Venice FL

  290. Ken Adams says:

    Interesting story from the opposite coast from a solar homeowner who has not had your financial success as a net generator …
    “Buzalski said borough residents pay 22 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. He sells his excess energy to the town, but it costs him 18 cents to send it. Therefore, he only makes four cents per kilowatt hour, he says.
    “On a cloudy day, when his panels are not producing energy, Buzalski said he gets charged 22 cents for energy he believes he could have stored.
    “If they let me have a meter that would spin backwards, it would solve everything,” Buzalski said.”

    Full story at http://bit.ly/16CsB0C.

  291. Robert F says:

    The town’s position is fair. Why should they pay retail for Buzaliski’s kilowatts? The real question is whether the installer informed him of this. I have a 5kw solar installation, and where I am, I get retail credit for my kwh. Naturally, I’m happy with that arrangement. However, it is not fair to those without solar installations, because I am getting to use the utility as a “free battery”, giving them surplus electricity by day and taking it back for free at night.
    On an individual level, solar can benefit those who are either paying inflated rates for electric, and/or are receiving a subsidy, like the “free battery”. However, on a national level, solar drives the cost of energy up for everybody. Those with solar installations are merely using the financial and energy environment the government created to offset some of those increased costs. Unfortunately, it is only the relatively affluent that can afford the up front costs of solar, while the poor remain saddled with high energy costs that are in part subsidizing those with solar panels. Just another example how “progressive” government programs hurt those who can least afford it.

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