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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March 23, 2013 11:02 am

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

BarryW
March 23, 2013 11:03 am

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?

March 23, 2013 11:09 am

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.

March 23, 2013 11:09 am

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.

A C Osborn
March 23, 2013 11:13 am

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.

Jeff Alberts
March 23, 2013 11:14 am

Apart from grammatical errors, very nice and informative post.

nicholasmjames
March 23, 2013 11:16 am

Very nice.

bernie1815
March 23, 2013 11:18 am

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.

March 23, 2013 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.

GeologyJim
March 23, 2013 11:22 am

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.

March 23, 2013 11:24 am

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!

Ray Hudson
March 23, 2013 11:24 am

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!

Kon Dealer
March 23, 2013 11:27 am

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

March 23, 2013 11:28 am

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?

Jeff L.
March 23, 2013 11:28 am

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?

Klench Mychiques
March 23, 2013 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? 😛
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.

Kelvin Vaughan
March 23, 2013 11:34 am

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.

TImothy Sorenson
March 23, 2013 11:39 am

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.

March 23, 2013 11:39 am

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

eco-geek
March 23, 2013 11:41 am

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…

RealOldOne2
March 23, 2013 11:44 am

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.

Editor
March 23, 2013 11:47 am

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!

David Ball
March 23, 2013 11:48 am

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.

tz
March 23, 2013 11:50 am

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!)

Steve C
March 23, 2013 11:52 am

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 … 😉

jabre
March 23, 2013 11:52 am

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.

Editor
March 23, 2013 11:52 am

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

Editor
March 23, 2013 11:53 am

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.

Editor
March 23, 2013 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, and it’s unpleasant behavior. Either tell us what errors, where, or don’t bring it up.
w.

John F. Hultquist
March 23, 2013 11:58 am

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.

Matt in Houston
March 23, 2013 12:05 pm

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?

Sal Minella
March 23, 2013 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.

RACookPE1978
Editor
March 23, 2013 12:10 pm

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?

Peter
March 23, 2013 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.

Betapug
March 23, 2013 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”
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?

kakatoa
March 23, 2013 12:18 pm

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!

DR
March 23, 2013 12:19 pm

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.

Stephen Richards
March 23, 2013 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.
Good post though, Anthony

Bengt Abelsson
March 23, 2013 12:27 pm

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?

Gary Hladik
March 23, 2013 12:30 pm

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?

Greg
March 23, 2013 12:31 pm

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.

Stephen Richards
March 23, 2013 12:38 pm

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.

Editor
March 23, 2013 12:47 pm

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

pottereaton
March 23, 2013 12:49 pm

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.

TRM
March 23, 2013 12:50 pm

“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?

Tom in Florida
March 23, 2013 12:50 pm

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.

HankHenry
March 23, 2013 12:51 pm

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.

ZT
March 23, 2013 12:53 pm

Thank you for an extremely informative and helpful article.

Klench Mychiques
March 23, 2013 12:58 pm

If we’re going to nitpick:
Amazingly, it didn’t used to be that way
Jeez…

arthur4563
March 23, 2013 1:09 pm

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.

Tony Wakeling
March 23, 2013 1:13 pm

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

atarsinc
March 23, 2013 1:14 pm

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

Gunga Din
March 23, 2013 1:19 pm

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!

Glenn
March 23, 2013 1:29 pm

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

clipe
March 23, 2013 1:30 pm

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.

WTF
March 23, 2013 1:33 pm

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.

DirkH
March 23, 2013 1:37 pm

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.

Simon
March 23, 2013 1:38 pm

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.

Box of Rocks
March 23, 2013 1:42 pm

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?)

Ack
March 23, 2013 1:43 pm

couldn’t imagine paying those prices for electricity

DirkH
March 23, 2013 1:43 pm

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 %.

DirkH
March 23, 2013 1:51 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. 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.

thelastdemocrat
March 23, 2013 1:53 pm

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.

March 23, 2013 1:55 pm

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…

March 23, 2013 1:56 pm

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?

DirkH
March 23, 2013 1:58 pm

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.

Berényi Péter
March 23, 2013 2:00 pm

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?

March 23, 2013 2:10 pm

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)

Manfred
March 23, 2013 2:11 pm

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.

chris y
March 23, 2013 2:16 pm

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.

bw
March 23, 2013 2:19 pm

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.

Joe
March 23, 2013 2:19 pm

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.

Other_Andy
March 23, 2013 2:31 pm

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….

Apoxonbothyourhouses
March 23, 2013 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. 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.

MrX
March 23, 2013 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. 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.

Editor
March 23, 2013 2:47 pm

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.

Harry
March 23, 2013 2:48 pm

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.

Editor
March 23, 2013 2:49 pm

> 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.

GoneWithTheWind
March 23, 2013 2:50 pm

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.

Peter
March 23, 2013 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.

Bloke down the pub
March 23, 2013 2:57 pm

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.

Rosco
March 23, 2013 2:59 pm

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.

Peter
March 23, 2013 3:02 pm

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.

John Slayton
March 23, 2013 3:05 pm

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.

SMS
March 23, 2013 3:11 pm

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.

John Slayton
March 23, 2013 3:12 pm
climatereason
Editor
March 23, 2013 3:22 pm

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

Rosco
March 23, 2013 3:24 pm

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.

Paul Hanlon
March 23, 2013 3:25 pm

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 ;-).

RHL
March 23, 2013 3:27 pm

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.

March 23, 2013 3:29 pm

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.

u.k.(us)
March 23, 2013 3:31 pm

Thanks, Anthony.
The effort has not gone unnoticed.

tobias
March 23, 2013 3:37 pm

@ 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.

rogerknights
March 23, 2013 3:40 pm

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??)

David Delaney
March 23, 2013 3:42 pm

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!

rogerknights
March 23, 2013 3:44 pm

PS: I also had insulation put in the rafters.

Paul Westhaver
March 23, 2013 3:51 pm

What are you monthly savings vs Monthly cost of ownership?

Wyguy
March 23, 2013 3:52 pm

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.

Bob
March 23, 2013 3:55 pm

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.

March 23, 2013 4:01 pm

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.

Manfred
March 23, 2013 4:01 pm

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.

Boblo
March 23, 2013 4:04 pm

HUGE house! Big Oil MUST have paid for it!

DirkH
March 23, 2013 4:17 pm

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.

MrX
March 23, 2013 4:27 pm

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?

Bruce Courson
March 23, 2013 4:30 pm

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.”

Rud Istvan
March 23, 2013 4:36 pm

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

Richard Sharpe
March 23, 2013 4:37 pm

Wouldn’t have been simpler to move to Oregon?

bwdave
March 23, 2013 4:42 pm

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.

DirkH
March 23, 2013 4:47 pm

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.

kakatoa
March 23, 2013 4:57 pm

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.”

March 23, 2013 4:59 pm

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.

Svend Ferdinandsen
March 23, 2013 5:05 pm

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.

DaveR
March 23, 2013 5:09 pm

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.

Gerald Machnee
March 23, 2013 5:09 pm

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.

Gareth Phillips
March 23, 2013 5:11 pm

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

George
March 23, 2013 5:13 pm

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.

March 23, 2013 5:15 pm

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

March 23, 2013 5:17 pm

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.
.

March 23, 2013 5:24 pm

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

March 23, 2013 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).
.

Bill H
March 23, 2013 5:46 pm

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..

ironbrian
March 23, 2013 5:48 pm

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

March 23, 2013 5:55 pm

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…

Bill H
March 23, 2013 6:04 pm

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

Catcracking
March 23, 2013 6:05 pm

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.

Colonial
March 23, 2013 6:13 pm

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!

March 23, 2013 6:14 pm

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.

Eric Dailey
March 23, 2013 6:25 pm

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.

flyfisher
March 23, 2013 6:29 pm

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

March 23, 2013 6:38 pm

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.

Colonial
March 23, 2013 6:49 pm

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%.)

Chris G
March 23, 2013 6:53 pm

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.

Austin
March 23, 2013 7:07 pm

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.

Luther Wu
March 23, 2013 7:08 pm

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

Luther Wu
March 23, 2013 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.

Bill H
March 23, 2013 7:17 pm

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..

Gino
March 23, 2013 7:19 pm

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.

Matthew R Marler
March 23, 2013 7:19 pm

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.

David Jojnes
March 23, 2013 7:33 pm

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

OverlookedSavings
March 23, 2013 7:37 pm

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……

Grant
March 23, 2013 7:52 pm

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 .

March 23, 2013 8:04 pm

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.

March 23, 2013 8:07 pm

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.

March 23, 2013 8:08 pm

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.)

March 23, 2013 8:15 pm

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. 😉

Paul Milenkovic
March 23, 2013 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. 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.

Geoff Sherrington
March 23, 2013 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. 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.

InMD
March 23, 2013 8:49 pm

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?
.

Editor
March 23, 2013 8:55 pm

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.

Editor
March 23, 2013 9:05 pm

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.

markx
March 23, 2013 9:11 pm

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/

Layne Blanchard
March 23, 2013 9:11 pm

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/

Truthseeker
March 23, 2013 9:12 pm

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

March 23, 2013 9:23 pm

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.

March 23, 2013 9:31 pm

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?

Manfred
March 23, 2013 9:37 pm

_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.

markx
March 23, 2013 9:40 pm

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

John Tofflemire
March 23, 2013 9:47 pm

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.

Bill H
March 23, 2013 9:52 pm

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..

McComber Boy
March 23, 2013 10:12 pm

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

Old Ranga from Oz
March 23, 2013 11:01 pm

“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.

Jean Parisot
March 23, 2013 11:23 pm

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

Kasuha
March 24, 2013 12:21 am

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…

Ill Tempered Klavier
March 24, 2013 12:35 am

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

jollygreenwatchman
March 24, 2013 12:41 am

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.

klem
March 24, 2013 1:51 am

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.

March 24, 2013 2:30 am

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.

Disko Troop
March 24, 2013 2:34 am

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

March 24, 2013 3:26 am

“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?

March 24, 2013 3:28 am

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.

March 24, 2013 3:30 am

It appears that Gavin has noticed that heavy taxation on energy is having the effect he desires:
https://twitter.com/ClimateOfGavin/status/315738488102322176
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.

March 24, 2013 4:26 am

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

BruceC
March 24, 2013 4:34 am

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?

Speed
March 24, 2013 4:40 am

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.

March 24, 2013 4:47 am

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/

tobyw
March 24, 2013 4:59 am

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.

beng
March 24, 2013 5:44 am

Green heads are exploding after reading this.

commieBob
March 24, 2013 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.
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. 😉

Editor
March 24, 2013 6:02 am

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.

Speed
March 24, 2013 6:09 am

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.

Tom in Florida
March 24, 2013 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. 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.

John Slayton
March 24, 2013 6:42 am

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.

Physics Major
March 24, 2013 6:46 am

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?

JamesS
March 24, 2013 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.”
In a centrally-planned state-run economy maybe, but not a “free market” by any means.

March 24, 2013 7:42 am

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.

Roger Zimmerman
March 24, 2013 8:01 am

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.

kakatoa
March 24, 2013 8:06 am

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.

DirkH
March 24, 2013 8:20 am

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.

March 24, 2013 8:20 am

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.

March 24, 2013 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 (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”.

Speed
March 24, 2013 8:30 am

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

March 24, 2013 8:31 am

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.

Robert of Ottawa
March 24, 2013 9:10 am

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

Robert of Ottawa
March 24, 2013 9:12 am

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

March 24, 2013 9:15 am

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?

March 24, 2013 9:19 am

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

March 24, 2013 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 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.

rgbatduke
March 24, 2013 9:22 am

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

Robert of Ottawa
March 24, 2013 9:22 am

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.

Robert of Ottawa
March 24, 2013 9:26 am

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.

March 24, 2013 9:28 am

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.

Robert of Ottawa
March 24, 2013 9:30 am

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.

March 24, 2013 9:42 am

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.

March 24, 2013 10:24 am

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/

Matthew R Marler
March 24, 2013 10:48 am

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.

Matthew R Marler
March 24, 2013 10:50 am

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

March 24, 2013 10:53 am

(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)

RS
March 24, 2013 11:03 am

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

Catcracking
March 24, 2013 11:31 am

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.

John Bromhead
March 24, 2013 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.

March 24, 2013 12:13 pm

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

March 24, 2013 12:14 pm

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 …
.

Charles
March 24, 2013 12:30 pm

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.

March 24, 2013 12:31 pm

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!).
.

DirkH
March 24, 2013 12:35 pm

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

March 24, 2013 12:50 pm

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
.

Norman Hasty
March 24, 2013 1:12 pm

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.

Goode 'nuff
March 24, 2013 1:21 pm

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.

JG
March 24, 2013 1:22 pm

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.

March 24, 2013 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?
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.

Paul Milenkovic
March 24, 2013 1:58 pm

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.

Robert in Calgary
March 24, 2013 2:05 pm

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

Wolfgang Flamme
March 24, 2013 2:07 pm

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).

Stephen Richards
March 24, 2013 2:12 pm

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.

Stephen Richards
March 24, 2013 2:14 pm

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