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Going Solar - Maybe
Old 10-11-2012, 08:31 AM   #1
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Going Solar - Maybe

We are working with a PV company to install a 9.7 KW PV system on our home. Installation is contingent on qualifying for the Florida Power Light Rebate program of $2/KW. On our behalf, company will apply for us when the rebate program opens on Oct 16th at 8am. So we will see if we move forward next week. The FPL rebate opens and closes within minutes, so the contractor we are working with has hired a computer geek to quick load client applications as soon as the rebate window opens at 8am. Even without the rebate the financials seem to be compelling, but with the rebate the financials are almost a no brainer.

Breakdown for 9660 KW system

Gross PV Cost: $3.6/W $34,776
FPL Rebate $2/W -$19,320
Fed Inc Tax Credit 30% -$10,432
inc tax on rebate + $3,864
Discount on Pre Pay $.2/w - $1,932

Net Investment $6,956

Avg Annual Savings $2,100

Payback less than 3.5 years, Investment return about 23%

System will consist of Mage Powertec plus PV Panels, 2 SMA Inverters, and a Racking System designed to meet the 150mph wind rating required for our area.

I was surprised by the variability in estimates, another PV installer was at $5.8/W using essentially same PV panels but with microinverters. I considered solar roof tiles but price was about $6.5/W. The company with the lowest estimate was actually the only company that was strictly a solar company, the other two were either roofing or general contractors that entered into the solar pv market.

Anybody else considering solar? Anybody with solar have any suggestions for anything they wish they would have done differently with the install?
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Old 10-11-2012, 08:56 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by jimnjana View Post
Anybody else considering solar?
We did consider it, but after doing the workup and being aware of the payback period (at our age) it made little sense.

While we're in our mid 60's, we don't think we will be in this home (or around ) to make it worthwhile (even though we replaced our roof, two years ago).
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Old 10-11-2012, 08:59 AM   #3
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Seems pricey - but I'm used to do these DIY way and don't know if it would quality for FL rebate this way.
I consistently see Sunelec in Miami having really good prices in your neck of woods. I see on their website grid-tie systems from $1.82/W (these do not include racks, which would add a little to the price)
Systems Grid-Tie :
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Old 10-11-2012, 09:06 AM   #4
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I'm curious how the $2,100 average annual savings was calculated. Do you have the breakdown?

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Old 10-11-2012, 09:25 AM   #5
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I'm curious how the $2,100 average annual savings was calculated. Do you have the breakdown?

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I found IMBY to be an good tool to verify the claims: IMBY | maps.nrel.gov
I'm curious about the savings claimed too, as in my location (which has almost the same solar insolation) IMBY only estimates annual $1100 savings with optimal tilt and azimuth for 10k W array)
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Old 10-11-2012, 09:58 AM   #6
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I found IMBY to be an good tool to verify the claims: IMBY | maps.nrel.gov
I'm curious about the savings claimed too, as in my location (which has almost the same solar insolation) IMBY only estimates annual $1100 savings with optimal tilt and azimuth for 10k W array)
That had lower $/KWhr than here (.09 vs .13):

http://www.solar-estimate.org

I plugged in the zip for Indialantic, FL, $175/month bill, $3.6/watt and 69% usage (to get ~ 9.7KW system), and the numbers were close to the OP.

I could go on to my usual subsidy rant, but don't have time now. But that is separate from whether the OP should take advantage of this or not.

Separate Q - what does this do to the property value? Pro-greenies will say it increases the value, others say people don't like the look of panels on the roof, worry about maintenance, don't understand it. From what I understand, that washes and the property value is unchanged, which means you lose your investment, but that is only $7,000 versus the $25,000 your neighbors and taxpayers lose (couldn't help to at least touch on the subsidy issue...)

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Old 10-11-2012, 09:59 AM   #7
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I've found this site to be useful and informative. I am in no way affiliated with them; have just used their info and pricing as an investigative tool.

Solar Panels from Wholesale Solar

My elec usage is 300-500 kwh, except in the gawd awful Texas summer months, when solar output would be at its peak anyway. If I could generate another 300-500 kwh on my own, my bills would be relatively flat except during say August and September. Sorry, spreadsheet is on the home computer, but let's assume an output of 327 kwh for a system cost of $5465, plus racks (around $75 ea or $750 for a ten panel system) and installation. The next level is ~654 kwh for $9204+...

I think if these systems were properly oriented to take full advantage of the summer sun, the output might be higher than 5 hrs/day during the summer, but likely lower during the winter, which seems the better problem to have...
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Old 10-11-2012, 11:02 AM   #8
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I wish our utility had those great discounts, but they silently launched a program years ago for both business and residential with a sliding (down) scale of $, and told only the businesses about it, and now most of the cash is gone and the discount sucks. It'd take me 10-15 years to get a payback at the prices I'm looking at, and thats just too long to bother.

Sure, electricity prices might go up. Since my bill (and most of my neighbors) was $500+ last month, I don't think they can go a lot higher and actually have customers pay the bills. There were a lot of people in my upper middle class neighborhood suffering through 100+ degree days in august and september that wouldn't turn the a/c on.

As a point of reference from someone near me who actually bought a system, her real world usage and billing seems to support the long payback period. Assume you'll get 70-80% of the lowest output that is forecasted, sub off the cloudy days and a lot of the winter when the sun is lower in the sky and its a long pay back.

You might get some better results by checking the rate plans at your utility. PG&E offers one that lowers the base rate considerably but its crazy high from 1-7 or 2-8 during the weekdays, and they have one that is lower but crazy high in the afternoons for up to 15 days a year, and they tell you in advance which days those are...all the 105+ days in the summer. You can also combine those rate plans. Just don't turn on your a/c, electric wall oven or electric dryer in the afternoons. As early retirees, that shouldn't be much of a problem. I modeled this, and it'd save me about 20% on my electric bills if I could completely avoid large electric usage for six hours a day, 5 days a week, and that savings is year round. No holes to drill either.
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Old 10-11-2012, 11:20 AM   #9
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It depends where you live.

Here (in the Mid-Atlantic), our electric bills - for a 100% electric house are much higher (2-3x) in the winter, since we do not have access to natural gas (bottles are an option, but not cost friendly).

For me/DW, summer is the "cheaper time", using our HE heat pump. Of course, the shoulder periods of late spring and early fall are the cheapest, as far as electric bills go.

It's not where you live, but also the variances on current electric needs, the age of your roof (on an older roof, you have to consider the additional cost of a replacement before a solar install), and your age to calculate a true personal payback.

It's not the same for everybody...
True enough, but in north Texas the a/c bills are the killer. I do have a 4yo roof, so no problem there, but I'm unsure I'll stay in this house forever, and solar installations aren't really that big of a selling point for most folks...
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Old 10-11-2012, 11:26 AM   #10
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With prices of panels down to a bit more than $1/W, I think it is economically feasible even without tax or credit incentives, but one must install it himself. Labor costs can be high.

My problem is that I do not have the right roof orientation, and do not have enough land in my city home for a ground installation. Being a tinkerer, the low panel prices almost make me want to move to get a better and larger lot. Well, almost.
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Old 10-11-2012, 11:32 AM   #11
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solar installations aren't really that big of a selling point for most folks...
A few years ago my seasoned realtor described it as a non selling point with perhaps a minor negative. Problem was people didn't understand them entirely, or thought they'd require some kind of special maintenance they didn't know about. Given that the primary barrier to making a sale is uncertainty, confusion and doubt, I see her point.

But that was a few years ago. Perhaps people are more eager to buy a house with solar on it. I know the new construction builds around here that come with solar aren't selling any better than, or for higher prices than a non solar new home.
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Old 10-11-2012, 11:39 AM   #12
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With prices of panels down to a bit more than $1/W, I think it is economically feasible even without tax or credit incentives, but one must install it himself. Labor costs can be high.
I have the perfect roof size and orientation for a substantial solar panel array. Based on my last look at the numbers, even if I had the desire to do my own install prices would still have to come down by 50% more to make the payback under ten years. Electric rates of under $0.09 KwH will do that.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:00 PM   #13
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I am curious to know if solar panels mounted on a roof will increase the expense of roof replacement. Or the incidents of roof leaks. Any statistics on that?
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:06 PM   #14
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I have the perfect roof size and orientation for a substantial solar panel array. Based on my last look at the numbers, even if I had the desire to do my own install prices would still have to come down by 50% more to make the payback under ten years. Electric rates of under $0.09 KwH will do that.
I wish I had those rates. Most of my bill in the summer is at higher tiered rates in the 30-40c+ range.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:37 PM   #15
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I wish I had those rates. Most of my bill in the summer is at higher tiered rates in the 30-40c+ range.
Dang, what do they fuel those power plants with, gold?
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:43 PM   #16
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With prices of panels down to a bit more than $1/W, I think it is economically feasible even without tax or credit incentives, but one must install it himself. Labor costs can be high. ...
Don't forget to add in ~ $.50/watt for the inverter. And they have an expected life of 10~12 years. So add another $1 or so over the 30 year life of the panel, or another $.50 to the 10 year payback calc.

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I have the perfect roof size and orientation for a substantial solar panel array. Based on my last look at the numbers, even if I had the desire to do my own install prices would still have to come down by 50% more to make the payback under ten years. Electric rates of under $0.09 KwH will do that.
We are at ~ 11 cents. If these things are not selling like hotcakes in decent solar areas with 2x~3x my rate, you have to wonder why.

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Old 10-11-2012, 12:56 PM   #17
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Don't forget to add in ~ $.50/watt for the inverter. And they have an expected life of 10~12 years. So add another $1 or so over the 30 year life of the panel, or another $.50 to the 10 year payback calc.



We are at ~ 11 cents. If these things are not selling like hotcakes in decent solar areas with 2x~3x my rate, you have to wonder why.

-ERD50
Under slightly different conditions, I'd probably do it. But I'm not sure how long I'll stay put, my j*b is always on the line for budget cuts, etc. But I'm just geeky enough to do it otherwise. Certainly not "free" energy, but there's enough summer sun around here to help offset the ginormous A/C bills. Perhaps if the gumment forced builders to install on all new homes, but I'm sure panties would be bunched if they did that.
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Old 10-11-2012, 01:07 PM   #18
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Since the house is in Florida, what is the impact of the solar panels on Windstorm Insurance, and how well would the panels take a storm? Just like were I live the concern would be Hail, and how well panels would take it. (Of course at .09/kwh and no local subsidies it would take 30 years to pay back here)
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Old 10-11-2012, 01:10 PM   #19
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Since the house is in Florida, what is the impact of the solar panels on Windstorm Insurance, and how well would the panels take a storm? Just like were I live the concern would be Hail, and how well panels would take it. (Of course at .09/kwh and no local subsidies it would take 30 years to pay back here)
Yes, hail storms would be a concern in Texas...
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Old 10-11-2012, 01:18 PM   #20
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... Perhaps if the gumment forced builders to install on all new homes, but I'm sure panties would be bunched if they did that.
Consider my panties bunched!

I can't see any good reason to force these on the public. That has the unintended consequence of slowing progress. Why bother putting R&D into making them better/cheaper, when you have a captive audience buying them at the current prices?

Here is what I would support - there should be some standard method to factor in the reduced utility bills for any conservation efforts for determining the mortgage approval. If you can reduce your energy bill by $100/month, you qualify for another $100/month in mortgage payments.

There should also be some transparent method to present this to renters. Right now, if the renter pays the utility bill, the owner is motivated to put in the cheapest stuff he can, regardless of ongoing costs. But I don't like one-size-fits-all subsidies or standards. If you live in an area with low heat or low AC usage, buying cheap might be the right decision - just give me the info and let me decide.

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