Anyone switch to solar power yet?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by iBlazed, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. iBlazed macrumors 68000

    iBlazed

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    #1
    I've been seeing panels going up like crazy. I also live in one of the top 5 US states for solar energy, New Jersey. Everyone who I have spoken to has said that it was the best investment they ever made. I have only had one company come so far to give an estimate, I want to get a few quotes first. I was told that my house easily qualifies as I have almost no shade on my roof and it faces the right direction. If you have them please share you experience. Did you purchase or are you leasing? How much are you paying? How has your electric bill been?

    Another question I have is when you have solar panels, are you actually using the solar energy you generate or are you still just using energy from the grid like before and being credited for the energy you generate back into the grid on your electric bill? How does that work?
     
  2. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #2
    It depends on what type of panels you're using.

    Photovoltaic panels (PV) convert light from the sun into electrical energy. They aren't particularly efficient, and in most cases they don't generate enough electricity to power a building without some outside help from other energy sources. These panels, since they generate electrical energy, CAN be used to backfeed the grid, resulting in a credit on your bill.

    Solar thermal panels (STE) are more efficient than PV panels, but they don't generate electricity; instead, the light from the sun is converted into heat, typically for hot water or space heating. With these types of cells you don't put any energy back into the grid, but you could save yourself a bunch of money on heating and/or water heating costs.
     
  3. djjclark macrumors regular

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    Feb 17, 2008
    #3
    I had a 6 KW PV system installed a couple years ago. It is a grid tie system such that any excess energy is fed back in to the grid and I am credited it on my bill. The system was sized based upon on previous energy usage such that I should come out about even for the the year. I expect the break even point to be a little over 7 years and it seems to be on track. I paid all costs and received a fed and state tax credit. Here in CA we have a small monthly fee ($5) to be connected to the grid and then once a year we have a true up with PG&E for electricity cost (think I paid ~$100 each year for usage). My wife wasn't overly thrilled with the look so we paid a little more for the Sunpower panels and I promised to let her run the AC as she wished with out complaining.
     
  4. tshrimp macrumors 6502

    tshrimp

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    #4
    Are these solar panels affordable? Has the government taxed this stuff yet? Thanks
     
  5. hulugu, Mar 24, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2014

    hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #5
    I have passive solar heating system for water and a 4Kw system for electricity.
    We also have a rainwater harvesting system for outdoor plants, though we're playing around with gray water, and in the future we may add an outdoor shower, etc.

    We only use gas for cooking and our utility bills are functionally about taxes and the sewer connection.

    I've also helped install PV systems on ranches in Mexico. A friend of mine just received a ranch as part of his grandfather's estate, and we're talking seriously about turning that into a completely self-sufficient system using locally-harvested building materials, with it's own PV system and solar heat.

    Here, an installed panel system is about $17,000, including tax incentives from the state. Some localities, including Tucson are allowing people to get leased systems. Basically, your rooftop becomes part of the local utility grid and you get part of the dividend.

    Note: in Arizona, the number of panels was rising so fast that the utility companies panicked and created an $5 monthly fee for solar customers (it's actually $.70 per Kw, but most people will pay about $4.90) essentially trying to claw some of their revenue back.

    My cost was considerably less because I just bought the panels and installed them myself. A 250 MW panel is about $350 and the cost is dropping while the efficiency is going up year-by-year.
     
  6. iBlazed thread starter macrumors 68000

    iBlazed

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    #6
    Just the opposite. There are all sorts of federal and state incentives depending on your state. My state is big on incentives for solar. I have two or three quotes coming up this week so I will post an update when I know my cost.

    ----------

    The ones I'm looking into and I think are the most common are Photovoltaic. But my question is am I actually using the energy they generate, or does all of that energy go back into the grid and I just get credit for it on my bill? I'm not clear on that. Are people with solar panels truly "off the grid"?
     
  7. tshrimp, Mar 24, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2014

    tshrimp macrumors 6502

    tshrimp

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    #7
    Thanks Hulugu and iBlazed.

    This is something I definitely want to look into. I do NOT have an HOA (Home Owners Association), but for those who do can they stop you from doing this? I know my cousin put an antenna on his house and they tried to make him take it down until he showed him the law states an HOA can't stop you from putting up an antenna. Any similar thing here for those in an HOA?

    Edit: Not sure if this makes any difference, but where I live the city owns the electric company. Does this affect anything? When shopping around for electric providers told by providers I could not switch (TXU, Relient, etc) because of this, so am stuck with what I have, so wasn't sure if it would affect something like this as well.
     
  8. chown33 macrumors 604

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    Aug 9, 2009
    #8
    It depends on the state and the municipality (city or town). You need to either look up the laws for the specific locality, or tell us which state and municipality apply to you (or your cousin, if you're asking on his behalf).

    A local building center, such as Lowes or Home Depot may have some info on where to look for laws. Otherwise contact whoever grants building permits and start asking there.
     
  9. hulugu, Mar 24, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2014

    hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #9
    Solar heat systems are typically more common since they've been around for awhile and are often included in pool-heating systems as well.

    That depends on your system. Generally speaking, if you're already tied into the utility, you're going to stay tied and your solar energy goes to your house with the excess either stored or just abandoned. Some people can push energy into the grid, so their meter runs backwards on sunny days and they end up with a running surplus on their bill.

    This depends on the utility and your system. My system puts energy into the grid during the day and then grabs some at night, so my bill is effectively $0.00. The advantage of this is I don't have to deal with storage.

    The systems in Mexico are completely off-the-grid, so there's some batteries in a small house to store the excess and use it at night.

    It depends entirely on the HOA language and the state you're in. Colorado has very strong renewable energy laws, so while an association fought the installation of a PV system at a school, they ultimately were in the wrong legally. As with everything, check your local laws.

    Unless you're going to cancel your service, you will need to deal with the local monopoly (duopoly) in same way, but most seem open to solar panel systems.
     
  10. iBlazed thread starter macrumors 68000

    iBlazed

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    #10
    Where I live we also have no choice of electric company, I don't think that makes a difference. An HOA can probably ban solar panels if they wanted to, but from what I have observed in my area most don't. I have relatives who live in 55 and up developments and they have solar panels.

    ----------

    Home Depot is actually teamed up with a solar company right now and they have a booth in a lot of the stores when you walk in. They're really starting to push solar panels now.

    ----------

    I was told that in my area with JCP&L you can push energy back into the grid. I want to know if all the energy gets pushed back into the grid or just your excess energy. I would like to have batteries that store extra energy in case of blackouts. Which brings me to another question, if there's a blackout during a sunny day, will I have power or not? If not that means that I won't actually be using any of the energy I generate.

    ----------

    There are actually some that have their own fields of solar panels.
     
  11. djjclark macrumors regular

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    #11
    My system first provides energy for my use and any excess goes on to the grid. If my needs are greater then what my system is producing I pull from the grid. I understand that this is the most common and cheapest as no batteries are involved. Going off grid requires batteries (or other storage means). My energy company pays me ~$.12/kwh rather then the wholesale price of ~$.05/kwh so things will vary by state and energy company. The inverter used in my system is required to disconnect from the grid if the grid losses power (blackout) and shuts down as a safety measure for people working on the grid. A grid tie system is really about reducing your bill and carbon footprint (maybe on footprint depending on panel production).
     
  12. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

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    #12
    You don't go completely off grid or you wouldn't have anyone to pay you for excess energy. You are basically just using the grid to make a net neutral energy footprint unless you want a complicated battery system and the chance of blackouts.

    I imagine to see some pushback if it gets popular. Billing people for converting to solar should be banned immediately.
     
  13. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #13
    Exactly. If you're already connected to the grid, you might as well stay connected and then you get the advantages of solar energy without the drawbacks.

    That's what Arizona recently did. We have to pay ~ $5 a month because we have a solar system and it goes straight to the utility companies.
     
  14. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #14
    As I pointed out, it depends. You would have to be able to generate enough power to (1) completely serve your house, and (2) have a surplus on top of that, in order to backfeed the grid. And you would have to be connected to the grid to do so.

    Very few facilities, homes or otherwise, are truly "off the grid." In all probability, your home would not be, either.
     
  15. ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

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    Oregon, USA
    #15
    It's an important question. If a utility makes generation investments for 110% of its customer's needs (allow for growth) and over 5 years, 20% of them go net 0, the payments for the initial investment don't magically disappear. There are already cases where customers are incentivized to reduce power use (efficient appliances) and utilities struggle with the reduced income. Ideally, the utility would plan for the change and under build or use customer rooftops directly.

    To the aesthetic question, if we could develop roofing tiles with built in EV, the look may generate less objection. And installed as roofs wear out, part of the cost would be incorporated into existing building ownership costs.
     
  16. Happybunny macrumors 68000

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    #16
    This would solve my problem.
    I am not allowed to put solar panels on my house, because it is a Grade One Listed Historical Building.
     
  17. iBlazed thread starter macrumors 68000

    iBlazed

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    #17
    That's a shame. I think the look of the very old retrofitted with 21st century technology actually looks kind of cool. But I can see why they don't allow it.
     
  18. ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

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    #18
    Tiles come in several styles - wood, ceramic, and composite. But the overall fashion is 'flat square'. The design would need EV panels shaped like tiles or a base material suitable for housing EV panels, then some kind of electrical contacts so tiles can link directly (no wires). Then just plug into the corner tiles.

    To win aesthetically, panel/tile color and shade should be close. Most tiles I see are brown and most EV panels black, but perhaps they can be made brown with minimal efficiency loss. Low cost dummy tiles would reduce costs for shaded areas, while harmonizing the whole roof.
     
  19. APlotdevice macrumors 68040

    APlotdevice

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    #19
    It could be worse. The utilities wanted to charge ~$50-100 a month.

    Oh, and they're not done... Now they're trying to increase the property tax for those who lease their solar panels.
     
  20. EvilQueen macrumors 6502

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  21. tshrimp macrumors 6502

    tshrimp

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    #21
    Did some research much of the day yesterday, and just too costly for me :(
     
  22. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #22
    Certainly.
     
  23. TSE macrumors 68030

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    #23
    I have had 'em on my boat for about 10 years... charges up the starter when it isn't being used for weeks.
     
  24. mrkramer macrumors 603

    mrkramer

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    #24
    Most likely you would have some power, but depending on how much power your solar system generates you may not have enough to run everything. And I haven't heard of many home systems that install batteries, I've only seen that in some really remote places that are off the grid and totally reliant on solar power. If you wanted batteries for power in a blackout you could ask whoever is installing your system, but I don't think it would be very cheap, and probably not worth it unless you have a really unreliable electrical provider.
     
  25. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    #25
    Thread revival. I live in New Jersey and have had solar panels since December of '15. Couldn't be happier. The federal government paid for 33% of the cost with a dollar for dollar tax rebate. That left me with a loan of $187 a month for 20 years. Our electricity bill used to be a minimum of just under $200 a month to over $300 a month during the summer (2 zones of central a/c). My bill is now $8 a month. So, basically free electricity. But wait! There's more! In NJ, you get to sell your SRECs to power companies. Basically, power companies have to produce a certain amount of carbon free power every month but can't always, if ever, meet that amount. So they buy the SREC (a measure of the amount of power solar panels produce) from homeowners like me. I've averaged $230 a month in SREC sales, so I'm actually making money! YMMV depending on the amount of panels you get and how much electricity you need.
     

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