Solar Panels

Solar Panels have been heavily promoted recently. Of course, they only do this to save you money on your utility bill and have no interest other than saving the environment.
This explains a bit how it works. http://solarleasedisadvantages.com/
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On 3/12/2015 2:49 PM, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

That doesn't explain solar panels. It's a site arguing that leasing solar equipment is a bad idea. That probably is true for the average homeowner (heck, car leases are a bad idea for the average car owner), but some of the claims it makes about leasing are contradicted by other sites, such as this one http://www.sunrun.com/solar-lease/
I'd say it's the typical buyer beware, YMMV, yada yada, same as any lease for anything.
Something I've always wondered is what the effect a solar setup might have on one's homeowner's insurance coverage and premium costs, especially in Tornado Alley. Every time I see the roof arrays, I visualize wind damage. The replacement costs have got to be steep, and a disincentive to go solar in areas where windstorms are common. Maybe those community solar arrays would be preferable for that reason - shared infrastructure like the power grid, but on a neighborhood level, with the expenses spread out over several households, instead of just one.
I like the idea of having solar for backup power since our local grid is old and poorly maintained. Thing is, my electric usage/cost is so low, there's no economic incentive for me to buy into it -- yet.
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On 3/12/2015 1:56 PM, Moe DeLoughan wrote:

It's not just buyer beware on leases, it's buyer beware on buying too.
Here is what I've learned in looking into solar panels. Some of it applies mainly to California in general and to for-profit power providers with high rates.
Consider the following: -------------------------------- 1. What's Your Monthly Usage? Unless you have some high consumption stuff like air conditioners and pool pumps, or a Tesla or Leaf, your bill probably isn't high enough to ever break even. I don't think many people in this area have electric water heaters, electric heat, or electric dryers. 2. How Long Will You Live There? 3. Is Your Roof Suitable? You need sufficient south and west facing roof, some east is okay too. 4. Are your taxes high enough to get the federal tax credit 5. Do you need an electrical panel upgrade. A lot of 1960's era houses in Cupertino need an upgrade if they have only a 100 amp panel Newer houses will not need an electrical panel upgrade. An electrical panel upgrade adds about $2000 to the cost. But if done when the system is installed you get the 30% tax credit on the panel too. You can look at your panel and see the amperage of the main breaker.
If You Do Go Forward ------------------------------ 1. Buy don't lease. 2. Get monocrystalline panels not polycrystalline panels 3. Get panels that are at least 325 watts per panel so you need fewer panels even though the cost per watt may be slightly higher. 4. Go direct to the panel manufacturer, who will assign a local installer, not through a local installer reselling that panel manufacturer's panels. The reason for this is because a good panel manufacturer is going to be around a lot longer than most local installers and the panel warranty is through the manufacturer. 5. Avoid micro-inverters, there is no need for them in this area (California) and they add complexity and additional points of failure, and they want to charge you for system monitoring. 6. Look at the financial health of the panel manufacturer since the warranty will be through them. A lot of panel manufacturers have gone bankrupt and a lot are barely hanging on. 7. The way PG&E is doing the tiers, increasing the KWH rate for the lower tiers and slightly lowering the cost for the highest tiers, means that it may make sense to offset most of your bill and not just tiers 3 & 4 & 5. It used to be that the base rate was very low and it made no sense to offset the base tier (or second tier) but this is not so clear anymore. The break-even time is greater if you offset the lower tiers but it may still be worthwhile. 8. Get an inverter that works off-grid as well as on grid. If the power goes out, in the daytime, you'll still have power though not enough to run multiple high current devices simultaneously.
Avoid at All Costs -------------------------- 1. Leases. 2. Prepaid Power Agreements. 3. “One Year Same as Cash.” 4. Companies that advertise: “Save 20% on Your Electric Bill” 5. Any Provider with Infomercials
Remember --------------- 1. Prices are Highly Negotiable. 2. Net cost, after all rebates and credits, should not be more than $3/watt. 3. Look for “Friend's and Family” Rebates. 4. Get multiple quotes 5. Each vendor will likely propose a different configuration. 6. Most salespeople know very little 7. Salespeople will create all sorts of bizarre configurations of panels to fit what they sell 8. What they don't want to sell you is what you probably want to buy 9. Beware of phony discounts (senior, veterans, cash, 1 year same as cash). 10. If they take credit cards, and don't offer cash discounts, then get a 2% cash back credit card (Citibank Double Cash). Ask for a big credit limit so you can charge the whole system. This is a better deal than "one year same as cash" if you have the money to pay for the whole thing up front. 11. Beware of companies that do excessive advertising. 12. Beware of companies that want to talk only about your usage and how much you'll save, and not about the equipment they want to sell you.
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Interesting point.
Most grid tie inverters won't function without the ...um.... Grid.
That is a sin actually.
Mark
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On Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 4:56:53 PM UTC-4, Moe DeLoughan wrote:

I agree. It all depends on the particulars of the deal.

I would think they probably have special endorsements for solar panel coverage, but IDK.

The typical solar system like the one in that article and all the ones I've seen installed here, don't work without the grid so they can't be used for backup power. That's a common misconception. When you need it the most, it doesn't work.
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On 3/12/2015 9:14 PM, trader_4 wrote:

They can be completely off grid and have battery storage. I saw one control panel, inverter, etc. that alone would probably be 10 years of electric bills. I've not done any serious looking, but the payback seems to be very long, like 15+ years in the northeast. Maybe Arizona would be better.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote: ...

it makes more sense to put in hot water heating or pre-heating as that pays for itself quickly enough and if you set it up right you can also get some supplemental heat on winter days that are sunny.
you don't need a huge amount of solar panels to run the pumps. they are only used on sunny days so there is no need for battery backup and you can set up insulated tanks to capture and store heat. fewer solar panels, no battery backup makes for a much less expensive system.
our hot water cost for the electricity used is around 1/3 - 1/2 of our electric bill and if we can get some extra heat from sunny winter days that also cuts the propane bill.
songbird
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On 3/12/2015 7:52 PM, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Some of the newer grid-tied inverters also supply a limited amount of power, in the daytime, when the grid goes down. See <http://www.sma-america.com/products/solarinverters/sunny-boy-3000tl-us-3800tl-us-4000tl-us-5000tl-us-6000tl-us-7000tl-us-7700tl-us.html . No batteries so you only get as much power as your panels can produce at the time.
You can also create a combination system with a devices like <http://www.wholesalesolar.com/grid-tie-to-off-grid.html .
Practically speaking, if your grid is pretty reliable, using a generator is a much cheaper back-up system.
The payback on grid-tied solar systems is typically 6-8 years, but it depends on how much of your usage you want to offset and it depends tremendously on your KWH rate. For example, in my city, the top tier is 33¢/KWH from PG&E, a for-profit utility. If I go a couple of miles east, the city of Santa Clara has a municipally owned and operated utility and the top tier is 11¢/KWH so solar makes absolutely no sense.
You need all of these to make solar financially attractive: 1. Heavy usage 2. High KWH rate 3. Lots of sun and proper roof exposure
I want to scream when I see the Solar City people inside the local Home Depot. In my area A/C use is rare, most houses don't even have air conditioners and the few that do run it only for a couple of weeks per year, and most houses don't have swimming pools. Almost everyone uses natural gas for furnaces, water heating, and clothes drying. So electrical use tends to be pretty low. When you eliminate air conditioners and pool pumps from the equation electricity usage is low, especially with greatly reduced usage with LED and CFL lighting; unless you need to charge a Tesla or other electric car.
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On Friday, March 13, 2015 at 11:10:52 AM UTC-4, sms wrote:

800tl-us-4000tl-us-5000tl-us-6000tl-us-7000tl-us-7700tl-us.html>.


That's interesting. I didn't know they existed. Looks like it's new. We had this discussion here a few years ago, and I was pretty much convinced it was impractical, if not impossible. I wonder how it will work ? I can see it working great in say NV, CA, AZ, ie where there is a lot of full sun. But what happens in the rest of the county when clouds come and go? You would think having intermittent power wouldn't be a good thing. I guess they could have some intelligence in it, where if it sees it's cutting out too much, it just stops trying for awhile until conditions improve. But I guess whatever it does, if you can get it for basically free, it's good to have.


If your focus is backup power, I agree.


,





Yes, it depends on the numbers. I just did a quick estimation for here in NJ. Electric is 12c. Assuming you have an average bill of $150/mth, that's $1800 a year. NJ has a system where the electric companies are required to get an increasing percentage of power from renewable, so they hava auctions where the power comanies buy credits from homeowners that accure them based on how much solar they generate. Five years ago, homeowners were making like $3000 a year off of that. Now it's more like $750. So, assuming you wiped out your electric bill and got the going rate for your credits, that's worth $1800+$750 = 2550 a year. I would think a typical system here is probably $25K now, not sure though. You do get a fed tax credit, that could knock $7500 off. So, the net cost is ~$18,000 giving a payback of 7 years. That actually looks pretty good. But you may not wipe out the electric bill totally, so that would extend the payback.
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How many superfund sites do your think are in SV? I worked in SV for 15 yrs, for the biggest chip mfg equip company in the valley. I know for a fact that ALL semiconductor mfg is incredibly toxic. They still have an Intel wet chip fab waiting for superfunds to clean-up/remove it, in Livermore. It's been waiting for 25 yrs! There were abondoned superfund sites littering SV when I began work there, 24 yrs ago.
As for the grid-tied solar, what's that all about? Do those ppl wanna be independent of the grid or make $$$$ off it?
nb
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On Friday, March 13, 2015 at 4:08:14 PM UTC-4, notbob wrote:

The key is "abandoned" and 24 years ago. Good grief. The standards and practices have evolved over the decades. To get ground contamination you have to be pretty much pouring the crap on the ground. You could do that with oil and wind up with a similar result. Intel hasn't even had a fab in silicon valley for decades now. Their suprefund site was due to fabs back in the 70s. As long as the waste products are properly handled, it's no different than many other industries that produce waste.

I guess you don't know much about solar. All but a few percent of solar systems installed in the USA are tied to the grid. The reasons people are using them are for regular, clean energy, not because they want to be off grid. Good grief.
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The majority have been cleaned up and repurposed. The fairchild plant location on Bernal is now a shopping center after remediation.
http://yosemite.epa.gov/r9/sfund/r9sfdocw.nsf/ViewByEPAID/CAD097012298
Most Mt. View and Sunnyvale sites have been remediated and repurposed.
Continual monitoring occurs at all remediated sites.
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On 3/13/2015 1:08 PM, notbob wrote:

That is true. Semiconductor manufacturing is toxic, but newer fabs do a much better job. I worked for a very large semiconductor manufacturer too, and we had some Superfund sites.

After six years or so, the money saved in electricity costs is greater than the cost of the solar system.
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On Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 10:52:11 PM UTC-4, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

They could, but the battery cost and related issues would be prohibitive. There are a lot of solar systems here in NJ on lots of houses. IDK of a single one that has batteries and/or works off grid.
I saw one

The cost of solar has continued to come down. It's probably about half what it cost just five or seven years ago. Payback is complicated. Back then, folks here in NJ were getting hefty payments. NJ has a program where electric companies are required to get an increasing percentage of their electric from renewable sources. One way they meet that is by buying solar credits from homeowners in bidding auctions. How many homeowners have the credits versus how badly the electric companies need them determines the price. Five plus years ago they were going for like $600, now they are more like $150. So, where homeowners were getting $3000, now they are getting $750, etc. You get those credits whether you use the generated solar yourself or put it into the grid. You also may get some small payment for any excess you put in the grid, but that isn't much. Of course you also greatly reduce your electric bill.
Overall, my conclusion is that being an early adopter didn't get you anywere here. You could install the system today and you'd be at least equal, probably better off than if you had installed it 5 years ago. And that older system is now 5+ years into it;s life.
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The consensus seems to be "it depends". There are instances where premiums go up by a couple percent and others where they actually go down (some companies assume Green people are more responsible in general and less likely to file frivolous claims).
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but what they conceal is vital.”
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I visualize all of those panels having to be taken off the roof when it comes time to replace the roofing material (shingles, etc.). That would add more effort and expense to an already pricey task.
I also wonder about keeping the panels clean up on the roof. Someone would have to climb up periodically to clean off the pollen, pine needles, and other dirt and grime that accumulates. Around here anyway, it seems like you would also get limbs, leaves, and other debris building up under the panels.

I would love to install solar for backup or supplemental power. Unfortunately, on our forested property we only get about 2-4 hours of direct sunlight.
I would prefer a standalone solar array down on the ground where it would be easier to install and maintain. A few homes in our area have those, but you need the space and the sunlight.
Anthony Watson www.mountainsoftware.com www.watsondiy.com
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On Friday, March 13, 2015 at 1:38:15 PM UTC-4, HerHusband wrote:

Ideally you want them installed on a new roof. That way the two lifecycles are aligned. Put them up on a 15 year old roof and then your scenario will likely happen.

Per SMS's post, t looks like some systems with that capability are becoming available. The ones installed on the typical houses the last 15 years only operate with the grid. If the grid goes down, you have no power. IDK how well these new ones work, there are obviously some inherent issues.

Same here in NJ. Probably 95% are on roofs. Some homeowners even have them on the front side of the roof and it sure looks like hell. IMO, the devaluing of property makes it a loss for sure.
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On 3/12/2015 12:49 PM, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Nicely done.
Of course it's better if you have the cash and charge the system on a credit card with a 2% rebate.
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