"Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

I am seeing a couple of companies in my area that are offering "Power Purchase Agreement" type deals - You put up about $1K up front, they put a system on your roof and you commit to purchase the electricity produced by the system for the next 18 years at a "locked in" rate about equal to the current electric rate... They take care of system maintainance and upkeep. (They also collect all the gov't handouts)

Unlike CitizenRE, this appears to be a reputable company, using known products (i.e. Evergreen panels) and established installers, etc.

The assumption they make is that electric rates go up at about 5.5% / year on average, and that by locking in at todays rates, you save as the rates go up.

Is there any experience here with this type of deal, and any opinion as to whether it is a worthwhile thing to get involved with, or a scam (or possibly honest but just a bad idea from an investment standpoint...) I would like to do solar, but don't really see it making sense at current prices...

Gooserider
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Comments

  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,266Super Moderators admin
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    I, personally, would stay away from from the offer unless I really understanding the details. What happens if you sell the home and the buyer does not want the panels--do you have to pay?

    How are "today's rates" locked in? In California, the whole "Smart Grid" is going to hit big time in the next year or two. All existing rate plans (especially for GT solar) are changing dramatically. What they will look like in several years is anybody's guess.

    But--our "base rates" may go down by 5-20%--but our "peak rates" may go up by 5 times (afternoon peak time, some XX days out of the year). Here--if you use power for A/C and cannot shift your usage--Here we may still have to pay the $0.60 per kWhr (business is $0.75 per kWhr). If you have enough solar--it may still work out OK--just don't know.

    Also, given what is happening right now with financial and contract law, and changes to the regulatory environment--there is just no predictability out there.

    There may be some "advantages" for the company that are not available to you (the whole lease-back and tax structures + plus various rebates and green fees) may become a win+win situation (you pay less, they get paid more).

    I don't know--I am conservative and I want to own, not lease/rent equipment. It may still make sense for you and others.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    I agree, and certainly would get a lot more details before I'd want to sign anything, but that was the basic idea... You certainly make good points, and I agree about the virtues of owning as opposed to renting, but I don't see us doing the 20-30K of up-front money that a system would likely cost us...

    At least currently our rates are a LOT simpler than yours are. We get hit with a flat monthly fee for the connection, and then a bunch of different per KWh charges for "delivery services" and a "generation charge" for the actual electricity used, but they are all straight "flat rate" items, no "Time of use" or other fancy adjustments. Total is about $0.16 KWh.

    Supposedly we would end up getting two electric bills - one from the solar people for the power we produced, at a fixed rate of about $0.16 KWh, and one from the electric company for the connection fee and any electric we consumed over the production amount, at the then current rates.

    Where we could get hosed is if they change the rules as you mentioned, or if the electric co. rates go down (seems unlikely) or if they finally do come out with the often claimed but so far not produced "REALLY CHEAP (TM)" solar panels that get the installed price per KWh under say $1... Of course this last would sort of hose anyone that bought at current prices, but...

    Gooserider
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,266Super Moderators admin
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    I used the PV Watts site to compare Boston with San Francisco...

    And I was pretty surprised--a 1kW system in SF would generate about 16% more power than a 1kW system in Boston. Your "winter" 6 months of production is the same as mine--your summer production is depressed (if you don't need A/C--then probably not a huge issue).

    So--rate wise. With rebates and cheaper panels (than when I purchased almost 4 years ago)--you may get pretty close to your $0.16 per kWhr turnkey installed (ignoring lost interest on money, any property tax implications, any net metering/billing issues, etc.).

    Of course--spending $20-$30,000 to "pre-pay" your electric bill for the next 25 years is still not a ringing endorsement.

    What could you do with $30,000 for conservation in your home? What if you could not heat with wood anymore (coming close in California because of pollution laws). Would you use a heat pump for winter heat/summer cooling (if you need it).

    For me--the Time of Use metering with 1 year net metering has worked out very well (sell 1/2 my solar power at $0.30 per kWhr, buy "all my power" at $0.09 per kWhr--pay a $6.00 per month minimum usage charge)... However, with Smart Metering and Smart Billing plans (with appear to wipe out my current rate structure) may play havoc with my solar pv/consumption assumptions. Just don't know.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    I agree, it was a surprise when I looked up the solar potential for the area, but every site I've looked at seems to agree, this area isn't as bad as one would expect from the map and our weather.

    We have a double hump pattern on our electric usage, even with my wood heating putting a big dent in the current HVAC system operation. If I do the retrofit radiant setup I'd like to have, I probably would still get a big bump in the winter due to all the circs and such in the heating system.

    In the summer, we get a double whammy, as we do use some AC, though probably less than you do in CA, and we have the two pumps for the swimming pool that are running a good part of the time.

    My reference bill is getting a bit old, but it shows a peak use of 2375KWH in August, with over 1500 for June-Oct. I then have a couple lower months before I bump back up over 1100 during Dec and Jan, then down to around 800 during Feb-May...

    I could do a LOT with 30K on the house - which is why the big hesitation on the solar - there are a lot of other things (insulation and siding to start with) that it needs more.

    One of the reasons I want to change my wood heating setup is that I am worried about pollution - though someone needs to clobber the politico's with a log until they figure out that properly burned wood is NOT a problem... First off they are inherently "carbon neutral" so aren't a problem from a greenhouse gas standpoint, and secondly a modern EPA stove is very clean burning and efficient (smoke is wasted energy!) To do even better, a gasification wood boiler with storage setup, if run on properly seasoned wood, has over 90% combustion efficiency, and emissions that get close to that of a gas furnace (which is NOT carbon neutral...)

    Of course, the gov't is doing it's best to screw that up - current MA boiler regs require an ASME "H" stamp - not possible on the European boilers (which are built to a TOUGHER standard) and an extra added cost from the two US companies that offer the ASME stamp as an option. I'm involved with the fight to change this, but it adds to the complications.

    Gooserider
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,266Super Moderators admin
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Wow!

    That is some electric bill... I live south of San Francisco by 20 miles--so we only would like A/C for maybe 2 weeks of the year.

    You are literally using (at times) 10x as much power as our home (of course with us; no A/C, no pool, no well, and use natural gas for cooking/heating/hot water).

    If Mass. ever looks at California's electric rate system (at least for northern California)... Anything over 900 kWhrs a month--you would be paying $0.44 - $0.60 per kWhr--probably giving you a $1,000 per month bill on occasion.

    Personally, while GT solar would make sense in California with its very high rates (GT is cheaper than the power company at those levels)... I would really look at each of your major usage points (measure/estimate kWhr per month usage) for Pool, AC, etc. and go whole-hog on conservation.

    New A/C (and or heat pump). If you use enough A/C, can it be used for hot water/pool heating? Insulation + new windows + more insulation + energy start appliances + look at pool pumps/filter system + heat recovery ventilator + etc... (in our area, homes before 1970's were built with no insulation and single pane windows--I ripped down our interior drywall and insulated; and replace the old wood windows with double pane low-E vinyl windows).

    If your home is brick (or some other solid construction)--adding insulation may not be "so easy".

    While you could install solar--at these usage levels, it would be a very large system (10kW or more?) to completely offset your power bill (depending on your total yearly usage).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    We use Natural gas for the HVAC system, DHW, clothes dryer and cooking...

    House is stick-built, approx 1980 - some insulation, but not real well done as best I've been able to determine. "Design Day" heat load (0* ext, 70* int temps) is about 88KBTU/hr. AC is a relatively new (~7-8 yrs) Tappan central unit, supposedly one notch down from the max efficiency they offered at the time. The furnace is a mod/con high efficiency unit. What we were told by several heating contractors when we replaced the old system that the house came with, was that we are too far north for a heat pump to work well, unless we went with geo-thermal which is WAY expensive - (install costs are much higher than expected savings over the life of the unit) I could see about putting the AC into the pool, but I don't know if that is an affordable option...

    Most of our major appliances are older and on the energy-hog side, but every time I've run numbers, it doesn't seem to make sense to replace working units - if something dies in a non-repairable way, we will replace w/ energy star, but not until...

    We definitely need to improve the insulation, and replace a lot of our windows, problem is the way the house is built it will not be easy to do much with the roof area - 1/3 of the house is a living room that has a cathedral ceiling made of boards that are on the underside of the rafters - no place to put insulation, and hard to get at w/o major demo...

    Probably the biggest single killer that we could try to attack is the computer situation - the GF and I are both geeks, and we have a bunch of machines running at any given moment, most of them elderly hardware that don't have the latest energy savings features - however it is a MAJOR part of our lifestyle - and we don't think rebooting Linux boxes is proper behaviour...

    Gooserider
  • dwhdwh Posts: 1,341Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?
    Gooserider wrote: »
    and we don't think rebooting Linux boxes is proper behaviour...

    Gooserider

    Unless you *have* to (new kernel, upgraded libc, etc.) then you are perfectly correct...rebooting Lunix is certainly NOT proper. Uptime is king. ;)
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,266Super Moderators admin
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    It is a life-style choice... I (and my wife) tend to be "cheap"--and we are not worried about CO2 and the green house effect (that big ball of fire in the sky is responsible for warming around our home :cool: ).

    Running older, large, computers 24x7 can be a killer for both the initial power to run the systems--but also the power needed to run the A/C cool the rooms/systems.

    At least with California rates--it is very possible that you could replace your current "iron" with newer/faster/smaller/more efficient hardware.

    One large Linux system architect I worked with probably spent months trying to make is IBM Think Pad work almost as well as a Think Pad running on Windows (and he still used his kid's PC to write reports in Word ;) ). This was years ago...

    This was a few years ago--has the "Linux" on laptop gotten better integrated with support for the sleep/hibernate functions yet?

    As a hardware guy--I cringed every time I got a new major software release and the CPU/Memory/Disk/Networking requirements went up--and the resultant power increases. We were barely keeping even on the hardware side (using a made-up measurement like supported users per kWhr).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • dwhdwh Posts: 1,341Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Linux on Laptop? Yuck! That's mostly useless really.

    I always setup my laptop as a dual-boot system. Windows because there's a lot of useful applications software for it (and all the good games of course), and Lunix for when I need to do the "IT" thing.

    I use Linux on Laptop for stuff like cracking access point encryption, doing wireless site surveys and troubleshooting networks.

    But of course, you don't usually need to run things like that 24/7 except when monitoring networks (accumulating data) for troubleshooting (or cracking) purposes. So in that case, I definitely don't want any hibernation, thank you.

    But mostly Linux is used for servers, and *no one* wants or needs hibernation on a server.


    As for "working well" - either OS works just fine on my Dell or Toshiba laptops.
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    We have a very simple household rule... NO MICROSOFT on our network! The GF has a Macbook (gift from her parents) the rest of our boxes are all Linux desktops. I do have WINE set up on one of my boxes so that I can run a couple of the energy related apps that haven't been ported over.

    The only Microsoft box in the house is an old HP with a 32bit Celeron that was so old even *I* didn't think it was worth keeping in service - got an copy of W2K that I installed on it for the sole purpose of keeping the cable guy happy when we got our cable a couple of years back - It was amusing - brand new install, the cable guy couldn't get it working, I spent several hours on hold w/ CommieCast tech support, and they couldn't get it working either (but I'm pretty sure the box was thoroughly p0wned by that time), and they finally asked me if I had any other machines I could try... I admitted to the house network of Linux boxes, and pointed out that they didn't support those - they said "try it anyway" - plugged in and it has "just worked" ever since...

    IMHO one of the biggest reasons NOT to get new hardware is that I'm not interested in any sort of Microsoft box, but none of the stores seem to want to sell MS-free boxes, and I'm not interested in buying more chairs for Balmer...

    Gooserider
    (Member FSF)
  • dwhdwh Posts: 1,341Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?
    Gooserider wrote: »
    It was amusing - brand new install, the cable guy couldn't get it working, I spent several hours on hold w/ CommieCast tech support, and they couldn't get it working either

    Gooserider
    (Member FSF)

    Been there, done that...several times. The solution I found that usually works is to tell them that I'm going to use my own router - then they just ask for the MAC address of my router. I give them the MAC of my lunix box. They set that on their end and I'm in.

    (If you are FSF I suppose I should say GNU/Linux to keep RMS off my ass. Hell, he's right about that anyway - as I well know since I was using Yggdrasil in '93.)

    At one point in my lab at home I had:

    * A DEC PDP11/23 running VMS 2.0
    * An HP9000/300 running NetBSD
    * A couple of Macs (pre-OSX)
    * A couple of Winblows machines
    * A stack of 15 VALinux boxen - 13 in a Beowulf config
    * Two of those 15 as failover load balancers running VRRP
    * An Amiga
    * A box running OS/2

    At one time or another I've also worked or played with QNX, BeOS, SCO, AT&T 386, and naturally, Novell. Prolly a few others that I've forgotten. Oh yea, here's one, NextSTEP. Oh, and Irix. Oh yea, SunOS/Solaris too.

    I no longer really care about what OS...to me they're just different flavors of microcomputer OS and I'll work with whatever is handy or gets the job done. :D
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Well I'm more of a hardware guy - don't do any serious software, closest I've gotten to programming is a bit of Fortran in college (on punchcards) and when I was file area manager for the late great Boston Computer Society IBM subgroup BBS and had to maintain the several hundred line DOS batch-file that processed the uploaded files every night...

    My GF is a very senior level SW engineer though, and has done just about any platform / any language at some time or another... Between us we have about a half dozen machines that are likely to be on at any given time, and another dozen or so down in the basement "boneyard"

    A while back I decided to put in a low-voltage network, Ethernet, phone, and cable TV and ended up pulling over 6,000 feet of wire into the walls, in order to put outlets in every room of the house - even the bathrooms. 8) I don't have PC's there, but I do actually have phones - as I've noticed the distinct correlation between "comfort level" and the odds that the phone will ring...

    (Although we probably should drop this before the mods get on our case about going off topic...)

    Gooserider
  • dwhdwh Posts: 1,341Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Yea, I guess the mods'll get fed up with it at some point - then they'll get over it and forgive us for being bad little boys. :D

    I'm a network guy myself - can't program worth a hoot. Well, I *can* but for some reason I can never really get into it. It just always seems like such a chore that I try to avoid it as much as I can.


    So anyway, back on topic...

    This power purchase thing is too new for me to have gotten a grip on the ins and outs of it - and who *really* benefits from it. It might work out to be a win/win situation, but I naturally have my doubts.

    As Bill said, the contract obligations might be onerous. Getting stuck with making payments after you've already sold the house would suck, though of course you could compensate by making it so that taking over the lease on the power systems is a requirement of the purchase - IF the contract is assignable.

    Or, you might be able to just pay off the contract, like paying off the mortgage, but you'd have to add that into the purchase price or eat it off your equity.
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,266Super Moderators admin
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    From our typing discussions here--I believe that if you put the money into home as a "remodel" for conservation--you will actually increase the value of your home (keep receipts and before/after power bills to show savings).

    If you "put the money" into GT solar--at best, it is difficult to assign any value of the hardware to the buyers--My system generates about $500 worth of electricity a year. Not a huge amount of money. If the buyers pay $10,000 (for a $30,000 install) -- that is a 5% return on the investment--and not a cost savings for them if they pay $10k to the seller (at least at this time).

    And, we had somebody here say that some houses where harder to sell with GT Solar--the buyers were worried about the thing bolted to their roof (and perhaps wanted it removed?).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Well they didn't go into any details, but the outfit did say there was something reasonable in the contract about moving / sale of the house... Again it is something that would need looking into for certain, however I would hope that the company would see the benefit in not making that sort of thing so bad it would be a "deal breaker" proposition.

    Gooserider
  • RandomJoeRandomJoe Posts: 464Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?
    BB. wrote: »
    One large Linux system architect I worked with probably spent months trying to make is IBM Think Pad work almost as well as a Think Pad running on Windows (and he still used his kid's PC to write reports in Word ). This was years ago...

    This was a few years ago--has the "Linux" on laptop gotten better integrated with support for the sleep/hibernate functions yet?

    Vastly better. And even years ago, the only item I ever found intractable (aside from sleep/hibernate) was the lousy WinModems. A PCMCIA modem worked just fine, but it wasn't too much past that time that I never used a modem again.

    I have a couple of early-2000 Dells that work just fine, other than sleep/hibernate. And just picked up an Eee netbook where *everything* worked from the first boot - surprising the heck out of me! :cool: (No, not one that shipped with Linux preinstalled. This was a WinXP (never even booted) one that I wiped then installed stock Ubuntu on.)

    With the old Dells, the biggest headache was usually wireless - it would work, just took some fussing. I recently loaded new distros on them as well - one (with Broadcom chipset) did require I manually download something, but it installed itself after download and the wireless worked. The other just came up and worked like the Eee did. I was pleased - it's about time! :roll:
    dwh wrote: »
    Linux on Laptop? Yuck! That's mostly useless really.

    I always setup my laptop as a dual-boot system. Windows because there's a lot of useful applications software for it (and all the good games of course), and Lunix for when I need to do the "IT" thing.
    I disagree. I've run nothing but Linux since somewhere around 1998, and it is just as nice on a laptop as it is on a desktop. For a long time, a Dell C840 was my primary machine - even played Unreal Tournament (on Linux) with it. Never had to borrow someone else's computer to type a report either - guess the people I know don't use the more esoteric functions I keep hearing about that require Word...

    The only Windows machine I use anymore is the work computer, because we have to, and I've had more trouble keeping it running than my Linux-running Dells that are now really showing their age... (To be fair, that would most likely be thanks to the - ahem - high quality vendor supplied software/drivers we have to use!)


    And in a futile attempt to even remotely tie this into the original discussion... :roll:

    I had several machines in back running 24x7 - a small Dell server, another desktop used as a server, plus an old desktop as firewall. A couple months ago I tried reducing my usage as much as possible just for grins - went from 21kWh/day down to 9! - and a huge chunk of that was turning off those computers and changing how I did some things. No doubt I'll run one or more again in the future, but I have decided the $30 electric bill sure is nice! So some changes will be permanent.

    I got over the "uptime is king" a long time ago. Maybe I'm slowing down too, but boot times are fast enough I rarely notice anymore. The extra electrical consumption (and the heat - not welcome at all midsummer!) just isn't worth something I only occasionally use. What little real "serving" stuff I do is still being performed handily by an Atom-based "carputer" - all of 25W total - running off the solar system! :cool:

    I keep getting tempted to return to using a laptop for a primary machine - I enjoy being able to freely move around - but my current system with three monitors plus projector for movies is just so nice.... The power reduction would sure be nice though. This thing pulls 300W idling with the screens on! (Projector is another 200W!) Screen resolution is another issue - my C840 has a 15" display with 1600x1200 resolution. Absolutely gorgeous. It's very hard - if not impossible - to find that kind of resolution on anything but very large screens.
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    In short form, the only reason any piece of hardware fails to work with Linux has historically been the refusal of the hardware manufacturers to release the information needed for the Linux community to be able to write a driver for it... Any time a spec has been sufficiently reverse engineered, or the info released, a driver has been created in short order, and once in the mainline kernel, gets maintained as long as there are ANY known users - there are drivers in the kernel where there are less than a dozen known users (according to some of the kernel devs)

    Laptop makers have in the past been notorious for using hardware components that didn't have proper drivers, and to some extent this is still the case (i.e. anything with an iNVidias card). In addition, they are known to frequently switch hardware specs on internal parts without changing model numbers, or making the changes otherwise identifiable. This can result in two supposedly identical laptops functioning differently, and requiring different configurations, drivers, etc.

    This was bad enough on desktop machines, but it is even worse on a laptop because of the near impossibility of making significant hardware changes on a laptop (and the "everything on the motherboard" desktops are getting to be almost as bad, except they tend to stick with more standard hardware)

    This is one reason I stay away from laptops, the other is the simple fact that I really don't like all the compromises that are forced on a laptop user in the name of space / weight savings - I want my full-size, standard configuration keyboard, the large drives, and my big LCD monitor (my CRT monitors are only used for diagnosis and seldom used machines these days). Yes, I know I can get these on a laptop, but that route still seems like an awfully expensive route to get something that doesn't work any better...

    As to the comments on selling the house - I think that the market perception is changing - solar is getting more familiar and acceptable - and being able to advertise a house as having lower than normal utility bills (and other "green" improvements) is becoming a market advantage - albeit perhaps to a smaller number of customers (but you only need one...) In addition, I've heard that some banks are looking at a home's energy efficiency, and are willing to write bigger mortgages on efficient homes, theory being that if you aren't sending as much income to the utility companies, you can afford a bigger mortgage payment - again a potential marketing advantage...

    Gooserider
  • RandomJoeRandomJoe Posts: 464Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?
    Gooserider wrote: »
    Laptop makers have in the past been notorious for using hardware components that didn't have proper drivers, and to some extent this is still the case (i.e. anything with an iNVidias card).
    Heh. Actually, I specifically look for nVidia! I have had the best luck with them. Granted, no FOSS driver but the one they make has always done well for me. ATI just gives me heartburn, whichever drivers I try to use...
    In addition, they are known to frequently switch hardware specs on internal parts without changing model numbers, or making the changes otherwise identifiable. This can result in two supposedly identical laptops functioning differently, and requiring different configurations, drivers, etc.
    True enough - and something I tend to forget about. I have almost never had this issue, as I have always stuck with the "business" line - primarily Dell Latitudes. They aren't bleeding edge which usually means working drivers, and a given model is just about guaranteed to keep the same parts all the way through. But yes, I have plenty of friends who have gone nuts over the little changes that take place in the consumer lines.
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Well obviously if "trash picking" or otherwise doing budget aquisition you have to take what you can get, but my rule if purchasing is really simple - No FOSS driver = NO Sale!

    If I were shopping, I'd be one of those annoying people that walked in with my bootable FSF membership card (USB card w/ the GNUsense distro loaded on it) - If the machine doesn't "just work" when doing a power on boot off the card, it won't follow me home...

    Gooserider
  • vcallawayvcallaway Posts: 157Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Either I'm reading my bill wrong or I have really cheap power.

    I went to that pvwatts website and for my area it said a 4k system would save me less than a dollar a month.

    My May bill showed 1312 kWh usage with 44 kWh per day average. The bill shows my rate as being $0.05972/kWh for a total of $78.35.

    At that rate I would be worm food long before I could pay for a 4k system based on selling power. Good thing that is not my goal.
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?
    vcallaway wrote: »
    Either I'm reading my bill wrong or I have really cheap power.

    I went to that pvwatts website and for my area it said a 4k system would save me less than a dollar a month.

    My May bill showed 1312 kWh usage with 44 kWh per day average. The bill shows my rate as being $0.05972/kWh for a total of $78.35.

    At that rate I would be worm food long before I could pay for a 4k system based on selling power. Good thing that is not my goal.

    Suspect it is a bit of both... A lot of places split up the bill these days, as part of the de-regulation process. Instead of the "bad old days" when you got a single figure for "kWh used x rate" and it was easy to figure, you now have a bunch of different charges...

    1. A flat rate monthly "service fee" that is supposed to cover the costs of hanging a meter on your wall and sending you a bill every month - in theory something that costs the same whether you use no power at all, or a couple of gigawatts...

    2. A bunch of different charges that are labeled under "Delivery charges" - may include other stuff like renewable energy fees, etc. These are per kWh charges, and are supposed to be for the costs of maintaining the infrastructure of wires that carry the electric to your house. This money always goes to the same people, since distribution is inherently a monopoly... Some of these fees are gov't mandated, which suggests that "service" is intended in the meaning used by the farmer in what his bull does to the cows, but... :p

    3. The actual cost of the electricity, or "generation charge" - This is for the actual juice that you use - in some places you can choose to get your power from different suppliers, and this money goes to whoever your chosen supplier is.

    Some places have more complicated schemes, such as "Time of Use" or "Peak based" fees, I'm not sure how they do the bills there, but would expect the same basic idea to apply.

    In my case, we have a service fee of $6.21, five different "Delivery Service" fees totalling $0.04765 / kWh, and generation charges of $0.1266 / kWh; giving a total cost of $0.17425 / kWh...

    In theory under at least the simplest version of "net metering" where you run the meter backwards when producing more juice than you are consuming, you reduce both the delivery and generation charges... The only way to get rid of the monthly service fee is to go off grid.

    Judging by the amount, I'm guessing that you might just be looking at the delivery fee, not the entire amount.

    Hope this helps...

    Gooserider
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Posts: 1,959Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    I think its his total bill and it is 5 cents a kWh ... the TVA has rates like that and other hydro supplied grids
  • vcallawayvcallaway Posts: 157Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    The list of rates is available as a pdf.

    I have a basic charge of $14.28 + the $78.35 for kW usage. There is also a tax of $3.58.

    They have a program for buying power from grid tied systems but the requirements make it very expensive.

    The power company has a 4k system running at their office. You can see the info here. It is a great source of information. It shows a graph of power output from the array in an hourly graph. During the overcast winter the output is negligible.

    Solar alone is not going to provide needed power for an off grid home in my area.
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,266Super Moderators admin
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Their production graphs look reasonable for a set of panels mounted on the West Side of the building (appears not to be as much one would get from a sunnier climate--although, we are in our "natural air conditioning" weather period--very hot weather in the central valleys of California, marine layer in SF Bay Area).

    However, I always question the commitment when they cannot even get the names of their partners correct:
    The photovoltaic solar system is comprised of 20 solar panels manufactured by Shott Solar with a Sonny Boy [Sunny Boy] three phase inverter which converts the 12 volt DC power to 120 volts AC. The installation is a demonstration program in conjunction with the Bonneville Power Association. The web portal will provide statistics such as the amount of energy produced each day as well as monthly and yearly totals.
    Or when they mount the panels in such a way as to limit their ability to generate power... Assuming Seattle or better weather,

    West facing 4kW array:
    2989 kWhr per year

    south facing 4kW array:
    3879 kWhr per year

    3879/2989=1.30 ... Or 30% more output if correctly aligned...

    (If using Olympia Wa--the results would not have been quite as dramatic--must be a lot of summer AM fog/clouds).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • dwhdwh Posts: 1,341Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?
    BB. wrote: »
    However, I always question the commitment when they cannot even get the names of their partners correct:

    -Bill

    I don't question it. Having spent 10 years as a full-time IT consultant, I can explain those types of goofs perfectly...

    http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=19971206&mode=classic
  • GooseriderGooserider Posts: 48Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?
    vcallaway wrote: »
    The list of rates is available as a pdf.

    I have a basic charge of $14.28 + the $78.35 for kW usage. There is also a tax of $3.58.

    They have a program for buying power from grid tied systems but the requirements make it very expensive.

    The power company has a 4k system running at their office. You can see the info here. It is a great source of information. It shows a graph of power output from the array in an hourly graph. During the overcast winter the output is negligible.

    Solar alone is not going to provide needed power for an off grid home in my area.

    Agreed, it does look like you have cheap electric there... I also agree with the somewhat rude remarks about the company's "Photocell" demo - doesn't seem like much output, and I doubt that it even starts to make a dent in the building's power demands. Definitely looks to me like a "theater peice" - something done for publicity value rather than because they actually care making any power with it...

    One minor suggestion - it would help if you could put something about your location in the appropriate spot in your user profile (see the UserCP up near the top left of the page) - that way we can see it when reading your posts.

    Gooserider
  • vcallawayvcallaway Posts: 157Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Updated my info a bit.

    My power company is a co-op. It is run by a board elected by the subscribers (customers). There is certainly a lot of posing involved.

    They do offer a net metering plan. They have to by law in Washington. The information is available at this link..

    There are some added costs involved with permits but it is not too bad. I did talk with one of the engineers about it. He stated that they have not had anyone do it yet, but did not see any big issues. As long as the equipment is UL approved and the appropriate disconnects are in place they will approve it.

    We do have an area that has one of the strongest sustained wind currents in the state. He told me one person has been trying to get approval for a windmill for years in that area. I'm pretty sure I know who he was talking about. I think the problem is the windmill will need to be 80' off the ground to clear the trees. The county keeps denying him the permit. The area is in an area listed as "Scenic Highway". The state is real picky about what people can do in those areas.

    I'm not looking to do any grid connection. I just picked up a couple of used 85 watt panels. This weekend the plan is to setup a stand alone mini setup in my shed. More to monitor output of the panels than anything else.
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,266Super Moderators admin
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    Their Net Metering requirements/agreement seems fine... Much less paperwork that I went through PG&E 3 years ago (we had to prove homeowner's insurance and fill out long generator supplier forms too).

    About the only thing that PG&E has changed (at least hardware wise) is that they no longer require an accessible external AC disconnect switch on the side of the building, and that they supply the meter (we could buy our meter up front for $277 installed).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • solarixsolarix Posts: 713Solar Expert
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    I don't see PPA's as a scam - although they feel that way to a lot of customers. They can be a good deal and could well be the future of solar power as being the way to get homeowners in with no money down, however the terms and conditions of a PPA are pretty complex and have to handle all sorts of messy contingencies. I just don't think most people want get into that kind of relationship.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: "Power Purchase Agreements" - good or scam?

    I wrote a guide on this topic because there is so much potential for scams with PPAs. You can download the "Customer's Guide to Solar Power Purchase Agreements" for free at californiasolarcenter.org.

    The basic concept is great - those with cash and an appetite for using tax credits and depreciation (e.g. Goldman Sachs) - install systems on host-customer roofs at no money down and a known kWh rate over 10-20 years. The host customer knows what the PV power will cost, the investor has a nice steady income stream over time. All good.

    But, complicated. Really, really, complicated. The thing that makes a solar PPA a safe option for small (>500,000kW DC) host customers is an experienced and honest contract lawyer representing their interests.
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