Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

KnowledgeSpongeKnowledgeSponge Solar Expert Posts: 173 ✭✭✭
I hear a lot of you guys who really know your stuff say that solar power is an "expensive hobby" and that you can never beat the grid for low cost power.

Now if that's the case, why would anyone use solar power on a day to day basis IF and WHEN the grid is up and available?

Would it be better to maybe have a solar setup available in terms of the equipment meaning the panels, cabling, combiner boxes, Charge Controllers, Inverters etc but only use them in actual extended outages? (batteries could be the only problem)

In other words, put the panels and charge controllers and stuff in Long Term Storage but maybe have the necessary rails and wall mount boxes and cabling in place and tested. That way, your panels and all that investment are on standby for IF and WHEN the grid is not going to be available for whatever reason? They could potentially last a lifetime that way is stored properly?

Just curious what the experts have to say.

Ok, what have I overlooked? :confused:

Please remember...this is a confessed "Noob" question.

Comments

  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

    I want to come to your yard sell when you need the storage space for something else. Just teasing with my noob answer.
    cheers
    gww
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility
    Now if that's the case, why would anyone use solar power on a day to day basis IF and WHEN the grid is up and available?

    This is a very good question. There are several answers which are all the same answer: it depends on the individual situation.

    For some people the grid is available but expensive enough that GT solar actually does make economic sense.

    For some people the grid is available but unreliable enough that OG solar actually does make practical sense.

    For some people the grid is a political/economic enemy and so solar makes a statement about lifestyle and choices for them.

    So you have the varying economics of grid cost, varying economics of solar cost, and varying individual's choices about where and how to spend their money.

    What you will hear most from us around here is that if you're thinking of putting in solar to save on your electric bill, check the numbers twice. Merely reducing the bill is not always the same thing as saving money.
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,913 ✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

    Generator is not only cheaper, but also much easier to store.

    You cannot store batteries without using them. Without batteies, backup will not work.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

    i think the key here is when the grid is up and available. that is a problem for many people and sometimes just a backups type arrangement would not suffice. most of it is personal choice after weighing in all of the facts about their local.

    as to storing it all that really does not make sense to do as wouldn't that bother you to have all of that just sitting there and it's not cheap? as was said the batteries have to have a charge source to them of they will go dead.

    sometimes generators are good and sometimes not as even they have their limitations.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,382 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

    I guess I am the only one that sees it as a $$$ saving, The amount of money in my system out of pocket was paid back in about 3-4 years, but that being said it would have been much longer without the Utility rebates and the Federal & state tax credits. At some point I will have to invest in new inverters, probably 10+ years of use but until that time it is all gravy.
  • KnowledgeSpongeKnowledgeSponge Solar Expert Posts: 173 ✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility
    solar_dave wrote: »
    I guess I am the only one that sees it as a $$$ saving, The amount of many in my system out of pocket was paid back in about 3-4 years, but that being said it would have been much longer without the Utility rebates and the Federal & state tax credits. At some point I will have to invest in new inverters, probably 10+ years of use but until that time it is all gravy.

    Are there any pictures of your setup posted here somewhere?

    72 solar panels is a lot of solar power.
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

    Depends on where and how you choose to live.

    If you're making your decision only in terms of money, set up your home where you can tie yourself to the grid and use solar to reduce your utility expenses. For now, it's cheaper to do so.

    Otherwise, more alternatives will be open to you provided you are willing to accept the trade offs.

    What makes sense to some people doesn't always make sense. . .
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • KnowledgeSpongeKnowledgeSponge Solar Expert Posts: 173 ✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility
    niel wrote: »
    i think the key here is when the grid is up and available. that is a problem for many people and sometimes just a backups type arrangement would not suffice. most of it is personal choice after weighing in all of the facts about their local.

    as to storing it all that really does not make sense to do as wouldn't that bother you to have all of that just sitting there and it's not cheap? as was said the batteries have to have a charge source to them of they will go dead.

    sometimes generators are good and sometimes not as even they have their limitations.

    I figure I have at least 230Ah of batteries always available in my vehicles. I buy the exact same batteries and use them in my cars to keep them active.
    Then I have two more identical batteries for a total of about 480Ah that I use for hobby stuff and various other things.

    We have very reliable and reasonably priced electric service where I live but we also have hurricanes.

    Last major hurricane I was in we were off grid for 3 weeks.
    Only Genny I had at the time was a big, NOISY generator that sucked gas.
    Now I have a Honda eu2000i so as far as generators go Im MUCH better prepared.
    As long as Murphy doesn't find me the day after one hits.

    So solar is a viable backup for me. It's an investment to answer a reasonably likely event.
    But I also have concerns about events that aren't often considered. I won't go into those :-)
    That's why I don't mind buying then storing the equipment.

    But I still plan to hook it all up and occasionally run it to make sure it's all in good order.
    And I'm installing all the support stuff....combiner box, rails etc.
    I may even install it for a few weeks at a time a few times a year.

    Then it'll come back down and go back into climate controlled storage.

    What if we couldn't get solar panels next month (or even next year?)
    Maybe we'll piss of the Chinese and the price triples. Remember how expensive solar was 10 years ago?
    Hopefully some company in the USA will learn to make them competitively priced.
    I don' think that will be solandrya.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,658 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

    I think "Solar Dave" is grid tied?

    I'm off grid, and had a break even point of about 8 years at current prices on my old system, mostly due to being a small user of elec and having a high $25 a month user fee. I later purchased a 16 x 60 mobile home, since I already had purchased a large forklift battery, I choose to take it off grid. I'm not sure even if I consider the battery free and the 30% federal tax credit, if I can claim a break even point, likely not....

    ...but running the numbers had me paying about 26 cents a replaced kwh, and the grid was around 19-20 cent(I recall my faulty memory) based on current pricing over a 30 year period. This doesn't include any value added to the money if it were just saved, or the likely hood of increases in grid prices. Or any major catastrophic problems, replacing the electronics every 10 years and battery every 15.

    ...note I have worked to make the system as inexpensive as possible, all the work done myself and some great deals, including 2600 watts of array for 26 cents a watt, warehouse salvage after an accident.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,658 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

    I'd like to hunt for it, but there is a thread about storing electronics, I think typically they don't store well. Panels might be the exception, I have panels that are over 30 years old when I put them in storage, and they were still producing. I suspect not being in the sun would extend their life, but it's not my area of expertise.

    There are some Solar panel companies left in the US, but not many. I do wish the government had stepped in a purchased the Evergreen string ribbon technology and made it free for US manufacturers, might have helped level things out. The Chinese company that purchased then in total, appears not to have survived.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,382 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility
    Are there any pictures of your setup posted here somewhere?

    72 solar panels is a lot of solar power.

    12.5 Kw but you have to understand that the AC loads here are enormous.
    When the delta temp is 35-40F and you are cooling 25,000 cu. ft. you can imagine.
    That is like your fridge's delta temps on about 20 cu ft.

    Last July's consumption:
    House 2436 kWh
    New office/shop: 625 kWh
    Car Charging: 372 kWh

    Total: 3433 kWh

    Solar production: 1882 kWh
    July is certainly not out best production months, April - Jun usually produce the best as temps are cooler. It looks like we are trending to about 2200 kWh this month.
    Thank goodness for the power bank from the net metering. We should have about 2700 kWh in there by month end for on peak consumption.

    BTW we do still buy off peak power @ about $0.056 a kWh and last year we had to buy some on-peak in August, a couple hundred kWh.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,382 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility
    Photowhit wrote: »
    I think "Solar Dave" is grid tied?

    Yep I can't imagine the system that would allow us to be off grid, not that I wouldn't like it. It just makes no financial sense when the grid here is extremely reliable, the net metering plan is reasonable and the utility is like one unlimited battery in both size and time with no loses in the storage.

    I suspect the utility is going to change that however, all kinds of rumblings to that effect.
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,913 ✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility
    solar_dave wrote: »
    Yep I can't imagine the system that would allow us to be off grid.

    You probably would need to find some alternative means for cooling, such as swamp cooler or geothermal.
  • KnowledgeSpongeKnowledgeSponge Solar Expert Posts: 173 ✭✭✭
    Re: Noob Question - Solar Feasibility

    Impressive setup Dave <thumbs-up>
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