How do we get more people into Solar?

The solar energy industry (both domestically in the US and globally) has experienced some large mergers and acquisitions in the past couple weeks. And I think this is an excellent trend, because economics of scale will help bring solar power to the next level. Still I am very interested in increasing solar use locally, as more of a personal carbon-footprint reduction.

I recently got a small solar installation for my hot water heater, and it was not easy. Have any of you heard of the headaches homeowner's associations can cause trying to stop solar power in the neighborhood? I had to fight my community association for four months to just have a few solar panels on my property. It was crazy. So with these and other problems, how do we get more people to go solar?

One idea I recently read about is how realtors are starting to use solar power as an incentive to real estate contracts, as nothing else is working. Adam Edward Rothwell, an attorney and renewable energy expert, talks about this on his website www.solarpowerandrealestate.com

Do any of you know any other new ways we might be able to get people to use solar?
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Comments

  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,412 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    California, and many other states, have Solar Access Laws:
    California provides perhaps the most comprehensive set of state laws designed to encourage solar access and prevent restrictions on solar energy systems. These laws address municipal restrictions, residential landscaping, and homeowner association restrictions. California’s solar access laws appear in the state’s Civil, Government, Health and Safety, and Public Resources Codes. California’s Civil Code (714) ensures that solar easements may be created to ensure that proper sunlight is available to those who operate solar energy systems, including passive solar design. The Civil Code also states that no covenant or restriction contained in any document pertaining to the sale of property can contain language that explicitly prohibits or restricts the installation or use of a solar energy system.

    But, these laws plus solar panels do make for some ugly local fights:
    SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Call it an eco-parable: one Prius-driving couple takes pride in their eight redwoods, the first of them planted over a decade ago. Their electric-car-driving neighbors take pride in their rooftop solar panels, installed five years after the first trees were planted.

    Trees — redwoods, live oaks or blossoming fruit trees — are usually considered sturdy citizens of the sun-swept peninsula south of San Francisco, not criminal elements. But under a 1978 state law protecting homeowners’ investment in rooftop solar panels, trees that impede solar panels’ access to the sun can be deemed a nuisance and their owners fined up to $1,000 a day. The Solar Shade Act was a curiosity until late last year, when a dispute over the eight redwoods(a k a Tree No. 1, Tree No. 2, Tree No. 3, etc.) ended up in Santa Clara County criminal court.
    The couple who planted the trees, Carolynn Bissett and Richard Treanor, were convicted of violating the law, based on the complaint of their neighbor, Mark Vargas, and were ordered to make sure that no more than 10 percent of the solar panels are shaded...

    Besides the costs and issues of installing solar--the questions about trees, a neighbor's addition, etc. blocking your large investment--then there are the questions (at least for Grid Tied Solar Electric systems) of what the government will do next...

    In California, we already have had Solar Grid Tied virtually killed for 6 months because of changes in the law that made solar grid tied systems use Time Of Use metering--and actually increased the monthly bill (even when using solar power) vs their old flat rate bill without solar.


    What will they do in the future--well, in our Northern California rate plans with solar -- there is a clause that binds us Grid Tied Solar users to use, a yet to be defined, real-time billing system:
    DISTRIBUTED ENERGY RESOURCES EXEMPTION: Any customer under a time-of-use rate schedule using electric generation technology that meets the criteria as defined in Electric Rule 1 for Distributed Energy Resources is exempt from the otherwise applicable standby reservation charges. Customers qualifying for this exemption shall be subject to the following requirements. Customers qualifying for an exemption from standby charges under Public Utilities (PU) Code Sections 353.1 and 353.3, as described above, must take service on a time-of-use (TOU) schedule in order to receive this exemption until a real-time pricing program, as described in PU Code 353.3, is made available. Once available, customers qualifying for the standby charge exemption must participate in the real-time program referred to above. Qualification for and receipt of this distributed energy resources exemption does not exempt the customer from metering charges applicable to time-of-use (TOU) and real-time pricing, or exempt the customer from reasonable interconnection charges, non-bypassable charges as required in Preliminary Statement BB - Competition Transition Charge Responsibility for All Customers and CTC Procurement, or obligations determined by the Commission to result from participation in the purchase of power through the California Department of Water Resources, as provided in PU Code Section 353.7.

    So--any of us that have expected a stable rate plan environment for our 25 year investment--who knows what will happen... Will the governor, with a stroke of a pen, change the rules again--I am sure he will. The above real-time pricing plan may be in place as soon as the next couple of years...

    Uncertainty over long term costs, availability of shade free sun in an urban environment, and changing laws/regulatory environment--all make long term commitments to solar somewhat of a gamble.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Solar needs to have a broad appeal for everyone. Unfortunately it is a political topic that is used for support of liberal causes so there is an equal and opposite reaction from conservatives. Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House and Regan tore them down. Shameful.

    In many threads solar is about “stopping global warming.” But. . . how about having it make sense because it is cheaper than coal and safer than nuclear. If it helps prevent global warming or a war in the mid-east. . . Wow even better. How about the slogan: Solar: Why the Hell Not.

    So here is my problem. I want Solar. Have the money. Have a home that is perfect for installation. Live in Tucson, Arizona. AND I CAN NOT GET A PERSON TO CALL ME BACK FOR A QUOTE. Locals, home Depot, companies in Phoenix. (I still need to call the fine people who oporate this board).

    So. . . I am thinking: why am I not in the installation business. Anyone with suggestions, advise or ideas, let me know. . .Bill Dycus, [email protected].
  • crewzer
    crewzer Registered Users, Solar Expert Posts: 1,832 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    I suspect that spring and summer are busy times for solar installers. Additional contact suggestions:

    NAWS: http://store.solar-electric.com/capr.html
    AZ Solar Industries Assoc., Membership list: http://www.arizonasolarindustry.org/members.html
    DSIRE / AZ: http://www.dsireusa.org/library/includes/map2.cfm?CurrentPageID=1&State=AZ&RE=1&EE=1
    Home Power / Resources / Business Directory: http://www.homepower.com/resources/directory/

    HTH,
    Jim / crewzer
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Maybe you can send some samples to the sponsor of this very wonderful website, and if the product meets their approval, and the customers that sample it like it, they might become a distributor.

    Mike
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    they may do that, but in the meantime they aren't allowed to push their products via this forum, aka spam.
    do note that i also took it out of your post too mike and when you quote spam you wind up pushing it for them too.
  • SolarJohn
    SolarJohn Solar Expert Posts: 202 ✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Quote: Do any of you know any other new ways we might be able to get people to use solar?

    Lead by example. Install solar equipment on your property and pretty soon your neighbors will be asking questions.

    As the price of gasoline, heating fuel, and electricity increases, solar solutions are looking better all the time.

    John
  • Mangas
    Mangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Certify state licensed electricians as solar installers in some form of recognized national installation and service network. Furthermore, I would offer incentives to induce the best electricians to attain certification. Increase provider depth on a state local level. Maybe even carry certification by manufacturers too.

    My experience was lot's of people say they know how to plan/size, procure and install off grid solar turnkey systems but they really don't. By definition, if it's not done properly you're an awful long way away from remedy. Undersized systems installed/equipped/programmed improperly will not attract new customers. As posted, good Best Practices systems attract interested neighbors.

    I was fortunate to have really knowledgeable people plan, install and build out mine. Also, they are reasonably close to service it.
    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
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    With out getting too political,,,,

    At present $4.40 gasoline, ~$5.00 Diesel, ~$4.25 heating oil, doubling of Natural gas in the last 10months or so? What more incentive do we need?

    What we need to realize as a society, is that the days of cheap energy are past and conservation and solar are the answers. If the price of grid power were to double in the same was as other energy has, Pv solar is competitive even without any incentive. Add in a bit of subsidy and tax advantage that other energy sources get and, BINGO, it becomes cheaper.

    In my mind it is a no brainer. I suspect that many of us on this forum have come to RE out of a need because we are off grid, or Rv'ing, we like to tinker with cool stuff or whatever. What we have learned is the technology is very viable even in a subsidized grid connected world.

    As Mangas rightly points out one of the big obstacles is having, competent, trained personnel along with standards that are industry and code accepted simply. (poor wording, sorry) Everyone cries over the loss of manufacturing jobs (see GM/Ford etc) but we could have a revolution in green collar jobs both in the manufacture and installation of conservation and RE hardware. Is it simple? No. Is it doable? Yes. Is needed? Absolutely!

    A large obstacle to more PV output is the manufacturing shortage. The raw material shortages getting under control. If we could ramp up production, then the price should come down, or at the very least, not rise.

    We could put a man on the moon in under ten years. We should be able to change the way we produce and use energy in a similar time frame. It just takes the will to do so.

    To put it bluntly, it is people like us, early adopters, that have show the world, that it can be done.

    Icarus
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    without getting political at all, solar is not going to have a large impact on those areas of energy. oil products are for primarilly mobile use, aka the car, and there are limitations right now on how far we can go with an electric car. supplemental electric power as in hybrids have more potential at this point until technology can change that. personnaly, i feel they could add to that electric power in a hybrid with special pvs and better provisions for charge access to the hybrid batteries while on the road and not just parked in the sun for charging.
    as to heating we all know that solar electric or any other electrical resistance heating is not a very efficient or good use of electrical power and adds enormous costs when trying to do so. i don't even see much hope in this area to even supplement very well.
    the thermal panels are good for supplemental or even primary heat in some cases, but is more or less a hybrid situation too. can all this help? yes, but not to the degree of making that much of a difference to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels much.
    more people would be into it if the prices were lower too, but it is presently very expensive to make any quality products and those that have some cheaper production costs still charge by the watt making that tiny extra profit small for them and of no difference to the buyer/end user. factory pv seconds are a good alternative for some of us as long as the specs remain the same as the original and are guaranteed as long as the original too while offered at a much reduced price.
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Neil,

    With all due respect, I think you miss some of the point.

    the energy market and system(s) worldwide are all interconnected. A drop in demand (or rise for that matter!) of one fuel source has an effect on others as well.

    Every KWH of solar generated to the grid, reduces that KWH that WILL be generated by some other source, Natural gas, coal, hydro etc. Yes, transportation takes a disporportionate amount of oil but,,, and here is the big but, contrary to poplular understanding can take a huge bite out of that load.

    Here is how. Aside from the example above reducing demand for oil. The US builds ~15 million vehicles a year. If 25% of these were true plug in hybrids, that would make 75 million in ten years. Now we on this forum know that you can sell back to the grid with our grid tie systems. 75 million plugin hybrids could, at any given hour become a huge storage battery, tied to the grid, allowing the spinning capacity of the grid generating system to be reduced. These cars could be owner programmed to sell to the grid at one price (when demand is high) and buy back at another. They could also be programmed to always have enough charge be in the battery to allow for the expected daily use for example. With this gigantic battery bank, scattered throughout the country, you have a huge capacity for peak demand spikes. Additionally, this huge battery bank would serve to give the solar capacity a 24/7 capability. Now if you put PV all over the place, selling to the grid, the sunny spots would even out the cloudy ones. These panels would not only be feeding the grid, but they would also be feeding the battery bank (the cars) and reducing the transportation foot print of oil.

    It is very technically doable, the problem lies in the rate structure of many of our utilities. (as many of you well know) We need to have true demand metering so that we could make our buy and sell choices based on our needs. It will take the will of the electorate through our reps to overcome the entrenched utility/oil interests that want to protect their own profit structure. If the utility can be seen to make as much or more money distributing scattered generating capacity rather than building huge new infrastructure they will see the wisdom.

    It is going to take thinking out of the box for us to move forward. The pain that is currently be felt at the pump by the average consumer is not going to be cured by drilling more oil. It is time to get serious about all of this.

    Icarus
  • Windsun
    Windsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?
    icarus wrote: »
    the energy market and system(s) worldwide are all interconnected. A drop in demand (or rise for that matter!) of one fuel source has an effect on others as well.

    Well, sort of.

    Renewables biggest effect is probably (potentially) the drop in use of peak power production plants, which often use natural gas for quick startup. Since NG can be used to produce fuel for cars, it might have a direct effect.

    I don't think it will have much effect on the base usage. The only way to affect that is to convince people (and governments) to reduce energy usage. Local governments are probably the biggest culprits, as so much of what is done is more politically motivated than based on scientific facts or actual data. (Daylight savings time is one example).
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Once again,,well sort of,

    My point is that if you push the balloon in one spot, it will push out in another.
    For example, for every KWH/MWH or what ever measure you wish that isn't need over Grand Coolie Damn for example is a KWH/MWH that can be sold somewhere else. That somewhere else could be a gas fired plant in California, or a coal fired plant in Wyoming. That in turn affects all through the grid (In Macro scale of course) eventually getting to the oil fired plant in Indiana that now doesn't have to spool up, hence saving that oil. Add in that plug in hybrids then get a portion of their motive power from the grid and ergo the sun, we reduce the demand for oil potentially significantly.

    My premise is not that we can cover all our shortages in the energy world with solar, but the scenario I spell out above is one of the best that I have heard of because it takes advantage of readily available technology (PV solar), the existing grid structure, developing technology (plug in hybrid/battery systems) and it makes great intuitive sense! It also can be implemented with very little net cost increase across the board.

    I don't know how fast the average vehicle fleet turns over, but say it is ten years. (I'm still driving a '82 rabbit pick up!) In the coming ten years, if we implement some of those ideas, AND, people begin to see the benefits to THEM, then by the end of those ten years we will be a long way down the road to making a huge dent in the demand for oil for transport. This is not a panacea to solve all our problems, but if we don't start somewhere soon and seriously it will only get more expensive, and the least among us will pay the real cost.


    Icarus
  • Windsun
    Windsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?
    icarus wrote: »

    My point is that if you push the balloon in one spot, it will push out in another.
    For example, for every KWH/MWH or what ever measure you wish that isn't need over Grand Coolie Damn for example is a KWH/MWH that can be sold somewhere else. That somewhere else could be a gas fired plant in California, or a coal fired plant in Wyoming. That in turn affects all through the grid (In Macro scale of course) eventually getting to the oil fired plant in Indiana that now doesn't have to spool up

    Well, kinda sorta maybe if...

    The US grid is not one big connection, in fact for some sections of the country there is very little interaction. While saving power in California might reduce the load on Arizona power plants, it will do little if anything for anyone East of Colorado/NM.

    See http://www.eere.energy.gov/de/us_power_grids.html
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?
    Windsun wrote: »
    Well, kinda sorta maybe if...

    The US grid is not one big connection, in fact for some sections of the country there is very little interaction. While saving power in California might reduce the load on Arizona power plants, it will do little if anything for anyone East of Colorado/NM.

    See http://www.eere.energy.gov/de/us_power_grids.html

    Well, kinda, sorta, maybe, however,,,

    I do concede the point that "the grid" is not truly a grid that is completely interconnected continent wide, I think you have to concede that it's various component "sub grids" are big enough to implement my strategy in some form or another.

    The critical point is missed if we don't consider the value of plug in hybrids as a significant contributor both to solar storage, and reduction of use of oil in transport.


    I confess that these ideas are not mine. I heard them suggested on a NPR program, and only now have I tracked down the source: Denis Hayes president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle. A very interesting guy with a whole host of experiance.

    http://www.bullitt.org/whoweare/staff

    Ps I tracked down the source interview I heard. This link should lead you to KUOW Seattle to a realaudio archived link:http://www.kuow.org/defaultProgram.asp?ID=14409

    Failing that, KUOW "The conversation" 2/27/08
  • Mangas
    Mangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    I’ve found neighbors are getting more interested in solar but are making “baby step” investments, maybe one solar application at a time. Their investment appetite for capacity seems largely dependent upon grid location, federal/state incentives offered, solar hardware durability and ease of use. What limits their interest in building a larger hybrid (solar electrical power/gas heating & cooking) off grid system like mine is simply, initial investment.

    But, they also know very significant utility rate increases (and taxes) are just around the corner to finance new energy supply technologies and plants. There lies the indecision. Will utility rates net of incentives significantly lag solar hardware/installation/maintenance costs enough to eliminate that discretionary decision? Prices should fall for better performing second generation products and rise for best practices products promising better longevity and efficiency.

    I still believe a locally reliable and knowledgeable solar installation and service network will go a long way to strengthen solar’s hand and help remove past negativity about its perceived performance. If manufacturers were smart they'd invest in it.

    Many people I talk to would like to leave the grid (or, not use it) and do not feel that they should have to hook into it to receive solar investment incentive benefits for "doing the right thing".
    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
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    I have a verbal bid back -- finally --. For a 6.8 KW system the total cost would be $44,000. The feds and state give me 3K and my local utility gives me 20 k. So the total out of pocket is 21K or so.

    The sale person said it would take $100 off my utility bill. Seems to me to be a 6% rate of return.

    Does all of the make sense? Can i just buy the stuff myself and hire an electrician. What do you think the hard costs of a 6.8 KW systme are?

    Thanks

    Bill
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?
    icarus wrote: »
    With out getting too political,,,,

    At present $4.40 gasoline, ~$5.00 Diesel, ~$4.25 heating oil, doubling of Natural gas in the last 10months or so? What more incentive do we need?

    If I am not mistaken, about 55% of the energy used in the US is for home consumption. I have looked it up and transportation uses 25% of the energy in the US.

    In 2006 40% of our energy came from Oil, 22.3 from natural gas, 22.5 from coal, 2.9 from hydro electric, 8.2 from nuclear and 4 percent from "other".

    The whole key is to get the oil number down and others up -- hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal etc. Energy uses that are elastic and can be moved to electric need to go there. The key is to have the infrastructure to support the increased demand (remember brown out in California). When people say there have been no new refinaries since 1982, I say who cares becasue it is to use more of the oil. How many new industrial solar plants have been made since 1982 (none). How many new nuclear plants (none).

    The average age of the US fleet of cars is 12 years old. (Too bad tax insentives were made after 9-11 to by SUVs and now they have to cycle out and they have 8 more years of service). We need electric plug in cars and we need to have the electrical capacity to keep electrical rates low. Build sustainable electrical plants now. (APS, the biggest electrical company in Arizona announced that it is in partnership with a Spanish company to build a concave solar electrical system in Gila Bend -- near the largest nuclear plant in the nation. The plant will cost $1 billion and have enough power for 77,000 homes. The plant will be three square miles. I say if $1 billion can take care of 77,000 homes, why not have $10 billion for 770,000 or $100 billion for 7.7 million. We can find the money by not having another war in the mid-east.

    Sorry for getting political (I am a red-blooded conservative).
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,412 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    That sounds like a pretty good price (is this solar panel STC or real power CEC out the inverter?)! Get it in writing...

    Using the defaults from here (6.8 kW of STC rated solar panels)... Looks like you will get about 11,306 kWhr per year... What is your price of electricity (flat rate or tiered) and what kind of power plan will you be on (flat rate, Time Of Use, etc.)?

    You know how much power you currently use (don't oversize system) and, have you done all there is for conservation?

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    this is a bit late, but in responce to icarus you must reread what i said.
    "without getting political at all, solar is not going to have a large impact on those areas of energy."
    i said not a large impact, but i did not say no impact. the point i made is that there is not a direct correlation, but only incidental association. also note that the evs can't be on the road during daylight hours that they are supposed to be getting a charge from the sun. to have all charge at night is not going to stop the utility from having to fire up that fossil fuel generator no matter how much you've put into the grid during the day from solar as the utility is NOT A TRUE BATTERY. the sources of major drain for fossil fuels will not be impacted much in any way by solar. ok you say, but if all had grid tied systems it would. not true as the grid needs to be able to absorb the higher voltages presented by the grid tied pv systems and with that many in place you will find the utility voltages to be way too high and out of the utility control at that point as it was not properly absorbed into the system without enough loads present to drop it. there is a point solar does not work with grid tie as it is a point of diminishing returns.
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Niel,

    My point is that plug in hybrids or EV will be net consumers of electricity, no doubt, but,,,The average car in on the road only a few hours per day. (I don't have a statistic only intuition). Say the average car in on the road 4 hours a day. That leaves 20 hours available both to recharge from the grid, but in my example, be available to sell for peak load times. If memory serves, some of these peak loads last only seconds, and perhaps a few minutes. It is that spiking peak load that is very hard for the grid to prepare for, and must by neccestiy have a reserve idle capacity at all times.
    While cars tend to drive during rush hour(s) in the aggregate a vast number could be plugged in at any given time 24/7.

    If the plug ins can REDUCE the need for that spinning idle, AND if the number of PV installations are greatly increased to charge during the day the need for fuel of any sort for electrical generation would be significanlty reduced. This would have a ripple effect through out the energy market, such as gasoline, nat. gas, coal, fuel oil, hydro etc.

    The biggest genius of this is the huge battery capacity that is serving dual purpose: That of providing motive power and second, acting as a24/7 battery bank for PV storage.

    My real point is to further the discussion, and try to spur some action on the part of the people who can have a real effect on the out come. What has become clear is that continuing what we have been doing all these years and expecting a different result is by definition, insanity. These ideas won't solve all our problems, but it is, in my mind, a reasonable start. One of the problems we have had in these discussions, is if it won't "solve" the problem in it's entirety, the we won't pursue it. As I say, we must start somewhere. Those of us in the solar community can and should lead the way.

    Good luck, and keep the discussion lively!

    Tony
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    I'm new to this board and have been considering going solar.

    But here are my newbie thoughts
    I thinks it the right thing to do, but I'm not altruistic. (maybe even a little selfish) but it seems to me that it is difficult to get into solar ($ up front;which I have).

    It seems as if I would get punished for going with solar.
    Also in my situatuon, I can easily produce more than I use-my set up would be perfect-but why would I? It would cost me money and I would get nothing in return but yet the power company would be able to sell the extra I produce. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one in this situation. Just imagine, if every rooftop in California's Million Rooftop program was producing max power and not just what the owner uses.

    I can use the money I would have used to install solar and invest it and get a better return. I'm not talking about putting solar in to make money, but when you consider the length of payout and the fact that the average american moves 5 or 6 times during their lifetime; I don't don't think could ever break even

    Its like the idea of buying a smaller car and selling your bigger car to save on gas. My current car is paid for, buying a new car would cost money initially and then I still have to buy gas for the new gas, granted less, but it would tals 7+ years to recoup the initial investment. Just doesn't make sense(financially)

    Also it seems to me that rebates never go to the customer. Companies just charge more. Toyota Prius for example, now that the tax incentive is gone the price of the car has gone down (granted more production ect had brought the price but not that much)

    I think I'm done ranting.

    I really want to go solar but . . .
    (convince me)
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    well bfr, welcome and don't take anything i say here in a wrong manner as it is not meant that way. to a large extent i do understand where it is you are coming from. much of what you say is true as many utilities are making it very difficult on somebody interested in doing this and the government red tape never seems to change, at least not for the better. even i have said that if you are looking to make money you'd do better elsewhere.
    as to convincing you, we aren't here to do that. i will ask you what you are doing here instead for something brought you here, as none of us put a gun to your head? was it that you wanted to make money or are you just interested in solar for personnal reasons? what are those reasons if that's the case? i'm glad you have the kind of money to provide all of your electrical needs via pv if you so wish to do so, but it isn't up to us to convince you as that is your decision to make. we can talk with you about what you are thinking or answer some general questions that may help you in your decision, but it's still up to you as to what you do or to what degree you do it in the end. maybe you may wish to do more reading here before you totally make up your mind or it may raise more questions for you to ask, but in any case it doesn't hurt as you aren't in a hurry to make a decision either way are you?
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,412 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    I guess you are near Riverside CA--so you should have good sun and good weather--perfect for solar...

    Almost always, your first expenditures should be towards conservation (insulation, windows, heating, cooling, appliances, lighting, etc.) as conservation expenditures usually off a better return on investment.

    Solar Thermal (domestic hot water and perhaps space heating) is probably the best bank for your buck.

    Solar PV electric Grid Tied systems are the next best investment--and in California you should be able to get 1 year net metering--where your power company acts just like a big AC battery with 1 year of storage for only $6 per month or so... And yes, at the end of one year (in California), your excess cash in the bank is "given" to the utility (plan is set up for home owner to end up with zero power usage--really zero $$$ usage--over the year). If you have too large of system, your money is lost. If you have too small of system (in California), the required change over to a Time Of Use billing plan can actually increase your power bill if the GT Solar is unable to spin your meter backwards during the peak daytime billing (and/or you use too much of your power during peak billing times).

    The State of California has done as much as they can to tilt the equation towards the customer (Utility company is forced to buy your electric power at retail prices and sell it back to you later at retail--or if you have a Time of Use power plan, they will buy it at $0.29 per kWhr and sell it back to you at $0.09 per kWhr)...

    But even with all of these incentives, it still is pretty close to a wash if your electric bill all fits into the first power tier level (for me, around $0.115 per kWhr for flat rate residential). My Grid Tied system costs about $0.25 per kWhr without rebates and around $0.14-$0.17 per kWhr after state rebates (installed several years ago).

    So the only way, in the end, I will "make money" on my system is if I use more electric power--and towards that end, using some spot cooling/AC (couple weeks per year it gets hot here) and some sort of electric vehicle where my incentives. Plus the concern that California was going to really jack-up power costs because of regulatory miss-mismanagement (before the current oil price shock).

    For larger power users in California, and some other states, electric rates for those with AC, electric heat/hot water, etc. can get into the $0.30+ per kWhr--and solar Grid Tie is already capable of beating those rates--especially if you include rebates/tax credits.

    In the end, you are correct in that the systems cannot be easily moved as people move, and, so far, solar PV does not save most people much money. And the unknowns ahead for even people like me that already have grid tied solar are pretty worry some... California is heading towards "real time pricing"--and at this point in time, those of us with GT solar may (will?) be forced switch from our current rate plans onto real time pricing... And how do you plan for a billing system you have never seen with rates that you don't know, and usage times change minute by minute...

    I cannot convince you to go with Solar GT--but, for now, I am very happy to be getting a fixed $5 electric bill per month--or $60 per year and I still have enough free power "left over" to run an electric car about 4-6,000 miles per year (SWAG) from a 3kW GT system.

    Still thinking about the SolarRoofs.com thermal system to better control our gas bill which will be going up in the next few months too...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Neil, I took it as gvien.

    I want to go solar, I like all the political reason for doing it, the environmental reasons, and (yes,hopefully)the economic reasons. And the last reason is pretty big, as I'm not rich. I don't want to make money (would be nice) but at least a recoupment of investment in a resonable amount of time shouldn't be too much to ask.

    I would love to produce more power than I need; for California and the reduction of power outages and such, and etc. But (selfishness)why should I help out if it costs me money, and not some joe who doesn't give a rat's a@# or worse some company who can make money off me. Like I said, don't make me rich, but hell, let me recoup my money in this lifetime/house.

    BB I thought the PUC cannot force a utilty to buy your power. I thought with net metering all your getting is "in store credit" for the year (your big battery metaphor). What I'm not getting is this buy for .09 and sell for .29 you mentioned - is this part of the net metering. (An example, get solar, net meter, make power all day, "sell" for .29, use pool pump at night and use power at .09)

    Guys thanks for responses,

    I am almost ready but I'm one of those guys that usually knows more about the car I'm buying than the salesman - so I'm kinda trying to get all the info I can.
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,412 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?
    BigFatRatt wrote: »
    BB I thought the PUC cannot force a utilty to buy your power. I thought with net metering all your getting is "in store credit" for the year (your big battery metaphor). What I'm not getting is this buy for .09 and sell for .29 you mentioned - is this part of the net metering. (An example, get solar, net meter, make power all day, "sell" for .29, use pool pump at night and use power at .09)

    Yes, you are correct "(An example, get solar, net meter, make power all day, "sell" for .29, use pool pump at night and use power at .09)"...

    The .29/.09 is the summer spread for E7 Time of Use plan under my current PG&E plan... So, they are "forced" to buy expensive power from me (Peak times: noon-6pm, Mon-Friday) and sell it back to me during off-peak times at low rates. Assuming that I can generate lots of power during peak times (which I do), I get a huge break on purchasing off-peak (my solar panels generate about 3x as much "kWhrs" during peak vs off-peak).

    The PG&E billing (baseline, tiers, time of day) are all based on kWhrs... However, the "bank" is all based on dollars (month to month accounting, settle up last month's bill of the year--either I pay the negative balance, or my positive balance goes up in smoke--I can choose to pay the expected negative amounts once a month, or write one big check at the end of the year--"free loan" if my account is negative balance at the end of 1 year).

    The E7 rate plan is pretty good for solar (peak is mostly when the sun is shining). The E6 plan, however includes peak and partial-peak time periods that go to 9 or 10 pm at night--and have more pricing bands (off, partial, and peak) include partial peak during weekends and holidays, and change between summer and winter...

    I think, for most people E6 TOU (with a GT system sized to zero out your bill over 1 year average) may be better than E1 flat rate residential--but it is complex and difficult to really overlay your energy usage against the E6 plan (which is now required for all Northern California Home Solar generators--I think)...

    E7 is easier to explain to the family and to avoid heavy power usage with the noon-6pm Mon-Friday all year long. But because it gave so much advantages to Solar GT customers--it is probably why it was discontinued for new installs (currently, our older system is grandfathered in--for how long, don't know).

    -Bill

    I need to add that you will have to becareful of the baseline/tiered rate plans (at least with PG&E)... It is not clear to me exactly what happens if you sell 300 kWHrs at peak, and buy 900 kWhrs off peak. I believe that you are put in the 600 kWhr rate tier (for me, the first break is at ~300 kWhrs per month) and so for the "second" 300 kWhrs, you will be paying a higher rate.

    Here is a post I made last month that details how PG&E manages baseline/tiered pricing with Solar GT and TOU billing.
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    Thanks for link

    That's going to take some time to absorb. :confused:

    (I wonder how many installers let their customers know this kind of info.)
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,412 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    BFR,

    The Rate Link/Post is larger than it has to be... There was a problem a couple years ago on how PG&E calculated the base rate usage--for a while, they charge both the using of electricity and the generating of electricity as positive numbers when adding up your base rate tier...

    I.e., -300 generated peak, +300 used off peak--base rate was 600 kWhrs vs what you would have expected to be zero kWhrs...

    That has been fixed (it will be zero kWhrs used in terms of billing tiers), and you can ignore that discussion--but I did not care enough to try read through, edit, and cut out that part of the discussion... I never go above base rates (generating or consuming), so it does not affect me (at this time).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    as you state you aren't rich then you can get a smaller grid-tie setup as you don't have to get one as big as the capcity you use. this would be able to have pvs added later on if designed right when and if you feel the need to expand. you won't have to worry about if they'll buy your electricity if you are still using some of theirs after it's all said and done. also, do you have need of battery backup or, like bb, is it a rarity you lose power? here i lose power often though usually not for as much as a day even though it has happened that long. been here about 25yrs and it has happened a day or longer about 5 or 6 times with the longest about 8 or 9 days. if no need of battery backup then it'll be cheaper and more efficient, but you'll have no power during an outage.
    as to the ins and outs of california utility stuff and their rebates, bb seems to know quite a bit.
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,412 admin
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    I know how to get more people interested in Solar--Have the government put a stop to it:

    US halts solar energy projects over environment fears

    The US government is putting a hold on new solar energy projects on public land for two years so it can study the environmental impact of sun-driven plants.

    The Bureau of Land Management says the moratorium on solar proposals is needed to determine how a new generation of large-scale projects could affect plants and wildlife on the land it manages.

    The move has angered some solar energy proponents who argue it could hold up the industry at a vital juncture, given the pressing need to secure alternative energy sources at a time of soaring oil prices. "This technology has been around for nearly three decades.

    If there is an environmental concern, that can be addressed without putting a halt to this technology and helping to impact our greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental degradation from coal-fired and natural gas plants," said Brad Collins, executive director of the American Solar Energy Society...
    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How do we get more people into Solar?

    hmm, reverse psychology. might work!!:cool: