# where's the value in using solar power?

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Registered Users Posts: 8
After viewing many posts here and abroad, I find I need to ask this question: If my electric bill is 125.00 per month, why would I want to spend 6000.00 to build/install a solar system?

125.00X12months=1500.00 power co charge per year.
6000.00/1500.00=4 years to break-even for purchase of solar system.

But that's only if 100% solar. What if only 75% solar? (gotta deal with cloudy days, etc) That's adding in an extra 375.00 per year continuing elect service cost.

6000.00 (cost of solar system)+(375.00x4)=7500.00 cost for 4 years of electricity from combined sources. 7500.00/4=1875.00 per year, or 156.00 per month. More than the original monthly elect co charge.

Granted, after the 4 years is up, you'd have only 375.00 per year to pay for grid electric, but what about the new cost to replace parts not under warranty? How long before you are tempted to 'upgrade' to something 'just a bit better', or find a need for additional power that requires additional materials costs?

Where's the value in that?

If my bill was only 125.00 per month, I'd invest my 6000.00 in a vehicle that gave me 40-50 mpg, and take anything I had left over and buy a TED to see where I could reduce my power consumption, then buy a bunch of very-low
power consumption lights and stick 'em up wherever. ... and so on.

Someone on another forum here suggested, and I have to agree, reducing the energy usage seems to be more important than replacing a 'cheap' electric bill. (I say 125.00 is 'cheap' because here in my Florida neighborhood, most of us have routine electric bills of 400.00 + per month, averaged over the year.)

So where's the point at which it makes sense to replace grid-power with solar power?

seeker

• Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

Here is one person's opinion.

No one that I know will contend that PV solar is cheaper. As we have said on this site time after time, your cheapest energy dollar is conservation, followed by more conservation, and followed by yet more conservation.

Every dollar spent on conservation will save about \$10 in PV costs.

As for the reasons for going with PV solar. Some think it is an environmental issue and is good for the environment,, some feel that reducing the need for the grid is a good thing, some live off grid and Pv makes way better sense than generator power.

Additionally some can factor in rebates from utilities, states and federal governments, as well as tax credit to help defray the up front costs. Additionally some can take advantage of time of day and net metering selling power when the cost is highest (mid day typically) and buying it back when it is cheapest, leaving a net bill of near zero even if you buy more KWH than you use. Pv panels have an expected life expectancy of ~20-30 years,, and live up to that expectation. Other hardware life (inverters etc) might be 10-15 years,, so the hardware will last longer than it's payoff in most climates.

Finally, one could logically expect that the price of energy is going to do nothing but go up going forward. With that in mind, \$X spent now to generate power at \$.50 kw might seem cheap at twice the price.

The reality is that most of us do it for a combination of reasons,,, not the least of which is it is quite fun to see how this simple framed piece of glass lets me do all kinds of electrical things.

Tony

PS You are on the right track however. As stated above conservation is a huge thing. In Fla. AC costs are your big expense. Solar hot water and solar space heat has a much faster/bigger payoff than does PV solar. In regards to Fla. however, using efficient AC can make a huge contribution to conservation. Using your AC to heat your hot water,, or your pool conserves in 2 ways. The first is that it gives you "free" hot water,, and the second is that it allows your AC to run very much more efficiently. Also using ground water, or earth heat pump exchange medium can make your AC work way better.
• Registered Users Posts: 8
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

Thanks, Tony. It keeps me on-track to hear what you have to say.

As an aside, a friend of mine has been trying to get a solar pv system up and running on his mobile home, but has hit a snag which I have not been able to verify or dispute.... he says currently, Palm Beach county is not issuing any permits for the installation of on-grid solar pv systems because they don't have any/enough 'qualified' inspectors to monitor the jobs.

As always, take that with a grain of salsa, but if anyone in my area has personal information concerning this possibility, please let us know.

Even if I don't go full blown where I am, I need to pick up a lot of experience for future use. Last year I picked up about 60 acres of raw land near Winslow Az., hoping to have a landing zone for retirement. Nothing out there but dirt and rattlesnakes, and derned few power poles, so knowing even a little will be a help.

thanks again!
seeker
• Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

Contact Solar Guppy through this site,, or Solarguppy.com,, he is a resident expert in Fla.
Also there are several others in Fla who are pretty in tune with Fla. installations, I just can't remember who off hand.

Tony
• Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

Now there's a good point - the increase in the cost of grid power. I wonder if our hosts here at Az Wind & Sun have the data to do a study.

I.e., how much grid power cost at sites where they installed systems 10/20/30 years ago, vs. how much those same sites are paying for grid power now.

If someone 20 years ago projected say a 15 year ROI, how did that projection stack up against the reality?

Inquiring minds want to know.
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

Very rough power costs in the US:

\$0.08-\$0.30 per kWhr utility power
\$0.10-\$0.30 per kWhr for Grid Tied solar power
\$0.45 per kWhr (just charging batteries at night, using power during the day)
\$0.30-\$0.70 per kWhr for hybrid solar (SWAG; GT with Off-Grid backup)
\$0.60-\$1.20+ per kWhr for Honda eu2000i genset power (\$3.00 per gallon gas)
\$1.00-\$2.00+ per kWhr for full off-grid solar

The above are very rough estimates base on retail costs, including installation and battery replacement costs (for off grid/battery backed systems).

Obviously, there are a huge number of variables (self installs, rebates and tax credits, sunny South West vs cloudy North West, amount of power used, seasonal variations, etc.).

But close enough for you to see how the major types of systems compare on a \$\$\$/kWhr basis.

Now, for example, in Northern California, if you use more than 900 kWhr per month in the summer afternoons (with Time of Use metering)--you can see \$0.60 per kWhr billing. My billing (I use less than 250 kWhrs per month) ranges from \$0.09 to \$0.30 per kWhr (time of day, seasonal changes). Works well with my GT system--get "paid" \$0.30 per kWhr from noon-6pm in the summer peaks, and off-peak pay \$0.09 per kWhr.

Compare that to a \$0.14 per kWhr Grid Tie system cost (after credits/rebates, no interest costs, assuming 25+ year life)--and it is very possible to see solar saving money right off the bat...

Don't design a system for 100% of your monthly power usage--just the amount over 900 kWhrs per month--and you can save a huge amount of money.

However--a PV system is not cheap. Conservation is the first step to take.

We are getting "smart" meters installed now... Basically, you may get a \$0.03 per kWhr discount during the "winter" 6 month period.

During the "summer" six month billing period--they will, for up to 15 days a year, charge \$0.60 per kWhr from 2pm - 7pm (for businesses; it is \$0.75 per kWhr from 2pm-6pm)-- and they will send an email 23 hours in advance to give you a chance to "turn off" your heavy power users during this time period.

Currently, this residential (and business) billing plan is optional.

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

As posted earlier, if passed, I believe Cap and Trade taxes will make the solar investment vs expense ratio a progressively easier decision to make if component costs do not grow faster than rural utility rates.

I continue to believe Arizona's rural utility rates are headed for very big increases either outright or stealthwise (buried in state and federal taxes).

The independance of off grid living without making lifstyle sacfrices and leaving the wild landscape intact is satisfying to us.
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
• Solar Expert Posts: 472 ✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

I'm still very much on-grid, and being in a state that is a net exporter of electricity my per-kWh cost is one of the lowest around. There's just no way I could cost-justify a big PV system if that was my sole goal.

But the real value of my solar system is the degree of independence it offers. Indeed, the whole reason I dove headlong into reading about solar and renewable energy in the first place was an ice storm that left me sitting in the cold and dark for two days. (And I was lucky - others were out over a week.) While a generator is the cheap / easy answer, that doesn't keep the fridge running while I am sleeping or at work, and depends on a fuel supply.

My system isn't whole-house large, but it'll keep some lights on and a computer or the ham bench powered so I can occupy my time, and keep the fridge going, should there be another outage. In the meantime, it lets me play with electrical systems - something I enjoy.

It has also helped me realize the true value of a kilowatt-hour of electricity! It's awfully easy to take them for granted at 8 cents / kWh... Now I spend a little more time thinking about alternate ways to do things to reduce long-term consumption. I have already managed to halve my daily consumption without materially affecting how I do things.
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

seeker,
concerning your buddy's rv to my knowledge, none of the states or the federal government are going to reward you for going offgrid or being offgrid as it must be grid tied to enable excess power to be utilized by others. that's right, even though you saved the grid an added connection burden they won't help with those costs. they are also insisting that the address and thus the pv system be at a permanent location. this one i can see because to do otherwise would allow too much fraud.
the bottom line for your buddy is he will not get any incentives or help that i can see and if he wants it, he will have to do it on his own.
• Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?
niel wrote: »
seeker,

Uh, he said "mobile home" not "motor home".
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

a mobile home can be moved too even though i goofed with rv. i'm not too sure how states will view them though.
• Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

I think most states will look at them as a permanent residence due to the "home" being on blocks and the wheels/axles removed.

Plus, with a lot of 6X6's wood blocks, most any house can be moved. There has been 6 moved here in the last 20 or so years.
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

ken,
i assume you are talking about wood frame homes. there's no way they'd ever move my home.
• Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

Mostly wood, but one or two where stone/brick.

Look at this:

http://www.experthousemovers.com/photo_gallery.html#
http://www.experthousemovers.com/faq.html#6

It is very neat to see a WHOLE house going down the street. The county/state paid for most of the moves here due to the farmhouse(s) being listed.
• Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

i'll drop this after this post as it's a bit off topic, but most brick homes are brick faced and still have a wood frame. my home is double brick. the inner brick is the frameworking and floor support while the outer is the brick facing. in other words the brick replaces the wood framing around the house perimeter. in fact i wish they had done this in the house center as the wood shrunk and settled there somewhat and this did not occur on the perimeter with the brick. if you are wondering, my place was built in 1910 and is on a hillside.

edited to add a responce to tony in post #16.
anything is possible i suppose with enough money, but it would probably cost more to move some homes than they are worth. built anew.
• Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

Look at the Cape Hatteris (sp) light they moved,,, or the ~6 story brick hospital in Boston if memory serves. http://weburbanist.com/2008/07/21/unbelievable-building-moving-and-moving-building-examples/ (My connection is too slow to watch it though).

Anything is possible,,, who was it that said,,"give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I'll move the earth!"?

Tony
• Solar Expert Posts: 80 ✭✭✭✭
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Re: where's the value in using solar power?

back to the OP, I don't think a solar system will produce anywhere near that type of return, but maybe if you got some great rebates it could.

Using your numbers, it would basically be the best investment you could ever make in your life. The numbers you use show a 4 year payback, or 25% a year return. That is incredible. Your money is basically doubling every 2.88 years. Imagine if you could invest a million dollars at a rate like that. In 11 years you would have 4 million dollars. I could live with those returns.

And as mentioned, do you expect electricity rates to decline?