Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

I only recently found out about the CA Solar Initiative program. I might have had a vague notion that there was a program out there, but didn't realize how good it was.

But the rebate is now down to $1.95 per watt even though the Go Solar website still says $2.50 watt. Apparently they just haven't updated the website yet.

My situation is I'm in Merced, CA. Lots of sun. I'm on a 1.25 acre lot with lots of all day sun exposure. I'm looking at installing a 5KW PV system. I peak about 45 KWh / day during the summer months. It should be more than enough. I'm hoping that the system will allow us to increase our usage as we hardly ever use the AC but would like to.

My questions are:

1) We just passed the 160 MW capacity and dropped into the $1.95 rebate level. Is it a good time to buy? Are PV prices dropping faster than the the rebate amounts? Are PV prices stable(if so, then I really did miss the boat). Any new technologies out there that are going to make solar cheap enough that I should wait and not go for the rebate?

2) What is the risk of not getting the rebate? I'm afraid of committing to a purchase and then finding out that I missed the current incentive level. Is there anything I can do to eliminate the risk on the current incentive level. Or do I just need to take the plunge as fast as possible and pray that I make it in on the current level?

3) How much of the system needs to be installed by a contractor? I'd prefer to do the actual panel install myself(ground install), do all the trenching, the inverter, and everything right up to the breaker box. I'd like a contractor to do the actual breaker tie-in. What is required under the program?

4) When I go to net metering(I'm PG&E), will I be forced on a TOU rate? Do I want to be on a TOU rate? Since I'm sizing the system to get out of all of my above baseline usage, this is important, because I'm looking at this as way to make $.22 to $.31 per KWh. With the amount of sun I'm getting and assuming a derate down to .77, my installed cost, if I do most of the work myself, will result in a return on the investment of 13% year tax free. And this is before the 10% PG&E rise in October and the inevitable rises we'll have over the next few years.

5) How much of a pain is all the paperwork? Should I prefill out as much as possible and then when I actually buy the system, submit my application so I can get my incentive level reserved?

6) Looking at buying my system on the internet. Eying the Evergreen 180's which can be bought from a variety of sources in the $840 range. Is this a good brand? It seems to be really popular. I'd like to buy the system locally and have it installed completely by a contractor, but that puts the price WAY out of my budget from an investment standpoint doesn't make a very good return.

7) I'd like to consider using mirrors during the winter time to increase output. I would not consider using them during the summer.

8) Is there any reason not to get an inverter larger than the 5KW? i.e., I'd like to leave room for adding capacity. If a higher capacity inverter doesn't cost anymore, is there any reason not to get it?

Comments

  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    BTW, found this trigger tracker website which looks like it's updated daily.

    http://www.csi-trigger.com/
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).
    sorka wrote: »
    But the rebate is now down to $1.95 per watt even though the Go Solar website still says $2.50 watt. Apparently they just haven't updated the website yet.

    I did mine about 2.5 years ago at $2.50 per watt... And there was virtually no conformation about how much energy my system would generate--I probably could have mounted it in full shade and received the rebate check.

    Also, you will not get the rebate based on STC (5kW panels) but on system PTC rating (about 15% less), or on calculated yearly production for your installation (for <10kW?), or on actual production (>=10kW). So--your rebate amount may be further reduced from your first calculations (these are points that remember from a year or so ago--things change, so you have to check on them yourself).

    The "new rebate system" does require some sort of performance evaluation. IIRC, a system >=10kW requires a phone line or Internet connection with an independent monitor service.

    Figure out exactly what you need and how much it will cost to get the rebate... A $7-$10,000 rebate (plus Federal Tax Credit) for your system is still OK--but probably limits you to a commercial solar contractor as the installer (because of the complications) which may push the cost higher than a do-it-yourself install with a licensed contractor helping.
    My situation is I'm in Merced, CA. Lots of sun. I'm on a 1.25 acre lot with lots of all day sun exposure. I'm looking at installing a 5KW PV system. I peak about 45 KWh / day during the summer months. It should be more than enough. I'm hoping that the system will allow us to increase our usage as we hardly ever use the AC but would like to.
    This site tracks pretty closely to what my system generates near San Francisco... Use the default (77% derating) and 5.0 kW for your grid tie system. Play with the other numbers, if you wish.
    Mnth kWhr/m2/day kWhr/mn Price at $0.125/kWhr
    1      3.01          341          42.62     
    2      4.55          465          58.12     
    3      5.85          649          81.12     
    4      6.78          715          89.38     
    5      7.05          744          93.00     
    6      7.20          714          89.25     
    7      7.38          740          92.50     
    8      7.47          747          93.38     
    9      6.91          686          85.75     
    10     6.11          653          81.62     
    11     4.45          480          60.00     
    12     2.79          319          39.88  
    =============================   
    Year  5.80          7251     906.38 
    
    1) We just passed the 160 MW capacity and dropped into the $1.95 rebate level. Is it a good time to buy? Are PV prices dropping faster than the the rebate amounts? Are PV prices stable(if so, then I really did miss the boat). Any new technologies out there that are going to make solar cheap enough that I should wait and not go for the rebate?
    For now, solar seems to be about flat, and may go up with inflation and oil price shock... Wind-Sun will probably give you a better answer.

    My belief is that California State Policies (tax, rebates, solar/power tarrifs, grid-tie/net metering laws) will affect your end costs more than solar panel pricing (copper wire price and labor costs are probably most volatile portions right now).
    2) What is the risk of not getting the rebate? I'm afraid of committing to a purchase and then finding out that ... Is there anything I can do to eliminate the risk on the current incentive level. Or do I just need to take the plunge as fast as possible and pray that I make it in on the current level?
    When I made my plunge--it was both because I thought the $2.50 rebate may go away forever (did not happen, $2.50 came back again). And, that the laws for Solar Net Metering could change with the next legislative year (and it did--the first set of changes practically killed any solar installs for the first 6 months of 2007).

    I believed that my system would be grandfathered under the E7 rate plan but it may not be available to new installs (and that happened too--I kept my E7 plan, others where forced onto E6 plan--could not even choose E1 flat rate plan--and I got to stay grandfathered--for now).

    If you can get the E7 plan still (temporary reprieve) or even the E1 if E7 is not available to you--take it (one or the other). The E6 plan may be a bit better than E1 for you--but it is very complex and elevated rates extend to 9pm weekdays--periods when solar is not available to you (Although, E7 does extend higher prices to before noon--you may break even). My concern with E7 is that it would be almost impossible for you to manage your power usage unless you can shift power usage to the 9pm-10am period during the week (weekends are a bit less severe).

    If you are stuck with E6--Be very careful you understand the rate plan. It is complex and really would only be useful if your solar panels can supply, at least, 100% of your power usage between 10am-6pm/9pm--or else your bill could skyrocket during the summer (a concern--I can't predict your billing from here).
    3) How much of the system needs to be installed by a contractor? I'd prefer to do the actual panel install myself(ground install), do all the trenching, the inverter, and everything right up to the breaker box. I'd like a contractor to do the actual breaker tie-in. What is required under the program?
    Check the program rules and talk with one or two contractors and see if they will work with you and the state--There may be some gray areas that the state may interpret differently than you would.
    4) When I go to net metering(I'm PG&E), will I be forced on a TOU rate? Do I want to be on a TOU rate? Since I'm sizing the system to get out of all of my above baseline usage, this is important, because I'm looking at this as way to make $.22 to $.31 per KWh. With the amount of sun I'm getting and assuming a derate down to .77, my installed cost, if I do most of the work myself, will result in a return on the investment of 13% year tax free. And this is before the 10% PG&E rise in October and the inevitable rises we'll have over the next few years.
    What does the State say now? Keeps changing. 2.5 years ago, any plan you wish. 1.5 years ago, had to be TOU E6. One year ago, E1 or E7 allowed for a limited time (was unclear if you could keep the E1/E7 plan down the road). E6 was the rate plan that the State is/was pushing.
    5) How much of a pain is all the paperwork? Should I prefill out as much as possible and then when I actually buy the system, submit my application so I can get my incentive level reserved?
    That was how my contractor did it 2.5 years ago--Fill out the forms and get a conformation/reservation from the state that they guaranteed payout of the rebate--if the system was installed (of course). Contractor signed that they would accept the State Promissory note as payment (I did not have to pay the "rebate" amount to the contractor and get the check back from the state--and the contractor would not come back at me if the state did not pay for some reason).
    6) Looking at buying my system on the internet. Eying the Evergreen 180's which can be bought from a variety of sources in the $840 range. Is this a good brand? It seems to be really popular. I'd like to buy the system locally and have it installed completely by a contractor, but that puts the price WAY out of my budget from an investment standpoint doesn't make a very good return.
    Solar Guppy really likes the brand. Probably any of the "top tier" Japan/German/US manufacturers are equally good.

    Buy on price (and service+value+assistance from your vendor).
    7) I'd like to consider using mirrors during the winter time to increase output. I would not consider using them during the summer.
    Not sure that mirrors would be practical. You could poll mount and use 1 or 2 axis trackers. The cost of the trackers and higher maintenance costs many times almost becomes a wash vs just purchasing extra solar panels/inverters.

    10,158 kWhr per year / 7,251 kWhr/year = 1.40 or 40% improvement @ Fresno for 2-axis tracking.

    Is this worth it? Don't know--you would have to cost it out.
    Is there any reason not to get an inverter larger than the 5KW? i.e., I'd like to leave room for adding capacity. If a higher capacity inverter doesn't cost anymore, is there any reason not to get it?
    Technically, a 5kW inverter (output rating) would take about 5.8kW (STC) of solar panels--so you could add some more panels right now.

    And from my experience, I believe that your system could easily support ~6.4kW (STC) of panels--My 3kW Xantrex inverter has 3.5 kW of panels and only a couple times a year comes near 3.0 kW of peak power--it is much closer to 2.7 or even 2.5 kW peak power during most of the day.

    My system peaks in Spring/Fall during cool weather--summer never gets near 3.0 kW peak. And you are in a warmer region than I.

    However, the State PTC calculation usually does not pay for "over paneled" inverters/systems... So if you add them to your single inverter--you will see more power, but probably not more in rebates.

    Also, the above about "over paneling" is my understanding of how the Xantrex GT inverter works--Solar Guppy can give better guidance and you should probably check with Xantrex before you do it (my understanding is that the Xantrex, and probably virtually all, grid tie inverters limit output based on internal voltage/current/temperature limits. Not by "limiting" the attached solar panels. However, there are also arguments about the NEC interpretations and "artificial IMHO" limits they place on NRTL approved inverters--i.e., I think the NEC is full "it" when they derate Inverter/Charge controller input current/power--you still need to properly wire/fuse/breaker all the circuits though).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • autoxsteveautoxsteve Solar Expert Posts: 114 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    looks like you've got most of your questions answered. one more piece of data for you tho. Federal tax CREDIT is set to expire this year also. From what I have heard, you need to have the system installed prior to Dec 31 to claim the credit...
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    I forgot to add (actually, ran out of space too in the earlier post), simply divide inverter price by wattage... You will probably find that <1,000 GT inverters are in the $2/Watt range and the 5kW inverters are in the $0.50/Watt range...

    And there is ~25-50% difference between "list" and "discounted" pricing if you shop around... Of course, you install wants to make money too (because, he should be liable for warranty labor costs too).

    So, smaller inverters may end up costing you almost as much as buying a much larger inverter... The drawback to a large inverter with few panels is that they tend to run at lower efficiencies (because of fixed internal operational losses)--so don't run too large of inverter on an undersized array (usually, the manual will include a efficiency vs output power graph of some sort).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    So how do I find out about rate schedules prior to committing to a purchase? I'm currently on E1. Are you saying that I *have* to switch when I do the interconnect agreement?

    Also, on the TOU rates, E7 really sounds great as we're not really home during that time, so any power generated would be sold at the higher rate and we could use power later on at night at the lower rate?

    E7 extending to 9PM seems like a great way to punish those who choose to take the risk on solar. If you screw it up, you could have a sky high bill unless you're system is sized for net 0.

    Am I following all this correctly?

    Thanks.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    One more dumb question. How does surplus metering work? Is it a 12 month rolling window? I assume at some point you have to forfeit the credits.
  • autoxsteveautoxsteve Solar Expert Posts: 114 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    you've got it. iirc, it's a 12 month rolling window (think of it as rollover kWh, kind of like rollover minutes from Cingular/AT&T).

    regarding rates, if you simply change to netmetering, your rate remains the same (~$0.14/kWh). You can also switch to time of use metering... Your milage may vary...
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Here are the PG&E electrical tariffs (assuming you are PG&E).

    My preference is usually E7, E1, E6... A year and a half ago, E6 was required for all solar PV installations... If you have a large system (one that supplies most of your day time loads), E6 may be a bit better than E1.

    If you have a smaller PV array--E1 may be the best.

    For me, I can choose to use most of my power outside of Noon-6pm Mon-Friday (E7 "peak" rates). And my summer usage is not much higher (and usually lower) than my winter usage (I have natural gas for all the usual appliances).

    Regarding, can you sign up for E7. From the E7 Tariff:
    This voluntary schedule is applicable to customers for whom Schedule E-1 applies. On May 1, 2006, in 2003 GRC Phase 2 Decision 05-11-005, this schedule was closed to all new customers, but was subsequently temporarily reopened on January 1, 2007 only to new solar customers satisfying the conditions in Decision 06-12-025. This schedule is closed to new solar customers as of January 1, 2008, except that solar customers requesting service under this rate schedule prior to January 1, 2008, may begin taking this service between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2008, up to the maximum number of new solar customers established by D.06-12-025. Availability of this option will be determined in the order the request was received in either the PG&E Interconnection Application or in the PG&E California Solar Initiative Application, and additionally, after June 1, 2008, based on the date the customer is ready to interconnect.

    In other words, you may have missed the E7 cutoff--but you will have to check with PG&E and/or the State (I think).

    From the E1 tariff:
    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 transfer to a time-of-use rate, 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, you may be able to use E1, maybe, until some unknown real-time pricing program comes in place--then you will be forced (?) to use it... Unless your system is under One Megawatt peak capacity(?), but then you will not be exempt from TOU charging (even though you are on a flat rate plan????).

    You can run through the tariff sheets and find lots of circular requirements and exemptions. So, this in and of itself may not be the way to answer your questions.

    E6 runs "partial peak" to 9pm at night during the summer. Read through the tariff and you will find there are 3 rates, 5 tiers, [email protected] and on and on for weekends, holidays, winter, etc...

    One possible "gotcha" with any TOU plan... You know baseline-- roughly 300 kWhr per month. Use more, and your pricing goes up (up to $0.53 per kWhr peak time during summer)...

    Now, in theory, this is an advantage to you--because you are "selling" during peak and most of partial peak times (if your array is larger than your average kWhr usage). So, generate 1kWhr during peak... Get $0.30 credit. Use 3kWhrs during off-peak, get a 3x$0.10/kWhr=$0.30 charge--so you can use three times as much power off peak than you generated during peak--because of the pricing.

    However, from what I roughly understood 2-3 years ago (you will need to check for current information--and please let us know what you find)....

    Basically, one would think that if you generated 300 kWhr during peak, and used 600kWhr during off peak, your "net baseline tier" should be 300 kWhrs for that month (and the lowest charge levels).

    What "they" did instead, was to call this (-)300+600=300 a |-300+|600|=900kWhr of "usage" (|x|=absolute value of "x"; you used their wires to push 900 kWhrs of power and they don't care which direction that was). Now, you are in the upper tiers of power usage (200%+ ???)...

    So, now that Off-Peak pricing is upwards of $0.28 per kWhr and your Peak pricing paid for your solar power is somewhere around $0.34 per kWhr...

    You are still getting a bit of a "bump" for generating during the day--but not the 3x you should have gotten at baseline.

    People who were hurt very badly by this were electric vehicle owners that generated during the day and charged at night. If you generate during the day and use A/C and pump water at night--you may run into the same issues.

    This is where a flat rate E1 plan looks a lot better... The E1 flat rate would have been $0.12-$0.13 per kWhr...

    You may have been a bit better off with solar--but the risks (say cloudy weather, and inverter fails, emergency power required for hot spells, etc.)--predicting your bill is almost impossible and leaves you open for very high charges.

    Now, I went through some information an on-line friend sent me that discussed how PG&E did the TOU billing with Tiered Rates--and even though I have gone as far as vector calculus in college--I could not figure out how they did the billing (none of this is in the Tariff books that I saw).

    Again, this may have changed, or my understanding of the whole thing may be all wet... Don't know.

    But make sure that "somebody" (and I would make the Utility do this calculation or supply a spreadsheet) can predict your bills based on your estimated usage and solar generation.

    Because I only use ~200-300 kWhrs per month for my home, I never got a bill where this was an issue--so I cannot really help any more than what I had heard.

    Lastly, the way "net metering" works for me (PG&E).... My connect Month, I start with a balance of Zero dollars.

    Generate 200 kWhrs and consume 300 kWhrs, I get a bill of 100kWhrs*$0.12=$12.00 (assume E1 flat rate--but TOU works the same).

    $12-meter charge (if you have one) - minimum charge (~$5.00)=(-)$7.00 "in the bank" and a $5.00 minimum billing charge).

    Next month, generate 500kWhr, use 200kWhr, 500-200=-300kWhrs (generated). 300kWhrs*$0.12/kW=$36 credit. Less the $5 minimum charge (have to always write check every month). Get (-)$7+$36=$29 "positive money in the bank"...

    Now this will go on for 12 months... If you are constantly negative in the bank (use more power than you generate) you can pay the whole bill (bank+minimum charge) every month or, you can let the negative balance continue to grow and pay the whole thing off at the end of Month 12.

    And, if your system is like mine, I run a bit of a negative balance in the Winter and a big positive balance in the summer--so at the end of summer, I have a $265 positive balance. And in the case of a positive balance, it is set back to ZERO (money is "lost" or given back to the utility).

    The program is setup for you to have as close to ZERO balance at the end of twelve months. (I am planning on an electric car--I hope--so I over sized my system to get the rebates when I first installed).

    This is a hard 12 month cycle--not a "rolling" window.

    Make sure you understand the basics of billing before you cut the check--it is really confusing--especially in your case where you have the potential of high bills because of A/C.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    And, you have to stay in a rate plan for one year before you can change (if you are allowed to change with the screwy solar PV rules now)... You may also get hit with meter charges (I had to pay $277 for my E7 meter--I think all current plans you have to pay ~$3-$5 per month meter charge instead).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Talk about complicated :)

    A couple of more pieces of data on my situation. About $80/month is spent on pumping water for our acre of grass. Obviously this is done at off peak either in the middle of the night or early dawn hours.

    So are you saying the baseline is adjusted dynamically based on how much I use at night vs the day? What is the point of TOU if that's the case?

    Thanks.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Sorka,

    That is why you need to really check closely how you will be billed... The "as you use more electricity, the price per watt goes up..." stems from a presidential directive some 30 years ago...

    Of course, back then, nobody was generating Grid Tied electricity with solar PV panels.

    You really need to check closely and get a signed interpretation from your utility....

    And let us know how it really works (baseline-ing)... Hopefully it changed from 2 years ago.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,502 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).
    sorka wrote: »
    E7 extending to 9PM seems like a great way to punish those who choose to take the risk on solar. If you screw it up, you could have a sky high bill unless you're system is sized for net 0.

    That's what it is now, so if you can weasel out of E7, you have a chance.
    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 ,

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Actually, E-7 peak is noon to 6pm Mon-Friday (including holidays). All other is Off-Peak--not too hard...

    E-6 off-peak, partial peak, and peaks are simply:
    3. TIME PERIODS: Times of the year and times of the day are defined as follows:

    Summer (service from May 1 through October 31):
    Peak: 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m Monday through Friday
    Partial-Peak: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
    AND 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday
    Plus 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
    Off-Peak: All other times including Holidays.

    Winter (service from November 1 through April 30):
    Partial-Peak: 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday
    Off-Peak: All other times including Holidays.

    Holidays: “Holidays” for the purposes of this rate schedule are New Year’s
    Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor
    Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. The
    dates will be those on which the holidays are legally observed.

    DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME ADJUSTMENT: The time periods shown above will begin and end one hour later for the period between the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in April, and for the period between the last Sunday in October and the first Sunday in November.

    Got that? :confused:

    And, the kicker to watch out for is the tiered billing levels that really pump up because of the net generation during one time period "adds" with the net usage during the other 1-2 periods (I think).

    With a simple E-1 rate, generating "unwinds" the tier charges because there is only one flat rat period and the meter (at least as far as I know) cannot do a separate Tier calculation like one sees with a TOU meter and multiple billing periods in a day.

    E6 probably better represents the utilities cost of business model better (in California, the 6pm-9pm peaks when everyone is "at home" can be higher than the peaks in the middle of the business day.

    The California Independent Systems Operator has a website were you can see the predicted and current power usage vs Available Generator capacity throughout the day.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Sorka,

    I guess I should add, if you look at the electric tariffs in general, they run (this is E-6):
    Total Energy Rates $ per kWh) PEAK PART-PEAK OFF-PEAK
    Summer
    Baseline Usage               $0.29320     $0.14456     $0.08458
    101% - 130% of Baseline $0.30900     $0.16036     $0.10038
    131% - 200% of Baseline $0.40450     $0.25586     $0.19588
    201% - 300% of Baseline $0.49277     $0.34413     $0.28415
    Over 300% of Baseline     $0.53903     $0.39039     $0.33041
    
    Winter
    Baseline Usage –                              $0.10033    $0.08859 
    101% - 130% of Baseline –                $0.11612     $0.10439 
    131% - 200% of Baseline –                $0.21162     $0.19989 
    201% - 300% of Baseline –                $0.29990     $0.28817 
    Over 300% of Baseline –                    $0.34616     $0.33443
    

    And the "baseline" is based on this chart on page 4 of this E-6 PDF file,

    For "X" rate plan users (those with natural gas in moderate climates), baseline currently works out to around 360 kWhrs per month for my region... You would have to look at your bill for your baseline rate.

    So, if you don't use a lot of power, baseline pricing is pretty good. If you use a lot of power (>3x~360=1,080 kWhrs per month)--then you get hosed really badly for anything over 1,080 kWhrs in any one month.

    There are a lot of variables--so take a look at your last 12-24 months of bills (you may be able to get that online).

    For our area and 3 bedroom home--no A/C--natural gas, the average bill is around 600 kWhrs--our usage (ignoring solar) is around 200-300 kWhrs per month (less than zero usage over a 1 year period).

    PG&E has some interesting comparisons you can run on your bill vs your neighborhood averages (does not work if you have solar Grid Tie). They even have degree cooling and degree heating days information too.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    I have read through all of PG&E's E6 information and scoured the web reading through various analysis of E6. Although E6 tends to screw customers in the winter because there is not peak rate during the time the sun is shining, I can not find any information that supports the ABS rule i.e. -300+600 should be +300 but is really 900. Can anyone point to any documentation that spells this rule out?

    Thanks.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    I have asked on another forum of the friend that told me about the problem back in 2006--will see what he says.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Interesting. I did find this:
    http://www.apricot.com/~clee/solar/

    which basically describes the same thing. It turned out that it was an error in the way the CPUC calculated baseline charges. The error would only show up under certain circumstances with customers that generate power back onto the grid.

    Interesting reading. The short of it is the error was corrected and customers were credited back the the overcharged amount.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Yes, I got the conformation that PG&E did fix the tier/baseline calculations so that they don't add |generation|+usage to get the baseline number.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    That is a major relief. If it hadn't simply been a mistake, this would have been a deal killer for me since nearly all of my electrical usage is off peak even on E6.
  • autoxsteveautoxsteve Solar Expert Posts: 114 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    you might want to contact REC solar. They installed my system and if they do so in your area, they would be able to provide knowledgable, and sound advice. I actually had received two usage/generation reports from them, one for netmetering w/standard rates and one w/TOU rates. I have remained on netmetering rates (std) as I have not been able to convince SWMBO to change her lifestyle and wash clothes at night (she is able to work at home and does laundry while she works - kind of like people who say they are cleaning their oven while they sleep).
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Well, so much for that. Called PG&E last week to ask what step we were in. Was told we'd entered step 4 a few weeks ago. Found the csi-trigger.com webpage which is updated daily and showed we were just half way through step 4. As of a few hours ago, it was still at that point. Then this afternoon, it updated and suddenly we're 1/3 of the way through step 5.

    So the subsidy, as of today just dropped to 1.55 which just priced me out. From an investment standpoint, it no longer has the return necessary to pull $22K out of other investments.

    Kind of hard to believe that step 4 was completely passed in just a few weeks.

    Strange.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,502 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    What about the steadily increasing electric rates ? Factor that in for the next 10 years, you may still get a payback, and be able to afford to leave your electric on, as the starving masses are cut off for non payment.
    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 ,

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,879 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    I would be real careful of the "increasing" rate argument... Our rates (if you use baseline) have been pretty flat for years. The state PUC has been playing with the upper brackets for now (low price for me is $0.09-$0.12 per kWh, high brackets are $0.50 per kWhr).

    So--depending on your place in the "food chain" and what the PUC does--it is hard to predict.

    Also, the state/PUC has reserved the right to unplug our meters and power plans (grandfathered or not), and put us on some new plan that they have never documented and still have yet to announce any details (when, where, who, how, why)...

    From one of the PG&E rate plans:
    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.

    If you have a crystal ball that can predict what our crazy politicians are going to do in 10 years--please let me take a peak.

    I would only suggest solar if it makes sense for you.... Not on some feeling what may happen in the future. The state is too fickle to trust.

    For now, my Grid Tied system, without tax breaks cost around $0.25 per kWhr ($0.14-$0.17 with my rebates/tax breaks from 2005)--If you are using power in the higher rate tiers (over ~600-900 kWhrs), you will be close to break even with a small(er) system that can keep you in the lower cost electric tiers.

    If you use A/C, pump water, heat pump, etc., then look at your total bill and see if you can shave off the most expensive portions of it with Grid Tie.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Someone from the csi hotline called me back today. I told them about the csi-trigger page. She checked it and said that it clearly must be a mistake because she knows for sure that we're still only about half way through stage 4. She said she'd check around and get back to me. She called me a bit later to say it was an error and that the website should be updated shortly.

    Sure enough, it's back to being in stage 4. She said someone put the decimal point in the wrong place when updating some MW number and it screwed everything up.
  • newenergynewenergy Solar Expert Posts: 291 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Buy solar now or wait??? (Also, questions about CA rebates).

    Great thread. I don't have time to read it all yet. Just this for now...

    The CSI changed so that owners can install their own systems. I think that change was in last July's update, but it definitely in there in the Jan 2008 version of the CSI handbook. (I'm an installer so this doesn't help me, but that's the way it is.)

    $830 is a good price for the Evergreen 180s after taxes and shipping. It's not a terrible price before taxes and shipping, but at least if you have an account with a distributor you can get better.
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