Home editor's blog on going solar

Musings on going solar

solar panels with head shot of SCD editor superimposed on themIn the Editor’s “On Going Solar” blog section, I’ll write about experiences I have with going solar. While many of the entries will involve a description of the process of going solar, some will also be general musings on going solar. The entries about my, really, our – my wife and family are also part of the whole experience -- going solar experience will be more informal and more current than the articles about my solar-charged driving experience and my general experience going solar I’ve posted to the “SCD primer” and “Going solar” sections. I hope some of you find at least some of my musings on "going solar" interesting, potentially useful, and, ideally, thought-provoking.

Home solar more expensive than 5 years ago

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This 5.59 kW solar system, for which I paid $8,000 out of pocket in 2010, would cost me more than two times as much, out of pocket, today. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

editors-blog-entry3I hope the headline for this blog entry attracts some attention -- because I'm frustrated about all the headlines on how solar is coming down in price.

Solar is coming down in price -- BUT solar rebates are dropping, typically faster than the price of solar itself. That's what's happened here in Colorado in Xcel Energy territory.

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3 reasons home solar still rocks after 3 years

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Our 5.59 kW home solar system has produced nearly 26,000 kWh of clean electricity since being installed by REC Solar three years ago. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

editors-blog-entry3Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted something new to SolarChargedDriving. It’s not easy holding down a full-time job, being a full-time father of two young girls, and doing all the things that need to get done for an upcoming year-long adventure in Germany, which will see us jet off to Hamburg exactly three weeks from today.

Meanwhile, we’ll have tenants leasing our Aurora, Colo. home who plan to lease a Ford C-Max Energi plug-in and who, ironically, will beat us to having a solar-charged EV in our solar-covered Aurora, Colo. home! Go figure ;-)

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Are squirrels a serious threat to a solar system?

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[Flickr.Com Creative Commons Photo By Kenny (Zoompict) Teo]

editors-blog-entry3So, what do a home solar system, squirrel/critter guard (more commonly known as chicken wire) and way too much yard work have to do with one another?

In my case, quite a lot, unfortunately.

Three years ago, when REC Solar installed our 5.59 kW home solar system (which has been working great, having pumped out about 25,000 kWh of electricity), I had no idea that squirrels represent a threat to a PV system (think gnaw, gnaw, gnaw on your panel wires), or that squirrel guard was an option to prevent squirrel disaster.

No one at REC Solar talked to me about squirrels and squirrel/critter guard.

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Utilities need to stop whining about home solar

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The old model of centralized electricity production is being replaced by localized, distributive energy production -- much to the dismay of large, centralized utilities, whose business model is not only outmoded, but anti-competitive and fundamentally un-American. [Flickr Creative Commons Photo By John E. Amos]

editors-blog-entry3Are you as sick and tired as I am of Big Utilities complaining about distributive rooftop solar threatening their monopolistic, centralized, and, frankly, thoroughly un-American business model?

There's more and more talk about Big Utilities trying to undercut net-metering, a key provision that allows people like me to push extra solar we produce with our 5.59 kW system during the day back onto the grid and which requires, in our case, that our utility Xcel pay us the whopping per kWh rate of about 3 cents -- compared to the 11 cents per kWh rate Xcel charges my neighbors to use the excess electricity our solar system has produced.

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Solar PV pick: Microinverters over central inverter

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Our SMA Sunny Boy 6000 central inverter as it was being installed by REC Solar workers in June 2010.

editors-blog-entry3I'm definitely a fan of microinverters, or tiny inverters -- inverters, which convert the DC electricity produced by your solar panels to the AC electricity needed, are necessary components of all solar PV systems  -- installed on the back of each solar panel. Studies have shown they are more efficient than central inverters.

Moreover, unlike central inverters with microinverters you don't have to deal with the silliness of solar panel "strings". Strings mean that the lowest performing panel on a "string" of panels, or a certain number of panels that must be linked together for electrical reasons that I'm not going to get into here, drags DOWN the production of ALL of the other panels on that string. 

In fact, if we had to do it again, I would definitely go with a microinverter rather than a central inverter based system (we have a 5.59 kW system with a SMA Sunny Boy 6000 central inverter).

Microinverters were really only beginning to take off three years ago when we had our system installed, but they've grabbed more and more the market here in the U.S.

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