Extra solar production = future gas savings

utility-meter-3000editors-blog-entry3We hit 3,000 extra kWh produced by our 5.59 kW solar system this week — and we’ve had our array on our roof for just 8 1/2 months. Meanwhile, we’ve used about 2,700 kWh, or about 320 kWh per month.

If things continue to play out as they have, we will have generated a total of about 8,000 kWh at the end of June 2011 — the year point for our system — and we’ll have used about half of them to power various electric items in our house, most notably our dryer, which has been far and away our biggest electricity hog, even though I have hung about 1/2 of our loads of laundry outside since we went solar.

Meanwhile, we’ll have banked the other 4,000 kWh with our utility, Xcel Energy, for future use for an electric car, or for future use as what we like to call Sun Miles®miles driven by an electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) whose batteries have been charged using solar energy and/or using electricity from kWh credits amassed via solar offset generation.

4-dollar-gas-signFour-thousand kWh means up to 16,000 miles of electric driving (1 kWh = 4 miles), and at least 12,000 miles of EV driving under the worst case scenario, where 1 kWh might yield three miles of driving.

$2,240 worth of gas
For those interested in the math and in fuel cost savings, assuming 25 m.p.g. and $3.50 per gallon — yes, gas prices in the U.S. are up big time from just a year ago, that’s $2,240 worth of fuel.

Not bad for one year with solar, especially considering that our utility, Xcel Energy, would pay us $160 for those same 4,000 extra kWh.

Of course, we probably won’t be using that 4,000 kWh until we get our second plug-in car, which will be a plug-in hybrid such as a Chevy Volt — our first plug-in car is very definitely going to be a pure electric, either a Nissan LEAF or Ford Focus Electric.

That’s because we’ll produce another 8,000 kWh next year, use 4,000 kWh to power our house, and the other 4,000 kWh to power our new plug-in. Check that — I doubt we’ll use 4,000 kWh for our new plug-in because we won’t drive it 16,000 miles. Between our two current cars, a 1992 Acura Integra and a 1994 Toyota Camry, we drive about 12,000 miles total per year.

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Powering our neighbors’ homes
Here in Colorado, we won’t be able to get our hands on an EV until, I’m guessing, no earlier than September.

I’m also really beginning to waffle on a Nissan LEAF and lean much more toward a Ford Focus Electric, meaning we may end up waiting even longer to get the EV. That means even more Sun Miles® saved up by the time we actually plug an EV into the sun here in sunny Colorado.

Meanwhile, our neighbors will continue to benefit from the hundreds of extra kWh we’ve been pumping out every month. In fact, I’ve actually begun to wonder if we might actually end up powering an entire second single family home in our neighborhood with the 4,000 extra kWh we produce in our first year with solar.

The houses in our neighborhood aren’t big by American standards at least, averaging 1,600 square feet. So it’s certainly possible that if we have a neighbor whose as energy conscious as we are, that, by the end of June 2011, we will have, with our 5.59 kW solar system, powered our house plus one full neighbor’s house for an entire year!

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