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    Thread: Solar panels

    1. #1
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Solar panels

      Not sure where this will lead.

      I started considering solar due to a combination of things: a buddy getting a system installed, learning the difference between leased and owned systems, and being really annoyed with those green-shirted sales people in Home Depot pushing PV systems. At the time I figured (correctly I think) that the reason they push so hard is because it's a great business plan for them, and whatever's good for them is bad for us.

      Anyway, after getting a quote from a family-owned installation company, I couldn't help but wonder "how hard could it be?" Looks like a DIY system would be about 50% that of an installed system; between that and the 30% tax write-off, it makes it fairly affordable. What really muddies the water though is the constantly changing rules made by electric companies. Here in the San Diego area, Time-Of-Use (TOU) is getting implemented and challenges solar's advantages, or at least, reduces them. Roughly a year from now, electric rates will be adjusted much higher between 4-9 pm during the summer, which really limit's solar's ability to chip away at that high cost due to hitting so late in the day.

      One reason I started a thread here was to make people think about how much we're paying for each and every powered filter component. For example, I'm running:
      1. A 1/4-hp W. Lim pump (371W) as a main pump.
      2. A 120W UV
      3. A 1/15-hp W. Lim pump (160W) driving the skimmer and SG filters
      4. Two air pumps, around 120W for both

      Given the big rate hike during the late afternoon I wondered what I could do from a conservation point of view, with or without solar. Due to the filter's configuration, the main pump and UV could be put on a timer, shutting off both between 4-9pm. The skimmer, SG filters, and aeration would be left on, ensuring clean water and good oxygenation of the moving-bed filter and pond.

      The saved money works out as:
      371W + 120W = ~500W = 0.5KWh
      0.5KWh * 5hrs * 30 days = 75KWh
      75KWh * $0.42 = $31 per month

      The point is that by reviewing your setup, there may be ways to lower your bill yet retain a healthy pond.

      More later.
      Last edited by kimini; 09-24-2017 at 11:53 AM.

    2. #2
      Marlo is offline Supporting Member
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      I got quotes from five solar installation companies - 3 of the big guys and two local companies. All were in the range of $40k to $45k for the 11kW system I wanted. After some research, I came to the conclusion that they were all trying to rip me off. I purchased and installed it all myself for about $16k before tax credits. My last monthly bill before getting my PTO from SCE was $457. My first bill after switching on my PV system was -$259. I'm on NEM-2 with a rate plan TOU-D-A. Most of my production is on-peak, with some off-peak. Most of my consumption is at the super-off-peak rate.

      It was a fun project!

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    3. #3
      BWG is offline Senior Member
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      Also figure in probable ongoing maintenence costs and loss of money if the money spent on solar was invested. Some have longevity issues so look long and hard at the company and probably of collecting on a warranty claim. Newer panels are better but I know several that have gotten burned just a few years ago.
      Last edited by BWG; 09-21-2017 at 02:38 PM.

    4. #4
      Marlo is offline Supporting Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by BWG View Post
      Also figure in probable ongoing maintenence costs and loss of money if the money spent on solar was invested. Some have longevity issues so look long and hard at the company and probably of collecting on a warranty claim. Newer panels are better but I know several that have gotten burned just a few years ago.
      There are far more variables that figure into this equation, but the two you enumerated are negligible in my case. Ongoing maintenance costs are very near zero. In the extremely unlikely event of a module or micro inverter failure, production would be reduced by a small percentage. Either could be replaced for a couple hundred bucks if desired. The opportunity cost of the money might be meaningful if you are a savvy investor, which I am not.
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    5. #5
      RichToyBox's Avatar
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      The latest thing that I heard, and I don't know if it is my source or another, but the electric utility wants to change the amount that they are paying for the power that you generate. At least in Virginia a few years ago due to deregulation, the power is divided into cost of generation and cost of distribution, ie the lines. This allows others to generate and send the current down their lines, and they get paid for the maintenance of the lines. The amount being proposed for payment of current that you generate and sell back to them is at the generation rate, not including the distribution rate. This significantly reduces the amount of return on the dollar.

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    6. #6
      BWG is offline Senior Member
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      My electric bill has been split like this for 3 years.

    7. #7
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      I just don't trust the solar companies. a high school buddy does solar and he made alot of $. he is a total jerk and many people and ex employees hate him. all this solar hype seems overhyped. the electric company seems to find a way to screw us not matter what. like oil companies and cars lol

    8. #8
      avorancher is offline Senior Member
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      We interviewed several solar companies before installing our system. I found that the sales people were high pressure and had little knowledge of what they actually were selling. Their goal is to close the sale and get a deposit before they leave. They make used car salesmen seem honest. I had done quite a bit of research before talking to them and much of what they told me about rebates ending, efficiencies, etc. were lies.

      Although solar is still a small percentage of the total generation for the power companies, they are moving quickly to change the rules in their favor whenever they can. They envision a huge solar array out in the desert supplying solar power over their existing grid instead of a distributed system where customers have their own panels. It is a classic turf war.

      I was lucky enough to find a local solar company that let me do a lot of the labor. They spent about 1 day at the job site doing the electrical hookups and inverter installation after I had most everything in place. I've generated 82,647 kWh since 2013 with zero maintenance and will hit my payback period in another year.

    9. #9
      hp is offline Supporting Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by kimini View Post
      The saved money works out as:
      371W + 120W = ~500W = 0.5KWh
      0.5KWh * 5hrs * 30 days = 75KWh
      75KWh * $0.42 = $31 per month


      More later.
      Wow, is this really $0.42 per kWh? That's more than 4 times what we pay here in WA.

      hp.

    10. #10
      Marlo is offline Supporting Member
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      Yes, electricity is expensive here. Before switching rate plans, my SCE pricing was:
      Tier 1 - $0.16
      Tier 2 - $0.24
      Tier 3 - $0.31

      My break even on my DIY system is at 35 months with no price escalation factored in. For comparison, with the non-DIY quotes I got, the break even was calculated at over 8 years even with a 7%/yr rate escalation assumption!
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    11. #11
      avorancher is offline Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by Marlo View Post
      Yes, electricity is expensive here. Before switching rate plans, my SCE pricing was:
      Tier 1 - $0.16
      Tier 2 - $0.24
      Tier 3 - $0.31

      My break even on my DIY system is at 35 months with no price escalation factored in. For comparison, with the non-DIY quotes I got, the break even was calculated at over 8 years even with a 7%/yr rate escalation assumption!
      That is similar to my rates when I installed the solar. That is a no-brainer with a 35 month payback. Of course the fastest payback is to install a system just large enough to knock off the top couple tiers. They usually make the bottom tier reasonable but you would have to use candles at night to stay within that tier if you have an average size home and a family.

    12. #12
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Understood about feeling screwed, but I've done enough research to understand that it's not all about us. What I mean is, early users of solar had it great - at everyone else's expense. Excess power was fed back into the grid and we expect the power company to pay us for it. What company do you know that sells something for the same price that they buy it for? None. Also, we feed power back into a grid maintained by who? It doesn't just magically happen, there's line maintenance, system monitoring, and energy management. So only non-solar people should pay for grid maintenance? I get your point but that's the nature of capitalism, trying to maximize profits, but on the other hand, we have to have an even playing field. Thinking its reasonable for others to support us gets into the whole topic of "entitlement" and I won't go there.

      Regarding the $0.42 per KWh rate, that's the proposed rate during high time use (called TOU 2.0) which starts in about a year. At other times of the day the rates are much less, especially late at night. The reason for the rate spike at 4-9pm is because that's when everyone comes home after work, flips on the AC, TV, and lights, AND it's when the sun goes down, so all the power plants have to support the full load. If I shut off the highest energy consumers during that high-time, it both reduces the monthly bill and reduces the size requirements of whatever solar setup I decide on.

      As an aside, as battery packs start pushing into the marketplace, TOU areas can really benefit from them, with or without solar. That is, charge up the battery at 12-6am for ~$0.20, then using during high time when rates are double that.
      Last edited by kimini; 09-24-2017 at 12:01 PM.

    13. #13
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by haivph View Post
      Wow, is this really $0.42 per kWh? That's more than 4 times what we pay here in WA.

      hp.
      And it'll go higher. Here's what's on the way, for people in the San Diego area at least. Note that these are currently only proposed prices and also that the rates are for those with solar installations:
      Attached Images Attached Images   

    14. #14
      Marlo is offline Supporting Member
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      Wow! Incredible. What are the rates for those without solar PV?
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    15. #15
      ricshaw's Avatar
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      I have solar. I purchased a solar system a little over a year ago.

      The first question for kimini or others who are considering solar; How much is your average monthly electrical bill?

      For most Koi pond people, the answer is over $100.00 per month which is the starting point for considering purchasing a solar system.
      Less... it might not be cost effective.


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    16. #16
      avorancher is offline Senior Member
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      Kimini, how does the time of use chart handle a system that generates more during peak times than you use? For instance, I generate all the electricity I need for 24 hours during what your chart lists as peak or semi-peak hours. Obviously, a solar system isn't going to generate power at night, but can they charge you for usage during night when you have generated a surplus during peak? If so, it is time to seriously look at batteries.

      Edison started charging me about $10/month for grid maintenance. I have no problem with that because I need to use the grid when not generating my own power. Any excess energy during the day goes back onto their grid and goes the path of least resistance which would be one of my neighbors who is using electricity at that time. Edison gets paid by my neighbor for that power at peak rates, and I retrieve my allotment back at night in off-peak rates.

    17. #17
      BWG is offline Senior Member
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      The power utility must purchase and maintain generation capacity that will cover the highest peak. So during a day not ideal for solar generation the utility must cover the peak even with the diminished solar output. Having this excess insurance capacity available 24/7 is not cheap. Solar today is only viable because of heavy subsidizing by tax payers and utility customers. In order to get other people's hard earned money solar installations should be required to maintain batteries.

    18. #18
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by ricshaw View Post
      I have solar. I purchased a solar system a little over a year ago.

      The first question for kimini or others who are considering solar; How much is your average monthly electrical bill?

      For most Koi pond people, the answer is over $100.00 per month which is the starting point for considering purchasing a solar system.
      Less... it might not be cost effective.
      700-800 kWh, or around $200/month.

    19. #19
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by avorancher View Post
      Kimini, how does the time of use chart handle a system that generates more during peak times than you use? For instance, I generate all the electricity I need for 24 hours during what your chart lists as peak or semi-peak hours. Obviously, a solar system isn't going to generate power at night, but can they charge you for usage during night when you have generated a surplus during peak? If so, it is time to seriously look at batteries.

      Edison started charging me about $10/month for grid maintenance. I have no problem with that because I need to use the grid when not generating my own power. Any excess energy during the day goes back onto their grid and goes the path of least resistance which would be one of my neighbors who is using electricity at that time. Edison gets paid by my neighbor for that power at peak rates, and I retrieve my allotment back at night in off-peak rates.
      I'm just starting my education and understand just enough to be really dangerous...

      I know that once a year, PV system users have a "truing up" billing, where the balance is paid off between them and the utility. If you used more than you made you own them $X. If you made more than you used, they owe you, but here's the big catch. The amount they pay you per kWh is somewhere around $0.027, yup, 2.7 cents. It's so close to zero that it's a big reason to not oversize a PV system. That said, there's always future additional uses, an electric car is a big one, typically upping usage by 20-50%.

      I know I didn't really answer your question, because I'm not sure. Still reading to better understand just that.
      Last edited by kimini; 09-25-2017 at 02:22 PM.

    20. #20
      Marlo is offline Supporting Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by kimini View Post
      700-800 kWh, or around $200/month.
      That's half the size of mine. If you DIY it should cost about $8k for everything you need. You can do it for less than this if you use a central inverter, and buy lower density modules. If you don't want to DIY, just buy the system yourself and pay an installer. My son-in-law did it this way and paid the guy $5900 for plans, permits, and installation of his 10kW system. These costs are all before tax credit.
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