Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power Earth Technology

Switching To Solar Power – One Month Later 730

Posted by Soulskill
from the bright-idea dept.
ThinSkin writes "After an interesting article on solar panel installation for the home, Loyd Case at ExtremeTech has written a follow-up after about a month of normal use. Posting an $11.34 electric bill (roughly 3% of previous months), Loyd shares his experiences using solar power and how it can be fun for the geek, with computer monitoring services and power generation data. Of course, solar power isn't all fun and games, given the amount of required maintenance — even unpredictable maintenance, like wiping off accumulated ash from fires in Northern California."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Switching To Solar Power – One Month Later

Comments Filter:
  • by krkhan (1071096) on Monday July 21, 2008 @07:54PM (#24282239) Homepage
    ... even though it was raining cats and dogs today. I'm still using it withou
  • by deanoaz (843940) on Monday July 21, 2008 @07:55PM (#24282241)
    According to the article California will not allow homeowners to sell more power back into the grid than they are buying. He doesn't say why. I don't understand the reasoning for such a restriction, since the possibility of selling more than you buy would encourage wider adoption.
    • by Delwin (599872) * on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:01PM (#24282313)
      Because their billing structure would put the power company out of business if they allowed it.

      Note that while can't go net negative for the year he can get to net 0. Also note that he's 'selling' back power to get to that net 0 at retail rates.

      The places that allow you to go net negative buy your power back at wholesale rates, which is far lower. If you think about it when you sell power back to the power company you're not competing with the power company, you're competing with the power generators. Why should the power company give you an unfair advantage there?
      • by shaitand (626655) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:13PM (#24282443) Journal

        Simple fix, trade kwh for kwh until net zero is reached and then sell excess for wholesale. Of course you would do this on an estimated annual usage basis just like the 'budget' billing most power consumers have to prevent huge spikes in their bills during certain hot or cold months.

        As for putting the power company out of business, I'm all for it. Whoever had the bright idea of privatizing a utility should be shot. Fundemental public services should not be privatized they should be public and operating in a fully transparent manner. Roads, Schools, Libraries, Utilities, and Health Care.

        • by Firethorn (177587) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:57PM (#24282895) Homepage Journal

          My power company, like my phone company, is a coop. I'd like them to remain in business, thank you very much.

          Then again, depending on your definition, a coop could be considered a 'public' company.

        • by ejecta (1167015) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:06PM (#24282993)

          Geez, what are you, some sort of communist?!

          Who wants a working healthcare system when you can privatise it make a big budget surplus to spend on winning votes and create a huge mess that you can blame on your opposition once they're in office.

          It's not like heathcare, power & water are vital services or anything...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ichijo (607641)

          Whoever had the bright idea of privatizing a utility should be shot.

          The problem isn't a privatized utility. The problem is a privatized, unregulated utility that holds a monopoly. The power line going to my house should be tightly controlled, but I should be allowed to choose the entity that energizes that line.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mangu (126918)

          Fundamental public services should not be privatized they should be public and operating in a fully transparent manner.

          Yes, because we all know the government always does everything in the most economical and efficient way, right?

          You may want to take a look at this paper [oecd.org] about health care in France. It comes from a very trustworthy source, the OECD, and presents some surprising data. Although public health care in France is "universal" in the sense that almost everybody is covered by the public health care

          • by guerby (49204) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @02:49AM (#24285461) Homepage

            Disinformation and selective quotation at work. Do you work for the USA private health insurers?

            Let's check:

            To really inform slashdot readers you might add that more than 80% of private health insurance is done by ... not for profit, and that the share of not for profit vs for profit has increased by 10% over the past years. It might help USA citizens understand a few things about how private "for profit" is really working.

            "private" health insurance covers less than 25% of costs, 75% comes from the mandatory public system.

            And in the special case of France, the private not for profit insurance has nothing to do with government efficiency as always there's some ideology and creative accounting at work ("chronic deficits" is a political choice). Administrative costs of health insurance are 6% in France vs 15% in the USA, if you want to increase waste you know what to do.

            For reference I cannot choose my private complementary health insurance provider which is the one of my employer by law (private market ? eh eh), I pay around 30 euros per month for it.

        • by popeye44 (929152) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:59PM (#24283377)

          I Gather you think the government actually uses your dollars as they should. Obviously they are doing so well with what we are giving them now. /sarcasm

          Don't get me wrong I pay avg bill of 350.00 a mo to PGE. I'd love to pay less. But nothing government ran ever works at anything but creating more government and costs that skyrocket.

          I work for state government and it's horrid. They make up silly rules just to provide a job for someone.

          A for instance, Rule: We must buy at least 35% of our supplies/parts etc from Small Business and 25% from disabled vets. OK.. that is terrific. Except some administrative type comes along and says: We're going to do 100% or I'm going to be very unhappy. "with a mean leer"

          So now we have a job a single person was doing that now takes the manpower of six people.

          We cannot go to the lowest priced place and buy product because if it's available at 2x the cost at Sally's Product and she's a Disabled woman vet. You can f'in bet where we are going to buy it.

          If government was ran like a business I'd be all for them having control over utilities. Right now You'd get your power 80% of the time at a cost of double what you pay. But it would ALL be justified on some piece of paper in case you wanted to look.

          Meh.

      • by Klaus_1250 (987230) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:22PM (#24282515)

        Why should the power company give you an unfair advantage there?

        Lower costs for the power-company in terms of transmission and distribution of power (and related costs for that infrastructure). E.g. the power you produce can go right to your next door neighbor. Power from a power station usually has to travel quite a bit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Firethorn (177587)

          While if 'everybody' installs these systems I do think that there's a good probability that less in the way of transmission lines would be needed(capacity wise), the 'power to next door neighbor' is actually fairly unlikely - on the whole, your neighbor is going to be using power the same time you are.

          Is it dark out for you? It'll be dark for your neighbor. Is it hot enough to require AC? Then it's hot enough for your neighbor unless he's been creative and went for an earth home or such.

          You'd want to run

        • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:36PM (#24283215)

          It still doesn't make sense to pay you the same rate that you pay them.

          Consider the situation where you produce as much as you consume, but not at the same time. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that you produce lots of power during the day, and then use lots of power during the night, such that the two are equal. Your net power use is therefore 0, but you're pushing lots of electricity to the grid during the day and pulling a lot at night.

          Should your bill be zero?

          I would argue that it should not. The power company is still maintaining the transmission lines, is still running the generation plants that you rely on at night, and the electricity you're giving them is not going to completely make up for that. The power company in this case is acting as a middleman, in the good sense, in that they ensure that stuff gets to where it needs to be. Middlemen can only make money, and thus provide their service, if the producers charge less money than the consumers pay.

          Now, it may very well make sense in a broader political sense to make the rates be the same in order to encourage exactly this sort of independent generating capacity, but from the limited point of view of the economics of electrical generation and distribution, the rates should not be equal.

          • by Dare nMc (468959) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @12:05AM (#24284295)

            you're pushing lots of electricity to the grid during the day and pulling a lot at night.

            currently power generation is more valuable during the day, because thats when it is most used (especially in A/C dominated CA.)
            That is the likely reason for a retail price compensation OK for solar generated by day. The solar is likely displacing more pricey natural gas, for cheaper coal/nuclear. Also possibly reducing net line load from the factory during peak draw...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by negRo_slim (636783)
      It's called Net Metering [wikipedia.org] you can check Google [google.com] for more information...
    • by dfsmith (960400) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:04PM (#24282345) Homepage Journal

      It was arranged so that PG&E will never have to pay you money.

      There is also a $5 "connection fee" each month, so your smallest possible annual bill will be about $50. I used to hit that with a 4kW array (minute-by-minute stats are available [dfsmith.net]).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mikael (484)

      Posted by JavaManJim

      Re:Something to keep in mind [slashdot.org]

      Where would the homeowners fit into the power generator chain - do they go first before the wind turbines or do they go last
      just before the last plant to go online?

      Debate flares over wind power in Texas [dallasnews.com]

    • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday July 22, 2008 @01:33AM (#24284987)

      I don't understand the reasoning for such a restriction

      It's to keep home generation from going commercial. The inverters tie to the grid by going in sync with it. They are required to shut down in a power outage to prevent islanding and frying linemen. With too many of these of too large of a capacity, they may become large enough to island a small block. With the size restriction, loss of grid ensures shutdown regardless of the powerfactor the neighborhood may provide.

      The system in the article has no battery and no transfer switch. It is unable to provide power during a full power failure. He rejected two other bids which had 2 inverters. Most likely, one was grid tie and the other for running critical load with battery backup for power outages. The 2 inverters was not explained well in the article. My dad's system has no grid tie. It is battery and critical load inverter. It sells no power, stores some, and picks up about 65% of the typical load. These systems cost more and have higher maitnance due to the batteries, but are great for end of the line unstable power.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Monday July 21, 2008 @07:55PM (#24282247)

    Wait to winter time when there is less sun to see how much you save at that time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RobinH (124750)

      This is actually quite striking. I worked on a solar/wind project last year and the solar panel we were using was an 80W rated panel (normally provides a little over 60W in full sunlight at these latitudes), but I never realized how much your eyes compensate for the variation in illumination levels. When it was cloudy in the winter, even when you could see perfectly well and thought it was rather bright outside, the solar panel was only pumping out about 2 or 3 watts.

      The idea is that it tends to be windy

  • Not a month (Score:4, Informative)

    by krkhan (1071096) on Monday July 21, 2008 @07:59PM (#24282297) Homepage

    about a month of normal use. Posting an $11.34 electric bill

    From TFA:

    Additionally, I've received my first electric bill since the installation, although it's only for 19 days, not the usual 29 or 30.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:08PM (#24282393) Journal
    money going towards assets rather than a simple debt. Would you rather own or rent?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by raoulortega (306691)

      Depends on how fast those assets depreciate, and the long-term maintenance costs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuantumRiff (120817)

        There are other factors as well.. Kinda nice when you want to sell your house to tell prospective buyers, "yeah, well, we pay about $20/month for electric in the summer, when the AC is running full tilt.."

        I imagine that would be worth quite a bit in resale value after the first few years of depreciation (and energy price increases)

  • Eh (Score:5, Informative)

    So he saved about $330/month. It cost him $36K (which really cost $50K, but let's say). So it'll take 109 months to get back the money, or 9 years, not adjusting for inflation and investment opportunity cost. Let's say that brings it up to 12 years. Not including maintenance and repairs. It might even need complete replacement at that point. At 50K, which is the real cost, we're talking more like 16-18 years.

    That's still a bit too long an investment for this to be really practical. Prices need to come down to about a four year payoff before I'd be really interested.

    On another subject, I'm kind of glad to see someone who actually uses more electricity than I do. :)

    • Re:Eh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:25PM (#24282559)

      So he saved about $330/month. It cost him $36K (which really cost $50K, but let's say). So it'll take 109 months to get back the money, or 9 years, not adjusting for inflation and investment opportunity cost. Let's say that brings it up to 12 years. Not including maintenance and repairs. It might even need complete replacement at that point. At 50K, which is the real cost, we're talking more like 16-18 years.

      It seems to me that could change rather dramatically if the price of electricity goes up. I wonder what effect his solar array will have if he buys an electric car that can be plugged in.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tony Hoyle (11698)

      No way a panel will last 16-18 years.. Try 2-3. You've got to factor in the price of complete replacecement. Hell, lets say he gets really lucky and they last 10 years.. he's still making a net loss.

      • Re:Eh (Score:5, Informative)

        by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:45PM (#24282769)
        No way a panel will last 16-18 years.. Try 2-3. You've got to factor in the price of complete replacecement. Hell, lets say he gets really lucky and they last 10 years.. he's still making a net loss.

        From the Article:

        These particular panels were guaranteed to deliver 90% of their rated peak capacity for at the twelve year mark, and 80% at the 25 year mark.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Maxo-Texas (864189)

        Very old panels (over 25 years) still produce a good amount of power. A lot are "retired" at 75% output and you used to be able to pick them up cheap.

    • Re:Eh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arth1 (260657) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:45PM (#24282763) Homepage Journal

      So he saved about $330/month. It cost him $36K (which really cost $50K, but let's say). So it'll take 109 months to get back the money, or 9 years, not adjusting for inflation and investment opportunity cost. Let's say that brings it up to 12 years. Not including maintenance and repairs. It might even need complete replacement at that point. At 50K, which is the real cost, we're talking more like 16-18 years.

      It's worse than that. The $11 bill was for 19 days, not a month. And 19 sunny summer days, at that. He won't save $330 per month. Let's see what the figures are after a whole year. My guess is that he'll save around $200, at most. For a $36k investment.

      Seriously, if I had a $300+ monthly electricity bill, I would start by seeing how I could reduce the amount of electricity used.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816)

      Prices need to come down to about a four year payoff before I'd be really interested.

      Or prices can come up. Because let's face it, coal-generated electricity (the main alternative) is way too cheap. You're basically just paying for the cost of digging up the coal, plus the amortization of the infrastructure needed to convert it to electricity and transmit it to the user. The coal itself is basically free.

      And why should it be? It's a finite resource. If we had to bid against our descendants for it, it wouldn't be free, it wouldn't even be cheap. Nor is the environmental cost of dumping all t

    • your SUV (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:17PM (#24283071) Journal

      isn't civilization, and the fact that you think it is indicates a deeply flawed view of the world.

    • by fullon604 (895424) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:35PM (#24283205)
      Guys -- you all seem to be neglecting the recent developments in solar financing.

      (Disclaimer -- I do work for SolarCity http://solarcity.com/ [solarcity.com], a leading installer of residential solar arrays in the SF Bay Area and beyond. I won't make a totally shameless plug here, I'm trying to be fair to the other good and clever solar companies out there. A rising tide lifts all boats!)

      By bringing in a 3rd party commercial owner via an Operating Lease or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) structure, the customer can save money from solar on Day 1.

      The 3rd party (an investment fund, or perhaps the solar company themselves) owns the system and claim the full range of available incentives. As opposed to residential owners, commercial owners can take accelerated depreciation on the system, and can take the full 30% federal tax credit (rather than facing a $2k cap), and they also get whatever state/local/utility incentives are available as per usual. The customer has a low (or zero) down-payment, and makes monthly payments over a period of ~15-18 years. The tax investor receives a reasonable return on their investment over time, the installer makes reasonable margins on the installation, and the customers can save money from Day 1. Everybody wins!

      So to use the parent submitter's house as an example of what we can do -- For a $300/month average bill in Sunnyvale, CA, we might recommend a 7kW DC system. Assuming the customer had decent credit (720 FICO), we would require no down payment, and then charge monthly lease payments of $181/mo, for 15 years. The monthly payments do go up at 3.5% per year (we could alternatively have 0% escalation, but of course that would require a higher starting payment and so it's harder to show savings right away... there are many possible variations here. Also remember that local PG&E utility rates are increasing at >5% per year on average).

      With this 7kW system, they might expect their average monthly bill to go from $300 to $72 per month. Add the $181/month payment, and their new average monthly electricity cost is (181 + 72) = $153/month, for immediate savings of ~$47/mo!!

      The installers offering these plans usually offer full service/maintenance for the life of the lease, including replacement of the DC/AC inverter if necessary.

      The customer is given the opportunity to purchase the system after years 6/10/15, or if they have to move or sell their house. The panels are warranted by the manufacturers to last 25+ years, so a long-term buy-and-hold strategy is solid. Or, if the customer looks around in 15 years and sees a better/cheaper technology, or just doesn't wish to renew or buy out), they are free to end the lease and we'll remove the panels at our cost.

      The customer who understands Net Present Value (NPV) calculations can easily demonstrate that this offers far superior savings compared to either a) doing nothing, or b) purchasing the system for cash.

      So before you all roll your eyes about solar being a poor investment with a 12+ year paybacks, please consider such alternative financing approaches.
  • 380.00 bill? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cybrthng (22291) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:11PM (#24282419) Journal

    Sounds like someone who threw money at a problem better handled by conservation.

    Believe me, i LOVE solar, but solar works better when it isn't the only solution.

  • by heroine (1220) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:14PM (#24282459) Homepage

    Well a house in Calif* with a clear view of the sky & enough room for 27 solar panels is about $2 million. So it's a choice between saving $250 on electricity or saving $2 million on housing.

  • Questions? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:22PM (#24282519) Journal
    1. How heavy are these solar panels? Easy enough to be lifted and carried down by one or two persons?

    2. Are they bolted on? Any locking mechanisms?

    3. Is it easy to climb on to the roof?

    4. Do you have good access to a road from the home?

    5. When are you planning to take a vacation?

    6. Does it have any kind of GPS thingie or Wifi thingie attached that will phone home?

    Thanks buddy.

    • by Surt (22457) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:37PM (#24282683) Homepage Journal

      1. They are somewhat heavy (50 lbs). They are awkwardly large at 5ftx3ft. Two person job if you don't want to risk a rooftop fall.

      2. They are typically bolted on. Uninstall time will be in the several minutes per panel range. Be sure you have an electrician with you to avoid death by electric shock.

      3. You can see in the pictures he has a typical roof. Bring a ladder. And a crane if you want an easier time lowering the panels.

      4. Yes, see the pictures.

      5. Don't know about that one. Probably end of December or next summer.

      6. Doubtful.

  • pink (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:38PM (#24282699)

    He's should've bought like 2 less solar panels and used the money to paint his house some color other than pink.

  • by btempleton (149110) on Monday July 21, 2008 @08:53PM (#24282851) Homepage

    Today it's hard to make solar actually pay for itself. At California's high-tier rates, it is possible, but still takes a lot of work.

    He says he put in $36,000 and will save $3,300 per year in payments to the power company. Now the historical annual rate of return of an S&P 500 index fund is 11.3% over the last century, so $36K put there would return over $4,000 -- enough to pay the $3,300 to the grid, have $700 left over and of course, still keeping the principal. Compared to that, the panels are losing money each year and will never pay for themselves -- unless grid power goes up a lot.

    And grid power might go up, but only so far. Because eventually the grid power hits the solar price, and the grid itself starts putting in solar sources at that price -- because it's cheaper.

    Most solar installations lose money hand over fist outside of California's high priced tiers. Today, solar comes in about 20 cents/kwh (at more like a 6% interest rate, not the 11.3% rate of the stock market.)

    Try this spreadsheet:

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pWKShknjJFBt7sOTCJre_SQ&hl=en [google.com]

    To work out the real cost.

    It's worse if you consider that at the true cost of the system before rebates -- $48K if I read right, it really loses money.

    Now, I'm not saying it's not good to put in solar to be greener, or that the government shouldn't be providing subsidies to make this happen.

    I just don't want people to use the wrong math to think they are saving money, when in fact they are spending more (for a purpose.)

    • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:33PM (#24283187) Homepage

      He says he put in $36,000 and will save $3,300 per year in payments to the power company. Now the historical annual rate of return of an S&P 500 index fund is 11.3% over the last century, so $36K put there would return over $4,000 -- enough to pay the $3,300 to the grid, have $700 left over and of course, still keeping the principal.
      You're comparing apples and oranges here. If people always invested solely based on maximizing the expected average rate of return, then bank CDs wouldn't exist, bonds wouldn't exist, real estate and REITs wouldn't exist, etc. In reality, people are balancing the expected rate of return against variability. The reason bank CDs are paying something pathetic like 4% right now is that the banks have to guarantee that they'll pay you 4% on your money. The bank is essentially charging you for insurance against negative variability. Although there are a lot of unknowns involved in buying PV (what will electric rates do in the future? how much will the technology improve), they're a lot less than the unknowns involved in stocks. My S&P 500 index fund is down 19% from its peak value last year. There's a reason that most people build a balanced investment portfolio that includes both stocks and bonds; it's because mixing volatile and nonvolatile investments is a way of maximizes your expected rate of return for a given amount of risk that you're willing to accept [wikipedia.org].

      And grid power might go up, but only so far. Because eventually the grid power hits the solar price, and the grid itself starts putting in solar sources at that price -- because it's cheaper.
      Your logic doesn't work. When you own a PV system, you're part of "the grid itself." When I'm at work during the day, my PV panels are pumping energy into the grid, which is selling it to other customers. In my area, grid power has hit the solar price, for a south-facing roof with no shade; that's why I, a homeowner with a south-facing roof and no shade, have put in a PV system. You seem to be assuming that if rates go above a certain threshold, the entire state of California will suddenly magically cover itself with PV panels, because that will be the right thing to do according to the laws of supply and demand. That doesn't make sense, for a couple of reasons. First, there are huge variations in the price of land, the local cost of electricity, the amount of sunlight, which way people's roofs face, and how much shade they get. Second, there's a barrier to covering every house with PV panels, which is that most homeowners are short on capital. Your idea that the whole grid would suddenly go solar at some threshold is like imagining that everybody will suddenly drive a hydrogen-powered car if gas goes over $6 a gallon. We're talking about a massive infrastructure that doesn't change overnight.

    • by Generic Guy (678542) on Monday July 21, 2008 @10:09PM (#24283463)

      Now the historical annual rate of return of an S&P 500 index fund is 11.3% over the last century...

      According to the Wall Street Journal [wsj.com] the S&P500 from 2000-2007 only returned 1.6%, and if you include the absolutely dismal 2008 (thru June) economists are already calling this the "lost decade" since returns over the past 10 years are pretty flat. Worse when you factor inflation. With returns like that, solar panels would've certainly been the better investment. At the least, you wouldn't be as subject to local Edison's blackouts and other various fiascoes, which for some reason seem to be getting more and more common and taking longer to fix each time.

      Just the thought of being independent from the local power grid woes is pretty appealing.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:09PM (#24283011) Homepage

    By coincidence, today is the day I got my first yearly bill for my new photovoltaic system. Where I live (Orange County, CA, with Southern California Edison as my utility), people who have residential PV systems get billed yearly rather than monthly. A year is also pretty much the minimum amount of time for which you need data in order to find out how your system is performing, since both your energy production and your energy use fluctuate seasonally.

    My bill for this year was $353.63. The system is nominally 4.4 kW, and cost $28k after rebate. It's covering about 90% of our use, which was almost exactly what we shot for -- if we produce more than we use over 12 months, they don't pay us for the excess.

    People always want to know the number of years until the system pays for itself. Basically that's utterly impossible to predict. There's a reason that they exclude energy from the consumer price index -- it's because energy prices are extremely volatile. If the increased price of fossil fuels starts to be reflected in the cost of electricity, then I'm going to look like a financial genius. The other thing that's completely unknowable is how fast the technology will progress. If there's a breakthrough in technology five years from now, and the price of panels per kilowatt comes down by a factor of two, then I'll wish I'd waited. It's also kind of funny hearing the quick-buck psychological attitude a lot of Americans have toward investing money in something like this; from the way people talk, you'd think they were going to take that money that could have gone into photovoltaics and invest it in some kind of magical pixie dust that was guaranteed to pay a steady 20% annually until the end of time. And finally, beware of anyone making blanket statements about whether PV is ready for prime time or not. It completely depends on factors like the price of electricity in your area, which way your roof faces, your latitude, the amount of cloudy weather, and the amount of shade. PV is like Linux: it's ready for prime time for some people, and it's not ready for prime time for other people.

    • There's a reason that they exclude energy from the consumer price index -- it's because energy prices are extremely volatile.

      No, it actually has quite a bit of stability.. in its skyrocketing trend.

      It skyrocketed during the gulf war in 1990, and pretty much stayed at that price afterward, and it continues to skyrocket today.

      The reason it's excluded from the CPI is to allow politicians to claim the economy is just fine when people are pawning off their furniture to get to work each week.

  • Another data point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skidisk (994551) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:36PM (#24283221)
    I put a 3kw system on my roof in February, 2005. (I live in Silicon Valley). My electricity bill has been zero since then -- well, actually, $60/yr in some fee PG&E charges. My total electricity cost for the previous three years (2002-2004) was $6,730. Installation of the solar panels cost a net of $13,369 after rebates. So I've saved 50% of the cost already, and my house is worth more due to the presence of the solar power array. I took advantage of California rebates which were higher then than now, though, so that's a bummer.
  • solarnetwork.net (Score:5, Informative)

    by FriedmannSolution5 (950021) on Monday July 21, 2008 @09:46PM (#24283291)
    in terms of measuring live solar data, there's an open source project at: http://www.solarnetwork.net/ [solarnetwork.net] that is collecting and charting live data from Outback, MorningStar and Xantrex devices. let me know if anyone has an interest in participating, or leave a note on the site. thanks!

Never trust a computer you can't repair yourself.

Working...