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Power Earth

Switching To Solar Power, One Year Later 541

Posted by kdawson
from the breakeven-curve dept.
ThinSkin writes "Slashdot readers may recall Loyd Case's series of articles illustrating his experiences after switching to solar power for his family home. Loyd shared his one month update, a six month update, and now finally concludes his series after one year of solar power. Despite the $38,000 initial cost for the setup, Loyd is very optimistic after a $3,000 savings in one year, meaning that in about 12 years he will break even — though he suspects ten years is a better estimate considering other factors. Other reasons such as feeling 'green,' increasing the property value of his house, and the 'spousal acceptance factor' all support Loyd's decision on why he'd do it all over again if he had to." The article is spread annoyingly over multiple pages, like everything at the site, and the print version omits the graphs.
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Switching To Solar Power, One Year Later

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  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:08PM (#28444317) Homepage
    Three thousand dollar savings per year on a 38000 investment is a 7.8 percent rate of return on investment-- not bad, as long as the investment itself dosn't depreciate in value.

    ROE is a much better way of calculating economics than "payback time," by the way

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dk90406 (797452)
      Assuming the man had the money in his pocket to start with. If a loan was required for the initial investment, that has to be taken into account.
      A little off topic: If I went to any business today and promised them a 10 year ROI, they would laugh. In this economic climate 1-2 year ROI seems to what they are willing to risk.
      • by spun (1352)

        I don't think return on investment is measured in the units you think it is measured in.

        • I would respectfully disagree with you. There are a LOT of large companies who think of ROI in exactly the terms that the parent used. Moreover, I too have been subjected to the "2 to 3 year payback" threshold in recent years, and I can tell you from personal experience that this is exactly the determining factor in many "green" projects. One can definitely argue as to whether excluding the other aspects of the Total Cost of Ownership should/should not come into play, but I must defend the parent, as
      • by rev_sanchez (691443) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:40PM (#28444869)
        If he'd gotten a loan and the loan payments were near $3,000/yr (which is pretty unlikely) or his average electricity savings increased over the life of the loan (more likely) he could offset his loan with his electricity savings and have a cost of little to nothing. I don't think solar is the best energy saving home improvement most people could make for their dollar but it's starting to get competitive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hansraj (458504)

      ...as long as the investment itself dosn't depreciate in value.

      which in this case it surely will. In fact the way technological things change in general I would assume that his solar-power setting would have pretty much depreciated to some small fraction of 38k.

      PS: I don't disapprove of this guy spending 38k on solar powering of his house even a tiny bit, but I think it is quite interesting to evaluate this stuff as parent suggested-

      • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... m ['o.c' in gap]> on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:30PM (#28444663) Journal

        Ah, what? He's not reselling the damn thing, he is making money off of it every month. So what if it depreciates, we were never measuring the value of the thing over time anyway. Though I'm guessing many of the components will not depreciate much, just the batteries and photovoltaics. Having his house set up to run off of photovoltaics will let him easily take advantage of whatever advances come along in module and energy storage. The power modules will last at least 30 years. See, he would never be reselling the thing independent of his house. The thing is a part of the house now, and the entire house will continue to appreciate. As people become more interested in solar, a house with solar already in place will appreciate faster.

        Funny how so many people seem to want to find fault with solar energy, and use incomplete reasoning to look at only the possible negative consequences without looking at all the positives. Why do you think some people have such an irrational hatred of solar energy? I think the hippies are to blame. Nobody likes them, and they never fight back when you blame them, so I am going to go with definitely the hippies fault.

      • But by how much will it depreciate? According to it's decreased output overtime? What's the warranty on the system? Most new solar panel/film systems provide at least a 50 year warranty, so if his system cost him $38K and you expect zero output after 50 years, the system loses $760 of value each year. Still not a bad deal.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by vlm (69642)

          According to it's decreased output overtime? ...... and you expect zero output after 50 years

          Check out a typical actual warranty for a kyocera module:

          http://www.kyocerasolar.com/pdf/specsheets/kc_warraty.pdf [kyocerasolar.com]

          They guarantee 90% at 20 years since manufacture, or 80% at 20 years after sale date (from reseller or whatever)

          So, at about 30 grand, at least for the first 20 years, it loses about $150 of output per year.

          Basically decreased output is no longer economically relevant compared to disaster type problems. Now that we get "100 year floods" every year for the past 4 years, the house will rot out fr

        • by Gospodin (547743) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @05:14PM (#28445443)

          The system wouldn't just lose $760/year in value, it would also lose 2% in efficiency per year, which means that if he saved $3,000 the first year, he could expect to save only $2,940 the second, and so on (all else - electricity usage, cost of electricity, etc - being equal). The revenue stream then looks like this (over 10 years):

          Year 0: Cost of $38400.

          Year 1: Benefit of $3,000.

          Year 2: Benefit of $2,940.

          Year 3: Benefit of $2,880.

          Year 4: Benefit of $2,820.

          Year 5: Benefit of $2,760.

          Year 6: Benefit of $2,700.

          Year 7: Benefit of $2,640.

          Year 8: Benefit of $2,580.

          Year 9: Benefit of $2,520.

          Year 10: Benefit of $2,460.

          Value of system after 10 years: $30,400.

          Plugging these numbers into the IRR formula gives you a 5.7% return per year.

          If we make a slightly different assumption that the decreased output is geometric (not arithmetic) and still use the idea that the depreciated value equals the original cost times the current efficiency, then you can show that D + R = 7.9%, where D = depreciation rate and R = rate of return. So if you assume D = 2%, then R = 5.9%. But if D = 4%, then R = 3.9%, which is not great.

          Doesn't sound to me like an obvious win for solar power. On the other hand, it's not an obvious money sink, either, so that's good. I'm sure things will continue to improve.

          Would be interesting to see a subsidy-free comparison of both methods of electricity generation, but that's pretty hard. You can easily handle the consumer tax breaks, but how much do the producer's tax incentives affect the cost? And how much of his local coal/natural gas/hydro/nuclear generation is subsidized?

          • by Zalbik (308903) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @06:19PM (#28446363)

            Doesn't sound to me like an obvious win for solar power

            It is an obvious win, because you are failing to compound the savings.

            He can invest the savings on electricity each year and substantially increase his ROR.

            The IRR formula does NOT account for the potential re-investment of interim cash flows.

    • Because the money spent needs to be factored as, how much could he have made investing it and provided he didn't take a loan to get it all change the equation.

      Throw in, what is the change in insurance cost, maintenance of said units, and then determine true savings. I think he will find it will not pay for itself within ten to fifteen years.

      I also think that to speed up his return he needs an energy audit to find out how he is wasting electricity. Perhaps 4k to 5k power bills are the norm, but it seems ex

      • by maeka (518272)

        Aye.
        I have a wife who won't turn off lights, use window ACs, and still only spend $900 a year on power. $1200 a year on natural gas. 1300 sq feet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames (1099)

        Because the money spent needs to be factored as, how much could he have made investing it and provided he didn't take a loan to get it all change the equation.

        Currently, all he needs to do to make his investment match an equivalent stock or real estate investment is go up on the roof and smash the panels with a hammer. Of course, since it's already paid back a portion, he'll have to smash out his windshield as well to break even.

    • by samkass (174571)

      If that ROE is reasonable, why aren't zillions of commercial solar farms popping up everywhere? Or at least co-located with the wind farms that are being installed?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        Because this sort of thing doesn't scale in a linear fashion. It's a lot easier to do this sort of thing for a couple of houses, assuming a reasonable amount of light and willingness to cut back on consumption. It gets a lot more complicated when you start having to pay for extra land, land use studies and worry about transmission wires.
      • by paeanblack (191171) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @05:06PM (#28445311)

        If that ROE is reasonable, why aren't zillions of commercial solar farms popping up everywhere? Or at least co-located with the wind farms that are being installed?

        That 7.8% doesn't factor in the risk. Most of the initial investment is unrecoverable. The 10-12 years for return on the principal is based on many variables, most of which are volatile and unpredictable. The specific technologies are relatively new and bring their own unknowns. He wins big if electricity costs skyrockets and solar/alternate energy tech stagnates. Those are unlikely to both occur. He loses if power gets cheap or solar/alternate energy tech has some rapid advances.

        He has essentially exchanged his exposure to energy price fluctuations for host of new risks. The rate of return is pretty decent in today's economy, but not by a huge margin. At 5% or 6%, it wouldn't fly.

        At least this means residential solar is nearing viability.

        On the other hand, viable residential solar is not good news for the nuclear industry because of the political externalities involved. Large numbers of voters entering the energy generation business will sharply increase the nimby factor.

    • by COMON$ (806135)
      My wife and I are looking at building our house to be Solar in about 5 years. We are in the planning phases right now, found a good neighborhood built around ponds for heat pumps. But, not everything can be measured by the ROE (although your point is taken). The intangable benefits really work for you. Also considering the advances in solar cells this last year and the fact that I live in Nebraska, I should be able to get a really good system by the time we build.
    • by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:36PM (#28444809) Homepage

      " Despite the $38,000 initial cost for the setup, Loyd is very optimistic after a $3,000 savings in one year, meaning that in about 12 years"

      Might want to look up the lifespan of solar cells.

      "Cost of Solar Panels
      Solar panels have an effective lifespan of about 20 to 25 years, and their value and wattage output decrease steadily over time. The solar cell that has ...
      www.solarpanelinfo.com/solar-panels/solar-panel-cost.php "

      I have them too, but to be rigorous one needs to take their lifespan into consideration.

      • by crmarvin42 (652893) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:52PM (#28445069)
        IIRC from the 6 month write up, he splurged and got the pricier (i.e. longer lasting) panels because he was getting either a grant or tax break from California for putting the panels in.
      • by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:59PM (#28445185) Journal

        With the exception of the part where you said their output decreases over time, that's simply not true. Most of the current generation of solar panels guarantee a minimum of 80-85% output after 25-30 years, depending on manufacturer. That's in the warranty for the panels. If they fall below that level within 25-30 years, you get new panels. The effective lifespan before they produce no power at all is probably 100+ years, though most people would replace them with more efficient panels well before that time....

    • You beat me to it. A year ago he probably could have locked in a %3 rate on a CD, and I would say that on average that is a pretty reasonable number to assume for a no-risk investment. If we further assume that electricity prices will go up by about the same amount (3% annually) his break even point is about 15.5 years.

      Of course, there's no telling what those rates are going to do over that kind of timeframe. Its also difficult to say what the performance of his solar panels will be over the entire lifec

  • by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:10PM (#28444355)
    So maybe it'll pay for itself in 12 years, but how long before those panels need to be replaced? That's what we really need to know in order to decide if he's actually saving money.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sexconker (1179573)

      They lose efficiency over time, and will never offset his initial costs before needing to be replaced.

      Oh, and don't forget maintenance (they get dusty).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Scutter (18425)

        I believe the $38,000 cost was for the entire conversion. I doubt replacement panels would cost that much. I think you're right that it would significantly extend the ROI, though. I think 12 years is optimistic.

      • Most panels carry 25-50 year warranties (at least). If the system lasts 50 years, and outputs zero power after those 50 years, it depreciates at the rate of $760 a year. And hopefully, the price of solar panels/film will decrease every year (NanoSolar hitting the $1/watt price point within the last 12 months doesn't hurt).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      So maybe it'll pay for itself in 12 years, but how long before those panels need to be replaced? That's what we really need to know in order to decide if he's actually saving money.

      Well if you want to be a financial stickler, you might want to factor in the standard rate of inflation if it's going to be 12 years. The funny thing is that inflation has been going down in the past three months according to this site [inflationdata.com]. But you need to remember the pert formula and assume that most of the time you're looking at an average of what about 3% inflation per year? On your original investment of $3800, right? So that's like a 42% increase in the value of that 2008 money assuming inflation cont

    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... m ['o.c' in gap]> on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:17PM (#28444457) Journal

      Most manufacturers guarantee that their panels will give at least 90% of peak power at ten years, and 80% of power at 25 years. Yes, he's saving money.

    • I have a 1983 Kyocera 30 watt panel which still gives me an accurately measured 24 watts in mid summer, mid day sunlight, 80% of it's original rating after 25+ years is pretty good I think.
    • RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kneo24 (688412) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:31PM (#28444681) Homepage
      If you had RTFA you would see that the panels are quoted as having a 30 year warranty. So in 30 years. If they break down before that, he gets freebies, and I imagine those will produce more electricity. All in all, it's worth it.

      Futhermore, Wikipedia has this to say about Solar Panels and how efficient they are at a certain time frame:

      Solar panels must withstand heat, cold, rain and hail for many years. Many Crystalline silicon module manufacturers offer warranties that guarantee electrical production for 10 years at 90% of rated power output and 25 years at 80%.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_module [wikipedia.org]

    • I had neighbour that had solar panels back since at least the late 80's and he had them up until the turn of the century (I moved, he may still have the originals) and aside from washing them, I don't think I've ever seen him do anything to them. I can only imagine the technology has gotten better and no doubt take up much less room than his did.
  • Time value of money (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The whole solar argument still has to grapple with its high up front costs. Doing calculations on money savings with such a long time to "break even" means that you need to take into account the time value of money. Even using a small interest rate such as 4.5% as an example (which is the cost of capital of a bank's home equity loan that I saw advertised recently near my house) means that he won't break even in over 19 years. Over 50% longer than the statistic the summary uses.

    • by syphax (189065)

      Problem solved. [sunrunhome.com]

      And your calculation doesn't take into account increases in energy prices. How much will electricity prices increase over the next 20 years? Who knows? There are lots of reasons to expect higher prices, though. But solar avoids that- if one finances solar with fixed interest on your loan, congratulations, it's a great hedge on energy price variability.

    • by zippthorne (748122) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:54PM (#28445083) Journal

      At the moment, though, you have to factor in the fact that we're about to hit some mondo inflation due to the money Obama's been printing. So, it's actually a good idea right now to get into things that aren't pegged to the actual dollars. This guy is basically buying his electricity up front before his $40k is worthless.

      • by mugnyte (203225) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @06:25PM (#28446439) Journal

        Except that we're not. Seriously off-topic, but inflation isn't unpredictable. Right now, the double-digit unemployment and positive savings rate we have suggests people are hording their cash, not shopping with abandon.

          As soon as any of the indicators go up (these are pretty reliable predictors of activity), the FED simply filters the money out of the banks, rates go up for daily business paper and money is more scarce.

          It's been managed this way for 3 decades, and fairly stable since 1983. Check for yourself. [measuringworth.com]

  • Bad Math (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Itchyeyes (908311) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:17PM (#28444451) Homepage

    He sums the article up by claiming that his return will be sooner than 12 years based on changes in his electricity usage (like his daughter leaving for college). This is bad math. He would have changed his usage either way, so he can't really count those watts as impacted by his investment in the solar panels. Overall though it seems like he's getting a decent return on his investment.

    • by Manip (656104)

      If he had invested $38k in the stock market how much would he have after 12 years?

      I'm guessing even in these harsh economic times the result would be more than the initial $38k. :)

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        or he could have $0.

        This is guaranteed money, that always pays less than risky money.

        • Re:Bad Math (Score:5, Interesting)

          by maeka (518272) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:35PM (#28444793) Journal

          This is guaranteed money, that always pays less than risky money.

          Not it isn't.
          The risks are different, but this is not without risks.
          Panels could prematurely fail, and the provider go out of business leaving him with no warranty.
          Price of electricity could fall, greatly extending his ROI.
          Interest rates could climb, increasing the opportunity cost of his investment.
          Far superior panels could be released next year.
          Poor installation could lead to water damage to his house.

          The possible risks are numerous, far from a guaranteed ROI.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            All of those things are very unlikely or mitigated by insurance. A poor installation could lead to damage but that for instance would be the installers problem not his.

            This is as close to a guaranteed ROI as it gets.

    • Re:Bad Math (Score:5, Funny)

      by T Murphy (1054674) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:25PM (#28444589) Journal

      His return will be sooner than 12 years based on changes in his electricity usage (like his daughter leaving for college). This is bad math.

      He installs big ugly solar panels on his roof, making his daughter decide to go away for college to get away from her dorky dad, which reduces electricity usage. I don't see what the problem is.

      • by snl2587 (1177409)

        I actually like the look of the solar panels on the roof...then again, I'm also the same person who thinks that the giant wind turbines actually improve the landscape of the Midwest.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xlotlu (1395639)

      He sums the article up by claiming that his return will be sooner than 12 years based on changes in his electricity usage (like his daughter leaving for college). This is bad math. He would have changed his usage either way, so he can't really count those watts as impacted by his investment in the solar panels.

      Or he'll pump the surplus electricity into the grid, and get paid for it. That's ignoring the increasing cost of electricity.

    • Re:Bad Math (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeff4747 (256583) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @05:02PM (#28445255)

      He would have changed his usage either way, so he can't really count those watts as impacted by his investment in the solar panels.

      You're forgetting one detail.

      Before putting on PV panels, when his daughter leaves, he'd just use less electricity. After adding the PV panels, when his daughter leaves he can sell more electricity to the power company.

      Adding your own generating capability means a reduction in usage is also an increase in sales.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PhotoGuy (189467)

        I'm sure it varies state by state (and province by province), but last time I checked, the power companies don't pay you penny-for-penny for the kwh you sell back to them. If memory serves, they pay you something like 10% of the going rates, which doesn't really amount to much. However, every bit of power you *reduce* your power company usage by, is pure gain. Counting on selling excess just doesn't factor in practically at this time.

  • Given the instability of electricity prices I'm not sure that his experiences are going to be very representative for the next few years. Most people suspect that electricity prices will increase and if that occurs then solar power will make even more sense. But there's no hard guarantee. If the economy remains stagnant then electricity cost from the normal grid will likely remain near in cost to where it is now.
  • by GammaStream (1472247) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:24PM (#28444567)
    To all the people mocking his investment, your missing one thing. You do not know what the price of energy is going to do in the next few years. The guy in the article however is guaranteed a minimum amount of power each year from his solar panels at a rate he knows. (His initial investment / Life time of the panels). If the companies decide to hike the prices in two years time due a deterioration in Gulf politics for example, he is sheltered from its effects and lets be honest it's very unlikely the price is going to go down per kwh. He is also sheltered to a certain extent from the failure of the power network so if a situation does arise where there are rolling blackouts again, he knows he will a least have some electricity each day. One of the things that people constantly underestimate the price of is certainty.
    • by afidel (530433) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:48PM (#28445003)
      The big cost looming for electrical generation has nothing to do with the Gulf, it has to do with a Carbon tax/cap. Unless we go crazy building nuclear plants there WILL be a significant increase in electric rates if we are at all serious about stopping CO2 buildup.
    • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:57PM (#28445135)
      Actually, he probably won't have any electricity when the grid is out. We just went to an alternative energy show this weekend and learned the following:

      There are 3 types of systems for connecting to the grid:

      Off-grid - self explanatory

      Hybrid - can use battery power when the grid is out

      Sync'd - they must be sync'd so that when the grid is out, the power from the panels is not used..otherwise you'd be trying to feed the grid yourself.

      The last is the most common setup since the idea is to conserve electricity usage, not replace the need for the grid. If all the panels in a neighborhood were feeding energy into the, now dark, grid imagine the power company technician trying to work with the wires that are 'live' from the client side. They could shut off power from the distribution source, but it would still live from the residences preventing it from being safe.

      I imagine it would be bad to run A/C stuff inverted from a variable DC line as well. If you are trying to run normal household stuff straight off the power output of the panels, as it gets later in the day, you'd start getting your own 'brownouts' in the house wouldn't you? And since this guys setup never produced more power than he needed it was always below demand.
      • by Altus (1034) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @05:02PM (#28445239) Homepage

        I thought when the grid went down that synced panel set ups just cut them selves off from the grid, not that they cut them selves off from powering your home.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vlm (69642)

        I imagine it would be bad to run A/C stuff inverted from a variable DC line as well. If you are trying to run normal household stuff straight off the power output of the panels, as it gets later in the day, you'd start getting your own 'brownouts' in the house wouldn't you?

        I suppose you could intentionally buy stuff that fails that way. I don't.

        Most switching mode supplies don't care as long as it's above a certain minimum.

        For example, I have a perfectly nice "twelve volt" input ATX supply in my server from powerstream. It doesn't much care as long as the input voltage is above 9 volts and below 18. At 9 volts the lead-acid backup batteries are about 99.99% empty so theres not much lost capacity. If the battery is above 18 volts, its probably on fire or something. So pre

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AK Marc (707885)
        The last is the most common setup since the idea is to conserve electricity usage, not replace the need for the grid. If all the panels in a neighborhood were feeding energy into the, now dark, grid imagine the power company technician trying to work with the wires that are 'live' from the client side. They could shut off power from the distribution source, but it would still live from the residences preventing it from being safe.

        The hookups should disconnect from the grid when the grid is down. It is si
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Buelldozer (713671)

        I'm not sure how you got modded "Interesting" since your main point "Sync'd" is incorrect.

        Apparently they didn't explain the function of a transfer panel at your alternative energy show. A transfer panel will decouple your home energy generation system from the grid in the event of utility power failure.

        Some panels do this automatically and others are manual. Either way a solution exists and is commonly used for just the situation you're describing. Also, AFAIK almost every municipalities electrical code re

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jollyreaper (513215)

      To all the people mocking his investment, your missing one thing. You do not know what the price of energy is going to do in the next few years. The guy in the article however is guaranteed a minimum amount of power each year from his solar panels at a rate he knows. (His initial investment / Life time of the panels). If the companies decide to hike the prices in two years time due a deterioration in Gulf politics for example, he is sheltered from its effects and lets be honest it's very unlikely the price is going to go down per kwh. He is also sheltered to a certain extent from the failure of the power network so if a situation does arise where there are rolling blackouts again, he knows he will a least have some electricity each day. One of the things that people constantly underestimate the price of is certainty.

      And the price of energy is artificially low since we don't really factor the environmental cost into things. If you factor in environmental remediation, health care for people poisoned by the power plant pollution, etc, etc, fossil fuels would be very expensive. Just imagine how much gas would cost if we didn't pay for the military with payroll taxes but with a gas tax -- total out of pocket for the tax payer being the same, just let them see what they're really paying to make sure they have gas at the pump

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ceoyoyo (59147)

        The rest of the world does usually manage to get their oil without large militaries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bcrowell (177657)

      I have a residential PV system.

      He is also sheltered to a certain extent from the failure of the power network so if a situation does arise where there are rolling blackouts again, he knows he will a least have some electricity each day.

      This is incorrect. Unless you're in an area where grid power is not available, you buy a PV system that's grid-tied, and then if there's a blackout, you have no power. A non-grid-tied system is significantly more expensive and complicated, so you don't want one unless its

  • Looking back at the 6-month summary and seeing how drastic the difference is, I think that's all that's worth it, isn't it? Summer is when we run our air conditions (sigh) most and therefore, is typically the season when power grids are under their greatest stress. So even if the price goes up a great deal in the winter (and still considerably less than without the panels), I would think that this is still a great resolution to the problem.

    Now the issue is just getting out the $$$ to pay for it up front and

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:32PM (#28444719) Journal

    Most of the time, if you care for your family, that's the #1 factor in your decisions. Unless your ambition is one of those short-lived, Hollywood marriages.

  • SunRun (Score:3, Informative)

    by syphax (189065) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:33PM (#28444731) Journal

    Affordable solar for little money down [sunrunhome.com]

    If you live in CA, MA, or AZ, and have a roof with decent sun exposure, please check SunRun out.

    I've got nothing to do with them; I just think they have a winning method of making the cash flow of solar very attractive.

  • By being an early adopter, Loyd also helps the technology to gain acceptance, which helps everybody who chooses solar later on. Acceptance = economies of scale = lower price. Assuming energy prices stay roughly where they are or rise, people who come after Loyd will reach their break even point much sooner, even assuming further innovation doesn't cut the price of solar even more.

  • There always seems to be new breakthroughs in solar technology all the time. I wonder how much the cost of his original equipment is going to go down over the new few years. How much his original setup cost today?

    He is obviously an early adopter, so I also wonder if he'll continue to just upgrade his equipment before getting a return from his investment. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but the person who might best benefit from this experiment is his neighbor (assuming they get any old equipment).
  • by ericberm (1377777) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @04:59PM (#28445183)
    I've written a blog on my solar water heater which covers about the same year period as Loyd's solar panels about 100 miles north of Sunnyvale. Loyd's story is very useful to me as I've been debating if solar panels would improve the efficiency of the solar water heater. I'm still not sure this was a wise financial investment, but I do like how I get free hot water when the sun is out and the hot water never runs out (like with a tankless). Anyway, for those interested in solar water heating: http://suburbiasolarwaterheating.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
  • by NuShrike (561140) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @05:08PM (#28445341)

    He could've spent a fraction of that $38K to reduce his power bills to something closer to $100 per month. Better insulation, more energy efficient PSs in his computers, not leaving electronics on 24/7, change out to CF bulbs, and so on -- seriously!

    He's going to hit Jevon's Paradox and end up not actually saving anything, IMO.

    I'm more in support of community solar (have the HOA do it, or in a park, etc) which is more beneficial and lower cost. Mass solar.

    • I knew I couldn't have been the only person here who thought that way.

      From the original article about the installation itself, they use 17,400kWh per annum - about 47.7kWh per day. This is a staggering amount, even considering that they do work from home as well and have two teenage daughters living at home. By their own figures, their $38,000 solar installation only covers half that electricity (although about three quarters of the bill). As I'm sure NuShrike wondered, what the hell are they spending that

  • by skidisk (994551) on Tuesday June 23, 2009 @05:21PM (#28445541)
    I deployed solar panels when I replaced my roof in 2004; the total out of pocket cost after state rebates and federal and state taxes was $14,612. The system generates about 15 KwH on a good day; I live in a tract home in Mountain View, CA. So far, the panels have generated 19,225 KwH, which reduced my energy bill by $10,392 as of May, 2009. I've not seen the expected degradation in the power production, but it's difficult to measure due to changes in the weather -- it's entirely possible that 2004-2005 were cloudier than 2007-2008, or something like that. In any event, the system has delivered between 3819 and 3930 KwH every year. I'm extraordinarily happy with the way this has worked out.

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