AuthorTopic: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?  (Read 7324 times)

Offline Golden Oxen

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Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« on: April 26, 2012, 08:31:41 PM »

97% of Americans overestimate cost of installing solar

By Kirsten Korosec | April 26, 2012, 9:18 AM PDT
0Comments  From Smart Planet Today
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Ninety-seven percent American homeowners overestimate the cost of installing solar, according to a recent Harris interactive poll that illustrates public perception remains a major obstacle to adding more residential renewable energy to the grid.

The online poll, conducted on behalf of residential solar power company SunRun, found folks want to go solar. Nearly eight out of 10 of those who don’t already have solar panels say they would install a rooftop array if cost were not factor.  But it turns out, the perceived costs are wildly out of whack with the real expense of installing solar.

Forty percent of the 2,200 adults surveyed think installing solar requires $20,000 of more in upfront costs. Only three percent accurately understand that installing solar can cost less than $1,000 upfront, which is possible because companies like SunRun, SolarCity and Sungevity all offer solar financing that allows homeowners to lease the panels without putting any money down. SunRun’s solar power service, also known as third-party-owned solar, is structured similarly to its rivals. The company owns, insures, monitors and maintains solar panels on the homeowner’s roof. In return, the homeowner pays a monthly rate over a 20-year period.

Market share for third-party solar has grown, particularly in California where it reached 75 percent of the home solar market in February of this year. In Massachusetts, the share for third-party solar is more than 80 percent.
 :icon_sunny:  :icon_sunny:
« Last Edit: April 26, 2012, 09:07:53 PM by Golden Oxen »

Offline agelbert

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2012, 03:12:03 PM »
Thanks for this information.

I believe the media has deliberately attempted to keep this false view of a minimum $10,000 to $20,000 up front costs in order to defend the fossil and nuclear bailiwick.

Local permit requirements and ordinances seldom help and often serve as stumbling blocks.

And even if $20,000 was a valid figure, if our government really wanted to foster energy independence, don't you think we would get .9% or 1.9% financing like is now offered for a $20,000 to $40,000 Toyota up to 72 months?

Despite the pernicious and continuous efforts of the oil lobby, the reduction in electricity demand due to people installing renewables is driving the oil and nuclear pigs crazy. I wouldn't put it past them to try to start a campaign to buy local officials into making up ordinances against (claiming "environmental damage" like they do now to prevent tiny hydropower turbines from being floated on rivers behind riverfront houses) or inventing high taxes for renewables or even requiring some bogus "environmental impact" statement requirement to price people out of the market.
The dinosaurs will fight to their death even if they take us with them. However, we've still got to keep steadily installing renewables in or out of predatory capitalist corporate view.
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Offline Jb

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2012, 07:19:03 PM »
Quote
which is possible because companies like SunRun, SolarCity and Sungevity all offer solar financing that allows homeowners to lease the panels

Get it? You don't own the panels. Some companies 'rent' your roof space from you.

If you want to be 'off the grid' then yes, you are going to pay $20k or so (and probably more, depending on the size of the house, orientation, insulation, glazing, plug loads, etc.) to generate AND STORE the electricity coming from your panels on your roof. You must have batteries and a grid disconnect to do this. Do you want to be leasing panels when the grid goes down? Would you lease your gun from the gun shop?

 

Offline agelbert

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2012, 08:31:33 PM »
Yes I get it. No, I wouldn't lease a gun. And I own my house but not the land it sits on so I am unable to buy or lease solar panels at this time.  8)

I mentioned the toyota financing because, if you buy the panels with financing, I'm certain you won't get a low percentage rate but, if we had a sane society, you would.
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Offline Jb

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2012, 12:05:19 PM »
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but not the land it sits on

We had this issue too when we lived in Lutherville, Maryland. Weird, isn't it? But why can't you put PV or solar hot water on the roof? Are there covenants in your neighborhood prohibiting this?

My house is surrounded by mature oaks so rooftop mounted solar is not practical for us. However, I am very interested in a small portable unit that could recharge phones, laptops and lantern batteries.

At the moment, we aren't in danger of losing our house due to foreclosure but I try to make sure purchases I make along these lines are portable - just in case.

Offline agelbert

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2012, 09:22:09 PM »
My house is also surrounded by  40-60 feet trees (Pin Oak, White Oak and Sugar Maples along with a secondary growth of Black Cherry and Striped Maple). I don't think there are any ordinance limitations but permission from the land owner is required.

And then there is my wife. She won't hear of it. :-[

Maybe when things get worse I can convince her. Then I'll have to get the land owner to top a bunch of trees on the southern exposure so I get a decent amount of sun. Granted, in the winter, since I don't have but a few evergreens, I get plenty of sun when I most need the heat (Vermont) but the owner is not very agreeable to lot changes.

All that said, my house is a manufactured home and it is paid off so, if I am able to purchase a plot of land that permits a manufactured home in the zoning, I could just move it there, add solar panels and keep my taxes low because manufactured homes are never assessed very high.
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Offline agelbert

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2012, 12:44:45 AM »
Has anybody out there read this? It seems our good government is out to modify the codes on both ON and OFF grid solar panel use so if the grid goes down, your system is not simply isolated from the grid so you won't toast a lineman doing repairs; You are NOT allowed to legally run it for your own house!

http://www.naturalnews.com/036194_solar_system_grid-tie_power_grid.html
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Offline Jb

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2012, 01:11:52 PM »
True, you cannot dump the electricity from your panels onto the grid when the grid goes down due to safety concerns. This is not some kind of government conspiracy. Not a very good article IMHO; read the comments for others.

Offline Jb

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2012, 08:00:12 AM »
Ok, I called me favorite local installer (Paul Risberg at AltEnergy here in Charlottesville) and got confirmation. With a grid tied system you must have a auto-transfer switch. This is basically the same thing you find in a gas powered whole house generator type system. This piece of equipment alone can cost around $4,500.

To have a grid tied system that will produce electricity for you when the grid goes down you need three pieces of equipment: The auto-transfer, batteries and of course the PV panels themselves.

The cost of the panels has plummeted in recent years. He can now install PV for as little as $3.75/W down from $7-$10 /W just a few years ago.

There are three companies out there that make good inverter equipment that he likes to use:

SMA:  http://www.sma-america.com/en_US.html

Zantrax: http://www.xantrex.com/

Outback: http://www.outbackpower.com/

You can use whatever PV panel manufacture you like.

To go 'off grid' you are going to spend $20k minimum on PV panels + $15k on batteries + $4500 for inverter transformer switch. Compare this to $5k for a generator (+ fuel and maybe a buried tank).

Hope this helps.

Offline agelbert

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2012, 11:17:56 AM »
Thanks for the research. It definitely helps.  :icon_sunny:
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Offline agelbert

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2012, 12:08:11 PM »
Jb,
I've been thinking about a workaround to this auto transfer switch cost. Wouldn't it be more cost effective as well as durable while being a bit low tech to rig up a storage water tank on an off grid solar panel property and just pump water (over and over from a small pond) and use that as a "battery"? No transfer switch and no batteries to replace seems like a good idea.

The whole point of being on the grid is to save on batteries when you need the power (unless you're trying to make money selling power and then you would need a rather large array) so a better deal is go off grid from the start and keep the systems you power off grid separate from the grid altogether.

I understand that if you forget ac altogether and stick to dc everything including lighting, appliances and resistance heating, a lot of money can be saved in the long run. Remember that the big advantage of ac has to do with avoiding losses over distances. That is a moot point when you are at the point of energy production.

I like the idea of not having to spend big bucks on inverters and battery banks. I realize you need to regulate the voltage so you don't ruin your electrical appliances and lighting so there is some cost involved but once you have some usb sensors on your incoming power from the solar array and a computer that talks to the storage tank flow valve and pump, you can open tank valves to run a hydroelectric generator and get a regulated voltage day and night. You could also shut off the valve and pump water up to the tank when you are maxed out with the solar array incoming power. The water tank could be inside the house on a second story if there is some ordinance against making one (you an put a LOT of water in a 12 by 20 by 10 feet space if you support it properly). The computer (any pc can do this with usb type sensors feeding the software) would also need to know exactly what voltage current demands each one of your electrical devices is making continuously. If it's a crude device like a resistance heater, it's not a big deal but still the large current drain that a heating element (for heating or cooking) can make on a system may harm a refrigerator if it isn't controlled properly. Overall, I think a dc system is cheaper and more durable. Also there are ways to jack up the head on a storage tank (pressurising air inside) so it can produce the average household demand of 15kw when there is no more power at night.

What do you think?
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Offline Surly1

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2012, 12:28:39 PM »
Jb, agelbert, just want you to know that I am reading this thread and appreciate what you are posting. Hope to install something solar when I finally get out of the traces.

Appreciate your work and your willingness to share what you know.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Jb

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2012, 02:02:22 PM »
agelbert,

This is getting beyond my area of expertise, but I can offer a few comments.

The cost effect workaround to the expensive switching is: do not connect to the grid.

The cost effective approach to storing water is to capture it off your roof and run it to a cistern via gravity. Storing that amount of water on the second floor of a residence is structurally inadvisable and not cost effective. You can also do a yard drain or foundation drain to capture ground water.

I would not use PV solar for electric resistance heat; you'd have to design your system around this purpose alone. Instead, I would rely on a wood or masonry stove and passive solar. You could also do a buried propane tank feeding a gas cookstove, boiler and radiators in the bedrooms. Radiant flooring makes sense in cold climates with low humidity, not moist temperate climates such as Virginia.

To keep PV system costs under control, the first rule is to minimize your load. Get rid of everything you don't need ('need' as in 'critical for life support') : TVs, heating equipment, refrigerators, etc. Check out SunFrost refrigerators: http://www.sunfrost.com/. Switch as many lights as you can to LED, use CFL where appropriate. Be able to isolate rooms that you don't want to heat or light - this is what our ancestors did. Go DC if you can, keep everything dirt simple.

Hell, it's only money.

Offline agelbert

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2012, 01:56:05 PM »
Jb,
Thanks for the advice. I agree that passive solar (if you want to avoid fossil fuels altogether) is the best route for resistance heating. I have looked into radiant floors here in Vermont and only the rich seem to have them ($$$$$). The amount of piping, sensors and heat transfer equipment is probably justified in the long run because these systems are extremely durable but I am totally priced out of that market.
Another option for heating is a geothermal loop setup. The rich people tie those into radiant floors but you can just use furnace ducting to push air from a heat transfer loop in the house connected to the ducting. If you can get the underground loops below the frost line, you knocked off a significant amount of heating costs in the winter and (cooling costs in the summer as well) so a solar array would have less work to do.

All in all, I think a hybrid approach to energy systems is the best.
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Faith,
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Offline RickS

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Re: Installing Solar Becoming Affordable?
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2012, 12:54:46 PM »
We have been grid tied for 3 yrs now so I thought I would chime in. We don't have and weren't required to have a $4500 switch. We installed 12 210 watt panels that run our house and usually the utility company owes us money. We spent a $13,400 then we got a 30% tax credit leaving us paying $9000 something. By installing the panels we have a warranty of 25 yrs so we have set our rates for that long. We also used to run an electric car for in town transportation off of the panels but the car was a piece of junk. We now use electric assist bikes. Thanks for reading.

 

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