Thursday, May 9, 2013

Powered by the Sun

Last night I noticed that the electric company replaced our meter so that we could send electricity to the grid and get credit for it.  YAY! We're now harvesting energy from the sun.  And even with today's cloudy conditions, the panels generated* more than 10 kWh of electricity than we used.    

It's been a long process that began last summer.  Interestingly, we are only renting the panels and inverter, making solar much more affordable.  The panels are owned by Sungevity and we entered a twenty-year lease with them.  There are many options available right now, for both outright ownership and renting.  Because we're renting, we are not allowed to claim the renewable energy credits for tax purposes.  Sungevity claims the tax credits and passes the savings, albeit after a profit margin, to the customer.  Purchasing solar panels and the inverter sounded nice, but the ~$30K price tag is just a bit much.  Over the course of our twenty-year lease, we will pay Sungevity approximately $10K, which is a lot of money, however, we've paid the electric company ~$9,100 in the nine years we've resided here.  Sungevity has a kWh performance guarantee.  If the system fails to achieve the guaranteed kWh output, Sungevity pays us the market value of the shortfall.  The total cost of the guaranteed output is $0.083/kWh.  Our current electric rate is $0.087/kWh, but when including the distribution charges and taxes, we pay more than $0.14 per kWh from the electric company.  Plus the guaranteed output will provide roughly 80% of our electric need.        

One of our requests when working with the specifications was that the panels had to be manufactured in the U.S.A. to: (1) support the American worker, and (2) reduce the energy consumed in transporting panels.  At first, Sungevity planned our project with panels from China.  With nothing against the Chinese or their solar products, after asking we were able to utilize panels manufactured in Newark, DE.  That's thirty miles from here.  So not only was the transportation impact low, it's also conceivable that someone living in our county works at the plant that produced the solar panels on our roof.

Going solar doesn't make us super green; there are still a lot of environmental and social considerations.  Mining the raw materials can be nasty business and I am concerned with the disposal or recycle process at the end of a panel's useful life.  Everything we do has some sort of impact on the world, but short of completely turning off the lights, I believe solar is part of a better solution.  And it just so happens that it is also economically advantageous to our household.

*NOTE: technically, the solar panels generate electron flow.

1 comment:

  1. Cool! I have never heard of renting solar panels before! And super cool that they were made not far from home!