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Solar Power. Talk to me.

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The Meal
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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:29 pm

We're in. Solar loan, 8.96kW install (projecting 100% usage covered). Paperwork signed today, site inspection on 7/19. Ion Solar (talked to two other providers... sorry The Mix, no referral for you).

House pretty well aligned N-S:
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28 × Silfab 320M panels with Enphase Micro Inverters (covered by 25-year product warranty and 30-year production warranty).

Current power provider is United Power with a 10.15¢ kWh rate and a 4.2¢ net metering buyback rate (for overage provided every 3/31). Unfortunately it's also got a $19/month connection charge which would've required us going full-unibomber-off-the-grid to avoid.

I know where to find you to update the process between now and power-from-the-sun flowing through our wires.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:41 pm

Congrats. Incidentally, we're looking at covering the rest of our roof, which would take us to... 8.92 kW. Maybe it's a sign.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:01 pm

It only gets more expensive in 2020 (probably).

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:03 pm

Indeed.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Jeff V » Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:28 pm

So far, the numbers aren't working in favor for me. We just don't use that much electricity. I had higher electric bills when we lived in an apartment than I do living in this house.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by gbasden » Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:42 pm

The Meal wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:29 pm

28 × Silfab 320M panels with Enphase Micro Inverters (covered by 25-year product warranty and 30-year production warranty).
I bought my system outright, but we've had really good luck with our Enphase micro inverters. Totally stable for about 10 years now.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:59 pm

I just had one of mine go on the fritz. 5 years in, it sporadically drops so that panel is producing about 30% less than its peers. They replaced it under warranty but I'm on the hook for an hour of labor.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:14 pm

Going the Micro Inverter route was very important to me. Google searching showed me that some older Enphase micro inverters had a bad rep for early failures, but apparently that's been addressed. I wasn't able to get the actual model numbers of what'll be going on our roof.

I hadn't thought about warranty work only covering product and not labor. Put that sort of thing into the hidden costs bucket. GL Zax.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:17 pm

A lot of companies cover labor, too, but apparently not Enphase.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by gilraen » Wed Jul 03, 2019 9:56 am

We had an inverter fail but only because squirrels chewed through a cable and pretty much shorted out the whole system.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Wed Jul 03, 2019 10:03 am

gilraen wrote:We had an inverter fail but only because squirrels chewed through a cable and pretty much shorted out the whole system.
Ballsy squirrel.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Wed Jul 03, 2019 12:50 pm

gilraen wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 9:56 am
We had an inverter fail but only because squirrels chewed through a cable and pretty much shorted out the whole system.
:lol: How'd that smell?

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Scuzz » Wed Jul 03, 2019 1:56 pm

Jeff V wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:28 pm
So far, the numbers aren't working in favor for me. We just don't use that much electricity. I had higher electric bills when we lived in an apartment than I do living in this house.
That was pretty much the case with us. Because you are limited to a percentage of your prior use we wouldn't be able to put enough panels on for it to really make sense for us. Although I admit doing it now would probably result in great savings 10 years from now. But if I spent the money for solar I would want to be able to use the AC more often (and lower) and under current guidelines we just wouldn't be able to do that.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by RMC » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:17 am

I keep looking into this, and recently we switched over to 100% electric, and boy do Electric dryers really pull down the power. <sigh> The Electric dryer basically doubled my electric bill, so starting to wonder if Solar is something I should look into it again.
Difficulties mastered are opportunities won. - Winston Churchill
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Zaxxon
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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:25 am

Image

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Formix » Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:02 am

Okay, I can finally join this thread! The salesguy was canvassing my neighborhood last night, so I chatted with him and set up the engineering meeting in a couple of days to see what sort of system they propose. I'm learning a lot from this thread, so I have a fair amount of questions for them when they come back. The one thing I'm wondering, looking at how this lease business works is, what's to keep them from overstating how "good" my roof would be for PV? If they put a 20K system on my roof and it doesn't generate the power they estimate, that only hurts me, not them. The company if G3 solar, which I've never heard of, has mixed reviews online, and nobody has mentioned on here. Any thoughts, o hivemind?

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:21 am

Awesome.

Generally there will be some level of production guarantee in a lease scenario. I would also recommend going to Google's Project Sunroof and PVWatts.org to sanity-check their numbers yourself.

Thanks for the bump, as I had been meaning to come back to this thread, as well. On Monday I signed on the dotted line to expand my system by another 4.7 kW, this time through Tesla Energy. This will be to cover the two faces of my roof that face the 'bad' directions for solar (northish and eastish). I didn't do this initially back in 2014 because the ROI was bad. It's still not great but with 2 plug-in cars our usage has gone up and we want to offset all the usage that we can.

It helps that panel efficiency has risen and costs have dropped since the initial system in 2014. Back then we got 280W panels for $2.50/W after tax credit. Now we're adding 310W panels for $1.64/W. The net result is we are doubling our panel count and upping our expected production by about 85% despite using the 'bad' roof faces.

Should get installed sometime next month. If Tesla is in your area I'd recommend getting a quote from them, too, as their pricing these days is way ahead of the others in my area, at least. The company I used last time could not get close to $1.64/W for this expansion.

One final note--2019 is the final year of the full 30% US federal tax credit, so if you're on the fence, might want to consider jumping this year. The credit is still around next year, but drops to (I think) 26% in 2020, and downward from there in successive years.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Formix » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:42 am

Project Sunroof hasn't reached my address yet. :cry: stops about 4 miles away.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:55 am

Formix wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:42 am
Project Sunroof hasn't reached my address yet. :cry: stops about 4 miles away.
Bummer! PVWatts should work, but that one requires some manual guesstimates.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Fri Aug 09, 2019 12:32 pm

We just got our final design:

8.96 kW DC on 28 Silfab SLA-M 320 panels with Enphase IQ7-60-2-US micro inverters separated onto two circuits: 17 south-facing (azimuth dead-nuts 180°) and 11 split east (5) and west (6) facing. The claim is 99.00% Solar Access Avg with a 28° tilt.

Roof access still looks good (the roof above our 3-car garage would only carry conduit, the panels would all be on the roof above our second story).

The design is good to environmental conditions:
35°C (2% Avg)
-27 °C (2% Avg)
30 psf snow load
115 mph wind speed

Wind/hail are legitimate concerns in our part of the world. The Silfab spec sheets rate the panels themselves at Ø25mm @ 83km/h (both of which I expect will be exceeded but hopefully not both at the same time).

The original proposition only had panels facing S and E, but after further investigation about how our power company does demand charge (highest 15-minute interval priced at a rate of $1/kWh — roughly $8-9 each month), I'm glad to have 6 panels that are west-facing.

It's all pretty exciting.

Image

PVWatts exactly matches the company's projection (13608 kWh/yr), and those were pretty close to a competitor's projection who had used drone footage and seemed to have a much nicer in-house modeling process.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Fri Aug 09, 2019 12:45 pm

Sweet setup. Will dwarf even my upgraded output.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Fri Aug 09, 2019 12:48 pm

Wish we could've got started in 2014! Glad to join the club.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Formix » Sat Aug 10, 2019 5:10 am

Okay, so PVwatts shows me at (very roughly) 19,000 kWh/year. That seems like a lot when I compare to the systems you all are being quoted, which leads me to the question, did I do something horribly wrong on PVwatts, or is there some division I need to do to get from kWh/year to system size?

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:06 am

That is a lot, but it's not out of the question. Where are you located, how big is your roof, and what's the composition of the system they are proposing? Earlier you mentioned '20K'. Did you mean $20k, or 20 kW?

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Scuzz » Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:08 pm

So, I think this came up before in this thread but is everybody posting here who has a system limited in the amount of power they are allowed to produce. The one lease quote we got was limited to a certain percentage of your previous years average use, which since we try not to use very much seemed like it made the system not such a great deal. I mean sure, over 20 years you would do better as regular rates rose, but the initial setup hardly provided any savings.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:11 pm

Here I'm limited to 120%, which is more than I can produce. So non-issue to me.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Scuzz » Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:19 pm

Zaxxon wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:11 pm
Here I'm limited to 120%, which is more than I can produce. So non-issue to me.
IIRC we were limited to under the 100% mark, something like 95%, which seems crazy.

We came to the decision that buying the system made so much more sense than leasing, especially with the tax write off then being yours. But we aren't sure how much longer we are going to be in this house. If the opportunity came up to move we might go for it.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Zaxxon » Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:22 pm

Yeah,if you won't for sure be there for at least 5 years, that about nukes the ROI potential.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Z-Corn » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:35 pm

I'd love to do this but from what Google tells me it's not cost effective. Not sure if it's my house orientation or environment or the cost of energy in my area but the site tells me not to bother.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Kraken » Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:24 pm

GR was among the cloudiest cities in the US when I grew up there, getting less than 50% of potential sunshine. Probably even cloudier now with more evaporation off the lakes.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:01 pm

Don't do solar next to a golf course.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Isgrimnur » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:39 pm

Not without a net, anyway.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Formix » Thu Aug 29, 2019 6:43 pm

Okay, so they came back with a 17 kWh system, which seems insane. They are not leasing, it seems like they're just skimming some profit off the install, and maybe some of the financing. The red flag, other than what I think is the oversizing of the system is that when I asked for references, they seemed surprised. I also got an e-mail from the salesman asking if I was serious before he would send the references. hmmmm.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Scuzz » Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:47 pm

Solar is extremely competitive in most places now and companies should be willing to show you their references without you asking. I know the one sales spiel we sat thru the guy volunteered the references.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Jeff V » Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:03 pm

When my highest electric bill last year was $165, solar still didn't make sense. This summer, they've all been under $100...the lastest for end of July/most of August -- typically the highest of the year, was $84.

I know it's just a matter of time before we have a summer with 45 consecutive 100+ days, but we've been pretty lucky so far. The rest of the country might be baking, but's its been downright tolerable around here (and this from someone who has severe heat intolerance thanks to Graves).

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Formix » Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:42 am

Yeah, for us, at least at this point, he overshot the mark. Our average power bill is $199, and he's suggesting over $300 a month for the panels until we apply for our first-year tax credits, then the cost would come down to 266, which is still too high. I'll have to see if he can re-engineer or it's a no-go.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:39 am

Sitting in Cancun on an anniversary vacation, MHS and I got the news that our system’s design has made its way through local approvals. Next up: scheduling an installation date.

Excitement.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:49 pm

Thursday 9/5 for the installation.

We signed on the line on 7/2. Got the design on 8/9. Made it through approvals by 8/30.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by Formix » Wed Sep 04, 2019 4:39 am

Nice Meal! Also, I see Silfab and Enphase on a lot of your designs. G3 went with all solaredge, and optimizers instead of microinverters. I know a lot of you have done extensive research, and I'm wondering if anyone found out anything bad about Solaredge or going the optimizer route. I haven't found anything noteworthy, or substantially different about this route that would cause concern.

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Re: Solar Power. Talk to me.

Post by The Meal » Thu Sep 05, 2019 5:30 pm

Formix, I don't have an answer for you. Solaredge optimizers seem to be the most commonly mentioned in r/solar, if that helps.

We got our installation done today with no drama. There was a crew of four people: 1 electrician, 1 meat head, and 2 hammer-and-screwdriver jockeys. The race was between the electrician (from our utility service wall outside our garage) and the other three. Whomever got their cable end into the attic first "won." The electrician won by a country mile. The happiest of the installers was the meat head who seemed to only have the job of hauling 28 solar panels from their truck onto our roof. When he wasn't hauling panels, he was occupying the time of the 12-week old Belgian Shepherd puppy that wasn't quite old enough to be left behind when its owner (maybe the electrician? It never was clear to me whose dog it was) was at work.

Crew showed up at 8:30 am and left at 2:30 pm. Not quite the 4-5 hours we were told to expect, but going over by an hour didn't affect my day at all.

Powered on for about 25 minutes to ensure everything worked, then powered off until final inspections are complete. We've got the local inspector coming on Monday, then the power company inspection to follow.

I took a video of the (power company's existing) smart meter while the juice was flowing, but the various flashing messages will require some online sleuthing before I discern any meaning. I did *not* see a kWh number go backwards (which was my true desire), but I also didn't see one get bigger, either.

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