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Waiting is so hard to do... (new solar array)

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Slow1, Oct 7, 2011.

  1. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Well, our solar array is up. It is ready to go. However it has to be inspected by the town electrical inspector, then the utility company before we can go live. So of course all this week we have had clear sunny weather. ARG! now to be fair I knew we probably have 3-4 weeks left before we go live, but it is SO annoying! Ug.

    Anyway, this array is sized to provide for our full electrical needs (+/- 10%) on an annual average basis. Grid tied so no batteries etc. We've reduced our electrical use quite a bit over the last few years through conservation so hopefully we'll keep it down, but with the kids growing up I'm hoping that our actual performance of the array will be on the + side of that so we have wiggle room to grow. Not to mention it should help speed up the payback time....

    With all incentives/rebates/OPM and anticipated SREC revenue (using the MA mandated minimum values) we should see a payback within 7 years so the finances were acceptable to us. It looks pretty good in my opinion too :)

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  2. jzr1

    jzr1 New Member

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    who did your install, I am having shw install in about a month, looks good
  3. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    I went with a local company called SolarFlair. They have done well so far. Nice clean work inside and out. I can't judge the results yet - will have to give it a year or two before I can tell on that. Their stated warranty beat out what others were offering and the rest of the package was quite competitive and the company has been in business for long enough to give at least some track record to look at. (It doesn't hurt that I met the owner a number of years ago prior to my seriously looking into this project).

    As I went through the process of selecting who would do the work I was surprised at how many companies are now serving this market. It seems that it must not require a whole lot of expertise to claim to be a solar installer or reseller. Even as late as when I was getting estimates on my roof (we ended up deciding to re-roof under where the panels were going so we wouldn't have to do it later requiring removal and re-installation of the panels) one of the companies I talked to did roofs, siding, gutters, windows, and you guessed it - solar installs.

    I'm sure the MA SREC system and the overall rebate system combined with the recent dip in costs has made the market attractive for many more people - thus bringing in a slew of folks wanting to jump into the business of providing for this demand to install. I'm sure not all the new entrants to this business are bad, and in fact some may well turn out to be the best in a few years but sorting them out right now is likely to be a challenge.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Wow, that is nice. Congratulations. What is the output? Looks like about 7KW?
  5. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    35x190w gives us about 6.6kw DC rating. Of course only time will tell what it actually gives us. We have a bit of shading on the sides that I'd like to convert into stove fuel but I haven't convinced the wife that it is worth giving up the landscaping... yet.

    The shading puts us at about 83% solar access which is fine for the utility co who actually doesn't want us to exceed our current annual consumption estimates (funny that eh?). I figure that after a year I can take down the shading on one side or the other to boost production by a few %'s for far less than adding panels.
  6. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    What brand of panels and inverter?

    I liked the NH approach with mine. Once it was ready, the utility allowed me to "test it" while the paperwork got completed. ( I have a two way meter)
  7. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Suntech panels with Solectria inverters.

    We don't have the two way meter yet so I suppose that may be part of the delay. In any case, the system is literally locked up (big red clamps with locks) until the town inspector gets here... perhaps they know the temptation is too great for folks like me to 'just give it a try" they they don't.

    This project has been in process for quite a long time - we made the commitment back in May so it has been a long wait already. Somehow though it is harder when I see the panels every time I come home. Of course it doesn't help that we made a payment when the panels went up as well. Murphy's law says that once we get the final clearance and turn it all on we'll have a record period of rain, clouds, and "Irish" weather too I bet. At least we'll be ready for next summer's production season.
  8. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Finally! Town electrical inspection done today...

    Just have the utility inspection to go... :)
  9. Mad Tom

    Mad Tom Member

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    I was wondering how much those panels weigh?. I would think that on a less well built home it may be to much weight.
  10. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Looks great. With a 7 year payback, you must have a smile on your face every time you pull into the driveway and see it. I wish the ROI in NY was that good.
  11. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    re: weight - I'm sure it is a factor for some folks, I am fortunate that our home is relatively new so it didn't take much of a formal review to determine that our roof was strong enough. Besides weight one has to consider wind getting under the panels and lifting, thus the rails are bolted directly into the rafters - not something I had considered at first but makes sense once you think about it.

    re: payback - Indeed I will be smiling once they are online! Right now it is a bit of a tease, but I know - think longer term.... however it will be more "real" once I actually see the numbers working in my favor on the utility meter and bill. I just received a monthly bill and it was the usual amount despite having the panels up for a couple weeks since we are still waiting on the utility co to put their meter on and give the ok to turn the system on. I'm sure it will be before Thanksgiving :)
  12. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Can't you just pull the meter and go rogue?

    Just a taste! Just a bite!
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Without a consistent source of 60Hz 240v current, the inverter will shut down immediately.
  14. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    So what happens when the power goes out? And here I was thinking we were cutting the cord.

    I guess grid living is going to have to be it until we figure out cost-effective storage.
  15. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Very tempting... and I think they know that. Thus the rather large, bright red (why?), clamps that are locked over the switches that would enable the system. Serious padlocks no less...

    I expect that the solar meter going from 00000 KwHr to something greater might also give them a clue that I was running it too... :)
  16. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Well.... you see, this is the trade-off. If I wanted a backup system I could have asked to design it that way with a different inverter and batteries.... that would bump the cost tremendously and frankly make the system not a financially viable option for me. So... if the power goes off then I don't have power.

    The optimal solution for emergency power for me is to simply get a generator and ignore the solar panels on the roof (other than another cut-off switch). For the frequency that we lose power here that is the best option for me - and frankly it isn't worth it. We don't lose power enough for me to justify the generator so certainly the batteries (with the added maintenance) aren't worth it to me.

    I believe that there is a natural tendency to jumble different problems and complicate things. Emergency power and power generation are not necessarily related - they can be, but they aren't always the same thing.
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    And what would happen if you weren't home and your array was feeding 6KW of 240v juice into the grid. That can kill a linesman, so they make very sure you can't island a grid-tied system.

    There is a system put out by Sunny that's pretty slick. It consists of two arrays and two inverters, one grid-tied and one battery bank tied. When the power goes out, it cuts the main line, then switches to the battery back up system. If all is good, and it is daylight, it tells the grid tied array that the battery back up is now online and switches the grid-tied system to parallel feed the house and help charge the batteries if necessary. It's an expensive system, but works pretty well from what I've read.
  18. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Yup - I looked into some options to use the array as backup power but realized pretty quickly that although it is possible to do, what one really is doing is buying a whole house battery backup system and then having the solar panels charge it up. Considering that I wouldn't buy a whole house battery backup system as my emergency power solution due to the cost (I'd go generator) why do it just because I have the arrays to charge it with? Batteries are expensive (on an annual basis) even if never used since they have a relatively short shelf life compared to a good generator. One set of batteries would more than pay for the generator with cash left over. If there was a power failure long enough to require charging the batteries and I wanted to ensure that the batteries could be charged I'd have to over-size my array significantly to cover worst case (winter charging situation, low sun days etc). I also would want to have a larger battery bank to cover a period of cloudy days OR I'd have to have a generator anyway which brings the solution back full circle. Basically my conclusion is that solar is a poor emergency power source. Yeah, it seems a waste to have that generating capacity up there if the power fails, but that just isn't what it is designed for.
  19. macmaine

    macmaine New Member

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    1 congratulations on the new solar panels
    It makes me happy to see a new solar array
    Good luck

    2 isn't it ironic that Mass and NY are next to each other and there are such significant
    Differences in pay back?!!
    Why not have a national policy?
  20. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    I was in line for a system when NY stopped writing approvals for an extended period. In the year I was in line, they changed the financing rules and banks stopped participating in the program. Subsequently, they reduced the incentive rates and the max system size. I'll eventually do it anyway because it is the right thing to do. I'd do it today with a 7 year payback like Slow1 did.

    National policy is probably a topic for another thread. Once you get beyond a single utility's service area, this would get complicated real fast with our current rate payer fee structure. Even within individual states, there are issues with this.
  21. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    FINALLY! The wait is over.

    Yesterday the utility company swapped out our meter with a net meter and we are up and running today. Of course it is a rainy overcast day... knew that would happen but tomorrow should be sunny :)

    So it only took about 5 weeks from the time the array was "done" to actually have it operational... So I have one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving eh?

    Looking forward to seeing how well it performs vs expectations. This morning despite enough clouds to prevent shadows it did generate over a Kwhr of power in the 2hrs it was running before I left for work... peanuts in terms of power, but better than nothing...
  22. macmaine

    macmaine New Member

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    Kick back and enjoy the ride
    Nice Sunny day up here
    Hope you got a few KW today!

    Tom
  23. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Indeed.... nice sunny day here too for the most part. Three days into it - two sunny, one miserably one. Actually got to see the meter run backwards today as I was home and (of course) obsessing with the numbers. It rolled on backwards (nice digital meter) and since it was at zero when installed on Wednesday it ended up flipping over to 99999 which I thought was odd given that being digital you would think it could handle the concept of a negative number. Oh well, I just hope that if it happens to be in that state at billing cycle time their billing software is smart enough to handle it!
  24. bpirger

    bpirger Minister of Fire

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    So how are the panels producing in the sun? Beautiful indeed! How does the installation assure no leaks with the bolts to the rafters?
  25. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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