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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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    Thanks BeGreen - I honestly didn't know how they did it, but I know the company came well recommended, they are well established, and stand behind their work. Leakage from the mountings was/is not a major concern for me really.

    I'm more concerned about the system performing up to spec and as projected. Only time will tell if the production estimates work out to be on target - if it produces more than estimated that will be a nice bonus. The thing is that since this relies on the weather it will take some significant time before we'll know if it really will produce as anticipated.

    Anyway, so far it is a fun set of stats to follow. I'm out of town for a week - annoying in a way but perhaps good too as it will keep me from obsessing as much. Mix of weather expected, more clouds than sun though so not expecting a whole lot, better get used to that is it is getting into December after all.

    Now I just have to wait to get my first Mwhr collected so that I can sell an SREC... that's the next landmark for me. At this rate it will be a few months I suppose, but at least I have something to look forward to.

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  2. SolarBrian

    SolarBrian Member

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    Congrats on the new PV system!

    So, do you have a solrenview link so we can watch how your system is performing?
  3. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    No - I choose not to pay the extra $'s for their monitoring package. It came out to about $500/year over the initial 5 year license and frankly for that I can self report each month for the SRECs. Yes the web monitoring is really nice and all but I think for a system of my size the cost is too much.

    Of course as I sit here out of town wondering how it is doing a week after install I wish I had the remote monitoring...
  4. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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  5. SolarBrian

    SolarBrian Member

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    Wow, that is expensive! I had no idea. My installer included Solrenview 5 year montoring on the install. When I started the contract, it was optional and I don't remember the exact price, but it wasn't $500 a year. I thought it was something like $200 for the internet connection hardware and $20 a year for web based monitoring! Before I signed the final contract, my installer (New England Breeze) decided to include solrenview as standard on all their installs so they could monitor the health. So it ended up costing me nothing.

    But if it is that expensive, you are right, for cheap I would rather connect a low power PC to the serial port on the inverter and remote into that PC to check the status remotely.

    Anyway here's a link to my system. It is fun to play with the excel logs. :)
    http://solrenview.com/cgi-bin/CGIhandler.cgi?&sort=pvi_IDs&cond=site_ID=199
  6. mbcijim

    mbcijim Member

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    Yes the monitoring is that expensive. Commercial systems it's significantly more for the SAME THING!
    Sliding scale based on the size of your system, like that has anything to do with how many KW you're generating.
  7. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    I have bought a TED to monitor with - I just have to get it installed. A friend who is an electrician is going to assist when he gets a chance... Yes I COULD do it myself I'm sure, but when it comes to messing with the breaker box I'd rather have expert advice on hand. TED is a much more economical option and gives me far more information (i.e. my household consumption data as well as solar production). I can also monitor my individual inverters using the diagnostic software that I picked up from a thread in another forum for minute to minute DC and AC voltages etc.

    I do rather wish that they didn't consider the monitoring SW a revenue stream but it seems that is what the market will bear for the time being. I imagine that as the cost of the HW and installs go down this too will get pushed down - it almost has to but then again the same was said in the PC world for OS and applications and look at the market now - if you purchase a PC and license all the software at retail you will pay more for the OS and office Productivity SW than the HW in general. Whatever makes their business work.

    However - advice to anyone shopping for a PV system: Consider the monitoring options in your inverter selection as this could be a significant cost going forward and not all companies have the same options or cost structures.
  8. SolarBrian

    SolarBrian Member

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    Solrenview may not be as expensive as you think. I emailed them and here is their reply (lifetime solrenview for residential customers, not sure of the up front cost):

    From: Brad Sherman <brad@solren.com>
    Date: November 30, 2011 10:04:17 AM EST
    To: Brian
    Cc: Allison MacHaffie <allison.machaffie@solren.com>
    Subject: RE: Solrenview Lite Price
    Hi Brian,
    Good news – moving forward all SolrenView sites for residential systems contain unlimited service. There will not be further service charges after the first 5 years.

    Regards,

    Brad Sherman
    Technical Sales

    Solectria Renewables, LLC
    360 Merrimack St.
    Building 9, Floor 2
    Lawrence, MA 01843
    Tel 978-683-9700 ext. 155
    Mobile 978-407-6722
    Fax 978-683-9702
    brad@solren.com
    www.solren.com

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE

    This message and its attachments (if any) may contain confidential, proprietary or legally privileged information and it is intended
    only for the use of the addressee named above. No confidentiality or privilege is waived or lost by any transmission error.

    If you are not the intended recipient of this message you are hereby notified that you must not use, disseminate, copy it in
    any form or take any action in reliance on it. If you have received this message in error, please, delete it (and any copies of it)
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    From: Brian
    Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 12:30 PM
    To: natalie@solren.com
    Subject: Solrenview Lite Price

    Hi Natalie,
    I’m currently under contract for a 5 year solrenview Lite. I was just curious what the pricing is to extend my solrenview usage after my contract is up?

    Thanks,
    Brian
    http://www.solrenview.com/cgi-bin/cgihandler.cgi?&sort=pvi_IDs&cond=site_ID=199
  9. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    Interesting.. will perhaps have to look into that. Then again, I've already purchased the TED so any additional cost is more than I'm likely to want to spend now.

    Your "Solenview Lite" - does that include the automatic SREC reporting?
  10. SolarBrian

    SolarBrian Member

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    Not that I'm aware of. I'm not eligible for SRECs since I installed my system with the previous rebate incentive. "Lite" was the term I pulled from an old Solrenview presentation I found online. Notice Brad says "all residential systems" so I'm assuming yours would fall into that category. Its worth checking into, an email to Brad is free!
  11. Mr. Kelly

    Mr. Kelly Member

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    Hey Slow1,

    Congrats on your system! We have Solar City coming soon to do a site analysis for our potential system.

    What was your company's financing expectations? Did you have to pay for your system outright, or did they have alternative funding options?

    Solar City offers a lease program: They own the system, you benefit from the power it produces. Still trying to figure out whether to lease or buy. Any thoughts?
  12. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    I have lots of thoughts on that subject... My bias is very heavy towards ownership. I did get quotes and options from several companies (including Solar City) so I feel I am quite familiar with the various options available (at least those available about 9 months ago - I'm sure the marketing of options have changed but the fundamentals hasn't).

    Bottom line - I bought the system because it pays back in 5-8 years, then I still own the system and benefit from not only the power but from the SRECs until the 10 year point when who knows if there will be an SREC market in MA anymore. PM me for gory details if you want to have an email conversation on it.

    As to up-front costs - there are some excellent financing terms available. Assuming you have reasonable credit and are on a major MA utility you can likely qualify for a HEAT loan to help finance up to 15K of the project for 8 years at 0% - can't beat that. In many cases that may be almost all of your "after rebate and federal/state tax incentive, first year returns up front cost." To get the 30% federal amount financed many of the panel vendors are offering to do one year same as cash financing to help cover that. Thus you can own the system with very easy terms you see - now those companies looking to lease the systems won't advertise this to you, nor will they explain the SREC market to you (the fact that in MA it has a regulatory minimum value for the next 10 years).

    Also any decent installer who sells you the system to own will do all the paperwork to set up your SREC account and handle all the rebate processing so the "it is complicated and confusing" argument shouldn't apply either (I had one lease co present that as an argument for why the lease was superior).

    Maintenance and insurance is another consideration for lease vs own. My installer gives a 10 year warranty so that takes care of maintenance. Granted system has a 25-35 year expected service life, but the vast majority of issues should be well shaken out in that first 10 years. When an inverter goes after that (and they will, I have 2) I have budgeted for it and will deal with it, it isn't that complex really, it is just a cost to plan for. All in all there really aren't that many parts to maintain - nothing moves (no wear items) and nothing to actually "do" per se to keep it running. Insurance? I added to my homeowners policy and it increased my annual premiums by approx $80/year as I recall. Not a whole lot all things considered, again just added that line item into the payback spreadsheet and it added a couple months to the time.

    Consider selling your home. If you have a leased system you present the new buyers with the need to assume a contract they didn't negotiate. If you own the system you present them with a history of power production (value) and income stream from SRECs (if still in the 10 year period). Which is likely to be an easier sell? Which is likely to add more value to your home? Yeah, I know buyers aren't all rational, but you would have to be pretty irrational to believe the lease contract has a higher value if you are buying a home with a system already installed.

    I am sure there are cases where a lease (depending on the terms of course) may be the best option. However I did not find one that met my needs. I'm a long term investor and have been looking to do solar for a number of years (ever since buying this house 12 years ago actually - the roof screamed for it as it is about 2* off from ideal in both pitch and orientation). I decided to go for it when I could find a 5 year payback option (that is my general breakpoint - stove install included).

    Oh well - sorry for the high verbosity, but it really isn't a short answer sort of topic for me :)
  13. Mr. Kelly

    Mr. Kelly Member

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    Thank you, Slow1.

    Your verbosity and lack of a short answer are highly appreciated!

    You've given me a lot to think about.

    Our initial thought was, "Well, why would we want to assume the maintenance on a system like that?" If we think about it, it couldn't be any worse than maintaining any household system, i.e., well pump, boiler, etc.. Any idea how much an inverter install runs???

    Solar City offers a 2 week cancellation policy for their initial sign-up contract, which is where we're at. I may have to consider these options carefully, and might have a good mind to hit the ball back in their court.

    Of course, we would have to pass their 80% solar exposure spec in order for the contract to be considered anyway (if it doesn't pass, the contract is null and you basically start over with reexamined expectations).

    I never once considered actually buying the system, because A) up front costs were seemingly prohibitive B) we're poor C) we've had no knowledge of alternative financing (and Solar City wasn't too eager to push it). Your alternative suggestions cast a doubt on my decision to lease.

    For that... I thank you!

    By the way, where in MA are you? We're in Shirley.
  14. Slow1

    Slow1 Minister of Fire

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    I'm in Milford. Basically if you don't pass the 80% mark then you may as well not do the project - the numbers won't work out too well in most cases anyway. You also won't qualify for the CEC rebates.

    Realize that if you fall under "moderate income" or "moderate home value" you qualify for additional Mass CEC rebates too - so take a system that may have an initial cost of 32K, the base CEC rebate may be 4K, but if you qualify for the moderate income/home value rebate you can knock another 5K(?) off the top, bringing it down to 23K, then you take the Mass state tax rebate of 1K off and the Federal 30% and you are down to a first year outlay of about 15.4K, if you can then get that HEAT loan for 15K you are left with $400 out of pocket, then you have 8 years to pay back that (at 0% interest). If you have a 10 year warranty to cover maintenance then you shouldn't have any expenses. That system should generate on the order of 6-7 Mwh/year, assume 6 for calculations - at the MA minimum of $300/SREC (less 7% fees) you net about $1,674/year to service that loan. While this isn't quite enough to fully pay the loan (about $200/yr short) , consider that you are also offsetting about $1,000 worth of electricity per year so apply that savings toward the loan and you are all set. Hmm... I imagine none of the lease folks mentioned that either? (Note that my rebate numbers are 'guestimates' get a qualified person to work up the actual rebates you qualify for... )

    Oh - and once the project is paid for you continue getting the SRECs for a while too... (where do you think the lease sellers make their money?) That can pay for your eventual inverter replacement.

    On that subject - I don't actually know what it will cost when the time comes. In today's dollars I estimate on the order of $3K, but there are several factors that may affect this. I fully expect that in the next 10 years or so the efficiency/technology of the inverters will likely change so there may be different options out there. I may well replace my two with a single better model, or perhaps micro inverters may have market dominance and I may switch to that direction - high labor cost at that time? Too hard to predict. However that is the number I dropped into my calculations.
  15. Mr. Kelly

    Mr. Kelly Member

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    Thanks for your generous willingness to help in our rather complicated pursuit of sustainable energy!

    For the most part, it's really now a matter of research, and a little persistence, before we move forward.

    The biggest roadblock now seems to be - we won't qualify for the state rebate since we won't get the exposure required... Well, the fellow that came here suggested we consider knocking out a bunch of trees to gain that exposure. We shook our heads and said, "No way". We came out here for the natural beauty, and are not yet willing to mess with that, considering that the trees in question are these fabulous coniferous trees that shroud and beautify the entire front of our property.

    The Solar City fellow still conveyed that he thought we'd still be in reasonable financial shape to get 60-70% of electric offset (estimate), with the southern exposure that we have, given that the trees in question will be the biggest detriment in the winter when the sun is low. So, it's a matter of whether the upfront costs will make enough of a dent in our electric usage to make the conversion to solar worthwhile, mostly from an environmental perspective. From a financial perspective, it won't be as good an investment.

    One more thing - CEC rebate and SREC credits... not related, right? Hope not. Still would be good to qualify for one, if not the other. The Solar City guy said that that CEC is the smallest of all of the rebates, and suggested we'd still benefit from going solar.

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