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About to sign on the dotted line with SolarCity...Any advice?

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by TheAustin, Apr 29, 2014.

  1. TheAustin

    TheAustin Model S: P2009 P85

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    I'm a Tesla Model S owner, and I'm about to move forward on a proposal from SolarCity to have them install solar panels at my house...Any advice, suggestions, etc from fellow Tesla owners/SolarCity customers before I sign on the dotted line? Thanks :)
     
  2. GDH

    GDH Banned

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    did you get any other bids besides the Solar City bid?
     
  3. aaron0k

    aaron0k Member

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    Make sure the design they submit has the panels on the correct side of the house (e.g. facing the sun). Long story... (I ended up canceling, pursuing buying my own).
     
  4. FredTMC

    FredTMC Model S VIN #4925

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    I'm definitely getting SolarCity installation this year. I'm curious if you asked about the tesla 10kwh battery backup?
     
  5. TheAustin

    TheAustin Model S: P2009 P85

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    I didn't...I'm a Tesla owner and stockholder, and a SolarCity stockholder...Basically, I'm all in with Elon! Could I get a better deal with another solar company? Possibly...But I believe in putting my money (or savings!) where my mouth is. That's why I wanted to see what other SolarCity customers had to say, and see if they were happy/unhappy before I commit.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I didn't...I guess I probably should!
     
  6. GDH

    GDH Banned

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    You should always get 3 bids.
     
  7. tga

    tga Active Member

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    #7 tga, Apr 29, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2014
    Especially when you can get a much better deal than a SolarCity PPA by buying your system outright.

    Factoring in SREC (carbon credits) income and electric bill savings, last month's annualized ROI was over 20%. Call me greedy, but I don't see the need to share that return with SolarCity, regardless of who's at the helm.

    I just don't get the nearly religious fanaticism for SolarCity...

    Edit: I should point out that ROI estimate is for MA SREC's, which are worth a lot more than many other states. And they can certainly change in the future.
     
  8. JPP

    JPP Active Member

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    I signed a PPA last year--16kW system installed. Expert installation, no issues. Great esthetics--black panels and black skirts well laid out on mostly 'invisible' roof areas. Complex setup due to east-west installation (no good south roof). Could I have made more $$ over 20 years buying the system-sure. Would I tie up $$ in the investment--yup. But I have a no hassle no headache system monitored and maintained by SC with a guaranteed power output at a guaranteed price. Works for me. YMMV.
     
  9. staze

    staze Junior P85 Member

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    We almost signed without other bids or research. Now we are standing on the sidelines and waiting. Not so concerned about cost/credits but rather the efficiency and tech. Seems to be improving pretty rapidly and I don't my home saddled with archaic tech (at the time of sale). Plus, they were basing my monthly payments on my former bills. Now that I am on Time of Use (TOU) I have cut my bills in half. Maybe I should have them out again for another estimate....
     
  10. tga

    tga Active Member

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    I'd counter that the $$ you tied up in the investment for a system that size would be around half of the price of a MS. Any good installer will monitor/maintain. Maintenance is sort of a red herring, anyway, since there's really no maintenance (except maybe replacement of a string inverter around year 15).

    My installer includes monitoring, a 20 year guarantee against roof leaks, and a 20 year performance guarantee (they will pay for lost kWh and lost SREC's if the system underperforms). There's little risk on their part, since all the components have a 25 year guaranteee. So really, the only risk to the installer is that their crew didn't screw up.

    The customer's only risk is that the installer and component manufactures will be around if/when a problem arises down the road. I suppose you could argue that a big company like SolarCity may stand a better chance of long-term survival than my local company. But that risk is small and hard to quantify.

    OK, I'll stop sh*t stirring now... :smile:
     
  11. Trnsl8r

    Trnsl8r Blue 85kwh since 12/8/12

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    I had them over and ended up backing out. Main reason was timing, but also that they seem to be using cheap panels from China (which, for all I know, may work just fine). The other thing that bothered me was that they put in writing the $/kwh they would reimburse me if the panels didn't produce what they said it would... and that number was static for the 20 years the warranty covered it (not adjusted for inflation). Also found their sales tactic a little pushy so ended up pulling out. My neighbor went with them though, he seems pleased so far.
     
  12. NigelM

    NigelM Recovering Member

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    #12 NigelM, Apr 29, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2014
    Solar City doesn't operate in FL so I can't comment on their offering BUT you should definitely get comparative quotes on a purchase (or lease) agreement of that size.
     
  13. tliving

    tliving Member

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    I had them do the estimate and wrote up my thoughts here:

    Solar Gains | Tesla Living

    Still waiting on the engineering design to get completed. Was supposed to be 1-2 days after the engineering visit. Its been a week and just had a second engineering visit today. If the numbers are way different I may have to tell them to take a hike.
     
  14. GDH

    GDH Banned

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    Agreed.

    Nothing against Solar City but the bids I got from them for my 14-50 plug was almost double then the other two bids I got.
     
  15. astrotoy

    astrotoy Member

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    I got my solar system from Solar City in 2009. It has been working great for 5 years. Only one problem was that the inverters (I have two) were recalled, probably late in year 1, and they replaced them quickly and efficiently without any charge. I paid cash and got the full set of tax credits and rebates from our utility. At the time, we were still in the recession and Solar City had lost a big part of its financing. They offered a good deal for those customers who were willing to pay cash, to keep their crews working. IIRC, they started in the Bay Area. One selling point was that their chairman and biggest investor was the person who started Paypal. :) I had never heard of Tesla at that point, but decided to add some extra capacity, in case I ever got a plug in hybrid.
     
  16. TTT

    TTT Member

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    I also installed SolarCity years ago before ordering my MS and I too partially based it on hassle free maintenance. However, recently I've experienced lack of monitoring. Several months ago my system went offline line for an entire month before I was notified and just requested a refund for the guaranteed performance. Following this I reviewed the performance of my panels for the past 3 years and noticed a steady decline in performance. Only after I called and brought this to the attention of SolarCity did their engineers determined that there was a problem with my inverter and it took another month for them to replace it.
     
  17. JPP

    JPP Active Member

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    Guess it is sort of like Ronald Reagan and the former Soviet Union when he was talking about nuclear disarmament: Trust, yet verify. I do check the SolarCity site and my output from time to time. If I saw it go offline or reduce output, I for sure would call.
     
  18. derekt75

    derekt75 Member

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    My output was cut in half for a week before I noticed and called them. I would have preferred it if they called me. Some combiner had failed. They replaced it within the week.

    Regarding the cheap panels that they use, I figure that's their risk not mine: if they fail, they replace them with newer ones.

    Regarding installing it yourself, when I ran the numbers, it was far far cheaper to do a 20 yr prepaid lease than to purchase outright. I don't understand why, but it was like $40k ($27k after federal rebate) vs. $15k (no rebate). yeah the do-it-yourself people were using American panels and there was no uncertainty over what would happen after 20 years, but for me it was a no-brainer to do a prepaid lease with SolarCity rather than buying from the other guys.
     
  19. shelbri

    shelbri Member

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    #19 shelbri, Sep 5, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2014
    I am considering a Solar City installation. They are offering a no up front cost installation of a 9kW system with estimated annual production of 12,000 kWh. I simply pay $0.135 per kWh which compares favorably to my $0.163 per kWh rate I'm currently paying with CL&P. The SC rate increases 2.9% per year which takes about 8 year to get to the CL&P rate assuming no increase over that period by CL&P (not likely). They guarantee output and agree to monitor and repair as needed for the 20 year service period. While I do have to pay $6/mo to CL&P for service connection, I only pay CL&P for power if my consumption exceeds the capacity of my guaranteed output.

    I had two other companies come and offer units that I can purchase. Cash outlay is roughly $15k after tax incentives. I guess my question is why outlay the cash? While the proposals provided by the purchase entities show a 7-9 year payback period, they don't include the opportunity cost of the $15k.

    Other than being obligated to the 20yr lease with SC, is there anything else I am missing here?

    One additional comment - Purchase systems suggest I will only offset 70% of my current utilization. So My math indicating $15k outlay with 70% savings on electric bill and including a 4% yield on the $15k over 20yrs for opportunity cost suggest I don't break even on purchase after 20 years. With lease, it would seem I get ~$.03/kWh produced by panels up to full utilization. Again - what am I missing?
     
  20. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    Leasing:
    0.135/kWh
    2.9% increase each year
    20 years
    12000kWh/year
    Total paid to SCTY: 12000 * 0.135 * ( 1 - 1.029^19)/(1-1.029) = $40,301.18203

    Purchase:
    $15,000 cost
    20 year compounding equivalent:
    (40301.18203/15000)^(1/20) = 1.050658, i.e. 5.0658% interest rate, net of tax.
    Effective rate is decreased if you have to replace purchased equipment out of warranty.

    Note that you don't have to use savings. You can generally borrow money for home energy systems quite readily at reasonable rates.
    As long as you can borrow the money at a low rate (e.g. HELOC) purchase should be better.
    It's all a matter of assessing risk. People don't like risk.

    Edit: note that when I did the math I simply assumed that you'd displace the same amount of kWh pricing, basically assuming net metering instead of wholesale pricing for feed-in.
     

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