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Getting solar just to feel like your car is powered on sunshine

ozweepay

Member
Jul 16, 2015
208
35
Boulder, CO, USA
Solar isn't a great proposition where I live. Grid power (fueled primarily from coal) is so cheap here that it's hard to make the numbers work out in favor of solar panels on my roof.

But there is something psychologically appealing about the idea of driving my car on stored sunshine... knowing that I'm driving on burning coal doesn't feel quite as good.

Has anyone out there installed solar panels just for the feel-good aspects?! Am I crazy to be considering it?
 

RodF

Member
Dec 28, 2012
419
55
Honolulu, Hawaii
I installed solar because it made economic sense - Hawaii electricity is so darn expensive, and we have lots of sun.
But the "powered by the sun" feeling is great just the same!
 

FlasherZ

Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv
Jun 21, 2012
7,028
1,014
I installed 18 kW of solar onto my roofs that offsets about 50% of my usage. Because of very cheap power (5-9c/kWh) and high installation costs ($4/W), even with incentives the payback is going to be about 15-18 years. When you consider opportunity cost of money, it may as well be feel-good.
 

David_Cary

Active Member
Dec 17, 2012
1,231
763
Cary, NC
And in STL, does it even feel that good? I mean hydro and all

Most solar outside of CA, Hawaii is probably feel good. (NJ maybe also).

If you have reasonable rates and no state incentive, it usually doesn't pan out. I got lucky in NC with state incentive and utility incentive but those are gone (or greatly diminished).

Coming from someone with home solar, it really is a dubious economic move to install home solar. It survives only with incentives. Sometimes the incentives come in the form of crazy rates brought on by a bad regulatory environment (ie CA). The whole thing give the Koch's something to complain about.

My system - $30k (6kw). Net cost to me - $6k. Savings per year $800. Just an example of surviving on incentives. A large solar farm makes a lot more sense. When you factor in the permiting costs (and the labor to do it), the less than ideal angle and orientation and the trees (minimal but still), large scale installations make more sense.

Sorry - conservative rant off. The point is in coal country it is absolutely a feel good move. Go for it.
 

FlasherZ

Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv
Jun 21, 2012
7,028
1,014
And in STL, does it even feel that good? I mean hydro and all

Illinois is plurality nuclear, barely edging coal (especially downstate).

It feels good, of course. Can I recommend it to someone who wants the bottom line and sits on less than a few months of savings? No, especially since Illinois nuked its 25% rebate, leaving only the 30% federal rebate. That pushes recovery to 25 years or more.

Frankly, I did it to hedge bets against electricity price, especially since I am converting most of my transportation miles to electric. I hear a lot of threats directed at the coal industry (despite a brand new plant built put into operation less than 5 years ago), and if that were to be disrupted by regulation, we'll end up with power prices that are 2x what we're seeing today. That's going to dramatically reduce my recovery period.

(For what it's worth, I pay 9 cents per kWh with my rural co-op... the folks in town on Ameren (f/k/a Illinois Power) pay about 6 cents per kWh, which makes the payback beyond panel lifetime...)
 

jcaspar

Member
Aug 19, 2013
834
72
Sacramento
Even in California, I could not make it work financially. With power at .06$ per KWHr for the car, it was 17-18 year payback. Maybe when panel prices drop more and efficiency increases or if power prices triple.
 

ChadS

Last tank of gas: March 2009
Jul 16, 2009
3,346
2,725
Redmond, WA
Leather seats and a sunroof don't pay for themselves, yet people are happy to pay for them. There's nothing crazy about getting what you want even if there's no payback. Honestly I'm not sure where the idea that there has to be a payback came from in the first place; it only seems to apply to things where the benefit is to everybody rather than just the buyer (there's more than a "feel-good" component here; it is actually helping). I'm perfectly happy to consider paying for things that help other people as much as they help me.

As an illustration, I could hypothetically throw my garbage in to the creek behind my house for free, but I choose to pay for garbage service to haul it away instead. I can't solve all the world's problems by myself, but that doesn't absolve me of the responsibility to do what I can to mitigate the effects of my contribution.
 

DFibRL8R

Active Member
Jan 17, 2013
1,302
1,913
A mountain, Virginia
I installed a 50 panel (13kW) system in Virginia where there is no state incentive and pretty poor power company incentives ( I even had to give up my EV time of use rate because the state law prohibited having that with solar net metering). So as far as economic payoff, yeah we're in the 15+ year range. The decision was heavily weighted on the fact that financially we could do it and there were perceived benefits on various levels (health/air quality, climate change). Granted the overall impact of a single residential system is trivial in the global or even regional sense but then so is the choice to throw an aluminum can in the landfill -v- recycling right?

After all, I bought a car that pushes the envelope technologically when I could have spent a lot less to get from point A to B. I like driving change through supporting industries that are working to solve problems in new ways. I see the decision to solarize my home as similar to the decision to purchase the Model S.
 

FlasherZ

Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv
Jun 21, 2012
7,028
1,014
Leather seats and a sunroof don't pay for themselves, yet people are happy to pay for them. There's nothing crazy about getting what you want even if there's no payback. Honestly I'm not sure where the idea that there has to be a payback came from in the first place; it only seems to apply to things where the benefit is to everybody rather than just the buyer (there's more than a "feel-good" component here; it is actually helping). I'm perfectly happy to consider paying for things that help other people as much as they help me.

As an illustration, I could hypothetically throw my garbage in to the creek behind my house for free, but I choose to pay for garbage service to haul it away instead. I can't solve all the world's problems by myself, but that doesn't absolve me of the responsibility to do what I can to mitigate the effects of my contribution.

It's a cost-benefit tradeoff, regardless of whether the benefits are monetary, emotional, or something else. A few hundred dollars for a car option is a bit different than a $36,000 capital investment. Frankly, I don't get direct enjoyment out of solar panels the way that I would get it from opening the sunroof on a nice day, or the feel of the leather seats - it's still power. From the pure economics of it, I shouldn't have solar up there - the risk probability just isn't high enough for the hedge I made versus the 20-year opportunity cost on money. There is some emotion, feel-good built into my decision.

It's not as if there isn't a "feel-good" factor built in, but the question is just how much it offsets in the cost-benefit equation.
 

Rockster

Active Member
Oct 22, 2013
3,010
4,617
McKinney, TX
I'm contemplating solar and here in Texas it's likely to have a long payout, especially if I hire the work instead of doing it myself. The intangible benefits for me include the peace of mind knowing that I have some power available if the grid goes down and my system will have paid for itself about the same time I'm likely to retire. There's no telling how expensive electricity will be by that time and knowing that I have a hedge against spiking rates, especially when I'm transitioning to a "fixed" income, is attractive.
 

Owner

Active Member
Dec 20, 2012
1,544
325
San Francisco Bay Area
Money is not everything although the thinking in the US certainly leans that way.

I did solar because i care about the planet. The initial investment will take 10 years to pay off and I'm in year 9 at the moment.

There was a recent study that only 1 in 4 in the US is worried about global warming, and that worries me.
 

freeewilly

Member
Jul 22, 2015
579
187
Brea, CA
Not everything is measured by ROI, otherwise we won't be driving a MS.

My electricity bill is so low, the solar installer don't think I'm a good candidate. I did it anyway, just want to do my little part to remove some carbon footprint. It makes me HAPPY, just like owning a Tesla, it makes me HAPPY everyday.
 

BriansTesla

Old school meets new tech
May 8, 2012
304
477
AI WA
I was very fortunate that Washington state has great incentives so Solar was an easy decision for a business location remodel. Payback in 5 years. The 10KW system is 4 months old but the production has already surpassed my 2 1/2 years of MS consumption. At least I'm doing something about the climate.

IMG_20150805_083714728t.jpg
 

Rocky_H

Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2015
6,432
7,642
Boise, ID
I had been looking at a solar system several years ago, when it was running more like $8 per watt, which was pretty high. Even now, it’s a bit borderline. I live in Idaho, where about half of our power is hydroelectric, and it runs 7 or 8 cents per kwh. Our monthly electric bill is less than $100 (level pay year round), so payoff times is close to a couple decades. I do like @ChadS’s comment about how doing the right thing doesn’t have to have a direct cost payoff. When we were bought a hybrid in 2002, people gave us a lot of skepticism about how it would take over 10 years to pay off. We said that even if it does take 10 years to break even, that is less gas that we will have WASTED during that 10 years, even if it doesn’t save money. That still matters to me. At this point, I would go ahead and do solar, but my wife still isn’t too sold on it.
 

Drucifer

Active Member
Nov 30, 2014
1,115
262
Charlotte, NC
My system is in the 10-12 year payback range. As long as you plan to stay put long enough, it works as I should essentially double my investment in 20-25 years. Better than a passbook savings account or certificate of deposit, but that's about it - unless electricity goes up - so you have a built in hedge against that.
 

m6bigdog

Member
Mar 29, 2015
150
33
San Ramon, CA
Not everything is measured by ROI, otherwise we won't be driving a MS.

My electricity bill is so low, the solar installer don't think I'm a good candidate. I did it anyway, just want to do my little part to remove some carbon footprint. It makes me HAPPY, just like owning a Tesla, it makes me HAPPY everyday.

I like what you're saying.
Installing a PV system and driving a MS is leaving something for future generations.
Happiness is taking control and contributing where you can.

We can do this.. make the right choices and it doesn't mean doing without!!


I installed my first 2 panel direct water heating solar system in 1980, cost $1k and a kWh was $.04, because it was economical with an electric water heater; also the ROI estimate was 9 months with rebates.

Installed a 34 Panel PV Solar system (7.3kWac) in Nov. 2012 because the economics was undeniable and I took out the water heating system after 32 years of production. ROI estimate 6 years.

The BIG DEAL is I am GREEN and have a small carbon footprint no matter how much electricity I need/use, 3 years of Solar production = 42 MWh or average 1200 KWh/mo.
I'm retired and home most of the day and air condition the home 24/7 and the system generates more than my total annual electricity usage.

We purchased the P85D, 6 months ago to replaced a vehicle that got an average of 16 MPG (50 gal/mo. @ $175/mo.) and the PV system is holding its own with all but a small fraction of the electricity usage, even with charging the EV, approx. 12 kWh a day.
Now ROI down to 18 mo. from 3 years left when adding in the MS

So I'm going to install another 6 PV panels (40 total @ 8.8kWac) because I feel better when I can say, I generate what I use - not so much because the 6 PV panels are a good economic investment but because I am contributing to a healthier planet and I'm doing my part.
 

jcaspar

Member
Aug 19, 2013
834
72
Sacramento
Having expensive power and 5-9 year paybacks makes it an easy decision I think. If I was in that situation I would go for it in a minute. At 17-18 years for a about 20 year lifespan system (without even factoring in interest on the money) the degrading appearance of the house (our opinion) it wasn't the right decision for us, yet. There are other things I can do with my money for the world that make me feel better, but that is just me. I didn't get the air suspension either...:smile:
 
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deonb

Active Member
Mar 4, 2013
4,059
4,211
Redmond, WA
I was very fortunate that Washington state has great incentives so Solar was an easy decision for a business location remodel. Payback in 5 years. The 10KW system is 4 months old but the production has already surpassed my 2 1/2 years of MS consumption. At least I'm doing something about the climate.

The WA state incentive for solar makes no sense and does nothing (or less) for the climate. We have the biggest hydro-electric dam on the continent (Grand Coulee dam). Not only is it the biggest hydro plant - it's the fifth biggest electrical plant in the U.S:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/power-plants/

So already 90% of WA's energy on a bad day comes from Hydro, Nuclear and Wind. If you want to participate in reducing the rest, you can call up PSE and tell them you want green energy, and they won't source you from coal or natural gas.


But putting up solar panels in a state that's not particularly known for sunshine, especially considering it doesn't actually replace that much dirty energy, is the ultimate in feel-gooddedness.
 
May 17, 2012
562
105
USA
My system is sized to offset peak time of use charges at .23/kWh. Just enough net metered production to meet the summer afternoon ac needs.
 

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