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Is solar a good option for me?

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by BrettS, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. BrettS

    BrettS Member

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    I realize this is pretty off topic for this forum, but I know there are also a number of smart people on here who know a lot about solar energy, so I'm hoping someone can at least help me figure out solar might make sense for me and point me in the right direction for some further research:)

    As a bit of background, I'm in central florida, so at least we get a lot of sun, but power is reasonably inexpensive here. I pay 10.56 cents per kWH for the first 1000 kWH each month and 12.97 cents per kWH after that. I have been using about 1000-1500 kWH/month (depending on the season) but now that I have my model S I suspect that it will be more like 1700-2300 kWH/month.

    It also seems that my roof may not be ideal for solar. It's not a huge house (about 1400 square feet) although there is a porch in the back and a two car garage under the roof that aren't included in that number. But I also don't have any roof area that faces due south. Here is a satellite image of my house. North is up in the image. There is also a palm tree that casts a shadow onto the southernmost part of the roof as well.

    IMG_0455.jpg

    My goals would be to switch to a more green source of power and also, ideally save some money, although I realize that there may be a long payback period. I plan to do as much of the work as possible myself, so I'm thinking I may be able to save some money that way as well.

    So, after all that, do you think that solar is something I should consider more seriously? Are there any good forums for DIY solar info?

    Thanks much:)
     
  2. nativewolf

    nativewolf Member

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    Maybe post this in the Energy section of the forum because that is where these sorts of discussions take place. Lots of folks there who can give input.
     
  3. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    There have been several recent solar developments that would make solar work for you where just a few years ago it would not have been nearly as viable.

    Dramatic drop in the cost of Panels
    When panels were >$2/w you really needed them to face as south as possible to get the most bang for your buck. Now that you can get them for <$0.30/w that's much less of a concern. In a location as far south as Florida even the North side of your roof is fair game... although I would populate the S-W & E sides first. I recently saw a house in Kansas with panels on the North roof.

    DC Optimizers and mulit-MPPT String inverters (sure, and micros)
    Until a couple years ago you really needed all the panels to face the same direction. Thanks to new technology you can have panels facing in several directions and it really won't matter... so long as the system is properly designed.

    IMO DIY is EASY; Don't worry about displacing 100%... every bit matters. Figure out what your budget is and go from there. I've found ~$3k to be a good staring point. Smaller systems tend to be bit more expensive per watt installed. ~$3k is a bit of an inflection point to an affordable system.
     
    • Like x 2
  4. cpa

    cpa Active Member

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    We installed a puny 2,600-watt system in the California's Central Valley six years ago when our rates were 11 cents for tier 1. The panels were wired in series, so we had an inverter installed in the garage. We did not perform the work ourselves.

    We are about another year away from our break-even point, although to be honest, our tier 1 rate is now 20 cents. I estimate that we lose about 15% of our spring-time generation each fall due to panel shading from four large trees (50+ feet) in our front yard.

    But I think with microinverters (the panels are wired in parallel) and your latitude, it might be something that would be worthwhile.

    Some of your decision will depend on whether you plan to reside there for the foreseeable future.
     
    • Like x 2
  5. Takumi

    Takumi Member

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  6. JHuberman

    JHuberman Member

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    One option is to get estimates from several installers and they will give you payback estimates. Then you may be able to negotiate a price with you doing some of the work.
     
  7. JSkrehot

    JSkrehot Member

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    Installing yourself is basically 1/2 the cost. In California anyways, it is basically $1,000/panel for complete install. I bought a 24 panel 6.12 kW system from gogreensolar.com Their install instructions, videos, and technical support is great. My uncle bent all of my conduit for the wiring runs and the wiring from the solar edge inverter to my main panel as he was faster at it (I could have done, just would have taken me a bit longer). My friend and I did all of the mounting brackets, panel, and power optimizer installation which was not difficult, just takes time. I would definitely choose to do this again, got my 30% back from federal on my taxes and it will only take 5 years to recoup the difference in what I paid. My system covers 110% of my annual usage, got one just a little bigger as I am a Model 3 reservation holder.
     
  8. dkemme

    dkemme Member

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    I obtained three bids for an 8 Kwh system almost two years ago, they ranged anywhere from $26-46K and went with the lowest bidder. The lowest bidder was great to work with and was very committed to making solar affordable, he was quite difficult to find though, I think on the fourth page of a google search.
     
  9. BrettS

    BrettS Member

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    That looks very cool:). Unfortunately it says that it's not yet available in my area:(
     
  10. Sharkbait

    Sharkbait Member

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    Once you decide to 'bite the bullet', install a couple 14.5 kW Tesla Powerwalls along with a bi-directional inverter and avoid the zombie apocalypse when the grid goes down.......
     
  11. BrettS

    BrettS Member

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    That would be nice, but given my high power usage and reasonably low electricity cost I don't think I could justify the expense of an off grid system
     
  12. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    Talk to a few solar installers and get bids. They will do a solar survey of your property to determine the best location for panels.
    Solar is ridiculously cheap now and will give a decent return even with low energy prices.
    Three years ago a 4kW 16 panel system cost me $21,000 ($15k after tax credit or $3.75/watt) with a local professional installer and gave me a 7 year payback period. Last year I did a DIY addition of 8 more panels for 2.2 kW for about $5,000 ($3500 after tax credit or $1.6/watt). My electricity price is about 0.16/kW but your solar installer should customize their bid to your local rates.
    You don't need full sun all day to make it pay. We have trees and my site survey came to about 76% of maximum and that has been accurate.
     
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  13. Sharkbait

    Sharkbait Member

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    Same price here, 24 panels were $28K but it looks like my payback will be shorter based on all the power used up in the high desert for air-con. Total price offset by over $10K of federal and state credits and rebates. No complaints. 300-400 kW of solar power a month now feeding my S. Grandfathered under NEM 1.0. NEM 2 will certainly suck.
     
  14. Sharkbait

    Sharkbait Member

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    Not exactly off grid. It allows you to use battery backup when the grid shuts down your generation for whatever reason with a bidirectional inverter. Works with Tesla Powerwall:

    StorEdge™ | SolarEdge
     
  15. TheTalkingMule

    TheTalkingMule Distributed Energy Enthusiast

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    Energysage is a great place to start when trying to answer your original question. They provide great IMPARTIAL information around the value of solar and payback periods, etc...

    You're trying to answer this question in a time of transition for the US. Yes solar is absurdly cheap right now, so folks in a place like Florida can almost always make immediate savings IF they managed to purchase a high quality array, installed by a quality contractor, and designed for their needs.

    The reason I say we're in a transitional period is that sales cost and effort is still running the show here. If you want solar in Germany you call your local electrician, he/she prices it out, and the install is done in a week for about $2/W. In the US there's so much expensive sales/permitting effort that average prices are more like $3.50/W and you have to deal with conflicting "versions of reality" from various installers. As I'm sure you've found out, that is annoying and gets you nowhere.

    I put my address in the Energysage platform and have gotten 3 bids(all rejected), but most importantly I've not gotten any spam mail or phone calls. Start there and research your local market of installers. Look around for any "Solarize" projects going on in your area. These groups band together to bypass half the sales process and get a better price from a researched, quality installer. That way you don't have to do all the research and still get a good deal. I wouldn't sign with any installer off the Energysage platform since they still have tons of sales cost included, just use it to get an idea of the market.

    If you need to do this on your own, identify a high quality local installer and pitch a price point to him directly. If the installer knows you don't need the sales process to become a signed customer, they should be willing to install you for around $2.75/W(before any tax credits/rebates). Knowing they're honest is obviously the key. The only way you can do that is to get out there in your market and make some connections. Literally ask people with solar panels who did the install and how they felt about the experience. Once you have that trusted installer and they're willing to give you a tight price, the rest is easy. They know what panels to use and should provide a sound design plan that makes sense to you.

    Getting a sweet price point makes all the risk assessment and payback period calculation moot IMO. Anything could change at any time, especially in Florida's legislative environment. As long as you get in cheap, you'll be OK.
     
  16. AntronX

    AntronX Member

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    If you want to DIY then I would go with ground mount array that you can build yourself. Get panels from sunelec.com in miami. They got them so cheap that in FL cost of panels pays off in only 1.5 - 2 years. Then hunt ebay for used grid-tie inverters. Stay away from enphase as they are twice as expensive ($0.48/W) as cheap solar panels per watt. Look for 3kW string inverters like Sunnyboy but look to pay around $0.15/watt or less. Sunelec recently had a bunch of salvage 3kW grid inverters for $100 a piece, but they disappeared within a week. I have no clue about permits and all that red tape stuff in FL. I would go off-grid just to avoid that or even pseudo grid tie with grid backfeed limiter and no permit.
     
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  17. Sharkbait

    Sharkbait Member

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    Maybe I'm wrong but it doesn't appear the OP's house is ideally situated for a south-facing, ground mounted system (north was up in the image of his picture). In addition, the irregular angles of the hip roof design don't allow much space for panels, and less when you consider that local codes generally require standing or walking space around the panels to cut the roof open in the event of a fire.
     

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