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Missouri Solar

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by Skotty, Apr 19, 2016.

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  1. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    I am starting this thread to collect information on rooftop solar energy systems in (and around) Missouri. Given that Missouri is a bad state for grid emissions, but has plenty of sunshine, it would seem to be a prime location for rooftop solar systems. However, this market is very much untapped. Solar City doesn't do business in Missouri. Other options seem limited. Our HOA doesn't even have a policy for solar installs yet, despite having detailed policies on everything else from fences to basketball goals. How can we start getting more solar power in Missouri, and who can be trusted?

    On Monday I am doing a consultation visit with Missouri Sun Solar (Missouri Sun Solar – Harness the Power of the Sun). I'll report back here with how that goes. If anyone else has any reports about solar installers in Missouri, please post.
     
  2. Rockster

    Rockster Active Member

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    One thing you can do is get in front your HOA and provide them some common sense guidelines for solar. Better they start with something you draft than they realize that they've overlooked solar and hastily create some ill conceived, overly restrictive nonsense.
     
  3. strider

    strider Active Member

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    There's a lot to wade through but there's some great discussion on this thread - I would recommend reading all of it:
    Why are turnkey Solar PV systems so ridiculously overpriced?

    Although I believe FlasherZ is actually on the IL side of the river from STL. But the gist is that with cheap electricity prices in the midwest the only people who install solar are doing it for the "feel-good" factor and not economics (as opposed to where I lieve where we pay $0.36/kWh peak and $0.11 off-peak solar payback is in the 7-8 year range). This means that these folks tend to be better off financially and will pay high prices for solar. Couple this with a small market of these people and you get little to no competition among solar installers which leads to higher prices. IIRC in that thread FlasherZ was calculating 18-20 year paybacks from professionally installed solar in his area. That's a huge upfront cost for most people.

    It will be interesting to see what $/W you hear from your local installer.
     
  4. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    Makes sense, but I wouldn't call it "feel-good" factor. That makes it sound empty. It's more about helping solve a serious problem the state isn't taking enough action on (if my state was a renewable energy leader, I wouldn't bother). Any good feelings are just a side benefit.
     
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  5. TheTalkingMule

    TheTalkingMule Active Member

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    I'm in Philadelphia and can tell you PA electricity is about as cheap as the midwest, we have the Marcellus Shale formation and zero natural gas extraction tax. SolarCity now operates in the major metro areas and regular installers are getting cheaper by the day. It just takes a certain amount of time for a couple good installers to ramp up business.

    Take a look at this "solarize" program they ran out in the suburbs of Philly. Basically a competitive RFP to find a quality installer who could install quality panels and they negotiated rebate tiers for hitting a certain amount of installs. If I lived in a fully untapped solar market, this is the way i would go. Try to get a coalition of community groups to organize it.

    When an installer sees the benefit of getting 30-100 installs in their pipeline they can afford to give you a good deal. These guys outside Philly will either pay $2.85 or $2.75/W for high efficiency panels. That's an amazing deal for a high quality install in this still relatively new market. Granted we have New Jersey next door and they've got a 3 year head start on PA, so the installers have been working over there for years.
     
  6. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    #6 Skotty, Apr 25, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2016
    Had a free consultation today. Here's my initial report...

    Missouri Sun Solar (in process of changing to U.S. Sun Solar)

    Supposedly about 110 employees, with 1000 installs so far, most staff in Springfield, MO but they have field offices in other locations. They are branching out into other states now, thus the impending company name change.

    They can install battery systems if desired, which supposedly can be retrofit later if desired. They current use Sonnen li-ion batteries. I did not think to clarify if they were for intended for battery backup or load balancing. They also mentioned natural gas generators, so I'm pretty sure they can install those too if desired.

    They seemed to want to size the system to match your electricity usage, such that your installed solar system will cover most of your electricity needs. (I guess most people want it this way?) To aid in this, they like to see information on how much energy you use each month and what it costs. They can then also generate proposals to show how much money you can save over time with a solar install due to reduced electricity bills, though in my own opinion, they are pushing best case scenario to look more attractive. I told them I didn't mind if the installed system only covered a percentage of my electricity usage, which did not bother them (they were not pushy about matching system size to usage, even though it was their initial angle).

    They like to package an efficiency assessment service with their installs to increase efficiency of the home (reportedly to reduce the panels required to offset the electricity usage). But, they said they can just do the solar install if that is what is wanted.

    They claim to use "tier 1" products, and microinverters (though initially they were saying DC optimizers; I asked if that was the same thing as the microinverters, and they said yes)

    UPDATE: I looked into the optimizers vs microinverters thing -- they are not the same. I believe they are using the SolarEdge optimizer system as advertised here: Comparison to Microinverters Not sure which is better, but either should be better than older generation strings with neither.

    They currently use Jinko panels. I snuck a peak at their screen and the software they were using showed JKMS260P-60. Based on a spec sheet I found, this is a 260W panel, with Poly-crystalline cell, rated at 16.05% efficiency. (I have no idea how panel cost compares to others, but that should be taken into account as well for anyone running a comparison.) Dimensions listed at 64.41 × 38.98 × 1.58 inch.

    Their roof attachment structure is galvanized steel. There is a 25 year production guarantee on the panels and a 12 year workmanship guarantee on the installation.

    In addition to rooftop, they can do ground mound, which they like to install on top of a shed-like structure, but they can do it other ways.

    They said it takes 90-120 days from date of signing until approved and turned on. Actual panel installation phase supposedly is from 1 to 5 days.

    They do everything start to finish, including handling the various paperwork, and do not contract out to other companies for anything.

    They also have a referral bonus program, and are also looking to do other interesting PR things like "solar parties" where they cater a party to familiarize people with solar power and their company. I mentioned I was going to share info with the HOA, and they were interested in doing a presentation or something for the HOA if possible. It did not seem out of the realm of possibility that a pro-active HOA might be able to work with the company to help come up with policies and business agreements at the neighborhood level.

    For financing they have some sort of arrangement with Green Sky for residential installs, which supposedly is a company that specializes in financing for renewable energy. Typical Green Sky rates are 6% for 20 year term. Of course, you can also arrange your own financing. I asked about solar leases and PPAs; they said they are looking to do something like that for commercial installations right now, but not residential. However, their representative sounded open to the possibility for residential if it can be shown as beneficial for all parties. Their commercial lending partner is US Bank.

    For residential, they do not like to do systems with less than 20 panels. They claim it is not cost effective for less than 20 panels. Assuming I can just multiply it out, 20 panels x 260W per panel would be a 5.2 kW system.

    As for cost, I saw one example where they installed a 9.62 kW system for $36K before incentives. Not sure if that was low, high, or average. They said the low end cost would probably be about $19K before incentives. The big incentive available is the federal tax credit that can cover 30% the cost of the system. Originally this tax credit was set to expire at the end of 2016, but it may have been extended through 2019. I need to collect more information on this.

    They are still figuring it out, but for my particular house, it looks like with rooftop install only, I would be very close to the 20 panel minimum.
     
  7. strider

    strider Active Member

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    Thanks for the input. Yes the 30% federal tax credit has indeed been extended through 2019 and steps down after that:
    Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit | Department of Energy

    $36k for 9.62kW pencils out to $3.74/W. Less than the $4/W FlasherZ was quoted in the greater STL area but higher than places with more competition. Obviously you should get a full quote from them and any other providers in your area and compare. Do you know what your pay-back period would be based on current electricity rates?
     
  8. mobe

    mobe Member

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    I used straight up solar in St. Louis. Used rennsola 305w panels (66 panels) for a total of 20.13kw with 2 SMA 7700 inverters rated at 8000w each on a hillside slab mount for 74,000. Received 20130 last week from empire. Will file 16800 for tax year 16. Total outlay after rebates is 37200 or 1.85/w.
     
  9. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    Had a followup visit with Missouri Sun Solar from one of their more techy people. I thought they used optimizers on every panel, but the way he described it, it sure sounded more like string converters, even though they have claimed it's not. It might be sort of a half way thing, where you get some of the benefits of optimizers, but they don't have the more advanced features like reporting on energy collected for every panel. I was left a little confused as to what exactly they are really doing in that regard.

    The energy efficiency service is apparently a package deal. You can have them not do it, but the system still costs the same. So you can't save anything by subtracting that out.

    They recently switched to JKMS265P-60 panels from the JKMS260P-60.

    They can fit more panels on our roof than originally thought. Turns out, by changing the orientation of the panels on the south roof to match the roof line where the south and east roof portions meet (which means installed at an angle, which is not something you see very often), they can get over 20 panels on the south facing roof. If the use the west and east bits of the roof too, they can get up to 40 panels. That's a lot more than originally thought.

    They've got some interesting financing options. In one case, they sort of factor in the expected tax credit in advance so you can take advantage of the benefit ahead of tax time.

    I also confirmed independently that the tax credit is indeed extended to 2019, which decreasing benefit for a few years after that.

    I don't have copies of their estimates yet. They are supposed to email them to me at some point. I asked them to provide 3 estimates, 1 with just panels on the south face (about 21 panels), one with panels on the south and west faces (about 29 panels), and one with panels on the south, west, and east faces (about 40 panels). I was most interested in the 29 panel solution. It would take all 40 to completely offset our electricity usage, but that's not a requirement of mine.

    The cost seems like a good deal in the long haul, with electricity bill savings being close to loan payments on the long loan, but you still have to carry extra debt load, and it would arguably be better to pay the loan off sooner in order to pay less in interest.

    We definitely want to do an install, but the extra debt load, tax credit extension, and other priorities like replacing our windows mean it will probably get pushed to 2018. But we will definitely do it as long as our financial situation remains solid.

    I still need to search around more to see if there are any other reputable installers in the area. But Missouri Sun Solar didn't throw up any red flags for me and they seemed like decent folk. I don't buy their "conservative" estimate of 6% electricity rate increases every year in their long term cost and savings analysis, but I'll let that slide.

    I need to investigate the net metering thing further. I thought if you over produce, you either lose it or get paid at an abysmal rate for it. But as they explained it, there is a sort of buffer where it sort of gets banked and you basically get it back later. Kind of like roll over minutes for a cell phone plan. Where they will expire eventually, but if you use them in a reasonably short amount of time, you still get the benefit. If I'm understanding this correctly, it is a huge benefit I had no idea existed. I thought to make that happen you needed to have a load balancing battery system, but apparently you can just let the grid take care of it. Kind of a bad deal for the electric utility, in my opinion.
     
  10. Electricfan

    Electricfan Member

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    Scotty, what you were offered sounds exactly what Texas Solar Outfitters offered me - wanted to build a system to offset my entire energy usage. This was nonsense (my opinion). Reason is you export most of your power to the grid - if you don't have a battery system. Batteries are still not cost effective (my opinion) so you do not want a solar panel setup to offset your entire usage. At least if your aim is to save money. Your payback would be much longer. I ended up getting more than I should have, and I cut the original proposal they gave me in half. Attached is what I got. They ended up putting 20 panels on my south facing roof and the rest on the west face, but other than that its accurate. If you look at my utility bill, it gives a lot of info, but one thing it does NOT tell you is how much power my house consumed from the solar panels. For that I have a Neurio power monitor. I love that thing. Its awesome. You should look into one. Highly recommend.
     
  11. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    That is what I originally thought, but as I discussed in the last paragraph of my last post, it would seem this is not really an issue in places that have "net metering", which we do have available in my area. As long as you don't completely overshoot your usage, It doesn't matter that you export power to the grid, as they only look at the net usage over time. A good deal for consumers, but I can understand why electric utilities wouldn't like it.
     
  12. Electricfan

    Electricfan Member

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    I wish we had it in Texas. Its under fire in some places. What if you buy a large system banking on net metering, then lose it? Its a risk. On the other hand, if battery storage becomes feasible, the larger system you have the better. I really want battery storage. Hope its available soon.
     
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  13. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    More details about how the Missouri Sun Solar installs are managing power -- apparently it's neither optimizers nor microinverters, but some sort of possibly newer built in technology? Here's a copy of what one of their techs said along with a PDF ad for it. Anyone able to comment on this type of solution?

    -----------------

    We use a brand of module (solar panel) called Jinko modules. We are currently using a 265W module. The Jinko modules that we use have an MPPT (maximum power point tracking) optimizer built in on the module string level that allows for string level optimization from partial shading, soiling irregularities, etc. What this means that if a single cell within a single string on a 3 string module is shaded then only that string is effected by the shading. In a traditionally optimized solution such as DC Optimizers or Micro Inverters that entire modules performance would be limited, but with the string level optimization you harvest more power with the limited shading. I am going to include an attachment that gives more information and also have some neat visual aids to help clarify the technology.

    At this time the Jinko maximized modules do not have the ability to offer panel level monitoring data. The only solutions that allow for module level monitoring are SolarEdge DC Optimizers and Enphase, both of which carry additional charges for panel level monitoring.

    We are using Fronius inverters currently. The monitoring referred to is the standard Fronius monitoring solution. It is a web hosted platform that allows you a user login to view your current and historical solar production data. The platform logs and stores solar production data for the life of the system and allows the user to view and retrieve that data. As you mentioned this monitoring would be on a system wide basis and would show overall production of the system and not module level data. We typically see that this monitoring solution is sufficient for nearly all users since the overall production trends are more indicative of system performance than is module level data.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    Called up another company today, SunSmart Technologies. To be honest, I did not have a good first impression of them. They wanted way too much information from me while providing virtually no information about themselves, and they wouldn't do a consultation unless both me and my spouse were both here for it, which would be a total waste of her time this early in the process, so not sure I'll get many details from them. And the person who answers their phone answers with "Hello?"; not exactly a quality greeting from a company.

    Looking for a solar installer, it kind of feels like the wild west. Not many options, not a lot of consistency, most of the companies have only been around for a few years at best, and I have a hard time trusting any of them.
     
  15. Electricfan

    Electricfan Member

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    I disagree with the idea you don't need panel level information. I love my Enphase system. My solar installer did try to talk me out of buying the extra level of information, and I had been warned they would do that. Not sure if that's an installer thing, an Enphase thing, or what. But it was only a few hundred bucks extra - compared to thousands for the system. I have the Enphase panel level info, plus the Neurio monitor of my house's production and consumption, and I really like having both. lifetime energy.jpg
     
  16. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    'Need' is a pretty strong word... there are plenty of 10+ year old PV system doing just fine without it so it's obviously not 'needed'.

    I agree it's helpful, desirable and awesome... just not sure if it's worth the ~$3k premium... Optimizers make that a little more palatable since that's only ~$1k more. If you have the cash and you want it that's awesome... but if I'm trying to sell someone an 8kW system I'm not going to tell them they 'need' to drop another ~$3k for module level monitoring...
     
  17. strider

    strider Active Member

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    Banking your power during the day and pulling it at night is what net metering is. They take the total power you pulled from the grid, subtract what you pushed, and then if that number is greater than 0 you're billed for that number of kWh. You may have a minimum bill to cover the cost of the grid connection. Also if that number is negative they may not pay you for that power (that's technically outside of net metering and instead is a feed-in tariff). That's how it is in Oklahoma. $20 minimum bill and net metering is done monthly so there's no rollover and no credit for over generation. I believe Cali does it on an annual basis.

    So you would size your PV such that you'd need to buy $20 worth of power most months. I would go to your electric company's website and look up the tariffs. They probably have one for net metering that would explain how it works. Here's the one for PSO in NE Oklahoma:
    https://www.psoklahoma.com/global/utilities/lib/docs/ratesandtariffs/Oklahoma/ResidentialService8-6-2015.pdf
     
  18. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    I'll be meeting with another company next week -- Wentz Alternative Energy. They don't serve the whole state, I don't think. They are small and based out of Lawrence, KS. But I do know they do installs in Kansas City. I learned about them through a neighborhood contact, discussed it with them, and they seemed like a pretty good bunch. Will report on them after our meeting next week.
     
  19. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    I met with representatives from Wentz Alternative Energy today, including Mr. Hugh Wentz himself.

    Hugh Wentz has owned the company since 2005. They do installs in multiple states, but as I am only focusing on Missouri, I only have details for Missouri. Hugh said they can do installs anywhere in Missouri, not just in the KC area like I at first assumed.

    Wentz does some amount of subcontracting, primarily for electrical hookup. They claim to have good partners they can trust. They also said they currently like Fusion Electric, which may have just been for the KC area.

    Total install time from sign of contract to finished installation (but not hookup) is reported as taking about 1 month. Actual hookup of the grid adds some time to that, and is dependent on how fast the electric utility gets around to it.

    They currently us Upsolar for panels (they did an initial quote with 265W panels, though I didn't get info on the specific model). They combine those with APsystems microinverters. Each APsystems microinverter can connect 2 panels. Monitoring system is also through APsystems. They claimed monitoring is done by inverter, so assuming I understand this correctly, that means not full panel-level monitoring, but you would get data on each panel pair. Though it's hard to tell for sure based on the summarized information on the APsystems website.

    Warranties listed were as follows: 2 years general warranty from Wentz, 10 years on the microinverters (upgradable to more for additional charge) available through APsystems, 10 year general warranty on the panels, 15 year 90% production guarantee, 25 year 80% production guarantee.

    When asked if they had any financing partners, they talked about Green Sky, 6%, with an available option where you pay nothing the first year. This is the same company and roughly the same financing described by Missouri Sun Solar / US Sun Solar. So I guess Green Sky is a thing around here that multiple companies work with.

    No efficiency service like US Sun Solar was trying to package into their offerings (I consider this better than US Sun Solar, as eliminating the efficiency service from the US Sun Solar installation did not reduce the cost)

    Initial price estimate was around $3/Watt. 28 265W panels at $22,260.

    While it's an entirely subjective thing, I felt pretty good about their company from my visit with them.
     
  20. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    It should be noted that a $25K Green Sky 20 year loan at 6% interest is really quite terrible. You would ultimately pay almost $18,000 in interest alone. I would not advise anyone take such a loan unless they are going to pay it off quickly. I haven't confirmed yet whether or not there is any penalty for paying off a Green Sky loan early.
     

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