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Considerations to invest in solar energy

OliverB
OliverB Member Posts: 10
Hey everyone,

we have been considering investing in sustainable solar energy for quite some time. Although there are tips and tricks on countless websites, I wanted to get my own experience. Have the investments in solar energy been worth it? :)

Comments

  • Derheatmeister
    Derheatmeister Member Posts: 1,103
    edited May 27
    ROI...It depends.. :*

    I would talk to a professional Solar contractor that uses a program such as T-sol !

    They should be able to use the site information such as:
    Local Weather data,Exposure times,Angle of install,Distrance from collectors to Tank,Size and Insulation of piping/line set, Collector,Tank and Control Information, Daily usage of DHW and possible Heat interface to Hopefully a properly designed low temp situation,Glycol or Drain back install,Current cost of utilitys to produce DHW and or heat. Stimulats in form of tax credits ,Maintenance Cost..I am probaly forgetting something but with this infomation they should be able to calculate your Life time Operation cost and give you some idea of ROI.

    I have Designed,Installed and maintained systems which have ROI of 8 to 12 years..
    I also have seen systems installed by others which "shoot from the Hips" that will never work and certainly never justifie the carbon footprint/embodied energy that it took to get all the energy, materials involved manufactured,Installed and eventually recycled... It is even worse when i have to pull the plug on systems which are just wasting energy by radiating energy into the night sky..

    Hopefully you are a good candidate and you can reduce your energy consumption/Carbon footprint....

    BTW: I personally prefer Drain backs. :)
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 137
    @OliverB solar thermal or solar photovoltaic (electricity)? Solar PV can be leased, so you’d save money from day 1. You’d save more if you bought it outright, but either way financially solar is usually a no brainer. It does depend on your location and rates of course. 
  • OliverB
    OliverB Member Posts: 10

    ROI...It depends.. :*

    I would talk to a professional Solar contractor that uses a program such as T-sol !

    They should be able to use the site information such as:
    Local Weather data,Exposure times,Angle of install,Distrance from collectors to Tank,Size and Insulation of piping/line set, Collector,Tank and Control Information, Daily usage of DHW and possible Heat interface to Hopefully a properly designed low temp situation,Glycol or Drain back install,Current cost of utilitys to produce DHW and or heat. Stimulats in form of tax credits ,Maintenance Cost..I am probaly forgetting something but with this infomation they should be able to calculate your Life time Operation cost and give you some idea of ROI.

    I have Designed,Installed and maintained systems which have ROI of 8 to 12 years..
    I also have seen systems installed by others which "shoot from the Hips" that will never work and certainly never justifie the carbon footprint/embodied energy that it took to get all the energy, materials involved manufactured,Installed and eventually recycled... It is even worse when i have to pull the plug on systems which are just wasting energy by radiating energy into the night sky..

    Hopefully you are a good candidate and you can reduce your energy consumption/Carbon footprint....

    BTW: I personally prefer Drain backs. :)

    Thank you for the tips! I will definitely inquire again with a professional provider and ask him.
  • OliverB
    OliverB Member Posts: 10

    @OliverB solar thermal or solar photovoltaic (electricity)? Solar PV can be leased, so you’d save money from day 1. You’d save more if you bought it outright, but either way financially solar is usually a no brainer. It does depend on your location and rates of course. 

    For us most likely only solar PV is interesting
  • OliverB
    OliverB Member Posts: 10
    I also got some more information in another post
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,072
    edited May 27
    I recently came across an outfit called Blue Planet Energy which would allow you to completely go off grid if you wanted to. But they give no clue on the cost of one of their power storage systems. I believe an energy storage package is a critical piece of solar.
    OliverBWillyP
  • OliverB
    OliverB Member Posts: 10
    Thanks for your contribution! I will inform myself further :)
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,244
    edited May 27
    Hi @OliverB , I use solar, both PV and thermal, and live in an off grid house I built. Because I didn't need to bring in power, the solar much more than paid for itself on day one. I power my 1800 square foot house with 890 watts of PV, but could only do this by making things very efficient. To me, efficiency is the real low hanging fruit. Even something as simple as using GFCI breakers rather than outlets saves me over 15 watts of baseline power consumption. That equates to many hundreds of dollars of solar panel. It's not easy, but possible to cut normal electric usage by 80%. Also, I'm not a fan of payback, but rather life cycle cost, as a truer way of seeing the big picture.

    Yours, Larry
    Hot_water_fanWillyP
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,679
    The trick is to avoid electric bill rather than fancy deals with utility.
    Eventually we'll be billed for peak capacity as well as delivery.
    How much and how fast will electricity prices increase?
    Can you design and build your own refrigeration and air-conditioning?
    Do you have room to store lots of ice?
    How long will you live in your house?
    You'll need thermal storage (ice) as well as PV.
    Thermal storage is less expensive than batteries and will not wear out.
    Authorities probably frown on home made natural refrigerant ice maker.
    If you live in hot climate PV will eventually pay rich tax free dividends.
    The $six thousand$ after tax you save annually now may be $ten thousand" some years later.
    Sometimes you'll have a spell of hot cloudy weather; then it's motel time.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 16,514
    The first thing you need to do here is to define just what you mean by "invest in solar energy". Are you looking for something for a residence? Are you looking for space heating? Do you need cooling? Hot water for your shower? Electricity? Off grid or play with the power company?

    Before you even think about the rest of the questions, you need to answer those!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Many people I know are holding out for government incentives for solar installations. They should be available in a few years depending on who wins the tug of war in Washington. I'm staying neutral here; let's not go down that rabbit hole.
    Often wrong, never in doubt.
    rick in Alaska
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,679

    The first thing you need to do here is to define just what you mean by "invest in solar energy". Are you looking for something for a residence? Are you looking for space heating? Do you need cooling? Hot water for your shower? Electricity? Off grid or play with the power company?

    Before you even think about the rest of the questions, you need to answer those!

    For me investment is dollars. I'd "invest" $40,000 to spend $5000 per year less for electricity in a residence that will stay in family for twenty years. No brainer. But I won't bother with complications to save $500 each year.

    An important consideration for solar "investment" is for your big energy user (A/C) to be strictly off grid. Otherwise future "savings" depend on whatever delivery (kwhr either direction) and capacity (nominal amp service and/or peak consumption) our wise masters will charge us.

    Also being a mechanical guy I try to minimize electric complications like inverters and batteries. I see solar installations where DC from PV is converted to AC which is then rectified to DC to charge batteries producing DC which is converted to AC to run the A/C (air-conditioning).
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 703
    A friend of mine who is a retired electrician built a house in Pa. His house was 3000 square feet and the first year he he intentionally went overboard on electricity use. The second year he started his solar project and that included a governmental stipend to solarize his home. While doing this he filed with the State to become a small electric utility. At that juncture his solar system produced more than double his electrical needs which also included electric heating. He then got the electrical utility to purchase surplus electricity from him. At the end of the third year he had no cost electric and a small stipend in income from the utility.

    The project included batteries to store electricity when the solar power was insufficient to power his home.

    Jake
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,089
    edited July 27
    I thought about similarly cranking up my electric use for a year by using my mini split for heating as much as possible because NJ has a stupid law in place apparently where you can only put as many panels on your house as would be required to supply 100% of your electricity needs.

    Related to this, often the utility is mandated to "buy" extra electricity from solar panel homeowners so I doubt he actually "got them" to do it, but rather, the regulations required them to do it. Not sure why or how he got himself registered as an electric utility, that sounds odd.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,679
    With smart meters some consumers might get cheap electricity at certain times. Then electricguy can invest in batteries instead of PV? Decades ago TorontoHydro sold DHW at flat rate. Switched storage heaters when it had surplus electricity.
  • Illinoisfarmer
    Illinoisfarmer Member Posts: 15
    We installed solar PV in the fall of 2019. Every State has their own set of rules, and in Illinois, there are rules for the Investor Owned Utilities that do not apply to the cooperatives like the one that serves us. We're on a 'Net Metering' program, and the net resets to zero - no matter how much net power we produce - on January 1 each year. Production in excess of use is banked month to month, but anything unused in the bank on January 1 disappears. I've also heard of this happening quarterly or monthly - or not at all. In our case, there is no way that I'm ever going to zero out my January or February bills. The days are short, there isn't a lot of sun and the investment in a system large enough to power the house, shop, sheds and geothermal heat in those two months would be oversized for the rest of the year. As it stands, I pay the minimum bill from March to December. I know that I'm going to pay more for January and February. The numbers work.

    Like I said, every state - and even places within some states are going to be different. A solar PV system - has to be appropriate for each individual situation. I get a chuckle our of the commercials that claim 'You'll get paid by the power company' - in some cases that may be true, but as a blanket statement it is not accurate or responsible. In our case, it took months of research, as well as finding and partnering with an installer that was willing to size the system appropriately before I was willing to buy in. The results have been outstanding and worth the investment, but like any mechanical system, one size does not fit all. I got the feeling that the industry is 'young' enough that there was some misinformation out there.

    The weather has been in the 90s here for a couple weeks, with heat indexes in the upper 90s. Ideally, our net production should be pretty low right now, due to my families love for air conditioning and inability to turn off lights. You all have me thinking about this. Here's a screenshot of the last few days.



    I think I'll have a beer.

    ethicalpaulHomerJSmith
  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 1,336
    edited July 29
    I'm reluctant to invest in anything that works only half the time. Water solar would be of greater interest to me.

    Until batteries get better (the new theoretical Iron batteries), the cost over time would be less economical then that posited by solar advocates. Replacement costs in 5-10 yrs maybe outlandishly expensive, inflation and all.

    What I see is that fossil fuels are hard to overcome economically aside from nuclear.

    EROI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested) is the long term economic consideration. There ain't that much buy-able silver around and getting more out of the ground ain't cheap.

    Selling power back to the utility will help mitigate the cost.

    Ask someone who actually has it and made the investment as to his or her experience, the closer in time the better, but don't expect an unbiased evaluation from one who has invested a lot of money.

    I'm reminded of a story about a horse owner that wanted to sell his horse. A buyer showed up and the horse owner talked about how great the horse was, "He get the newpaper and brings it up to the house every Morning , he'll plow the south 40 and never seems to tire, and he's a great riding horse, too." After a bit of this, the farmer bought the horse. I won't tell you the price because you're not suppose to discuss prices on this site.

    Later, the farmer saw the horse seller and began to complain about the horse he bought. "That dang horse you sold me is worthless. All he wants to do is eat, sleep and chase the Mares." The horse seller said, "If you keep talking about that horse, thata way, you ain't never goina sell him."

    Moral of the story is that buyers always talk up their book, so dig a little deeper to get the full 411.

  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 1,336
    edited July 29
    If you want to invest in Solar, invest in what makes Solar possible, silver. The real thing or PSLV's, not SLV's (make believe silver). There's a lot of it around, but it's held in tightly clenched fists. It will take much, much higher prices to wrench it out.

    With price inflation and silver moving higher in costs, Solar panels may never be cheaper than they are today. Might as well spend your moolah while it still has value.
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 137
    Don't worry much about the cost of solar panels themselves at the residential level. The average residential install is ~$3/watt, and the panel is < $.50/watt of that. Most of your investment goes to overhead and margin. That's why utility solar average cost is $.77/watt. This $.77/watt is why solar is booming, since the all-in levelized cost at those prices can beat the operating costs of other fuels.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 16,514
    Basic arithmetic... if I invest my money at 3.2%, the capital which I would need to invest in solar panels returns -- forever (assuming the economy doesn't tank -- enough money to install solar at my main property. Which will last 20 years, maybe. With no batteries, no converters...

    The assumption that the power company will pay you -- forever -- for your excess power doesn't factor in. That is a political number, not a real one, and could change any time.

    I'm having trouble making solar PV add up...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Zman
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,679
    Jamie's comment about political number is significant. Presently California has deals that are not bad. But when the politics change who knows? That is why I suggest that a prudent investment avoids utility. Another point to remember is that efficiency doesn't count since the sun shines at no cost.
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 137
    @Jamie Hall

    The beauty of using LCOE vs. rate of return (same equation just rearranged) is that it's easy to compare to the status quo. Using your 20 year lifespan and rate of return, we get a LCOE of $.17/kwh. I don't know your particulars but that seems competitive with the higher Northeast rates. It would be locked in for 20 years (minus panel degradation), so protected from price escalation. Longer terms bring the number down of course.



    The ace in the hole for solar is that you can lease it and let a larger company bear the risk while saving money from day one.
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,679
    The kwhr/year looks funny. Two or three dollars a day is not worth doing anything. Just skip your daily latte. People who pay $hundreds$ monthly and face uncontrollable increases are in a different situation. Then an engineered system can be a lucrative investment.
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 137
    @jumper 1200/365 is only $.42/day at $.13/kWh. But that’s not important - it’s a good ROI and you can always lease