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ke4pym
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
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·ooma
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4 recommendations

I've gone and done it ... solar install

Thought I'd document my journey to getting solar energy panels installed on my home.

My house is 12 years old. And with that, the roof was 12 years old. Long story short, the roof was replaced last week. At the request of my solar installer, a vent pipe was moved and at the recommendation of my roofing guy, ice barrier was put on the side of the roof that the panels will be installed on.

There are 2 sections to my roof. The main house roof and then the bonus room/garage roof.

I filed a construction request with my HOA for the panels since it wasn't clear in the CCRs whether or not I needed too. I clearly documented that the panels would be installed on the back roof and would not be visible from the street.

The HOA denied my request. After telling my solar installer this, he let me know that North Carolina has a solar access policy. Basically, this law works much like the law that says an HOA can't prohibit your small DBS dish. So, did a little research, sent my HOA a letter pointing this law out to them and in 24 hours I had an email "homeowner, please proceed with your solar install project, we'd like to know more at our yearly meeting". Hah.

On the bonus room roof 4 - 245 watt panels will be installed. On the main roof of the house, 19 - 245 watt panels will be installed for a total of 23 panels. I could squeeze another 14 panels on the bonus room roof. But the shade profile doesn't make it worth it. Should things change our be found different later on, I can always add panels.

The panels are guaranteed to produce 100% of their rated output for 25 years. The labor is 10 years and the microinverters are 25 years as well.

It is estimated that I will produce about 7,047 kWh/year on my system that is sized at 5.635kW.

Derate factor is 0.78 making the system AC size 4.4kW.

Solar panels produce DC energy. So, one needs inverters to switch that over to AC. At the advise of my installer I elected to use microinverters because each panel can produce its rated amount of energy without bringing down the other panels should one panel not be up to full production for whatever reason.

Sometimes string inverters are used to convert the energy on a row of panels. If there are 5 - 200 watt panels, and 1 of those panels is only making 20 watts, then you've got 5 - 20 watt panels. I won't have this issue with the microinverters.

Also, each microinverter gets an IP address. Well, I don't know that to be the case. But each inverter will report its status to the internet. It will communicate with a box inside the house over the power lines and in turn that data will make its way out to the internet. Once my account is setup, I'll post the public data link here.

The company I am working with is taking care of all of the permits and interconnection documentation with my energy provider. Excess energy will be sent back to the grid and I will see a rate decrease on the next month's bill based on the amount of energy I send back to the grid. I will not have to deal with selling RECs back to a company.

My install is scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving. As the engineering phase progresses, I'll update this thread and once the install starts, expect pictures!

Oh yeah, in advance, thank you, tax payers, for your part on my subsidies for having the panels installed.

The feds are sending me 30% of the install cost back on my taxes next year and North Carolina tax payers are sending me 35% of the install cost back.

My property value is expected to rise by $15,500 and the city can't tax me on that increase produced solely by the panels.



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

One little bit of information you seemed to have omitted. What is your installed cost and what is the cost minus rebates?

7,047 kWh/year would not even be 7 months usage for me and my bill is $135/mo (budget). I can't make the numbers match and I've had quotes from solar installers.



UHF
All static, all day, Forever
Premium,MVM
join:2002-05-24
reply to ke4pym

I'm also interested in your cost to install. If I could make that amount of electricity I would save an average of $82/mo on my electric bill.



djrobx
Premium
join:2000-05-31
Valencia, CA
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·VOIPO

1 edit
reply to ke4pym

I had a 5.3kw system installed last year. I paid around $14,200 when all was said and done.

I just had an appraisal done for a refi. He added 10k to the home's value for the solar panels. It's not very clear how much value solar panels add, most people who've put them in aren't selling. The appraiser found someone's old listing from a couple years ago as a comp, but judging from the listing's copy, it's pretty clear it was a leased system.

The system is putting out around 30kwh per day during the peak summer months. Here, power is so expensive (32c at the top tier) that the break-even point is probably around 5 years for me. They can save up to $288 per month (aug-sept have been pretty brutal, and I've come close to that max these past two months).

I plan to stay in this home for the long haul, pretty excited about the results for the last year. Not getting sucker-punched by those bastards at Edison during this summer's extended heat waves is priceless.

My property value is expected to rise by $15,500 and the city can't tax me on that increase produced solely by the panels.

Yeah... watch that. They increased my assessment by the max 2% this year, despite the fact that all homes in my neighborhood lost value.

-- Rob
--
AT&T U-Hearse - RIP Unlimited Internet 1995-2011
Rethink Billable.


fluffybunny

@teksavvy.com
reply to ke4pym

this is why you should always buy freehold never HOA. asking permission from the HOA or anyone for trivial stuff like solar panels is something to be avoided at all costs. I dont see why people *pay* someone for the privilege of asking permission and getting denied to install something in their back garden.
that said, are you likely to get any payback from those panels ? I would think the sunshine at your latitude is limited so installing panels is mainly for show rather than decent payback/ROI in reasonable timeframes.



pike
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-01
Washington, DC
kudos:3

1 recommendation

reply to ke4pym

Congrats and sounds exciting.

One thing that always disappoints me when solar is discussed is how immediately people want to ask about ROI. While payback should certainly be a factor in the decision to make a large scale investment, there are plenty of other reasons to do so. In this case some homeowners may weigh the importance of using renewable energy as a higher priority, or perhaps even wanting energy independence. It's hard to quantify these goals and I'd like to see more dialog leaning this way rather than the boring attacks regarding the maths of ROI.

On that same note, the big question I'm interested in learning about is if the production, installation, and operation of these "micro" solar sites really results in a net neutral or negative ENERGY COST versus the large scale production and transmission of traditional electrical generation.



boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
reply to ke4pym

I am curious in general as to how much of an increase it would be to make the panels track the sun vs the fixed angle install
--
my site


ke4pym
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
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reply to ke4pym

Hey all. Sorry about the details. Was tired when I posted that.

Final install cost is $30,737. After rebates, my out-of-pocket expense will be $13k and some change.

Expected ROI is 7.5 years. I don't do the budget thing with the power company. I prefer to pay them as the bill comes due so I can make money on my money and not the other way around.

The #1 reason I'm doing this is to give Duke energy the finger, if for no other reason. Reason #2 is the panels will take the heat load off the back side of my roof and that outta help keep the house cooler. In theory.

DJRobx-->They can raise the appraisal all they want. But if it is a result of the panels, they can't tax me on it. State says so.

Boogi-->I will ask my installer if tracking technology makes sense in the homeowner space. Probably not on the roof, anyway.

On the subject of appraisials - I called some customer referrals and one of the guys I spoke with just had had his house appraised due to a refi. The appraiser put the full install cost ($30k) into the value of his house.

Not sure that'd happen everywhere. But there's one instance for you of it happening.



cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT

1 recommendation

reply to ke4pym

said by ke4pym:

The panels are guaranteed to produce 100% of their rated output for 25 years.

Such panels haven't been invented yet. They all lose capacity in time, with the biggest drop in the first year. Maybe they are rated for less than what they can produce

In any case I'd be interested to see the payoff and actual output vs specified output. 7000kWh/year means $900 savings...


dennismurphy
Put me on hold? I'll put YOU on hold
Premium
join:2002-11-19
Parsippany, NJ
kudos:3
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS
reply to ke4pym

You know, interesting thought ... at $13k out of pocket, beyond all the other items, it gives you some level of independence from the electric co.

In the event of a grid outage, can you keep at least part of the home up and running?

We've had many discussions here about backup generators, etc.... can you use your solar essentially as a replacement for a backup generator for at least the daytime hours?


ke4pym
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
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·ooma
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reply to cowboyro

said by cowboyro:

said by ke4pym:

The panels are guaranteed to produce 100% of their rated output for 25 years.

Such panels haven't been invented yet. They all lose capacity in time, with the biggest drop in the first year. Maybe they are rated for less than what they can produce

I can't speak to this one way or the other. So, if the rated output drops, I get replacement panels. So, either way, win for me.

dennis-->I've been told 2 different things.

I asked my installer about what happens when the power goes out. He explained that the system has an anti-islanding feature. So, if the power goes out, they stop sending energy into the grid. Makes sense. Don't want to electrocute a lineman expecting the lines to be dead and I'm putting energy on them.

However, one of the customers I spoke with (I conduced 4 calls with 4 different customers) said that his meter (net-metering) will stop the energy from back-flowing to the grid if the power is out. And his home will still benefit from energy from the panels. And he's tested it thanks to his power going out several times since his install.

If I wanted to put in a battery system (which is an option, but I don't have a suitable place to store the batteries or want to put up with the expense) I could run from that at night if the power was out....


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
reply to ke4pym

with the drop in output that's being discussed. i am curious as to why that happens. is it a degradation of the silicon chemistry or do the panels just get dirty?

if dirty can you just go clean them and restore lost performance? kinda like tuning up your car?
--
my site



cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
reply to ke4pym

said by ke4pym:

If I wanted to put in a battery system (which is an option, but I don't have a suitable place to store the batteries or want to put up with the expense) I could run from that at night if the power was out....

Don't bother, it's not worth it. Batteries have a life of 3 years, 5 if you're extremely lucky.
Powering only 1000W for 4hrs will require some 4500Wh from batteries.
A single typical 12V/60Ah deep cycle battery gives 720Wh at low drain. You'd need a bank of ~10 such batteries to sustain the load for 4hrs. Given the cost of $125-ish for a single battery you'll be better off running a small generator in the event of an outage.

ncbill
Premium
join:2007-01-23
Winston Salem, NC
Reviews:
·AT&T Southeast
reply to ke4pym

The most likely failure is the inverter, whether grid-tie, hybrid, or micro.

Does the warranty cover the labor cost of someone getting up on the roof to replace a micro-inverter (one for each panel)?

Just asking - here on a friend's modest 2kW install the grid-tie inverter failed within the first year.



fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2
reply to ke4pym

If you have cheap electricity and do the budget billing tomfoolery, solar makes little sense for you.

However there are companies who will install solar at your home at no charge then sell you the electricity for 6c/kWh.



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

1 recommendation

said by fifty nine:

If you have cheap electricity and do the budget billing tomfoolery, solar makes little sense for you.

However there are companies who will install solar at your home at no charge then sell you the electricity for 6c/kWh.

That's the way to go. I talked to one company that installs and maintains the panels and guarantees your present rate for as long as you have the panels. So if the price from the POCO doubles you still pay the same.

It's a moot point for me as my location and orientation of my roof and tree cover rules me out even "if" I wanted to do it.


dogma
XYZ
Premium
join:2002-08-15
Boulder City, NV
kudos:1

2 recommendations

reply to fifty nine

said by fifty nine:

If you have cheap electricity and do the budget billing tomfoolery, solar makes little sense for you.

However there are companies who will install solar at your home at no charge then sell you the electricity for 6c/kWh.

If one is financially short sighted, as many are, then you're correct. Solar doesn't make sense. The instant gratification crowd will always see value in a depreciating asset like the latest iPhone or tricked-out overclocked PC vs. Solar, which is a performing asset. Most don't understand asset classes nor comprehend the concept of multiple tax incentives and rebates that make a $30K investment, a $13K investment, and even that $13K is offset by the free power it provides.

The OP, based on my rough back-of-the-envelope math, which also includes a very conservative rate of inflation for electricity, will put (keep really) close to $45,000 in his pocket over the life of his panels.

With respect to these Solar leasing firms, I have yet to see the fabled "something-for-nothing" deal actually materialize. From my experience, these Solar leasing companies do not spend $30,000 (excluding some tax incentives that they can get, but not all that an end consumer can qualify for) or whatever the material and install cost will be to leave an expensive asset on someones roof and then sell the homeowner cheap power.

I have read many advertisements that imply such, but once one pulls back the curtains, it's typically a 15-20 year lease commitment with a minimum 700 FICO score required. So the homeowner is committed to the lease (Lease is French for "rental") base cost, then an additional cost for the monthly power. Moreover, after the 15 year lease term, the homeowner still doesn't own the Solar which may have 10-15 more years of useful life.



fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2

I agree.

Problem is that many people don't have the up front cash to put up a solar installation. Many can't even borrow from the HELOC because their mortgages are underwater or the banks aren't lending.

Where I live though, we have few incentives for solar. The cooperative does not take part in the incentives offered by the state so the cost rises substantially. On the flip side we do not pay the societal benefits charge on our bills.

Also the price of SRECs is going down. There is so much solar here in this state that SRECs are going for $200-$300 instead of $600 they used to go for.


itguy05

join:2005-06-17
Carlisle, PA
reply to dogma

said by dogma:

If one is financially short sighted, as many are, then you're correct. Solar doesn't make sense. The instant gratification crowd will always see value in a depreciating asset like the latest iPhone or tricked-out overclocked PC vs. Solar, which is a performing asset. Most don't understand asset classes nor comprehend the concept of multiple tax incentives and rebates that make a $30K investment, a $13K investment, and even that $13K is offset by the free power it provides.

Really? The only way it makes any sort of sense is because You and I are footing the bill for the tax credits. Assuming 25 year life for the panels and electronics, that's 300 months:

$13,000 / 300 = $43.33 per month in cost (not factoring in any interest if the $$ is borrowed or the lost opportunity cost of that $$).

So any money over that $43.33 is savings but that's assuming there is never any issue with the system, never any cost associated with warranty in the 25 years, and that the company is in business 25 years from now. That's a lot of things to assume and a lot of faith in companies that may or may not be around (Solyndra). I'd also be willing to bet none of the warranties covers labour to replace faulty parts. That's also assuming electric rates will go up by a lot (IIRC they have gone up but by small amounts) and that you will use more.

Personally, I find it not that much of a savings as our rates are $0.08/kWh and we heat with natural gas and only run the AC a few months out of the year. I think out highest electric bill has been about $130.


nunya
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join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
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Since the OP mentioned it, I'll hit on it. This is the tax payers footing the bill (You and I). This wouldn't be economically viable otherwise. That does not bode well for the technology. Sure, resi solar has it's place - and it's usually the South West portion of the country.
I've rarely seen a situation where solar made "sense" for residential use elsewhere.

Instead of wasting tax money by giving it to individuals, I'd much rather see it go to something that could benefit everyone. Perhaps the equivalent of a solar "X Prize" to companies who build viable solar farms in the SW and feed the national grid (lower prices for all).
--
If someone refers to herself / himself as a "guru", they probably aren't.


ke4pym
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
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reply to ke4pym

Oh, I can assure you, if I had to foot 100% of the tab, I'd never consider this project.

I think my rate is 0.11kW/hr. But every year, Duke is going to the state requesting 12, 14, 18% rate increases. And since they bought Progress and in bad faith, at that, they've got a lot of incentive to raise our rates even more.

One of the customers I called sent my his link to his web site recording his usage. Since last October he's produced 5mW. This guy has to sell his RECs on his own. He's getting 0.11c/kWhr. He gets RFPs all the time ranging from .07 to 0.18/kWhr.

I'm glad I don't have to worry about that.



dogma
XYZ
Premium
join:2002-08-15
Boulder City, NV
kudos:1

1 recommendation

reply to itguy05

said by itguy05:

Really? The only way it makes any sort of sense is because You and I are footing the bill for the tax credits.

I concur, You and I are also footing the bill for someones mortgage interest tax deduction as well, among countless other tax based incentives. (note to nunya See Profile, does this mean that purchasing a home mortgage with it's associated tax incentives does not bode well for the home ownership?). It is what it is.

Even if there were no tax credits/rebates, there would still be an ROI, just much further down the road.

I further agree that everyone's financial calculations with respect to an investment such as this will be unique. If the OP (as I guesstimated - OP correct me if I am wrong) has a electricity cost of about $144/Month on average, your model [$13,000 / 300 = $43.33 per month in cost] saves him about $100/Month, or [$100 x 300] $30,000.

My point is that a good investment will accrue value over time, but in order to take advantage of the opportunity, we must often allow our money to be oustide of our direct control for a significant period of time. In this case, the OP probably gets an instant rebate from the State, and very important: he must have a Federal tax liability in order to take advantage of the Federal tax credit for Solar. Plus, his out of pocket money up front/cost to borrow.

But lets look at this in pure investment terms:

Assumptions-
The OP invest $13,000 up front.
The OP has an average electricity expense of $140/Month.
The OP's Solar system zero's out his monthly electricity bill.

So his $13,000 up front investment produces a net $140/Month or ($140 x 12) $1680/Year he otherwise would have had to spend. Additionally, the OP would have had to earn about $175/Month in order to pay the $140 as that is a post-tax expense.

That's a 13% IRR (Internal Rate of Return).

If anyone can present any *extremely low risk* investment that kicks off 13% per year, effectively guaranteed for the next 25 years, please let me know.


fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2
reply to nunya

said by nunya:

Since the OP mentioned it, I'll hit on it. This is the tax payers footing the bill (You and I). This wouldn't be economically viable otherwise. That does not bode well for the technology. Sure, resi solar has it's place - and it's usually the South West portion of the country.
I've rarely seen a situation where solar made "sense" for residential use elsewhere.

Instead of wasting tax money by giving it to individuals, I'd much rather see it go to something that could benefit everyone. Perhaps the equivalent of a solar "X Prize" to companies who build viable solar farms in the SW and feed the national grid (lower prices for all).

I'm glad you're also against the home mortgage deduction, child tax credit and business tax credits.

As dogma said, it is what it is. Until we can get a flat tax rate with no deductions, no credits, you'll be "footing the bill" for someone else's "stuff."

As for solar working - solar actually works pretty well for us up here. We don't get full sun all year but coupled with small residential wind it works quite well. The only thing spoiling it are NIMBYs who want to dictate what you can do with your own property.


toby
Troy Mcclure

join:2001-11-13
Portland, OR

said by fifty nine:

said by nunya:

Since the OP mentioned it, I'll hit on it. This is the tax payers footing the bill (You and I). This wouldn't be economically viable otherwise. That does not bode well for the technology. Sure, resi solar has it's place - and it's usually the South West portion of the country.
I've rarely seen a situation where solar made "sense" for residential use elsewhere.

Instead of wasting tax money by giving it to individuals, I'd much rather see it go to something that could benefit everyone. Perhaps the equivalent of a solar "X Prize" to companies who build viable solar farms in the SW and feed the national grid (lower prices for all).

I'm glad you're also against the home mortgage deduction, child tax credit and business tax credits.

As dogma said, it is what it is. Until we can get a flat tax rate with no deductions, no credits, you'll be "footing the bill" for someone else's "stuff."

As for solar working - solar actually works pretty well for us up here. We don't get full sun all year but coupled with small residential wind it works quite well. The only thing spoiling it are NIMBYs who want to dictate what you can do with your own property.

I'm against all tax credits, including the home mortgage deduction which has helped increased housing costs and directs the interest payments to the banks instead of paying taxes.

The largest cost in this project is labour, that is why these solar companies are shutting down, no matter how cheap the panels become, the labour will increase. The panels cost somewhere in the region of 30% of the project.

You have to be careful banking on warranties for anything more than a couple of years, the company most likely won't be around in 5 years for various reasons and if they are they will implement rules/laws where they are not viable for any costs over a few dollars. Look at the product to start with.


fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2

That's true. I'm against all tax credits/deductions too.

Make it 10% of all income for everybody, period. I'll gladly give up my home mortgage deduction and pay a slightly higher tax rate.

But while it's being offered, there's nothing wrong with taking advantage of it.



Styvas
Go Canucks Go
Premium
join:2004-09-15
Hamilton, ON

1 recommendation

reply to cowboyro

said by cowboyro:

said by ke4pym:

The panels are guaranteed to produce 100% of their rated output for 25 years.

Such panels haven't been invented yet. They all lose capacity in time, with the biggest drop in the first year. Maybe they are rated for less than what they can produce

In any case I'd be interested to see the payoff and actual output vs specified output. 7000kWh/year means $900 savings...

I'm selling panels right now for a company that stockpiled a bunch and the projects fell through (now they've got to liquidate them ASAP) and that's the same guarantee that we're giving potential purchasers (25 year power performance warranty). I'm certainly not aware that the panels are rated at a Wattage lower than they technically will produce.
--
"Moving your Tylenol to the low shelf in your medicine cabinet is not the way to prevent children from falling off a stool when reaching for the top shelf." (said by Savant, May 2008)


nunya
Premium,MVM
join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
Reviews:
·Charter
·voip.ms
·surpasshosting
reply to fifty nine

While it is OT, it's no big secret: I am, in fact, against the income tax system in general (as it stands). I believe there should be a flat tax, and a national sales tax. That way illegals and tax cheats who abuse our system have to at least pay a little fraction back. With a NST, EVERYBODY pays something. After all, we all enjoy the benefits of living here, right?
The 1040 should be 2 lines: 1) How much money did you make last year? 2) Multiply line 1 by .075 - This is your tax due.
Done.

But, back to the solar situation. I stand by my assertion that it rarely is cost effective to use solar panels in residential situations. It just isn't cost effective yet. That's why we have to *pay* people to do it. If the technology were ready for mainstream, we wouldn't have to pay people to buy a product.

Also, much pollution is produced in the manufacture of solar panels. A lot. Solar is a "dirty green" solution, much like CFL lamps.
--
If someone refers to herself / himself as a "guru", they probably aren't.



cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
reply to Styvas

said by Styvas:

that's the same guarantee that we're giving potential purchasers (25 year power performance warranty). I'm certainly not aware that the panels are rated at a Wattage lower than they technically will produce.

Performance warranty or 100% of the initial performance warranty? And who will take the claims in 15 years if the company is out of business?

ke4pym
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
·VOIPO
·ooma
·Verizon Broadban..
·Northland Cable ..
·Time Warner Cable
reply to nunya

said by nunya:

But, back to the solar situation. I stand by my assertion that it rarely is cost effective to use solar panels in residential situations. It just isn't cost effective yet. That's why we have to *pay* people to do it. If the technology were ready for mainstream, we wouldn't have to pay people to buy a product.

Also, much pollution is produced in the manufacture of solar panels. A lot. Solar is a "dirty green" solution, much like CFL lamps.

Well, in the time I've taken to get this project off the ground, the panel prices have dropped enough I'm getting one free!

What isn't green? How much pollution goes into making a Prius? How many tons of rare earth metals have to go into making a Volt?

Here's the carbon footprint reduction estimation for my install:

kWh/Yr: 7,047
CO2 saved (lbs): 9,605
SO2 saved (lbs): 38
Nox saved (lbs): 15
Car mile equiv: 9,461
Trees saved 112
Coal not consumed (lbs): 5,708

I do agree, to an extent, that a project like this isn't for everyone. I think, at the end of the day, a project this size is going to have to come down to the $10k range (with out subsidies) before it can become a lot more common. Hopefully, that can one day happen.

And I do think, maybe not in my lifetime, but perhaps our grandchildren's lifetime that the grid, as it is, won't exist. Every home will have some sort of small generation system to supply the power needs of a home.

Here's what my installer says about sun tracking systems:

"It's not generally something that applies to roof-mounted systems, but the technology exists sure. Trackers are usually used for pole-mounted systems that are installed in a big field or something where the additional sunlight is fully available. Manufacturers claim that the tracking can increase yield up to about 30%, but there are cons as well. Moving parts = more stuff that can fail, the trackers need replacing usually after 5-10 years, definitely adds cost."

Oh yeah. All this math goes out the window (and I'm hosed) if we have a really cloudy year! So, here's to a sunny summer in 2013!

JBear

join:2005-02-24
canada
reply to nunya

said by nunya:

Since the OP mentioned it, I'll hit on it. This is the tax payers footing the bill (You and I). This wouldn't be economically viable otherwise. That does not bode well for the technology. Sure, resi solar has it's place - and it's usually the South West portion of the country.
I've rarely seen a situation where solar made "sense" for residential use elsewhere.

Instead of wasting tax money by giving it to individuals, I'd much rather see it go to something that could benefit everyone. Perhaps the equivalent of a solar "X Prize" to companies who build viable solar farms in the SW and feed the national grid (lower prices for all).

You would be surprised where the sun shines and makes solar feasible. Doesn't have to be the max (ie Phoenix) to make it feasible.

As for cost, yes it isn't economically viable, but I think over due time with rising energy costs, and increasing inefficiency in the grid you'll see more and more installs going on.