Solar Power

Solar Power

Saving with Solar

Part 3: Solar Power

Solar Power: Solar panels stacked in the truck and ready to be installed.
Solar panels stacked in the truck and ready to be installed.

Hello again!  Welcome back to The Green Swan.  This post will cover the solar panel installation process and results / savings to date and represents the third and final installation of my series on my purchase of solar panels.  I went green to save some green.  Now that they are hooked up and generating Solar Power, they have already begun to pay off.  Click the links here if you missed Part 1: Solar is Sexy on the introduction to residential solar panels, or Part 2: Solar Cents on how much green I saved by going green.

I have had my solar panels installed and producing for almost five full months at this point and I couldn’t be happier.  My only wish is that I would have had them installed even sooner in the fall to catch some of those nice sunny days before the winter months when the days are much shorter.  And if you couldn’t tell by my first two posts on solar panels, I love my SunPower solar panels as well as the app that is available allowing real-time monitoring of your energy production.

Unfortunately, it took over two months from signing of the contract in September to the first day of production in late November.  I was a bit disappointed it took so long as I missed two good months of energy production.  My wife will tell you I’m a fairly inpatient person, I’m very thoughtful and diligent in making decisions, never hasty, but once I make my mind up I want action immediately.  So naturally, it was tough for me to have to sit and wait so long.  Granted, nobody was to blame, it is just part of the process. 

The process after signing the contract up until production was lengthy, but there was a lot to get done.  Fortunately, I was set up with an online application to monitor and track the progress along the way.  Some of the major steps included a site survey by the installer (to map placement of panels on my roof, etc), having my local utility come out to swap the meter (a new meter had to be installed to allow it to spin backwards as I generate electricity, cool huh?!), purchase orders for the solar panels and mounting kit from SunPower had to be placed and shipped, county inspection had to be completed, applying for various permits, etc.  What took the longest was waiting on the local utility to swap the meter.  I guess they only employ one person that is responsible for this and it took a while to get on his schedule.  And not surprising, they probably weren’t all that excited to lose a customer.  Fortunately, the local solar panel installer was coordinating this whole process, so there wasn’t really anything I had to do. 

Solar Power: Roof Array and Dimensions
My roof array and dimensions

36 days after signing the contract, on October 22, my panels were on the roof.  The actual installation took only one day!  This involved securing the mounting equipment to the roof, securing the panels to the mounts, and running the wiring into my attic.  From there, an electrician (a partner of the solar panel installer) ran the wiring down into my garage, installed an inverter in my garage and hooked it up to my electrical panel.  An inverter is required to convert the variable direct current (DC) generated from my panels into alternating current (AC) in order to be consumed by the electrical grid and my house.

Solar Power: My SunPower inverter installed in my garage.
My SunPower inverter installed in my garage.

Keep in mind this whole process, all the electricians, inspectors, and installers were covered by the original upfront cost of the solar panel system.  Nothing else came out of my pocket.

Then came the last step, which took another month!  And that was the final inspection which was required before the solar panels could turned on.  It was so depressing to look at my panels for a month and they were just sitting there, idle, not producing anything, and missing out on some wonderfully sunny days!  Finally, the inspector was able to make it out, certified everything, and the installer was able to flip the switch and put them into production.  It was November 19 and I was in business.

Solar Power generated on my first day of installation on November 19!
Solar Power generated on my first day of installation on November 19!

From November 19 up until the writing of this post on April 23, I have generated 2,137 kwh and have saved 3,248 pounds of CO2 emissions, 3,508 miles not driven, 166 gallons of gas not used, 1,582 pounds of coal not burned, 3 barrels of crude oil not used, 38 mature trees grown and 1,164 pounds of garbage recycled.

As you can see in the chart below, as we head into summer my panels keep recording better and better days.  The daily production can vary significantly from one day to the next due to cloudy or rainy days.  But overall, production keeps reaching higher highs and higher lows.  Total energy production on a monthly basis smooths out the daily variances. 

Solar Power generated from 12/1/2015 to 3/31/2016.
Solar Power generated from 12/1/2015 to 3/31/2016.

I’d note that production has met expectations.  To date, I’ve saved ~$200 off my electricity bills including ~$70 in my most recent billing cycle.  This recent bill cycle represents the first month in which I generated more than I used and carried a balance over to the next monthly bill.  With some strong summer ahead, I am on pace to achieve my targeted $640 in annual savings.  I will be sure to follow up in future posts with updates to track the progress.

So what does everyone think?  Is solar a real possibility for you?  I hope this three part series was helpful in fully explaining the possibility of residential solar panels.  I hope you come away intrigued and interested.  If there are any questions, feel free to leave a note in the comments below and I’ll address.

As a reminder, I bought my panels through SunPower.  They are the best in the biz.  If you are interested in looking into solar panels more, be sure to check them out.  They offer a pretty generous referral program, so reach out to me through the [contacts page] for more info.

Thanks for taking a look. 

The Green Swan

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The Millennial Budget

Really interesting how that app works as well as the utility meter. Why were you not able to use them for a month once they were set up? Is that standard procedure?
I think you made the right choice switching to solar and I am sure you are going to save a ton of money during summer. Definitely a great long-term investment.

JW

It’s a building code requirement for the inspection of all the electrical components to be signed off before the panels can be turned on. Basically the wiring from my panels through the attic and into the garage. Fortunately it passed upon inspection and I was able to get then turned on shortly thereafter.

Thanks for the question!

The Green Swan

Apathy Ends

I FINALLY got time to sit down and read these 3 posts

I think you answered 90% of my questions (your posts were very comprehensive!)

Do you have LED bulbs and high efficiency appliances? – this is more out of curiosity than anything, we were “forced” to do this when we closed on our new house (we would have anyway but it is a contingency of closing).

Is there an energy buyback through your energy provider? (I may have missed this, reading on the bus its disadvantages somedays.) I have heard that companies will buy any excess energy and actually cut a check (assuming you generate enough to cover all your usage and then some).

The park and ride right by our house is covered in solar panels and they actually have 2 charging ports for free – I joke with my wife that we should get an electric car and only ever charge there since it is in walking distance.

Great post!

JW

Thanks for taking a read and I’m glad you liked it. We do use highly efficient light bulbs and appliances. Our home was nicely renovated shortly before we bought it. That’s interesting it was a condition to close for you guys.

Regarding energy buybacks, our energy company gives us credit, but it would never result in a check back to us. So there is nothing to entice us to buy more panels than what we could use unfortunately.

That’s a great idea with the park and ride! That would be a big energy saver for you guys. I’d love to take advantage of something like that and it sounds relatively convenient.

Thanks,
The Green Swan

Dividendsdownunder

Hey, it’s great that the solar panels are working so well. Are you able to sell your excess energy back into the grid?

I wish we could consider solar panels, but we rent so we can’t 🙁

Tristan

JW

The time will come, Tristan!

Unfortunately you can’t actually sell the energy back, at least where I live. I can get a credit for the extra production that I can use in later months though.

The Green Swan

JW

That’s right. The only nuance is you wouldn’t want more energy than you’d ultimately need year in and year out. If the credit keeps building, it somewhat loses its value if you’ll never be able to use it.

The Green Swan

FinanceSuperhero

After reading through all three posts, now I really want my own solar panels. A neighbor down the street raves about his, and at times, his electricity usage rates run in the negative. My home faces an advantageous direction and has no tree coverage, so I could probably do well with even one panel to start.

JW

That’s fantastic, glad I could help spur your interest. I think with the installation costs you may want to start with more than one, but that’s awesome your roof is so well suited for solar generation! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

The Green Swan

Matt @ Distilled Dollar

That’s great to see the daily production chart. As you mentioned, the monthly totals are rising so the daily fluctuations are not as impactful in the long run.

It is amazing to see how the first day’s first hour was less than 1kWh and now you can expect around 20x that on a good day.

I’m in no position to set up my own Solar Panels (living in a condo), but you’ve become my go to solar power expert now! Hah, hopefully one day soon I can save $ and be more environmentally friendly.

JW

Yeah I love tracking the daily productions. The best day in the winter would get me about 15 and right now the best day will generate about 30!

When you’re ready to go solar let me know. I’d love to help anyone in their solar purchasing decision process.

The Green Swan

Michael @ Financially Alert

GS, that’s awesome that you are up and live (and meeting expectations)! This is a must do for me for 2016, but I’ve been dragging my feet a bit… you know, that whole analysis paralysis thing… doh, that’s gonna cost me some premium summer production months.

JW

Yeah I hear you, I dragged my feet a bit last year before pulling the trigger and missed out on some good months too. Let me know if you have any questions.

I look forward to hearing about it when you get them hooked up!

The Green Swan

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