Solar electricity is expensive. Perhaps not as terrifyingly as some think?
Our local feed and grain store just installed the largest system I have ever seen. It is quite impressive. They have the feed store, a popular cafe and residence being fed by the system. I would love to see what their electric bill used to be. I’ll bet it was a whopper BEFORE rates went up. Now they may not have one.
It is a grid tie system. Electric meters spin both directions. Grid tie means if you are not using all the electricity you produce it goes back to the system. You get credit. At night when PV produces nothing you draw from the grid. The utility company has less pressure to add new generation capacity and you have electricity when you need it without the expense of an expensive bank of storage batteries.
My need for electricity is modest. In the month of March I used 156 kWh. At .13 cents a kWh the bill was $20.23. Since my use is low what might it cost to generate ALL of my own electric and have a surplus?
I contacted a friend who used to install solar and is a whiz in the field. Here is one of his emails:
“you would need about 800 [actual output] watts of solar to break even in winter, summer would be an excess. 4- 200 watt modules. 250 to 300.00 each. Checking ebay i see lots of new china inverters cheap [400-500.00], thing is ,you want one with a built in kilowatt meter”.
So… Let’s say I want overkill because i have my eye on one of those vibrating motel beds. So I buy 5-235 watt solar panels. At top price that runs $1.500.00. With the inverter that turns DC into usable household AC we are looking at $2,000.00. I would need sono tubes and cement to mount the panels in the yard and wire. I would need someone to dig a bury trench for the wire.
For $2,500.00 I can generate AT LEAST $30.00 of electricity in the winter and more in the summer A MONTH. There is currently a 30% rebate from the feds and a 10% from the state. My cost drops to $1,500.00. That 30 bucks a month I now create would pay for the system in 4 years and one month unless rates go up again…. In which case faster. So in 4 years my investment on a system warrantied to last 25 years would break even and I would have 20 years of free electricity and vibrating bed.
Done properly such a system can be easy add on with more panels. I have no idea why people think it is all or nothing. Systems can be started more reasonably than most think and when the utility company raises rates (and they will) more panels can be added.