Thursday, November 26, 2009

Roof Mounting Hardware Installed

The replacement supplier for solar panels that my chosen installation company is relying on has not yet delivered the panels needed for our installation.  It's a tough time of year.  Because of tax credit impetus, everyone wants their job done by year end!  (If not completed, tax credits will not be able to be claimed until 2010 taxes are filed in 2011).

Our installer, Southern Energy Management has come to install the roof mounting system, however.  We expected no one until November 30, so it was a surprise.  In about six hours time, three men got the pictured hardware installed.

Besides very critical measuring and layout work, the installers needed to find the roof rafters so that lag screws ( four inch by one half inch stainless steel) could be installed into substantial wood.
The long rails will hold the solar panels and the rails are fastened to L brackets that are lagged into the rafters.  Under the L bracket is a butyl rubber membrade to give a lifetime seal to the fastening.

At this time of year, rain is a good possibility, but we expect that next week we will have the installation substantially complete. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Supply of Solar Panels Getting Tight

The bad news is that our supplier, Solar Energy Management, didn't get our solar panels in from their supplier in time to start our roof installation on 11/20/09 as expected.  The good news is that it has rained a record amount for November in our county and they wouldn't have gotten very far anyway.  Plus, they quickly dug in and found an immediate supplier who will supply panels of nearly indentical specification.

Our new panels will be 224 watts instead of 235.  SEM will supply a 25th panel to give us essentially the full 5600 watts of power we had in our design. 

Our new installation date is November 30th.  If the weather is dry for December, one can only hope that the installers will have enough time for all of the promised end of the year installations.

I have read several articles on blogs and in the papers indicating that solar manufacturing capacity is not going to be able to keep up with next year's demand without expanding.  Good.  More jobs.
Less fossil fuel dependence.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Roof Mounting/Maintaining and Remote Access to Inverter

There are a couple of technical issues for which I have information, that have come to my attention from readers.  One is roof condition considerations and the other has to do with gaining computer access to the data that the inverter develops.

In our particular case, we have just installed a new roof on our house, coincidentally.  So the idea of putting a solar system on top of the roof was not a would be another 15 to 25 years before we would need to hire someone to disconnect the panels before re-roofing again.  Maybe we'd be going nuclear by then anyway. 

But our son ( is putting his solar system on a newly constructed building.  He had different options.
The brackets that will hold his panels are being installed before his shingles and will apparently give him a better and even more water proof installation.  Therefore, if I was thinking of a new roof at nearly the same time as the solar system, I would probably have the roofer and solar installers coordinate their work.

Another two characteristics of the mounting system that my son is using  are that his mounting system allows the panels to have more space between the roof and the under side of the panel.  Therefore, there will be more cooling due to air flow.  Cooler panels increase efficiency.  (No, Jim, you can't make the panels cooler by keeping them in the shade).   On the other side of this coin, the extra space makes the panels more vulnerable to damage from extremely high winds.  Like hurricaine force.

In my personal opinion, if I installed solar over a roof that was at half life, I think I would at least have that portion of roof re-roofed.
The life of the panels is expected to be longer than the life of most any roofing material.  I'm expecting more than 25 years for mine.

Secondly, some inverters have a computer interface that make data gathering and possibly even remote access a reality.  So far, I've learned that there is an additional cost to use the software made for this purpose.  I've heard that some solar users have been able to negotiate this additional cost down to zero.  I'm going to try but it was not part of my original negotiation so I have lost most of my bargaining power.  I would like the ability to gather data.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

End of the Year Delay

Since so much of the incentive to buy a solar PV System is provided by government tax credits, there is is slightly more incentive at the end of the year than there is at the beginning of a year.  That is, you get the tax incentive money after you file your taxes.  And the end of the year is closer to when you file your taxes than the beginning of the year.

What this means to us, is that our installation is going to be delayed ten days or so.  Our vendor has been let down by his supplier because of the end of year rush for solar installations.  The people at Southern Energy Management have found alternative suppliers that will ship tomorrow.  The solar panels won't perfectly meet the original specification, but SEM is going to add an additional panel to the configuration to get us  99.6% of what we originally planned.  Our 5640 W system will be a 5600 W system. 

Our next date for completing the installation is November 30th.  It looks like my son (see is going to get a significant head start!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Discussion of Cost Justification Part One

There are a lot of variables to consider in justifying the cost (investment) in a photovoltaic (PV) system.  They include:
      Price paid to a vendor
      Incentives or rebates from the federal government
      Incentives or rebates from state and local governments
      Incentives or rebates from local utilities
      Grants from non government organizations (NGO)
      Your financial position
      Your ability to borrow and pay back money
Therefore, no one experience can fit all prospective investors situation. 

Shop many vendors to know you are getting fair quotes.  As in most technological purchases, there seems to be a premium price associated with leading edge technology, even in the solar field.  We had prices quoted, per panel that were higher than others only because of the technology used within the panel.  One vendor overpriced the installation because they were planning to use new fangled panels that were smaller.  We didn't need smaller in our case so last year's more economical model would have sufficed.

The vendors in your local area will be an especially good source of information about incentives that might be available to you.  Listen to all your vendors.  One vendor may know more than another.  Amazingly, our chosen vendor knew where we could sell our REC (see above) for 33% more revenue than our other three prospective vendors.  We will be able to pay off our system a year sooner as a result.   So, our rebate and incentive situation would be similar for all North Carolinians.  It would be similar, but different in other states.

For financing, we decided that our return on net investment will be better over the next five years than it would have otherwise been by leaving money in a CD. 

Rainy day allows a commencement of the installation

Since rain was forecast for our area, the solar installers, Southern Energy Management (SEM), called Tuesday to be able to come on Wednesday to begin some of the inside installation work.  They arrived on time early.  They ran flex conduit from the meter area on the north side of my house to the south side of my house where I wanted the DC to AC inverter to be installed.  This conduit runs through my attic.

Further, they installed the Power One 6000 inverter on an inside wall of the garage.  The inverter could be installed outside near the electric meter, but I wanted it installed where I could see and monitor the lights, alarms and reports.  My inverter is made by a company headquartered in Italy and with an American subsidiary.  Three workers completed these tasks in about four hours.  So far, so good!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Discovery of affordable photovoltaic power generation ideas

We attended a tour of "green" homes and were surprised to find out that there were fantastic economic incentives for people that install photovoltaic (PV) electric power generation systems at their homes.
   We always wanted to use green technology but had always assumed that it was still unaffordable.  The system is very expensive, but, in our case, about two thirds of the cost will be given back to us via state and federal tax credits.   AND, we've just learned that there is a market for the Renewable Energy Certificate that we will earn with the investment.  We will sell our "REC" to an organization who will in turn sell the REC to a "dirty" power generation company. 
   The dirty power generation company will avoid being penalized for generating dirty (like coal fired....) power for having spent money for our REC.  The money that they pay will be paid to us (and other REC sellers) in the form of a cents-per-kWh rebate.
   Our rebate will be about $.20 per kWh!  Plus, our local utility will pay us $.048 per kWh for putting all of our generated electricity on their grid (to be sold to others). 
   We will agree to continue to buy all of our electricity from our electric utility.  And we agree to sell all of the electricity we generate to our local utility.  Such an arrangement is called Buy All, Sell All.  It is the only option in our area.  Other arrangements exist in other areas.  While we can get the $.20 rebate, it is a great arrangement.
    Attached is a picture of our southern facing roof.  We will install
24 Sharp brand 235 Watt panels.  We will generate up to 5.4 kW of power.  With the available sun in our latitude, we expect to generate 7300 kWh per year to sell to the local electric company.  At the $.248 per kWh rebate amount, this will cover the entire cost of electricity for our home for the year. 
   Our home is about 3200 square feet on one floor .  We operate two heating/cooling systems.  One system's a/c has a rating of SEER 15 and is the one that handles most of our real living area.  Another system takes care of a wing of our home that we do not use much.  In fact, this wing of the house is a shelter for blind cats.  The website that describes this shelter is  
   Tomorrow our installer, Southern Energy Management of Morrisville, NC will begin the installation.  We intend to post news as it happens.