Soaking up the rays for POWER

I’ve always been interested in renewable energy and the technology that allows them to exist. My 6th grade science fair project was all about solar energy. I even mocked up a small non-working solar panel using construction paper and aluminum foil to show how the panels worked and transferred the energy of the sun into electricity. Despite an interest back in the 1980s, it wouldn’t be until 2021 that I finally have a house that is deriving its energy, in part, from solar power.

At the end of 2020 we decided to take the plunge and have panels installed. The prices have become much more reasonable, and the technology is better than ever. Paired with some great tax incentives, and everything lined up really well to move forward. I had been researching panels on and off for a few years, and talked to friends who had gotten installations done. I ended up going with a local company called All Energy Solar. They had done some installations in our area and their prices seemed right in the ballpark with my expectations.

Originally we weren’t going to get the system installed until spring, however an unseasonably warm and dry December meant that crews were working late into the season, and we managed to get our system put in over two days at the end of the year. Our electric company only allows for a system that generates 120% of average energy usage which means that we were limited to a 5.1 kW system. That amounted to 14 panels on the roof, with plenty of room to expand for the eventual day when we get an electric vehicle.

Our electric company purchases back any excess power you generate and so the goal is to have a system that balances heavy production days in the summer with lackluster ones in the winter. As we sell power back to the grid in July we are earning large bill credits that can then carry us through the darker months of the year. Based on our energy consumption our electrical bill should be between $0-$20 for the entire year. That’s right, we should be virtually neutral in our consumption and generation.

The system has been up and running for a few days now and I’ve been geeking out over the live monitoring. I can log directly into the system and view up-to-the minute statistics on our energy usage and the amount of power being generated. When the line is red, it means we’re using more than we are consuming, and when it’s green it means we’re sending power back to the grid.

The system was turned on January 7th, and since that time we’ve consumed 129 kWh of power and generated 15 kWh. Considering that the panels were completely snow covered for the first three days (generating almost nothing) that’s not too bad. We use around 18-19 kWh per day, which is slightly less than the national average. Because we’re in January with clouds, snow, and very limited daylight, the fact that we’ve had any good generation days is a win. We are in the season where you take what you can get when it comes to sunlight.

I’m really excited about getting to the summer months and seeing how well this all plays out. Our south facing roof should be quite ideal for some big numbers. Plus, with a few other tweaks to how we use power and improve our efficiency we could even beat the curve and end the year with a negative electric bill.

Overall I’m incredibly pleased. The installation was painless and clean, the panels look nice, and the fact that I can monitor them in real time is awesome. I’m finally getting to see the fruits of my science fair project from so many years ago. Maybe it’s time to start looking at small windmills….


Beer, running, and geeky things.

7 thoughts on “Soaking up the rays for POWER

  1. I’ve loved renewables, and especially solar, for a long time myself. It’s fun to read about your experience with researching and installing a roof-top system. I’m hoping to do the same myself one day, or at least some version of it. I’m a huge fan of the company Solar Roadways and have been following them as they go through development iterations of their panels. They have been doing the work to get ready for manufacturing and marketing/install for private use such as patios, driveways, etc to get started this year. Are there any companies that you follow tied to renewable energy that you are excited about?

  2. We’ve had solar for going on 8 years.
    In Massachusetts we get paid by the power company for any electricity we deliver to them and then use that balance to pay for power we use in the winter. We also pay a “customer” fee each month for the pleasure of being one of their customers.
    About half the homes in my neighborhood have panels. The latest installation used the Tesla solar shingles.
    They cover the entire front side of their roof and look great.

    We went with Sun Run. They have/had a pretty good reputation and seem to be very successful. But they seem to be remarkably un-organized and their monitoring technology is no where as good as what you have.

    One thing the solar companies don’t talk about is what happens when you need to replace your roof. The panels need to be removed and re-installed and in our case only Sun Run could do the job and it cost over $4K.

    Most roofs last 15-20 years but solar panels last around 30 years. So anyone who has panels will go through this expensive process.

    1. It’s a similar program here. We will get bill credits in the summer for all the power we are selling back that should cover us through the winter.

      Thankfully our roof is pretty new. They asked us multiple times about that for the reason you pointed out. Having to remove the panels adds a lot of cost to the replacement of a roof.

      1. They asked us also. But they didn’t discuss the cost or how it would work. I still think it’s a good idea but my neighbors tesla room is so cool!

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