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….