Month: December 2015

The Future is Sunny

The Future is Sunny

The Lovely Misses and I have been together in Arizona for maybe a month now. While apart (I was living in Vancouver BC meeting the residency requirement for Canadian citizenship; she’s less keen on winter drizzle), we schemed about things we’d like to do with the Arizona house. One of those decisions was to get solar photovoltaics installed. This is quite popular in the southwest, because we have no shortage of sunshine, and electric bills can be quite high due to air conditioning needs.

As a result, there are lots of solar installers, even if you just choose from the cream of the crop, there are still lots of solar installers. There are tax credits from the state and federal governments that are currently scheduled to expire.

We’ve got the interest, we’ve got the funds, and we’ve got the sun.

It was straightforward to get companies to visit and give us quotes, and since we had already “separated the wheat from the chaff” in terms of reputable companies, they all provided quality quotes, most within a day or two. The quotes ranged from about $10,000 to about $15,000, which sounds like a ton of money (OK, it is) – but there are a number of benefits (not the least of which is free electricity):

  • The purchase is not subject to Arizona sales tax
  • There’s a 30% federal tax credit and a State of Arizona credit too (we don’t pay much in the way of AZ taxes, however).
  • The electric company (Tucson Electric Power or “TEP”) pays the consumer for power we generate. They don’t pay nearly what we pay them for that same kilowatt hour, but it’s better than nothing.
  • The resale value of the house increases by more than the cost of the equipment and installation.
  • While they’re doing the electrical work for the solar, they’ll install the outlet we’ll eventually need for a hybrid/electric car. Two birds, one stone.

Here’s the gory details with some translation for the non-technical:

We bought a 4.77Kwh* PV (photovoltaic) system, using Kyocera cells (18 panels) and a SolarEdge Inverter with its “power optimizers”. In contrast to the traditional “string inverters” which arrange panels in series with performance limited to the lowest performer in the string, this has localized devices that manage each panel. This makes the inverter simpler and gives us performance information via web for each panel . The cell performance is guaranteed to 93% of its original performance (265W/cell) for 25 years. The inverter is warranted for 12 years, which is considered its average lifespan.

*The kilowatt-hour … is a unit of energy equivalent to one kilowatt (1 kW) of power sustained for one hour.  — Wikipedia

The system is over-configured – our average use is only about 60% of an average customer, because we’re both in British Columbia during the summer when temps here are in the high 30s (Celsius) (near 100F). The payback for the initial system (3.6kwh) was about 8 years, but we decided to provision it for the possibility that we (or renters) would be cooling during the summers (we usually set out thermostat at it’s highest setting – about 90F / 32C).

So what happens now that we’ve written the check?

  1. The Installer sends out people to do a site survey
  2. They contact our HOA (Homeowner Association) for permission to do the installation (it’s a formality)
  3. They do the install probably toward the end of January 2016 (2 months from now)
  4. The town approves the work
  5. We pay the installer the balance of the cost
  6. The electric company hooks the system up to the electrical grid
  7. We start generating electricity and make the electric meter spin backwards!

Watch this space.

For the technically-inclined, here are the quote/configuration, and manufacturers’ information.

Download (PDF, 880KB)

Download (PDF, 281KB)

Download (PDF, 1.17MB)

Download (PDF, 260KB)

Download (PDF, 257KB)