Saving with Solar
Part 3: Solar Power
Hello again! Welcome back to The Green Swan. This post will cover the solar panel installation process and results / savings to date and represents the third and final installation of my series on my purchase of solar panels. I went green to save some green. Now that they are hooked up and generating Solar Power, they have already begun to pay off. Click the links here if you missed Part 1: Solar is Sexy on the introduction to residential solar panels, or Part 2: Solar Cents on how much green I saved by going green.
I have had my solar panels installed and producing for almost five full months at this point and I couldn’t be happier. My only wish is that I would have had them installed even sooner in the fall to catch some of those nice sunny days before the winter months when the days are much shorter. And if you couldn’t tell by my first two posts on solar panels, I love my SunPower solar panels as well as the app that is available allowing real-time monitoring of your energy production.
Unfortunately, it took over two months from signing of the contract in September to the first day of production in late November. I was a bit disappointed it took so long as I missed two good months of energy production. My wife will tell you I’m a fairly inpatient person, I’m very thoughtful and diligent in making decisions, never hasty, but once I make my mind up I want action immediately. So naturally, it was tough for me to have to sit and wait so long. Granted, nobody was to blame, it is just part of the process.
The process after signing the contract up until production was lengthy, but there was a lot to get done. Fortunately, I was set up with an online application to monitor and track the progress along the way. Some of the major steps included a site survey by the installer (to map placement of panels on my roof, etc), having my local utility come out to swap the meter (a new meter had to be installed to allow it to spin backwards as I generate electricity, cool huh?!), purchase orders for the solar panels and mounting kit from SunPower had to be placed and shipped, county inspection had to be completed, applying for various permits, etc. What took the longest was waiting on the local utility to swap the meter. I guess they only employ one person that is responsible for this and it took a while to get on his schedule. And not surprising, they probably weren’t all that excited to lose a customer. Fortunately, the local solar panel installer was coordinating this whole process, so there wasn’t really anything I had to do.
36 days after signing the contract, on October 22, my panels were on the roof. The actual installation took only one day! This involved securing the mounting equipment to the roof, securing the panels to the mounts, and running the wiring into my attic. From there, an electrician (a partner of the solar panel installer) ran the wiring down into my garage, installed an inverter in my garage and hooked it up to my electrical panel. An inverter is required to convert the variable direct current (DC) generated from my panels into alternating current (AC) in order to be consumed by the electrical grid and my house.
Keep in mind this whole process, all the electricians, inspectors, and installers were covered by the original upfront cost of the solar panel system. Nothing else came out of my pocket.
Then came the last step, which took another month! And that was the final inspection which was required before the solar panels could turned on. It was so depressing to look at my panels for a month and they were just sitting there, idle, not producing anything, and missing out on some wonderfully sunny days! Finally, the inspector was able to make it out, certified everything, and the installer was able to flip the switch and put them into production. It was November 19 and I was in business.
From November 19 up until the writing of this post on April 23, I have generated 2,137 kwh and have saved 3,248 pounds of CO2 emissions, 3,508 miles not driven, 166 gallons of gas not used, 1,582 pounds of coal not burned, 3 barrels of crude oil not used, 38 mature trees grown and 1,164 pounds of garbage recycled.
As you can see in the chart below, as we head into summer my panels keep recording better and better days. The daily production can vary significantly from one day to the next due to cloudy or rainy days. But overall, production keeps reaching higher highs and higher lows. Total energy production on a monthly basis smooths out the daily variances.
I’d note that production has met expectations. To date, I’ve saved ~$200 off my electricity bills including ~$70 in my most recent billing cycle. This recent bill cycle represents the first month in which I generated more than I used and carried a balance over to the next monthly bill. With some strong summer ahead, I am on pace to achieve my targeted $640 in annual savings. I will be sure to follow up in future posts with updates to track the progress.
So what does everyone think? Is solar a real possibility for you? I hope this three part series was helpful in fully explaining the possibility of residential solar panels. I hope you come away intrigued and interested. If there are any questions, feel free to leave a note in the comments below and I’ll address.
As a reminder, I bought my panels through SunPower. They are the best in the biz. If you are interested in looking into solar panels more, be sure to check them out. They offer a pretty generous referral program, so reach out to me through the contacts page for more info.
Thanks for taking a look.
The Green Swan