Gone Solar

A Day in the LifeLeave a Comment

Living in one of the sunniest states in America has its advantages as far as outdoor activities. But it also means there is power coming down from the sky every day. I read recently that enough sun shines on the earth in one hour to power the entire globe for a year. Folks like Elon Musk are working to make that a consumer viable option these days with things like Tesla and their Powerwall. I was intrigued by the Powerwall announcement and decided it was time to see what our solar options were.

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We got a hold of SolarCity (Elon is the chairman) after seeing many of our neighbors go through the process with them. One meeting and I was on board. The trick seems to be you have to get your utility company to play ball. The City of Longmont, which we are just outside of, does not at this time allow private solar interconnectivity. However, we have United Power and they recently approved so there is a big spike in activity for this area.

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The panels as pictured above are in two different spots on our roof. A larger array facing almost due west on the back of the house. And a smaller array on a south facing spot up front. The more the better. More power! The panels themselves are nothing like those ones you saw years ago. My daughter can pick one up. It is a big metal frame with a very thin solar cell on top. The solar cell is literally as think as aluminum foil.

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That’s the back of the house during install. Let me tell you that SolarCity has this down. They are a dream general contractor. You sign the papers and they handle everything from building permits, inspections, utility coordination. It is a breeze. They keep you in the loop with their web site and mobile app. Everything is done online. I have been supremely impressed so far with their execution.

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Now, the last part is the utitily company coming out to inspect and install a new meter. This meter apparently is able to track the electricity flowing in both directions. So when we produce excess power, it will go back into the grid and give us credits. Then when the sun goes down and we start pulling power, we start burning those off. It is nothing for us to have a $400 electric bill in a summer month. Pretty exciting to see a large portion of that being cut out by the sun.

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We aren’t connected yet and that is the final step. But with the actual photos I figured it was worthy of a blog post. SolarCity gives a referral bonus to me and you if you sign up. So let me know if you want to be contacted. You can do it yourself but if you do it through an existing customer, they gives us both money & credit. What a deal.

If you are curious about the cost, it varies. SolarCity has different programs depending on your area and what your utility company allows. In our area, you have to own your own system to interconnect. So you can buy it outright or you can finance through SolarCity. If you finance, you basically pay SolarCity for the power you produce (not consume). That payment is effectively your loan payment for the month with a portion going towards interest and the rest to principal. So really, instead of paying the electric company the whole bill each month, we expect to pay SolarCity a large portion of that bill, which we retain as we own the asset. SolarCity charges a bit less per kWh than our utility company. So with a 12 kW system, we might see as much as 70% to 100% of our power bill reduced each month depending on our own consumption and the time of year.

Should be a fun experiment. Maybe this offsets the aging Hummer H2 emissions a tad. But I am intrigued now. What if I got a Tesla car and charged it off my freaking roof? That seems pretty sweet. To be continued…