I’ve been procrastinating about going solar for a long time, probably too long. I’ve been waiting for panels to get as cheap as possible while the incentives are the best they can be. With Trump’s tariffs on solar panels I didn’t think that now would be a good time to go solar, but once I ran the numbers I found out I was wrong. Today I signed my soul away to Renovous so I could go solar.
So here’s a bad image showing you how awesome my solar installation will hopefully be. Essentially I’m getting a $24,811 installation for $8,956 out of pocket. That includes 8.28Kw of solar panels and a 7Kw inverter. To give you a comparison my wife has an off-grid system with a whopping 1.5Kw of panels and she is into it for almost $10,000 and it was installed for free by a close friend of hers. Of that $10,000 about $3000 is batteries and she is already on her third set (spoiler alert, get Trojans, everything else sucks ass).
The crazy part of the whole solar part is not that I’m planning on borrowing money to do this solar array (I haven’t borrowed any money in over 10 years) but rather the part where you can pay $65 a month for 15 years to pay your system off. The panels have a 25-year warranty and the inverter has an extended 20-year warranty. This installation will easily pay for itself in 10 years and after that, you’re making money.
One of the weird numbers in my contract is the $4909 from Nyserta. This is a much larger grant than what you would usually see because I spent two hours applying to a special grant for low-income people to install solar arrays. I got an extra $2000 in grant money because I had such a low income in 2017. If you think you might fall into this category you can apply to the grant at this website (check incentive NOT loan). They got back to me in <24 hours and it was very easy to do.
You can cut that payback period even lower if you are replacing other energy usage with electricity. An 8.5Kw system is over twice what I need for my apt, so I can use that energy for a number of different things:
- Powering an electric car or a plug-in hybrid car
- Using electric heat instead of propane
- Installing a cold climate heat pump (3x as efficient as electric heaters) for heating and cooling
- Charging my tenants a cheaper rate than Nyseg for their electricity and running their power through my meter (this is legal in NYS as long as the rate you charge is less than Nyseg charges you)
- Charging electric batteries and taking my electric bike or motorcycle instead of a gas powered car
If you do any number of these things you can easily cut your payback time in half or even lower. The trick is to spec out a bigger system than you need and figure out how to save money or energy on the extra power you generate.
If you want to track your tenant’s electricity usage there is a lot of ways to do it. I spent several hours researching online all the energy monitors and most of them were wireless. One of the big issues with wireless energy monitors is that when the wireless connection drops out (it frequently does) then you lose the ability to bill the energy that was used in the time that the wireless network was down. This is why I settled on an ethernet wired energy monitor, as the chance of it going down is much lower. The Eyedro system allows for energy bill budgeting and can be used as a standalone billing system that will automatically send your tenants a bill for their usage every month.
On top of that, you can create a webpage that your tenants can go to for real-time energy usage which will help them figure out what is eating up all that power that they are using. The combination of automatic billing and the easy website creation with real-time monitoring is a winner in my book. The Eyedro website seems to do everything I want it to, and it has a decent phone interface as well. All for a one time cost of $109 (and no monthly billing fees). Your tenants will be happy because even if you bill them at the full Nyseg rate per Kwh they still will save about $17 a month off their bill for the meter charge.
This system took me about 30 minutes to install and then about an hour of futzing with the web interface to get it to do what I needed it to.
Nyseg’s policies are changing, for the worse
As of Jan 1st 2020 Nyseg is changing their billing process for all new solar installs. You will not be able to generate electricity and have them buy it from you at the full rate. Instead, Nyseg buys your electricity for an arbitrary rate that they decide on (it will be about 7 cents instead of 11.3 cents) and you have to buy that electricity back at whatever price they decide to sell it to you at (currently 11.3 cents). This whole system is a way to punish people who are going solar or who generate their own electricity. If you’re on the fence about solar, you need to get the ball rolling now if you want to get it done before Jan 1st 2020.
Future Solar installs are going to suck too unless NYS changes their electricity rules
It’s not clear exactly what will happen to existing solar customers who chose to add more solar in the future, but it seems like what will happen is that NEW solar customers after 2020 (with existing solar systems) will forfeit their rights to buy and sell electricity at the same rate. This will really be a painful surprise for anyone doubles the size of their solar system only to find that their rates change and it’s still costing them the same amount of money even though they are generating almost twice the solar power.
Do it now, don’t get screwed by crazy laws meant to discourage renewable energy. If you’re on the fence like I was, then get informed so you can make intelligent decisions. I was notified by my salesperson from Renovous today that there is a referral program for solar. If you get solar and make sure to let Renovous know it was MY incessant prodding that got your system installed then I will get a check when the system is installed.
I care more about people going solar than I do about getting rich so when I get that check then I will immediately write YOU a check for $100 and send it out in the mail. The only way that good things are going to happen in this world is if YOU do good things.
Be the change that you want to be in the world.
Just do it.