Creating Electricity

From The Power of The Sun!

Harnessing The Sun's Power

At Christmas this past year I got to see my brother's new solar electricity system. I'd been toying with the idea of doing it myself and seeing his system pushed me over the edge. Shortly later, I heard about a group called 1-Block Off The Grid that arranged group purchases of residential photovoltaic systems. Their program is simple; They select a metropolitan area and solicit bids from established solar installers. The bids must be for all inclusive packages, be very price competitive, and from a quality installer. 1-block then picks the better proposal and sign a contract to lock in the pricing. I obtained a proposal from 1-block's Los Angeles contractor, SunWize Solar and from several other contractors. I picked a mix of national and local companies. After comparing their proposals, I selected SunWize and signed a contract for a 7.2 kilowatt (DC) system. It took about 60-days to engineer the system, apply for permits, and order the components. To save a bit of money, I agreed to install the 60-feet of conduit between my detached garage (where the solar panels are mounted) and my house (where the main electrical panel is.) I ran the conduit along the top of the concrete block wall that runs along the property line between the two structures. I finished my work with enough time to clean-up some of the less than stellar (safe but not too neat) electrical work I'd done in my hurry to get power working when I first bought the house (remember, I bought a foreclosure that had been pretty thoroughly stripped.) As scheduled, the installation crew arrived bright and early. Installation took just 2 1/2-days. They did a really nice job. It was clear they took pride in their work. We fired-up the system and found it to be pushing out the expected amount of power. The building inspector signed off on both their and my work. I expect the system to generate about 70% of my power needs, more if I can conserve. I can't wait to see that electrical meter turning backwards. Yes, I said wait, You'd think from the previous sentences that I'd be generating lots of power with the hot, clear weather we've been having. But you'd think wrong. See this for details!

The Sun Works!

As I approach the two-year anniversary of the start-up of my solar system, I'm beginning to get an idea of my savings patterns. So far, it seems that during the daylight savings months, I generate more power than I consume. During the Winter, however, I seem to use a little more than I generate. This is generally good news, as the system was designed to replace only about 70% of my usage. So I'm happy that I'm doing better than predicted. To increase my savings, I've switched my power billing to "time-of-use" billing, which means that I pay different rates for power at different times of the day. When demand is greatest (weekdays 10AM to 4PM) the rates are the highest. When demand is lesser, the rates are lower. The good news about this plan and solar electricity is, I also "sell" the power I generate with my solar panels at those rates. Because much of the solar power is generated at "high peak" times and I'm not usually home consuming energy at those times, this should further reduce my electrical bill. The proof is that I've received several zero usage electricity bills. I still have to pay about $10/month to be connected to the grid. The bottom line is that prior to having the solar panels installed, my summer bills were often nearly $1000 for two months electricity and water. Since I've had the panels installed, I haven't had a two month bill greater than $600.