Skip to comments.'It's the right thing to do'
Posted on 10/18/2011 10:38:02 AM PDT by Sopater
SPRING VALLEY, WI - Ask Paula Lugar of Spring Valley why she and her husband Frank had Chris Jarosch of Carr Creek Electric Service in Woodville install solar panels in their yard, and her answer is simple, "It's the right thing to do."
The Lugars, members of the Spring Valley Earth Council and longtime readers of Mother Earth News have always been environmentally conscious. "We've been watching the technology for years; we've always wanted to reduce our impact on this earth," said Paula. Two years ago the couple installed a geo-thermal system and now, with the use of solar panels, they will be reducing the cost required to operate that system.
"Now we are only using propane to operate the stove and the clothes dryer," said Paula. The Wisconsin Focus on Energy rebate and the Federal 30 percent tax credit made the decision to buy solar panels an easy one for the Lugars. "Those two [programs] put it in a place where I can say, 'Why wouldn't you do it?'"
But before the panels were installed, Paula did her research. While Carr Creek Electric Service LLC isn't the only show in town when it comes to installing solar panels, the Lugars liked what they heard when they spoke to Chris Jarosch.
"We contacted four different contractors, and he was far and away the best," she said adding, "He knows this stuff in his gut. He looked at the job, and he looked at the property; he listened to me and did what I needed him to do instead of what he wanted to do."
After speaking with Jarosch, it's clear he does "know his stuff" and was able to explain it to this reporter who knows absolutely nothing about solar panels and how they work.
The Lugars chose to have 12 panels installed. Each of the panels creates 250 watts of electricity. "The panels create DC (direct current) voltage, like a battery," said Jarosch adding, "The power is utilized by the inverters. There are 12 inverters, one for each panel."
The inverters convert the DC power to AC or utility power. "If the panels generate more power than the Lugars can use, they sell that power to the utility company, in this case Xcel Energy. It's called 'net metering,'" he said. If the Lugars use more electricity than the panels can generate, they pay Xcel Energy.
He continued. "A special meter will tell them what they create in power. Then they can subtract their created power from the amount they use."
What is unique about the panels on the Lugar property is something called a "ballasted racking system." Jarosch explained. "It's ballasted. In other words it's held down by weight not concrete. For a ground mount system, this is somewhat unique," said Chris. "It's easier to install, less expensive and makes the panels mobile. They can actually be moved."
All the panels together form something called an "array." They can adjust the array to the tilt of the sun according to the seasons.
And what about those cloudy, overcast days? "The panels still create energy on those kinds of days, just not as much," said Chris. "On the average, the panels create 3,600 kilowatt hours per year. At 11 cents per kilowatt-hour and on a good site, an array like the Lugar's will offset their electricity bill by $400 per year."
Just like the price of big screen televisions, the price of these panels has come down because many companies are now producing them. "The government stimulus program got this going," said Jarosch who predicts that within three to four years, the cost of power will continue to go up and the cost of the panels will continue to go down. "At some point, you reach parity. Grid 'parity' is the point at which alternative means of generating electricity is equal in cost, or cheaper than grid power. "It becomes more economical to install solar PV," he said. Chris further predicts that in five to 10 years, the panels will be as commonplace as furnaces.
Preferring to "buy American," Chris gets his panels from Helios USA in Milwaukee and the racking system from a company in Minnesota. Originally from Stillwater, Minnesota, he has been at the Woodville location since 1999. A trained electrician since 1996, he started his electrical contracting business in 2005 and has been in the solar business since 2008.
In spite of the high initial investment of arrays like the Lugar's, roughly $18,500 cost, business is good, and it's even been picking up recently.
One of the most satisfying aspects of solar systems is that customers as well as contractors can monitor the systems. "Paula can go online and find out how much carbon she has offset by using these panels," said Jarosch. Between the geo-thermal system and now the panels, the Lugars have definitely decreased the size of their carbon footprints.
As if on cue, Paula appeared on her front porch with her I-Pad. Using a special online program, she demonstrated how she tracks the kilowatt-hours the panels are generating. In the first week, they generated 89.5 kWh. The program also informed her that 136 pounds of carbon have been offset, and that in just one week, the panels have created enough power to supply three average homes with one day of electricity.
As the price of electricity goes up and as the price of installing panels goes down, more and more people might come to Paula's conclusion-this is the right thing to do.
12 panels at $18,000 each
12 x $18,000 = $222,000
$400 per year return on their investment
$222,000 / $400 = 555
Wow, it pays for itself in just 555 years.
We got an estimate for installing solar. It was 56 panels and a bunch of running wire because of our out buildings, etc. Total estimate: $75k. Based on our annual usage and the 80% tax credits/refunds, our system would be paid for in 5 years.
What sort of battery setup are you going to use to store power for night time?
I read the article to mean that the array of panels cost 18K in the aggregate, not 18K/panel.
5-8 years is fairly common calculation. 80% is the key. DEpends on the State. You are spot on. One thing to be careful of is calculated energy capture vs actual. I hope you are in AZ or Socal. There are online calculators to check your supliers promises.
One thing you probably skipped - cost of $ - but at 4% mortgage rate - even that is so low as to not count for much. (3% after tax deduction).
Painful to read this reporting though - I think he said the panels “created energy” about three times. Then the inverters “utilized” energy. But whatever.
Obvously you know what you are doing - the next step - if you have something to use it for - is CNG for vehicles. You should get about 1/2 of gasoline cost. +/- - without tax effects. might get a kickback for the compressor.
It was all 12 panels for $18K.
So it’s ONLY 44 years.
>> 12 panels at $18,000 each
Nah, your assumption is incorrect; it’s $18K for the whole system.
So it pays for itself in $18000/$400 = “only” 45 years.
OK, so 46 years. If I bought such an array now, I could have a “last payment party” in my lifetime, assuming I live to be 92. I guess that is better. Not quite as “cloud-cuckoo-land ridiculous”. ;-)
Dang, you beat me by over a minute.
Oh well, I bet you used a calculator.
Just like a constipated mathematician, I worked mine out with a pencil.
Most of the folks here don’t know what they are talking about - including the author.
It is $18K for 3KW - PRIOR TO government tax rebates.
As the dumb blonde pointed out - these can reach 80% - though I think that is a tad high. But let’s let her have 80%. Means it really costs about $3600. At savings of $400./yr = 9 year payback.
Interest rate is so low that I can ALMOST skip it - but in this case - avg balance first 5 years approx $6K - let’s guestimate. So 5 years x 4% x $6K = another $1200 in interest/cost of $ - so 3 more years.
So - payback period - with no change in energy cost = approx 12 years for 3KW system.
Issue is - system is small relative to Dumb Blonde’s system. She is getting more panels for her wiring and inverter costs.
In the right location, and the right tax situation - it makes great sense. Panels should have 80% output for 20 years.
12 year payback - not my cup of tea. 7 year payback - with energy expense upside and option of 13 year production? Inflation protected energy costs? Starts to look like an energy annuity/hedge. Plus - if utilities start charging different rates at peak hours = usual solar high output time - all trends are positive.
I have seriously considered putting CNG on my diesel pickup. On a diesel, you fumigate the intake with CNG and offset up to 60% of your fuel. If I get out in the middle of nowhere and run out of CNG, it goes back to burning 100% diesel.
Im think it says the total cost was $18,000
Solar is big here in New Mexico ....has been for years. I have solar swimming pool heat ....the problem I see is the equipment does not hold up that long
but thats true of damn near everything
None. We would still be on the electrical power grid. For times when the power grid is down, we'd have a relatively small generator to feed the solar system so that it would still think that the grid was up and we would have full power.
Just because the government shifts the cost to your neighbors and your children doesn't mean the cost isn't there.
They paybacks always calc out to 30 - 40 years, longer than the system will last. Epic Fail any way you slice it.
If you’re in a sunny spot, you should consider an earthship home. Uses solar and/or wind, plus batteries. Uses propane for cooking and to supplement the fridge/freezer. The temperature is moderated by the house’s facing, the angle of the front windows, and insulation. Water is capture from the rainfall. Cisterns run about 3000 gallons.
Saw a bunch of them in New Mexico and I was pretty impressed. If they were only a little close to some hot springs...
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nothing to see here... move along...
It’s not clear that the panels are $18000 apiece, but even if the whole installation was $18k, it would still be 44.5 years before the system actually paid for itself.
These panels are on the ground, but a lot of panels are on roofs. What does this do to your roof, as far as wear and tear?
It hardly seems cost effective.
you made a mistake in the math; the 12 modules cost 18000.00 installed:
18000-3600=14400 Focus on Energy Rebate
14400 -30% = 10,080 Federal Tax Credit
10080/400=25.2 Years Simple Payback
The cost of energy is not going to be .11 cents per kWh in 25 years, therefore
At 7% average increase in energy costs payback will most likely occur in 15 Years. The system will be warranted for 25 and likely last for 35 years.